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Trevor Perrin requests removal of NSA from IETF Crypto Review ietf.org
1008 points by tptacek  9 days ago   140 comments top 9
tptacek 9 days ago 9 replies      
Two things you did not know before this post but know now:

* The IETF has a dedicated crypto review board, the CFRG, which approves or pokes holes in the cryptography used by other IETF standards.

* The chair of the IETF CFRG is an NSA employee (Kevin Igoe, one of the authors of the SHA1 hash standard).

I just learned these things a couple weeks ago. I am not generally a believer in the theory that NSA actively subverts Internet standards. But even I think that it's crazy for an NSA employee to chair the CFRG.

In case you're wondering: Trevor Perrin is widely respected professional cryptographer. Most cryptographers work for university math departments. Perrin worked for years as a staffer for Paul Kocher, the godfather of side channel attacks, at Cryptography Research. He's the designer of the new forward secrecy ratchet for OTR (Axolotl) and the TACK TLS extension, and a behind-the-scenes contributor to other IETF crypto standards. Perrin wrote the pure-Python "tlslite" TLS implementation. If you were to draw a "family tree" of crypto know-how in the software security profession, a surprisingly huge chunk of it would be rooted in Perrin (and Nate Lawson and Kocher); for instance, virtually every modern TLS break came from ideas that Perrin popularized. 64 current Matasano Crypto Challenges, probably 50 of them I can trace to Perrin and Lawson. Trevor Perrin is someone you should pay attention to.

(my best guess is that the standards NSA was actively subverting were about international telephony; subverting the IETF is a little like subverting the Linux kernel --- doable, but bad tradecraft)

declan 9 days ago 2 replies      
Perhaps it's time for a new IETF default: No NSA employee should be chair of an encryption-related working group.

If the NSA wishes to change that rule in the future, it can publicly ask Congress to enact a law making it a federal felony for a government employee or contractor to try to subvert, compromise, or weaken public encryption standards. (That would still allow the NSA to subvert, compromise, or weaken proprietary Chinese or Russian military encryption standards, if it is capable of doing so.)

Until the NSA requests such a federal law -- and it's duly enacted -- it seems folly to encourage the participation of its employees in the IETF process, let alone granting them a position as chair of an encryption working group. Put another way, the NSA's signals intelligence mission has eclipsed its information assurance mission.

Even President Obama's NSA review group that came out with a report this week recommended that the agency "should not" weaken commercial encryption software. Why not a "must not?" p36: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/2013-12-1...

RyanZAG 9 days ago 1 reply      
The next message in the thread is interesting too: http://www.ietf.org/mail-archive/web/cfrg/current/msg03555.h...

A request to replace him with Bruce Schneier.

yeukhon 9 days ago 4 replies      
I want to raise an issue that people often ignore. We put the government's fault onto an employee's fault.

But I will state my position clearly: I do think the resignation is a good thing. I don't agree with the word "removal".

The biggest problem to me is not about NSA involvement, it is how WE treat people who work at NSA and other government intelligence agency. If the fear of a single man is what makes the issue hot, I beg to differ. You can disagree with him and not pass the standard. If the whole committee thinks there is something fishy, I see no reason why the proposal would get through the internal draft. It is that distrust.

My school and many schools out there would send out internship notice; if you are a public school one of those would be government internship and among them is NSA and FBI.

How do we treat these kids in the future? How should we treat our future or current co-workers who had worked as contractor or done internship at NSA, FBI and CIA?

Do we trust them?

The fact that "NSA [employees] (edit, response to http://www.ietf.org/mail-archive/web/cfrg/current/msg03556.h...) should not be in any position in the cryto committee" is too far. He should resign in fact, to avoid interest conflict; people don't trust NSA right now. But how are we treating these employees? Have we asked him privately? Should this email be in the public in the first place? Have they ever had a private conservation about this? I think like it is more of an attack and a warning to all NSA-title employees that they should never reveal their affiliations, even on resume.

Since everyone does things differently, some will never join NSA and some will for either money or technical development or patriotism, how do we as people treat these employees?

I am upset that when people look down at them and think they are rat. This is a stronger ethic issue that few notice. The whole "removal" sounds like "one ought not be an NSA employee." Being someone new to security and admire open standard and fear of backdoor, I think it is nicer and professional if that has been raised to Kevin Igoe first privately.

From the way the mail is phrased: it never happened.

slashdotaccount 9 days ago 3 replies      
By the way, this submission is getting up so slowly (despite the upvotes) because its title contains "NSA" (which automatically penalizes the submission as revealed earlier).
pvnick 9 days ago 1 reply      
It's been interesting watching the reactions to these revelations from the more skeptical folks. Tptacek, have there been any stories (besides this one I suppose) that have really surprised you and struck you as unreasonable overreach?
netman21 9 days ago 1 reply      
I have shared similar concerns about the NSA's involvement with the Trusted Computing Group and called for TCG to repudiate the NSA.
infinity0 8 days ago 0 replies      
the thread is just warming up... I'm half-expecting Kevin Igoe to "reveal his true form" and turn into that giant NSA octopus clutching a shit load of ethernet cables that they thought it was a good idea to paint somewhere.
wreegab 7 days ago 1 reply      
> "Not seeing a major conflict of interest is worrying in itself"

The rationalization from some posters in the thread of why he shouldn't be removed is scary.

Secret contract tied NSA and security industry pioneer reuters.com
858 points by bbatsell  9 days ago   322 comments top 54
suprgeek 9 days ago 11 replies      
NSA invents weak (Back Door present) crypto algo.

Pushes RSA to make it a Default in a key function (RNG) by giving them $10 Million.

NSA points to RSA as an early adopter and gets NIST to certify it.

Millions of systems are now protected by an RSA product that the NSA deliberately weakened.

Any sufficiently skilled rogue actor can attack virtually any business that uses these RSA products -

NSA (Cyber security Command) gets even more money to "Protect" us from said Rogue actors.

So all-in-all good investment on their part

Edit: Spelling fixed per commenter pointing out the difference between rouge and rogue. I did imply malicious actors not red-cheeked actors (not that they are mutually exclusive).

lawnchair_larry 9 days ago 3 replies      
Eagerly awaiting tptacek's retraction to his insistence that this was not a backdoor.

Edit: Nevermind, apparently he already did a mere 8 hours ago, replying to my own comment. Shortly before this broke.


zepolud 9 days ago 1 reply      
> [...] but RSA said in a statement: "RSA always acts in the best interest of its customers [...]

True, you just have to keep in mind that their customer is the NSA.

rhizome 9 days ago 5 replies      
From the BSAFE product page:

"RSA BSAFE Crypto Kernel offers versions of popular cryptographic algorithms optimized for both small code size and high performance. Unlike alternatives such as open source, our technology is backed by highly regarded cryptographic experts." [emphasis added]

kabdib 8 days ago 0 replies      
Not surprised.

One of the security guys who worked for General Magic (GM made an early mobile OS with some security features) told me that he had a visit from the NSA. The NSA tried to get him to leak bits of the keys in the GM protocols. "Just here and there. I've got dozens of these," said one of the NSA reps.

This would have been early 90s.

The NSA has been doing domestic stuff like this for a long time.

dpratt 9 days ago 2 replies      
I wonder if any of the executives involved with this deal will have a moment of clarity and make a public statement - "I was directly told by representatives of the U.S. Government that if we did not take this deal there would be direct and material consequences for both my company and myself. Here is the names of the people I met with, here is a log of the meetings. If I am jailed or in some other fashion publicly discredited through an otherwise seemingly unrelated matter in the future, you should always remember that I have made this public statement."
fragsworth 9 days ago 6 replies      
The NSA's story about how they need to secretly do these things to fight the war on terror makes less sense with each new revelation.

Terrorists don't use VPN dongles.

What is really going on here?

dpratt 9 days ago 4 replies      
Perhaps I am not reading the article correctly, but it sounds to me like RSA products can no longer be trusted.
steven2012 9 days ago 1 reply      
Who in their right mind would use an American technology product at this point? You would be an idiot to think that it wasn't backdoored by the NSA.
fiatmoney 9 days ago 0 replies      
Seems like their customers now have an excellent case for commercial fraud against RSA.
raverbashing 9 days ago 4 replies      
$10Mi? That's a very cheap price for trashing your companies reputation.

More importantly, it confirms that DRBD is backdoored or at least weak enough to be subverted.

bostik 8 days ago 0 replies      
When the news about DUAL_EC_DRBG first came out, RSA defended their actions of inclusion and making it a default option by stating that it was at the time a popular choice. Back then I was aghast that a noted security company would make choices based on pure hipsterism. (My apologies to all hipsters, but in this case the word is in place.)

This news on the other hand makes it clear that RSA was not only being incompetent. They were being actively malicious. We've already seen anecdotes in this thread about NSA making house calls to security product vendors as far back as the 90's, so we must assume they haven't given up that venue and are still pushing their ideas, as well as pushing the vendors.

With that proof comes something a lot bigger: every single security product from a US company is now suspect. By logical extension, I will say that similar paranoia should be applied to all security products from Five Eyes countries.

The long-term financial fallout should be interesting material for future chroniclers.

undoware 9 days ago 1 reply      
...which is why Theo Deraadt is now suddenly everyone's best friend, despite his personality. :) OpenSSH and its mother project, OpenBSD, are now all that is left of our civilization's freedom to think.

Thanks, Theo, for never selling us out; for being such an uncompromising bastard; for not being like the RSA. May Athena gird you for war against the Spartans.

yuhong 9 days ago 0 replies      
Lucky Green was the first to mention this: http://lists.randombit.net/pipermail/cryptography/2013-Septe...
andrewcooke 9 days ago 0 replies      
the r in rsa is ron rivest who was responsible for some very elegant ideas. his papers, that i've read, are generally very simple and clear. but he also wrote md2 [an old hash, n longer used] which contains some "magic numbers" that no-one can explain. they are supposed to be derived from pi, but no-one knows how... http://crypto.stackexchange.com/questions/11935/how-is-the-m... i even emailed him, but was shrugged off; i know it's silly and paranoid, but...)

anyway, i wonder what happens now to all the customers that use rsa dongles? big, international, political organisations...

aortega 9 days ago 2 replies      
TLDR: "RSA's contract made Dual Elliptic Curve the default option for producing random numbers in the RSA toolkit."

Dual_EC_DRBG was a NIST standard.

mathattack 9 days ago 2 replies      
Shouldn't this destroy RSA as a company? If your in security, and your security can't be trusted...
wil421 9 days ago 3 replies      
I use one of these tokens for work. Spying is one thing but destroying encryption is another evil thing to do. If the NSA has introduced bugs in crypto then who's to say someone else can exploit the same crypto.
midas007 8 days ago 1 reply      
RSA is commercially dead. There's no excuse.

Also, closed-source hardware HSMs are blackboxes that are fundamentally paranoia-inducing. There's no reason to trust that the vendor, supply chain and/or manufacturers didn't backdoor them or introduce other attack surfaces. The only way to trust an implementation is decap a sample of ASICs and match features against masks you generated... from sources you trust (whether open source or yours).

If it's a black box, there's no way to trust it (all modern CPUs, N/S-bridge, memory, flash (ssd), hd controllers, on and on.)

Conclusion: We need more open-source hardware that is production-quality (BSD licensed)! This would be very expensive in terms of people time, but it's necessary move since corporations can't be trusted.

vikas5678 9 days ago 1 reply      
"RSA, now a subsidiary of computer storage giant EMC Corp, urged customers to stop using the NSA formula after the Snowden disclosures revealed its weakness." - Just shake my head at this. As news is revealed that all these companies were complicit, they cry foul and "warn" users? RSA deserves to lose all international customers who refuse to buy their products because of hidden backdoors.
smtddr 9 days ago 4 replies      
>>https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6942165tptacek 5 hours ago | link I am not generally a believer in the theory that NSA actively subverts Internet standards(my best guess is that the standards NSA was actively subverting were about international telephony; subverting the IETF is a little like subverting the Linux kernel --- doable, but bad tradecraft)

Does this count?(not trying to be sarcastic or a smart-a##), I just want to get a handle on what I should or should not trust these days. Seeing that RSA SecurID VPN dongle pic in the article scared me. I've pretty much been looking to your comments to give me a baseline.

somethingnew 9 days ago 0 replies      
Reminds me of http://xkcd.com/538/ except instead of a $5 wrench, it was $10 Million and a few handshakes.
dergachev 9 days ago 2 replies      
If it only cost $10m to bribe one of the biggest security companies around, how much does it cost to bribe a single open source developer who volunteers on tools like OpenSSL? What if you add blackmail to the mix?

Makes me realize that we need bitcoin-style "hack or bruteforce our encryption schemes and you can legitimately get paid lots of money" bug bounties.

chime 9 days ago 0 replies      
In case you didn't know, EMC bought RSA in 2006. Shutting down RSA just means re-branding all the products as something else.
salient 9 days ago 2 replies      
The end of RSA (the company)? I find it absurd that a security company no less, would hear many veteran cryptographers say this is backdoored a decade ago, and still going ahead and using it - as the default! Who stakes the whole reputation of their company in the field for a meager $10 million (I assume RSA was pretty big back then, too)? It's insane.

RSA, much like NIST, can not, and should not be trusted any longer. All of their customers should be warned, and advised to quit them ASAP. Companies need to learn this is just unacceptable.

Bud 8 days ago 0 replies      
Reuters just broke this link. So here's the new one:


mrobot 8 days ago 0 replies      
I remember looking over EMC's acquisitions when all of this starting breaking. EMC acquisitions just read like someone building a surveillance system: RSA, multiple deep packet inspection companies, enterprise clustered postgres, elitigation, forensics and threat analysis, Government-risk-analysis... and if you google around you'll see they kept their investments as secret as they could.


EMC bought every single major corporate partner technology in 2009/2010. EMC is the private honeypot for the entire program. The corporate store is EMC and only EMC. EMC and EMC ventures can go to hell for building this, knowing about it, and continually profiting from it. Profit from investment in a partner of an illegal government program specifically designed to make illegal money from human rights violations should be considered illegal. All of the major money behind EMC knew what was going on. If you did a private benefit analysis, it would be all EMC. Thank you. =)

ye 9 days ago 0 replies      
I'd love to see a class-action lawsuit.

This shit must be punished.

rdl 9 days ago 0 replies      
It's going to be interesting what this does to the RSA Conference in SF 24-28 FEB; I wonder if people will pull out, or what?

I'm looking at how to incorporate this as an example in my talk.

mbrameld 8 days ago 1 reply      
> "RSA always acts in the best interest of its customers and under no circumstances does RSA design or enable any back doors in our products. Decisions about the features and functionality of RSA products are our own."

This means one of two things: Either this is a blatant lie by RSA, or RSA is not competent enough to evaluate cryptograpic algorithms. Neither possibility paints them in a favorable light.

summerdown2 9 days ago 0 replies      
From Mikko Hypponnen:


"I'm ashamed on behalf of the whole industry."

rurban 9 days ago 0 replies      
I believe we heard that some months before already. The biggest problem is IMHO their libcrypto still being used in Java and MS Windows.
Nelson69 9 days ago 0 replies      
Was this money tax free? How does that sort of thing work?

I hope bsafe licensees sue. Any one know of any serious efforts to replace some of the standard cipher suites in common code? AES -> Serpent, SHA -> Whirlpool etc...

middleclick 9 days ago 2 replies      
What implications does this have for RSA?
akulbe 9 days ago 2 replies      
Please forgive my ignorance of these kinds of security issues....

I remember at one point, way back when, it was recommended to use RSA keys over DSA, when creating an SSH public key. Is this this the same algorithm, by the same company?

Does this mean that SSH can't be trusted if you're using an RSA key, versus some other type?

babesh 9 days ago 1 reply      
Its a sad commentary on a lack of ethics in parts of the tech industry. This industry isn't leading us where we want to go.
genwin 9 days ago 1 reply      
yuhong 9 days ago 1 reply      
This reminds me of the MS-Novell deal, which was done in a similar way and has similar problems.
wgx 8 days ago 1 reply      
What is the likelihood that anyone will face investigation or prosecution over this?
tommis 9 days ago 3 replies      
This is going to end RSA
cratermoon 9 days ago 0 replies      
We already knew back in September that this was happening. All this story adds is details about the actual contract between RSA and NSA.
gejjaxxita 9 days ago 1 reply      
I'm getting a "Page Not Found" message.Here's another version of the article: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/20/us-usa-security-rs...
socialnerdia 9 days ago 0 replies      
Privacy: Pre-internet term(from Latin: privatus "separated from the rest, deprived of something, esp. office, participation in the government", from privo "to deprive") used to describe the ability for human beings to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively.
babesh 7 days ago 0 replies      

Paid shill

Want to see money flow from federal government to RSA and EMC over time.

primelens 8 days ago 0 replies      
Louis Althusser's coinage of RSA as "Repressive State Apparatus" in Lenin and Philosophy seems deliciously ironic now.
spikels 8 days ago 0 replies      
Goodbye RSA and thanks for all monopolistic practices and shitty products. ALL CRYPTO SHOULD BE OPEN SOURCE AND PATENT FREE!
nilved 8 days ago 0 replies      
I don't know anything about RSA as a company. What does this say about RSA as an algorithm and the company's founders?
notdrunkatall 8 days ago 0 replies      
How does this affect the average consumer?
shocks 8 days ago 0 replies      
Are my RSA PGP keypairs now compromised? How do I tell?
locusm 8 days ago 0 replies      
10M sounds like a downpayment, I dont believe RSA would lay their cred on the line for such a paltry amount.
w_t_payne 7 days ago 0 replies      
EMC own RSA. We just purchased a bunch of EMC kit. Can we trust it?
fantasticfears 8 days ago 0 replies      
So RSA sells its customers for $10 million, and NSA wastes $10 million.
davidmartin 7 days ago 0 replies      
Any European citizen know what is needed for the European Commission for Competition to put a tariff to American imports so they stop destroying the European industry making undeclared and illegal subsidies?
nnieiss 8 days ago 0 replies      
NIST, NIST, NIST.... wait, aren't those the same guys we were supposed to trust on the 9/11 commission report....
I Got Myself Arrested So I Could Look Inside the Justice System theatlantic.com
804 points by ilamont  12 days ago   472 comments top 27
blisterpeanuts 12 days ago 46 replies      
I'm sorry to be a curmudgeon but I don't like this guy at all. He wasted valuable city resources on an experiment the outcome of which he should have predicted, being a criminal attorney in Roxbury.

Why were the police and the criminal justice officials apparently angry with him? Because while he was playing his little game, to "prove" that police profile people and to "prove" that getting arrested and jailed can be a violent and unfair experience, someone else was getting away with a purse snatching, or beating up an ex-girlfriend, or playing the knock-out game, or emptying a cash register.

It's not so much that he prevented one of these other cases from being pursued, but that he seems so oblivious of the effects of his actions. Thus, it seems perfectly natural and reasonable for them to say, "OK, you make twice the salary we make yet you wanna be a petty criminal? Poof, you're a petty criminal. Enjoy sleeping in the bed you made, and here's hoping you will be permanently cured of f##king with us in the future, a##hole."

The police are set upon from all sides. If they bend the rules, they are severely punished. If they don't bend the rules, and the rules don't always apply the way liberal suburban white folks might imagine they do on the street, then they get castigated for not "doing their job" i.e. catching the bad guys. At the end of the day, not catching the bad guys is the biggest sin in law enforcement, because it's the mission. If you fail the mission, you're facing demotion, punishment, deprivation of public support and sufficient budget, and the public will view you with contempt and disgust.

I'm not justifying that that diabetic guy who wanted his sugar pills should be denied his pills. I'm not justifying that the police handle the lower socio-economic cases more brutally, giving them bruises and cuts that the suburban white boy somehow was spared. I'm not justifying racial profiling.

Yet, to walk a mile in their shoes, both the police and the criminal justice system as a whole, is to see the world a little differently from the average Atlantic Monthly reader or Hacker News reader.

Just my 2 cents.

nate_meurer 12 days ago 2 replies      
This is simultaneously the funniest and most tragic thing I've read in a long time. It's nearly unbelievable.

It reminds me a bit of Eddie Murphy's skit for SNL where he dresses up in white-face so he can experience society on the other side. This is almost as funny as that skit, no exaggeration. The tragedy is that this story is true.

blhack 12 days ago 10 replies      
I don't "get" this article.

The beginning seems to be him talking about how difficult it was for him to get the police to think he was suspicious. The article was really interesting, and it seemed to be a point about racial/socio-economic profiling.

But once he got into the system, he was treated terribly. Probation, not being allowed to visit his family, for a misdemeanor.


Honestly, his conclusion sounds more like justice /is/ being applied evenly, it's just that it was harder for him to get the police's attention while he was wandering around in a suit and tie.

kaffeinecoma 12 days ago 3 replies      

  The judge [...] ordered three years of probation, a $1000 fine, a $250 surcharge,  a $50 surcharge, 30 days of community service, and a special condition allowing police  and probation officers to enter and search my residence anytime without a warrant.
Wow. Perhaps I'm naive, but I was unware that a first-time, nonviolent misdemeanor could be grounds for removing your 4th amendment rights.

mdturnerphys 12 days ago 3 replies      
Interesting aside about the author's accidental ability to elude two members of the NYPD counterterrorism division:

"Two Intelligence Unit detectives arrived and testily walked me outside to a waiting unmarked police car. Court papers show that theyd staked out my apartment to arrest me, and that I unwittingly kept eluding them. In one dramatic instance, two officers had tailed me as I walked down Eastern Parkway. Id entered the subway station at the Brooklyn Museum, unaware that I was being followed. One of the officers had followed me through the turnstiles while another guarded the exit. The report states that the officers then inexplicably lost contact with me."

Eliezer 12 days ago 3 replies      
Is there anywhere on the planet with a functioning criminal justice system? Where should I live if I don't want to live in fear?
vph 12 days ago 8 replies      
The author hypothesis is that criminal profiling is based on race. A simpler hypothesis is that such profiling is based on looks. Now, instead of wearing suits, if he wears baggy jeans that almost fall off his butt, puts on a few tatoos, nose rings to match, and starts doing seemingly illegal things. And if the cops still don't stop him, then maybe being white has something to do with it.
scotty79 12 days ago 0 replies      
I think there should be kind of mystery shoppers for justice system. They'd commit misdemeanors and get arrested so they can report how they were treated to improve operation of police and justice system and to weed out personnel that doesn't obey the law or neglect procedures.
tokenizer 12 days ago 4 replies      
Do we really need to punish people with prison for non violent crimes?

We might as well call in the Criminal Punishment System, or the Government's Justice System, as it doesn't engender my views of justice, and nor should it for you.

maaaats 12 days ago 6 replies      
> From Brownsville to downtown Manhattan, I would estimate that I passed more than 200 police officers, some from a distance, some close enough to touch.

Wow, is police that common in NY / the states? That's more police than I have seen in my entire life.

mschuster91 12 days ago 4 replies      
3 years of probation for a single graffiti tag? Talk about proportions here.
base698 12 days ago 1 reply      
Works bombs, mixing Works Toilet Cleanser and Aluminum foil in a 2L plastic bottle were popular in my high school. I can't imagine the charges the children would get today if they were brown. Lucky for them they lived in rural NC.
tsaoutourpants 12 days ago 1 reply      
The first officer had it right: "What are you, some kind of asshole?"
tn13 12 days ago 0 replies      
"Simply carrying those items qualified as a class B misdemeanor pursuant to New York Penal Law 145.65."

Are you serious ? And I make fun of Indian laws.

alexhutcheson 12 days ago 0 replies      
In a similar vein, I would highly recommend the book Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing[1] by Ted Conover.

The author was a journalist who wanted to do a story on the prison system in New York State. The Department of Correctional Services froze him out and refused to give him any sort of access or interviews. To get the story, he actually took a job as a correctional officer officer in Sing Sing prison and worked there for a year. His account of the entire experience is fascinating. I think the whole discussion around these sorts of issues could really benefit from more accounts like this that introduce some transparency into the criminal justice system.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Newjack-Guarding-Sing-Ted-Conover/dp/0...

enkephalin 12 days ago 1 reply      
We avoided inner city streets because they were dangerous, and we relied on the police to keep people from those places out of our neighborhoods. Whatever they got, we figured they deserved.

i find the last statement just as disturbing as the rest of the article. carrying this sentiment around plays a big part in the apathy we see all around us, towards most of the atrocities being committed these days.

3am 12 days ago 0 replies      
This reminds me of the work I read about Nellie Bly (Elizabeth Cochrane) doing around mental health and institutionalization in the late 19th century (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nellie_Bly#Asylum_expos.C3.A9). It's not a complimentary comparison for our criminal justice system.
dmourati 11 days ago 0 replies      
To me the whole problem comes down to one of discretion. The police officers in the beginning of the story had too much discretion. By not arresting someone defacing city hall, they trivialized a property crime. The author intimates this was because of his race or at least his appearance. Maybe so.

Next the judge exercises his discretion to come up with a non-standard sentence for the crime. Any non-instigator first offender would have gotten the slap on the wrist. A minority, we are lead to believe, probably much worse. Same crime but the discretion is wide in the sentence.

Later, the issue swings the other way. He has some real cause to go the rally in honor of the fallen student. Here, the discretion is taken away from the parole officer.

Discretion is power. In some instances, society grants too much discretion. In others, too little. We know this is the case but it still shocks us and we like to second guess.

rayiner 12 days ago 9 replies      
This is a great article, and I really appreciate this paragraph:

> But in between the important cases, I found myself spending most of my time prosecuting people of color for things we white kids did with impunity growing up in the suburbs.

However, I think he ignores a really salient distinction: a lot of these "crimes" like the laws against graffiti, exist not because the acts themselves are particularly heinous, but because they're proxies for things that are dangerous, namely gang activity.

In not going after the author, the police simply did the analysis they are required to do: is this guy a threat within the spirit of the law?

Now, obviously there are shortcomings in the heuristics the police are using here. It's not okay to conclude that someone is a threat because they're a black teenager in a hoodie and aren't a threat because they're a white professional in a suit. But I don't think we really want a mechanical justice system that follows the mere letter of the law instead of the spirit. We don't want police to ignore the distinction between someone tagging a public building to make a point, and gang members tagging a private building to "make a point."

hawkharris 11 days ago 0 replies      
The article's description of racial profiling brings to mind a statistic that the ACLU reported a few weeks ago (it was also featured on HN): in U.S. federal courts, blacks are about twenty times as likely as whites to be sentenced to life in prison for non-violent crimes.
dragontamer 12 days ago 1 reply      

Alternative take on what has happened here.

>>> This reporter accompanied Constantino on one of those trips, watching as the lawyer handed a guard his passport and driver's license. After calling City Hall staffers from inside the guard booth, the officer told Constantino to come back the next day.

>>> Instead, Constantino dramatically turned himself in at Manhattan Criminal Court that Friday, after the stop-and-frisk protesters were convicted of disorderly conduct.

>>> "Your Honor, I refuse to leave this court," Constantino told the judge. "I am choosing in peace and love not to leave this court."


The purpose of getting arrested was to protest the Stop and Frisk laws in NYC. It seems like Bobby Constantino is milking the story for all its worth though, and turning it into something else.

Not that it is a bad perspective or anything, but I think it is important to remember his original purpose for getting arrested.

0xdeadbeefbabe 12 days ago 0 replies      
He made eye contact; he didn't run; and he's surprised the policeman left him alone? Hasn't he seen any real criminal behavior or maybe a painting of it in a fine art gallery? I'm glad he got his wish though, but for a minute I was worried he wouldn't.
anuraj 11 days ago 0 replies      
Criminal justice system as it exists has lots to answer 1) What is the purpose? 2) Is it getting achieved 3) What kind of people are administering the system 4) Why biases exist? 5) What should citizenry and political authority do? 6) Ultimately - what is the true conscience of the society?
adamzerner 11 days ago 0 replies      
People could be assholes. I'm sure this sort of mistreatment happens all the time, and I'm sure that the reason for it is because people behave as described by the Stanford Prison Experiment.
thedrifting 12 days ago 1 reply      
So, the author set out to prove how unfair the justice system is between races, and to some extent he did show that. But, didn't his experience also show that a white person was treated just as by the courts as any other person? Am I missing the point of this article?
LekkoscPiwa 12 days ago 1 reply      
There is a lot of BS in the PC thing with profiling. I'm an Eastern European. Almost all Polish people I know work in construction or baby sitting, etc. However, none of them or us Polish immigrants blames the United States for that. Or the Government. They know they aren't educated very well, so they don't finger point to any type of discrimination for their fate. But somehow there are people there, like some Latinos I know who just don't even try. They just want to be illiterate all their life. One Lady I know who is from Mexico doesn't even teach her children English. Doesn't want them to speak English in the US. But blames US for her shitty job and standard of living.

This is a little bit too much even for me (an immigrant) to stomach, you know?

If they voted Obama into Presidency what racism? Bunch of racists and secret Ku-Klux-Klan lovers voted for a Black President? Like really, some people have way too much time on their hands. If I can be consulting for 60-100usd/hr after 6 years of living here, why some people need to steal and deal drugs instead is beyond me.

There is equality in Cuba and Canada. If these people are for real why don't they just immigrate there?

I will be honest. I see a Pole in the US I think he is doing construction or picking up garbage or baby sitting, taking care of elderly. I see a Mexican I suspect he doesn't speak English. I see a black person I check if my wallet is safe.

Everybody does that. Trying to change the way we think about Blacks without them changing their ways is never going to work. Not all Poles in the US are in the construction business. Not all Mexicans in the US are illiterate. Not all Blacks in the US are criminals. But big chunk of all these peoples are, so it's good to be opened minded and don't pretend that things like AIDS epidemic in DC being on levels with Sub-Saharian Africa aren't true. Because they are. And this isn't fault of anybody else but people who live there and make choices they do. I came to this country with 300usd in my pocket. I could have excuses to do nothing and portray myself as a victim too. But who does that in this country?

jebblue 12 days ago 1 reply      

"Off-Topic: Most stories about politics, or crime, or sports, unless they're evidence of some interesting new phenomenon."

There's nothing new in the article. He proved nothing other than dressing decent makes a good impression, we all knew that. Nothing of race or the justice system in general was proved one way or the other in my opinion.

Bill Gates takes part in Reddit's Secret Santa redditgifts.com
723 points by rb2e  10 days ago   226 comments top 24
sethbannon 10 days ago 8 replies      
Things like this are neat because they remind folks that tech titans, billionaires, celebrities, and the like are, at the end of the day, people too -- not that dissimilar from everyone else. It's so easy to forget that.
mynameishere 10 days ago 6 replies      
That's a fun gift. I used to get solicitations from Heifer international years ago, and the sad thing is that they advertise themselves such that if you donate 50 dollars, a family will get a flock of chickens; if you donate 100 dollars, a family will get a baby goat. Etc, etc. But all the money goes into a common fund.

I know charities have to use modern marketing, but that left a sour taste when I found out about it. On the other hand, I suppose Bill's underlings conduct proper due diligence.

bambax 10 days ago 0 replies      
The last line is so funny:

> ps: Sorry for the apple ipad on my wishlist, that was really awkward.

adamnemecek 10 days ago 12 replies      
Someone in the reddit thread asked a good question, what would you give to Bill Gates if you are his Secret Santa?
ck2 10 days ago 0 replies      
What a great guy Bill Gates turned out to be and he didn't do it only on his deathbed like some billionaires.
gadders 10 days ago 3 replies      
I wonder if there is a generational difference between people, say, 30+ and the under 30's of their view of Bill Gates?

For people my age he was "evil" personified during the Netscape/IE/Anti-Trust era. I wonder if people who came of age after that period see him more as a global good guy and philanthropist?

As for me, if he keeps this up I'm going to have to start liking the guy :-)

CurtMonash 10 days ago 1 reply      
Bill gets it from his mother. I only met her once, yet she fell all over herself to be gracious, try to do me favors, etc.
frankydp 10 days ago 1 reply      
The vitriol in this thread is astounding.
csmuk 10 days ago 0 replies      
I love Reddit Secret Santa for the comedy value. So far I've seen this year people have been given:

1. A pig foetus preserved in alcohol.

2. A selection of root vegetables, petroleum jelly and gloves.

sifarat 10 days ago 0 replies      
Bill Gates: when you reach your first billion dollar, you are back to cheese burger.

Point. He is just being what everyone else us are here. a normal human being.

kylelibra 10 days ago 2 replies      
How celebrities behave on reddit seems to be a good indication of how they actually are in real life.
vacri 10 days ago 0 replies      
Great story with a fun typo - "Exactly just what kind of charity is Heifner International?"
rschmitty 10 days ago 0 replies      
The thing I was most impressed with is Bills ability to write a cursive capital G.
joshaidan 10 days ago 0 replies      
Now, I wonder what Bill received. Bill should make a similar post about his gift, would be cool.
mburst 10 days ago 0 replies      
Reddit Secret Santa is definitely a very cool project. Kudos to Bill and all the others for participating. Though as other people have mentioned Heifer spends quite a bit of money on advertising, like most other charities I suppose. My roommate donated $10 about a year or 2 ago for a contest and every other week we receive letters, magazines, and photos asking for more money (way more than $10 worth of material). It would be sweet to see a charity spend their money on the actual cause rather than just promotional material.
davidgerard 10 days ago 0 replies      
That's ridiculously heartwarming.

GEEKS! When you're rich and famous, REMEMBER TO STILL DO COOL STUFF!

DanielBMarkham 10 days ago 0 replies      
After a gushing review of how great Bill was and what a wonderful experience. "...ps: Sorry for the apple ipad on my wishlist, that was really awkward..."

This was a great article, and a reminder that the internet allows us to make a difference in people's lives in ways we never could before.

kimonos 10 days ago 0 replies      
Two thumbs up! A great inspiration for everyone!
Julianhearn 10 days ago 0 replies      
mrmondo 10 days ago 3 replies      
Can anyone say... Publicity stunt?
talon88 10 days ago 4 replies      
I think this is really cool, though the cynical part of me thinks that so will the social media strategists of quite a few celebrities out there, looking to promote things around Christmas...
monksy 10 days ago 1 reply      
Hes bill g, I call him money for short... he even does my tech support. [Something something white and nerdy]
NSA phone surveillance program likely unconstitutional, federal judge rules theguardian.com
710 points by ferrellw  13 days ago   231 comments top 35
bradleyjg 13 days ago 2 replies      
To put it mildly this is the first step in a long, long path.

District courts have the final say in the vast bulk of routine matters that never get appealed, and they can play an influential role in setting the presumptive factual record in high profile cases destined for appeal. But in a high profile case destined for appeal that largely turns on interpreting the Constitution, this court was mostly a gatekeeper. In other words, if the district court had ruled the other way, maybe that would have been the end of the story. Given that it ruled as it did, this will certainly be heard by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (possibly by one of the judges appointed by Obama now that the filibuster has been weakened), and then if the petitioner wins there, either by the full DC Court of Appeals en banc, or the Supreme Court, or first one then the other. If Smith v. Maryland is to be overturned, it will be the Supreme Court that does it, not a district court.

Still, I wish the plaintiffs the best of luck.

For further analysis keep on eye on fourth amendment guru Orin Kerr. His first post describing the opinion is already up: http://www.volokh.com/2013/12/16/judge-leon-enjoins-nsa-tele... and he says another with analysis will be coming soon.

tokenadult 13 days ago 1 reply      
Larry Klayman is an interesting plaintiff in this case.[1] He was a career Justice Department prosecutor during the Reagan administration and worked on the successful antitrust case against the former ATT telephone monopoly. Another article[2] agrees with the article kindly submitted here in reporting that the United States district judge (appointed by President George W. Bush) has stayed his ruling, pending a very likely appeal by the federal government, but it is clear that he thinks the current surveillance program is too broad to be constitutional based on the testimony at trial. That's good legal work.

The link to the full opinion of the district court[3] loads very slowly just now, presumably because many readers are trying to access it.

AFTER EDIT: A legal blogger has put up a copy of the court opinion on a page that loads rapidly.[4]

[1] http://www.freedomwatchusa.org/klayman

[2] http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/16/usa-security-rulin...

[3] https://ecf.dcd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/show_public_doc?2013cv0...

[4] http://www.lawfareblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Klayma...

wpietri 13 days ago 2 replies      
From the article: "The judge, Richard Leon of U.S. District Court in Washington, said that the NSA relied on 'almost-Orwellian technology' that would have been unimaginable a generation ago, at the time of a landmark Supreme Court decision on phone records."

I disagree strongly! The NSA's technology would more properly be called super-Orwellian. Two-way TV, hidden microphones, and steaming open your mail is nothing compared with what the NSA can do.

saosebastiao 13 days ago 3 replies      
Cool. Now just let us know when the criminal trials begin.
rdl 13 days ago 3 replies      
It's really interesting reading about the main plaintiff, Larry Klayman https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Klayman

I'm curious if he's more motivated by NSA-as-a-tool-to-attack-Obama or the merits of the case itself. Beggars can't be choosers, but still pretty strange to be in a position to back someone tactically on one issue while probably opposing most of the rest of his agenda.

ics 13 days ago 0 replies      
I don't suppose they'll use the same definition of 'related' while destroying data as when they actually collected it.
001sky 13 days ago 0 replies      
The government does not cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSAs bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the Government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive in nature.
a3n 13 days ago 0 replies      
No problem, the NSA and whatever administration happens to occupy the Whitehouse at the moment will just re-interpret the ruling as if it ruled that the program is constitutional.

We used to say that whoever wins the war writes the history. But the war on terror will never be won, by definition and design. The NSA probably cares fuckall who writes the history books anymore. They want the dictionary.

mratzloff 13 days ago 4 replies      
> The judge, a conservative, ruled that the NSA must remove from its records data related to two Americans who filed suit to stop the program.

Since Groklaw was KIA, can someone with a better understanding of the law explain if this applies to all Americans, or only those two who brought the suit?

JeffL 13 days ago 0 replies      
I suppose there is always a small amount of hope that this could actually stick?
6cxs2hd6 13 days ago 0 replies      
Yikes, what is it with 60 Minutes lately?

Sunday night they carry water for Amazon or NSA. Right before Monday, the big day.

(My presumption: The NSA knew a ruling was coming today. Getting a puff piece on 60 Minutes is positive spin regardless of whether the ruling turns out good or bad for them.)

Edit: Link


mbillie1 13 days ago 2 replies      
Glad to see this ruling, but this must be too-little-too-late by now, right?
Aloha 13 days ago 13 replies      
I have mixed feelings about this.

Some of the metadata in my opinion is obviously OK to collect - the stuff that would have been captured by a pen register decades ago - Who you called, who called you, how long you talked - this stuff, which is otherwise known as call detail records it available to nearly everyone who works for the telco and is not really what I would consider private.

Other stuff - like Geolocation data is in my opinion clearly not OK to collect - it constitutes an unreasonable encroachment on privacy, normally to track someone historically a warrant must be obtained first, and it required probable cause, I see no reason why a lesser standard should be applied here.

I don't consider blanket recording of calls to be acceptable, but I don't see that as something that has been happening, at least on domestic to domestic endpoints (it's not really technically feasible to do with the way the telephone network is structured), its a bit easier to record calls going to international endpoints because of the structure of the PSTN - VoIP is its own deal, and YMMV on weather you can actually capture those calls or not.

I don't want to see us throw the baby out with the bath water as it were, nor do I want the unreasonable encroachment on privacy to continue.

SimonStahl 13 days ago 0 replies      
Nice, but this only applies to americans. They are still allowed to gather the data for the whole rest of the world!
BrandonY 12 days ago 1 reply      
Edward Snowden on this ruling: "Today, a secret program authorized by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans' rights. It is the first of many."

Well said, sir.

tn13 13 days ago 0 replies      
That is it ? What about prosecuting the people responsible ? When are they going behind the bars ?
undoware 13 days ago 2 replies      
It will be interesting to see what happens to the judge. 'Parallel construction.'
w_t_payne 12 days ago 0 replies      
This is a significant ruling; but only one small step in a long journey. The importance attached to our choice of destination is heightened by the ever-changing technological landscape over which we travel.

The increasingly pervasive and omnipresent nature of public and private sector surveillance, together with the intimate and revealing nature of the information collected, presages a new phase in the relationship between individual and the institutions and organisations to which our social and economic fealty is directed.

A relationship that is far closer and far more intimate; based on an extensive knowledge of the individual's drives, weaknesses, foibles, and personality traits. We can clearly see a worrying potential for forced intimacy and abusive exploitation of the relationship; just as we currently observe (thankfully infrequent) incidents of abusive physical violence and coercion. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this is the potential that modern technologies have for scalability; facilitating abuse on an industrial and global scale, in market contrast to the inherent limitations of abusive physical interventions.

The key factors here are the fact that the information is intimate; that the collection is involuntary and coercive; and that the means of collection and exploitation may be automated and deployed on a large scale.

The presence or absence of mens rea is besides the point.

mrobot 13 days ago 1 reply      
Is there any way to tackle this at the Terry level? It seems like we can protect ourselves more if we can explicitly eliminate the ability to systematically manufacture terry stops based on phone calls, other behavior, skin color, religion...
Fando 13 days ago 1 reply      
What a sorry piece of news! A federal judge thinks that mass surveillance is LIKELY unconstitutional? The only thing the constitution is good for these days is wiping you ass. Even if these practices are officially ruled as illegal, what will change? How will the oversight be conducted to prevent such practices from continuing. In my opinion, the NSA will simply begin hiding their operations from oversight. The biggest question is whether it is possible at all to implement practical and systematic methods that correctly oversee such government organizations. Is there a solution that guarantees that it will be impossible for the NSA and the like to hide their actions considering the almost system-wide corruption of government bodies? The solution to this problem is difficult to imagine for this reason.
zmanian 13 days ago 0 replies      
We need to generate tangible evidence to the political system that the defenders of the NSA have no credibility. Restore the Fourth SF and others have created a mechanism for Californians to do so.https://shameonfeinstein.org/
w_t_payne 12 days ago 0 replies      
The pervasive and omnipresent nature of the surveillance, together with the intimate and revealing nature of the information revealed, presages a new phase in the relationship between individual and state; one that is far closer and far more intimate; based on an extensive knowledge of the individual's drives, weaknesses, foibles, and personality traits. We can clearly see a worrying potential for forced intimacy and abusive exploitation of the relationship; just as we currently observe (thankfully infrequent) incidents of abusive physical violence and coercion. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this is the potential that modern technologies have for scalability; facilitating abuse on an industrial and global scale, in market contrast to the inherent limitations of abusive physical interventions.
jrockway 13 days ago 3 replies      
My next fantasy is to see Snowden come back to the US, be tried, and be acquitted.
qq66 13 days ago 0 replies      
Whether one supports the NSA program or not, it's fairly clear that it's not compatible with the 4th Amendment as understood today. The Constitution has been amended before, if this is important it needs to be taken under the umbrella of a Constitutional amendment.
rayiner 13 days ago 3 replies      
I don't think this decision will hold up on appeal. From the article:

Basically, the judge found the on-point Supreme Court precedent to be inapplicable based on changes in technology in the intervening time:

"Leon wrote that the government was justifying its counterterrorism program based on a 34-year-old Supreme Court precedent that has been eclipsed by 'technological advances and a cell phone-centric lifestyle heretofore inconceivable.'"

It's very worthwhile to read the case that is discussed (Smith v. Maryland):http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=3033726127475530...

Pay specific attention to the discussion starting at the end of page 743 ("Second, even if petitioner..."). That reasoning doesn't seem any less valid to me today than it was 34 years ago. It's an easy, clear rule: "private" means private, not "private but shared with my hundred closest sysadmin friends at AT&T or Google."

leokun 13 days ago 0 replies      
It's weird how the URL for this link keeps changing.
theandrewbailey 13 days ago 0 replies      
In a rare showing, common sense has triumphed this day.
socialist_coder 13 days ago 0 replies      
Does it even matter what the courts say? The NSA seems like it has no problems operating outside of the law and lying when asked what it's actually doing.
bayesianhorse 12 days ago 0 replies      
The government has a secret system, a machine ...
greyfox 13 days ago 0 replies      
"...likely unconstitutional" ya think?
nexttimer 13 days ago 0 replies      
No shit, sherlock.
amerika_blog 13 days ago 4 replies      
I support the NSA monitoring.

No, not a troll.

At this point, the USA has a ton of enemies. Filtering through emails, phone, etc. is a good way to catch these. We need to give law enforcement the tools it needs.

Seeing how this access was abused to hunt down Tea Party groups convinces me that the NSA needs to be de-politicized, not shut down.

I think we'll find that this monitoring is inevitable because the technology is there and also, since the technology is there, if it is not used and a terrorist incident occurs, people will be held responsible for NOT using it.

kansface 13 days ago 0 replies      
Federal courts apparently as per the constitution.
Edward Snowden, after months of NSA revelations, says his missions accomplished washingtonpost.com
660 points by uptown  6 days ago   202 comments top 26
hooande 5 days ago 11 replies      
But what has really changed?

The NSA is under pressure from the public, less so from the intelligence and defense communities. If anything Snowden has caused those areas of government to close ranks even tighter. There's nothing a leader wants more than a highly visible enemy to unite his or her people. There are orders of magnitude more people who hate General Alexander now than there were two years ago. But his own people love him even harder.

The NSA may or may not lose some funding in the coming years. It will probably just transfer over to the NRO or the Office of Intelligence and Analysis or one of the dozen other agencies that we haven't come to know and hate yet. If there's one thing government is good at, it's maintaining the status quo. Public support has never meant much to the intelligence community. These are people who signed up to serve in secret, who have dedicated their lives to what they believe to be just causes. They won't pay a thought to a year or so of bad press.

Snowden's future is unclear. He'll probably be in russia for several more years, if he doesn't overstay his welcome. It's possible that some future president will see pardoning him as a free goodwill card. Or perhaps he'll be able to start a life as an overseas media personality, reaping the benefits of what many see as a heroic action. One thing is for certain: US intelligence agencies will continue business as usual.

Edward Snowden has shown the light, and his work is indeed done. It's up to us to effect real change and shape our government in our own image. Maybe things will change, maybe they won't. But those who dislike what he has revealed have their work cut out for them.

eliteraspberrie 5 days ago 4 replies      
The Washington Post sat on the Collateral Murder video. [1,2] The New York Times sat on the warrantless wiretapping scandal at the request of the White House. [3] CBS sat on the Abu Ghraib torture scandal at the request of the Pentagon. [4]

What is the Washington Post not telling us?

[1] https://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/15617022129

[2] http://www.cjr.org/the_kicker/wapo_denies_allegation_it_sat....

[3] http://fair.org/take-action/action-alerts/the-scoop-that-got...

[4] http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/reports/article/100787/CBS-Let...

quesera 6 days ago 4 replies      
> If I defected at all, Snowden said, I defected from the government to the public.

He can't run til 2020, but I'll cast an early vote now.

acqq 5 days ago 2 replies      
It's a good moment to think again about the words uttered by, at that moment, vice president Cheney on September 16, 2001:

(at that time published on whitehouse.gov)


"We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We've got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we're going to be successful."

And, for the opposing view, also to think about the 2006 speech of then senator Obama:


"No President is above the law. I am voting against Mr. Hayden in the hope that he will be more humble before the great weight of responsibility that he has not only to protect our lives but to protect our democracy.

Americans fought a Revolution in part over the right to be free from unreasonable searches -- to ensure that our Government could not come knocking in the middle of the night for no reason. We need to find a way forward to make sure we can stop terrorists while protecting the privacy and liberty of innocent Americans. We have to find a way to give the President the power he needs to protect us, while making sure he does not abuse that power. It is possible to do that. We have done it before. We could do it again."

And as Snowden mentions, the oath the President makes is:


"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

The Constitution.

It's the end of 2013.

znowi 5 days ago 4 replies      
I didnt want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.

Despite a fair amount of indignation from the public, it seems to me that the majority has accepted the new surveillance reality.

suprgeek 5 days ago 1 reply      
His mission yes - giving up the comforts of a stable paying job in Hawaii and exposing himself to tremendous danger from a variety of nation-state level adversaries for life - in the bargain. Amazingly commendable - all for the sake of preserving core Liberty and Freedom as we know it.

What happens next ? Will things go back to businesses as usual?

jliechti1 5 days ago 7 replies      
If the "terrorists" are following this whole story, wouldn't now be a prime time for another attack?

This could have the effect of validating the NSA's activities in many Americans' eyes ("see, the NSA is unable to its job without invading our privacy") and we would see a whole new round of new laws capitalizing on Americans' fears of terrorists (which means their terrorism succeeded).

mladenkovacevic 5 days ago 6 replies      
Jesus Christ some of the comments on that article. I wonder if there was some way to analyse what percentage of it is astro-turfing and what percentage is real red-blooded Americans just brainwashed into thinking government knows best. Americans you are lost. It's been nice knowing you.
w_t_payne 5 days ago 0 replies      
Sorry, Ed, but we are nowhere near "mission accomplished".

This debate may have begun with worries about the risks posed by NSA overreach, but it does not end with them. As Bruce Schneier pointed out, the tools of today's spies are the same as the tools of tomorrow's criminals.

Whilst I am not exactly comfortable with the idea of persistent, intimate state surveillance, this discomfort fades into paltry insignificance when I consider the implications of criminal entities controlling the computing devices that I use to analyse and understand issues, make decisions and interact with the world.

I studied Artificial Intelligence as a student. I buy (somewhat) into Kurzweil's view of the future. Today, my computer may be a "bicycle for the mind", but tomorrow, we may have difficulty distinguishing between rider and vehicle.

The security of today's internet; today's computing devices, profoundly affects how securely, how effectively, and how independently I will be able to think in 20 or 30 years time.

We need to start talking more (much more) about the weaknesses and security vulnerabilities inherent in the architecture and design of our public communications and computing infrastructure. This debate has to get detailed and has to get technical. Fast.

Fuxy 5 days ago 1 reply      
You have to admire his willingness to risk everything to give the people a chance to change this broken system.

He is right though the system is broken it gives too much power with too little oversight.

nicholassmith 5 days ago 0 replies      
His mission is done, our mission isn't. He gave us the information we need to start banging on doors and saying to our elected representatives, 'is this right? Is this reasonable?'.

Some won't listen, some will, some won't rock the boat, some will. But unless you push you'll never know.

tokenadult 6 days ago 12 replies      
I wish Snowden would roll up his sleeves and start working on the same problem in Russia, where he now lives, and in China, where he stayed briefly on his way to Russia. His mission has hardly begun.
marquis 5 days ago 0 replies      
"All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed".

If these are his words to be remembered by, history will have kind thoughts for him.

tinfoil007 5 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you, Edward Snowden. You're true hero.

It's a shame, that your leaders can see in technology only surveillance, war machinery and ways to humiliate and subjugate others.

It's a shame, that USA's participation in computing is still a "donkey work", as tortured (and probably killed) Alan Turing once said.

kochb 5 days ago 0 replies      
> "Until youve got to pull the trigger, until youve had to bury your people, you dont have a clue."

Falling to the "you don't know what it's like" argument is never a good sign. You're acting out of pain and so emotionally invested in justifying your actions that you're incapable of communicating an evidence based rationale to an outsider. You can't reach a reasoned resolution like that.

stevewillows 5 days ago 0 replies      
I just hope at this point that we don't see a high-budget movie starring Justin Timberlake or Jesse Eisenberg playing Snowden.
ck2 5 days ago 0 replies      
NSA must be thrilled. Like the TSA, the mainstream public has become completely complacent.

Bet they were worried for a whole minute there.

I won't be surprised if like Homeland Security Theater their funding will increase and not decrease after the exposure.

Well at least gitmo was closed. Oh wait. Guess we accomplished less than nothing.

yetanotherphd 5 days ago 0 replies      
I am in awe of this man. We all owe him our thanks for bringing this information to the public, at considerable risk to himself.
frozenport 4 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe Snowden was a trial balloon? They wanted to see how far the American public could be pushed? :-
memracom 5 days ago 1 reply      
Amazing that for so many decades under so many leaders, the American intelligence services have relied on the oath of allegiance to the Constitution to preserve secrecy. The Brits do it right by making people sign the Official Secrets Act which both binds the agent to keep secrets and educates them in full detail what that means.
mrobot 4 days ago 0 replies      
I didn't see anyone ask. Does "mission accomplished" mean no more leaks from the Snowden pool?

What was the last leak, then, RSA security?

"By the way, RSA sucks! Mission accomplished."

cabbeer 6 days ago 1 reply      
This came to mind when I read the title: http://i.imgur.com/bPn53M1.jpg?1
NN88 4 days ago 0 replies      
I just can't help but think most people already knew this before he revealed it...but then I remember...so many people are just under a rock
jokoon 5 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder what will happen when his 1 year thing with russia will end...

Maybe canada or south america ?

Grue3 5 days ago 1 reply      
Hopefully he'll stop hogging the frontpage then. Just like nobody remembers Julian Assange anymore.
codex 5 days ago 2 replies      
The world, especially the intelligence world, is more than black and white. A myriad hues exist, some of them dark and dirty, some grey. Here is a portrait of a man who is color blind. Experiencing the world only through a computer, he lacks the judgement to jump to the right conclusions, and goes thermonuclear only to find that mainstream Americans don't share his disability. He wants to be another Assange, but in the end he is another Manning.
I worked on the US drone program. The public should know what really goes on theguardian.com
641 points by nsns  11 hours ago   383 comments top 41
jusben1369 9 hours ago 26 replies      
We need to make sure we're not being manipulated. Here the Guardian is just serving up an emotional, unsubstantiated, one sided view of this discussion. I'm not sure how this is different to much of the chest beating I'd see on Fox News. I'm not here to argue for or against the drones. Just that if we pride ourselves on being educated and critical thinkers that we apply that to all sources of data we read.

We all know war is hell. We know using weapons to attack people creates horrific, real human harm. So starting off listing the effects of weaponry on humans tells us nothing about drones. It just tells us about the horrors of war. Given this is an article about drones it should be very drone specific. Do drones increase or decrease the inevitable horrors of war? I suspect they decrease it with smaller more targeted bombs vs prior more traditional larger bombs. Today if we make a mistake we bomb the wrong home and kill everyone. 25 years ago we bombed the entire village. Maybe they increase it because we're carrying out a lot more sorties than we did prior when a jet and a pilot were needed/at risk. However, I'm not sure and this article goes nowhere close to helping with the discussion.

"The view is so pixelated it makes decisions tough" Can you imagine military people who fight/fought on the ground in real combat and order in strikes reading that? Surrounded by smoke and fire and deafening noise and hoping (or maybe not caring) that the strike they call in hits the right target/s vs all the nearby civilians also hiding and cowering in a village?

The military is aware of the impact on these operators. From a February 20013 article sighting a Defense Department study: Remotely piloted aircraft pilots may stare at the same piece of ground for days, said Jean Lin Otto, an epidemiologist who was a co-author of the study. They witness the carnage. Manned aircraft pilots dont do that. They get out of there as soon as possible.

Lastly, imagine how you'd feel reading a similar opinion piece on Fox News from a gun ho former operator talking about all the American lives he saved by observing and taking out "the bad guys". What's even better with drones we're not losing American solider lives and dramatically reducing the number of innocent civilians killed vs how we would have approached the same problem just 25 years ago.

War is hell. The issues are complex. Trusted new sources add to the debate. Biased ones feed their viewership what they know they'll eat up and do little, maybe even damage, the search for truth.

ck2 11 hours ago 16 replies      
The feed is so pixelated, what if it's a shovel, and not a weapon? I felt this confusion constantly, as did my fellow UAV analysts. We always wonder if we killed the right people

If this question even comes up once, drones should never, ever be armed.

Why is is okay to repeatedly kill the wrong person in another country? Can you imagine if that happened even just once in the USA?

We need an international ban on armed drones before it is too late.

fit2rule 11 hours ago 3 replies      
I think that one thing we 'normals' don't seem to understand, is that when you are in the business of killing, murdering, maiming other human beings, you're no longer really part of society. Society is determined by the survival of its members - start removing them, and you get a lesser society. That is obvious.

But we in the 'normal' society don't have a clue what those in the 'murdering business society' really think about us. More often than not, you'll find that the 'official killers' really don't care about human life - or else they wouldn't be devoting their time on earth to the singular purpose of killing, maiming, destroying life.

Its a simple fact that if you get up in the morning with the intention of taking a human life, if ordered to do so, then you no longer belong to the human race. You belong to something else. Not a single one of us in the 'normal society' can entertain the thought of killing someone, on a daily basis, and not suffer consequences. How is it then for those who spend their entire lives working to be the best possible killers they're allowed to be?

Killah911 10 hours ago 3 replies      
I've worked on building some AI for drones for the US, and I'm fairly certain that advents in new technologies will mitigate most of the concerns in the article. It will make for a seriously scary new world, where devices like this exist at massive scale. Dictatorships will be even more brutal, and oppressors, even more oppressive. The sociopath in control of these machines will no longer have to worry about someone not carrying out orders properly due to emotions or questioning their judgement.

All that aside, the one aspect I don't see getting resolved is the psychological effects of someone relatively "normal" & smart watching the horrors and carnage of war and then heading to the grocery store for some ice cream after his/her shift. Unlike being in a miserable (i.e. battlefield) place where your body is filled with adrenaline and a good chunk of your mental resources are dedicated to keeping yourself alive and getting the hell out of there alive. Having the time to reflect on the serious inequities in the world that you've just been witness to can't easily be swept under the rug. Even if the systems are mostly automated and pictures have a higher resolution, provided that the person/analyst/commander behind the screen is a somewhat sane and intelligent member of society, the psychological tolls might be worse when you're experiencing carnage thru relative safety.

tgflynn 9 hours ago 0 replies      
The common trend we see with the US government is total lack of restraint. It acts as a tyrant and a bully.

1) The government acquires drone technology. Rather than use it to kill a few known terrorists it operates massive drone programs which result in the deaths of 100's of innocent people in multiple countries.

2) The government develops advanced surveillance technology. Rather than use it on a few identified potential threats it decides to scoop up virtually all electronic communications of both its own and foreign citizens with regard for neither the letter nor the spirit of the US Bill of Rights.

3) The government enacts ridiculously heavy penalties for "crimes" whose negative impact is debatable then uses these laws and its virtually unlimited legal resources to terrorize individuals who engage in activities it doesn't like.

I would like to think that some of the better president's in this nation's history: FDR, Kennedy, etc., would have acted to reign in these abuses but in any case that isn't relevant to our current generations which seem devoid of any concept of collective well-being or spirit of disinterested public leadership.

The beast is clearly out of control.

macspoofing 10 hours ago 2 replies      
The entire concept of targeted drone assassinations is so surreal. Executing a convict in the US civilian court system requires a trial with a high-burden of proof, and the convict is afforded multiple appeals before the sentence is carried out. But in this case all it takes for the state to execute a suspect is the interpretation of some mid-level analyst. More perplexing, there are no qualms around civilian collateral damage. In what universe is striking a convoy carrying a suspect but also carrying innocent (or even if not innocent, not deserving a death sentence) civilians, deemed acceptable?
gnaffle 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I find amount of pro-drone comments here quite stunning, including the complete lack of appreciation of how the economies of scale of drones will radically alter the equation of whether these are a good idea or not.

"Now, all right we killed some innocent civilians, but that happens in war and we're at a constant war against terror now so there you go. Lets not jump to any conclusions about drones before all the facts are in!"

All I can say is that these people will probably shut up and at least moderate their views as soon as the police in their country starts deploying drones en masse.

wreegab 11 hours ago 1 reply      
> "the video provided by a drone is a far cry from clear enough to detect someone carrying a weapon, even on a crystal-clear day with limited clouds and perfect light"

I wished she had pushed the questioning even further:

Even if it's a weapon, that doesn't mean the person is a threat. I mean it's full of people carrying weapons in the U.S., they are not presumed a threat.

And even if the person is deemed a threat, maybe the he would surrender, but now he is not even offered this choice.

coldtea 9 hours ago 2 replies      
I thought this would be an anti-drone confession, but in reality it looks mostly manipulative.

Most of it is the impact of using drones on drone operators and the soldiers who have them on THEIR side. How about the impact of drones to the OTHER side? You know, the one under attack? Even giving them both 50% share of the article is a disservice to them, and here it's even worse.How about them breaking international law? How about them being used for murder operations in a no-war situation? How about them used already and even more down the road against a country's own citizens?

Another part of the article is about how they have low fidelity screens and radars and such. As if, if they had better tech (which they'll get down the road) all would be well with them.

Not much touching the actual ethical, human, political and diplomatic implications of their use.

rdl 3 hours ago 0 replies      
The only thing this shows is that the recruiting standards for the US drone program are substandard, as the author was allegedly part.

1) Yes, absolutely UAV based jammers don't block all IEDs. Ground jammers like WARLOCK also don't block all IEDs. One thing they did do was force a lot of command detonated IEDs to go to command wire systems, instead of various wireless systems, which meant we then had a man with a switch in his hand within a few hundred meters (tops), who we then lit the fuck up before or after the attack. Sure beats someone being in another city with a cellphone!

Just because something isn't 100% effective doesn't mean it's worthless.

2) Yes, UAVs are offensive combat weapons, particularly the programs in Horn of Africa and Pakistan. OTOH, I don't see a huge difference in getting killed by a Hellfire from a drone vs. having guys from JSOC show up at your door. There's a legitimate concern that UAVs lower the threshold to engage in ongoing low intensity conflict, but in the cases where they do have the right targets, I see no difference between drone, manned aircraft, or on the ground trigger-pullers.

3) The vast majority of drones are pure Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR) missions. DOD didn't even arm their drones for a long long time, it was CIA (who operate in those places) who pioneered armed Predators (then the other armed drones). Part of this is internal politics (pilots = officers), part of it is that when you've got manned aircraft armed with diverse weapons systems orbiting overhead, you can just use a smaller/cheaper/lighter drone for pure ISR, then when you develop a target, send the manned aircraft with a full suite of weapons to choose from to do the actual attack mission.

4) The grainy image of a UAV camera, over a 4h monitoring mission, is probably way beyond the standard of proof of a combat shooting in general. The UAV defaults to "no shoot". A soldier in combat who is threatened defaults to "shoot". You don't need high precision on a single image if you're able to spend a long time watching, gathering supporting information (knowing the area, vehicles that approach, etc.). This isn't law enforcement or civilian self defense; it's war. It's totally legitimate to question whether we should be at war, but the actual conduct of the war is less debatable IMO.

gibybo 11 hours ago 1 reply      
These seem like compelling arguments against our "war" in the middle east, but I'm not sure why we should be singling out UAVs. People die in wars. Sometimes they are enemies, sometimes they are friends, and sometimes they are innocent bystanders. Do drones really make war worse than it already is?
BrandonRead 10 hours ago 3 replies      
Does anybody think there is space for a "CS Students against Weaponry" alliance? I go to Umass Amherst, and there are tons of people who end up working for Raytheon upon graduation. Sure, the 100k / yr is quite tempting when you just came from community college and a retail job just years before, but perhaps some education may stop students from agreeing to internships and careers at Raytheon, etc. It's oftentimes good students who are mostly oblivious to why their skills are being exploited. Maybe we could affect this mindset and bring a larger student audience into the ethical discussion. It is becoming harder and harder to distinguish your contributions to the indirect damages caused to innocent third-parties. And with CS, it's not like there is a shortage of jobs. But that may be a misguided view--it's obvious that students take these jobs because they 'have to' or risk suffering anywhere from 10k to 300k of debt, depending on the school and their financial background. It's all very much a shame.
Houshalter 2 hours ago 0 replies      
So this affects people's lives and involves politics, but I can't help but feel like it's an engineering problem that could be solved. Measure how accurate information is from drones and how confident they are, calculate (even if roughly) how much is gained or lost by taking action. And then do whatever maximizes expected utility.

I feel like merely having access to another tool should never make things worse unless the leaders are incompetent.

SpaceRaccoon 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I watched a documentary by Vice recently about the Taliban in Pakistan. I do not remember the exact words, but when asked about allied air superiority with drones, an insurgent commander responded "Talking to people, I can get a few people to join my side. With one drone strike, I can get a whole village on my side." And herein lies the problem: for every insurgent a drone strike kills, whether he deserves it or not, that drone stroke motivates many more to join their ranks.

After a flood, the Taliban helped to rebuild villages in Pakistan. People felt that the state did nothing for them, thus again strengthening support for the insurgency. I feel as though, if the US instead invested the money from war to rather rebuilding, infrastructure, healthcare, education, that the insurgency would fade on its own.

People join the insurgency because they are motivated by hate and anger. Attempting to eliminate it through extermination is futile: the collateral damage only multiples the numbers wanting to fight. The way to win a war is by winning hearts and minds, as the cliche goes.

joshfraser 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Sometimes they can't tell if someone is carrying a weapon or not. Consider that for a moment. Even if they are carrying a weapon, why should that be enough information to issue a death sentence for them and everyone in their near proximity?
rcthompson 9 hours ago 2 replies      
How are the drones even relevant to the discussion? There are people controlling some device in order to kill other people. Why does it matter that the device happens to be an UAV in this case? How is it different if the device in question is instead a cruise missile? A rifle? A knife? A fist?

To me, the whole discussion about drones is a big misdirection that uses people's irrational fear of "killer robots" to make detractors forget that ultimately, there's a human pulling the trigger.

Who cares if Obama authorized a drone strike to kill a US citizen abroad? What I care about is that he authorized an assassination of a US citizen, not that he chose "drone strike" as the method.

cpncrunch 11 hours ago 1 reply      
A little bit more background on Heather Linebaugh: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/soldiers-in-the-military-are-...
anderspetersson 9 hours ago 1 reply      
All this criticism against drones. Drones are awesome.

I've worked on the ground in Afghanistan on a Mechanized Infantry Platoon. There's nothing more calming than hearing the buzz from a drone keeping an eye on the terrain from above and reporting to the TACP while you're on the ground. We where saved multiple times from running into ambushes and IEDs thanks to drones. Sure, Apache's could do the job as-well, but when they run out of fuel, and they do more often than a drone, you're on your own.

Sure, that's another mission from flying a drone to a compound in Pakistan and dropping some explosive on it, that I can not comment on since I have not seen the Intel behind those missions.

nationcrafting 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Scary as current drones are, they are nothing compared to how crazy things are going to get very quickly.

Think of completely power-autonomous drones, the size of a wasp, swarming by the millions in the sky. The swarming feature alone would render most people helpless against an attack, or their sheer presence. To this, add distributed intelligence features, and networked control. The swarm becomes something akin to an intelligent, flying, all-seeing liquid.

Then think of the drop in price that will enable this to become the dominant method of surveillance, policing, and military operations. There will quickly be nothing stopping dictatorships from buying billions of them, making them ubiquitous and all-pervasive. Killing, threatening and controlling billions of people suddenly becomes quite cheap, efficient, easy and cost-effective. Don't like those people demonstrating in your city? Send the swarms.

smegel 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I don't find this very insightful.

Drones kill civilians? Yeah, we know. Collateral damage is a reality of war.

Drones are weapons? Is that really a revelation?

I think there is a lot to criticize about the drone program, but it shouldn't read like this.

artellectual 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I think it's pretty clear that, the US army looks out for one nation only the U S of A, they are definitely making it clear that humanities best interest is not their long term goal. They look out for their own, I think we all live in a world where we all look out for our own. The US army are no better than the terrrorists who took the innocent lives of Americans. Honestly the US is just a big bully and what it all comes down to is media, they've brain washed the entire nation to make it seem like all these drone attacks are ok, they're not severe, they're not as bad as it sounds, justifying it through fancy words the common people can't understand. The fact is its usually worse than it sounds but most people just choose to switch off from it because no one wants to think about these depressing things, and by switching off their brains they are empowering the politicians that pull the triggers.

It's never ok when innocent people die, innocent civilians of the US don't want innocent civilians of other nations to die. The fact of the matter is it's not these civilians who are pulling the trigger.

The way I see it we all follow a pattern. In the US you have 2 big political parties, democrat and republican. I mean no one ever questions why we let these dickheads stay in power? Why isn't there a third, fourth or a fifth party? They have fabricated a world and a media were they have basically brain washed the entire world. I mean honestly do u think having 2 parties take turn in power is a democracy? What it all comes down to is to not give them the power. I think in every nation all around the world not voting is as powerful as voting. Breaking that pattern and having that critical thinking, to call the politicians bullshit, and impeach the shit out of them when they fuck up and lie, that conviction to get up and do the right thing. But that will never happen, because it's too hard, because we've all been brain washed, becuase everyone is busy living their lives.

I think the American people have forgotten that their government exist to serve them not the other way around, when you pay tax your paying for a service, when you not getting the service you asked for, you should get up and do something.

yeukhon 11 hours ago 1 reply      
> The UAV's in the Middle East are used as a weapon, not as protection, and as long as our public remains ignorant to this

Honestly, it has always been seen as a weapon. The whole point of drone is to carry out mission 24/7 as much as possible, because a pilot can't fly back and forth without sleeping. Also, humans have emotions they don't always follow orders.

> incredibly difficult for the best analysts to identify if someone has weapons for sure

I have always thought the military fly drones to carry out specific mission, such as taking photos or launching an attack. And the latter is usually confirmed by some "intelligence". I want to see how many drone attacks were performed without a single human intelligence confirmation.

> But here's the thing: I may not have been on the ground in Afghanistan, but I watched parts of the conflict in great detail on a screen for days on end

This is best seen in the movie Black Hawk Down (2001), based on true story.

njharman 6 hours ago 1 reply      
This topic can be summed up as war is hell. It is brutal, bloody and evil. UAVs, nor anything else alters this.

Modern democracies know this well and try to hide the horrors of war from their citizens. To have the freedom to wage war for as long as possible (or as long as needed) before public outrage forces them to stop.

Citizens are at fault for not knowing history and not paying attention.

stcredzero 7 hours ago 0 replies      
> One example comes to mind: "The feed is so pixelated, what if it's a shovel, and not a weapon?"

This is precisely what the Oculus Rift folks and the people working on the helmet that goes with the F-35 are working against. Biological senses are freaking amazing. The outliers on the upper end of the scale are downright incredible. Synthetic substitutes need to be really well engineered to be comparable or surpass them. (Which is precisely what happened with RADAR. Did you know that modern radio telescopes developed from technology we used to eavesdrop on Soviet EM emissions reflected off the moon? Did you know that the energy gathered by all of the radio telescopes, ever, is less than that of a single snowflake hitting the ground?)

kevinpet 9 hours ago 0 replies      
This article could just as well describing how war is conducted since we switched from all cotton to cotton-polyester blend utilities uniforms. It lets the reader assume that in some way drones are worse than non-drone warfare, without advancing any argument in that direction.
classicsnoot 9 hours ago 0 replies      
There are a lot of comments, so i apologize if i am parroting a wiser person, but this thought has been occupying my head for some time and i crave the sweet relief of discourse.

Drones are here to stay. Maybe like nuclear weapons, they will be something we try to eradicate later, but for now, we must accept and incorporate them, as companies/governments will make it happen regardless of our [read:citizenry(...of the world, of course)] concerns or opposition. In light of this, it is me earnest and sincere belief that control of the sky over our heads is up for grabs. Bothered by kill bots flown over your head by sme assholes in Nevada? Start building aerial jammers, yo. Think those pigs in your 'hood are corrupt? Set up video surveillance and make it open/free access online. Take pictures of cops using their mobiles whilst driving. Say nothing unnecessary at traffic stops; be happy to join them for a free ride to the station and a front row seat to how paperwork is an unbiased weapon in the hands of informed folks. I am so sick of soccer moms and military assholes telling me what is "safe", what "security" means, and how freaking precious our nation is. There is no one coming to save us, not in the US, not in Europe, and especially not in China (India... well we will see). But that is cool, because we have Internet. Seriously, in a stand up arms race, who is going to win, they people paying 100 million per drone or the people paying 1000 per drone. We dont need ordinance. We don't need permission. We have all the know how required [the OP/author sounds like a soldier of conscience if there ever was one]. This is not some Occupy circus. It is not a call for revolution or insurrection. It is just one person, trying to point out the facts...

We, as the armchair scientists and tech inclined folk of the world, have the balance of insight, experience, funding, and motivation on our side. what is more, we need not kill anyone. we dont need to blow anyone up. Most importantly, we get to be honest, and we get to work by choice.

We as people need not sit idly by while politicians and constables decide our fates and the fates of our brothers and sisters around the world. i long for a day when my country, because we kick ass, carpet bombs africa and the middle east weekly with well made books, toothpaste, and ruggedized tablet computers. I do not think this is a fantasy, but i am very aware of the other options.

...shit, this isn't the meeting at the docks...

bsaul 9 hours ago 0 replies      
it's not the first time i see reports about war traumas for drone pilots and analysts.I hope this won't be used later as an argument for fully automated drones. I much prefer having a least some people traumatized by being in war than none.
forktheif 10 hours ago 1 reply      
Again with the drone bashing.

Civilians got killed by manned aircraft too. A-10s launching Hellfires at a wedding party, or AH-64 Apaches gunning down farmers in a field. It happens. And whether the pilot is sitting in the aircraft or a thousand miles away makes no difference. It's the same imperfect people making the same imperfect decisions based on imperfect information.

pearjuice 5 hours ago 1 reply      
What stuns me the most about drones is how unfair they are. The targets are mostly the Middle-East and they have absolutely no chance to take them down. And then they wonder why they attack innocent Americans working in an embasy. How are you supposed to fight something you cannot see? You don't, so you attack something of the enemy, no matter what, because it is the last option to hurt him.
logotype 10 hours ago 1 reply      
The story is contradictory "...I watched parts of the conflict in great detail on a screen..." and "The feed is so pixelated"
spiritplumber 10 hours ago 1 reply      
The public should also know that all this long range drone stuff can be done for cheap.

Also, they pixelate the feed on purpose, to remove hesitation when hitting the trigger.

kingkawn 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Side note, I am excited for the application of all of this drone technology into things other than killing. War seems to be one of the few things that the US is unapologetically willing to go into debt to fund. Lots of cool possibilities with high resolution sensor technology.
f_salmon 11 hours ago 0 replies      
The drone program is probably the most efficient way to recruit new terrorists.

Which is probably in the interest of the NSA. How else can they justify their dirty work if their is no more perceived "treat".

DanielBMarkham 10 hours ago 1 reply      
It sucks to be part of the human element making life and death decisions about armed robots being used in non-traditional war situations.

That's about all I got from this. And yes, it does suck. There was a third claim, that the public is misinformed/misled, but I take issue with that one. I think most people understand that somebody, somewhere is pushing the button.

This essay didn't go into the rationale for drone warfare, or the situation that brought the west into armed conflict in the first place. So it's not hitting on a lot in terms of talking about the geopolitical issues, it's just a plea for more empathy about what's actually being done.

I share that concern. We should be more empathetic. However -- and this is a big deal -- feeling more fully the terrible things we are doing does not in any way make those things less necessary. Those are two separate subjects.

I think we are going down a bad road with armed robots, but I don't think essays like this are helping the discussion much. Still, it was good to hear this voice.

sinwave 6 hours ago 0 replies      
The title of this article is a bit misleading - I was expecting some fresh facts about the drone program. What I got instead was some heavy pathos and not much substance.
kyleblarson 8 hours ago 0 replies      
The Nobel Foundation must be facepalming a lot these days after O's peace prize.
bearwithclaws 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Any cache or mirrors? Can't seemed to view the site.
salient 10 hours ago 0 replies      
This is only going to get worse if they make drones autonomous, which this TED talk shows they have a lot of reasons for why they will want to make them autonomous, unless there's huge public outcry demanding a ban:


chmike 10 hours ago 0 replies      
what wories me the most with that UAV analyst problem is that there is only two solution. Minimize or even stop these operations or automate them with computers. I'm "curious" where this later option could lead us.
TruthElixirX 11 hours ago 1 reply      
>Recently, the Guardian ran a commentary by Britain's secretary of state for defence Philip Hammond. I wish I could talk to him about the two friends and colleagues I lost, within one year leaving the military, to suicide. I am sure he has not been notified of that little bit of the secret UAV program, or he would surely take a closer look at the full scope of the program before defending it again.

I doubt he gives a shit, and the reason we are in this mess is because most people think people like him do give a shit, they are just "misinformed."

apunic 11 hours ago 2 replies      
Any tl;dr?
Sent $35,104.11 USD to CoinBase. Never received Bitcoins
618 points by mgrunin  11 days ago   474 comments top 59
barmstrong 11 days ago 38 replies      
Brian from Coinbase here. Sorry for the delay on that - definitely not the customer experience we are striving for.

We should have things squared away for you by end of day.

Edit: your bitcoin credit has now been processed. It looks like as we were performing server upgrades last week a handful of jobs didn't run as normal. We should have certainly caught it and responded sooner so that was our fault. My deepest apologies for the delay and trouble on that. We've credited $50 worth of bitcoin to your account for the trouble, as a small way of saying thank you for bearing with us.

Edit2: we'll push through the bitcoin credit at today's price instead of the original buy price (which should be in your favor) since the mistake was on our part. Sorry again for the trouble!

justin66 11 days ago 2 replies      
> Further avoidance by them will lead me to make a few calls to news stations.

Eek. The best case scenario is that you'll get a news blurb on local TV where you're portrayed as a sucker. "Weird online currency thing does weird stuff in the way you'd expect weird online currency thing to do, and look at this greedy rube who got sucked in and lost it all! Film at 11."

logjam 11 days ago 3 replies      
So wonderful to watch this little drama (complete with breathless appeals to get the news media involved) play out today on HN, which appears to have become "Bitcoin News".

A match made in heaven, between this genius financial entrepreneur and this competent, reliable trading platform, seems to at least sum up Bitcoin nicely, if not the brainless economic philosophies underlying this horseshit.

sheetjs 11 days ago 6 replies      
From their terms of service:

> Coinbase does not guarantee the value of bitcoin. You acknowledge that the price or value of bitcoin can change rapidly, decrease, and potentially even fall to zero. You acknowledge that holding bitcoin is high risk. You agree to deliver the agreed upon payment for bitcoin upon confirmation of an order, regardless of changes in bitcoin value.

> Coinbase will make reasonable efforts to ensure that requests for electronic debits and credits involving bank accounts, credit cards, and check issuances are processed in a timely manner but Coinbase makes no representations or warranties regarding the amount of time needed to complete processing because Coinbase services are dependent upon many factors outside of our control, such as delays in the banking system or the U.S. or international mail service.

It's possible that Coinbase is experiencing delays, and their terms of service give them a clear escape path. It sucks that they are holding onto your money, but consider this a learning experience: always start small, make sure everything smells right, and then scale up. If they were holding onto 35.10 rather than 35.10K, I suspect you would react differently

PeterisP 11 days ago 6 replies      
To all of you who say that Bitcoin shouldn't be regulated - this is what it results in.

If it was any regulated financial deal - say, purchase of stock or Yen - then there are clear rules on how to handle that, namely, you'd be entitled to at least compensation for any decrease between the 'locked' price at the agreed settlement date and the real settlement, whenever it may happen, and the interest for the period. Repeated such situations would result in a rapid audit to verify if they really have enough assets to pay out all their debts, and if not, shut them down immediately.

Now you're quite screwed, while coinbase has taken a profit on this (and probably other) deals by delaying these settlements. And what are you going to do if you don't get all the losses covered? Your options are quite limited.

chollida1 11 days ago 1 reply      
Here is the problem with coinbases tactics.

Consider buying $1,000 worth of bitcoins...

Coinbase can tell you your price.

Coinbase can then just wait, and wait and wait, weeks on end for the price to dip down. They can then buy the coins at the lower price and deliver them to you voila, they profit from you. This is very dubious.

If the price goes up they then buy at your price + some percent of their commission so they don't lose money, either way.

tga 11 days ago 3 replies      
For anyone considering using Coinbase or similar services where you have to pay via bank transfer -- think twice and take this as a serious warning that you have almost no protection if they screw you/up somehow.

I have a problem with Coinbase for a much smaller sum (luckily): ordered at what I was convinced was a fixed price and just received less BTC at a much higher rate. Their customer support refuses to help (or even to cancel the transaction) and banks just don't get involved in direct transfers on your side, the way they would do on a credit card transaction.

Short of going to the police and lamenting on forums (hello!), there is nothing you can do.

buss 11 days ago 1 reply      
They've had some problems recently. I'm now at day 12 waiting for an "instant buy" to clear. The ACH transfer cleared over a week ago but I still don't have my coins. (Support #67989 for anybody at coinbase)

It's weird, I performed several small buys in a row just in case this exact thing happened. I got 5/6 purchases but this one is stuck in some weird state. I really like coinbase; they're just having some trouble handling the huge increase in volume recently.

nathas 11 days ago 2 replies      
I hate to be that guy, but Coinbase is pretty clear that you'll get your coins _eventually_.

If I were doing thousands in transfers, I'd absolutely be using an exchange. They're also a small start up, funding or not.

Their support team has always come through and usually eats the cost difference if it was a bump on their end. I'd just wait it out.

baddox 11 days ago 1 reply      
> Now the real dilemma for me here is the fact that while CoinBase.com has locked in a price for me, because they have failed to deliver I cannot sell my coins at any rate. Bitcoins could drop down to $200, and only then might they deliver the coins.

It's scary that they can literally guarantee constant wins for themselves by choosing how long to delay the delivery of Bitcoins to customers.

seanalltogether 11 days ago 0 replies      
HN is really getting overloaded with bitcoin noise the past couple weeks. Honestly this just doesn't feel like the right venue for advice and support about this stuff.
Moral_ 11 days ago 3 replies      
I feel bad for you, honestly. But serious question as well: Would you have went public with this if the price hadn't fallen dramatically? Perhaps if it went back up to $1500 a coin would things be different? Either way I hope things get resolved for you.
scrame 11 days ago 0 replies      
I bought 1 a few weeks ago. I got a notice last week that they rejected it and would be returning my money. They have still not returned my money, and their customer service emails just return an automated "we are looking into it", with no follow-up.

It seems like they take orders as long as they make money (a friend ordering the day before took a loss and they accepted his payment no problem). Looking around their forums, the arbitrary rejections seem very common and make the company seem quite scammy.

mgrunin 11 days ago 0 replies      
The situation has been appropriately resolved by CoinBase. I would like to thank Brian for making this right. It is unfortunate that this situation had to be dealt with in the public light, but this was my last resource before contacting lawyers.

I will answer other comments later tonight.

Thank you HackerNews.

- Martin

keeran 11 days ago 0 replies      
If you search for 'coinbase' on https://bitcointalk.org/ you get a sea of people complaining about the same or similar issues - stay well clear.
zt 11 days ago 3 replies      
ACH transactions are reversible FWIW.
margaux 11 days ago 1 reply      
Not to shamelessly self promote, but the best way to buy/sell large amounts of BTC is directly, without going through an exchange/retail site. It is faster, cheaper and definitely a better customer experience. I've worked at two bitcoin exchanges so I know from experience. Now I am arranging private deals between a buyer and a seller. Here is the plug now though www.BitcoinCapitalPartners.com
tylerlh 11 days ago 0 replies      
FWIW, I made a small transaction with Coinbase not long ago and while they "guaranteed" the coins would be in my account by a certain date, they didn't actually deposit them until 2-3 days after that. Struck me as pretty odd.

Hope your situation gets settled quickly.

agib 11 days ago 3 replies      
I also have some very strange behavior going on in my account: https://twitter.com/agibralter/status/411685377015947264

Basically they're showing a transaction of selling BTC that I never made or authorized. Also, it's showing up in my transaction list but not in my history...

They said they're looking into it, but I haven't heard back in days.

sard420 11 days ago 1 reply      
I'll say this again about coinbase, I'm convinced they are playing the market on peoples investment. I bought when bitcoin was starting to rocket, they tied my money up for weeks, bitcoin doubles in that time. Then after that I get a sorry letter and my money back. What was my money doing in that time? Probably making them money.
drcode 11 days ago 1 reply      
HN is now a coinbase support forum?

Why would you put that much money into a service that isn't a true bitcoin exchange? Do you realize they're an extra middleman that is likely to add more delays to any transaction?

If you look at reddit.com/r/coinbase you'd know this sort of thing is a common occurrence with coinbase- Why are you surprised this is happening? Seems like they have a history of this sort of thing that should have warned you of the risks you were taking. Why give them your business if they're known to do this type of thing?

If people keep supporting businesses that act in a manner they're not happy with then what is the incentive for anyone to create a better alternative?

kjackson2012 11 days ago 0 replies      
Do an ACH chargeback as quickly as possible, don't be an idiot and wait for a response, otherwise you may miss your opportunity to walk away without losing $10k.
7Figures2Commas 11 days ago 1 reply      
Welcome to counterparty risk, Bitcoin style.
GarrettBeck 11 days ago 1 reply      
This is the same situation as Facebook's IPO with NASDAQ. Orders were placed $40, then cancelled, then filled at $40 six hours after the market closed (at which point Facebook was already trading below its IPO price).

Unless you are a massive financial institution with some serious clout/legal department, I recommend you cut your losses and move on.

Your time is much more valuable spent doing something else rather than the time you will spend trying to recover $X,XXX

sergiotapia 11 days ago 0 replies      
His website is hacked by some terrorists: http://www.winningportfolio.com/
fnordfnordfnord 11 days ago 0 replies      
This was posted to imgur a few hours ago. I have no idea of its authenticity, but hopefully they're just really busy, and will do the right things. Good luck.

"Coinbase being a bro - saved me $400" http://imgur.com/r/Bitcoin/E52ILfD

jbverschoor 11 days ago 0 replies      
Tbh... I would still reverse it.I refuse to do business anymore with companies that do not respond.
WoodenChair 11 days ago 0 replies      
Apparently mgrunin's website was also hacked. Not his week.
yarou 10 days ago 0 replies      
This is why I can't take Bitcoin seriously. It's a liquidity depth issue. Much like HFT, there is a _perception_ that the order book has depth. But there's no guarantee that you'll get execution at the price displayed. At least market makers in the past were forced to execute up to a certain amount by regulation. No such regulation exists here.
bsiddiqui 11 days ago 0 replies      
Coinbase customer service sucks - I rarely get a response, given I've never been this screwed over
kolev 11 days ago 1 reply      
I've had poor experiences with Coinbase as well, hit major bugs, which cost me hundreds. The only reason people use them is that they are the only choice at the moment. Can't wait for more alternatives such as Circle to launch! In cases like this , regulation and compliance don't sound like something negative!
yeukhon 10 days ago 0 replies      
Leaking the last four digit of your bank account can be dangerous.http://www.nbcnews.com/id/44231957/#.UrKovi95F7M

Though old news god wonders what other services still do this.

We know your name is Martian and if we spend enough time we might be able to identity your true identity and possible to start trying things.

If you want to hide your identity, you probably should just use something more distinct.

Just saying.

rjbwork 11 days ago 0 replies      
Hey, do you know your website has been hacked?
C1D 11 days ago 1 reply      
I get you're angry about the bad customer service but dude, you need to get off your high horse and realise you're not that special. I don't know who you are and don't care and googling you name doesn't come up with anything special. Get over your self, unless you're a real celebrity no one will care, even if your story made it on to tv (which I highly doubt).
camus2 11 days ago 0 replies      
Can we say coinbase is basically shorting bitcoin with its customer's money ? (it's a question.)
bachback 11 days ago 0 replies      
If you have serious money to transfer into BTC, this is not the way to go. Coinbase essentially is an intermediary, not a wallet. The whole point of Bitcoin is to get of intermediaries as are inefficient and make profits along the way. Bitcoin will solve this, it will just a take a couple of years. Btw, online-wallets neglect the working of the algorithm at some point. The system depends at the moment depends that people know what they are doing.
ffrryuu 11 days ago 0 replies      
I got some Tulips you can buy to make up your loss on.
heavymark 11 days ago 0 replies      
I'd go straight to anyone and anyone who will listen. Companies don't escalate until they need to. HackerNews is big for us technies but you need to blow up their twitter,facebook, retweets daily as every day your going to lose value as bitcoin continues to drop with the news about china.
coinhoarder 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm in the same exact situation, except for the amount of BTC (I purchased 10BTC). The ACH was cleared on Friday Dec 11th and the message read "Your bitcoin will arrive by the end of day on Friday Dec 13, 2013.". The actual coins didn't show up until mid-day Dec 18th, 5 days later and $400 below the Friday's levels. Can I have my purchase price adjusted as well? Or Coinbase have some sort of a preferential treatment program? My Case # is 73898.
wil421 11 days ago 0 replies      
How could you get that amount of money back to dollars, if lets say the price doubled and you wanted to sell?

Like back in my bank account dollars.

sifarat 11 days ago 0 replies      
Now take my sincere advise, take a trip to Hawaii for couple of weeks. don't sell them fast. Once you are back, you will either have another trip, or just cash out successfully. end.

As for coinbase, Well played Sir, this comes from a broker but in a different field. every fucking pun intended.

AH4oFVbPT4f8 11 days ago 1 reply      
Did you have prior experience with CoinBase and buying bitcoins from them?

If not, why didn't you start with 1k to make sure the transaction went smoothly before sending over 35k?

yeahwhateverbro 11 days ago 1 reply      
So Coinbase put me in a similar situation but they haven't bothered to respond to any of my emails thus far. Is this where I contact Coinbase customer support?
miguelrochefort 11 days ago 0 replies      
> Further avoidance by them will lead me to make a few calls to news stations. I have the right contacts to easily put myself in the media.


issdispatch 9 days ago 0 replies      
I am really confused and frustrated. I sent my first ever BUY through Coinbase. I got my checking all set up. Made my purchase on 12-16-2013(an earth shattering .12 coins $100 bucks) No biggie. On 12-17-2013 the US funds left my bank account and off to coinbase. Alas... All I need to do is wait now until the 20th to spend my now 30 dollar loss due to market. Well here it is. The 20th of December somewhere in the world so I go to look at my account and there are no coins. Further inspection of this I find my transaction was canceled. No explanation. Just a big red canceled. Wheres my money now? I really want to be an advocate and intend to move WAY more than $100.00 into the bitcoin market place but seriously? Just a hundred dollar transaction that made one of their customers slightly irritated? Im glad I DIDN'T trust them with serious cash like the originator of this post!Come on... GUYS! Don't take the fun out of all this! Figure it out! (Because if its not fun... It certainly wont be VIABLE!)
frodopwns 11 days ago 0 replies      
My first purchase with Coinbase took 7 full business days (not far off from what you waited). Other than that my experience with Coinbase has been 100% positive...extremely fast and reliable service.
deutronium 11 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, what a disgraceful way to treat people. Certainly a company to steer clear of then.
cehlen 10 days ago 0 replies      
Question for mgrunin. In your opinion did CoinBase make things right? If not, why? If so then can well just drop this!
arun_bansal 11 days ago 1 reply      
Since it has taken this long, I guess you would rather have the lock price removed. It's around ~551.57 vs your original 868.91
wavefunction 11 days ago 3 replies      
Speculation is a risky endeavor.
tyang 7 days ago 0 replies      
Bitcoin amateur hour continues.
_nato_ 11 days ago 0 replies      
Yikes! I really hope this gets resolved for you!
thaifighter 10 days ago 0 replies      
Crap. I was looking at Coinbase. Has this happened to others?
bsiddiqui 11 days ago 0 replies      
What're your non-Coinbase platforms for purchasing coins?
thinkcomp 10 days ago 0 replies      
The official way to file a complaint is with the California Department of Business Oversight, and the form is here:


adizam 11 days ago 0 replies      
Well now I know not to use coinbase :)
justinzollars 11 days ago 0 replies      
melling 11 days ago 0 replies      
Those guys in finance don't make or sell anything. They're just greedy. Too many of the smartest people go into it just to make money... Me on the other hand, I'm gonna make a difference.

Where can I get me some of those Bitcoins!?

iblaine 11 days ago 1 reply      
The guy who bought these coins is a douche. The fact is bitcoins are highly unstable and he bought them when the price was high(for this week). It is doubtful he would have had the sense to sell them before todays drop. If he really believes that bitcoins are a good investment, which I do, then he should have faith that they will rise in value over time(months, years). It's speculators like this that buy in when the price is high then immediately complain about the volatility that give bitcoins a bad name.
A Great Old-Timey Game-Programming Hack moertel.com
554 points by acqq  13 days ago   143 comments top 30
Morgawr 13 days ago 8 replies      
This reminded me of a game programming hack I did back in highschool. I had just started a school course on Pascal and decided to code a small game of snake, just for fun. I knew very little about actual programming, I was a real novice. The game was very simple, it was running in a windows console (cmd) without any graphics, the actual assets were ASCII art. The grid of the game was represented with asterisks and the snake was dots with a smiley face (one of those weird ASCII symbols nobody knows why it's there). Every game update I would redraw the whole grid, snake and the comma that was used to output the food.

The problem was that this was terribly slow, it flickered like crazy and it was unplayable. I was very sad because my game was working but unplayable for anybody so I tried to engineer a way to make it stop flickering. The solution came when I found out about a couple of functions in pascal that let you clear a specific character in the console at a specific X,Y coordinate and write another character that that coordinate. What I ended up doing was keep track of all the changes in the game for each frame (snake movements, food position) and just re-draw only the portions of screen that had changed.

This was great, no more flickering and the game was playable. (Nobody really played it because nobody cared but I was really proud of it).

Found out years later that this approach is pretty much what Carmack did in his old games: Adaptive Tile Refresh[1]


tbirdz 13 days ago 6 replies      
>The challenge wasn't overwhelming complexity, as it is today. The challenge was cramming your ideas into machines so slow, so limited that most ideas didn't fit.

I like this line right here. It does seem like we've piled on abstraction after abstraction in these days. Sure this does make things easier, but I think things have gotten so complex that it's much harder to have a complete mental model of what your code is actually doing than in the simpler machines of the past.

pflanze 13 days ago 1 reply      
I still remember a hack that I figured out on the Commodore 128 to speed up the 80 column display. I'm not aware of any program that actually made use of it (probably because the C128 and its 80 column display did not have a big enough user base to make it worthwhile to develop programs that needed speedy output).

The C128 had two separate video chips/ports, a C64 compatible chip showing a 40x25 character (320x200 pixel) display, and the "VDC"[1] showing 80x25 characters (640x200, or with interlacing, 640x400 or more), which was output on a separate connector. The VDC had a hideous way to change the display: it had its own video RAM, which the CPU couldn't access directly, instead the video chip had two internal registers (low and high byte) to store the address you wanted to access, and another register to read or write the value at that address. But that wasn't enough, the CPU couldn't access those VDC registers directly either, there was a second indirection on top: the CPU could only access two 2nd-level registers, one in which to store the number of the 'real' register you wanted to access, then you had to poll until the VDC would indicate that it's ready to receive the new value, and you would save the new value for the hidden register in the other 2nd level register. (There's assemply on [1] describing that 2nd level.) Those two registers were the only way of interaction between the CPU and the 80 column display.

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

This was extremely slow. Not only because of the amount of instructions, but the VDC would often be slow to issue the readyness flag, thus the CPU would be wasting cycles in a tight loop waiting for the OK.

Now my discovery was that the VDC didn't always react slowly, it had times when the readyness bit would be set on the next CPU cycle. Unsurprisingly, the quick reaction times were during the vertical blanking period (when the ray would travel to the top of the screen, and nothing was displayed). During that time, there wasn't even a need to poll for the VDC's readyness, you could simply feed values to the 2nd level interface as fast as the CPU would allow, without any verification. Thus if you would do your updates to the screen during the vertical screen blank, you would achieve a lot more (more than a magnitude faster, IIRC), and the "impossibly slow" video would actually come into a speed range that might have made it interesting for some kinds of video games. Still too slow to do any real-time hires graphics, and the VDC didn't have any sprites, but it had powerful character based features and quite much internal RAM, plus blitting capabilities, so with enough creativity you might have been able to get away by changing the bitmaps representing selected characters to imitate sprites. And you could run the CPU in its 2 Mhz mode all the time (unlike when using the 40 column video, where you would have to turn it down to 1 Mhz to not interfere with the video chip accessing RAM in parallel, at least during that chip's non-screenblank periods.) My code probably looked something like:

        lda #$12       ; VDC Address High Byte register        sta $d600      ; write to control registerlda #$10       ; address hi byte        sta $d601      ; store        ldx #$13       ; VDC Address Low Byte register        ldy #$00       ; address lo byte loop                                                            cycles        stx $d600      ; select address low byte register   4        sty $d601      ; update address low byte            4        lda #$1f       ; VDC Data Register                  3 ?        sta $d600                                           4        lda base,y     ; load value from CPU RAM            4 ?        sta $d601      ; store in VDC RAM                   4        iny                                                 2        bne loop       ; or do some loop unrolling          3 ?        ..
(28 cycles per byte, at 2 Mhz, => about 300-400 bytes per frame. Although the C128 could remap the zero page, too (to any page?), and definitely relocate the stack to any page, thus there are a couple ways to optimize this. (Hm, was there also a mode that had the VDC auto-increment the address pointer? Thus pushing data to $d601 repeatedly would be all that was needed? I can't remember.))

How would you time your screen updates to the vertical blanking period? There was no way for the VDC to deliver interrupts. It did however have a register that returned the vertical ray position. Also, the C128 had a separate IC holding timers. Thus IIRC I wrote code to reprogram the timer on every frame with updated timing calculations, so that I got an interrupt right when the VDC would enter the vertical blanking area.

As I said, I'm not aware of any production level program that used this; perhaps some did, but at least the behaviour was not documented in the manuals I had.

The VDC felt even more like a waste after I discovered this. The only use I had for it was using some text editor. I wasn't up to writing big programs at the time, either.

PS. sorry if that was a bit long.

justanother 13 days ago 1 reply      
This is not unlike how 'fast' screen updates are done on the Apple IIGS. The fastest memory operations on the 6502 and 65816 involve the stack, so one ends up mapping the stack to the top of framebuffer RAM and pushing a lot of values onto it in an unrolled loop. The unrolled loop is itself rewritten by other code to provide the data for the next update.

Apple developer support themselves described this idea in Technote #70, http://www.1000bit.it/support/manuali/apple/technotes/iigs/t...

Jare 13 days ago 0 replies      
We did this in our Sinclair Spectrum games to blit the backbuffer to the display memory. Interrupts were not a problem because if they occured during the PUSH (display memory), the corruption would be overwritten immediately when the blit continued, and if they occured during the POP, the backbuffer was going to be overwritten in its entirety the next frame.

However, we had to leave some space at the edge of backbuffer memory, because if there's an interrupt right at the beginning of the blit, the interrupt handler's stack frame could overflow outside of the backbuffer and corrupt other memory. That one was fun to find. [Edit]: I seem to have missed the second footnote where he already describes this issue.

caster_cp 13 days ago 1 reply      
Loved the story! Mostly because I lived this stuff, and I'm 25 years old :p. In my Electronic Engineering graduation we had three professors crazy about assembly and slow PCs (in fact, FPGAs and microcontrollers). I remember the nights I spent awake trying to make a Viterbi Encoder/Decoder fit into a tiny FPGA, cramming a complex temperature controller (while reading sensors, commanding motors, and handling the input/output) in an 8051, or programming a 128khz sound recorder in assembly on an (old as hell) ARM, while communicating to a PC, showing info on a LCD and doing all the filtering digitally (the only analog stuff we were allowed to use were an anti-aliasing filter and the input/output conforming circuits). Ah, the crazy filters we devised to use all the old ARM's juice.

I lost myself there, but my main point is: in electronics (embedded systems, mainly) all this beautiful joy of crazy optimizations is still alive :D

stusmith1977 13 days ago 3 replies      
Reminds me fondly of the time I was writing assembler for the ARM2/3... it had such a nice instruction set that made hand-writing assembler pleasant.

It had a "barrel shifter" that gave you free shifts of powers of two, so you could calculate screen byte offsets quickly:

  // offset = x + y * 320  ADD R0, R1, R2, LSL #8  ADD R0, R0, R2, LSL #5  // = 2 cycles
It also had bulk loads and stores that made reading/writing RAM cheaper. The trick there was to spill as many registers as you possibly could, so that you could transfer as many words as possible per bulk load/store.

  LDMIA R10!, {R0-R9}  STMIA R11!, {R0-R9}  // Transfers 40 bytes from memory pointed to by R10 to memory pointed to by R11,  // And updates both pointers to the new addresses,  // And only takes (3+10)*2 = 26 cycles to do the lot.
Happy days...

jebus989 13 days ago 0 replies      
Great story, thanks for this; it's a refreshing change from bitcoin and VC chatter.
danielweber 13 days ago 0 replies      
I have been searching for at least 10 years for the term "involution": the set of functions where f(f(x)) = x. Now i have it. Thank you.
couchand 13 days ago 2 replies      
This is a really neat article. One thing: the author falls victim to a common, unfortunate mistake in calculating the percentage gains: ...120 cycles. Thats a 30-percent speed-up. and then ...98 cycles. Compared to the original code, thats 60 percent faster.

The right way to calculate this figure is (t1 - t0)/t0, rather than the author's formula which seems to be (t1 - t0)/t1. For instance: (157 - 98)/98 = 60%, but the actual amount is (157 - 98)/157 = a 38% speed up. A heuristic: 60% of 157 will be much more than 60 (since 60% of 100 = 60), which means a 60% speed up would reduce the speed to below 97 cycles.

It gets even more misleading the more efficient it gets: Adding up the cycles, the total was just 1689. I had shaved almost 1200 cycles off of my friends code. Thats a 70 percent speed-up! The author has 1200/1689 = 71%, but the correct numbers yield 1200/(1689+1200) = 42%.

Not that I don't think these are significant gains, but it's just misleading to label them like this. If you've removed less than half the cycles, there's no way you've seen a 70% speed up.

snorkel 13 days ago 0 replies      
I don't recall which of the Atari cart game did this (might've been Combat) rather than using space for storing sound effects the game would refer to its own code in memory for a random noise sound effect.

So true that back in the day much of a game programmers mental effort was spent on how to make big ideas fit inside small memory, anemic color palettes, and slow processors.

codeulike 13 days ago 0 replies      
Used to do a similar thing with old Archimedes games (the first computer to use an ARM chip, in 1988). The original ARM had 16 x 32 bit registers, and a single assembler command could write some or all of them to memory in one go. In practice you could use about 12 of the registers for graphics data (the others being program counters and stack pointers etc). Each pixel was 2 bytes, so with 12 registers you could do 1 row of 24 pixels - all in one instruction. Fetch some new data into the registers and write them again 24 times and you had a 24x24 sprite drawn very fast. To really use this technique you had to draw at word boundaries, thus the movement had to be 4 pixels per frame. But you could do a good full-screen scroll with this at around 12-15 fps (Archimedes could also do double-buffered screen memory so you draw one while displaying the other) and still plenty of time to do all the other work for each frame.
forktheif 13 days ago 5 replies      
Another possible way to get around interrupts overwriting your screen, would be to turn them off and update the audio after every line or two.
royjacobs 13 days ago 1 reply      
Having just spent a good chunk of my weekend reliving my Commodore 64 assembly coding days, this was an excellent way to top it off!
taeric 13 days ago 0 replies      
I do love the lesson that is implicit here. At least for me. The game was basically playable and doing what it was supposed to do before these interesting hacks were done.

Another interesting tidbit that should be obvious, but I miss a lot. The format of the graphics was fixed and not necessarily on the table for things that can be changed to make the code work. All too often it seems I let what I'm wanting to accomplish affect how I plan on storing the data I'm operating on.

tfigueroa 13 days ago 0 replies      
I'll join the chorus reminiscing about hacking for game performance.

In my case, it was on a Mac on a PowerPC CPU. It's a far cry from the limited resources of early personal computers, but this was at a time when 3D was hitting big time - the Playstation had just come out - and I was trying to get performance and effects like a GPU could provide. A hobbyist could get decent rasterization effects from a home-grown 3D engine, but I was working as far forward as I could. All that unrolled code, careful memory access, fixed-point math... I spent a lot of time hand-tuning stuff. It wasn't until I dug into a book on PowerPC architecture that I found some instructions that could perform an approximation of the math quickly, and suddenly I was seeing these beautiful, real-time, true-color, texture-mapped, shaded, transparent triangles floating across the screen at 30fps.

It was about that time that the first 3DFX boards started coming out for Macs, though, and that was the end of that era.

professorTuring 13 days ago 1 reply      
I love this post.

Today most of game programmers just ask for a bigger GPU.

Aardwolf 13 days ago 1 reply      
>> each tile was 28 by 28 pixels.

Why not a power of 2 like 16 or 32?

pjmlp 13 days ago 0 replies      
Great story! I grew up with this type of programming.

Brought back nice memories.

boulderdash 13 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks for sharing this. This is what Eugene Jarvis did to make Defender fast. It was a common tool in the toolbox for any clever game programmer for the 6809. I think it is awesome that Tom & buddy to experience the pleasure of its rediscovery.
anonymouscowar1 13 days ago 0 replies      
So, question: what sits in memory below the bottom of the framebuffer? It seems like if a sound interrupt occurs while drawing the lowest-address tile, you might corrupt something below there.

Edit: Oh! Just got to footnote 2. Thanks, author!

gaius 13 days ago 0 replies      
onion2k 13 days ago 0 replies      
Sounds similar to the scrolling 'hack' John Carmack used on Commander Keen.
boyaka 13 days ago 1 reply      
Did you guys see the top comment? TempleOS:


Some features:

64-bit ring-0-only single-address-map (identity) multitasking kernel

HolyC programming lanaguage interpreter

Praise God for binds using timer based random number generators

Create comics, hymns, poems as offerings to the Oracle

teddyh 13 days ago 6 replies      
What computer and game could this be? Looking at Wikipedia reveals that the Motorola 6809 was not used for many computers, and not any that I recognize as being very popular.
yoodenvranx 13 days ago 0 replies      
There should be a website where this kind of articles are collected!
vitd 13 days ago 4 replies      
I'm confused about something. After they've implemented their final solution that lets tiles become corrupted before they're overwritten, what happens to the sound? The sound is now being written to the screen, where it will be promptly overwritten by the copy tiles routine. Wouldn't that cause audio corruption? Or did playback of the sound complete before the interrupt returned?
normalocity 13 days ago 0 replies      
I love this kind of stuff. It's the kind of article that today makes me very interested in embedded linux and systems that supposedly don't have enough resources to do things that we've been doing for decades.

Brilliant blog post!

asselinpaul 13 days ago 0 replies      
Good read.
dragontamer 13 days ago 3 replies      
Arcade video game programmers of that age have told me warstories of themselves. BitBlits? That stuff is still handled by the BIOS / OS. The real arcade programmers would code at the level of scan-lines manually. (IIRC, Pacman was programmed at this level).

Every 30th of a second, the screen would have to be refreshed. Arcade programmers would perfectly tweak the loops of their assembly programs such that the screen refresh would happen at the right timing. As the CRT scanline would enter "blanks", they would use the borrowed time to process heavier elements of the game. (ie: AIs in Pacman). The heaviest processing would occur on a full-VSync, because you are given more time... as the CRT laser recalibrates from the bottom right corner to the top left corner.

Of course, other games would control the laser perfectly. Asteroids IIRC had extremely sharp graphics because the entire program was not written with "scanlines" as a concept, but instead manually drew every line on the screen by manipulating the CRT laser manually.

Good times... good times...

Royal pardon for codebreaker Alan Turing bbc.co.uk
551 points by louthy  6 days ago   154 comments top 40
acheron 6 days ago 14 replies      
75,000 men were convicted under the same law, of whom 26,000 are still alive. [1] Only Turing has been "pardoned".

My understanding [2] is that the "pardon" implies there was nothing wrong with the law as such, just that Turing is forgiven for having broken it. So while I guess this is better than nothing, I don't know if it's really the way to go about it.

[1] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201314/ldhansrd/t...

[2] I am not a lawyer, nor British, so give my understanding as much weight as it deserves...

alan_cx 5 days ago 5 replies      
This is politically motivated nonsense. At right wing government trying to prove its not homophobic. Yes the Queen issued the pardon, but it wont have been done without the government being consulted. Pardoning one person like this when thousands suffered is an insult. They should have either pardoned everyone who was convicted under these laws, or none of them. Favouring one man because of his historical significance is creating a two tier justice system.

And frankly, I find the whole thing problematic. Judging the past by todays standards is just wrong to my mind. He did break the law as it stood, right or wrong. Its not like we now have evidence he was innocent of the charges. What do we do, go over all the past laws that have been repealed, pardoning every one who was convicted along the way? That would be insane. What about the reverse? Surely if we are to pardon people who got convicted under laws that we have now repealed, we should go back and try any one in the past who has committed acts which are now crimes but were not then.

Yes, Turing is of huge historical significance. What happened to him was awful and tragic. If the notion that he wiped 2 years of WW2 is not over exaggerated, millions owe him their lives and freedoms. There for not just a great scientist, but a world figure of huge significance. But, this is not the right way to honour him. And from what I can see, is shameless political points scoring by a weak government concerned with its gay credentials.

If it were me, I would have left the conviction alone, let it stand as a reminders of our stupid homophobic past (1), and perhaps done something like having a national Turing Day, which could celebrate science and open humanity. Or something like that.

(1) Not so stupid. Problem back then was that the vast majority of people were disgusted by homosexuality. So, obviously they kept it quiet. If they got found out, they suffered. Problem for organisation concerned with secrecy, is that the social pressure placed on gay people made them easy and obvious targets for espionage. They were easily black mailed. Now a days, most people have no problem with homosexuality, so the threat of being outed is weak. The problem back then was not government, its was the social attitude in general to gay people. There for, to me it is wrong for the public to point fingers at the government. Had the public not been so prejudiced, the government could have kept their genius employed, and alive. Its our fault as a society. Government had to operate in that context. It had no choice really. And of course many people in that government would have had the same attitude as the public. But in the end, it was our fault, our shame, as a society. And that is what we should remember.

SimonPStevens 5 days ago 5 replies      
What I find most intriguing about this is the how a law that was enforced only 50 years ago has so quickly become abhorrent to the majority of the population. It's an interesting thought experiment to consider which laws we routinely use today to punish people will become morally unacceptable in the next 50 years.

Copyright and patent laws, and laws used against Snowden's whistle blowing are some obvious ones that are due for changes, but what's more interesting is if history continues to repeat itself it seems likely that some things we consider wrong now will become acceptable in the near future and the reverse is also true. This is much harder to predict.

(Humans driving cars is a reverse example. I think in the next 50 years it will become illegal for humans to drive cars manually except on private racing circuits)

edw519 6 days ago 2 replies      
How ironic, coming the same week as LGBT education sites are blocked by British "porn" filters.

The best pardon to someone who is dead would be to stop doing similar misdeeds to those who are living.

kirinan 6 days ago 2 replies      
This falls under the category of too little too late. I get that traditions change throughout history, I get that some things that are acceptable now were unacceptable even 10 years ago, but this is a case where people should have looked the other way. Alan Turning is both a war hero and one of the greatest minds to ever live. To simply disregard someone like that because of their sexual orientation is both short sighted and a disgusting lack of humanity. Imagine how much further computing would be if he had lived longer? If he had been free to think and live without ridicule and the tests run on him?
badclient 6 days ago 3 replies      
Pardon? For what? Thanks but no thanks.
bluecalm 5 days ago 0 replies      
Instead of pardoning bullshit get him a chapter in elementary school history books. Chapter about a man, who greatly contributed to modern science and the war effort and was prosecuted by bigoted fanatics running the country. Then warn about similar attitudes displayed today and teach the children to recognize them along with their gloomy consequences. That would do some actual good instead of insignificant PR gesture of pardoning.
Brakenshire 6 days ago 1 reply      
The British state already formally apologized five years ago, under Gordon Brown, for Alan Turing's barbaric treatment. I can't see how a pardon adds anything to that. The best response is just to treat people humanely in the present.
wreegab 6 days ago 1 reply      
> "Alan Turing, the second world war codebreaker who took his own life after undergoing chemical castration following a conviction for homosexual activity, has been granted a posthumous royal pardon 59 years after his death."

I don't understand, I thought what was needed was "royal apologies". WTH.

Tloewald 6 days ago 0 replies      
Somewhere between better than nothing and nothing.
infruset 5 days ago 1 reply      
Wait. Someone who has a title and shitloads of money just because they were born is pardoning one of the greatest geniuses of the 20th century, as an act of kindness?

How does such an undeserving leftover of the middle ages even have a say in this?

davidgerard 6 days ago 0 replies      
Even this, 61 years late and only applying to him, is only a sort-of pardon legally:


lostlogin 6 days ago 0 replies      
Thought I'd stick this link here - great place. http://www.bletchleypark.org.uk Last time I was there, 10 or 15 years ago, they were redecorating the house (can you call it that?). They had a load of really old fittings like taps etc in a skip. I still regret not asking if I could take one or 2. Having a few taps from that amazing place would be so great. I spent days of time there over the course of a year, and met a few of the people who worked their who knew Turing (by sight, not personally). You can see Turing's room at the place too. It was fascinating to talk to people who worked there during the amazing period Turing worked through.
microtherion 6 days ago 0 replies      
The infinite tape of justice winds slowly, but grinds exceedingly fine.
sanoli 5 days ago 0 replies      
Yes, they apologized 5 years ago, and now there's a pardon. As an important abolitionist from my country once wrote, "Justice that is late is not justice".
StavrosK 6 days ago 0 replies      
Wouldn't it be much more forceful if his conviction remained as a mahnmal? Something to point at and say "here's what we did to a brilliant man because we were too small-minded to think otherwise"?

All pardoning Turing does now is lead us to eventually forget the tragedy of his conviction.

vithlani 5 days ago 0 replies      
Let this be a reminder to all hackers and geniuses out there: protect yourself from your society. You exist purely at the mercy of your physical realm. It does not matter how essential your discoveries, how profitable, how useful to mankind, how breathtaking. If you are perceived as being a risk (through something simple like your sexuality) you will be ground to dust. The decision will be made (perhaps justifiably) but it will be executed by the worst sort of petty human being: bureaucrats, under achievers, jealous men and beasts in human form who have been handed down power by the state. They will unleash a torrent of hellfire in your life.

This beast does not discriminate: weather a gathering of Sikhs in a park, tribes of Africans or a sole genius with an arguably significant contribution to the war effort - to the beast they are all one once the order has been given.

Always ensure you have some form of protection and a way out.

The British establishment should be ashamed of themselves. They have tolerated homosexuality for centuries among the upper classes up to and including the royals. To grind down a man on the level of Turing with for such an absurd reason is an act of criminal stupidity. All the more so after his efforts during the war.

The computer science community all the world over should reject this "pardon" and ask the queen to stuff it up her posterior.

huherto 5 days ago 0 replies      
The queen was already reigning when Alan Turing was brought to trail.

May be the queen is who needs to be pardoned.

nayefc 5 days ago 0 replies      
Unrelated to the topic, but:

> He said the research Turing carried out during the war at Bletchley Park undoubtedly shortened the conflict and saved thousands of lives.

Clear example of "history is written by the victors". The Allies were as guilty in the war as the other side. Neither side's goal was to "shorten the conflict and save lives" but to "defeat the other side" with no regards to human life.

Kliment 5 days ago 0 replies      
moxic 6 days ago 0 replies      
He should get a Royal Apology as well, even if the PM already issued one.
NAFV_P 6 days ago 1 reply      
Turing died only a few years before the emergence of high level languages. I have often wondered if he would go for FORTRAN or LISP.
ciderpunx 6 days ago 0 replies      
Finally. Though it is the very least that the establishment could do given how Turing was treated.
elchief 6 days ago 1 reply      
Lots of complaining on here, but I was glad to see it.

The government certainly didn't have to. It doesn't have to pardon everyone convicted of a crime that is no longer a crime.

It was a good thing to do for a good man, and I commend them.

Rogerh91 6 days ago 0 replies      
You know, I was just reading a WSJ special on how returning PTSD-afflicted veterans were lobotomized...

Reading back on what happened to Turing and countless other homosexuals gives me those same chills.

What a simple pleasure it is to live in the era we do now. No, not everything is perfect, but so much has improved, and it's up to all of us to improve things even further, and to keep the momentum going.

sarreph 6 days ago 0 replies      
The manner in which the document was written makes its authenticity strike me as highly surprising.
mydpy 6 days ago 0 replies      
About f*cking time, but is it enough? No, but hopefully we won't need to worry about things like this in the future. Progress is progress and I'll take it.
jackmaney 5 days ago 0 replies      
Way too little, way too late.
soperj 6 days ago 1 reply      
First step to knighthood?
kopos 5 days ago 1 reply      
Should this not have been an "apology" instead of a "pardon"?
fmendez 6 days ago 1 reply      
It seems to me that the fitting thing to be issued here is an apology, not a pardon.
kimonos 6 days ago 0 replies      
It would have been better if he was still alive when he was pardoned...
InclinedPlane 5 days ago 0 replies      
Have we ruled out the possibility that the UK government is more desperate to legitimize code breaking than to exonerate a mistreated war hero?

I don't think that's the case, but these days it's getting harder to be sure.

enen 5 days ago 0 replies      
Anyone know a good movie/book on his life?
tekkanphan 5 days ago 0 replies      
They should give a royal apology
Datsundere 6 days ago 0 replies      
59 years late.
nbody 6 days ago 2 replies      
thrillgore 5 days ago 0 replies      
grad_ml 6 days ago 0 replies      
BBC please do not make any of the royal drama news headlines.
bitsteak 6 days ago 2 replies      
Scumbag Hacker News: Admires spies only after they're dead.
Outrageous HSBC Settlement Proves the Drug War is a Joke rollingstone.com
521 points by phaer  6 days ago   253 comments top 39
flexie 6 days ago 8 replies      
Lawyer here. Every time I have a new client I have to obtain picture ID, check their share registers etc. Doesn't matter that most of my clients are entrepreneurs, startups or venture funds. Doesn't matter that all their transactions go through banks that have already checked the transactions and the people involved once and that all transactions are ultimately registered in public registers such as the commerce register.

If I were suspecting that a client's transaction was part of some tax evasion scheme, European Union law would require me to report it to the authorities (although it's not clear that these requirements are in themselves lawful).

All this nonsense costs lots of time and money for me and ultimately for my clients.

Meanwhile, it turns out that the scumbags who actually launder money, do it more or less out in the open and they are not even put to jail.

rms 6 days ago 2 replies      
This news has been happening for a while. All the way back to the First Opium War. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hongkong_and_Shanghai_Banki...

Sadly, many massive crimes against humanity go unpunished when commited by corporations. Compare the crimes of HSBC to the crimes of Pfizer. http://www.fbi.gov/boston/press-releases/2009/bs091509b.htm http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Huge-penalty-in-drug-...

The laws of the USA suggest that corporations that are convicted of two felonies are subject to a corporate death penalty, but given the continued non-punishment of perniciously malicious companies like HSBC and Pfizer, don't expect the US Department of Justice to act anytime soon.

jzwinck 6 days ago 10 replies      
Too big to fail is too big. Would it really be so bad if we simply outlawed companies exceeding a certain number of employees? HSBC recently had about a quarter of a million people, which is just insane. When things get that big, nobody fully understands what is going on anymore, even at a basic level, and it does become plausible that terrible actions are taken with literally no one to blame, either because nobody is sure where the blame lies, or because the would-be accusers are scared of the systemic risk (which these days is very real).

I propose that twenty thousand people ought to be enough for any company. Having more, smaller firms will improve the job market for individuals, reduce the burden of mega-powerful interests in government acting against the population as a whole, and provide more genuine opportunities for real leadership to a greater number of people.

A gradual phase-in could be used, say max 500K employees by 2020, 200K by 2025, 100K by 2030, 50K by 2035, and 20K by 2040. And no funny business: one person cannot have a controlling interest in companies whose employee counts exceed the limit in aggregate.

tibbon 6 days ago 4 replies      
5 weeks of income. Let's say that again, 5 weeks.

Now, 1.9B isn't nothing, but for a company with this type of income, and a market cap of around 130B, and profits in the 10's of billions... it approaches it.

Can you imagine an individual being arrested for this type of behavior, and in the end losing only 5 weeks of income with no jailtime?

Too big to fail. Too big to arrest. Too big to shutdown. Congrats to the banking industry, you've won.

retube 6 days ago 10 replies      
Ah Matt Taibbi... guaranteed unbiased reporting on banks.

It's not clear whether any employees knew they were facilitating money laundering. What HSBC has been found guilty of (and what they are being fined for) is lacking sufficient controls to detect money laundering activity. This is quite different to wilfully and knowingly assiting money laundering for drug cartels.

All sorts of businesses are part of the cash economy and pay in large amounts of cash on a daily and weekly basis. The worst critiscm you can level here is that a lowly-paid cashier was insufficiently trained to spot potentially dubious sources of cash that were being paid in.

Actually reading the whole article... it's just sensationalist drivel. There is no claim compliance officers were laundering money. In fact a compliance officer goes no where near money. Bonus clawback is in reponse to weak controls, not becuase they were in the employ of drug cartels.

skyraider 6 days ago 0 replies      
Everyone here seems really eager to take the DOJ at face value. Wow. Quite a reversal.

In order to get anywhere, the DOJ has to charge HSBC with willful violations. So of course the government alleges that the violations were willful. Everyone here seems perfectly willing to accept those accusations, and every allegation in the DPA, regardless of the level of evidence presented in court.

The knee-jerk reaction here seems to be that if someone running a corporation is alleged to have a subpar compliance program, it's all part of a giant willful conspiracy.

This DPA raises the interesting question of what constitutes sufficient AML/KYC compliance. Fine. It looks like HSBC had a subpar program, which is illegal, even though there aren't precisely defined standards for AML/KYC in terms of what's adequate at scale. But people here are still really eager to criminally prosecute people for failing to prevent money laundering.

This is hugely different from knowingly helping drug cartels, which is what HSBC is being accused of in the media.

brohee 6 days ago 1 reply      
Not sure that mixing asset forfeiture laws and non-prosecution of industrial scale money launderers make for a clear argument...

But the rich escaping with a slap on the wrist where the poor gets jail time is nothing new, if I was any more lefty I'd say it's paving the way for a hardcore revolution, but then it's been going on for decades, people are just too apathetic...

perlpimp 6 days ago 1 reply      
I am just wondering why did Dread Pirate Roberts go to jain and Lanny Breuer did not. Both were facilitators of Illegal narcotics trade, except what HSBC did was orders of magnitude larger scale than that of what Silkroad did.

One can argue that the people were removed from knowing exact nature of all transactions but trust me this won't float - you either recklessly incompetent or insidiously corrupt and involved in what is happening, especially when it happens on this scale.

regardless, war on drugs is more or less like prohibition - way to control the masses without loosing face in front of elderly conservative public - who votes.

lifeisstillgood 6 days ago 2 replies      
They turned off the money laundering alarm systems for over 200 trillion (yes tr-illion) - much of it from mexico.

Come on - prosecute this one.

I remember an article about the new form of journalism at the end of the Rockefeller/Morgan era, where detailed and specific highlighting of the outrageous crimes brought about notable social change.

Perhaps this is the first story of the new wave - I would like to think so because only corrupt banking can get money cleaned for criminals - and cryptolocker is just the first of a new wave of crime.

benmmurphy 6 days ago 2 replies      
I'm outraged that the US is able to control the Mexican operations of a UK bank.
anom9999 6 days ago 2 replies      
The moment you push any kind of culture underground you automatically make it harder and more expensive to control. So the smarter move would be to legalise the less harmful drugs but create a safe, controlled environment for sale and usage.

While some of the more conservative people out there might disagree with people taking drugs, the fact remains that people do want to get high and thus those people will always find way to do so. To me, it makes more sense not to turn those people into outlaws and instead concentrate your efforts on tackling those who turn to drugs for non-recreational reasons (eg resolving addiction and/or peoples dependency on stimulants for escapism. Those individuals usually have other real life issues and -wrongly- turn to drugs as their "fix").

This will never happen though because drugs are given such a bad connotation in the press as the roots of all evil. Not all drugs are equal; whose which are proven to be relatively harmless compared to tobacco or alcohol are given the ridiculous label of "gateway drugs" - as if anyone who smokes two puff of a joint will automatically end up on the streets shooting heroin. If we want people off the harder drugs then we have to teach kids that not all drugs are equally bad - and to do this we need governments to send a saner political message about their stance on drugs.

From a personal perspective, I've done a few "magic mushrooms" at festivals in my younger years. They made me a little giddy but at no point did I rape, steal nor murder. In fact I was more pleasant company than when I've been drinking (and I'm not a rude drunk by any means). Yet since then, the UK government has made magic mushrooms illegal. It's just absurd to think that my previous actions, which were entirely harmless at the time, are now illegal. And when kids experiment (as many kids often do) they too will learn that government legislation is broken towards "softer" drugs. Which will make then re-evaluate their opinion about their governments stance on all drugs. So the government are really just wasting their own time and our public money by continuing on this charade that all recreational chemicals are evil.

The most hypocritical thing of all though, is I bet a great many of those in power have smoked weed at some point when they were teenagers / young adults (as we saw in the UK with the amusing yet frustrating confessions a few years back where several politicians came forward and admitted to "smoking but not inhaling". sigh

stefantalpalaru 6 days ago 0 replies      
It actually proves that the rule of law is a joke.
dmix 6 days ago 0 replies      
Instead of abandoning money laundering laws, why not double down on and focus our surveillance-state telescopes at the Cayman Islands? or any other store of money on foreign islands?

Monitor financial transactions and use their data-mining systems to associate accounts to people in tax-paying countries hiding assets! Sounds good to me. Then the FBI can spend less time foiling terrorism plots manufactured by the FBI [1], that are force-fed to incompetent poor people. Instead, catching serious criminals who are directly exploiting our financial system.

[1] http://blog.independent.org/2013/12/14/fbi-successfully-foil...

Mikeb85 6 days ago 2 replies      
When you think about what HSBC actually did, you realize it really is a joke. Whining about banks is de rigueur nowadays, but what HSBC did is far less nefarious than it's being presented...

Imagine if you faced fines or jailtime if a criminal simply used your product. Let's say I run a McDonalds, and a drug dealer buys a burger from me, then all of I sudden I helped them launder money? Because that's what 'laundering' money really is, simply the legitimizing of illegitimate funds. HSBC is simply being extorted by the US because somewhere along the line a criminal used a bank account (and of course HSBC is one of the most international of all banks, and operates in many countries where law enforcement is poor at best). If every business that ever aided a criminal, or ever did business with a criminal were prosecuted, there wouldn't be any businesses left.

Plenty of you buy and sell bitcoins, imagine if you were prosecuted because your bitcoins where once used to buy drugs? How would you feel then? (and this is actually a fairly probable outcome)

Admissions of guilt on HSBC's part? Doesn't mean they're guilty, only means they plead guilty to avoid worse prosecution/extortion...

Edit - furthermore, I find it hilarious that people will rail against the NSA and American surveillance, yet call for the heads of HSBC execs for not spying on and policing their clients enough...

bradleyjg 6 days ago 0 replies      
This article seems to be from last year. The AUSA in question is now back at white shoe law firm Covington & Burling, doing white collar criminal defense work.

One hand washes the other.

andy_ppp 6 days ago 0 replies      
I was under the impression that being a director of a Ltd. company gave you limited liability from your company going bankrupt (i.e. they can't take your home if your company goes bankrupt) but that you were fully legally responsible for the actions of the company.

The article is perfectly correct in it's arguments, the world sadly is not.

I think that government have realised that constantly being corrupt and just telling people "Oh, don't be silly of course the system is good and fair! Our hand in the cookie jar is just us making sure the cookies are still there for you!" doesn't wash anymore.

So instead of fixing it they are cracking down on Internet freedom; certainly here in the UK.

beloch 6 days ago 1 reply      
I certainly hope somebody is keeping an eye on Lanny Breuer's bank accounts; All of them, including the hidden offshore ones. I smell a big fat bribe.
scrabble 6 days ago 0 replies      
I think this is really where the current issue with the extremely wealthy lies.

I don't have an issue with anyone accumulating wealth, but I do take issue with people who are able to use that wealth to circumvent the law and increase their wealth through illegal means.

Maybe I should have become a banker instead of a software developer.

TomGullen 6 days ago 0 replies      
If you have enough money you're OK, you can always buy your freedom.
heymatty 6 days ago 0 replies      
What's outrageous to me is the government has to pass laws to make sure the banks police their customers. It's non-sense. You should have the right to deposit money with no questions asked.

Law enforcement shouldn't have to rely on the banks to disclose anything to them unless they come with a court order and ask specific questions.

The laws are put a strain on day-to-day business for everyone and it's tiring.

tsotha 6 days ago 0 replies      
We should get rid of money laundering laws and go back to busting people for things like drug trafficking. I don't like laws that criminalize behavior based purely on intent - wire you cousin $9000 on two separate days and the government may decide you've committed a crime punishable by five years in jail. Based on what it thinks you were thinking.
josefresco 6 days ago 0 replies      
Let me summarize...

1. Doing illegal drugs: Not Ok, jail.2. Making illegal drugs: Not ok, jail.3. Selling illegal drugs: Not Ok, jail.4. Making tons of money off of people who do sell illegal drugs: Partially Ok (just pay a small fine).

at-fates-hands 6 days ago 0 replies      
This actually par for the course. Pretty much any time you start climbing the ladder and going after businesses connected to governments, it gets pretty dodgy.

If I remember correctly, the same thing happened when they busted Pablo Escobar. They infiltrated his banking operations and once the investigators found out there were high ranking officials both in Columbia and here taking kick backs, they shut the investigation down.

vasilipupkin 6 days ago 0 replies      
I think the issue is, in order to actually prosecute specific individuals criminally, the government would have had to prove that they indeed intended to launder money, as opposed to say make it easier for Mexican factories to pay suppliers in the US. Criminal burden of proof is much higher than the one required for a civil prosecution. The fact that the bank very openly subverted the money laundering controls probably makes it HARDER to prosecute, not easier since they probably also had legal language describing all the legitimate reasons for doing so, etc.
raverbashing 6 days ago 0 replies      

Who gets "the produce" from Mexico again?

How does this get distributed in the US? Is the bigger profit in production or distribution?

In which country is an exporter payed usually? (this is not a hard question)

The bank is responsible, yes, but more responsible is who put the money in there. And who provided the money in exchange for a product.

rayiner 6 days ago 2 replies      
All the HSBC settlement proves is that prosecutors like cases where they have IRC transcripts of someone ordering hits. That's why drug cases are so popular compared to white collar cases. Its easy to prove that some guy had a ton of cocaine and that's all the law requires. Much harder to prove that someone intended to facilitate money laundering (especially in a county where its easy to get caught up in that accidentally).

It is simply the nature of white collar crimes, where the illegality of conduct usually depends on what the person was thinking, that it will be prosecuted less strongly than other kinds of crimes. This is a feature, not a bug.

Also, I love how people on here seem to think that only terrorists and cyberlibertarian money launderers deserve due process. E.g. Perlpimps comment that we should infer purely from circumstances intent that is either criminally negligent or affirmatively corrupt.

mkhalil 6 days ago 0 replies      
I can understand the fears of the Justice Department on this one. Any financial instability gets us closer to a depression. Something this government does not want. Any dip in our economy and the government immediately starts bailing out banks and big business. Why? Well, last time their was a depression, there was great change in the government. Every day one could look forward to another episode in the battle between the President and the Supreme Court. Prohibition was repealed, as was inhibition, and bank holidays last all year. They have worked too hard and too long to get the public under such great control as it is today, and we would do the depression so much better than the 30's did. 'TALKIN' BOUT A REVOLUTION' my friends.
csomar 6 days ago 1 reply      
Anyone here notice something? Big Banks launder money and get with it. While Big Tech companies get to lose their right to privacy and seems powerless against the NSA.

And big tech companies actually have a much bigger market cap.

volume 6 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder: While Tabibi says that's just several weeks worth to HSBC, then what would have been an appropriate amount without threatening the financial system?

I see the logic of how unfair it is for no jail time for anyone at HSBC. Perhaps this is something that is highly unlikely or too steep a battle to fight. Maybe then, at least the settlement could have been more than the "record $1.92 billion settlement".

ivanca 6 days ago 0 replies      
That ironic moment when you realize that the American government is an ally of the Mexican cartel (and by extension, its terrorism) when it suits them best.
daphneokeefe 6 days ago 0 replies      
All the laws, all the money spent enforcing them, lives ruined, and we still believe that the "war on drugs" can be won. There is a huge industry based on production and trade in banned substances. Anyone who wants one of those substances can find it easily, though at artificially high prices and questionable quality, and often by taking some personal risk.

Maybe we should try another approach? This one clearly isn't working.

Of course, arrayed against alternative approaches is a massive law enforcement enterprise with a lot to lose from ending this "war".

chanux 6 days ago 0 replies      
RamiK 6 days ago 0 replies      
There is a simple and very fitting solution to this problem: mandatory minimum sentences for white-collar crimes.
ye 6 days ago 0 replies      
If I owned a newspaper, the front page would say "FEDS LEGALIZED MONEY LAUNDERING".
redwood 6 days ago 0 replies      
Money = inertia.Money = power.Money = too big to fail.Money > all.
rxever 6 days ago 0 replies      
Why is this link being pushed down Hacker News front page if you compare it to this link Perl6: Unary Sort. Both posted 9 hours ago. One with 486 points, the other 55 points? Because the former did not receive many points in say last hour?
wprl 6 days ago 0 replies      
The system is a fraud.
salient 6 days ago 1 reply      
How can it be constitutional to extract your DNA, and then make you pay for it? That doesn't make any sense to me. What's next? Making you pay for your own jail time? If they want to make you do all of that, then they should pay for it.

It reminds me of this recent story:


datums 6 days ago 0 replies      
the invisible stimulus package
The Future of JavaScript MVCs swannodette.github.io
518 points by swannodette  10 days ago   156 comments top 31
bretthopper 10 days ago 2 replies      
There's two big highlights for me:

> Thus we don't need React operations like setState which exists to support both efficient subtree updating as well as good Object Oriented style. Subtree updating for Om starting from root is always lightning fast because we're just doing reference equality checks all the way down.

I don't think anyone actually likes using explicit setters/getters in frameworks like Backbone and Ember. Of course Angular avoids it but that's by the crazy "dirty-checking". Obviously the new Object.observe will help this situation, but I love how simple Om/CLJS makes this.

> This also means that Om UIs get undo for free. You can simply snapshot any state in memory and reinstate it whenever you like. It's memory efficient as ClojureScript data structures work by sharing structure.

> VCR playback of UI state

I can't wait for details on this. This has gotten me really excited about client-side apps again.

asolove 10 days ago 2 replies      
Om looks very interesting and seems to handle exactly what I've been looking for. We have reactive widgets, which is great for making changes in the data automatically update the UI. But the hard part is closing the loop: how does the widget communicate back to the data about changes? It would be interesting if we had a zipper-like abstraction, so that the widget gets handed both its data and a function to call when it wants to change just its data. Then that function is smart enough to go find the right place in the big data structure to go do the replace.

Edit: Ok, I now see how the Om todo example is handling update, and it's really cool. It creates a set of channels that encapsulate the knowledge of how to handle each type of change to a todo [0]. That gets passed in to the todo widget as "chans" and the widget sends messages to it in its event handlers [1]. I wonder if this whole channel CRUD abstraction is general enough to make it part of Om or another layer so that it didn't have to be recreated each time.

[0] https://github.com/swannodette/todomvc/blob/gh-pages/labs/ar...

[1] https://github.com/swannodette/todomvc/blob/om/labs/architec...

ibdknox 10 days ago 2 replies      
We've been thinking about this a lot lately for some of the projects we've been doing for Light Table and we've essentially been doing the same thing as what David's proposing here.

What react ultimately opens up is a way to do immediate mode UI [1] on top of the DOM _efficiently_, which changes things pretty dramatically. It means we can start to treat the browser as just a renderer and get the infectious design decisions of the DOM out of our programs. If nothing else, this gives us freedom, but as david is suggesting, I think this also gives us an opportunity to treat UI much more directly than we currently are. If you want to know what the state of your UI is, you just have to read linearly down through the code that produces your tree. No nest of dependencies, no state hidden in the UI components, you could even get rid of event hierarchies if you wanted.

More important than anything else, this gives us a chance to dramatically simplify our model for UI and magically be even faster than we were before. Sounds like a win to me.

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

jordwalke 10 days ago 2 replies      
Jordan, from the React core developer team here. Awesome post, swannodette! This is exactly how we intended React to be used. As swannodette said, at Facebook, we use persistent data structures, in order to prune the update search space for comment updates. We've seen as much as a 10x improvement in update speed for certain operations.

React is a really great fit for Om, persistent data structures, and functional programming in the following ways:

1. We want to allow developers to elegantly describe their user interface at any point in time, as a pure-as-possible function of data dependencies.

2. We allow hooks for your system to help guide the updating process along. These hooks are not necessary. Often, we'll add optimizations long after we ship. We strongly believe that perf optimizing shouldn't get in the way of writing code elegantly and shouldn't get in the way of the creative development process and actually shipping to your users. At the same time, performance matters - a lot. So we ensure that at any point in the update process, if you know better than the framework, you can help guide the system. The fact that this is optional and doesn't change the functionality or correctness of the system is critical. Persistent data structures are an excellent (likely the very best) way to hook into the update system without making the developer do anything special.

Some people here were wondering about the apparent OO influence in React. Here's how I personally think of React's OO support/influence:

1. It's there to help you bridge with other existing mutative, stateful libraries in your stack - you know you have them. The DOM falls into this category as well.

2. It's there when you want to treat state as an implementation detail of a subcomponent. This is only because we don't have a good way of externalizing state changes, while simultaneously keeping the nature of them private. We just need more people to think about it (I'm sure the ClojureScript community can help us chew on this). Our internal motto is to keep things as stateless as possible.

3. A lot of the OO support in React is there as a concession, more than being considered a virtue. It's really cool to have the FP community involved in the UI space. Those people are already sold on FP and statelessness and get the luxury of programming in tomorrow's paradigms today (how ironic that FP has been around for decades!) To accelerate this momentum, we also want to reach out to people who aren't yet sold and change how they think about building UIs and software in general. The most effective way to do this is to reach out to them where they stand today, on some middle ground. It's really great to see eyes light up when they see that they can use simple functional composition in order to build large, sophisticated apps.

We're really glad to have swannodette and the ClojureScript community checking out React (github.com/facebook/react). We should consider adding some level of support for persistent data structures in the React core. Let us know if there's anything we can do to help.

swannodette 10 days ago 2 replies      
I apologize that the Om TodoMVC version is a little bit buggy at the moment, I put it together mostly to demonstrate the benefits of the React/Om model and it appears I missed a couple of TodoMVC behavior issues as they weren't important for demonstrating the approach - I'll try to clean up these annoyances later this evening.

Feel free to ask any questions.

EvilTrout 10 days ago 3 replies      
> Om never does any work it doesn't have to: data, views and control logic are not tied together. If data changes we never immediately trigger a re-render - we simply schedule a render of the data via requestAnimationFrame.

Ember.js has done this since day one with the Run Loop. Additionally it allows to coalesce operations yourself if you need control.

Angular also would not update the DOM as many times as the backbone example as it uses dirty checking to get around this problem.

avolcano 10 days ago 2 replies      
The title of this post is strange. This seems more like the future of JavaScript views than the future of models or controllers.

I don't see a large movement to immutable data structures on the horizon in JS. I can appreciate the performance implications in Om, and would be interested in using React + Mori to the same end, but I'm not sure that it would keep me from having mutable data structures to represent most of my application state.

There are so many now-solved problems in JS MVCs that were a complete trainwreck several years ago - client-side routing, sanely managing data, and intelligently organizing your code base - that all assume mutable data structures and traditional object-oriented paradigms.

This might be the future of ClojureScript (in fact, it should be the future of CLJS, as it's much more elegant than any other view solution I've seen for it), and functional data structures may be a clever way to optimize the DOM, but this certainly doesn't seem like the future of JavaScript to me.

drcode 10 days ago 2 replies      
I know it sounds crazy, but I think your post just outlined the next 5 years of web development innovation, swannodette- This ties together a lot of ideas that are extremely important, for the first time in one place. Thanks for doing this.

I already have my own React.js+Clojurscript bridge for personal projects, because I think it's an extremely powerful web dev combination. I'm glad I can finally abandon my own library for Om!

gfodor 10 days ago 1 reply      
This is really cool, and I am one of those people who rolls their eyes whenever there is another article about some newfangled way to build Javascript apps on HN.

One logical step from here is instead of having a one-to-one correspondence between the "virtual" DOM and the browser DOM is to introduce a higher level meta representation based upon the context. This seems like a logical path towards a generative, projectional approach to controlling UI and browser document rendering in general. It's been tried before in several contexts and the hacks I've tried myself have always been to hard to get my head around since it's a complex problem, but this seems like it could be a really decent foothold to build a projectional, transform-based paradigm. For example, having a meta-DOM that encodes mathematical notation (probably inspired by LaTeX), which gets transformed into the current virtual DOM, which is used to update the real DOM. User manipulates a integral on screen, and the downstream transformations are performed lazily and efficiently all the way to the screen. This type of lazy evaluation from document to screen is essentially the core challenge (from a engineering standpoint) in building a usable real-time projectional editor like that demonstrated by intentional software back in 2010 [1].

[1] http://www.infoq.com/presentations/Intentional-Software-at-W...

taybin 10 days ago 0 replies      
But I just finished rewriting everything in angular!
dgreensp 9 days ago 1 reply      
I've been watching Clojure for a while, and I love the spirit of this work.

However, as a framework author, I feel obliged to point out that of course you can create a more expressive and performant UI framework in a language with S-expressions, macros, and value semantics. What's hard is doing it in JavaScript. :)

It also feels a bit like reverse logic to cite ever-faster JavaScript VMs as a reason to choose a new framework for performance reasons -- shouldn't it matter less exactly how you structure your application logic when you're running on a "fusion reactor"? -- but I realize there's some subtlety here about lower constants enabling better algorithms. (Still, if your framework includes a language compiler or gets to take advantage of an expressive macro system, it should be able to run on anything.)

Once it's possible to compile ClojureScript without booting up a JVM -- which could happen if it becomes self-hosting -- I'll make a Meteor package for it. I'd also like to see the compile times get a little shorter and the runtime library get a little smaller.

programminggeek 10 days ago 0 replies      
There was a really good talk from Charles Nutter about making JRuby fast and the mutable things that Ruby does that basically break caching and things that you do to make things faster at runtime.

I'm not surprised that persistent data structures can make things fast, in fact I've spent the last week speeding up a Rails app in some ugly spots by preloading the data structures to keep DB queries from happening, effectively turning a lot of just in time queries at the ORM level into a pre-loaded data graph. The speed is fantastic, but what is interesting is you could add a level of immutability to this and would be potentially even faster, especially on top of the JVM.

I've been playing with the idea of immutable entities in Obvious Architecture for a while and it really changes the way you look at your business logic and performance.

mtrimpe 10 days ago 1 reply      
I've been expecting this after seeing a few of your teaser tweets and as expected I absolute love it! I've been waiting for something like this ever since I read up on persistent data structures and functional reactive programming almost 10 years ago.

I'm wondering how this compare to the Javelin library as that seems to offer the same functionality when combined with hlisp. Would I be correct in saying that Om achieves the same by using ClojureScript's data structures and core.async to offload the FRP part to React?

jarpineh 10 days ago 2 replies      
This is like a dream coming true. I don't like Javascript's quirks, nor programming DOM with templates nor functions. I'm looking to build somewhat complex UIs without having to think in JS and manage state. React absolves me from DOM and ClojureScript keeps JS at bay.

Only if starting ClojureScript development wasn't so hard. I'd like to use browser REPL, IDE like LightTable. I am used to LiveReload's speed which makes loading changes instantaneous. But ClojureScript compiling seems to be still slow(ish) and I have already found half a dozen of different cljsbuild configuration examples. Compiling simple cljs files can take anything from sub second to 20 secs, and I don't understand why.

Could you perhaps tell more about your development process, Swannodette? How do you develop ClojureScript apps? I don't see anything beyond base cljsbuild in Om's project.clj. I confess I haven't yet had time to play with Om and see how fast it can be compiled.

rtfeldman 10 days ago 1 reply      
This kind of thing is exactly what makes me think CLJS is the current frontrunner to be the first compile-to-JS language to gain mass adoption without JS-like semantics (as CoffeeScript has).

It's the performance.

So many of us who want JS alternatives have made our peace with the idea that we'll have to sacrifice a bit of performance if we want to use a nice language.

But being able to improve performance while using a nicer one?!

Count me in! I already have a serious project in mind for this.

rubiquity 10 days ago 4 replies      
What about long GC pauses and running for cleaning up all those wonderful immutable data structures? Immutability is great when it's at the forefront of how a language is designed. Plastering immutability all over hot code paths in a language that wasn't designed with immutability in mind isn't great.
invalidOrTaken 10 days ago 0 replies      
This is fantastic. I've been goofing around trying to figure out a way to approach the general case (representing an interactive DOM with just EDN), but I hadn't done jack on performance. Thank you thank you David.
_pmf_ 9 days ago 3 replies      
On another note: maybe if the installation of ClojureScript would be manageable in, say, an hours instead of having to search half a day among outdated information, more people would try it (and this is from someone who already uses Clojure and Leiningen a bit).

Clojure and its libraries has the worst documentation, and this malpractice seems to be continued in ClojureScript.

d_j_s 10 days ago 1 reply      
So I rewrote Backbone views to use a queue system that fires on requestAnimationFrame -https://github.com/danshearmur/backbone-fast-view

I'm getting pretty good results with swannodette's benchmarks - http://danshearmur.github.io/backbone-fast-view/

I'm getting approx 150ms in Chrome for benchmark 1 and about 400 ms for Chrome for benchmark 2

jlehman 9 days ago 0 replies      
I spent the day working out the React tutorial in Om. It was an enlightening process.

Code: https://github.com/jalehman/react-tutorial-om

STRML 10 days ago 2 replies      
I'm not great at reading ClojureScript - but I'd really like to port some of the optimizations from Om, such as the rendering on requestAnimationFrame and usage of shouldComponentUpdate to Backbone.LayoutManager[1]. Swannodette, if you're around, do you have a minute to give a more in-depth explanation of how that works?

1. https://github.com/tbranyen/backbone.layoutmanager/wiki

john2x 10 days ago 0 replies      
I'm really excited about this. Until now I've hated working with Javascript because of a combination of the language itself, and its primary domain (the DOM).

Seeing React.js at JSConf.asia last month got me excited that I don't have to touch the DOM anymore, but I still had to deal with Javascript the language itself.

And now this comes along. Now I don't have to deal with DOM (or at least it offers better abstractions for working with it) and I get to use the most pleasant language I've tried so far.

Christmas came early. :)

rgbrgb 9 days ago 1 reply      
Is there any reason we couldn't mod the JQuery object to work on a virtual HTML tree that syncs with the DOM on requestAnimationFrame?

Couldn't this even be done at the browser level?

I think I must be missing something.

wheaties 10 days ago 2 replies      
Been playing around with RxJs and wonder how much difficulty would it be to combine React with this? RxJs seems to work particularly well with Angular but I know Back one much better. is there harmony between the two?
EGreg 10 days ago 2 replies      
How is this different from the dirty checking that Angular does in its ModelView update cycle?
chrisege 10 days ago 1 reply      
Not to take away from the other points in your post, but on the benchmarks, the backbone example is writing to localStorage, while the om example isn't.

The overhead from localStorage appears to account for a significant chunk of the difference in performance. You can remove the localStorage calls with 'Backbone.sync = $.noop' or similar. After doing that and clearing localStorage, benchmark one drops to around 350ms, and benchmark 2 drops to around 2000ms.

Of course, benchmark 2 is where your library really shines, and backbone still takes its time with that one.

secoif 9 days ago 1 reply      
The flame graphs are meaningless and misleading: om's graph is only looking at 260ms of data, while the backbone's is looking at 1200ms.
dylnclrk 8 days ago 0 replies      
Neat, first time I've seen Computer Modern outside of a TeX'd pdf. It looks quite nice on your site.

Also... an interesting read, thank you :)

puppetmaster3 10 days ago 1 reply      
Lol, why can't it be just another FW that's not MVC? We can't evolve? Games don't use MVC, they use E/S. There is more than that pattern. Also when using API, you need something better.
brosco45 10 days ago 0 replies      
jpatte 9 days ago 2 replies      
It may be because I'm not familiar with ClojureScript's syntax, but the whole sample application code seems like a real mess to me. It's full of boilerplate code and it is happily mixing application logic with DOM rendering. [1]

Compare this with an alternative JS MVC framework (like, say, Knockout.js) and another modern "javascript-compatible" language (like, say, TypeScript), and see for yourself. [2]

While I didn't run any benchmarks, it's safe to assume the Om demo is faster. However which sample do you think is easier to write, test and maintain? If "The Future of JavaScript MVC Frameworks" is supposed to look like the Om sample, sorry but I'll pass.

[1]: https://github.com/swannodette/todomvc/tree/gh-pages/labs/ar...

[2]: https://github.com/jpatte/TodoMvc-Knockout.ts

Sorry, RSA, I'm just not buying it github.com
508 points by dmix  6 days ago   127 comments top 20
ChuckMcM 6 days ago 3 replies      
True/sad story. So at Sun when I was building crypto tools for Java I wanted to be able to use the RSA public key algorithm in the class loader (part of a capabilities based security system). We negotiated with RSA for a right to use their patent in Java, which proceeded right up until the final contract came back (which our lawyer signed but I did not get a chance to review) where the wording was changed to be a license to BSAFE rather than the patent. Clearly I wasn't going to put BSAFE into the JVM, I l already had an implementation of their algorithm in Java. There was never a good explanation for how the lawyer got so "confused" at the last minute and "forgot" to have these changes reveiwed by the engineer leading the project.

Given the sort of shenanigans we've been reading about I would not be surprised to hear that someone who was neither a Sun or RSADSI employee said "spike this deal".

[edit: clarity]

morsch 6 days ago 3 replies      
Not sure if this tidbit made Hacker News -- the OpenSSL project added Dual_EC_DRBG support at the request of a paying customer: http://openssl.6102.n7.nabble.com/Consequences-to-draw-from-...

They're under NDA and cannot reveal the customer's name. The thread doesn't say how much the customer paid, does anybody know? A friend told me 600k USD last night, but I cannot find any sources that back this up.

jusben1369 6 days ago 2 replies      
I think there are two types of commentators on this issue. Those who've been involved in negotiating agreements like this and those who haven't. Those who have can see how something like this happens. Those who haven't cannot believe how something like this could happen. It's important to remember/realize that no one, outside a handful of folks, understood what the NSA was up to until the last 12 months. Heck, at one point not too far back it was probably prestigious to mention you worked closely with the NSA on developing your technology. Help you impress a few corporate execs and close some deals.
ska 6 days ago 2 replies      
Are EMC/RSA denying that they took money from the NSA? That alone seems damning, since I can't think of any way that the existence of such a contract for any stated purpose doesn't undermine the credibility of the company fatally.
VLM 6 days ago 3 replies      
"As a bonus, all the other algorithms are apparently faster and thats generally a desirable property."

I apologize for discussing a technical topic in whats likely to be a political crypto-rage flamewar, but I've been digesting some thoughts about this and the figure of merit of processing required per bit of randomness is probably interesting, in that for a given set of professional grade RNGs (not algorithms implemented by idiots) the more processing required to generate a bit of randomness, the more likely it is someone's sticking a nasty backdoor in.

Or rephrased the more time you spend sticking magic "nothing up my sleeves" constants into a bit, the more likely something unpleasant is getting stuck in there.

(edited to add I'm talking about "real" RNGs not implying the worlds simplest shortest LFSR is magically better than a real RNG just because its really fast... I'm talking about more "in class" performance comparisons than joke vs real.)

diminoten 6 days ago 6 replies      
I don't think the, "We trusted the NSA" explanation makes them look stupid or negligent. This article does reference the fact that people are now retroactively claiming understanding of some of these revelations, but I think the writer forgets that this might apply to him as well.

NOW it makes perfect sense to see how terrible this is, but we haven't always just blatantly assumed the NSA was out to get us. They used to not have the worst reputation in the world in the security community, right? I'm not the best authority for this, but from what I could gather they played a kind of spooky-but-helpful role prior to the Snowden leaks in the intelligence community - that is, you could generally trust they were thought to have the community's best interest at heart, even if they couldn't say why.

davidgerard 6 days ago 1 reply      
tl;dr point by point on why RSA's press statement makes them lying liars who lie, and that they were wilfully negligent from 2007-2013 at the very least.
mrobot 6 days ago 2 replies      
Here's a question: Do we think Snowden is intentionally misleading us to attack RSA and EMC, or that he's actually releasing as little information as he can to get us on the right track toward fixing things? Why would this particular piece of information be selected if it was not a real problem?
PaulHoule 6 days ago 1 reply      
Note up until this transition around 2001 the NSA was focused on controlling the key length of cryptography available.

They gave up on that and chose to focus instead on stealing the keys

salient 6 days ago 1 reply      
NSA didn't need to backdoor DES when they just forced everyone to use weak keys:

> 1979 - Present, DES: The Data Encryption Standard was altered by the NSA to make it harder to mathematically attack but easier to attack via Brute Force methods. The original version of DES, called Lucifer, used a block and key length of 128-bits and was vulnerable to differential cryptanalysis. NSA requested that the already small DES key size of 64-bits be shrunk even more to 48-bits, IBM resisted and they compromised on 56-bits11. This key size allowed the NSA to break communications secured by DES.


This is why any known NSA employee from security standards groups (including IETF and Trusted Computing Group [1]) must be forbidden to participate in the making of that standard. Their role there can only be seen as to facilitate weakening of the standards, either by weakening the algorithms themselves, or if that's too hard and/or obvious, to convince everyone else to use a weaker version of it (which NIST kind of tried to do with SHA-3 recently, too).

As long as there's any chance of NSA being involved even remotely in a security standard, I'm going to lose faith in that whole standard and the group.

[1] - http://www.securitycurrent.com/en/writers/richard-stiennon/i...

chris_wot 5 days ago 0 replies      
What did you expect? RSA got purchased by EMC in 2006. That's the kiss of death in terms if any semblance of ethics. Someone in EMC would have known about this and swayed decision making.
RSAInsecurity 6 days ago 1 reply      
We're responding to our valued customers as fast as we can over on Twitter. https://twitter.com/RSAInsecurity
uptown 6 days ago 3 replies      
And the stock-market shrugged.


nullc 6 days ago 0 replies      
> assume it was publicly documented at the time that BSAFE defaulted to Dual EC

Was it? Before it was revealed to be the BSAFE default I was going around saying that no one would have chosen to use it anyways, so it was probably a pretty ineffectual backdoor except if it ever was option for a downgrading attack.

crystaln 5 days ago 0 replies      
"we continued to rely upon NIST as the arbiter of that discussion"

This seems like a reasonable position to me, but I'm not in the field. Can someone tell me why it's not reasonable, in the face of all sorts of theories and suspicions being thrown about, to rely on the leading standards body as to whether the algorithm is flawed?

ozten 6 days ago 2 replies      
With a quarterly income of $587 million in Q2 of 2012, isn't 10 million dollars "chump change" for EMC? Perhaps it's more of a lubricant for the larger picture of deals and pressures.
atmosx 6 days ago 1 reply      
That's a dead corp imho. Do we have any famous customer's list floating around?
thearn4 6 days ago 2 replies      
Kind of odd: this seems like something better suited to a blog post than a Gist.
onedev 6 days ago 0 replies      
What if we literally didn't buy it?
aaronchriscohen 5 days ago 0 replies      
NSA deserves an award for accomplishing this for just $10 million.
Introducing Open Salaries at Buffer bufferapp.com
496 points by jliechti1  10 days ago   337 comments top 65
tikhonj 10 days ago 8 replies      
I've always felt the culture of hiding salaries was doing a significant disservice to employees. It creates a significant and largely artificial information disparity, giving a major market advantage to the employer. In turn, this makes the entire labor market less efficient for the employee.

This also makes the employer less accountable to the employees. The employer can easily pay somebody significantly more or less than they contribute, and the rest of the team cannot really say anything about this.

Now, there are some cultural reasons to do this--preventing jealousy, hiding inequality. But it really feels like a social band-aid, a temporary solution hiding the symptoms but not the underlying problem. Besides, everyone ends up having a reasonable guess as to who makes more and who makes less anyhow! The same dynamics develop, just with more uncertainty.

On the other hand, making salaries public takes these problems head-on. Inequality isn't bad in and of itself; some is basically necessary. But hiding that fact doesn't really help anyone. Instead, forcing people to see it head-on, deal with it and talk about it is probably a better solution.

I really applaud Buffer and the general movement towards transparency. I think it's a very healthy cultural progression and hope it catches on more widely, so that people stop having knee-jerk reactions to salary information.

EDIT: As an interesting additional note, all salaries (beyond a token minimum) at Berkeley (and the whole UC system) are publicly available at http://ucpay.globl.org/.

I've looked up various professors at the ParLab (where I did some undergraduate research). The fact that their salaries range from ~120k to ~350k did not change my perspective of anyone and did not seem to affect the lab's culture at all.

Essentially, I'd be perfectly happy to see this outside of public universities.

JonFish85 10 days ago 14 replies      
Let's say I'm a competitor, and I find that Niel (randomly picked) is someone I want to hire. All else being equal, I offer him $100k (website says he's making $88k). He comes to his boss to say "I like it here, can you match it?"

What does his boss do? Especially, if he's valuable to the company...

What if I have a very specialized skill that doesn't fit nicely into your matrix? Let's say market pay for my skill is $200k. Do you create a new category for me? Do I get dirty looks from all of my co-workers because I have a valuable skillset that most people don't?

I'd hate it, as an employee, as a boss or as an investor. But that could just be me.

suprgeek 10 days ago 7 replies      
Excellent concept - but one major Caveat.Why in the world would you publish it for all the world to see?

Keep it internal to the company - you have an expectation of privacy from your employer and this post just ruined it completely.

I hope they got written signed releases from every one of those folks whose private info they broadcast to the world.

carsongross 10 days ago 2 replies      
I like this idea, but with a few modifications:

* Names should be anonymous. Everyone knows where they are within the group and can determine if its fair without knowing exactly who makes what.

* It should include options and bonuses. In some companies non-salary compensation dwarfs salaries, and it's dishonest to point to a CEO salary and say "Look, he only makes 1.something X what regular people do."

* Keep it internal to the company. No point in giving the competition an exact target or requiring whole company buy in before you do it.

* Allow people to redact their own information, but display it as having been redacted. If enough people do that, or just management does it, everyone will sense that things are unfair.

kapilkale 10 days ago 6 replies      
Seems unwise to have a CEO co-founder be the highest salaried employee at a startup.

That person's equity position is probably at least an order of magnitude higher than the other employees. As an investor or employee, I'd find this alarming.


Call me old fashioned, but I think co-founders should be paid living expenses + 25%, even in a series-A funded startup.

sytelus 10 days ago 1 reply      
Things I learned today:

* Buffer is not somebody's weekend project

* It needs 16 (yes, SIXTEEN) people to run that thing

* They actually have revenue. In millions. $2.3 Millions!

* Their company values are based on How to win friends and influence people.

Aside from that, open salaries are pretty naive idea, if not completely dumb and dangerous. The lives you live everyday is in effect a game (as in "game theory" game). When you are talking to person, selling goods or buying one you are in the game. Like in any game, information is your advantage and your opponents weakness. This is exactly why privacy matters. If insurance company knows you eat too much pizza, they would want to get a higher premium from you. Similarly if a car dealer can look you up and figure out your salary, he can adjust his negotiation tactics. A plumber making half the money you do would want to charge you more than others. And so on. When all these people would look for their next jobs, their next employer would know how much salary to offer them.

dxbydt 10 days ago 2 replies      
Back when I was a really dumb undergrad, I did some work for a company & they asked me where to mail the cheque. I gave them the University address. So I was chatting with my professor & we walk by the mailboxes, and by pure reflex, I reach out into my mailbox & grab my mail & he does the same & we say our goodbyes & go home.

Now, I open the mail at home & am staring at my professor's salary! You see, the secretary had switched our mails by mistake because our last names began with the same letter. I was quite stunned by the number - it was a measly sum, and I did the math & worked out that the Professor's salary was about 60K. Now, I knew my Professor was an important CS scholar & had tons of papers to his name, but that low number irked me. After the PhD and all these papers, just 60K...why..?

At the same time, my Professor had also gone home & opened his mail & was staring at my salary! So much money for some dumb undergrad who was basically an average student & had no major publications or research! He was quite bothered.

The next day, we had a very awkward exchange of mails. But from then on, the student-teacher dynamic completely changed. I suddenly began getting B's instead of C's & even occasional A-. He probably felt, hey if this guy can get so much money in the market, he probably knows his shit. otoh, I began to respect him & the CS program less & less. So I still have to spend 3 more years & take 45 more credits & do the qualifiers to get the PhD & then write all these papers & for what..60K ? That was my attitude at the time.

Needless to say, I dropped out of the PhD pgm with a Masters & went to work full-time. That was the stupidest thing I ever did, but I just didn't know it then. Now, I look back & think...hey if I hadn't known about his salary, I'd have slogged it through & actually gotten my PhD instead of half-assing it out here :(

iampims 10 days ago 2 replies      
Its one thing to have a transparent salary policy, its a whole another world to publicly blog about peoples salary with a link to their Twitter account.

I hope all employees agreed to have their salary published on the buffer blog.

Kudos to them for trying something different.

dsugarman 10 days ago 4 replies      
I have a feeling you will regret this soon. There are certain benefits in having a firm salary structure sponsored by a transparent system, but the loss of flexibility will hurt in ways you haven't experienced. Also, letting everyone know what their peers make can cause disgruntled employees.
benihana 10 days ago 6 replies      
This sounds like absolute hell

>Every internal email sent between any 2 people on the team has a certain list cced that is accessible for everyone: For example if 2 engineers email with each other, they cc the engineers list, if its people on our customer support team they have a support email list cced. Stripe was a great inspiration for this. (More about this)

Openness and transparency and honesty are great. But this seems like it's removing privacy, which sounds very tiring.

mrkmcknz 10 days ago 2 replies      
Very humbling that no one at Buffer would call themselves a "Master", indeed many would probably but Joel at that level but he sits there on a 1.2x multiplier.

I once had a conversation with an old hat who said "If you call yourself a python master you better be fucking Guido."

YZF 10 days ago 1 reply      
One result from behavioral economics is that people care more about their relative standing to others than the absolute value of the salary. This is why transparency can be a double edged sword. If I think I deserve to be paid more than Joe, as long as I don't actually know how much he's paid I can believe that I'm being paid more. However, once you have transparency and I can see Joe is getting paid more than myself this will probably have a negative impact on my morale and performance.

One example I've heard discussed (I think by Dan Arieli) is how transparency in CEO pay has failed to bring CEO salaries down. One problem is now CEOs can see what other CEOs are getting paid and naturally every CEO will want to be paid higher than his peers.

I used to think open salaries would be a good thing but lately I'm not so sure. You definitely want to tread very carefully there as there are many implications and unexpected consequences.

jballanc 10 days ago 0 replies      
Imagine if you went to the store to buy bread, but you didn't know how much all the other people in line were paying for their bread. When you get to the counter, the baker charges you some arbitrary amount. Today you have enough money to buy bread, but the baker warns you that he may charge more tomorrow. Since you don't know what anyone else is paying for their bread, you can't have any idea if what the baker charged you is fair or not. All you know is that you need to work as hard as you can so that you can be sure you will be able to afford tomorrow's bread.

Of course, this doesn't work. Nobody is preventing you from asking your neighbors what they paid for their bread. Once you know what a "fair" price for bread is, then you know exactly how hard you need to work to afford bread, and you have little incentive to work any harder than that.

If you own a company, ideally you don't want your employees competing with each other. You want each of them to compete with themselves, pushing their abilities, growing, learning, improving. You don't want them to know exactly how much they need to do to earn that next promotion, because then they will have little motivation to do more than the bare minimum.

If you own a company, unlike the baker, you can have some amount of control over the flow of information. This control allows you to manipulate your employees motivations. Like any amount of control over anything, this control can be abused...but in capable hands it can also be wielded to great effect.

An open salary policy gives away that control entirely...

freyr 10 days ago 0 replies      
Many people here are picking on the senior developers salaries, hovering right around $100K. Maybe this isn't a particularly competitive startup salary, but note that salaries are tied to revenue.

If the company's revenue grows significantly, their salaries could become much more attractive. If, for example, revenues grow from $2M revenue to $20M revenue, senior developers would see their salaries increase by $54k or ~50% over this time.

It could be argued that 10X growth or an $18M increase in revenue is unrealistic for a tweet scheduler, but that's for the employees to determine.

zhuzhuor 10 days ago 1 reply      
I found one thing interesting is that only 4 out of 17 people choose equity over $10k salary. Even CTO chooses salary.

I am curious if this is common in startup companies, since I have never worked in startups.

icambron 10 days ago 1 reply      
I actually love the radical transparency here, even after reading all the warnings in the HN comments.

What I like less is the salary formula. What's going to happen is that all of the negotiation is going to get packed into the experience and seniority multipliers. It creates the illusion of rigor and possibly does more harm than good.

nsxwolf 10 days ago 0 replies      
Seeing these pathetic salaries (and in the Bay Area!), I don't feel so bad about my boring enterprise development position at no-name established corporation anymore.
overgard 9 days ago 0 replies      
What the hell is a happiness hero? It sounds like some sort of horrible orwellian euphemism.
corry 10 days ago 0 replies      
Serious question: Why aren't equity positions posted too?

To me, that's part of the trade-off that the startup founder / leaderships takes (for good or ill), and seeing salary in the absence of actual equity positions is only half the picture.

Hopefully they all know each other's equity positions internally and just chose not to share publicly... otherwise it would seem like a betrayal of the open culture if the actual ownership structure of the company wasn't openly known and discussed.

rmason 10 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder in five years looking back whether Buffer getting hacked or their 'transparency' will have hurt them more. I am betting the latter.

Do they really think they can ban private emails between engineers? it would have been much easier to simply load eavesdropping software on their computer if management doesn't trust them.

I really like Buffer but I'm a little worried about them.

ra3 10 days ago 3 replies      
Can't say a lot of good things about a company that pays a "Chief Happiness Officer" more than most of its engineers. I know plenty of startups that seem to be doing alright in the customer service department without an overpaid exec heading it.

Does she really contribute more to the bottom line than any of the other 4 underpaid engineers?

zmitri 10 days ago 5 replies      
I have a question: Why would the founders take such high salaries?

Seems to go against everything I would think was important for a company that is venture-backed.

Diamons 10 days ago 1 reply      
It's honestly stuff like this that makes me feel like the only sane person around. Why would you do this? If the CEO is pushing for it, the employees will all smile and nod and go along with the crowd, but all this does is breed resentment. The idea of open salaries sounds good on paper, but it's simply idealistic.

You can sing the happiness song and do all the lets-be-friends dances but at the end of the day we're people competing for resources. This will have lasting effects to all current employees for sure.

newobj 10 days ago 0 replies      
Well, Sunil and Colin, seeing that you are criminally underpaid, are you interested in opportunities elsewhere?

I will figuratively eat my underwear if you don't come to regret this strategy (public, non-anonymous open vs. internally open) at some point.

danso 10 days ago 2 replies      
Wow...the engineering salaries are significantly lower than I would've expected for a well known startup in the Bay Area...at least compared to the perceived range for such things.

Note: a less cynical take is this: GodDAMN buffer employees must be happy working there if they tolerated transparency to this level...which, really, is the best win-win for all kinds of transparency scenarios.

benaston 10 days ago 0 replies      
When the market shifts, or for tactical reasons you have to pay more to recruit someone, you instantly have a problem.
joshuaellinger 9 days ago 0 replies      
I always thought the best system would be to tell people what their boss makes, including options and other non-salary compensation.

This eliminates the problem of people comparing themselves to their nominal peers on incomplete information. It really tells you everything you need to know about compensation.

But the most valuable part of the buffer system is the formula. You have a framework for calculating what is fair.

One of the dangers at small busy startups with well-intentioned leaders is that you basically forget to give people raises and your employees don't get you to correct it until they are pissed enough to quit. That's part of why I left my original company and it cost me a good employee recently.

bdg 8 days ago 0 replies      
I'm still baffled by salaries. In Toronto and surrounding areas (cost of living is not as high as San Francisco) I'm a programmer for web apps (php, js, and a bit of this-and-that). I see sallary ranges all over the map. Some make 40k, I've seen a 55k who wanted 60k, I've an 80k, and a few 90-120k.

One job I asked for 2x what I made at my old job.

I'm convinced you're paid what you ask for, so long as you can get shit done.

dj-wonk 10 days ago 0 replies      
I've read dozens of the comments on this page so far. The thing that jumps out to me is the interplay between these factors: (1) internal transparency (2) external transparency (3) internal privacy (4) external privacy (5) human motivation and (6) company culture. There are many combinations here, and I can't help but think Buffer didn't do an effective "search" across the possible "parameter space", even according to their own goals and interests.

For example, Buffer could have easily added a policy saying that each employee's compensation may be adjusted by, say, +/- 20% based on individual factors. That would give some uncertainty, and thus a bit of individual privacy. Peers would still have some confidence that they were, more or less, in a similar range as others with their public performance characteristics.

Let's put ideology aside (i.e. do we want this to work, according to our theories of human nature) and focus on the actual effects. How do you know if you've succeeded? How do you measure this? How do you design the experiment?

Call me skeptical, but I can't help but think that Buffer is doing this, largely, to say "look at us!" and "this makes an interesting blog post!".

jcampbell1 10 days ago 1 reply      
Also introducing open revenues and semi open profits.

Implied Revenue: $2.0M [1]

Total Salary: $1.7M

[1] ((158.8 - 22)/1.2 - 751.2)/12

dmourati 10 days ago 1 reply      
Wow, those salaries are low. If I was making that much and someone posted my salary to the internet, I would immediately quit.
programminggeek 10 days ago 0 replies      
One area where open salaries are not such a big deal - education. Many teachers are paid on an open scale of years of service X education level. It does create a culture of possibly too much higher education beyond what is useful or necessary for certain levels of teaching. That also creates teachers who don't want to switch jobs because they'll lose the years of experience pay.

Lesson - all people game the system for their own benefit.

vladgur 10 days ago 1 reply      
Wow, these salaries seem to be pretty low. I mean a senior IOS engineer making $107K in SF? Id expect them to easily increase their salary by 30% by jumping ship.
the_watcher 9 days ago 0 replies      
The CEO of Buffer was asked by someone if he worried about this making it easier for his employees to be poached. His response: "if they do, they would be saving me time. Good to speed up that process. I dont believe salary is the reason people would leave."[1]

[1] https://twitter.com/joelgascoigne/status/413713018455740416

asgard1024 9 days ago 0 replies      
I think if you don't like the idea of closed salary (I don't), you should just go ahead and publish yours publicly (on FB or something), if you have the guts to do it and face potential conflict with your employer (I don't have the guts, I wish I had).

Because, quite frankly, it's your money. No one should tell you what to do with it, much less to count these, publicly. And if, as the result of this, you get smaller salary, it will be there for the others in the company to see. How motivational.

I think even with this unilateral action, you will get most of the benefits - good people around you are likely to respond back and tell you if you're underpaid or overpaid.

tootie 10 days ago 1 reply      
I used to work in government (US municipality) and every single employee's salary (10s of thousands of people) was public record.
iblaine 10 days ago 0 replies      
If I were in HR then I would be reaching out to any employee that I see is under paid. Likewise I would not reach out to any employee that I think is over paid. Perhaps consider keeping this data internal.
dangero 10 days ago 1 reply      
Wow, an Android engineer making less than 100K that's crazy to me, but I'm not that familiar with UK salaries I guess.
codingdave 10 days ago 0 replies      
This is only halfway to true transparency. And also halfway to the bureaucracy of most large companies.

The other half to get to full transparency is having clear, measurable definitions of experience, and clear milestones of how to advance in seniority.

And that relates to how this starts to resemble corporate salary structures -- the key difference being that these guys have a defined number instead of a "salary grade". but the idea of plugging positions and experience levels and seniority into a salary structure is key to almost every large company. And as a result, most of the corporate angst over salaries starts to boil down to questions like: "Why is he a programmer IV, while she is a programmer III.", "How do I advance from being a Staff Software Engineer to an Advisory Software Engineer?"

This structure doesn't necessarily remove questions (and sometimes conflict) over career advancement, it just moves the discussion away from money, and towards labels and definitions.

And as some comments mentioned, there are cases where you really want to hire someone whose salary requirements do not match your structure. You may get into sticky situations like having a great coder, but you would have to make him a Lead, or a VP to actually make him fit your structure. And maybe you don't want them to have that level of leadership, because that is not their skill set. So you end up having to decide -- Is this salary structure more important than making those hires, or are you willing to let potentially great hires get away because this structure is more important to the company than those people?

That decision is not one that I will second-guess - I would think that these types of issues and scenarios, as well as other issues raised in the comments, have probably already been debated internally before this decision was reached.

But that would be an interesting follow-up post -- to hear about what discussions and debates went on before making this decision, what the expected impacts will be, why decisions were made, and what levels of growth are expected to invoke changes in this structure.

icedchai 10 days ago 0 replies      
It's interesting the number of employees that chose the "+$10K more salary instead of more options" option. What does this tell you?
n1ghtmare_ 9 days ago 0 replies      
"Happiness hero"! I can't think of anything more cheesy. Seriously.
tomasien 10 days ago 0 replies      
There are a lot of people bringing up edge cases and contingencies on this thread. The success of Buffer's culture is what happens when you stop being afraid of the edge cases and start deciding what kind of people you want to be. People will follow you if you stay true to that, as corny as that sounds.
treitnauer 10 days ago 0 replies      
It's great to see other companies experimenting with openness in salaries. We've taken a different approach and pay all employees (including founders) the same salary which increases as the company grows. Our team is now 8-people strong and it's working great so far. As long as you contribute to the bottom line everyone's salary goes up automatically. It's totally transparent, no negotiations required, reviews, etc.
Uchikoma 9 days ago 0 replies      
As a "boss" I'd love this.

The only downside I see is that some people will be disappointed because the salary reflects their skills and the value the company puts in them. For some this is hard to take if they are in the bottom 20% of people in their peer group.

Said that, it's probably a good idea to start with this compared to introducing this later.

rikacomet 10 days ago 0 replies      
when I clicked on "try buffer" it takes me to the url: bufferapp.com, kaspersky blocked it saying "phishing URL".

You might wanna talk with Kaspersky?

Euro_IT_drone 10 days ago 3 replies      
Just trying to compare here with my European salary.. How much of this do you get to take home, ie. what part of it can you spend on food, clothing, housing etc. after takes? What about health insurance, is it provided for?
esja 10 days ago 0 replies      
As they grow they will need to hire more people. I wonder whether this policy will prevent some otherwise excellent hires from joining them.
sifarat 9 days ago 0 replies      
I am the CEO, and my salary is lesser than all the key staff in my company. Reason, self-funded. And everyone in the office knows it. I am just astonished how a CEO of company like Buffer, can afford such an expensive package for himself. Are you making enough or just billing it to your investors?
OhHeyItsE 10 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting in many ways.In particular, only the executives make what would be considered a competitive senior engineer/architect salary in NYC or SF. Perhaps they 'compensate' with equity?
mathattack 10 days ago 0 replies      
I'm very much on the fence with this. If you follow a simple formula, it can work. If you need to use judgment (how to pay a superstar?) then it becomes very tricky. My general observation is that any time two people compare salaries, one is disappointed. And here you shared your salaries with the whole world. Bravo for doing this, and engaging the discussion.
overpaidprobly 10 days ago 4 replies      
Does anyone have an opinion on how these numbers square with market rates?

I make $113k/year as a juniorish engineer at a VC backed startup in SV. Am I hilariously overcompensated?

almosnow 10 days ago 1 reply      
What are 'happines hero'es ?
symfrog 10 days ago 0 replies      
This post reminds me of Miley Cyrus at the MTV VMA earlier in the year. Pop singers are incentivized to be the first to break cultural norms for no practical reason in order to ride the wave of subsequent teen followers.

In the same way, posts like these are created to be the first to break a specific norm (i.e. do not post employee salaries publicly) in order to ride the wave of traffic (and hopefully a few additional users).

thesausageking 10 days ago 0 replies      
I'm really surprised the founders are the best paid people on the team. $158k is a big salary for a founder/CEO of a company at that stage.
juliebug 10 days ago 0 replies      
As someone who uses Buffer (free version) on a regular basis, I have to say that I'm fairly amused that it appears as though none of the commenters here have actually read much, if anything, about Buffer. They have quite a lot of information about corporate culture that would have answered some of the questions and concerns posted here. Further, they're a distributed workforce (which I don't think anyone picked up on -- this explains emails vs. face to face conversations).

Some extra reading for you folks:

http://bufferapp.com/about/#our-philosophy scroll down to the 9 Buffer Values)


Kiro 10 days ago 0 replies      
The support staff makes twice as much as me and I'm an engineer. Are those normal salary levels?
jaboutboul 10 days ago 0 replies      
Not the smartest thing in the world to do, publish people's salaries and twitter accounts, especially in this day and age where privacy is virtually non-existent. I hope everyone agreed to publicly disclose the salary information.
fideloper 10 days ago 0 replies      
I'm really happy to see companies offer equity vs higher salary. As someone is almost 30 (read: less willing to take the chance that equity will result in future money), I feel that's a great choice to offer employees.
bliti 10 days ago 0 replies      
1. Does the buffer team work remotely?

2. What's your backend written in?

kreek 10 days ago 0 replies      
How long until the Buffer employees form a union? :
yeukhon 10 days ago 1 reply      
This doesn't scale well when your company grows to hundreds of employees or even thousands.
ereckers 10 days ago 0 replies      
As long as they never have enterprise sales people I thin everything will be A OK.
rpedela 10 days ago 0 replies      
What is a happiness hero?
dinkumthinkum 10 days ago 0 replies      
I don't mean anything but these salaries are pretty weak. Honestly, they are sort of really weak for this kind of company it seems to me. Hardly gives the impression of high paid software developers, particularly in the Bay Area, wow. I dunno.
snambi 9 days ago 0 replies      
Data Structure Visualizations usfca.edu
496 points by n008  11 days ago   35 comments top 20
gavinpc 11 days ago 6 replies      
I dream of a world where this is built in everywhere that I write expressions. It's so hard, and we desperately need it. Bret Victor has called a lot of attention to this lately, and rightly so.

It's easy to forget how much we have to remember inside our heads just to work with code. And why? Much of this work could and should be done by the machine, which would free us to focus on what we want. But the need for context, different execution environments, etc, all make this difficult to tackle generally.

More and more lately, I find that I'm interested in this problem more than the code itself.

lelandbatey 11 days ago 1 reply      
As someone who just finished a datastructre class (as in had my final just a few days ago) I used the heck out of this site all semester long!

The visualization for B-trees and Red/black trees was totally invaluable!

capkutay 11 days ago 0 replies      
This was pretty valuable when I took algorithms from this professor. Things like mergesort and indexing in B+ trees can seem very abstract when you try to learn it via a snippet of java code. These visualizations are even more useful if you need a refresher on algorithms for job interviews.
FrankenPC 11 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, this is valuable. It's not the kooky new framework that rockets tech forward, it's tools like this.
gregfjohnson 10 days ago 0 replies      
I wrote a web site http://gregfjohnson.com/redblackbuilder.html that takes interactive algorithm visualization another step. I would be delighted and appreciative if people go check it out and provide thoughts and feedback. IMHO It is fun and informative to play with, and a great tool for learning the algorithms.

It is specific to red-black trees, but I am considering adding other data structure manipulation algorithms as well.

On insert and delete, you can single-step forward and backward and see the tree manipulations at each step. Or, you can do the entire operation at once.

There is pseudo-code for insert and delete, and at each forward or backward step the line of code being executed is highlighted.

satyampujari 11 days ago 1 reply      
This is so useful. Here's another http://www.sorting-algorithms.com/
mmanfrin 10 days ago 0 replies      
This is incredibly useful, as someone who is an engineer with a non-technical degree.

Ironically (or perhaps coincidentally), I got my non-technical degree from the very school this is hosted on.

antonius 11 days ago 0 replies      
Glad I found this to reiterate what I learned as my Data Structure exam is tomorrow :)
enjalot 11 days ago 0 replies      
I just wish there was a button in each example that would populate with some demo data. I like to watch something go and then figure out it out by playing with the parameters. From this I don't immediately know what kind of inputs and outputs to use/expect (integers? floats? strings?).

very sweet project tho!

deletes 11 days ago 0 replies      
Took a quick look at their insertion sort algorithm. It looks wrong, doing unnecessary swaps, when moving elements up. For and extra O(1) memory your can avoid that.
wlievens 10 days ago 1 reply      
You should check Amit Patel's blog articles, they are chuck full of interactive visualisations that are really well executed.
wijt 11 days ago 2 replies      
There are some great visualisations here. Coming up with good visualisations is tricky. I can't help but mention my own attempt at a more general framework for algorithm visualisation: http://will.thimbleby.net/algorithms/
olegstepanov 10 days ago 0 replies      
We did similar stuff 12 years ago when I was an undergrad at SpbITMO. The website with the visualisers (in Russian) can be found here: http://rain.ifmo.ru/cat/view.php/vis
nu2ycombinator 11 days ago 0 replies      
I always had hard time learning algorithms through visualization softwares. Most effective way for me was reading and visualizing in my mind.
GowGuy47 11 days ago 0 replies      
Just found out yesterday that I'll be having my first interview for a Google Software Engineering position in about a month. This is truly going to be invaluable, thank you!
crncosta 11 days ago 0 replies      
Amazing! thanks for share.
srchit 10 days ago 0 replies      
Awsome!! One of the best visualizations, I came across
alixaxel 11 days ago 0 replies      
ananth99 10 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you for this priceless resource.
lisptime 11 days ago 0 replies      
thanks for sharing
Google Has Officially Penalized Rap Genius For Link Schemes searchengineland.com
471 points by tomlemon  4 days ago   283 comments top 73
itsprofitbaron 4 days ago 11 replies      
Whilst this may be surprising to some people on HN, this happens all of the time to sites who build links in an unnatural way.

For instance, this has happened in the past to well known brands such as J.C Penney through NYTimes expose[1], Interflora[2] more recently and a lots of others.

An apology which RapGenius offered [3] doesn't fix this either.

Is it fair? Yes and No.

The only reason it isn't fair is that the site disappears from Google for the BRAND term e.g. [rap genius]. My personal belief is that, devaluing the site for the BRAND term e.g. [rap genius] actually devalues Google's quality. On the other side of the coin, if someone searches for [X rap genius] whilst they are under penalty its fair that they do not rank for that either. However, there are obvious reasons as to why the search quality team have decided to do this.

How RapGenius can fix it / How you can too if your site gets a penalty:

First of all, RapGenius if they are doing any link building now they should pause it immediately until theyre out of penalty.

Secondly, in their apology [3] said:

  "With limited tools (Open Site Explorer), we found some suspicious backlinks to some of our competitors"
They don't actually need to use any other tool to get out of penalty beyond Google Webmaster Tools although, ideally they should clean up all the links beyond the ones Google has found (trust me, Google doesnt find them all within WMTs). Once you get out of a Google manual penalty and get hit by one again the search quality team takes a much closer look you dont want that!

Anyway, they should download all the links in WMTs, OSE, Majestic etc (although it looks like they only have OSE[3] so they should just download them from WMTs and OSE) and then remove the duplicates.

Once theyve done this, they should flag every single link which, they believe is causing the penalty.

After identifying all the links which are causing the penalty, they should create a Gmail to outreach to all of the sites to remove the links. They should outreach to all these sites and documents all the sites theyve contacted, status still live/nofollow/removed/requested payment/no response etc.

Having got some links removed/nofollowed etc, they should then disavow all the other sites that have requested payment or not given them response to the removal. Personally, the disavow(s) that are done by myself are usually done at the domain level although, there are reasons to do this at the URL level as well (Rap Genius needs to make the decision which one to disavow).

After submitting the disavow they, should submit a reconsideration request which outlines, the work they have done from the spreadsheet and also offer Googles Search Quality Team the login to the Gmail to show theyve tried to get the links removed and that some people have asked for payment etc.

The Google Search Quality team will review the site then, theyll either flag more links to be removed or theyll get out of penalty after which Rap Genius will start appearing for the BRAND term again and other results once the Google Algorithms trust the site again.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/business/13search.html?_r=...

[2] http://searchengineland.com/google-says-no-comment-on-why-in...

[3] http://news.rapgenius.com/Rap-genius-founders-open-letter-to...

selmnoo 4 days ago 4 replies      
Tried all of these just now:

  Justin Bieber All Bad Lyrics  Justin Bieber Confident Lyric  Justin Bieber Heartbreaker Lyrics  Justin Bieber Memphis Lyrics  Justin Bieber One Life Lyrics  Justin Bieber All That Matters Lyrics  Justin Bieber Hold Tight Lyrics  Justin Bieber Pyd Lyrics  Justin Bieber Change Me Lyrics  Justin Bieber Recovery Lyrics  Justin Bieber Bad Day Lyrics  Justin Bieber Roller Coaster Lyrics  Justin Bieber Lyrics
All of these just yesterday were in fact ranked in the upper 5 (very often #1 actually). Rapgenius results are now not even in top 10.

Most surprisingly, even

  Justin Bieber Heartbreaker rap genius
will not show up on Google results. Wow, that was a swift and harsh response. The only surefire way to get to a RG site is by doing "*bieber site:rapgenius.com".

They were using a wide array of questionable SERP optimizing techniques (http://www.rocketmill.co.uk/hideous-seo-strategy-rap-genius among others). One described here is very interesting: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6958883. Apparently that's an old one, but it's first I'm hearing of it. From all of this, to their rape jokes and everything else in-between, you can't say they didn't have something like this coming.

OoTheNigerian 4 days ago 8 replies      

This is the worst Christmas present possible. Well, Google had no choice and the apology was not a stellar one (not that it could have mattered).

If I recall correctly, Google once penalized Google Chrome for doing shady SEO [1]. Although it was not as brutal as this which sends them to the equivalent of Siberia.

My Questions.

1. I normally search "<song name> rapgenius". Now, it is no longer on the first few pages. Is that not against Google's goal of giving the searcher what (s)he wants?

2. Probably the only way for RapGenius to counter this would be to go heavy on AdWords. Is that not a bit conflicted on Google's side?

Hopefully this punishment will not be permanent. I would hope they have learned to tone things down sometimes.

This may be a lesson in disguise as they would be forced to think of how to survive without SEO. If they can survive now, they will be doubly badass when this penalty is lifted.


Edited to include source

[1] http://searchengineland.com/google-chrome-page-will-have-pag...

themgt 4 days ago 3 replies      
My favorite part of this is in the original blog post exposing the scheme, mahbodmoghadam, RapGenius co-founder/dude-bro in chief, immediately commented and said "Did you post it??? how about this: attach the HTML to THIS article and I'll tweet this out for you - that would be META!"

Like scoring an own goal, doing a victory dance, and then sprinting back out to score another. Just amazing. I wish I could find a violin tiny enough to appropriately express my sympathy for these clowns.


OmarIsmail 4 days ago 3 replies      
Google giveth, and Google taketh away.

This looks like a -50 penalty. This is both good and bad for Rap Genius.

Good in that it will be temporary: specifically 30 days. This is better than a fundamental algorithm change like Panda or Penguin because there's no coming back from those.

The bad is that -50 penalties effectively destroy 90+ percent of your traffic. It's a very harsh lesson to be taught. You also don't want to have it happen again because the 2nd time is 60 days, and the 3rd time is permanent.

I don't think RapGenius will be doing something like this again.

From RG's perspective it's also frustrating because they'll see competitors do scammy things and get away with it. But that's the dual edged sword of such public personas. With RG getting called out so publicly Google had to do something about it. It's also good for Google that this penalty is getting a lot of publicity since it's proving an example to everyone else.

ddoolin 4 days ago 3 replies      
The sad part is that RG was the most high quality lyrics site I've seen. Their revenue is going to take a huge dive, much more than their link scheming was hurting Google (or probably anyone else for that matter).
MitziMoto 4 days ago 1 reply      
I agree that Rap Genius should have been penalized here, but so should literally every other lyrics site on the net. I've done SEO in hyper competitive spaces in the past and honestly, the system is broken.

Google and Cutts love to preach this "Create value and quality content and you'll rank high" bullocks but it doesn't work like that. When you have a high number of well funded competitors who are all playing dirty, there is NO POSSIBLE WAY to compete with them with white hat tactics. You either play hardball yourself and risk a ban or you play nice and get creamed in the SERPs.

It's really a rock | hard place situation in some niches.

Oh, and I just saw the founders made this statement:

"We are working with Google right now to resolve this. They've been really great, helping us identify changes we need to make, even on Christmas. Were working on it as fast as we can, and expect to be back on Google very soon."

WHAT? What makes these guys so special that they actually get help from Google. I think that pisses me off more than anything. There are a ton of webmasters out there trying to do the right thing SEO wise who get banned or penalized but could never, ever, get personal help from Google. We don't even get the courtesy of knowing why we've been banned most of the time. (Although to be fair this has gotten much better in GWT).

deanclatworthy 4 days ago 2 replies      
Let's not feel sorry for these guys just because they were part of YC. They were taking part in black-hat practices, which were clearly in breach of Google's ToS. I expect this penalty to expire eventually, but let this be a lesson to anyone else thinking about doing the same.
jere 4 days ago 5 replies      
Excellent. They deserved some coal in their stockings.

>If you go to Google and search for [rap genius], rapgenius.com will not be found on the first page

That's pretty crazy. Whenever I put up an obscure site, I notice ranking on the domain happens almost immediately with no effort.

[edit] Holy shit, I didn't realize quite how awful this is. Very often, I search for "<song name> rapgenius" because I really enjoy the annotations; that's not even on the first page of results. Making it worse, the first page (even when searching for a song) contains stories about them making rape jokes and spamming. https://www.google.com/search?q=today+was+a+good+day+rapgeni...

captainmuon 4 days ago 4 replies      
I wonder how many "legitimate" links a site like RapGenius gets. I've never seen anybody link to them, except maybe in social networks. Similar for the stackexchange sites. Sometimes people link to good questions from blogs, but a large portion of links are probably from other stackexchange sites, twitter, and Jeff Atwood's blog (which is a marvel of SEO and affilate marketing in itself).

For many of these high quality content silos (for lack of a better word), the PageRank paradigm seems pretty broken. People don't feel compelled to link to well-known sites precisely because they are well-ranked. And when they do, it is in form of viral posts in social networks, which is not really a great input to determine site quality.

I wouldn't be surprized if Google's real secret algorithm nowadays consists of millions of special cases maintained by thousands of poorly paid interns.

lopatin 4 days ago 3 replies      
I can't imagine that this is permanent. Rap Genius is actually one of the most high quality lyrics sites out there, not another spam farm. So removing them for good actually reduces the quality of Google's search results.

I do suspect that because of the attention this once case received, and since Matt Cutts was personally looking into the company's SEO tactics (talk about bad luck), they issued a public, but temporary, slap. That would serve as an eye opener to Rap Genius about how dangerously they're playing the SEO game and a warning to everyone else tuning in.

bluthru 4 days ago 2 replies      
I really hate how one search engine can make or break a site.

We live in the AOL dark ages and most don't even realize it.

nswanberg 4 days ago 3 replies      
We are all much better off now that azlyrics.com is back to its rightful place at the top of the lyric search results.

Rap Genius alleges that their competitors are using the same tactics. Will those sites also get the same scrutiny? Perhaps now would be a good time for a new lyric site run by some nice bland people to go on the offensive and rise to the top.

dangrossman 4 days ago 4 replies      
This just makes Google less useful. RG had the best lyrics and annotations for lots of songs. Now Google sends me to barely-readable sites that only exist to show as many ads as possible per page, even if I include "rap genius" in the search.
akshat 4 days ago 4 replies      
I don't understand how Rap Genius' hack was any worse than what Mixpanel does with its free plan.


Here, they are bribing customers to link to their site? Would this not be illegal too?

bushido 4 days ago 2 replies      
According to alexa their top 10 traffic sources are:

google.com - 35.7%; youtube.com - 4.4%; google.co.uk - 4.0%; facebook.com - 3.9%; google.de - 3.5%; google.ca - 3.1%; google.co.in - 2.6%; google.fr - 2.5%; google.com.tr - 1.5%; google.es - 1.1%;

Except for facebook all it top sources are Google owned(58.4%). This will truly be disasterous for their revenues.

Considering they rank 59th for "rap genius" and 51st for "rapgenius" on Google.

There are tons of lessons to be learned here. Don't depend on a single source for traffic and most of all don't excessively try gaming the system, the system usually catches up.

citizens 4 days ago 1 reply      
Current rankings:

#42 (was #1) - justin bieber memphis lyrics

#43 (was #1) - justin bieber all bad lyrics

#44 (was #2) - justin bieber hold tight lyrics

#45 (was #1) - justin bieber one life lyrics

#46 (was #4) - justin bieber bad day lyrics

#48 (was #7) - justin bieber lyrics

#54 (was #3) - justin bieber change me lyrics

#59 (was #2) - justin bieber pyd lyrics

#60 (was #1) - justin bieber confident lyrics

#63 (was #1) - justin bieber heartbreaker lyrics

#64 (was #5) - justin bieber roller coaster lyrics

#68 (was #2) - justin bieber all that matters lyrics

#68 (was #3) - justin bieber recovery lyrics

#50 - rap genius

source: serpscan.com

Nursie 4 days ago 0 replies      
Google's revenue depends on providing the best results it can to searchers, within limits of result pollution they do themselves (clearly demarked advertising at present). If they allow cynical SEO then the results get worse for everyone and people will look for alternatives.

I'm glad they have a proactive slap-down policy. Let's not go back to the late 90s and the likes of altavista, when you might have got one hit in ten pages of spam, SEO link farms.

rubiquity 4 days ago 1 reply      
I think this is a great lesson in the disparity between two things:

1. Breaking rules

2. Not being liked and breaking rules

chaz 4 days ago 2 replies      
Wow, that's a very stiff penalty if they're not even turning up for their own brand name. It will likely cost them millions. It's a clear warning to all sites out there to avoid similar tactics.
arrrg 4 days ago 0 replies      
Right in the middle of my yearly Christmas music shopping spree! Im already not finding the lyrics I want to find.

Since what they do have to offer is about a million times better than any other lyrics site Im pretty sure they will weather this. I mean, they have to. Their service is pretty excellent, Im not even sure why there way any need to fuck around with Google.

largehotcoffee 4 days ago 0 replies      
Honestly Rap Genius isn't that appealing of a site and the design is pretty terrible. It's incredibly difficult to read anything on the page (azlyrics is actually better at this).

I really hope someone new comes along and makes a better site with the same premise (annotating lyrics).

Xorlev 4 days ago 2 replies      
Just goes to show, invest in some real marketing, make something really valuable to someone rather than relying on 'growth hacks' that tend to explode in your face.
jowiar 4 days ago 0 replies      
As much as Rap Genius probably deserves it, this seems like it is treading dangerously close to Antitrust territory. Any lawyers on here?
girvo 4 days ago 0 replies      
We always talk about not building a business on someone else's API... Funnily enough, you could almost say that applies here. Gone from any SERPS, entirely. Crazy. I dislike that Google has this much power sometimes :(
zoltar92 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is absolutely rediculous, google is upholding it's rules but forgetting the POINT of the rules. The whole point is to make the most relevant results come up on google searches. The fact that rapgenius needs to "hack their way" to higher link relevancy seems like a internal google problem and penalizing them makes googles results LESS relevant. Tl;dr google's cutting off their nose in spite of their face.
skndr 4 days ago 2 replies      
It's a pyrrhic victory. Now, the best lyrics site can't be found and Google itself is less useful for it.

At least https://duckduckgo.com/?q=it+was+a+good+day+rapgenius seems to work fine.

cromwellian 3 days ago 0 replies      
I never heard of rapgenius before this, or never noticed what lyric site I was on since I treat lyric lookups almost like dictionary lookups.

As a result of this story, I now have heard of RG. So ironically, any press is good press, and despite the banning, and the public shaming in the media, it may very well be the equivalent of millions of dollars in free brand awareness.

glass_of_water 4 days ago 1 reply      
I think this could be a deathblow to Rap Genius.

I performed the following searches in an incognito tab and could not find rapgenius in the first two pages of results (I did not look beyond the first two pages):

"rap god eminem lyrics"

"machine gun funk rap lyrics"

"lose yourself eminem lyrics"

usaphp 4 days ago 1 reply      
Why did not they penalize their competitor websites which are using the same (even worse) tactics?
johnpowell 4 days ago 0 replies      
They seem to be using Quantcast and are directly measured. This should be interesting over the next week.


brentm 4 days ago 0 replies      
There is something very important going on here. The reality is most search results are gamed & Google knows it. Everyone should be afraid of this happening to them.

Clearly what RapGenius did was wrong, very stupid and extremely short sighted. However, you're still going to find a good percentage of your search results today from rankings achieved with equally as shady strategies.

Google is too big & too powerful to play these kind of games and arbitrarily decide who gets penalized and who doesn't. Dare I say it but part of me feels like there is not enough bureaucracy in large penalty decisions considering their impact. There are literally millions of other sites doing the same thing and happily continuing their day.

smackfu 3 days ago 0 replies      
What's really amusing is that after the penalty, most searches that include "rap genius" now have this result on the first page: How Rap Genius Won the SEO Game


badman_ting 4 days ago 0 replies      
End result: now we have to use those regular, shitty lyrics sites again, or dig through the results. Mmmmm, so much better. You can't even get there by specifying rap genius in your query! This blows.
joelrunyon 3 days ago 0 replies      
> Finally, its probably an incredibly dumb business model to be doing a lyrics site that hopes for Google traffic in a time when Google, like Bing, is moving toward providing direct answers. Lyrics, to my understanding, often have to be licensed. That makes them a candidate for Google to license directly and provide as direct answers.

Controversy aside - This seemed like the most interesting part of the write-up to me.

knes 4 days ago 0 replies      
Just did a quick "bieber heartbreaker lyrics" query and couldn't find them in the first 10 pages of results...

Outch, this is going to hurt them.

jsumrall 4 days ago 0 replies      
Its very scary to build your business on being ranked high on Google. When you build your house on sand...
techaddict009 4 days ago 0 replies      
Well Google does takes manual actions against link schemes. Google had taken action against its on Chrome browser in 2012. http://searchengineland.com/google-chrome-page-will-have-pag... check out for more info.
snogglethorpe 4 days ago 0 replies      
Man, that's a crazily passive-aggressive article... the author dances around it, couching his dislike (and fear) in slippery and vague language, but the clear impression one is left with is that he feels Google is "the enemy"... ><
seoguy 4 days ago 0 replies      
Certainly a harsh blow and a lesson learned, but not the lesson you think. The lesson is to not allow a third party "black box" to be the central traffic source for the monetization model of your business. Rapgenius understood this well and does have an excellent community on boarding strategy, but was still heavily reliant on google as a main pillar of its customer acquisition model.

I've lost one Alexa top 2000 site to a google penalty, and several smaller sites, saw this coming miles away.

I know exactly what they are going through, never forget the day when my JV partner called me at 4AM and told me the apocalypse scenario has happened. Even worst than the financial blow of losing a $30k a day advertising property, was the brutal realization of googling your brands name and seeing it not show up. Going in to analytics real time and seeing a sub 100 number for the first time in 6 months was quite an eery feeling as well.

Google did this to set an example, and they will be reinstated worst case in 6 months.

aspensmonster 3 days ago 0 replies      
People are always gaming the search engines. Lyric websites are some of the absolute worst perpetrators of this. They care for absolutely nothing but ad impressions and their sites are a tortuous experience to behold. That being said, I'd still say it's a shame since for once, someone gaming the system actually had decent content to offer.
arikrak 4 days ago 0 replies      
Offering money or return-links for links is shady, but it's not inherently illegal or anything.[1] Google doesn't own the internet.

I wonder if it's a worthwhile risk. While there are some high-profile busts, in general most sites probably don't get caught. Though it's probably harder to do effectively since Google improved their algorithms.

In the flower case [2], Google claimed the links hadn't helped the sites. Though Google couldn't have penalized all the Flower companies, since that would have made their results much worse.

[1] If you're paying someone to link to you, that needs to be disclosed, but that doesn't mean the link needs to be nofollow. Though I guess following that rule would make it very easy to be caught.

[2] http://searchengineland.com/ny-times-covers-paid-link-scheme...

sneak 4 days ago 1 reply      
It's super lame that Google penalizes individual cases versus just fixing their algorithms across the board, because it means that other sites that employ similar techniques and aren't high-profile/useful enough to get posted about to HN are able to continue unimpeded.
DannoHung 3 days ago 0 replies      
If RapGenius is smart, they'll turn this into beef and get front page coverage on a bunch of newspapers and websites.
mrcactu5 4 days ago 0 replies      
Can someone explain to me why Google is formalizing this against Rap Genius?

I really like their n-gram viewer of the New York Times wedding announcements. http://blog.visual.ly/rap-genius-new-project-visualizes-30-y...

I would be interested in learning what they have to say about NLP (Natural Language Processing) since they deal with language which is quite vernacular.

minimaxir 4 days ago 0 replies      
It's worth noting that Rap Genius was not penalized on Bing. (and Yahoo which uses Bing).

RG may want to consider a hedge bet on search engines.

EGreg 4 days ago 2 replies      
Opportunity to make the next big song annotation site before New Year's?

Seriously how hard could it be ... write a Node.js app that can handle 10k clients on one machine, and partition the data by the song being annotated. Don't even need $1 million dollars. YouTube hosts the videos, anyway.

Ah, but there is just one problem... song lyrics are copyrighted and a license to some database is like $20,000

Wish I knew a way around that.

lando2319 4 days ago 0 replies      
Question: From Google's perspective how exactly does Google lower the ranking for Rap Genius? I imagine they have some sort of 'naughty' list. Does Google just discount the rankings by some number they determine is fair? And is this effect permanent? If Rap Genius plays by the rules and still manages to have good SEO, will they eventually bubble back up to the top or are they officially doomed to lower rankings?
timtamboy63 4 days ago 0 replies      
Might be fair, but their argument about all their competitors doing this is completely valid. If Google's going to penalize RapGenius, they should penalize the other lyrics websites as well.
notastartup 4 days ago 0 replies      
searching 2pac lyrics rap genius yields no rapgenius.com either. it shows all the competitor lyric sites but not rapgenius.

I have mixed feelings about this. How long until we see a game of he-said-she-said? Of course, socially engineered link building aimed at gaming the SERP is against the interest of consumers and google. However, now that we can see a competitor get taken out from google SERP by pointing their attention to a malicious technique, we should see more stories like this.

The problem I have with SERP is that while it's good at finding the most relevant site (still returns spammy sites so not perfect) most of the time, it's built around the advertisement model. It doesn't give you a snapshot of the cross section of the data you are looking at across all the domains out there so that you can't choose on your own which lyric is the most to your liking (it really doesn't matter because lyrics are same across different websites). So the question of who ranks first even though they have identical content shows some underlying inefficiencies caused by the Advertisement revenue model. The more there is, the more advertisement gets seen and clicked.

I feel that the search engine space with selling our attention to advertisements only creates more waste by others trying to get a share of the revenue by jumping into a profitable niche by creating an identical or similar content (article spinning etc). In turn, more competition would create people to use more Adwords or other advertising platforms. The end result is that consumer ends up with untrustworthy websites with content in the back of their priorities. Content should be judged by comparing it with other websites that offer the same content with an overview listing all the different domains showing that content. While displaying such cross domain contents, it should not bring advertisement as an incentive model.

pcooelt 4 days ago 0 replies      
Rap Genius was given a "manual action" aka a penalty applied by an actual human because of the public outing that happened over the past few days, and the attention gained specifically by Matt Cutts.

Their overall link portfolio is not half as bad as their competition, however all this attention forced Google to take action being that they need to live up to their reputation as hard asses.

Let's face it, the algorithm might not pick up on these bartered links because they are a drop in the bucket of their overall link portfolio.

Really more than anything this is another PR stunt by Google's search quality team. They have been outing people on Twitter for the past month (backlinks.com I believe and another blackhat service) and want the general public to know that they mean business.

usaphp 4 days ago 0 replies      
That just proves how google search algorithms become inaccurate. I agree, RapGenius did some shady things, BUT it still has a better content then other websites which are now ranked much higher.
pbreit 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm confused and concerned by Google's policy. I make a product. If I send out product to blogger with a review request (which would, of course, include a link to my site), am I running afoul of the guidelines? I don't even care that much about the Google juice as I do the coverage.
ben0x539 4 days ago 2 replies      
I'm shocked to see that their previous fairly good ranking has been fraudulent all along.
johnward 3 days ago 0 replies      
The funny thing about this is that rap genius is the most user friendly site and it should be out ranking all of the other spam lyric sites.
ryeon 4 days ago 0 replies      
Google is seriously doing a disservice to its lyrics searching users by penalizing RG. RG offers (in my opinion) the best quality and the most information rich lyrics pages on the web, it doesn't compare to anything out there.
AznHisoka 4 days ago 0 replies      
Looks like ordinary visitors can't even find their site now:https://twitter.com/fuckshivan/status/415879789522587648

The power of Google.

tomasien 4 days ago 0 replies      
How long will this last? Rap Genius is a fantastic asset to the world, I hope this isn't permanent.
xkarga00 4 days ago 0 replies      
These guys will never grow up
ilaksh 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not an expert in SEO but I bet 1/3 to 1/2 of the serious SEO organizations/individuals do the same thing or something very similar.

"Its not cheating unless you get caught"

ljlolel 4 days ago 0 replies      
Try this:

[bieber heartbreaker lyrics rap genius]or even[bieber heartbreaker lyrics rapgenius.com]

qq66 4 days ago 0 replies      
When you don't get Rapgenius when you search "Bieber Rapgenius," you know that Google is forgoing its mission of serving users and instead just flexing its big muscles for everyone to see.
malkia 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is one of the things where there is no clear right or wrong.
mspeuleski 3 days ago 0 replies      
Google practices the exact same dirty tactics it punishes smaller websites for. Note how they have a lot of ads all over their pages? If small websites do that, they get punished. Also, note how Google steals content from wikipedia and posts it next to search results? If small sites do that they get punished. Lastly, google is the world's largest reseller of links, except their links are "ok", for some obscure reason....you can pay google a large sum of money and see your link on billions of pages worldwide via link ads.

If you're not scared of google's double talk, blatant spying, abuse of monopolistic powers, then you either work for them or you are completely alienated.

greatsuccess 3 days ago 0 replies      
How is what Rap Genius any different than selling ad space, Googles core business? It seems to be that this was just an interpersonal request for an AD to link back to Rap Genius.

What is wrong with that anyway? Adwords and Adsense are just an affiliate program anyway.

I dont see much of a problem with it.

badapple 2 days ago 0 replies      
what about others that are doing the same thing.

for example TINT


once you create a free account they have the following:

Dear valued Tint customer,Would you like to write a review about Tint? In exchange for your opinions/blog post, we are giving away 50% off FOREVER promo code for our Plus Plan. To learn more, click the button below:

screen shot: http://imgur.com/wDnAJ4c

poopicus 4 days ago 0 replies      
Damn, I tried searching up some rap lyrics that I knew worked a couple of days ago, no dice. How long does this penalisation last?
pcooelt 4 days ago 0 replies      
fyi I grapped a rank report from a few days ago from some of their popular kwds. Looks like they are down 4-6 pages on average:


kyle128 3 days ago 0 replies      
Let's not forget anyone that pays google in some way (adwords) bounces back from this almost immediately. Aka 6 months or less. Have known people only spending 10k per month that bounced back from penalization in 2-3 months.
ateevchopra 4 days ago 0 replies      
Interestingly now on searching Rap Genius on google, articles about them getting penalised are coming on the first 3 pages.
chmartin 4 days ago 0 replies      
You would think Google would be able to tell that a Justin Bieber link does not belong on an arbitrary twitter post
arkitaip 4 days ago 3 replies      
Very bizarre line of thinking when you put blame on the HN poster and not Rap Genius for doing all kinds of black hat SEO.
If a Drone Strike Hit an American Wedding We'd Ground Our Fleet theatlantic.com
463 points by gabriel34  13 days ago   354 comments top 40
sethbannon 13 days ago 9 replies      
The way America is conducting the war on terror is both self-defeating and morally repugnant.
forktheif 13 days ago 13 replies      
It continues to baffle me why the fact they're drones matter in the slightest.

They're not autonomous, they're flown by pilots who just happen to not be sitting in the aircraft they're flying.

Manned aircraft have killed huge groups of innocent civilians more than once, but apparently that's fine because the pilot was sitting in the aircraft.

k-mcgrady 13 days ago 4 replies      
Not all that surpising. As was made clear during the Snowden leaks the USG doesn't consider human beings who aren't US citizens to have the same rights as Americans.
belorn 13 days ago 3 replies      
> Five of those killed were suspected of involvement with Al Qaeda, but the remainder were unconnected with the militancy, Yemeni security officials said."

> The New York Times reported in 2013 that the Obama Administration embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties, which in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants.

So 5 people were of military-age and male? Given a size of 22 people, it sound reasonable. I wonder how many were children.

ck2 13 days ago 5 replies      
I think it is time for a world-wide ban on armed drones, period.

Just like we have international treaties for other horrible things like mustard gas.

Do all the reconnaissance you can get away with. But I don't want a tired, overworked, morally disconnected 20-something sitting in a trailer somewhere in the US, pulling a trigger to kill unquantifiable targets anywhere in the world. Or any other country doing it to anyone else for that matter.

rikacomet 13 days ago 0 replies      
Terrorism is a idea, it cannot be killed with bullets or drones.

The Terrorist we know today are a pretty much related to those people who were supported by American Intelligence agencies in the mid70-80s, against the soviet. The "Barbarians" among those folk were given advanced weapons, that America possessed, those weapons might be outdated, and America may have a upper hand, but that is only a matter of time. Sadly, this has became a chicken and egg problem.

The circle of REVENGE is a continuous one, you kill more people innocent or not, you sprout a new rebellion. They will eventually hurt you back, today or tomorrow. and the process will continue.. presidents, prime ministers would come and go by.

The only way to stop this is to actually STOP. Stop interference in ways like espoinage, drone strikes, killing of "Suspected" militants.. never given any right to appear before court.. everything. The root problem is the so called intelligence that does more than just collect information about "suspected" enemies.

Someone has to rise up and stop it. for both sides, perhaps it escape us humans sometimes, the very fact "those who are hurt are the ones who can forgive or take revenge." Thats about there it is to this.

Really sad to hear about that nameless bride/groom & family. May they R.I.P.

belorn 13 days ago 0 replies      
It is articles like this that asks the reader to pierce media bias, and take a honest look at a conflict.

If an Qaeda militant had gone to US city and bombed a wedding where they suspected harbored US officer, how would that play out? 22 injured, 17 killed by Qaeda militants in boston. Terrorists mistakenly targeted a wedding, trying to go after 5 US officer.

If there were no propaganda in media, surely this would play out identical as this drone strike. No world leaders expressing their condemnation of the attacks, condolences, and solidarity. Military strikes kills huge groups of innocent civilians all the times in wars, so nothing to write about.

MattyRad 13 days ago 1 reply      
Would anybody be surprised, even sympathetic, if the families of the deceased joined Al Qaeda as a direct result of this? Americans killed their friends and family on a sacred day, and nothing would be more appropriate than seeing they pay for it. Such an atrocity is almost comical when you think that the reason it occurred was to stop Al Qaeda, ends up bolstering it. It's appalling on so many levels.
holograham 13 days ago 1 reply      
A great book to read on the decline of violence in the world:The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined by Steven Pinker.

The Hacker News community should like it as it focuses on the stats and facts rather than anecdotal stories the media slings.

The main thesis: Violence (in nearly every form) has been on a precipitous decline in the modern era. War deaths (and civilian causalities) are at all time lows and still declining.


swamp40 13 days ago 2 replies      
The anti-American rants on here are disgusting.

Nobody's calling this a mistake except the media.

5 Al Qaeda dead, 5-10 people sitting next to an Al Qaeda member also dead.

Intelligence even pointed out which 4 cars out of the 11 car convoy contained the Al Qaeda members.

If you think there is no war going on over there, the 52 civilians slaughtered by Al Qaeda on Dec. 5 in a Sana'a hospital would disagree with you.

Check out how Al Qaeda operates here at the 56 second mark, where one of them casually lobs a grenade into a crowd of civilians during the Dec. 5 attack: http://www.guns.com/2013/12/14/graphic-cctv-footage-militant...

The US drone strike was a direct response to the Dec. 5 massacre by Al Qaeda.

wil421 13 days ago 4 replies      
I dont know which is tarnishing the American image worse the use of drones strikes or the Snowden leaks. What happens when our allies start to even say enough is enough.
fit2rule 13 days ago 0 replies      
"Let us hit you with this stick, because if we start hitting you with the bigger stick, all the other ants will come teaming out of the woodwork and then there will be a real war going on".

This kind of argument just makes me want to violently throw up. There is absolutely no honor in using a remote drone to kill people from a distance. It is among the most despicable things a human being can do to another human being.

How about we make America take a really honorable position and say this to our American military friends: you are not allowed to kill anyone unless you've attempted, directly, to communicate with them - in their language - and discussed the reasons for their hostility directly, person to person. Only after this has occurred, and all other efforts to resolve the persons aggression, is the right to kill granted.

I'm sure we'd see all those fascist US military personnel take another look at their chosen career path if they did, indeed, have to use the mighty power of American technology, to communicate and make direct peace with the targetted individuals instead of decapitate them, fill them with lead, murder their children, injure and maim their relatives, disfigure the strangers who were simply in the area, at the wrong time ..

badman_ting 13 days ago 2 replies      
It's okay when we do it.
danbruc 13 days ago 1 reply      
Now go and explain the difference between this incident and a terror attack without using the fact the the former has been carried out by a state while the later has been carried out by civilians.
njharman 13 days ago 0 replies      
> A U.S. drone mistakenly targeted

Drones aren't autonomous. They don't target anything. Weapons officers do.

Besides being plain wrong and bad reporting, dehumanizing (attributing it on the drone) shifts responsibility and makes it seem like problem is solvable by "fixing" drone or by grounding them.

locusm 13 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if the blow back from this in 10 years will be worse than the propping up of despots and dictators for the last 50.
clarkmoody 13 days ago 1 reply      
I seem to recall that the Obama Administration was going to restore America's image with the rest of the world -- the image that was presumably destroyed by W.
altcognito 13 days ago 0 replies      
No, we'd insist that every wedding have a security drone to protect that wedding from other drones. When you ground drones, then only the terrorists have drones.
almost 13 days ago 0 replies      
I think it meant if an american drone strike hit an american wedding.
baddox 13 days ago 1 reply      
I don't see why the author thinks we would ground our fleet. Police routinely and deliberately kill innocent people in the US, and we don't "ground our police force."
nraynaud 13 days ago 0 replies      
And just to make drive a little bit the point home: there are quite a few people suspected of terrorism in the US, like one French spy who blew the rainbow warrior, quite a few people from Via del Mar, US citizen who passed through ESMA in Bs As, probably a few assassins from the mossad etc. And if a pressure cooker is a weapon of mass destruction, I'm pretty sure a hellfire is, too.
rthomas6 13 days ago 1 reply      
I strongly agree with this article, but is this the kind of article that belongs on HN? Is this political article really part of some new trend or otherwise noteworthy, or is it just an editorial that most of us agree with?
yodsanklai 13 days ago 1 reply      
Concretely, at our level, what could be done to prevent those things from happening? voting doesn't seem to be working (esp. for those of us who aren't american).

The problem is that our democracies are broken. Most people aren't well informed or unconcerned, and those who are don't have enough weight to make a difference.

Maybe we could find a way to make our democracies functioning better via public discussion on the internet.

We could imagine some kind of big political forum where logical reasoning would be enforced. Critical thinking would be encouraged. Rhetoric would be banned. Facts would be checked, politician would confront the public and each other on long and deep debates. Decisions would be taken collectively...

pesenti 13 days ago 6 replies      
I don't understand why commenters don't actually discuss Obama's argument. He has the following options:

- Do nothing

- Use drones

- Use conventional weapons which, he argues, would have more collateral damage

- Put troops on the ground and be perceived as an invader.

So either you should argue that these are not the options or you should argue that he did not pick the right one.

headgasket 13 days ago 0 replies      
we've always been at war with terror
thebiglebrewski 13 days ago 1 reply      
Ok, although I fundamentally tend to disagree with much of American military policy - if there were people on that bus who had ties to Al Qaeda and american intelligence knew this...and those people were to cause further destruction if they weren't killed...then I just don't know.

I kind of imagine this like all of those movies about drug cartels where these incredibly rich families are leading semi-normal lives and then during a normal family event like a wedding, are attacked by the rival drug cartel. It sucks and looks really bad, but if you got involved in something illegal like Al Qaeda or the drug trade on a massive scale...didn't you kind of bring it on yourself?

Either way, more evidence needs to be shown for these kinds of attacks and why they are necessary?

jds375 13 days ago 0 replies      
So true. It's hard to justify the United States calling themselves the "police of the world" when their actions are so hypocritical sometimes.
jl6 13 days ago 0 replies      
If you are an American taxpayer, you can withdraw your support by giving away to charity all of your income above your personal tax allowance.
ivanca 13 days ago 0 replies      
A weeding bus was destroyed in a terrorist attack and many innocent civilians were killed!

Wait... no, it was done by the USA military so it's not terrorism, totally cool, nothing to see, carry on.

senthilnayagam 13 days ago 1 reply      
friends and family of the innocent killed won't be friendly with americans ever
zacinbusiness 13 days ago 3 replies      
It's not about stopping terrorists, it's about sending a message.
kyleblarson 13 days ago 0 replies      
Can a Nobel peace prize be rescinded?
rayiner 13 days ago 0 replies      
> Does anyone believe that, if not for our lethal drone program, the United States would've sent the Air Force or ground troops to fire on this wedding party?

The premise of the article is non-sensical. If we didn't have drones, would the airforce be bombing targets in Yemen? Undoubtedly.

robobro 13 days ago 0 replies      
We might pull out of other countries, but we'd pull over our own for sure then. "Well, we can't keep other countries safe... so we'll have to keep our own."
Rogerh91 13 days ago 0 replies      
The day that we realize that all human beings are worthy of the same fundamental protections we take for granted, and act on this impulse, will be a great one indeed.
squozzer 13 days ago 0 replies      
I wouldn't count on it. The US govt has enough media lapdogs who would shout down any calls to ground the fleet. I predict we won't have much longer to wait before the hypothesis is tested.
Codhisattva 13 days ago 0 replies      
peter303 13 days ago 0 replies      
Sure. I believe it was a wedding too. Thats what the other side always says to obtain sympathy.
josefresco 13 days ago 6 replies      
Weddings and funerals are actually targeted specifically because those events are two that even highly sought-after targets attend despite the dangers. Also, the subsequent funerals for those killed at the targeted wedding would then be targeted as well.

You can either agree or disagree, but if you feel the target is accurate based on your intelligence the venue doesn't really matter IMHO. Civilians will be killed no matter if it's a wedding, funeral or some other random day.

Would we have cared if bin Laden was attending a wedding?

walshemj 13 days ago 0 replies      
But America isn't a failed state with a UN task force in place and it is not common practice to take large amounts of weapons to a wedding.

This is a ASB (alien space bat) type of argument as used in many a sea-lion argument "obviously Hitler could have invaded the UK" (only if the ASB's destroyed the royal navy from orbit)

A Crypto Challenge For The Telegram Developers thoughtcrime.org
462 points by mjn  10 days ago   131 comments top 18
sdevlin 10 days ago 3 replies      
For reference, here's a list (probably incomplete? (EDIT: and feel free to add!)) of ways this protocol is broken:

  1. There's no authentication at any point. The whole thing is trivially MITM-able.  2. The RNG is Dual_EC_DRBG, which is backdoored.  3. The RSA public key is small enough that an attacker of sufficient means could break it.  4. The RSA plaintext is unpadded. Proper padding is critical for safe RSA encryption. See e.g. Bleichenbacher '98.  5. RSA is used to encrypt semantic data. Dangerous for the same reasons as above.  6. The hash function is broken. I'm not sure if this matters too much here, but I'm also not sure that it doesn't matter.  7. The ciphertext seems to be restricted to messages of exactly 128 bits. It's not clear how or if the plaintext is padded if it's too short, and it's not clear how the protocol handles a longer message. These are noteworthy considerations.
And yet it's still (basically) safe against the kind of contest Telegram has outlined. Someone could win by factoring the RSA public key, but I'm not sure if that would be cheaper than the $200k prize. This vulnerability can also be mitigated trivially by using bigger RSA keys, making the protocol Telegram-secure.

ge0rg 10 days ago 2 replies      
tl;dr: moxie uses ancient, known broken crypto primitives (Dual_EC_DRBG, RSA with 896 bits, MD2 and XOR) to construct a chat protocol which is unbreakable if framed in the same way the Telegram developers did with their challenge. "If they cant demonstrate a break in this obviously broken protocol using the same contest framework theyve setup, then well know that their contest is bullshit."

Also, a call to arms to improve the OSS TextSecure implementation.

zooko_LeastAuth 10 days ago 3 replies      
Dear makers and backers of Telegram:

Perhaps in response to my requests (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6933179 , https://twitter.com/zooko/status/413552420522708993 , https://twitter.com/zooko/status/413552466748133376 ), your FAQ (http://core.telegram.org/contestfaq) now says:

-------Q: Does Paul send the same message to Nick every day?

No, just as in real life, Pauls messages to Nick can be different each time. The only thing that doesnt change is the secret email address in his daily messages.

Q: Could you provide an example of a Paul's message to Nick?

Sure. The message may look like Hey Nick, so here is the secret email address for the bounty hunters {here goes the email}.-------

There are some things that I don't understand about the structure of this contest. Why is the target secret an email address rather than a magic word like "squeamish ossifrage"?

I asked for an examples of the actual message, and you posted an possible example, but what I meant to ask for was actually the exact text of one of the messages. Except, of course with the target string (the email address) replaced by X's.

For redditors following along, getting a (partial) copy of the exact message that was sent would be an example of what cryptographers call (partial) "known plaintext". If your cryptosystem is secure against Known Plaintext Attack, then it doesn't matter if an attacker (me) gets copies of some of the messages. If your cryptosystem is insecure in this model, then your users have to be careful with what they type into their messages. For example, they might need to be careful not to cut and paste long strings from other sources, or to otherwise insert strings into their messages that their attacker might guess.

All good, modern cryptosystems are secure in the Known Plaintext Attack model! (And, in fact, all good, modern cryptosystems are secure in much more rigorous models in which attackers get more powers beyond peeking at plaintext.)

So if the makers of Telegram are confident in the security of their protocol, they should have no problem posting the complete, verbatim text of the first message that Paul sent to Nick, with the target email address replaced by "XXX"'s.

meowface 10 days ago 4 replies      
Even if Telegram's explanation did stand up to scrutiny and was ran by experienced cryptographers, the fact that its core code is closed source makes it utterly worthless from a security perspective. They can tout their own security all they like, but if no one else can independently verify it then it means nothing.

So far they've only published the source to their client, but their servers do all of the actual processing and cryptography.

All of Moxie's projects, on the other hand, have always been completely open source.

paulsmith 10 days ago 5 replies      
Is there a decent Crypto Not For Dummies But For Reasonably Competent Programmers Who Have Thus Far Taken It For Granted But Want To Get Up To Speed Fairly Quickly On Concepts And Implementation text?
huhtenberg 10 days ago 2 replies      
This is counter-productive.

Whichever way you view Telegram, they haven't developed it to make a quick buck on the ignorance of the masses, nor are they in it to deceive people and entice them to use a knowingly broken crypto.

Granted, they have an attitude problem, they clearly have no experience talking to the crypto community and they made dumb move with this contest thing, but in the end of the day they and Moxie(s) are on the same damn side.

Antagonizing things further is just plain stupid.

paveldurov 10 days ago 2 replies      
As mentioned at http://core.telegram.org/contestfaq if more tools to interact with the traffic are needed for the contestants to crack Telegram, they will be provided in the next contest right after 1 March, 2014. The current contest has an important practical task of deciphering traffic that is being intercepted in real time. This is the basic concern of regular users like myself (me and lots of other people in Russia had to stop using WhatsApp because of easily decipherable intercepted traffic). If Telegram proves to be robust in this respect, more tools to manipulate traffic and wider contests with similar prizes are to follow. Like all startups, this contest by Telegram starts from solving a basic but most important problem, then gradually gets more complicated in functionality and scope.

Telegram will always be interested in creating incentives for the crypto-community to check its security and provide feedback. So if you are waiting for tools to try, e.g., a MITM on Telegram and get your $200, please stay tuned. It's @telegram on Twitter.

guyht 10 days ago 1 reply      
Whats to stop Telegram tampering with the messages and just displaying random bytes in the 'output'? This would make it impossible to crack. You cant test the security of a system without 1 - full access to the system or 2 - complete trust in the people controlling the system (which we dont have)
m-app 10 days ago 2 replies      
I have been saying this a couple of times in similar threads, but I think Threema [1] deserves a little more attention. Complete end-to-end encryption using NaCl. The interface they created is simple and gets the point across. Also, they're actually saying "don't trust us!", which ironically makes me trust them.

[1]: https://threema.ch/en/

im3w1l 10 days ago 4 replies      
Using an NSA backdoored RNG is pretty redundant. A cell phone cannot be secured against NSA. They'll just activate their keylogger and grab the plaintext before it has even been encrypted.
StavrosK 10 days ago 1 reply      
I must be missing something, but isn't this easy to attack by exploiting the periodicity of the XOR function? Or is the message 32 bytes long as well?
javajosh 10 days ago 1 reply      
Funny. But actually, the simplest contest that accurately describes Telegram's insanity is simply this:

::Given an unknown function f and a single output y, compute the input x that maps to y.::

Ready? Here's the output: ROSEBUD. Now I'll give $100k to anyone who can tell me x. Good luck!

cybernytrix 10 days ago 0 replies      
<Rant>After reading all the blogs and replies that are abuzz talking about Telegram, I realized they are the best guerrilla marketers I have seen in a while! They might as well throw away their PhD. papers and stop calling themselves as Engineers/Cryptographers/whatever... marketing monkeys...


ef47d35620c1 10 days ago 0 replies      
If the prize was similar to this one, I think the challenge would be taken more seriously:


    * Prize        One small Slurpee or its equivalent monetary value.

conformal 10 days ago 1 reply      
this is a reminder that prizes or cash for breaking crypto products is a silly PR stunt. mega did the same thing, ended up paying out some money, then their product is "secure" by the same sort of argument. same deal with cryptocat and several other cryptoturds.

i do find it amusing to hear moxie ranting about how much better textsecure is when the license on it is such shit. can't argue with the fact that it's open source, but there is no point in contributing the codebase due to the licensing.

andy112 10 days ago 2 replies      
If they were to release the plaintext of Alice's (or, in their case, Paul's) message, wouldn't that include the secret email address?

FWIW, I agree the contest is a sham for the reasons moxie & others listed here and elsewhere.

anonymoushn 10 days ago 0 replies      
public key plz
alonium 10 days ago 4 replies      
Another guy has butthurt from Telegram. As I read somewhere telegram guys said that after 1st march 2014 they somehow will allow to perform MITM in that crypto challenge
Geneva drive wikipedia.org
457 points by Arjuna  12 days ago   71 comments top 23
Arjuna 12 days ago 5 replies      
Original poster here. I thought you good people would find the Geneva drive interesting. It is so simple and elegant; similar in spirit to the elegance of a beautiful algorithm.

For further reading on the Geneva drive... don't miss the spherical Geneva drive design, illustrated in figure 9-3:


Although not Geneva drive related, if you want to combine your passion of horology with human spaceflight, you will truly enjoy "John Glenn's Heuer":


Also, thank you all for the great, related links!

r4pha 12 days ago 4 replies      
Such a nice hack. If you like this, you might be interested in "Five Hundred and Seven Mechanical Movements", freely available on google books [0], which I found on HN a couple of months ago.

[0]: http://google.com/books?id=vOhIAAAAMAAJ

fernly 12 days ago 0 replies      
I met the Geneva drive when I was trained in servicing IBM 514 and 519 reproducing punches[1], in the mid-70s when these machines were on the way out. A 514 could reproduce a deck of punch cards[2] at 100 cards/minute. A punched card was fed from the "read hopper" and a blank one from the "punch hopper" and moved through the machine under steel feed rollers that were given intermittent rotation by a Geneva gear.

Driven by the Geneva, the feed rollers would move the cards the width of one of their 12 rows, then stop. On the read side, that row was under a gang of 80 little bronze wire brushes. On the punch side, the row was over a gang of 80 sharp little steel punches. When the cards stopped a pulse of current went through the brushes. If there was a hole in the card on the read side, current flowed on to one of 80 little solenoids. The solenoid would yank a bell-crank that pushed a punch through the blank card.

The punches withdrew, the Geneva swung its next lobe, and the cards advanced to the next row. Twelve rows per card, 100 c/m. It was quite noisy despite heavy sound insulation on the insides of the covers, a distinct brrruup, brrruup, brrruup overlaid with a general mechanical roar.


bri3d 12 days ago 0 replies      
If you love both watch mechanisms and incredible feats of "traditional" machining, I highly recommend George Daniels' "Watchmaking." Not only is it a beautiful coffee table book but it takes the reader through modern (Swiss lever) mechanical watches all the way, from concepts to workshop design to machining to assembly. Even if you don't end up reading the whole thing the diagrams are wonderful to flip through over and over again.
Zikes 12 days ago 3 replies      
While the article states that its name derives from an early use in mechanical watches, the modern mechanical watch is far more likely to use a deadbeat escapement for its intermittent motion. [1]

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

kops 12 days ago 1 reply      
Thanks for the post. Watching that animation reminded what pleasure could be derived by just watching simple mechanism in action e.g. union joint, differential gear, rotary engine etc.
xbryanx 12 days ago 0 replies      
Stop by the Museum of Science in Boston to see a whole working wall of these sorts of mechanisms, or just check out the videos here:


The Geneva Movement is here:http://pie.exploratorium.edu/scrapbook/mechanisms/52.html

Nicholas_C 12 days ago 6 replies      
Is there a drive that does the opposite? A drive that converts intermittent rotary motion to continuous rotation? I never studied this sort of thing in school, unfortunately.
yread 12 days ago 0 replies      
Friend of mine has used it in her creation


(bottom right)

makmanalp 12 days ago 2 replies      
I have a question about these kinds of drives. Don't these depend on the fact that no one is moving and wiggling the whole mechanism? It seems to me like if the red gear with the slots were to move just a bit out of the way, it'd mess up the entire mechanism.
nationcrafting 12 days ago 2 replies      
Thank you for posting this. You've just thrown me back 20 years in time, when I was a young film projectionist in a cinema. The projector we had used this mechanism to flash the images on the celluloid at 24fps instead of one continuous stream of light.

And, I just realised I'm not so young anymore...

franzb 12 days ago 1 reply      
If you liked this, you should love this series about vintage (analog) fire control computers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8aH-M3PzM0 part 1; other parts in Youtube suggestions).
BrownBuffalo 12 days ago 0 replies      
A link to other amazing Greek designs that often get overlooked - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Greek_technology
agumonkey 12 days ago 0 replies      
I'm fascinated, borderline in love with gears, cams and engines, such as rotary http://web.mat.bham.ac.uk/C.J.Sangwin/howroundcom/roundness/... or others (I found fun ones on youtube but lost the urls).

If anyone knows reference or current research about their mathematical side I'd be glad to read it.

joelanders 12 days ago 0 replies      
Another cool piece of mechanics this reminded me of: the Master Lock Speed Dial (https://toool.nl/images/e/e5/The_New_Master_Lock_Combination...). I think there's an animation of the internals somewhere out there, too.
drpgq 11 days ago 0 replies      
As a McMaster engineer, that was cool to see the Iron Ring clock on that page. I knew it existed, but forgot about it until I clicked.
kaolinite 12 days ago 1 reply      
I would love to learn about clockwork - even if only using CAD (although actually getting to make something would be even better) - however have been unable to find any resources for learning about it. Does anyone know of any good guides for introducing horology/clockwork manufacturing to beginners and explaining how to get started?
FrankenPC 12 days ago 0 replies      
On thing I really appreciate about the Geneva Drive is the built in acceleration ramp up/down of the pin engagement. Beautiful.
rcthompson 12 days ago 0 replies      
Another interesting property is that unlike a regular pair of meshed gears, this can only transfer power in one direction. Swapping the input and output shafts won't work.
dhughes 12 days ago 0 replies      
Check out "u.s navy vintage fire control computers (part 2)" on YouTube for similar devices.
ruuki 11 days ago 0 replies      
That's what I call pure genius.
kimonos 12 days ago 0 replies      
Nice post! Thanks for sharing!
The 7 Habits of Highly Overrated People daedtech.com
441 points by edandersen  3 days ago   123 comments top 39
Shenglong 3 days ago 4 replies      
For me, what's frightening about this is how often I used to reflect on my own life, and at times, couldn't actually be sure whether I was useful or just overrated. People would tell me what a great job I did and praise the amount of time it must have taken, and while I'd smile nervously and modestly reject their attribution, I'd often be left silently thinking, "I don't think this was as difficult or took as long as you think it did." It took a while to just accept that I did my part.

While there is danger in exaggeration, I also warn that there is arguably more danger in being too modest, and understating your own importance and value of your work. I've met extremely talented individuals who were being paid less than a third of what they deserved because they believed that their "work will speak for itself" or because they "don't believe in self-promotion". There is a healthy balance to be struck; remember that just as marketing is essential to a successful product, promotion is important for the self.

There are better ways to do that than the ways listed here, though. For example, taking credit where credit is deserved is extremely useful, but ONLY when you're speaking to someone far removed, such as at a job interview. On a team, you'll get further by promoting and pushing through other peoples' accomplishments when they are too timid to do so. You'll earn respect from both parties, and you'll breed a more productive atmosphere which can only benefit you in the long term.

AlexDanger 3 days ago 2 replies      
>What I'd like to hear from the OP is ways to counteract this kind of behavior, I suspect there might not be a way to do it if you're a peer, only if you're that person's boss.

I think the article misses an important point - never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by ignorance (Hanlon's Razor). Many of these behaviours are not malicious, but are borne out of lack of experience, fear of failure, shyness or just plain misunderstanding. As a peer, you can certainly assist with these issues. It should always be your first assumption when appraoching the situation.

However, if you are dealing with a verified malicious/manipulative/lazy person I think its management's responsibility to do something about these behaviours. As a peer I think you can be proactive to expose some of these behaviours and the impact they have on productivity and team morale.

The key word is transparency.

Transparency to these people is like sunlight to a vampire. They will do anything to avoid it. The tightrope act is highlighting these problematic behaviours to management or other peers without being a dick about it. A key part of this is challenging the behaviour rather than the person. Tackle issues as if they are shared problems you need to solve rather than 'you versus me'.

Here are some approaches that have worked for me:

>Be Bossy and Critical

This is easy. If someone tries to palm off their work to me, or give I simply ask them to run it past management first as it may impact the deadline for other tasks. 90% of the time they never ask. The 'Oh my god, whats up with the reports? Am I going to have to do this myself??' attack is even easier to handle if you can exercise a bit of self-control and avoid getting defensive. Just reply via email (and CC the project manager) 'Yes, thankyou for offering! I'm snowed under with my allocated tasks so we'll have a better result if you're able to finish these reports'.

By thanking them for their generous offer, you turn the whole situation on its head. What a team player!

> Shamelessly Self Promote

Line up the self-promoted activities with the goals of the project. If they match, well, thats ok. If they dont, ask how we as a team can ensure we hit our deadlines. Remember that we're all a team, and we all (management included) want to hit our deadlines. As a team, will we have to cut back on any low priority tasks? What should the team be prioritising? Team Team Team.

> Distract with Arguments about Minutiae

Acknowledge the minutiae, do not dismiss it. Then ask how they see this impacting the project deliverables. Remember with project teams (and particularly software teams) each individual is focussed on their part of the puzzle....and that small piece becomes their whole world. I dont see this behaviour as malicious. Just a side effect of the tunnel vision required for difficult programming tasks. It helps to 'come up for air' every now and then and see the big picture. That puts these minutiae issues into perspective. Ask them to raise it as a discussion item post-deadline. Share your own little minutiae problem and how much it annoys you, but describe how you live with it because ultimately there are more important things to worry about. In my experience, this minutiae thing is not about laziness, its about team empathy and acknowledgement of effort.

> Time It So You Look Good (Or Everyone Else Looks Bad)

This is one of my pet hates. I work with an international team and some people really abuse the time difference with this scam. When two people on the opposite sides of the globe do this, its a thing of beauty. 4 days of non-work to restore a SQL .bak file. To be honest I dont know how to deal with this aside from daily progress reports which expose how little work is getting done. Explicity stating 'if you encounter a problem that stops you, just put it aside as we dont have the time to lose' sometimes helps.

> Plan Excuses Ahead of Time

I've noticed that sometimes this is not about excuses, its about a lack of confidence. Perhaps bad time syncing in linux can cause big problems? Who knows? Many people are scared of breaking things they do not understand. This is a reasonable attitude. Just need to encourage pro-active thinking. Ask them what they did instead? Perhaps set up a couple of VMs that people can play with and not worry about breaking? We've had alot of success with this approach. We had a support team who couldnt solve any customer tickets because they were terrified of 'messing with the system' and hadnt received proper training. After a couple of months active encouragement, a no-blame approach to problems, and a few short training sessions focussing on how to diagnose issues rather than following a script....they became incredibly effective. Now they'll jump right in, have a go, if they cant fix it, they'll describe what they did and where they got stuck. Ticket turnaround time dropped by about 75%.

> Take Credit in Non-Disprovable Ways

I dont really know how to handle this. It used to worry me but I dont really care any more. I've had the most indivual success when I remain team focussed instead of expending mental energy worrying about my personal brand. Granted, I now work in a large organisation. I've seen this behaviour in a small company (ie a manager/owner 'king of the castle' egomaniac) and it was terminal. Time to polish up the CV.

trustfundbaby 3 days ago 4 replies      
I would laugh, but I've seen this up close and personal and people like this are more dangerous than they might look.

You have to remember if the person is thoroughly incompetent, none of this will work, but imagine if the person is actually pretty smart and good enough to get by, then make them personable and friendly ... and throw in a manager who doesn't really know shit about what you do ... then its a whole new ball game. In fact someone like this could wind up getting promoted over you into a "architect" role or some quasi-dev manager role (bosses who don't really know what developers do, love over communicators). I've seen it happen.

Often times, they can gather a mob (depending on their social skills) and push out other engineers they don't like, or completely comandeer the engineering organization into ill-fated directions.

What I'd like to hear from the OP is ways to counteract this kind of behavior, I suspect there might not be a way to do it if you're a peer, only if you're that person's boss.

overgard 3 days ago 1 reply      
What a fantastic article. I think the most frustrating thing about this kind of person isn't that they don't do work, but that they'll go out of their way to derail actual work with constant"questions" and "concerns", which always require various meetings, because they need to put their stamp on things. Why write a feature when you can spend a week talking about how to write it instead? Ugh. Bonus points in that now the engineers that are actually productive have to slow down to constantly explain/justify their work, making them look equally mediocre.
grownseed 3 days ago 2 replies      
I worked with this guy for quite a while who I used to supervise as a developer, being a bit tired of his incompetence but seeing that he still had an interest in helping out, he and I suggested to my bosses that he be reassigned to a position that might fit his profile a bit better. Shortly after, the guy was made systems architect, without my prior knowledge (I was still in charge of devs). I pointed out that while a less hands-on position might be better suited, what he was doing clearly had nothing to do with being a systems architect (in no small part because I was the one taking care of that, if given the time).

My bosses and said guy agreed and decided to make him a "business systems analyst". As of today I'm still not completely sure what that position entails. The basic idea, I was told, was that he would discuss and gather requirements from clients, then turn them into a useful set of documents and clear explanations. And this is where this article particularly hit the nail.

Not once did this "business systems analyst" produce a valuable document. While he was attending meeting after meeting, going to conferences around the globe to supposedly learn about products he had literally no technical knowledge of, I wondered more and more what his value to the company might have been. He essentially created, with my bosses' blessing and encouragement, a whole confusing layer in the development process.

He made a lot of noise, produced extremely confusing (and poorly written) documents turning basic client requirements into any developer's worst nightmare, readily passing the blame around without ever putting his position in the balance. Missed deadlines would be the PM's fault, an incorrect feature would be a developer's mistake, a misunderstood requirement would be the client's fault, and the list goes on. Each and every single project he touches simply becomes an absolute bane, but the amount of fuss generated through useless emails, delayed replies and inconsequential yet time-consuming nitpicking, has my bosses falling head over heels for him.

Long story short, four valuable people (including myself) have left the company, and the guy is now "business systems director" (I did not make this up) and is on the board. This is both a sad and terrifying state of affairs...

Tloewald 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is a pretty insightful (and funny and depressing) article. That said, using these approaches can be quite dangerous because you can end up annoying someone with clout. A simpler and safer way to be overrated is simply to do the following:

1) Attend all meetings, ideally be slightly early OR slightly late (and apologetic) but not on-time. One creates the impression you're punctual and eager, the other that you're super busy and important -- so mix it up. If you're always early then you clearly have nothing to do. If you're always late then you're simply disorganized.

2) Reply to all emails within 30-60 minutes (NOT immediately because that increases the probability of an immediate reply). 30 minutes is plenty of time for the sender to get bored and work on something else, e.g. updating Facebook. Ideally if you're being asked to do something you should either request more information or somehow hand it off to a colleague (or, if it's really easy, just do it -- unless you actually enjoy screwing with people). This will create the impression that you are totally on top of things and never the bottleneck.

3) There's no third thing. You're done. You can now rise to the top of virtually any organization. Obviously, it helps to have some clue as to what's going on (e.g. what project you're on and what your role is supposed to be -- your emails should at least make sense in context).

All the other stuff mentioned in the article is great if it works, but potentially lethal if you screw the wrong person. E.g. claiming credit may work great in the short term, but it will make you enemies. Remember, some people in the organization may give a damn or know something. Why take the risk? Just show up to meetings and answer emails. People will assign you credit for modesty if nothing else.

I might add that if you do this stuff, and -- if only to avoid boredom -- pay some attention during meetings, actually read the emails you respond to, and try to be reasonable when you say or write something, you'll actually be a way-above-average contributor to many bureaucracies.

fragsworth 3 days ago 2 replies      
The author starts by claiming he was surprised that he couldn't come up with positive things about a coworker, but then goes on to describe a list of grievances about someone who was clearly intolerable. He even mentions this later:

> If youre currently doing them, stop. Im not saying this because youll be insufferable (though you will be)

His initial "mistaken" judgment ("how did I get this so wrong? Am I just an idiot?") of the person in question just doesn't seem genuine in retrospect.

jilebedev 3 days ago 1 reply      
Manipulative people succeed in life, and in business.

Unfortunately, this is a skillset orthogonal to focuses of STEM majors: hence the drama generated by this post.

As the Marines say: improvise, adapt, and overcome.

codeonfire 3 days ago 2 replies      
I could write a book on these types of tactics. For instance, in a meeting that involves your boss, command your coworkers to do what they were all already going to do. "Commit that change and send out an email describing what you changed." They can't not do their job, so it appears to your boss that everyone else is taking orders from you. If someone challenges you, passive-aggressively suggest a time they can get help from you.
auctiontheory 3 days ago 0 replies      
Some of these habits may indeed be true of overrated people, although some may just be true of successful people. (Overcommunicating versus undercommunicating, for instance.)

But I think that one of the characteristics of genuinely successful, contributing, people, which I hope we all strive to be, is that they focus on their job and goals, rather than fall into the trap of gossiping about or being distracted by how others are getting ahead.

ritchiea 3 days ago 3 replies      
How does this kind of stuff get voted up? He's clever, but ultimately just doing a lot of complaining about his co-workers.
gallagher21 3 days ago 1 reply      
This article is spot on, I've seen all of it play out in the office environment. I used to work with a guy who had little technical chops but managed to become a department manager through a series of such manipulations.

When he first started out as a dev, he would endlessly call useless meetings where he would talk for hours on end about marginal and tangentially relevant things and try to project authority by looking important by hijacking these meetings. No one could tell him to stop calling these meetings because no one wanted to look like they were avoiding work.

Then the upper management mistook his behavior for proactivness and competence and he got promoted to a "tech lead". That made the situation worse because not only did he not back down, but he progressively got even more aggressive and would actively micromanage and derail technical decisions made by the architect simply to exercise authority and to let people know that he was THE decision maker there. Everything he did was based on scoring social points and not doing the thing that had the most merit. Furthermore, he would often have these arguments with people in front of the entire office in a very loud/aggressive tone, which made a lot of people reluctant to disagree, because honestly, what normal person wants to have a huge argument in front of the entire cube farm. He knew this very well and used it to his advantage.

I remember a number of occasions where he would actively overrule other's (very sound) technical decisions with his half baked nonfunctional crap simply to be "right" and to make other people "wrong". Again, all to score points and buy even more authority.

Long story short, he has done a lot of damage and made a number of people quit because of stress and humiliation. He is now one of the higher ups in the company. Mind you, this is a very corrupt old-school company I'm talking about and is barely staying afloat these days. People like this get found out and filtered out very fast in smaller companies run by hackers instead of old socipathic farts with no understanding of technology.

JackMorgan 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'd like to add another to the list:

X) Point out massive, widespread architectural flaws, then kick off your boots till someone else fixes them. When asked to do something you don't like, point to that as a blocker.

While useful to know the weaknesses of a system, the otherwise incredibly useful skill of being able to see such flaws can definitely be squandered if not used judiciously.

ilaksh 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm glad this guy is complaining because having a few people who are political or manipulative, especially if they are unproductive or incompetent, can kill projects or startups. And oftentimes those people are there and aren't recognized, or they have some slight competency but are manipulative and hurt the more productive team members.

Obviously in the most elite teams this usually isn't an issue because people are too competent to admit or tolerate incompetence or the type of BS described in the article. But there are plenty of otherwise decent teams affected by this.

ChuckMcM 3 days ago 0 replies      
Nicely written. I met way too many folks like that during my time at Google, it was very frustrating when someone would say "Oh be like so-an-so, he is very successful." and I would say "But he doesn't actually do anything." and they would say, but he is successful at it. :-)

I don't know about the Slackware anecdote, in a similar situation if I was the manager I would just let them go. But that brings me to the real point of this, which is managing such people is pretty surreal. Especially if they are in full on misdirection mode. I suppose if you can get to some concrete deliverables for them, that they are not allowed to bother anyone else for, you can test their ability to complete some task or not.

sramsay 3 days ago 2 replies      
Anyone notice that this reads more-or-less like a description of Steve Jobs?
weixiyen 3 days ago 0 replies      
I showed this Fedex commercial to my team as an example of what not to do: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNCrMEOqHpc

I think the most important thing (just as important as hiring) as a manager is creating a culture of giving credit to others and deflecting credit from oneself. Let others speak for your work because if it's good, someone will say something (and if they don't you should bring it up in a 1:1), because that's the expectation and the culture.

Once you do that, everything else takes care of itself in terms of department drama. People who are naturally well mannered will fit in perfectly and people who would have been problems in other environments understand that this is the type of behavior that's expected if they hope to progress, so they will follow suit.

Besides that, correctly evaluating performance is important. For engineering managers, one thing I noticed is that code doesn't lie. It's the most objective metric you can use. All other metrics are subjective, and should be weighed less in comparison. If you have no way to easily look up someone's code contributions, it is nearly impossible to evaluate talent correctly.

Still trying to figure things out but those are just some of the things I noticed.

edw519 3 days ago 2 replies      
8. Protect your job: Write code that only you can maintain. Always have a "backlog" in dev that needs you to promote it. Cultivate customers who want only you.

9. Bring up the same fundamental company flaws every staff meeting. This is very easy to do because there are so many and they hardly ever get fixed. "Testing is broken because..."

10. Provide vivid postmortems of problems in meetings and emails. Again, this is so easy to do (and, oddly, greatly appreciated by management).

11. Block out tons of time in Outlook for "faux meetings". You must be important to be so hard to schedule.

12. Leave complex voice mail instructions: "If this is for ORP, contact Joe. If this is for Europe, ping me at...". Makes you look way more important than you really are.

13. Always have lots of complex diagrams on your white board. Change them often.

14. Always have lots of paper plastered to your wall. Change it often.

15. Publish & email explicit status reports often. Make it look like you're the only one who really knows what's going on. "I talked to Mary and she said we have to..."

16. Write & deploy lots of "generating" software that writes other software and runs cron jobs. Make sure your initials are perpetuated on logs everywhere.

17. Always walk quickly. Never have enough time to talk. "How's it going, John? Catch up with you later. Late for a meeting in dev..." (Bonus: always carry important looking papers/folder)

18. Always be on your cell phone. (Not texting or surfing; that make you look like a slacker. Always talking loudly and urgently: "No! The other log program!")

19. Always leave food on your desk. Only busy people never have time to finish what they're eating.

20. Always have treats to share with others. They may not realize it, but they'll probably never allow themselves to notice any of your possible apparent faults.

21. Get your name/initials on as many tickets and documents as possible, even those with only one line of code of just a quick comment on some little thing. People subconcisouly measure in quantity as much as quality. ("Wow, Ed's really been busy lately!")

22. Never use the words "but" or "can't". Put others down (thus elevating yourself) without offending them.

23. Always say things like "Yes, of course," "I am at your service," or "If you ever need help, let me know," You don't actually have to do anything. Just say that you will. People will remember it as if you actually did something.

24. Never chit chat in the break room, hallway, or social get-togethers. Don't accidently destroy your carefully cultivated "too busy" persona.

nsxwolf 3 days ago 2 replies      
This article is a great Impostor Syndrome trigger.
001sky 3 days ago 0 replies      
A follow up post on resume/interviewing would be equally illuminating. Every organization needs its team players and people who are 'useful' rather than merely 'pruducutive' in the sense of objective talent. But the bozo-factor is more what this essay is getting at, and it seems for the most part these are the folks best left in place at their current gigs.
timrogers 3 days ago 0 replies      
I found this article particularly amusing because I think we all see these behaviours in ourselves some of the time. The real trouble comes if you're working in this way most or even all the time.
snorkel 3 days ago 1 reply      
I've found that over time bullshitters who produce only noise are weeded out eventually, but there's also the opposite problem of actual producers stay so quiet that upper management has no idea who they are what they do, in which case it's good to demo your work to upper management whenever possible, even if not asked to, ask the top brass for time to show them something then give a quick demo explaining the business case of why that thing you created will change how the business operates for the better. This is especially joyful if you have a bullshit supervisor and you have to go around them to demo up, it makes clear to upper management that you create and maybe your supervisor just creates noise.
mfrankel 3 days ago 0 replies      
Covey would probably encourage you to understand the insecurities of these people and address them in a more positive way. Your mileage from his advice may vary.

If you need a quick Covey review, take a 3 minute break and watch this:http://www.brevedy.com/7-habits-3-minutes-video/

sidcool 2 days ago 0 replies      
You know, you are right, this all seems wrong on paper. But that fact remains that it works. It works in impressing your boss and others. It helps in promotion. It's like marketing. I don't believe in doing so personally, because I lack this skill. But I am working on developing it.
shuaib 2 days ago 0 replies      
Well put. But I think this is only half the picture. What happens when you do NOT have these habits, and are on the verge of being labelled the most incompetent/lazy team member, even though it might be you doing the actual work. Won't such a person, seeing that his work isn't being appreciated, get down to actually following these habits to be appreciated?
michalu 3 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder how should one behave if such person is your colleague or team member. The article concludes "don't be that guy" but that doesn't help if that guy is your colleague. Any thoughts from HN?
adamconroy 3 days ago 0 replies      
There is a fine line. Sometimes these habits are required to fend off being underrated. I've been on projects where the attempts to make people look bad are brutal and relentless.

Another scenario I experienced was where I took a contract at a company where my cousin is CIO. It wasn't pleasant, there was a constant assumption that I was just there through nepotism, and that I was overrated.

marincounty 3 days ago 0 replies      
If Moses was the most modest man in the world; would he even make a statement claiming he was the most modest man in the world?

I can handle a little self promotion, but it's always fromthe wrong guy. Too many of those wrong guys had wealthy fathers who financed every thing. I guess in order to get laid, or promoted they need to let people know what "talents" they have? Some of you computer guru's are the worst offenders.

krmmalik 3 days ago 0 replies      
Having made some poor choices and ending up with overrated people for the last several years over and over; I narrowed it down to two things.

1. Ego - Low Self Esteem and Narcisstic behaviour

2. Finding excuses not to get things done.

falsedan 3 days ago 0 replies      
How do management not spot these behaviours? I've worked at places where habits would be a sure-fire recipe for a stellar performance review--heck, some line managers even suggested that I adopt a couple!
SkyMarshal 2 days ago 0 replies      
> 4. Distract with Arguments about Minutiae

Aka, pg's "middlebrow dismisal".

mathattack 3 days ago 1 reply      
Funny article, but don't people see through this very quickly? Folks that don't play well with others get found out very quickly.
AndrewWorsnop 3 days ago 2 replies      
This is pretty much the selection criteria for "The Apprentice".
jackbauer 3 days ago 0 replies      
I work with someone like this and he has 6 out of 7 of these habits/attributes. No speculation. I completely agree with this article in terms of perceived vs actual productivity. Coupled with that are perceived super skills, but which are actually quite novice. Just another framework jockey.

For the 7th, he is not an over-communicator - but has these hazy / fuzzy communications at stand up.

creade 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'd heartily recommend the book version of The Peter Principle. A lot of people are probably familiar with its namesake principle, but the book goes into a lot more detail about what the implications of it are and wider concepts of useless and destructive employee patterns.
WalterSear 3 days ago 0 replies      
People who behave this way are generally too self-absorbed to realize that they are behaving this way.
djillionsmix 3 days ago 0 replies      
Sounds like Patty McCord's been following this guide to a T.
rajanikanthr 3 days ago 0 replies      
OMG..damn accurate as I experienced the same by one of the teammate.But as a contract employee I can't do much
notmyrealnick 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is some terrific advice on how to hold on to a paying job while finding some time (and mindspace) to work on my startup idea -- great!
How Expedia Buys Its Way To The Top Of Google nenadseo.com
429 points by jmarbach  1 day ago   138 comments top 28
swombat 11 hours ago 1 reply      
> You know all those bloggers/SEOs at MOZ giving webmasters tips and tricks on how to rank higher? Well, they never said: Guys, you gotta do basic on-page SEO, buy quality links and you will rank higher, thats all you need to know. Instead they keep selling stories how their clients rank using white hat SEO.

GrantTree is ranked pretty high against our competitors on several keywords that are important to us. This was all entirely through whitehat SEO within about a year of setting out to do it. We've just written lots of high-quality content on our blog, and then contributed genuine, original articles to other sides and got them to include a link to GrantTree or to one of our topic sub-pages (like http://granttree.co.uk/tax_credits ) in the byline. We've never bought links, nor will we ever buy links.

Now, GrantTree's context is not super-competitive like, say, Expedia or RapGenius... but we do have competitors. So competing with good, well-structured content and genuine contributions to other sites does work - at least in some contexts.

Also, I'm frequently on the receiving end of these "your blog/site/whatever is awesome and we'd love to publish a high-quality article on your blog and we'll even pay you for it" emails, and as far as I'm concerned they are spam. I never even bother replying to them.

I'll be happy if Google nails those spammy bastards to the wall - both the paymasters and the so-called bloggers.

(Note: this makes no judgement on the claim that Expedia is partaking in this)

MichaelTieso 23 hours ago 3 replies      
Just a few emails I usually get from Expedia.

"In fact, the article can be about any topic related to your blog, just mentioning at some point something like find coupon codes for Expedia, get some deals in Expedia.. Do you think that would fit in? Doesnt have to look very spammy (we dont want that either). What do you think?

About the price, how much would it be a post like this with maybe 2 links? "


"Im looking to place a link this week on the homepage, but can I ask when the link for expedia.co.uk expires on your site?"

These are just two examples. There are plenty of these. BUT it does appear that they are now hiring quality bloggers to write on their own blog so perhaps things have changed.

searchmartin 15 hours ago 4 replies      

Im an Expedia employee (inbound marketing director, covering SEO), although Im currently at the end of my notice period. (Im leaving in two weeks).

Also, I worked in the B2B division, nothing to do with the consumer side that this article references.

The author of the post linked above contacted me a couple of days before publishing it, to warn me that he would publish (quote: "damning evidence of expedia spam").

HOWEVER: If I wanted him to not publish it, he would "sell the post to the highest bidder".

That was what prompted me to post this on my personal blog: http://webmarketingschool.com/big-brand-seo-spam/ and for the record, I told him to sling his hook reference to extorting money out of anyone in exchange for not posting stuff about their backlinks.

No doubt that is why I got singled out in the article. You'll notice that at the top I get mentioned as being in charge of this stuff, then right down at the bottom, he mentions that in fact Ive got nothing to do with it.

I'll let you all draw your own conclusions.

com2kid 1 day ago 2 replies      
It is sad that an article with actual content towards the end has so much filler to start with. I think this post would be a lot more impactful if it started out as

"Hey, you want to know who else pays bloggers to link to their site? Expedia.com, here is some proof:"

I can understand the author's frustration, and he brings good points to the table, but the first quarter or so of the article is neigh unreadable.

pknight 1 day ago 6 replies      
This just adds to the list of why to hate Google.

Basically if you are either a big brand or a spammy company or have a nimble operation, you can afford to do grey & black seo. If you are a small business/ up and coming company white seo practices are the safe choice.

alixaxel 2 minutes ago 0 replies      
Le naked truth...
aerolite 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Funny how Matt Cutts was all over the Rap Genius article on HN right after it came out and he's nowhere to be found here. Must be the millions Expedia spends on Adwords, or my cynicism, one of the two.
iaskwhy 1 day ago 3 replies      
This kind of SEO hack seems hard to fix with an algo. One way might be to target "content" creators like Abby and Jennifer as they probably use Google+ (and probably other social networks) to promote their work. By targeting the writers and giving some penalty to everything they write as well as the site where the article is published, these sites will need to verify how good the writers are before accepting the guest post.

I believe avoiding targeting the big brands is for the better since giving bad reputation to the brand linked on these articles would backfire with false articles against competitors.

hvass 1 day ago 1 reply      
I am a bit confused about the argument about Expedia not being penalized because they are spending on AdWords, wouldn't great organic rankings reduce their paid budget? And if Google penalizes them for legitimate reasons I doubt they would cut their AdWords budget.

I am sure Matt will provide more info soon especially after what happened to RapGenius.

jpalomaki 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Once you start giving penalties for this kind of behavior, then you open up the possibility for really black hat people using this against their competition.
bdcravens 1 day ago 2 replies      
So an SEO "firm" (around since 2010, but their domain was registered in November?) is exposing secrets of SEO, which they imply is the secret sauce to getting to the top. What's the end game?
cclogg 1 day ago 2 replies      
It's weird when you realize how much stuff that seems organic is really just a massive ploy/effort by a company or PR firm. I think even Paul Graham had an article about PR firms related to the comeback of the 'suit' haha.

One wonders how safe HN will be from this. Inevitably if something can generate views or $$ then someone will have an interest in gaming it.

ecopoesis 1 day ago 4 replies      
This isn't paid linking-- it's an affiliate/referral program. Expedia isn't paying for the link, they're paying for the conversions generated by the link. Every OTA does this, and it's how the mass of travel sites that aren't OTAs make all their money.

This is all Google's fault. Most travel sites used to try to generate good content, and then buy SEM to their content and use OTA search widgets to monetize via affiliate programs. But Google decided this was search arbitrage, and stopped approving SEM landing pages that were monetized by affiliate search, so people have had to resort to text links, in the hope that someone will click and they can drop their cookie and get paid.

NB: I used to work for a site that was at the time owned by Expedia.

MrBlue 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Looking forward to see how Cutts spins this.
lisp-and-seo 1 day ago 1 reply      
It is very simple: Expedia is paying over a billion $ annually for ads, Google is giving them a buy one, get one free deal.

Google is only having "SEO scheme" problems with freeloaders, like RapGenius.

To site Wikipedia: "Don't be evil" was the informal corporate motto (or slogan) of Google. Key word here is was.

cowardlyanon 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I used to own and run two popular travel sites and have been contacted by a third party to place Expedia links for under $400/year on both sites.

Even though the third party had nothing to do with Expedia (besides emailing me the particular anchor text and URL), the fact that I was only ever contacted to put Expedia links and no other sites in the 5 years I've been running them made me think that they were Expedia shills.

(this is obviously a throw away account)

davidw 14 hours ago 0 replies      
SEO articles often leave me with the same feeling I get when I realize I've stepped in dog poop.
gesman 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Google is a goverment of internet. To be a good citizen is to pay taxes. You pay taxes - you have a chance.

You try to avoid taxes - you get squished.

bryan_rasmussen 1 day ago 1 reply      
It seems that this is an awful thing that google is doing, but I really couldn't get very far in the article before getting tired of the author's unintentional schtick - the following is where I stopped:

"They dont buy links? They dont bribe bloggers? They dont sell links on MOZ? Yes, youre reading right. SEOs sell links on MOZ. But we all know this. It is so obvious. But MOZ is not the topic of this article.

And this is not going to be an article; I would like to look at it as a report. We will make a report about huge companies (we will start with one company), ranking for tens of thousands of keywords using black hat tactics. "

rch 17 hours ago 0 replies      
I thought this was understood across the board. I'm interested to see how the conversation plays out though.
wzy 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is why i don't follow what Google say about "correct" SEO. I just do what i know works for me.
arikrak 1 day ago 1 reply      
As Google moves away from relying on pagerank, it will make such schemes less effective, and people will need to try harder to game Google.
artag 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Martin MacDonald's thoughts on this subject (Big Brand SEO Spam): http://webmarketingschool.com/big-brand-seo-spam/
ivanbrussik 1 day ago 0 replies      
how bout we look into nenad who looks like they are really active on a "blackhat SEO forum" and gets tons of links from there. seems legit.
pyb 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Looks like Google might have reacted, I googled 'cheap flights' and Expedia is not on the front page.
ysekand 16 hours ago 1 reply      
I can demonstrate that Microsoft sells links.
pastpartisan 1 day ago 2 replies      
brb gonna declare bankruptcy (google ads are reallly expensive and lots of bot/garbage clicks
davemel37 1 day ago 4 replies      
I see no smoking gun here or evidence of paid linking, or even link schemes. I just see legit guest posts, that could just as easily be meant to drive referral traffic.

Ironically, Tampa is where BlueGlass was located before they went bellyup.

Personally, I think articles likes these are fine for SEO. The articles are NOT PAID FOR and while the links might not be totally organic, you could certainly argue it adds some value to the post. (i.e. expedia's app is a good app for finding cheap airfare.)

Google has announced several times that they are going to crack down on poor quality guest posting, and I think expedia should be a little more progressive in their anchor text (i.e. linking with a brand name, url or even not linking... but just mentioning the brand name could help their rankings.)

Bottom line, Good offsite SEO today is a more polished version of this...

Step 1: Create Linkable, shareable, emotionally charged content.

Step 2: distribute your content socially.

Step 3: Do outreach to bloggers and journalists to get exposure to their audience, and perhaps attract links...

That being said, aside from the overly optimized anchor text, this is legitimate link acquisition and its what all SEOs do today... They create content and try to get distribution far and wide.

These links and posts could just as easily be traffic generation strategies, not SEO strategies.

Why I want Bitcoin to die in a fire antipope.org
412 points by jagermo  11 days ago   402 comments top 68
cs702 11 days ago 7 replies      
The author's complains are a sober reminder that society is not yet ready, and has not yet evolved all the infrastructure it will need to cope with rising global Bitcoin adoption.[1] Regardless, if the number of people using Bitcoin continues to grow, our institutions and infrastructure will have to evolve to address the problems mentioned by the author.

Among other things, society will need more secure (truly malware-resistant) personal computing systems, more secure (from snooping) communications systems, substantially better authentication mechanisms, more secure energy generation and transmission equipment and facilities, more secure financial institutions, and more technologically-savvy regulatory and policing institutions.

Those are all really good things.


[1] Compare, for example, how society works with paper cash and gold bars versus Bitcoin:

* Paper cash or gold in substantial amounts is always stored in private or bank safes, or in high-security underground vaults that most people have only seen in movies. In contrast, Bitcoin private keys are often stored in general-purpose personal computers running a wide variety of applications, managed by people who don't know how to secure a computer.

* Transporting any substantial amount of paper cash or gold is often done via armored trucks operated by highly-trained security personnel. In contrast, Bitcoin private keys are transported via all sorts of highly insecure methods by people who don't know better.

* No sane person holding a substantial amount of cash or gold at home would ever let complete strangers come and go into their house as they please, while giving them keys to all doors, cabinets, drawers, and safes. In contrast, people regularly give complete access to their computers to complete strangers by willingly or unwillingly installing software created by such strangers.

* Our regulatory and policing institutions know how to identify, prosecute, and even prevent illegal gold and cash transactions, successfully keeping them to a tiny percentage of overall economic activity in most advanced economies. In contrast, those same institutions do not yet know how to cope with the use of Bitcoin for illegal activities.


Edits: moved comparison of Bitcoin to gold and cash to footnote; also, made minor changes to several sentences so they more accurately reflect what I intended to write in the first place.

tokenadult 11 days ago 7 replies      
Charlie Stross writes in the article kindly submitted here: "Bitcoin violates Gresham's law: Stolen electricity will drive out honest mining. (So the greatest benefits accrue to the most ruthless criminals.)" I try to follow most of the Bitcoin threads here on HN, but I've missed that argument before. It makes sense that mining-by-theft will eventually displace mining-by-buying-hardware, and that is indeed not a behavior to encourage by the incentives of Bitcoin.

"Moreover, The Gini coefficient of the Bitcoin economy is ghastly, and getting worse, to an extent that makes a sub-Saharan African kleptocracy look like a socialist utopia" is an argument that tests people's commitment to neutral principles. If you don't like badly skewed differences in wealth, I suppose you wouldn't like badly skewed ownership of Bitcoin. Or do you like that anyway, as long as you have more Bitcoin than the other guy?

nkuttler 11 days ago 6 replies      

> For starters, BTC is inherently deflationary.

For starters, tell us why this is inherently bad. This statement also assumes that the BTC economy will grow forever.

> Bitcoin is designed to be verifiable [...] but pretty much untraceable

What would be bad about this if it were true? Paper bills work just fine, even though they are pretty much untraceable. By the way, this opinion is pretty much wrong, bitcoin is very far from being untraceable (IPs, exchanging BTC, etc.)

> Libertarians love it because it pushes the same buttons as their gold fetish

Ok, article is clearly emotional. How did this end up on the front page?

> Mining BTC has a carbon footprint from hell


> Bitcoin mining software is now being distributed as malware

Surprise. Thieves steal valuable things. This wouldn't happen without BTC, right?

> Bitcoin's utter lack of regulation permits really hideous markets to emerge, in commodities like assassination (and drugs and child pornography).

FINCEN would like a word with you. Also, how does it hurt the USD that it is used for assassination, drugs and child pornography?

It's ok that people hate bitcoin though, some people just let their emotions take control.

Brakenshire 11 days ago 3 replies      
In my opinion, the whole principle of bit-coin is like a manifesto for financial sovereignty - i.e. it says that money should be above government, and above democracy. Personally, I do actually want the government to be able to levy taxes to pay for public services, to be able to trace corrupt payments, to be able to seize the assets of fraudsters who have convicted under a fair judicial process, to be able to nudge the value of a currency to pursue wider macro-economic aims, and so on. Ultimately, living in a society means being subject to its laws. To accept Bitcoin at face value is to accept a future where every country operates by default with a financial system like Switzerland, and I don't believe that the vast majority of the population want that to happen.
carsongross 11 days ago 2 replies      
BTC is inherently deflationary.

The idea that deflation is necessarily harmful to an economy is a fallacy. See the Fed itself:


"Our main nding is that the only episode in which we nd evidence of a link between deation and depression is the Great Depression (192934). We nd virtually no evidence of such a link in any other period."

From the post:

The current banking industry and late-period capitalism may suck, but replacing it with Bitcoin would be like swapping out a hangnail for gas gangrene.

Not proven.

A bitcoin economy would be worse than unlimited bailouts and money printing? Not even close to proven, or, at this point, particularly plausible.

clavalle 11 days ago 3 replies      
Bitcoin in traceable. Much more traceable than something like cash or gold.

It can be taxed. In fact, it lends itself very well to taxation since each transaction is indelibly recorded. Just because no one's implemented taxation doesn't mean it can't be done.

If it can be taxed it can be regulated.

It does cut out the banks. That is a strength. The serpentine bank transfer system that skims transaction fees on a huge number of transactions can be avoided. This has some obvious benefits (as most things that reduce transactional friction do -- I mean, most of us on HN are probably in the friction reducing business in one form or another).

Government does not have to issue it. The jury is still out on whether this is a net positive or not. I think it is a worthy experiment since government control of the money supply seems like more of an accident of history than anything. It /could/ be a fundamental strut in the framework of effective government but I think that might be overselling it. Bitcoin gives us a vehicle to test that theory.

In short, Charles Stross is confusing the way things are with the way things must be and that is a mistake. Most of these problems, if they are truly problems, are solvable. And, at the very least, their impact will not be catastrophic so it is worth the risk to see where this experiment leads.

diydsp 11 days ago 0 replies      
I, too, am suffering Bitcoin-headline-fatigue, to the point where I was glad to see machined QR bitcoins b/c I could finally tell people to kindly shove them where the sun don't shine.

HOWEVER, just b/c I'm exhausted, I don't think Stross' points are valid or limited to Bitcoin in the least. He might want BC to die in a fire, but BC isn't doing anything special that cash/gold isn't/can't be doing. Here is an overview of his points:

> 1. Mining BtC has a carbon footprint from hell

> 2. Bitcoin mining software is now being distributed as malware

> 3. Stolen electricity will drive out honest mining. (So the greatest benefits accrue to the most ruthless criminals.)

> 4. Bitcoin's utter lack of regulation permits really hideous markets to emerge, in commodities like assassination (and drugs and child pornography).

>5. It's also inherently damaging to the fabric of civil society.

weavejester 11 days ago 0 replies      
Usually I agree with Charlie Stross, but I think he's building his case on a few false assumptions.

To mine bitcoin and make a reasonable profit, you really need dedicated mining hardware. This means that stolen electricity is not really an issue, as even very large botnets wouldn't be able to keep up with a few $1000 of custom hardware.

Similarly, while Bitcoin's future carbon footprint is something to be concerned about, I think it's too early to draw a line of exponential growth and conclude the world is doomed. There are a large number of potential bottlenecks when it comes to computing hardware.

I'd also question how useful Bitcoin is for avoiding taxes, when the exchange rate is so volatile. There are far safer ways to avoid paying taxes, many of them legal.

In my view, the most interesting part of Bitcoin is not its value, or its potential anonymity, but that it's an open protocol for distributing wealth, in the same way that TCP/IP is an open protocol for distributing data. There has already been some interesting experiments around micro-payments with Bitcoin that would never have gotten off the ground without it.

epscylonb 11 days ago 0 replies      
Libertarians are annoying, anyone who thinks technology will solve complex social problems will be dissapointed by bitcoin eventually.

The deflationary nature of bitcoin is it's hardest aspect to defend because there really hasn't been anything like it in history before. A finite asset that is easy to transfer over long distances without central interferance really is unprecedented.

I think you have bought in to the bitcoin fantasy that it will be the only currency in use. I don't think that will ever happen for a variety of reasons. If gold and fiat can coexist why not bitcoin too?. Loaning bitcoins seems to be a crazy proposition, so I suspect inflationary currencies will stick around just for that reason. Not to mention bitcoin by itself is fairly terrible for in person transactions, if you add a service on top what is the difference for the customer between that and a credit card company?. Fiat is useful and solves problems that bitcoin doesn't.

Regarding mining, I have my own concerns, bitcoin proponents love to describe mining as securing the network and equate it with vaults and security guards used in banks. This comparison is at least partly flawed, mining prevents double spends and nothing else. It's certainly true that a centralized ledger could prevent double spends for tiny fraction of the cost of mining, but globally who can be trusted by all parties to adminster it?. The comparison isn't one sided however, it is much cheaper to securely store (and move) bitcoins than gold for example.

Energy use is tricky, preserving the environment should be a top a priority, but should we aspire to use less energy?. One question I have often asked but never got a good answer to, how much of the worlds energy needs to be devoted to mining to prevent a 51% attack?. If it is north of 30% of the worlds energy output then right now that would seem a huge waste. But if we had access to cheaper, cleaner renewable energy, would it still be a problem?.

Malware?, it's just a symptom of larger problem, computer security is terrible. No one is really sure who to plame, users, applications, operating systems and hardware makers all come into the firing line. If bitcoin pushes forward computer security surely that can only be a good thing?.

I'm unconvinced about whether greshams law applies to mining due to the performance disparity between ASICs and CPU/GPUs, but surely if computer security improves this problem diminishes?.

nathas 11 days ago 2 replies      
This guy doesn't seem to get what bitcoin is or it's purpose. As far as I'm concerned, bitcoin will just be another alternative currency forever. It will likely never replace fiat, and that's fine. It's awesome for international trade, fast transfer, low-fee, and a safe way to store your money (if you're okay with the value of btc fluctuating wildly; if it ever settles then it will be "safe").

I disagree with all of his points. His carbon footprint/malware/Gresham's law points can all be countered with "incentive to mine leaves as the reward goes down, difficulty goes up, and total remaining coins decreases" which means less people will mine. For hideous markets and tax evasion, yeah, you can do both of those with fiat too. It's not a concept exclusive to bitcoins.

etherael 11 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, this is perhaps the single most ignorant article I have ever read about bitcoin, ever. There goes my respect for Charles Stross.

Not a single point is actually true.

1) Compare the carbon footprint of bitcoin mining to the carbon footprint of all the industries it displaces.

2) and 3) are actually the same item, and both wrong because ASIC miners are absolutely dominating in the mining stakes now and for the foreseeable future, hacked bitcoin miners are ridiculously minor by comparison with almost zero returns.

4) There are already markets in drugs, assassination and child pornography. The currency most frequently used in crime is the USD. Quick, someone stop the printing presses and we'll bring crime to a screeching halt overnight.

5) If Bitcoin actually does manage to destroy the state, and that's a very big if, that is by far the absolute best thing that could ever happen in the entire world without a doubt. And it would imply it happened without bloodshed and because people chose it as a simply superior option, which if the negative scaremongering aspects of the disintegration of the state actually started to manifest, would not happen by definition. So even if you don't take it for granted the state is a shambling monstrosity that deserves a quick and merciful death, the very fact that Bitcoin ever gets to the necessary fraction of the global markets to kill it implies that people accept that and don't worry about it.

girvo 11 days ago 2 replies      
I find people who have a negative opinion on BTC funny. I honestly just do not care about it, it is an interesting experiment, and one that I'm not going to trust my money to. More power to ya if you're going to. If it crashes, alright. If it doesn't, then sweet. Seriously, I'll never understand articles like these...

Oh, and his point about BTC "creating" drug markets -- are you for real? Seriously? People have been buying and selling drugs on the internet since... well, I'd wager since it's inception, but at least for the past decade. BTC may make it easier, or "safer", but those markets have existed for a very long time, you just needed to know where to look...

M4v3R 11 days ago 0 replies      
I was pretty sure that after this current "crash" (3rd already in Bitcoin history, depending on how you count them) articles like that ("Bitcoin is doomed", "I want Bitcoin to fail") will surface. And here it is. Nothing new to see here folks. Same ol' arguments, which were discussed hundreds of times already.
baddox 11 days ago 1 reply      
> To editorialize briefly, BitCoin looks like it was designed as a weapon intended to damage central banking and money issuing banks, with a Libertarian political agenda in mindto damage states ability to collect tax and monitor their citizens financial transactions. Which is fine if you're a Libertarian, but I tend to take the stance that Libertarianism is like Leninism: a fascinating, internally consistent political theory with some good underlying points that, regrettably, makes prescriptions about how to run human society that can only work if we replace real messy human beings with frictionless spherical humanoids of uniform density (because it relies on simplifying assumptions about human behaviour which are unfortunately wrong).

Is Stross speaking specifically of a libertarian political party, like the U.S. Libertarian Party? His capitalization of the word would seem to indicate that, or that Stross is woefully ignorant of even the most basic fundamentals of the extremely broad category of political philosophy called "libertarianism." I tend to think it's the latter, based on his ludicrous summary of his perception of libertarianism. I am curious what assumptions about human behavior he thinks are at the heart of libertarianism.

Houshalter 11 days ago 0 replies      
The incentive to create malware, also a significant problem with advertising and online banking/transactions.

Anyways I think the things the author dislikes about bitcoin is precisely what makes it so good. It's great that it can subvert government control on a small scale. It isn't going to stop taxation or anything because there is no way large corporations and rich individuals can hide that much in bitcoin transactions without getting caught. But for individuals who just want to buy something something minor it works perfectly.

Besides it really isn't any different than cash in terms of anonymity. It just can be done online.

And it isn't going to die anytime soon. Even if the price drops a lot, it can still be used to make transactions. The bitcoin protocol will keep on working 20 years from now, regardless what happens to the price.

The speculators might suffer, maybe it will make less news. Maybe mainstream adoption will suffer, so everyday people looking to use it to make transactions easily online won't be able to. But the people that are using it to do illegal things that the author fears so much will still be there and aren't going away.

gottasayit 11 days ago 3 replies      

Big government socialist type doesn't like financial decentralization and a monetary system that can't be strictly controlled. Wants it to die quickly because ultimately free people might decide that it's worth keeping and using. News at 11.

exelius 11 days ago 3 replies      
I agree with all of his points; I've been making them myself for the past few months. Bitcoin is bad specifically because it is unregulated.

Regulation of financial markets exists for a reason: the optimal strategy of individuals and institutions in unregulated financial markets is to lie, cheat and steal to accumulate as much wealth as possible.

Credit economies rely on a foundation of trust; and while it may seem hard to trust our financial system, you CAN trust that when you put your money in a bank, it will be there when you go to get it out (thanks, FDIC!) As much as we may not like credit, it provides market efficiency on an extraordinary scale.

neals 11 days ago 0 replies      
Yes, popular one liners make for great headlines. Die in a fire! That doesn't sound juvinile at all.

These harsh words for something that you don't even HAVE to use or even be a part of.

There's a group of people with an idea, lots of people with great intentions, building a technology that you don't have to pay for. This is called Open source software, you want all of that to die in a fire?

baddox 11 days ago 1 reply      
> Like all currency systems, Bitcoin comes with an implicit political agenda attached. Decisions we take about how to manage money, taxation, and the economy have consequences: by its consequences you may judge a finance system.

The consequences of Bitcoin he lists are arguably bad, sure, but they don't touch the consequences of nation states that centrally control their financial and monetary systems.

belorn 11 days ago 1 reply      
So the article claims that more assassination, drugs and child pornography is being sold now than before?

Is there any facts supporting such claim? Sold assassination, drugs and child pornography should exist as crime statistics, proving or disproving the claim.

rfugger 11 days ago 0 replies      
Most of those arguments apply to the internet itself. The author sounds like a conservative in the 90's upon hearing about the web.
codex 11 days ago 1 reply      
The core argument that Bitcoin is deflationary is irrelevant to the fitness of Bitcoin, at least for online transactions. To me, the chief value of Bitcoin is that it enables super cheap micro (and macro) transactions online. Goodbye silly debit and credit card interchange fees! Used in this way, dollars are held in Bitcoin form for only the tiniest of moments before being converted back into dollars. Long term fluctuations in exchange rates don't matter.

I look forward to using micro payments for content online. Ad supported content and the inevitable vending of my personal data is distasteful to me.

lhgaghl 11 days ago 0 replies      
And here I was, having a decent day, and now I'm extremely angry.

Why I want the author to die in a fire:

> Mining BtC has a carbon footprint from hell

This is an insanely dubious ungrounded argument. How do you know fiat doesn't have a high carbon footprint too? The linked article doesn't even mention whether this is the case.

> Bitcoin's utter lack of regulation permits really hideous markets to

WHAT the fuck? Who the fuck actually believes this? You fucking sheep.

> Bitcoin mining software is now being distributed as malware

Non-argument, fuck off. This is like saying someone can kill you and take your money, or even more obvious and ironic, install malware on your computer and steal money from your fiat bank account, which happens all the time anyway.

KVFinn 11 days ago 0 replies      
While bitcoin supporters tend to hate the idea of inflation, there are others coins that have inflation built in to encourage spending -- a kind of progressive version of bitcoin.

Here's a random example of a coin designed around a specific economic philosophy:

>Unlike Bitcoin, Freicoin has a demurrage fee that ensures its circulation and bearers of the currency pay this fee automatically. This demurrage fee was proposed by Silvio Gesell to eliminate the privileged position held by money compared with capital goods, which is the underlying cause of the boom/bust business cycle and the entrenchment of the financial elite, and has been tested several times with positive results.


(no idea if that has merit but it was the one that stuck in my head because it was so clearly articulated on their homepage)

donquichotte 11 days ago 2 replies      
To me, the greatest revelation in this article was the Gini coefficient of bitcoin, which, according to the author, " makes a sub-Saharan African kleptocracy look like a socialist utopia".

https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=51011.0EDIT: Plot of the wealth distribution in bitcoin: http://postimg.org/image/hzjmgepa3/

_greim_ 11 days ago 2 replies      
I love his meta-criticism of Libertarian and Leninist (and presumably other) ideologies:

> [It] makes prescriptions about how to run human society that can only work if we replace real messy human beings with frictionless spherical humanoids of uniform density...

I need to read more of his books.

clamprecht 11 days ago 1 reply      
I read the post and wondered if it was prepared, and he waited until the next "crash" to post it. After all, that's the best time to post anti-bitcoin posts.
stcredzero 11 days ago 0 replies      
Which is fine if you're a Libertarian, but I tend to take the stance that Libertarianism is like Leninism: a fascinating, internally consistent political theory with some good underlying points that, regrettably, makes prescriptions about how to run human society that can only work if we replace real messy human beings with frictionless spherical humanoids of uniform density

Brilliant prose! Pragmatism always has and always will rule.

exit 11 days ago 2 replies      
this reads like a movie/music executive complaining about about the open internet

or maybe bemoaning the discovery of nuclear physics

it's also strange for me to read since stross is one of my favorit authors/thinkers

MattyRad 11 days ago 0 replies      
One of the things I happen to like about Bitcoin is that it will only be as successful as its adoption rate. I think of this as a literal interpretation of voting with you wallet. So if Bitcoin, against considerable odds, is successful (a small possibility, to be sure), Charles Stoss here will be outvoted, and there is nothing he or the government can do to stop it. And in that respect, Bitcoin is its own insurance policy.
csomar 11 days ago 1 reply      
Mining BtC has a carbon footprint from hell (as they get more computationally expensive to generate, electricity consumption soars). This essay has some questionable numbers, but the underlying principle is sound.

I didn't do the math (not even back of the envelope) but my sense tells me it'll be less footprint than the current mega banks.

Bitcoin mining software is now being distributed as malware because using someone else's computer to mine BitCoins is easier than buying a farm of your own mining hardware.

Piracy, Theft and Crimes are not a new thing. They have been for a very long time.

Bitcoin's utter lack of regulation permits really hideous markets to emerge, in commodities like assassination (and drugs and child pornography).

We don't have that now? I guess regulation is better with Bitcoin because cash has much more privacy than BTC.

It's also inherently damaging to the fabric of civil society. You think our wonderful investment bankers aren't paying their fair share of taxes?

It's like there is no off-shore tax havens right now, and everyone is paying his share of taxes. Maybe we should give the tax system another look and a good reform?

Sorry, but I couldn't find any substance in this article. Just the usual hatred. Here is my actual view on Bitcoin: http://omarabid.com/why-cryptographic-currencies-matter/

Morphling 10 days ago 0 replies      
I get a feeling there is some alternative motive behind the article. The arguments are some what valid:

Mining uses electricity so it leaves a "carbon footprint", but printing money and mining gold also leaves a footprint.

Unaware "zombies" are used for mining, which means criminals get them more reliably, but I don't think this is BtC's fault. People should be aware what they download to avoid infections.

I haven't heard of the stolen electricity thing, but in hind sight it's obvious, if you aren't paying for electricity you are minimizing your costs, but I'm not sure how wild spread this is, but again I don't think it's about BtC or BtC's fault.

Lack of regulations does NOT permit assassination, sales of illegal drugs or spreading of child porn anymore than our current currencies, because this shit has been happening for way longer than BtC has been a thing.

andyhmltn 11 days ago 3 replies      
There are some really bad points in here. Like this:

Bitcoin's utter lack of regulation permits really hideous markets to emerge, in commodities like assassination (and drugs and child pornography).

So are you saying I can't pay for drugs with cash?

kitsune_ 11 days ago 1 reply      
Surely there must be a kind of duality between inflation and deflation in context of the total money supply and the individual unit of money that is deeper than commonly taught?

Couldn't a a fixed-money-supply economy and a flexible-money-supply economy be unified in a single mathematical and theoretical framework? This must surely be possible, but in that regard "unit of exchange / money" would have probably discarded in favor of another thing?

chmike 11 days ago 0 replies      
I don't think money, or specifically dollars are any better than bitcoins. Beside I would like to point out that it's not the currency in it self the problem, but what we do out of it. Depth grow of dollars is a huge speculation buble which will blast soon or later. Get ready for it. Criticizing the carbon footprint of bitcoin is a joke compared to the carbon footprint of depth dollars.

Regarding the future of bitcoin, my feeling is that it has the value of tracability which is very attractive for the police states we are evolving to. So I expect states might continue to tolerate it as long as it doesn't accelerated the dollar buble blast and present a threat.

Another current problem of bitcoin is that it's value is so much rising by speculation that it prevents it to start being used as a commercial currency. Illegal business activity is indeed a problem, but its tracability leaves a track. I wouldn't assume that it's free play for all illegal business. Assume hunt dogs are silently following the tracks.

rumcajz 10 days ago 0 replies      
Interestingly, in the long run inflation may be problem with Bitcoin rather than deflation.

In 30-100 years (the numbers vary according to the source) the world population will start to shrink. From that point on there will be ever more money available per living person. Which, of course, mean inflation.

Central banks can counter it by burning money. It's not clear who would do such beneficial activity with Bitcoins.

csense 11 days ago 0 replies      
According to this article,

> Bitcoin is pretty much designed for tax evasion.

This assumes that the government needs to know how much money you have / make in order to tax you. There is an alternative -- to instead tax physical property (in particular real estate) and/or physical goods moving across borders.

This alternative has been used for most of human history; the income tax is a fairly recent thing. (In the US, it is theoretically a "temporary" measure to pay for World War I.)

dpweb 10 days ago 0 replies      
I'm no fan of all th hype, but each link in authors link farm is idiotic. Blaming bitcoin for child pornography?

What these arm chair economics experts miss is that inflation and deflation are meaningless in things other than the currency you are getting paid your wages in. If the purchasing power of the dollar really fell apart, you get riots in the streets people can't feed their families. Bitcoin crashes it just another #1 article on hn to scroll through.

Tycho 11 days ago 1 reply      
I find the figures about bitcoins carbon footprint to be somewhat dubious. Anyone verify the calculations?

Interestingly, with Bitcoin you could do the mining with carbon neutral energy, since the electricity can be consumed where it's generated and the output is just data to be transmitted.

tomrod 11 days ago 0 replies      
I think his correct points highlight why BtC is good, not bad. Untraceability is incorrect though.

His points expressing worry over stable governance as being totally desirable is interesting. Why is the current system in play necessarily a good thing?

Deflation seems like a problem until one recognizes alternative currencies provide the same options and will grow over time. Hence the deflation isn't a problem unless one only accepts BtC.

mrfusion 11 days ago 2 replies      
I'd be curious to know if any of the altcoins have tried creating an inflationary currency? I guess you'd still need some kind of reward for early adaptors though?
colanderman 10 days ago 1 reply      
Deflation and Inflation are two very different things; in particular, deflation is not the opposite of inflation

What am I missing? The very first sentences from the articles he linked:

In economics, deflation is a decrease in the general price level of goods and services.

In economics, inflation is a persistent increase in the general price level of goods and services in an economy over a period of time.

How are those not opposites?

sliverstorm 11 days ago 0 replies      
... This means the the cost of generating new Bitcoins rises over time, so that the value of Bitcoins rise relative to the available goods and services in the market

False. I mean, it could go that way, but if you have a large established market to anchor the value of BTC, the mining difficulty will adjust to match (instead of the value of BTC adjusting to match). If it is not profitable to mine BTC, people will stop mining and the difficulty will drop; the cost of mining will adjust to the value of BTC.

bobbygoodlatte 11 days ago 0 replies      
While I don't think Bitcoin is a "weapon intended to damage central banking", I'm not sure why the author has such an affinity towards central banks.

He claims Bitcoin might destroy social safety nets but how are central banks protecting those institutions? The cash that quantitative easing produces goes right into the hands of banks / investors. Rich people get richer when QE inflates the stock market to new highs. Working class people get poorer, and will feel the subsequent crash harder.

If anything, Bitcoin is better for working class people. It means the money they earn retains value, regardless of whether they invest it in the market.

georgemcbay 11 days ago 1 reply      
I also want Bitcoin to die. For me it isn't about the politics of banking, it is about the fact that the whole system is designed in a way so as to waste maximum amounts of energy on doing nothing of real intrinsic value (which he touches on re: carbon footprint).
AndrewDucker 11 days ago 3 replies      
I wonder what Bitcoin reward halving will do when it next happens (2016). It should certainly make it much less worth investing in as much electricity, and should thus bring down the carbon footprint.
scythe 11 days ago 0 replies      
>a Libertarian political agenda in mindto damage states ability to collect tax and monitor their citizens financial transactions.

It's kind of silly when people twist words like this. Do you support the existence of the United States government? So you support Guantnamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and Contras killing nuns in Nicaragua? That's the basic form of this argument. It would of course be fair to call Bitcoin crypto-anarchism, or anarcho-capitalism, or crypto-anarcho-capitalism, if you're a huge fan of hyphens. To tar all libertarians (it's never capitalized, unless you mean the party) with this brush is disingenuous; it's a way of arguing against the reasonable sorts (e.g. Milton Friedman and Gary Johnson) and the next complaint "but most libertarians I see are [...]" is equally bad: you choose to look at the crazy types, similar to how Hacker News posts way more about the NSA and DEA than about the NHTSA and the CDC. How can we possibly have a reasonable discourse if we devolve so quickly to calling each other anarchists and fascists and accusing everyone you don't like of supporting child pornography? Signed, "moderate" libertarian.

dcc1 11 days ago 3 replies      
Urm Charlie could always issue "Charlie Dollars" backed by bitcoin, nothing stopping him creating his own inflationary currency.

Just like nothing stopped governments issuing currencies backed by gold (and later removing the link moving to complete fiat)

All in all the author exhibits all the signs of someone who doesn't understand bitcoin in his troll attention seeking article.

Bitcoin is not perfect but its a damn interesting new technology/platform that the world has not seen before.

He was probably busy in the 90s slamming this new emerging technology/platform called the web

mindcrime 11 days ago 1 reply      
It's disappointing to see that cstross feels the way he does about certain things. He's one of my favourite authors, and I just hope that knowing how far apart we are on some issues doesn't diminish my ability to appreciate his fiction. At least it's nothing like Orson Scott Card, where my disagreements with some of his opinions mean that I basically have no longer have any interest in reading his works at all.

So, Charles Stross hates Bitcoin because he things a market for drugs is "hideous". sigh. I think that a market for drugs is, while not necessarily desirable, inevitable, and that free individuals should be able to choose what they do or don't put into their own bodies.

Assassination and child pornography are Bad Things to be sure, but Bitcoin doesn't cause either and both are going to exist with or without Bitcoin. I don't get arguing against a mechanism that supports basic free market exchanges, just because a few bad actors can use it to do bad things. You can't engineer your way to a perfect world, given human nature.

Tax evasion? Good. Taxation is theft. If I need to employ technological solutions to protect my money from the government, then so be it.

cenhyperion 11 days ago 1 reply      
> calculating ever-larger prime numbers, they get further apart

iirc that's not completely true. It may be in practice for bitcoin as a currency, but I remember reading that there's a limit to the distance between two primes, no matter how large they become.

warrenmiller 10 days ago 0 replies      
brainburn 11 days ago 2 replies      
|new bitcoins are created by carrying out mathematical operations which become progressively harder as the bitcoin space is explored

No, no, NO!

Statements like this immediately lessen the writer's credibility.

krupan 11 days ago 0 replies      
I'm coming across a lot of anti-bitcoin articles today. It alls seems very similar to the anti-linux FUD from 15 years ago.
cLeEOGPw 10 days ago 0 replies      
I think we had plenty of these rants about torrents and how they damage music/film/game industry. I am expecting actually many more of these articles about bitcoin vs banks in future.
mpg33 11 days ago 0 replies      
The good thing about bitcoin is that it will succeed or fail based on market principles.
ypcx 11 days ago 0 replies      
I like how the author implicitly assumes that Bitcoin is a replacement for the current financial system. I wish it was so, but not just for Bitcoin, but the best set of the crypto-currencies, as determined by competition/user adoption.
Zuider 9 days ago 0 replies      
His main complaint seems to be that bitcoin suits child rapists, and even worse, libertarians.
thekaleb 11 days ago 0 replies      
Most of his complaints are FUD. He didn't even bring up legitimate concerns like how big of space you would need to have the entirety of the block chain in the future.
justzisguyuknow 11 days ago 0 replies      
Why do people keep saying it crashed 50% since yetserday? That number is just plain wrong. It was NOT trading over $1000 yesterday, that was over a week ago.
guiomie 11 days ago 0 replies      
As if the current financial system doesn't have a carbon footprint ...
lurkinggrue 11 days ago 0 replies      
Don't look at me, I hedged my savings into a collection of Beanie Babies and Tulips.
legohead 11 days ago 0 replies      
bitcoin didn't crash 50%, not even close. it was only 700-740ish yesterday. and it's already back up past 600. I've been watching it every day.

it has been on a slow decline for a while, with some drastic dips here and there, but it recovers. still too early to call any kind of crash.

melindajb 11 days ago 0 replies      
One only has to to look at the fate of the Linden Dollar (Second Life) to see what will eventually happen to Bitcoin.
wowsuchmoney 11 days ago 1 reply      
Why are you still buying worthless bitcoins? Doge is the future of money.


such coinmany profitup 50% today

dlsx 11 days ago 1 reply      
bitcoin, its ogre you loose.

The people have spoken, and DOGE coin is the people coin.


dlsx 11 days ago 0 replies      
Blah blah blah doge is up 600% !!!

I just got a girl to show me her boobs for 10K doge. You guys I'm not joking, hot girls are using doge!!!!!!!!!!!!

What the fuck is going on ?


phaed 11 days ago 0 replies      
I lost all respect for this guy.
shadowmint 11 days ago 1 reply      
That little 'flag' link is for articles that get posted that you think are poor content, badly written, ill informed or troll bait... right?
Anti-ageing compound set for human trials after turning clock back for mice theguardian.com
410 points by Mizza  7 days ago   231 comments top 30
tokenadult 7 days ago 2 replies      
The article reports, "Turner said a 'magic pill' that reverses ageing is several years away, partially due to the cost of the compound, which would be about $50,000 a day for a human."

That suggests several things. The clinical trials will be small in the beginning, and thus the small-n studies will not have much statistical power. There will be some kind of patent scramble related to any patentable technology that can reduce the cost of producing the chemical in a dosage form appropriate for human medicine. And (if and only if this preliminary finding in mice translates into a safe and effective human medicine) there will be immense political pressure for a public subsidy to make treatment like this available to more patients.

The HN participant who kindly submitted this interesting story found a news source with a nuanced headline, "Anti-ageing compound set for human trials after turning clock back for mice." That doesn't overpromise, and tells what stage the research is in. The news report mentions that the researchers have a peer-reviewed journal publication in Cell


on their findings, and I suppose many scientists will be looking at that publication and thinking about their study findings. That too is better than the usual submission to HN. Many, many submissions to HN are based at bottom on press releases, and press releases are well known for spinning preliminary research findings beyond all recognition. This has been commented on in the PhD comic "The Science News Cycle,"[1] which only exaggerates the process a very little. More serious commentary in the edited group blog post "Related by coincidence only? University and medical journal press releases versus journal articles"[2] points to the same danger of taking press releases (and news aggregator website articles based solely on press releases) too seriously. Press releases are usually misleading.

The most sure and certain finding of any preliminary study will be that more research is needed. All too often, preliminary findings don't lead to further useful discoveries in science, because the preliminary findings are flawed. The obligatory link for any discussion of a report on a research result like the one kindly submitted here is the article "Warning Signs in Experimental Design and Interpretation"[3] by Peter Norvig, director of research at Google, on how to interpret scientific research. Check each news story you read for how many of the important issues in interpreting research are NOT discussed in the story.

[1] http://www.phdcomics.com/comics.php?f=1174

[2] http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/related-by-coi...

[3] http://norvig.com/experiment-design.html

pvnick 7 days ago 10 replies      

  Researchers injected a chemical called nicotinamide adenine  dinucleotide, or NAD, which reduces in the body as we age.  The addition of this compound led to the radical reversal  in the ageing of the mice.
While this is pretty cool, it seems that the most immediate effect would be a higher availability of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), meaning more energy "currency" for the body's machinery to work with [1] [2] (someone please comment if my understanding is incomplete). Used as a general lifestyle drug , grandma isn't suddenly going to look like a sorority girl, but she may feel like one - a scary thought indeed!

Anti-aging technologies are going to introduce many philosophical questions; although, that doesn't quite seem to be the case in this specific instance since this compound will probably just improve the quality of the last couple decades of a person's life rather than drastically extend it. What's the difference between curing disease/prolonging natural life vs unnatural "anti-aging" technologies? At what point do we start grappling with the issues of immortality? Personally, I believe that the mentally-deteriorating effects of everyday life, including what one may call "sin," will be too much for the modern human to retain his/her sanity after a certain point. I for one would rather face death.

[1] http://www.genome.jp/dbget-bin/www_bget?C00003

[2] http://www.genome.jp/kegg-bin/show_pathway?map00190+C00003

I say "lifestyle drug" here to denote elective treatment, although the effects of natural aging and death dying probably do not fit in the technical definition, which is to treat "non-life threatening and non-painful conditions such as baldness, impotence, wrinkles, erectile dysfunction, or acne"

exratione 7 days ago 0 replies      
There has been a fair amount of research into the effects of manipulating hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) in lower animals, mostly nematode worms I believe. Interestingly this is one of the few manipulations in which either reducing or increasing levels of the protein in question can increase longevity. This is a sign that there is probably significant complexity involved in this outcome, such as in relationships with other mechanisms or that the effects of changes are tied to specific tissues in the body or locations within cells.

So this is, I think, an overhyping of otherwise interesting new research into a way to manipulate HIF-1 via NAD levels that is apparently an offshoot of past and ongoing research into sirtuins and aging. When considering the source of the wor - the Sinclair lab - the overhyping is perhaps less of a surprise than it might otherwise be: this is a group with a very large sunk cost behind them and little to show for it. Deep pockets nonetheless still back continued efforts, and they have a lot of experience with the press. This is a formula that leads to breathless press materials touting rejuvenation. The people who are really, actually working on rejuvenation are more restrained these days.

So I disagree with the tone of the publicity for this work; it's a great example of the mindless attention machine being manipulating into seizing on something that has little relevance compared to other far more deserving work.

I think that (a) these researchers have found an interesting set of interactions to help explain why manipulation of HIF-1 can affect longevity, and (b) the changing levels of that and various related proteins with advancing age are responses to accumulated cellular damage. Perhaps the most relevant damage is mitochondrial, given that cycling of NAD is involved in the chain of unpleasant results that unfold when mitochondrial DNA becomes damaged, or perhaps it is something else.

So to my eyes what they focus on isn't a cause, it's a consequence. The fastest way to see what causes what at this point is to work on repairing the known forms of damage rather than tracing back all of the myriad complexity of relationships and feedback loops in the cell - a task that would take substantially longer than just building means of biological repair for our cells and other small-scale structures.

KVFinn 7 days ago 2 replies      
From Aubrey De Grey:

Short answer is its not all that big a deal in biomedical terms. Its a great discovery in terms of understanding mitochondria, and it provides a new way to rejuvenate mito function, but it doesnt tell us that rejuvenating mito function in isolation in an otherwise still-old animal is a good idea -- and there have for many years been other ways to rejuvenate mito function which have not led to longer lifespan in rodents, notably acetyl-L-carnitine combined with alpha-lipoic acid (which has been marketed as Juvenon).

fragsworth 7 days ago 6 replies      
> "with scientists set to look at how the theory of age reversal can be used to treat diseases such as cancer, dementia and diabetes."

Alzheimer's medications can generally improve cognition. Age-reversal medications might work even better if used at an early age.

I always see articles, media, and papers focusing on how something new can be used to treat some existing disease. But what I'm always thinking is "can I use this if I don't have a disease?"

It's a strange disconnect. I know everyone is thinking what I'm thinking, but you never see this in the articles. Is it some kind of taboo?

espadagroup 6 days ago 0 replies      
You can get NADH (which is interchangeable with NAD) pills pretty easily on amazon for like $30. My question is what is the difference between those pills and the $50K substance/solution they came up with?
fragsworth 7 days ago 4 replies      
Anyone care to explain why this is too good to be true? Because it's always too good to be true.
ChuckMcM 7 days ago 5 replies      
I always wonder about this quote,

Whether that means well all live to 150, I dont know, but the important part is that we dont spend the last 20 to 30 years of our lives in bad health.

Imagine a process that makes you feel like you are 25 right up until you body gives up at a physical age of 100 or something. Do you end up doing riskier things because you don't "feel" old? And if you did would you die sooner? Its an interesting question for me. I'm not sure how that would work.

(and of course if they are successful (which I hope they are) then we're talking about pushing back retirement until 90 or maybe 95 right?)

malandrew 7 days ago 1 reply      
How is nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) synthesized, such that their estimates for cost are "about $50,000 a day for a human."?

I would expect that any such estimates on cost would be based on the predicted cost at scale and not the cost to produce it one off for lab experiments. Is this a PR ploy to start staking a high price, so that people view it as a bargain when it is released at some absurd price like $1000/day.

Mizza 7 days ago 0 replies      
The actual paper is here, free abstract but the full PDF is paywalled: http://www.cell.com/retrieve/pii/S0092867413015213?cc=y
darsham 7 days ago 1 reply      
This seems to be a pretty big deal, but the article gives off the impression that mithocondrial aging is the only reason that we age. In fact there are many other aging factors that have not been linked to mithocondrial aging (and have, agruably, no relationship).

Some other factors I recall studying are

- gradual DNA damage, which is quite inevitable

- collagen degradation, which affects the eyes and all cartilaginous tissues.

DonGateley 7 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder why the study has nothing to say about the longevity of the treated mice compared to controls. Maybe it costs too much for experimenting with extended effects and maybe they want something for their next paper.

The biggest problem of course is sociological with only the top tiny% able to afford it. The psychological divide between have and have not will grow in ways completely unacceptable to the (100-tiny)% and could stimulate revolutionary tendencies among the masses to even things out. The top tiny% really should be considering pouring lots of their money into making the treatment cheap enough to not create a divide so intolerable that it will perish under its own weight.

codex 7 days ago 1 reply      
Can anyone explain how this compound differs from the NAD you can buy as a supplement, if at all?
roadster72 7 days ago 2 replies      
>researchers confident that side-effects will be minimal due to the fact the compound is naturally occurring.

There are a lot of naturally occurring poisons too. I'm curious, how does the substance being naturally occurring have anything to do with the side-effects?

Tycho 7 days ago 1 reply      
It's interesting, even if we halted aging so that people could theoretically live forever, we would as a culture have to embrace a sort of 'death by probability.'
evincarofautumn 7 days ago 0 replies      
NAD is an interesting chemical anyway for its electrical properties. I had an idle thought once upon a time that you might be able to make some kind of liquid binary computer with it, given how readily you can toggle it between NAD+ and NADH. I dont know nearly enough about it, though.
mrfusion 7 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if these researchers could win the mprize [1] for this?

[1] http://www.mprize.org/

yawz 7 days ago 1 reply      
Hmm... As I'm new here I'm a little confused. I posted the same article yesterday but this one posted by Mizza got picked up quite heavily. Does the poster's "karma" have something to do with it? Or is it just a coincidence?
nnnnni 6 days ago 0 replies      
IF this is true and IF this really works in humans, you know that the only people that will ever be able to afford it will be the "1%".
roschdal 6 days ago 0 replies      
Peter Thiel, you know where you should invest now. This is a product every human being will pay for.
gingerlime 7 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder whether the researchers were tempted to try this on themselves. Or the lab costs of producing it[1] would effectively prevent it?

[1] quoted at $50k per day, not sure how many days a person needs...

polskibus 7 days ago 1 reply      
They should put it on kickstarter, asking for donations and early adopters. I'm pretty sure they would've fulfilled their goals in a week or less.
sifarat 6 days ago 0 replies      
Question is, would it make one, 'young at heart' too. Possibly No. And this is all what matters.

As for $50K/Day price tag, it makes it loud and clear, this drug is for the filthy riches at least for couple of years, my average joe and jenny will remain old and ugly. :/

teh_aimee 7 days ago 0 replies      
Some seriously interesting comments here, on a very interesting piece of research!

If any of you wanted your comments to be a part of the post-publication review record for the paper (either as reviews or as discussion points), you can head over to the Publons website at https://publons.com/p/3318/ to leave them!

Disclaimer - yep, I currently help out at Publons :)

drhouse_md 6 days ago 0 replies      

I found this article on the subject more informative, it contains 2 media clips, 1 video, 1 audio, with the scientists involved with the study.

ballard 6 days ago 0 replies      
How might this compound compare to HGH, etc. by getting in top physical shape by working out (a lot), healthy diet and sleep?
jarnix 7 days ago 2 replies      
Great for the mice.

I don't understand this phrase "Turner said a magic pill that reverses ageing is several years away, partially due to the cost of the compound, which would be about $50,000 a day for a human." ?

$50,000 a day for a human ? What is the effect of a day of treatment ?

X4 5 days ago 0 replies      
Okaaayyy... Can I buy NAD+? Or is the magic in using sIRNA[1] to inject NAD+ into the pathway?

I have read on Wikipedia that our body can generate it.

Moneyquote:"In organisms, NAD+ can be synthesized from simple building-blocks (de novo) from the amino acids tryptophan or aspartic acid. In an alternative fashion, more complex components of the coenzymes are taken up from food as the vitamin called niacin. Similar compounds are released by reactions that break down the structure of NAD+. These preformed components then pass through a salvage pathway that recycles them back into the active form. Some NAD+ is also converted into nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP+); the chemistry of this related coenzyme is similar to that of NAD+, but it has different roles in metabolism." [2]

And: "This NAD+ is carried into the mitochondrion by a specific membrane transport protein, since the coenzyme cannot diffuse across membranes." Link: http://www.jbc.org/content/281/3/1524 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16291748

I can buy Tryptophan [3] and D-Aspartic Acid (DAA) [4] pretty easily and legaly. Would an overdose in Tryptophan have the same effect? UPDATE: http://aminoacidstudies.org/l-tryptophan/ Yes, Tryptophan overdose is bad!

I'm sorry, I'm pretty good at absorbing all kinds of scientific materials, but I am really not familiar with all the "body science". That's why I'm asking you, if you know what would happen with regular Tryptophan overdose. I know that DAA can destroy Neurons when overdosed and should only be used according to the RDA.

I don't buy that it's sooo expensive. That's either because researcher's monthly wage is astronomers, or the lab equipment they think is needed is too expensive. I am sure it can be done much much cheaper without the advantages of mass production. You and I currently synthesize the NAD+ thing for free!! The problem they solved, should be repeatable with cheaper equipment or even at home. I would like to have a cat, dog, hamsters or fish that live longer. (Parrot's already live pretty long, but I guess they'd be funnier with more NAD too)--

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

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicotinamide_adenine_dinucleoti...

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tryptophan

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D-aspartic_acid

points by    ago   discuss
euizxcowqasdf 15 days ago 1 reply      
Long time HN member, but as a courtesy to some of my clients, this needs to be on a throwaway account.

Free retail brokerage is something that needs to happen, and I applaud the effort. Brokerages provide a real value add for some services. Offering trading technology, market data, margin, dealing with block trades/portfolio trades, access to OTC, dealing with regulations/back office -- those are real services. Charging me to route an unleveraged, vanilla equity buy order to an exchange and pass the exchange's execution report back to me just because, by convention, exchanges don't want to deal with retail clients directly -- that's just introducing inefficiency and being a middle man.

That said, I don't like the fact that they have a "How We Make Money" section without more extensive disclosure. In my mind, either don't have one (I challenge you to find a single large brokerage that does), or have a more detailed explanation of how the modern brokerage business works. The truth, given the value proposition of free trading, is one that I'm happy to embrace.

I can't say with any certainty what they're actually doing; I can only speak to the industry on the whole, but most retail brokerages make money from:

1. Retail market making2. Netting across client order flow (probably not applicable here)3. Asymmetric exchange fees/rebates

The rules on all three are highly country/exchange dependent, but here's an abridged version.

1. Retail market making involves selling order flow to third parties who are able to execute it at a price better than anything that's currently showing on a lit exchange. I've included more details on this below the fold since a) it helps explain their estimated cost graphic, and b) it's one of the most hyped and misunderstood practices in finance, so people should at least decide how they feel about the practice based on correct information.

2. Netting comes about when you're dealing with lots of order flow at a bank/brokerage with multiple lines of business. Your clients might be, on average, and across some time horizon, buying and selling roughly the same amount of a security. You can fill your client at market price, taking the inventory down on your own book, or cross it immediately against an existing position. Most countries/exchanges still require you to 1) pay taxes and exchange fees and 2) print the trades on a market venue for disclosure/price discovery purposes, but there's still some benefit to be had as you can avoid market impact (moving the market when transacting a large order), crossing the spread (paying the differential between the buy price and the sell price), and "long sell" short restricted securities (many countries have regulations on short selling, some banning it all together, so having natural long inventory to sell against is valuable).

3. Asymmetric fees are the most straight forward. Many U.S equity exchanges charge a fee for taking liquidity (crossing the spread) and offer a rebate for posting it (submitting limit orders that don't cross the spread). By charging people this fee when their order does cross the spread and not giving them the rebate when it doesn't there's an easy differential to capture. Also, as noted in their fee structure, they're passing along all regulatory fees to the customer.

It's important to note that no matter what a brokerage does, the net effect is always a price that's better than or equal to what's showing on any public exchange, and what you as a client could get otherwise. In my mind at least, arguing that "I could have gotten a better price on my own if I had access to the same unfair advantages (read: technology/scale)" makes about as much sense as begrudging Google/AWS for buying hardware in bulk, spending billions on data centers that make more efficient use of power and bandwidth, and subsequently undercutting you in a web services platform pricing war. Anyone who wants to come along and usurp the throne is free to spend the money and hire the right people to do so. For me, I'm happy to let my broker engage in these activities if it gets me a better price than I could get for myself otherwise, after fees. I pay Google/AWS/Linode/Heroku to do things cheaper than I could practically speaking do them for myself.

Taking the above points into account, the feasibility of a free or nearly free brokerage (again, note the reg fees) is very real. I'm excited to see how this plays out.


Details on retail market making

U.S equities exchanges are highly fragmented compared to those in most other countries. It's common to have a single name trade on several lit venues, and when you count dark pools/other forms of liquidity, that number can easily approach twenty or thirty. As an investor you have a regulatory right to specify how your order gets routed. However, most people just want the best price (this sounds like a truism, but sometimes other considerations outweigh saving a millionth of a cent per share), and access to private dark pools isn't a god given right. There are thousands of pages of regulations regarding order routing, right down to what type of client account it is (is this pension fund money? is this an IRA account?) but the redux is -- you can never fill a client at a price worse than what's being offered on any public exchange.

Enter the retail market maker. For certain types of orders/accounts (back to the thousands of pages of regs...), if the client doesn't explicitly specify an exchange, the order can be routed to a retail market maker. Said market maker can fill the order at a price better than what the market has to offer, or immediately pass it along to the exchange. Surprisingly, they'll actually pay the brokerage for the privilege of doing so. Why would they do that? The name of your game as a market maker is netting. If you have a large, unbiased stream of order flow, statistically speaking you hope to see it balance out with market indices/other correlated equities (hedging) or itself (crossing) over a short time frame. Until it does so you have risk exposure, so from an economics/efficient market standpoint your job as a market maker is to provide liquidity and price risk premium.

These groups have access to good technology and are well integrated with all of the lit venues/dark pools. Their volumes are huge so they get exchange discounts and dark pool fees (as any individual trader who dealt in those volumes would). They also have good credit and large account balances, so their clearing/margin/and funding costs are lower. As such, the brokerage makes money (risk free), the retail market maker might or might not make money (depending on how good they are at their job, and the space is competitive enough that only the good ones are left), and the client gets a better fill price than they would have on the exchange. Ironically the only people hurt by this are the HFT guys who now have highly refined (read, directionally correct over a few second time span) orders hitting the exchange.

sheetjs 15 days ago 2 replies      
They appear to charge TAF and other regulatory fees (https://brokerage-static.s3.amazonaws.com/assets/robinhood/l...) -- and based on the fee numbers it looks like they don't have significant volume -- but the website shows "FEES $0" in the app screen. The fees may not seem to be a lot, but saying that fees are zero is a factually incorrect statement.

The fact that they don't list exchange fees seems to suggest that they may end up routing orders to a market maker and collect fees from that (the exchange fees are generally 30 cents per 100-share lots). If so, they should note on the website that they are making money by selling flow

thatthatis 15 days ago 3 replies      
If you want a real brokerage that uses technology to keep costs down, check out Interactive Brokers. (http://interactivebrokers.com)

With IAB, a small player (5k+ in IRA or 10k+ in normal account) can trade on terms comparable to what a mid-sized fund can get.

When it comes to financial assets, I'd rather pay an established player $1 per trade than a fly-by-night operation $0.

rl3 14 days ago 0 replies      
As far as I can tell, this is amazing.

One could take trading systems previously designed to operate on large minimum balances of $50,000+ (so as to render the impact of transaction fees negligible) and run that same system on comparatively small account balances, perhaps even as low as $500.

In theory, the percentage returns in both cases should be the nearly same. Obviously a 25% annual return on $500 is a lot less exciting than a 25% return on $50,000. However, the fact it's now possible to even do this (again, as far as I can tell) is exciting.

As other comments have pointed out, trade execution quality may end up being merely average on this platform. But, if your trading system is operating on a sufficiently long time frame, then executions become far less important.

Concerning other comments regarding classification as a Pattern Day Trader and being required to maintain a minimum $25k balance, I believe it only applies to margin accounts. Obviously this means no short selling, but small loss, considering.

Mikeb85 15 days ago 0 replies      
This doesn't have enough features to be valuable to me. I'll gladly pay up to 50 dollars a trade if the features are worth it.

My current broker offers me great execution, trading on a number of international markets, allows me to settle trades and hold a number of different currencies, and good research tools.

At the moment this service seems to be worth exactly what they charge for commissions...

We Need to Talk About TED bratton.info
396 points by TimSAstro  12 days ago   183 comments top 57
simonsarris 12 days ago 4 replies      
If you haven't seen The Onion's[1] Onion Talks and want a good satirical criticism of TED, I highly recommend them:


(There are more if you want to find them, I didn't want to pollute commentspace with too many links)

[1] The Onion is a satire newspaper, one of the first newspapers to heavily adopt an online format. They just killed their print edition for good last year.

andr 12 days ago 5 replies      
Hi, organizer of one of Europe's largest TEDx events here.

First of all, as others mentioned, TEDx events are independently organized. There are over 3000 of them in the world and obviously quality varies greatly. Getting a TEDx license is pretty trivial and there is no real oversight on quality. Yet, there are some great videos out there.

Second, nobody pretends TED is an academic conference. I see a TED talk as the blurb on the back cover of a book. The speaker's job is to pique your interest in a topic during that 18 minutes. Pique it enough that you'll go on and research the topic in greater detail. Nobody expects to be a master in anything after sitting in a chair for 18 minutes. But if you've never thought about a problem, 18 minutes may push you to do it. And it's true some talks are mostly inspirational, with little informative value - we usually put a couple in the lineup as a breather.

Third, TED is about cross-pollination of ideas. You hear an idea in neuroscience and it inspires you to do something in CS. Happens all the time. You will not act on 99% of the information you learn (be it in news, books, internet, HN) anyways, but it does expand your horizons.

Lastly, TED's biggest value is in developing countries. If you live in NYC or SF, there are dozens of conferences you can attend every week. So the marginal benefit of going to a TED event is little. However, TED as a brand is really well known in developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe (like mine), inhabited by few, if any, world class innovators. In those countries, people do find TED really inspirational and often the local TEDx events are one of the very few decent conferences you can attend.

JonnieCache 12 days ago 3 replies      
There was a time when TED talks were mostly academics squeezing their usual hour long presentation into 20 minutes by simply talking really really fast. Those were fun.

After the first couple of ones that were public and on the internet, the usual self-promoting psychobabble-spouting androids moved in and now it's entirely worthless. Someone spins 30 seconds worth of insight out for half an hour, and you still somehow feel stupider when you've finished watching it.

In one of the recent Gladwell threads, someone on here coined the phrase "insight porn". TED is basically insight dogging.

EDIT: to be fair, if TED is insight dogging, this place is a sticky floored insight dungeon in some godforsaken soho basement...

freyr 12 days ago 1 reply      
When I watch a TED talk, I feel good for a moment. If I watch a few more, I begin to feel a little uneasy, and eventually nauseous. It's like eating sugar.

There's a repetition, a shallowness, a formulaic manipulation to evoke an emotional response, a smugness to the presenters, a greater smugness to the privileged attendees sitting there in the audience, grinning vacantly.

They trot an African kid out on stage who built something out of recycled parts, and everybody instantly connects to him, understands the plights of his existence, and shares in the celebration of his achievement. Then they drive back in their expensive cars to their expensive houses in the privileged enclaves of Los Angeles or San Francisco or wherever. They did their part.

I'm glad somebody's discussing it, but this talk is in many ways yet another TED talk. Identify a complex problem that can't possibly be tackled within the confines of the TED format; say non-controversial things as if they were controversial; name drop big issues (the negative aspects of drone warfare, consumer capitalism, NSA spying); provide a rushed, hand-wavey solution without an implementation; but leave the audience feeling like the veil has finally been lifted on this issue, and now they're on the precipice of positive change.

tfgg 12 days ago 1 reply      
I agreed with a lot of what the article said , but then the author seems to go full-TED-bullshit-buzzword towards the end with little evidence or citation and falls into the pseudo-intellectual knowledge-lite trap that he's criticising:

> Part of my work explores deep technocultural shifts, from post-humanism to the post-anthropocene, but TEDs version has too much faith in technology, and not nearly enough commitment to technology. It is placebo technoradicalism, toying with risk so as to re-affirm the comfortable.

> The most recent centuries have seen extraordinary accomplishments in improving quality of life. The paradox is that the system we have now --whatever you want to call it-- is in the short term what makes the amazing new technologies possible, but in the long run it is also what suppresses their full flowering. Another economic architecture is prerequisite.

> The potential for these technologies are both wonderful and horrifying at the same time, and to make them serve good futures, design as "innovation just isnt a strong enough idea by itself. We need to talk more about design as immunization, actively preventing certain potential innovations that we do not want from happening.

stiff 12 days ago 0 replies      
If TED isn't successful, how then would success look like for a conference of this kind? I don't think any conference at all is by itself a serious engine of innovation, and the more academic ones are much worse than TED talks, in my experience during academic conferences everyone pretty much expects up front to not understand anything at all from 90% of the talks, at least a half of the people will actively do something else than listening to the speaker, playing with their laptops and stuff, and pretty much the core motivation for everyone is A) the points for getting published in the conference proceedings and B) the party in the evening where one can finally get drunk and have some fun. The only chance of really learning something is if you know some work a bit upfront, or you know the people involved, and then researching it afterwards, so at best you get a little spark and you have to put in a ton of work to make something out of it. If you aren't consistently interested in some small range of topics you get nothing at all from it.

In other words, it seems we don't really know how to make innovation happen at wish. It works better in the universities in the undergraduate studies, where over months people genuinely interested in same intellectual pursuits have a chance to meet and get to know each other thanks to the wide range of classes and activities and people involved. They also get to share a common background, so they can understand each others work and their potential relations, a lot of important scientific work happened in "schools" which started with some figure great either at science and/or at organizing science, and which spanned several generations. So it's a slow process, it happens over years and takes sustained dedication of a large group of people, how would someone expect to contribute to this significantly via a one day event? Conferences are mainly social events in my view, and there is nothing wrong with that.

And then there is the general question how much influence do so-called "intellectuals" have in the world, as compared to the Napoleons and Alexanders.

Futurebot 12 days ago 1 reply      
Excellent post which has a few points I'd like to add to:

1) "We invest our energy in futuristic information technologies, including our cars, but drive them home to kitsch architecture copied from the 18th century. The future on offer is one in which everything changes, so long as everything stays the same. We'll have Google Glass, but still also business casual."

I recently wrote a post about this phenomenon, which I'll share here: http://www.opir-music.com/blog/culture/is-everyone-naked-in-..., but the basic idea is summed up by Fran Leibowitz: "I have a number of theories but one theory is that we live in the era of such innovation in technology, Lewbowitz said. Its almost like we cant do two things at once. If science or technology is going to be racing ahead, then the society is stuck. Also, I think its a way for people of my age to stay in the center of things." That itself, of course, is a just-so story. What's important here is the observation. I'd also argue that we've enabled something never before possible to happen, which keeps certain things "in the past" (like music): mass intergenerational cultural transfer. What keeps the Beatles on top of music lists of people of all ages? What causes old songs to suddenly pop up as hits, decades after their release because of a YouTube video? It's this effect which seems to cause a large chunk of popular culture firmly set in past eras. We move things at the margin, yes, and yes, we have always borrowed from the past. However, it has never before been so easy for so many to listen and look at the things past generations have created and at such scale. Since "known cultural entities" often serve mainly as a kind of touchpoint between different people, the utility of these well-known icons in the social sphere is very valuable. You can "connect" with others across generations very easily. This isn't good or bad, but I think aptly describes a very different cultural landscape than ones in the past.

2) "Its easy to get enthusiastic about design because, like talking about the future, it is more polite than referring to white elephants in the room.."

This is the sad realization that many (ex-)activists, technologists, and other ardent idealists often come to. It's easier to deal in the uncontroversial, the platitude-ridden, and the simplistic for a number of reasons. First, exclusion - if you add in the depth, the complexity, the nuance, the difficulty - you risk alienating those that are not knowledgeable enough to contribute. Sure, some are eager to learn, and others are eager to teach, but this means lots of time spent on getting people to a baseline rather than progressing. The second thing is plain conflict - often by nominal (and erstwhile) allies. The narcissism of small differences, loudmouths with a chip on their shoulder, and plain old confused angry people serve to stoke the fires of internecine warfare. I've seen it over and over in technology circles (where it can be ugly), and also in social justice "communities" (which are sometimes a nightmarescape of identity politics-based hatred) that I've been a part of. The experienced and the jaded look at this and either exit, or stick to the milquetoast. Neither helps progress anything.

3) "The most recent centuries have seen extraordinary accomplishments in improving quality of life. The paradox is that the system we have now --whatever you want to call it-- is in the short term what makes the amazing new technologies possible, but in the long run it is also what suppresses their full flowering. Another economic architecture is prerequisite."

Although usually applied to culture, I think the idea posited by Paul Treanor applies here as well:

"What already sells well, becomes more marketable. This is a general characteristic of all liberal social structures, not just the market. Repeated transactions and interactions, on the basis of the outcome of previous transactions and interactions, have a centering effect. Deviations from the norm are 'punished' by such regimes, and innovation is by definition a deviation from the existing norm."

That same "centering" effect on culture seems like it may also affect non-cultural entities. What drives things forward may also drive them back - a forced regression to the mean.

po 12 days ago 3 replies      
I submit that Astrophysics run on the model of American Idol is a recipe for civilizational disaster.

In other news, Zuckerberg and others launch a new $3 million Breakthrough Prize stating, "The Breakthrough Prize is our effort to put the spotlight on these amazing heroes. Their work in physics and genetics, cosmology, neurology and mathematics will change lives for generations and we are excited to celebrate them"


So... yeah we're already there in some sense for better or worse.

stdbrouw 12 days ago 3 replies      
There's some good points in the piece, but I can't help but think it's funny how everyone used to love TED... until "everyone" became a really big group and overnight TED became uncool and pass and insight porn. There's a fair bit of posturing and snobbishness going on here, too.
gilgoomesh 12 days ago 5 replies      
You should clarify that this is a TEDx conference (the 'x' is the important part). It's not really "TED" in the truest sense and is just a TED-like conference hosted by a third-party.


ignostic 12 days ago 2 replies      
Okay, so basically TED should be another dry facts-only scientific conference? Guess what, we already have plenty of those. The speakers will present facts and be judged based on the facts rather than on their presentation skills or ability to inspire. We have a lot of them and they work well - but the general public isn't interested.

There's a place in our culture for real science that is easy to understand, presented by people who know how to present. We need something non-scholarly to keep people interested in science and technology.

That said, we've had a lot of TED talks (especially at TEDx) that are simply sales pitches, fantasy, or completely false. There's a problem here that needs to be fixed. Keep the accessibility and the inspiration, but lose the factual errors and lack of fact by mandating vetting by qualified actual experts.

sethbannon 12 days ago 0 replies      
I've always consumed TED talks much in the same way I might a movie trailer. The talks are normally just enough to give me an idea of whether I want to dig in deeper, but never really satisfying in themselves. If you look at TED this way, I see nothing abhorrent about it.
cjoh 12 days ago 0 replies      
It's easy to look at this as a critique of TED, and it is, but what's interesting here is that this is a TED Talk. He was invited by TedxSD to talk about the problems of Ted. And he delivered those problems in the language and culture of TED. And whether you agree with him or not, I think it's commendable that he was invited by the TED organizers to give this talk, and that he gave it.
brown9-2 12 days ago 0 replies      
The New Yorker did a great profile on TED last year and it was hard to come away from the article without feeling like they were making a similar critique: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/07/09/120709fa_fact_...
melling 12 days ago 1 reply      
This is exactly how I feel about HN:

"So much potential and enthusiasm, and so little actual change. Are the ideas wrong? Or is the idea about what ideas can do all by themselves wrong?"

I believe that the world is better with both TED and HN, but they really could be so much better. How to take them to the next level?

michaelochurch 12 days ago 4 replies      
I'd go further than "middlebrow megachurch infotainment". I'd say, "high-IQ house-slaves".

I'm sure this isn't the intention of TED, but the purpose of this upper-middle-class boosterism seems to be deeply conservative in nature. It re-emerges every time there's enough wealth to let the 4.9% (as opposed to the 95% doomed to stagnation and the 0.1% taking everything) gain a little make-believe ground (that's chewed up by rising house prices, increasing income insecurity especially late in one's career, and education costs). "You should be proud; you get to clean the upstairs bathroom instead of working in the fields."

It's not TED's fault. The format of an 18-minute talk is a good one for a large number of purposes. The problem is that any time rich people and smart people get together, the smart people are always very willing (as a group; there are exceptions) to become the proud little house slaves just to enjoy that fleeting sense of having arrived due to the phony proximity to the true owners of this world who are running it into the ground. So most of them soften up and start spouting "status-quo-plus-plus" as soon as a few people in the true upper class start tossing them small favors. You see a lot of this in the "tech" world, especially in the VC-funded incarnation of the Valley. It's sad. We were supposed to be different.

Thanks to PG's rankban (I say things he dislikes, so my comments get a personal penalty in placement) this comment will probably be in the middle-bottom (if not absolute bottom) of the page no matter how much you upvote it.

Anyway, there it is.

my3681 12 days ago 3 replies      
We can say what we will about TED Talks, but it is a hell of a lot better for humanity than Jersey Shore or much of the useless crap on television. Like anything, given enough time, TED will have to fight off self promotion and the recycling of ideas to remain pure and relevant, but I am confident that the fight is worth fighting.

I have a friend who teaches middle school Biology, and his students (in his words) "light up" whenever they watch a great TED talk about the similarities between chickens and dinosaurs or the way a gecko can swim through the air while falling based on something way up it's evolutionary tree. I think science-driven TED talks fill a great purpose in inspiring people that may not (yet) be scientifically minded.

Perhaps it isn't as bad as Bratton believes it is, because I can still show a good TED talk to my non-techy mother or father and blow their minds. My father is a deep thinker, but just doesn't come across deep or novel ideas very often in daily life. He is a football coach, so he just doesn't get a lot of that between dealing with kid problems and trying to win. TED has been wonderful for delivering him a nice, distilled idea to think about.

If nothing else, TED gives the general populace a starting point for the state of high-level research and a chance to think about something other than their mortgage or drama on twitter. And it does so in a manner that can be highly entertaining. It is sadly surprising how many people live a whole day, a whole month or a whole year without being inspired by anything at all. Anything that can inspire the public positively should be protected, refined and celebrated.

kaiwen1 12 days ago 2 replies      
I think he (and others here) are being too hard on TED. TED is not a forum for research or a focused campaign for change. It's a forum for 15 min talks. It's an educated sort of entertainment where some interesting ideas get shared. The author claims to have something better in mind. I hope he builds it. I'll sign up. Until then, when I want to unwind, I'll watch a little TED instead of Breaking Bad.
waylandsmithers 12 days ago 1 reply      
A boss of mine used to talk about how organizations need both axe sharpeners (people to think about and refine ideas) and wood choppers (people to bring those ideas to life and "do the work"). Problem is, for things to get done, the wood choppers need to far exceed the axe sharpeners, and everyone wants to be an axe sharpener.

As we often discuss when it comes to (software and technology) patents, there are oceans separating conceiving an idea and turning that idea into something real.

nl 12 days ago 0 replies      
80% of everything is crap.

And yet the original 2007 Gapminder talk[1] still surprised and educates people today

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVimVzgtD6w

mxfh 12 days ago 1 reply      
Reggie Watts pretty much said it all back in 2012.


Hard to imagine how anyone could follow up after this.

DigitalJack 12 days ago 0 replies      
I don't watch very many Ted talks because the topics usually don't interest me. But the ones I do watch are the show and tell kind. The "I did something cool, check it out."

So I have no idea what the author is talking about.

binocarlos 12 days ago 1 reply      
TED is brilliant - I've sat there many times and said 'wow' after the talk. I've also worked for a lot of councils and education authorities in the UK and sat in on some evangelical 'how to improve kids education' meetings.

Both exhibit the same moment of 'insight' that people crave. It's like the 'idea' alone is the objective and now everyone can go home.

We lack a mobilizing 'do' component in this flow of peoples attention - what that is I dunno - a TedDone conference? In councils it was 'right - so, everyone back to work'.

DanielBMarkham 12 days ago 2 replies      
TED is the OMNI magazine of the 2010s: light, fluffy, shiny, sexy. Smile and nod; there's nothing of major important entering your mind today, except perhaps groupthink.

It's a social event. Look at all the cool people! I want to be one too!

Nothing wrong with that. Just important to recognize it for what it is. I love watching some of those talks.

And yes, for a lot of folks that confuse tools and research with presentation skills, they're going to walk away with heads full of buzzword technobabble. But guess what? These folks weren't hitting on much to begin with. They've always just wanted to skim the surface and hang out with the smart kids. That's why these things have always been so popular.

EDIT: There is one thing that is very interesting that has developed: the elimination of the middle-man between science and populist bullshit. Used to be scientists were just concerned what what is, not what could be or what we should do about stuff. Not any more. Now scientists, as this author points out, are supposed to be entertainers. Everybody's their own little self-promotion machine. Extra points to figure out if this is good for science or not (it isn't).

new299 12 days ago 0 replies      
2070 Paradigm shift sums up Ted pretty well:


sz4kerto 12 days ago 0 replies      
I can't comment below the video, so I do it here: Thank you, Benjamin Bratton.
knowuh 12 days ago 0 replies      
Complaining that a 5 minute TED talk isn't "meaningful" is like complaining that popcorn isn't nutritious. This isn't worth writing about; you just have the wrong expectations.

As for " middlebrow megachurch infotainment." just trolling for eyeballs.

diydsp 12 days ago 0 replies      
This was online as of an hour ago, but I had to run an errand and it's now down the memory hole! If anyone has a mirror, please post.

TED talks should be taken at face value. They don't necessarily represent the greatest thing in the world. People attach that themselves and should be blamed themselves. We ought to be grateful for the forum. Yes, it's not perfect and 80% is crap, but it doesn't preclude anyone else from communicating in other forums, either!

chris_wot 12 days ago 0 replies      
So if he inspires people to abandon TED talks because TED talks don't work, all through a TED talk, then it appears that TED has worked.
xixi77 12 days ago 0 replies      
This looks like a perfect example of what is wrong with TED these days (mostly TEDx, but it's really the original's fault for allowing TEDx's to dilute the brand pretty much to zero) -- that is, a vacuous rant with zero substance.

What do we see? We see lot of words, a lot of conclusions with no logical basis. Example: "The most recent centuries have seen extraordinary accomplishments in improving quality of life. The paradox is that the system we have now --whatever you want to call it-- is in the short term what makes the amazing new technologies possible, but in the long run it is also what suppresses their full flowering. Another economic architecture is prerequisite." -- what does he mean by "full flowering"? How does the current system suppress it? What does this have to do with economic architecture? -- of course there are no answers. Such speeches are never designed to produce anything of value, just to please people who already think in vaguely similar ways.

pulmo 12 days ago 0 replies      
TED sometimes seems to me like a collection of sales pitches for books that take four to ten scientific papers about a topic and go on and on ... and on about it. I liked this kind of book but now I give up on them after one or two chapters and read about the main ideas on Wikipedia.

But ... there is a lot of good stuff on TED too like Bruce Schneier's talks.

pistle 12 days ago 0 replies      
Thank goodness TED will now eat itself. They always struck me as the bad part of the west coast ethos. Self-fellating bullshit that will go nowhere. If we ever see the dystopian future of a detached gown-wearing overclass, it will come from SoCal.
VLM 12 days ago 0 replies      
"I submit that Astrophysics run on the model of American Idol is a recipe for civilizational disaster."

Well, OK then, there exists one solution in the problem space the author doesn't like. How bout listing one that might actually work? Go look at astrobites and figure out a way to turn that into AV speeches.

Some rich dude should host a con of astrobites level presentations.

grimaceindex 12 days ago 0 replies      
A TED talk that complains about TED talks and even uses the tidy acronym TED within the talk? Thou hypocrite! First cast out the beam from thine own eye; and then thou shalt see clearly to cast out the mote from thy brother's eye.
mgr86 12 days ago 1 reply      
Eddie Huang went on about his bad experience with TED on the Joe Rogan podcast earlier this year => http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FNenJN4484
dm2 12 days ago 0 replies      
There are definitely still great talks being produced. There are a lot of not so great ones, but maybe the solution to that would be better website that sorts and allows for ratings of TED videos. Kind of like a porn website but with only TED videos.

One that inspired me recently: "How simple ideas lead to scientific discoveries - Adam Savage" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8UFGu2M2gM

memracom 12 days ago 0 replies      
TED talks are marketing.There is no real link between most of these talks so the fact that it is a TED talk rather than just a presentation, is basically meaningless. TED is just a brand that people licence in order to attract an audience. Over time, with no quality control on the talks other than charisma, it is not surprising that TED attracts all manner of charlatans, liars and conmen.

It is a shame really, because some people who present at TED have really useful and important things to say. Perhaps we will see a startup enter the space to comp.ete with TED and as part of their business model they will checkout the speakers and the content of their talks, only approving the ones that are not charlatans. Seems to me that this is the key problem to be solved, not just creating another brand umbrella for public lectures.

peterwwillis 12 days ago 0 replies      
TED conferences are basically an organized unconference of incredibly long lightning talks. Of course they don't have any value, it's just a bunch of random schmucks ranting about something they're passionate about in a way that gets youtube views. But there's nothing wrong with that.
deeteecee 12 days ago 0 replies      
i can't say i understood what he was talking about after the "What is TED?" part but I understand that he thinks you can't take deep, complex analysis into these subjects and easily break it down into simple solutions and explain it to the world. But.. I don't see anything wrong with that. TED is just spreading more insightful ideas out there. If it's not helping the audience, then yeah, maybe there needs to be a better mechanism for organizing their talks or something, I don't know.

The only thing that scared me about TED is Eddie Huang's experience in this video about how enforcing they are in spreading their ideas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hwLMBdnbXk . Which does kind of make me see, oh obviously there's something manipulative about their schemes in some way.

But anyways, I haven't looked into TED that much other than watching a few of their videos and reading their about page.

Benferhat 12 days ago 0 replies      
> This Event Has Been Deleted

mirror, please?

tyang 11 days ago 0 replies      
A big problem with TEDx is lack of quality control.

I know one TEDx event that asked a top ten website cofounder to apply as a speaker and then rejected him.

I attended the cofounder's talk at a top university renowned for innovation, and it was awesome.

I also attended the TEDx event this cofounder was rejected from, and it was horrible.

We left after a couple hours, uninspired and none the wiser.

Here's a time and money-saving tip: Go on Quora.

legendben 12 days ago 0 replies      
Hello people, for those who bash TED, what have YOU produced for the betterment of human understanding of ourselves and the world around us? At least TED inspires people to think about things in new ways no matter how popularist it has become. Maybe instead of bashing TED, talk about how you would make it better if you were to run it AND MAKE IT HAPPEN!
rwissmann 12 days ago 0 replies      
Now that is the kind of article I come to HN for.
mikkohypponen 12 days ago 0 replies      
I'm a TED Speaker. I'd like to think many of you would get a chuckle out of my talk from 2011: http://on.ted.com/Hypponen
misener 12 days ago 1 reply      
According to the Livestream embed, "This Event Has Been Deleted"
api 12 days ago 0 replies      
This guy hit the ball into orbit, and he's not just talking about TED. He's talking about the entire "scene."

-- From the article:

T and Technology

T - E - D. Ill go through them each quickly.

So first Technology...

We hear that not only is change accelerating but that the pace of change is accelerating as well.While this is true of computational carrying-capacity at a planetary level, at the same time --and in fact the two are connected-- we are also in a moment of cultural de-acceleration.

We invest our energy in futuristic information technologies, including our cars, but drive them home to kitsch architecture copied from the 18th century. The future on offer is one in which everything changes, so long as everything stays the same. We'll have Google Glass, but still also business casual.

This timidity is our path to the future? No, this is incredibly conservative, and there is no reason to think that more Gigaflops will inoculate us.

Because, if a problem is in fact endemic to a system, then the exponential effects of Moores Law also serve to amplify whats broken. It is more computation along the wrong curve, and I don't it is necessarily a triumph of reason.

Part of my work explores deep technocultural shifts, from post-humanism to the post-anthropocene, but TEDs version has too much faith in technology, and not nearly enough commitment to technology. It is placebo technoradicalism, toying with risk so as to re-affirm the comfortable.

So our machines get smarter and we get stupider. But it doesnt have to be like that. Both can be much more intelligent. Another futurism is possible.

sandersaar 12 days ago 1 reply      
"Content has been removed"
runewell 12 days ago 0 replies      
People like TED. TED is sooooo OVER.- Hipster Professor


justncase80 12 days ago 0 replies      
I love TED. Not all of the talks are perfect but in general they are inspiring and wonderful. Some people just like being negative, this author moves me not at all.
simonebrunozzi 12 days ago 0 replies      
Sergey Brin's TED talk on Google Glass is the worst TED talk I've ever seen. Wondering how much he paid to be there.http://www.ted.com/talks/sergey_brin_why_google_glass.html
robertjwebb 12 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you for making this talk.
EGreg 12 days ago 0 replies      
I was kind of with him until he started detailing his own vision of T - E - D.

What an idiosynchratic point of view

rogerthis 12 days ago 0 replies      
I'd rather watch christian tele-evangelism than most TED talks.
soitsmutiny 12 days ago 0 replies      
Looks like someone's launched a TED Offensive.
jimmytidey 12 days ago 0 replies      
Nothing as popular as TED could be any good.
ChristianMarks 12 days ago 0 replies      
The inspirational message of TURD Talks is that if you could only crack your skull in just the right way, at the bottom of a pool after slipping at the edge, or in an almost fatal car accident, or by falling out of your shower and hitting your head on the sink before landing in the kitty litter underneath, then you too could release your inner savant.
points by    ago   discuss
smikhanov 14 days ago 4 replies      
Great to see more people attacking the underserved math app segment on the iOS.

I'm the author of Scalar (http://scalarapp.com), another calculator replacement for iPhone / iPad. Just tested both versions of Tydlig very heavily, looks like the author ran into lots of the similar math/UI problems as I did when I was working on my app. :) Some approaches he has chosen look similar, some are unique.

Great work, good luck!

jckt 14 days ago 7 replies      
Graphing functionality on a phone reminds me of an old TI calculator. I really don't know why recent OSes (be it on PC, smartphone, tablet) always came with such feeble calculators. It's not like TI calculators are difficult to use. Sure if all you want is add/min/mul/div functionality the TI is essentially a traditional calculator, and then behind that you've got all these nifty graphing utilities. It's not like a graphing calculator app is going to be that difficult to program, or going to be large in size. But no, in 2013, vanilla OS installations are stuck with a calculator app that has less features than that of a computer a few million times less powerful.

(Now I feel bad; bitching and complaining is against the Open Source Spirit).

Edit: I do recall that OSX comes with something similar, except that not many people actually know of it (as far as I can tell, from my friends with OSX).

csmuk 14 days ago 12 replies      
No RPN. Neckbeard status confirmed.

Calculators are still an unsolved problem for me on glass devices to the point I still religiously carry around an HP50G even though its 6x the size of my phone. Also from some bad experiences, it appears that some "app" calculators are also seriously badly implemented. Even basic trig ops can return stupid values at extremes which makes them untrustworthy. Plus none are reasonably programmable.

My use cases are base conversions, simple CAS stuff, basic engineering calculations, unit conversions, financial (TVM etc) and generic math. I also canned a lot of knowledge in RPL programs over the years from fuel calculations to diagnostic tools and dice rollers etc.

Please can someone solve all these problems (without doing half arsed HP calc emulation).

stormbrew 14 days ago 0 replies      
This really seems much more like a freeform spreadsheet than a calculator to me. Which is also a cool idea, obviously, but I find it interesting no one else has made the same observation.
dirtyaura 14 days ago 0 replies      
Great work. A few thoughts from the initial experience:

I like the linked numbers design. As it reminded me of Bret Victor's work, I was expecting scrubbing to work directly with numbers, which caused occasionally a bit of havoc, but I think you did a right choice of putting linking as the main action - touch design is hard.

The free-form infinite layout gives a mindmap vibe: it's potentially great when you are trying to understand pieces of a problem that you need. The downside is that the canvas becomes a bit of mess quickly.

The other alternative could be a Mathematica style, free-form document, with more restricted flow of equations (and text).

Because the organization becomes a bit of problem, undo is a must and solves a bunch of other problems. I'd implement area selection of equations (initiate with long tap?) to quickly move things around.

Y-axis could auto adjust by default or quick slider scrubbing should work directly for axis max-min values.

You probably want a simple document model as this is something between calculator and full featured computation software. Maybe just save every canvas when user clears/starts new one

All in all, great work!

jweir 14 days ago 0 replies      
So I bought it

Here are my thoughts as I use it (I will add to this comment. Hopefully the kids won't wake up soon.)

Wish there was an UNDO. I just moved a number and didn't want too. Shake to UNDO?

Pinch to zoom in and out. I'm using this on an iPhone.

Can I save a canvas? It doesn't look like, but maybe I'm missing it.

karlshea 14 days ago 0 replies      
Seems sort of like a slicker Soulver, I'm going to give it a shot.
White House Tries to Prevent Judge From Ruling on Surveillance Efforts nytimes.com
386 points by rosser  8 days ago   65 comments top 15
pvnick 8 days ago 4 replies      

  So, [Clapper] said, he was continuing to assert the state  secrets privilege, which allows the government to seek   to block information from being used in court even if   that means the case must be dismissed.
It's almost funny to see the administration's hypocrisy on full display. They seem to think that if they keep pushing this issue under the rug that it'll just go away. The Obama administration wants to have its cake and eat it to. On one hand, Obama wants to retain support from the folks who elected him to dismantle these abuses, so he sets up an "advisory board" to "investigate" the reports. On the other hand, he remains silent while his staff lies to congress, and he rejects the recommendations by the review panel.

We'll need someone like rayiner to weigh in (I have almost zero legal expertise), but some wikipedia reading says that while the state secrets privilege was recognized by the supreme court, the government's case was later found to be fraudulent [1]. Clapper's assertion is such a glaring abuse that I would hope it could set up another supreme court challenge to the privilege. More wikipedia-ing seems to suggest that might be possible [2].

I'm optimistic. The parties who have a stake in the surveillance apparatus have been on the defensive now for half a year, and it's obvious they're losing ground (example FTA: "Still, Mr. Clappers description of the program as 'an important tool' for tracking possible plots was a downgrade in rhetorical urgency. In earlier, now-declassified court filings, he and other officials had portrayed it as 'an essential tool.'"). I do actually have hope that we could see some real reforms, and for someone like me to say something like that is a big deal.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_secrets_privilege#Supreme...

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_secrets_privilege#cite_no...

Theodores 7 days ago 5 replies      
This is great - they are making it worse for themselves!

Before the Snowden revelations came along nobody took you seriously if you thought we lived in a world of mass surveillance. Now we all know all too well that we do.

As the scandal unravels the government are clinging to the 'terrorism' fig leaf. They haven't got anything else, no other plausible excuse for what they have been up to. Nobody has completely seen through it yet, or, if they have then they haven't shared with the rest of the world exactly what it is that they are hiding. (There is something else going on, the 'al-qaeda' thing is just a ruse, however nobody really believes that it is a complete, total, utter sham of emptiness. We aren't there yet...)

They are going to have to squirm for a little bit longer before the grand reveal. Exactly who steps up to do this is not known, however, there are plenty of candidates out there, getting bolder by the day. One thing is for certain though, that grand reveal will happen and, when it does, this NSA spying lark will be put into perspective. That perspective will show the spying story so far to be nothing more than an appetizing 'light snack' before the immensely satisfying main course. Compared to what we have got coming the fall of the Berlin Wall was nothing!

Anyone care to guess what the ace is that trumps the government's 'terrorism' card? (There is one!)

patrickmay 8 days ago 0 replies      
"In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people."
oelmekki 7 days ago 2 replies      
Terrorism has won.

Twelve years later, the country that was so proud to be "leader of the free world" is now affected by a cancer named secrecy and defiance ; defiance from government toward people and defiance from people toward government (well, that last part is not new, but it's not baseless anymore, which make a huge difference).

US should definitely work on trust, especially because their main strength is business and that can't exist without trust.

amark 8 days ago 1 reply      
Basically what they're saying is "we're ok with subverting the constitution if it fits our needs".

The executive branch's power has gotten completely out of hand in the past decade, all under the guise of "security" and preventing "terrorism". The reason the judicial branch exists is to stop crap like this. If they can't do their job constitutional balance of power doesn't exist.

atmosx 7 days ago 0 replies      
> But the government said that despite recent leaks by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor, that made public a fuller scope of the surveillance and data collection programs put in place after the Sept. 11 attacks, sensitive secrets remained at risk in any courtroom discussion of their details like whether the plaintiffs were targets of intelligence collection or whether particular telecommunications providers like AT&T and Verizon had helped the agency.

The only one who THINKS that it is unknown whether AT&T and Verizon were obliged by the government to hand over data is the government[1].

I remember when Wikileaks released the cables and US government employees were not allowed to read them. The rest of the world, was reading them anytime though.

In the world of governance I'd expect rationale to be above everything else. Apparently that's not the case in today's world. USA it's just another example, in Greece where I live, common sense has long been gone by politicians and population...

[1] However, there is a minor detail here. If this fact gets court proof, maybe some government members would be in terrible trouble. They can always mention National Security but God forbid, what if they have to bring proof?

scotty79 8 days ago 0 replies      
"You can't outlaw this beacuse it's super secret" defense.
mabhatter 7 days ago 2 replies      
As President he's "supposed" to fight for this, even if it's crap. That's how our "adversarial" government works. That's why it's CHECKS... As in gloves off, missing teeth, hockey checks.

It's up to the other TWO BRANCHES to get off their lazy asses and knock the Executive branch down a peg or two. They liked blaming the President but they gotta do the WORK to take things back. Shut up and FIGHT!

salient 8 days ago 2 replies      
EFF is doing such amazing work with these lawsuits. I hope people remember to help them out and donate:


You could also help this campaign for privacy tools which NYT and many other journalists are going to need from now on, to reach its goal:


RexRollman 7 days ago 1 reply      
There really is nothing the government won't do to keep its illegal surveillance powers.
babesh 6 days ago 0 replies      
Obama is a politician: someone who says anything to get elected and once elected does what he wants instead of what he said he would do. A politician tries to amass power. Information is power. There is NO way the government would give up that power. Don't expect him to do anything nor should you expect most politicians nor the next administration.
joering2 7 days ago 1 reply      
Disclosure of this still-classified information regarding the scope and operational details of N.S.A. intelligence activities implicated by plaintiffs allegations could be expected to cause extremely grave damage to the national security of the United States, wrote the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr.

I am really getting sick and tired of listening to this dirtbag scum motherfucker. He lied to the congress (willfully knowing upfront what the questions would be), something you or me would be behind bars for 10 years at least, but yet Obama promotes him to oversee NSA program. What a joke.

aluhut 7 days ago 2 replies      
I'm curous. Could someone tell me how the republicans feelings are towards all this? Are they doing something? They are in some way in a bad position. Much of the stuff has been established under Bush but on the other hand they pretend to "protect the constitution" and of course they don't like Obama.
samgranieri 7 days ago 1 reply      
James Clapper needs to be fired
thinkcomp 7 days ago 0 replies      
The actual case dockets and documents can be found here:

Jewel v. NSA - http://www.plainsite.org/flashlight/case.html?id=1911200

Shubert v. Obama - http://www.plainsite.org/flashlight/case.html?id=1901515

Developer and Power Users Tool List for Windows hanselman.com
379 points by Walkman  8 days ago   186 comments top 44
to3m 8 days ago 3 replies      
I don't know why people have such a blind spot in this regard, but Visual Studio's non-support for word-wrapping comments is obviously shameful. It's utterly ridiculous that you have to press Return while writing comments, and then more ridiculous yet that you have to go back and re-wrap them by hand when they change! - and the end result of course is that people usually don't bother, with the wrapping becoming steadily more ragged over time. Which looks shit.

So, I'll recommend this addin, that fixes it pretty nicely:


Though, you know... I've recommended this to numerous people over the years. And all of them have gone and ignored me. So perhaps I'm just unusual, and people like the raggedy look. Still, Comment Reflower gets my vote.

cowkingdeluxe 8 days ago 3 replies      
I agree having Paint.NET on this list, it is pretty good. I used paint shop pro 6 (yes, the one made in 1999) and switched to Paint.NET last year. It has really expanded my capabilities with regard to art for game development.

To get the most out of Paint.NET check out their plugins (http://forums.getpaint.net/index.php?/forum/7-plugins-publis...). It seems like there is a plugin for anything you can think of.

gchucky 8 days ago 4 replies      
A great list overall. One alternative I'd offer: he recommends Github for Windows and Tortoise as Git clients. I've been using SourceTree for Windows (http://www.sourcetreeapp.com/) and it's excellent. They've done a great job maintaining and keeping it up to date.
alan_cx 8 days ago 1 reply      
Just a couple of things.

uTorrent got iffy once it was bought out. IIRC, you want version 0.6 This was very small, fast and unmolested.

VLC. For years used to be absolutely fantastic. When it came out, a god send. I'd tell anyone listening to use it. Sadly, recently its caused me loads of sync problems, and various other minor niggles. As a result, I have had to reverted to CCCP. When VLC works for me, it is the best, but when it doesn't, CCCP fills the gap. In fairness, maybe a recent VLC update will cure my problems. Dunno.

Foobar2000 needs a mention, especially with Winamp going. My PC is connected to my amp directly via USB, and FLAC files sound incredibly good. (These days, hifi wise, MP3 is, to me, awful. They kinda sound dead. You lose so much detail and depth. But that's a whole new discussion) You can also get a great little app for Android that you can remote control foobar2000 with over your lan.

iaskwhy 8 days ago 1 reply      
A few more I use:

SSH Tunnel Manager (open source). I don't really like managing tunnels via cmd so here's a GUI to do just that.https://code.google.com/p/ssh-tunnel-manager/

CryptSync (open source). This keeps a folder in sync with another one but encrypts the content of the destination folder. It's extremely useful to use with Dropbox where I keep everything encrypted.http://stefanstools.sourceforge.net/CryptSync.html

Greenshot (open source). I use this to get screenshots of a particular area of the screen like I would do on OSX with CTRL+SHIFT+4.http://getgreenshot.org/

Prepos App. A generic preprocessor for everything web (js, css, etc).http://alphapixels.com/prepros/

SPlayer (open source). I have no idea with I enjoy this video player more than VLC but I do.http://www.splayer.org/index.en.html

VistaSwitcher. It's an ALT+TAB replacement.http://www.ntwind.com/software/vistaswitcher.html

aktau 8 days ago 5 replies      
Even though I barely touch windows these days, when I do, I invariably use "everything" (http://www.voidtools.com/) to find where everything is. So fast, so minimalistic. It's like locate on crack (because it shows you stuff as you type and it automatically updatedb's).
suhair 8 days ago 4 replies      
Cmder[http://bliker.github.io/cmder/] from that list changed how i view a windows commandline. My best windows tool discovery in 2013.
strick 8 days ago 0 replies      
Great list! I would also include http://www.expandrive.com/expandrive which lets you mount any server with SSH as a local hard drive.
rschmitty 8 days ago 3 replies      
No idea why he would use Notepad2, ST3 loads up just as fast and provides way more features for text editing. Plus it is good with markdown syntax highlighting thus eliminating the need for MarkdownPad

Also Github for windows or just Git bash covers the need for Gow

Jabbr is ok, but I havent been able to give up mIRC

Also he left off a good tabbed ssh/putty

Great list, learned lots of new things thanks!

wrongc0ntinent 8 days ago 1 reply      
AutoHotkey is a great way to get your kids coding. Not sure if there's anything like it for what kids use most nowadays, iOS and Android tablets, but having them make macros and letting them manipulate their favorite piece of software in ways they didn't think possible is usually an eye opener.

Edit: I'd add SpaceSniffer to this list.

Afforess 8 days ago 1 reply      
Great post. However there is 1 great utility missing:

Clover: Chrome-like tabs for your file explorer. No more having dozens of file windows up. Just one. http://ejie.me

Havoc 8 days ago 4 replies      
Nice list. Can't say I agree with everything, but preferences vary.

I'd add though:ninite, notepad++, foobar, windows snipping tool and maybe cdxpburner.

NB both CDXPBurner and Imgburner come with Opencandy adware in some versions and are sneaky about it.

patrickk 8 days ago 2 replies      
A word of warning about TerraCopy- it can cause annoying errors when copying. I transferred many gigs of data from one computer to another over a LAN, some files transferred fine, others looked like they copied ok, but were actually 0kb in size on closer look.

I'm not sure if it was a bug in that particular version or with the setup being used, but once I uninstalled TerraCopy the errors ceased.

gus_massa 8 days ago 0 replies      
Two additional utilities y like:

* 7+ Taskbar Tweaker ( http://rammichael.com/7-taskbar-tweaker ): allows you to configure various aspects of the Windows taskbar, for example reorder and regroup the programs in the taskbar.

* Network Activity Indicator (http://www.itsamples.com/network-activity-indicator.html ): displays the old 'two monitors' icon in Windows 7 that flashed blue to show network activity. (Well, this dont belong to the OP list because the only purpouse is to clutter the systray, but I like it.)

wslh 8 days ago 2 replies      
I suggested the author to review my company product SpyStudio that has a free version and is being used by Microsoft MVPs and VMware to troubleshoot Windows issues.

If you need a trustworthy source, here is a video from Peter Bjrk ( http://blogs.vmware.com/thinapp/author/peter_bjork ) showing how to troubleshoot a ThinApp package: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6sLxeoB7Bho

pkrumins 8 days ago 1 reply      
Here's my list of tools:


Must Have Windows Programs

japaget 8 days ago 1 reply      
Great list. I'd add one more program: Agent Ransack at http://www.mythicsoft.com/agentransack/ . It's a file search utility that is orders of magnitude better than the utility built into Windows.
nhebb 8 days ago 1 reply      
> "NimbleText - Regular Expressions are hard and I'm not very smart. NimbleText lets me do crazy stuff with large amounts of text with it hurting so much [sic]."

In case it's unclear from the description, NimbleText is a simple code generator. It's saved me a ton of time and keystrokes. Well worth the $20.

polskibus 8 days ago 3 replies      
There's a lot about asking people not to copy the list to their own blogs which kind of spoils the first impression to me - especially that the note is before the fold.

Does the HN crowd have an opinion on this? Did you find the note a bit weird ?

AlexDanger 5 days ago 0 replies      
So has anyone found a decent Windows text/XML editor for large files? Notepad++ is great but I've noticed it a bit unwieldy with 50MB+ XML files. I find myself using svndiff if I need to compare large XML files. The performance is much better.
RexRollman 8 days ago 0 replies      
I don't use Windows all the time but I do have some favorite programs:

  Firefox  Notepad2  7zip  Faststone Image Viewer  Foobar2000  Mame  ExactAudioCopy  FLAC  LAME  Jhead

michael_fine 8 days ago 2 replies      
Does anyone know of a list similar in scale and scope for Mac users?
thearn4 8 days ago 4 replies      
For python development, I'd also add Python(x,y) and/or Anaconda distributions for windows. They're binary installers that give you cpython interpreters + the kitchen sink when it comes to third party libraries and development tools.

Also, I have to disagree with the author about recommending Torrent. It's become more and more adware ridden with each new update. Deluge is pretty good though.

raveli 8 days ago 1 reply      
Great list of suggestions. While many of us on HN prefer Linux or OS X for any development work, it doesn't mean we don't at least occasionally work on Windows machines. Knowing how to make that experience more smooth definitely helps.

Going through the list of suggestions there was one particular item that stopped me to think. Living close to the arctic circle where sun never rises with the winter solstice approaching, trying F.lux (http://justgetflux.com/) felt at first a bit depressing with the app interpreting it's night even though it was noon. But then again, I guess most things have a tendency to feel depressing at this time of year.

shocks 8 days ago 1 reply      
Disappointed that clink [1] didn't make it onto this list. :( Clink brings Bash's powerful command line editing to Microsoft Windows' cmd.exe!

1: http://code.google.com/p/clink/

pagade 8 days ago 0 replies      
Although he mentions Hyper-V Virtual Machines, the real winner for me is VMware Player (http://www.vmware.com/in/products/player/). Its just like a audio/video player but for Virtual Machines.
ufmace 8 days ago 1 reply      
Nice list! I see a few things I already have, and a bunch more that I'll check out.

A question for those who spend more time doing front-end web development: What do all of these much-touted Firefox development plugins like Firebug do that Chrome developer tools doesn't do?

kirtijthorat 8 days ago 0 replies      
Scott Hanselman's list is amazing! A must-have for everyone in the tech industry. A decade worth of work at your fingertips. These are all well loved and often used utilities. I have curated my own list of utilities out of this humongous list. I truly appreciate the amount of hard work and many hours of research put together in making this list by Scott Hanselman.
dyml 8 days ago 1 reply      

I often copy code from my IDE to my blog or other Markdown formatters. I always have to add four spaces or convert tabs to spaces so that it gets formatted as code block. This extremely fast and simply site just brings a simple and easy solution to my problem.

ericcholis 8 days ago 0 replies      
Non-Windows users should still grep this list. There are some multi-platform tools listed.
hndl 8 days ago 1 reply      
Does anyone know of (or have) a similar list for OSX?
ghh 8 days ago 0 replies      
IMDisk, a virtual disk driver and disk image mount utility that is lightweight, ad-free, and actually supports Windows 2000 to 8.1 [1]. It's also open-source.

[1] http://www.ltr-data.se/opencode.html/

stusmall 8 days ago 2 replies      
What's the best hex editor on Windows these days? I'm rarely on it but when I am I usually use the Notepad++ plugin for it but love to hear about something better
m0skit0 7 days ago 2 replies      
One question: why would I bother installing all that when I can simply use a UNIX clone which on top of that is absolutely free? And as always with Windows: oh you got PowerShell, so adorable... Here, check bash/zsh
MichaelMoser123 8 days ago 0 replies      
I recommend far manager - http://www.farmanager.com/It looks and acts like Norton commander for windows - in text mode; it has many plugins, can't live without it.

Another one missing is vim / gvim.

jhasse 8 days ago 1 reply      
Is anyone using TouchCursor (http://touchcursor.sourceforge.net/ )? I really like the idea, but I'm not sure if I should try to stick with it.
curiousDog 8 days ago 0 replies      
Does anyone know of a similar list for OSX?
oliwary 8 days ago 0 replies      
My favorite tool on the list is Everything search, which instantly finds all files. It has completely changed the way I use the file system, to the point where I will rarely even open the Windows Explorer.
ionelm 8 days ago 0 replies      
I'm surprised AltDrag[1] didn't make it in the list. It's incredibly useful !

[1] http://code.google.com/p/altdrag/

wil421 8 days ago 0 replies      
Does anyone have a list similar to this for OS X?
PavlovsCat 8 days ago 2 replies      
my 2 cents:

- TreeSize ( and/or SequoiaView ) -- see where the big files/directories are on your harddrives

- Piriform CrapCleaner -- deletes unwanted/unneeded files after booting; configure all of it, then add folders and log files manually (find good candidates with Treesize ;) I like all Piriform tools, they're small, quick and slick. I wish they made more things.

- any SysInternals stuff you have a use for (Autoruns is a must have)

- DirectoryOpus -- the best file manager I know

- FreeFileSync -- backup/synchronize directories (locally, that is). Can also monitor directories for changed stuff (also for Mac and Linux)

ijoyce 8 days ago 0 replies      
I would add scoop. http://scoop.sh/
bberrry 8 days ago 0 replies      
I love checking out lists like this.
peterkarson 8 days ago 1 reply      
"Everyone collects utilities"

Speak for yourself. I don't collect utilities.

Letter From A Psychopath twitlonger.com
369 points by mannjani  9 days ago   330 comments top 35
tomstokes 9 days ago 18 replies      
Perhaps the most fascinating part of this letter is observing people's reactions to it. In the letter, the author goes so far as to admit that s/he is and always will be a psychopath without a sense of guilt or remorse toward others and a keen ability to recognize and exploit weaknesses in others for his/her own gain.

Judging by the comments here, the letter has done just that. One comment below notes that "Jeez, that's the single most interesting, insightful, and well-written piece I've read on the internet in a long time." Others are expressing a desire to meet the author or expressing how they can identify with the author. It's incredible to see just how effectively this letter resonates with the people who read it.

Don't get me wrong: It's both impressive and admirable that the author was able to not only admit that he needed therapy but to press on long enough to make therapy work for himself in an effective manner. I don't want to downplay his accomplishments. However, it is still interesting to dissect and observe all of the persuasiveness of the letter and the fluidity with which the author transforms psychopathy from a very difficult personality disorder into somewhat of a super power that the reader can't help but envy by the end of the letter.

As you read the letter and experience strong feelings of empathy for the author, consider his own poignant words at the end: "In the end, psychopaths need to be given that very thing everyone believes they lack for others, empathy."

The letter begins with the psychopath distancing himself from the traditional destructive psychopathic traits in the most admirable and self-aggrandizing way possible: He went against all odds and admitted himself into treatment, where he claims the health agency had never seen someone of his nature walk-in before and he was too incredible of a case for anyone but the highest-ranking therapist to handle.

He continues by setting up various straw-man caricatures of psychopathy ("cartoon evil serial killers" and the CEO who prizes profits over people) and knocking them down one-by-one, leaving the reader feeling guilty of possibly embracing those stereotypes at one point. With the reader feeling a bit guilty, empathetic, and as if the author's condition is simply misunderstood, the author has set the stage to rebuild the reader's view of psychopathy in a way that benefits the author.

Toward the end, he even goes so far as to put words in the reader's mouth just so he can turn around and undermine the very caricature of a psychopath he suggested you might hold : "Such as statement might tempt you to say 'well obviously you're not a real psychopath then'. As if the definition of a psychopath is someone who exploits others for their personal power, satisfaction or gain."

The rest of the article explains the author's psychopathy the way the author wants you to view it: As "a highly trained perception, ability to adapt, and a lack of judgment borne of pragmatic and flexible moral reasoning." He goes on to say that he "enjoy[s] a reputation of being someone of intense understanding and observation with a keen strategic instinct." At this point, the author has completely distanced his psychopathy from the purely negative caricature he painted in the first half of his letter. Who wouldn't be envious of such incredible, valuable, and morally-neutral abilities as he described them?

I've read the letter several times over, and I'm still amazed at how effective it is at garnering empathy from the reader and cultivating a sense that the author is an impressive individual who has triumphed over adversity after a great struggle. And it's true that overcoming your own objections to seek, and stick with, treatment for such a severe personality disorder is both impressive and admirable. His points about the general public's misunderstanding of true psychopathy are equally true, although he crucially omits any and all explanations of how psychopathy can actually be dangerous and destructive to others. It's an incredible piece of writing, and incredibly persuasive and manipulative in a way that I'm sure PR and marketing teams everywhere would be jealous of.

jseliger 9 days ago 4 replies      
If you're interested in what life for such a person is like (or if you might be one!), check out M. E. Thomas's Confessions of a Sociopath. I wrote about it here: http://jseliger.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/summary-judgment-co... and Tyler Cowen wrote about it here: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2013/06/con... and elsewhere.

FWIW, from what I've read (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/11/10/081110fa_fact_...) there were (at least) no therapies or treatments that reproducibly help psychopaths:

The psychiatric profession wanted little to do with psychopathy, for several reasons. For one thing, it was thought to be incurable. Not only did the talking cure fail with psychopaths but several studies suggested that talk therapy made the condition worse, by enabling psychopaths to practice the art of manipulation. There were no valid instruments to measure the personality traits that were commonly associated with the condition; researchers could study only the psychopaths behavior, in most cases through their criminal records.

And now there are, at least in the sense of reducing criminal behavior:

In a landmark 2006 study of a specialized talk-therapy treatment program, conducted at a juvenile detention center in Wisconsin, involving a hundred and forty-one young offenders who scored high on the youth version of the checklist, Michael Caldwell, a psychologist at the treatment center and a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, reported that the youths that were treated were much more likely to stay out of trouble, once they were paroled, than the ones in the control group.

But note that the linked article is from 2008. Perhaps things have changed since.

kristofferR 9 days ago 10 replies      
Everybody should turn on showdead in the settings and check out losethos' comments here. Psychopathy is really interesting and fascinating, but so is schizophrenia.

It boggles my mind how anyone can write such nonsensical rambling comments while at the same time coding a 64 bit operating system from scratch.

Pompky 9 days ago 2 replies      
I think psychopaths are incredibly boring, unidemensional people who hopelessly, endlessly intellectualize and play mind games because there is no depth to them. It is only mind machinations without the depth and nuance of a fully feeling and emotionally alive human being. I had psychopathic parents and studied psychopathy as a PhD criminal forensic psycholovist encountering many serial killers, cons and the like. Why do they do what they do? It is no great mystery as I used to think. They dismember people psychologically and physically for the simple reason that they enjoy it. They derive pleasure from the destruction of victims to their power dominance orientation. They are boring stupid people who ate not the least bit interesting. They are pathetic. They choose people smaller and weaker than them that they can pick them off out of the herd of humanity. They are sad expressions of the human genome and dont deserve near the hype and fascination they get. Once you figure them out, it is very easy to remain quite detached from their mental gyrations to seduce and ensnare. It becomes annoying actually. I for one am over it. I do recommend that you not allow one at your hearth or into your bed. You will pay dearly. One cannot allow emotional involvement or any attachment to such people as a regular person is want to do with other humann beings. Get rid of them, they will destroy your mind, spirit and your life. Take it from one who knows from a very young age.
dfraser992 9 days ago 2 replies      
Sociopaths are one of the fundamental threats facing humanity today. Such traits may have been beneficial in times past as group conflict was so prevalent, but if global issues like getting into space, climate change and the prevention of economic chaos are to be dealt with effectively, humanity is going to have to learn how to cooperate more effectively. And that means preventing sociopaths from getting into positions of power.

Unfortunately, society does not seem to have yet evolved the mechanisms to deal with these parasites effectively. The law is hardly a useful tool, given how "flexible" and corrupt it is, and how money aka power is so important in manipulation of the law versus "truth". Economists aka amateur sociopaths are finally beginning to realize an obvious truth - that most humans are not rational actors strictly concerned with profit and loss but that decisions are based on emotion much more than they'd like to admit and so this has a significant effect on economic behavior.

All this does matter because ask yourself - what of the effects these people have on the lives of those they exploit? what sort of setbacks do the good people end up facing and how much of a drain is it on their lives and their efforts to -contribute- to society as a whole? I see so much waste because of the unnecessary chaos the sociopathic introduce to society as a whole. They are a threat and capital punishment is a logical response, because they can not be rehabilitated. But given how society is organized, rich white people are never going to be executed, or even prosecuted, for their crimes unless they're so egregious they can't be ignored.

Even then, the case of Jimmy Savile (in the UK) is an example of how humanity still is little nothing more than talking chimpanzees who respond more to and are controlled by instinctual behavior patterns versus the ability to cogitate like "we" think we are able to. Jimmy was a sociopath, everyone knew he was a pedo, but nothing was done because no one wanted to speak up because of the social cost. Things are better these days, of course, so maybe in another 100 years, there will be a test toddlers are given to track whether they are likely to be sociopathic, and more effort will be put into preventing the development of such evil monsters. It is like the Head Start program in the States - prevent issues down the road by ensuring children have the best psychological foundation established as early as possible.

JonSkeptic 9 days ago 2 replies      
>It is also the case that, being 'normal' takes a degree of energy and conscious thought that is instinctive for most, but to me is a significant expenditure of energy. I think it analogous to speaking a second language.

Sounds about right. I thought it was pretty 'normal' to feel this way sometimes...

southpawgirl 9 days ago 1 reply      
Programmers (me included) are intrigued with psychopathy: we like the idea of pure thought, unencumbered by guilt, untainted by emotions, conventions and niceties. But paradoxically we overromanticise it in the process: I am pretty sure that living day-to-day with such condition kinda sucks, and that it seldom leads to notableness or notoriousness, let alone self-improvement or any kind of refinement. A serial offender petty criminal is probably more representative of the 'average' psychopath than the author of this post, I am afraid.
psychosurvivor 9 days ago 1 reply      
I'm generally viewed as a "nice guy" but once when I was younger met a psychopath who viewed my "niceness" as a weakness and took it upon himself to destroy me. I retreated from that battle, but from then on learned to identify such people and try to match wits with them. I'm very competitive and couldn't stand losing to them. I out-witted several of them over the course of my life and they would usually leave me alone when they knew I would fight back. Fortunately, there are not a lot of true psychopaths running around. However, I finally met my match recently later in life, in a former prison inmate who ran had run his cell block, who had intelligence, charisma, and a breath-taking ruthlessness. He had fooled everyone on his release that he was reformed and had obtained employment where I worked. I did battle with him and lost because I was not willing to go his lengths. Good does not always over Evil, as we all know. I had to get as far away from him as I could. The experience was traumatic in some ways, and I say all this to recommend you avoid psychopaths whenever possible. It's not worth it. A true psychopath is beyond redemption.
b1daly 9 days ago 0 replies      
I've sometimes wondered if the presence of psychopaths in powerful organizations leads to sociopathic behavior on the organizations part, even though most members are "normal." I'm thinking of situations like the outlandish behaviors of major investment banks defrauding their customers, knowingly selling them "toxic" mortgage back securities.

A small population of actors, inclined to gain power, and ruthless in conduct forces all members of the community to act in concert, lest they be cast out entirely.

This might also explain the disconnect of an organization like the NSA, made up of mostly decent, sincere people, engagin in profoundly anti-social, if not downright illegal, activities.

squigs25 9 days ago 2 replies      
Many of the best venture capitalists and entrepreneurs have psycopath-like tendencies.

Think about the similarities. A good entrepreneur/venture capitalist should be:

-Ruthless, selfish, unsympathetic

-Capable of manipulating, good at acting, great at selling a concept and convincing others to drink the kool-aid

-Unfazed by negative outcomes

-Unaware of (or at least, unfazed by) social norms and the status quo

-Creative, capable of thinking radically differently than everyone else

I've seen this comparison a few times, and now I can't seem to find any of the articles that I have read.

ctdonath 9 days ago 2 replies      
"the director of the agency finally took me on herself, and to our mutual surprise we got along extremely well."

Birds of a feather?

Fuxy 9 days ago 3 replies      

I would like to meet this person.

I find it very helpful to surround myself with people that have a different way of seeing the world.

easyfrag 9 days ago 1 reply      
Jon Ronson's audiobook version of The Psychopath Test is the Daily Deal today on Audible.com for 2.95
6d0debc071 9 days ago 2 replies      
... Am I the only one who interprets this letter as an attempted sympathy exploit/attack on people being properly on guard against psychopaths?
pathtopsyche 8 days ago 0 replies      
I come from a rather unstable and violent corner of the world, and I've met plenty of psychopaths growing up. I have a hypothesis that early childhood traumas and violent environment can trigger the development of psychopathic tendencies, but I'm not entirely sure how much role does genetics play in this process.

Some of the commenters on this topic seem to ascribe superhuman rationality and brainpower to psychopaths. I don't think that's a correct way to look at it. They can be very smart, but they suffer from the same set of biases and blind spots and Dunning-Kruger type of phenomena as other people. I think the defining characteristic is the complete lack of empathy and the willingness and ability to manipulate people (practicing the skill from early childhood, hence very good at it).

I was just looking up one of the smartest and most pronounced psychopaths I've met in recent years. Apparently he got his MBA and started an offshore private equity fund, seems to be doing well for himself. The guy had monumental talent for manipulating people. I wonder how far will he go before people catch on to his true nature...

wlmeldmanfloch 9 days ago 0 replies      
I find that it is hard to distinguish between psycopathy and narcissism. This person seems like a pathological narcissist not a psychopath. This person is ego tripping by self identifying with something they find powerful. A psychopath may have similar hangups but they don't believe in their own bullshit and would not waste time with self reflection or therapy. Psycopathy is like depression; psycopaths do crazy shit because they can't feel.
trendoid 9 days ago 0 replies      
Brilliantly articulated. I think this might be useful for everyone :

"The test of their self-superiority is their ability to rapidly find weaknesses in others, and to exploit it to its fullest potential.

But that is not to say that this aspect of a psychopaths world view cannot be modified. These days I see weaknesses and vulnerabilities as simple facts - a facet of the human condition and the frailties and imperfections inheritent in being human."

Yhippa 9 days ago 14 replies      
At one point in our evolution was there some advantage that being a psychopath conferred?
zafiro17 9 days ago 0 replies      
Jeez, that's the single most interesting, insightful, and well-written piece I've read on the internet in a long time. Imagine what things are capable when "being different" causes you - and enables you - to reflect deeply and thoughtfully on what being normal really means.
2mur 9 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting article on a clear psychopath:


JulianRaphael 9 days ago 0 replies      
I have a very pragmatic view that psychopathic traits are just one specific set of algorithms of the many possible sets of algorithms our personalities can exhibit to connect and interact with other personalities or more generally speaking our environment.Looking at the state of the world, at least a subset of these behavioral algorithms seems to be quite efficient (as the letter shows) and various subsets/traits seem to be very common and even desirable. Obviously the manifestation of the overall set which you would define as "psychopathy" varies from psychopath to psychopath, hence the image of the "cartoon evil serial killers", the "CEO" and many more in between these two. I guess in the end it depends on the balance of influence between three factors: the other sets of algorithms which make up your personality, the personalities you interact with and your environment.

I personally think we should look into what we can learn from this set of behavioral algorithms (the good, the bad and the ugly) and how you can balance it to leverage its benefits while not suffering from its drawbacks. That's at least how I deal with it.

yurgeni 9 days ago 1 reply      
>psychopaths hate weakness they will attempt to conceal anything that might present as a vulnerability [...] ability to rapidly find weaknesses in others, and to exploit it

There seems to be confusion about what constitutes 'strength' and what constitutes 'weakness' in regard to human personalities (or 'hard' vs 'soft')

For example, compulsively manipulating other people is more properly regarded as a weakness, I think. Whereas getting up on a stage and being open and vulnerable in front of a crowd, that's strength. It can inspire people and produce lasting change.

People with heavy streaks of psychopathy, or narcissism, or whatnot, are on a different path to the rest of us. It's better to avoid them where possible, tempting though it is to hope they will eventually acknowledge their faults and apologise. However, not having access to various feelings is going to create straightforward problems in their lives which can in principle lead to private acknowledgement and progress being sought. So I refuse to regard them as incurable cases

anovikov 9 days ago 6 replies      
The more i read about phychopaths is that they are normal guys/girls and it is the society's problem to 'treat' them (because they are too strong competitors and shall be neutralized) rater than their own.
richardlblair 9 days ago 0 replies      
Amazing and fascinating. His state of consciousness is so very different from ours. It is his reality. I'm so happy he shared this.
socrates1998 8 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting read, but about half-way through I realized he could be manipulating me into thinking he was decent person, just misunderstood.

Anyways, it is scary to realize that there are lots of powerful people out there like this.

Actually, I think there are many powerful CEO's and political leaders that are psychopaths.

How else could they convince people to give them the power, money, and influence they have?

aagha 8 days ago 0 replies      
Given the number of people here who say have have met or interacted w/ a psychopath, one would think that every other person out there is one.
mzs 9 days ago 0 replies      
"I hope that it can remain confidential for the time being, seeing as it is quite personal."

Dang who is the one exploiting weakness here?

abhididdigi 9 days ago 1 reply      
This is a very good article. Thanks for this.

This explains - What makes a difference, if someone diverts their energy doing something Positive. As they say - It's not who you are, but what you do that defines you.

>Serial Killers & Ruthless CEOs exist - Voldemort does not.

Excellent ending to a great article.

Pompky 9 days ago 0 replies      
I have extensive experience w psychopaths. They have almost destroyed my life given my vulnerability to them because of a mother who is a psychopath and a father who had major psychopathictraits. I had to seek nurturance from a snake and learn how to feed it and placate it while trying to stay alive.
michaelwww 8 days ago 1 reply      
Can two psychopaths fall in love with each other?
brickcap 9 days ago 0 replies      
Great read. Thanks for sharing.
BaconJuice 9 days ago 4 replies      
Can someone paste it on gist? Work proxy is blocking the site =/
ashleypea 8 days ago 0 replies      
Who here is aware of the fact Oskar schindler was a psychopath? He sold all his business and fortune to save hundreds of lives.All we hear is psychopaths who fit the stereotype, not those who do not. Cognitive dissonance.
dantium 7 days ago 0 replies      
Are psychopaths ticklish?
dave_sid 9 days ago 1 reply      
I think I've come in to the wrong forum. I thought this was HN.
What Happens When One of Your Coworkers Dies thebillfold.com
357 points by ohjeez  10 days ago   196 comments top 47
steven2012 10 days ago 4 replies      
One of my coworkers, my mentor and someone who taught me what it meant to be a good programmer, was murdered by his wife, who also murdered their two children and then killed herself.

It took place over a holiday, and I noticed he hadn't shown up afterwards. After a couple of days, I asked my boss if he was on vacation, and he said no, so I emailed him. His body and his family were found the next day by his neighbors. I actually saw his face on the evening news and my heart started racing, because they made it seem as though he was the murderer, but as events came out, he and his beautiful children were the victims.

It was really horrible because he was one of the star programmers at work and responsible for a lot of the success in the company. Everyone loved him and he deserved to be loved. It really hit our company hard, and we had things like counselling meetings but all that did was fuel our anger.

Basically there's nothing you can do. You just have to deal with it and move on. It's been 10+ years, but I'll never forget him though, he deserves at least that.

bane 10 days ago 1 reply      
I've had this happen a few times over the years. It's really tough.

In one case it was a very popular and looked-up-to engineer. Out for a jog one day and an unknown heart defect dropped him dead before he hit the ground. People were very broken up over it and donated food and all sorts of things to his widow and kids. I think a small charity was set up in his name.

In another, nobody really knew the guy outside of his group. But he had had a very bad cough for a few months that to be honest, had become kind of a workplace annoyance and was blamed for everything from loss of productivity to a rash of URIs that ran through the office for a few weeks. He didn't show up one day and everybody assumed he had finally decided to take some time off and attend his cough. The next day it was announced he had died. There was no further information and nobody outside of his immediate group and management really knew anything about him or how to reach out to his family. His desk was filled the next week.

Finally, a guy I knew and my friends all used to work with, broke off to try his hand in the restaurant business. Things didn't go well and mired in debt and suffering from some mental illness issues took his wife and daughter hostage and committed suicide (his wife and kid made it out with very minor wounds). I think everybody was in such shock over such a mild mannered person doing such a crazy thing that people wanted to get over it as quickly as possible and pretend like we all didn't know him at all.

jboggan 10 days ago 4 replies      
This has happened in my experience before, and it is one of the strongest reasons for good source control that is infrequently considered. It was a tragedy when a very wonderful and dear researcher in our group died suddenly, especially to his three children and wife that he left behind. It was also a great loss as well that we could never recover some key bits of source code from his computer, and that a very promising cancer drug trial was derailed because we couldn't articulate why the compounds were chosen for study in the first place.

He died of a heart attack at age 42 after pulling three 90+ hour weeks. It completely changed my attitude towards work. May he rest in peace.

Spooky23 9 days ago 1 reply      
My uncle worked for a financial services firm in the 80s. A consultant was in a computer room working on something very early in the morning and had a heart attack.

Someone discovered the guy, called 911, and went about their business. Due to some combination of bureaucratic bungling and security nonsense, the ambulance folks didn't know someone had died, and were either turned away from the building or taken to the wrong location in the building.

Long story short, the body wasn't removed until early evening. People thought he was taking a nap. I always found that so sad. The poor guy probably had a family and people who gave a shit about him, but the people around him couldn't be bothered to treat him with respect.

edgesrazor 10 days ago 1 reply      
I had something like this happen at a small software company I worked about 15 years ago. Our owner had written a specialized program for his wife to sell on the side, but under the company's name. One weekend, after a very big fight, she ended up committing suicide after he'd left the house. The next week, they had me going through her email to get a list of customers she had been working with. I can't begin to tell you the amount of discomfort you feel going through a recently deceased person's email - especially when it was mixed with personal messages. I got in, found all the work related messages, forwarded them to my manager and got out - I couldn't bear to be in there any longer than I had to. No one at the company was very close with her, but it was still a complete shock.
kabdib 9 days ago 1 reply      
When we were doing the Apple Newton, Ko Isono (who was working on the tablet sensor code) committed suicide. Our manager got us into a common area, then told us the news. We were pretty shocked.

Many of us went to the funeral in the east bay. I remember it was very cold and rainy, and that I didn't mind.

We put Ko's name in the "About Newton" page. Nobody in management objected to that.

aaron695 9 days ago 1 reply      
I'm assuming this story is a Facebook generation thing.

Not sure if it's a disassociation of the difference between/loss of real friendships and acquaintances or perhaps the constant need to get attention which people are starting to use the death of others to get (amongst other things)

I can't tell if this story is true or not, it's certainly well written and of literary value.

But it is not normal to light candles, create movies and put people who have passed away's photos up in the workplace.

Those true friends in the workplace will go to the funeral, this sort of darkness in getting off on people who we barley knew who have died, kinda scares me the most in this story.

notastartup 10 days ago 3 replies      

    Colins boss is on vacation this week. He recorded a message by webcam.     Hes lying on his side on a hotel bed. He talks about the clarity of     Colins press releases as palm trees shudder in the wind behind him.    I wish I had gotten to know him better, he says. He seemed nice.
Reading this kind of made me rage...and sad.

Tragic, but the inequality, and the indifference free market creates, makes me steer clear away from corporate environments. I'd rather be a writer or an artist working on one's creation and dropping dead than die for someone's marginal materialistic desires.

I know this is just one way of looking at it, maybe the company was a great place to work at and the words alone do not carry justice.

Unsettling. Knowing that you can die at any moment, yet you work to fulfill the desires of those above you.

When I start a company, I don't want people below me or be insensitive. I'm gonna pay them well, make their work not overwhelming (by creating more software to automate and lighten their workload). Maybe I'm just young and naive. but I sure as shit not going to be an insensitive jerk to my partners in crime. Nobody is killing themselves or getting sick because of being overworked. Fuck that ferrari man, if someone kills themselves in the process of making money for you, I'd be devastated. I don't know how I'd feel when I turn old though, as your frontal cortex deteriorates, causing you to have less empathy and concern for your surrounding.

zero_intp 9 days ago 2 replies      
A good friend and co-worker died recently, worked together for 10 years. Hard worker, lived in Cali and flew out every quarter. We shared being assholes who get shit done by working hard, long, and speaking truth to power.

He died by driving fast, impatiently, killing his wife and unborn child. We shared a love of fast cars and recklessness.

His death has helped me re-evaluate. Selling (trying) my fast car, going part time to travel. Working hard for a company and dieing suddenly seems so ultimately unfulfilled.

Shivetya 9 days ago 0 replies      
We are going through this where I work currently, a co-worker, a good friend, passed away on the 13th. We'd been joking the day before about what food item he was going to bring in the next week though we all knew what it would be.

While he had been sick for a few years, at times appearing in colors no human should ever appear in, he had been improving steadily and was in very high spirits. To say it caught us off guard is one thing, it caught his doctors and family off guard as well.

It is very odd to have lost two friends who just happened to be coworkers since I started at my current company almost sixteen years ago. I lost my former manager six years ago and this friend who recently died was on the same team.

As a group, those closest never ventured into terrible. Oh we hit the gutter for humor but only in how it relates to our other loss years before. Jokes/comments along the lines of "God probably needed help keeping so and so in line" or "Great, now they are going to team up and take over the place".

Mourning will really hit Saturday at the funeral, its possible that terrible is reached the days after that but only directed at those who don't come who should have come. You know the type, there people you work with who really don't care about anyone else but they sure make a show of it when someone higher up is around. Got them, should be interesting if suspicions are right.

Forgetting, well that won't be all the quick. We still bring up the name of the first to pass from time to time, some people have an over sized impact on organizations when they are alive and when viewed with the rose colored glasses of the past. Yet shouldn't we always only remember the good days?

busterarm 10 days ago 0 replies      
Things get a bit more strange when you don't meet the people you work with. I work somewhere with a large staff that's entirely remote. In the five years that I've been working here, we've had three deaths (so that's about 1 in 400). One was a very grotesque suicide by somebody who was very unhappy and everyone they interacted with knew it. The other two were strokes. The whole company gets an email when this happens but little more than that. I don't even think we offer grief counseling.

I'm very senior here and know that I worked with the people but don't remember any of their names by now. Very few people do, in fact. Only one person I know remembers the name of the guy who killed himself.

There is one name that I remember though. We had a guy who had a very debilitating stroke and tried to come back to work. After about a month of some incredibly strange behavior from him, he was let go. He just never came back the same after his stroke.

Sitting down all day is really bad for your health. So is not having regular interaction with other people. When working remote it's really important to have some regular group activity that you do.

jakejake 10 days ago 0 replies      
This happened to me last year. A young guy with a wife and two kids hit his head getting out of a cab and died a few days later from sudden complications. He was the life of the party type of guy, kinda like the Kramer of the group. Really well liked. I had a voicemail from him on my phone that I hadn't listened to yet.

It really does make you think for a while that you shouldn't take any day for granted. But, just like in the article, after a few months we all just settle back into our routines.

infectoid 10 days ago 1 reply      
Happened to me once early in my career.

I was working as tech support at a manufacturing plant. As I'd be walking around a lot fixing things I got to know everyone fairly well.

Manuel was the production manager. A nice guy, always seemed relaxed but always got shit done. He had been working there for about six months.

One morning I get in and hear the news from the somewhat insensitive IT manager, can't even remember how he said it, just remember not liking him at all after that.

About an hour earlier Manuel had been waiting at a round-a-bout. A semi carrying a load of fuel comes down from an off ramp approaching the round-a-bout and the breaks begin to fail. The truck driver attempts to veer but then the trailer starts to skid and pivot.

It crashed to the ground in front of Manuel's car and everything explodes.

I drive past where it happened every time I go to visit my folks. It's been at least 15 years. Someone is still putting flowers there.

scrrr 9 days ago 2 replies      
Two friends died when I was a student. A guy from the company I was working at died on the Air France flight from Brazil. They were all very young. It's entirely possible this happens to other people I know, or to me.

FWIW, I think it's good and healthy to think about death, perhaps even to think about it often. There used to be a time when people put skulls on their desks to be reminded.

howlround 10 days ago 0 replies      
I walked into work one day, and in my email was a remembrance note about a coworker who had just died. I did not know him, but in the email there was a picture of him fly fishing, and then another picture of him standing by his wife. He was an overweight, balding man in a Wal-mart jacket. Something about his "everyday, average guy" look scared me. I never knew him and if it weren't for the email, I'd never have known of him.

I grew angry, and could not figure out why. Was I sucked back into this reality that we all die when I had been working hard to deny it? Was it that someone could die, and some stranger like me had no interest or comprehension of his accomplishment? Was it that I only judged people by their accomplishment, when hypocritically, I had none of my own? Why did I suddenly hate this man, who I never knew existed, and only knew because of his death?

He was a father. He surely comforted his children on the first day of school. He went shopping for them on their birthdays. He had loved ones who grieved for him. Loved ones who had no talent to describe how great he was to them, but only knew he was great to them.

I still don't understand the oddness of my reaction, or why it still haunts me. We are all born in a blur of a gigantic population, and he was simply deleted from my inbox as my company insisted I delete my emails when it approached 150 mgb capacity.

I kept him new and unread as long as I could.

walkon 9 days ago 1 reply      
I don't think this article is just about how people react to a coworker dying. It's an observation that regular presence of someone, particularly in the workplace, doesn't automatically lead the relationship past an acquaintance level. Obligatory social routine and superficial small talk might make us feel comfortable with each other, but beyond that, there might be nothing deeper there. Some of us our surrounded by familiar faces and conversations each day, while entirely disconnected and alone.
officemonkey 10 days ago 1 reply      
When this happens to people in their 20s, it's notable.

Sadly, as I approach 50, it happens in my workplace, in my private life, and in my family pretty much every other year.

pgrote 10 days ago 1 reply      
Great writing.

I worked with a business analyst once who dropped off his laptop for me to take a look at on a Friday afternoon. Odd, because we did regularly scheduled maintenance and he brought his external monitor in.

On Monday morning his mother called to report he had killed himself.

It was so abrupt and took the group by surprise. I do remember thinking that it would change everything. Life went on, though.

kfcm 10 days ago 1 reply      
I've been through this four times. Three died at home; one at work. These were all at small companies, so we all knew each other--many for decades, and over different jobs.

The last two passed away about eleven and twelve years ago.

One may think it's haunting to still see e-mails from them in my archives. But the really haunting thing is listening to them speak in the voice mails our phone system e-mailed back then. Voices from beyond.

Refefer 10 days ago 1 reply      
Reminds me a little too much of the regrets of the dying[1]. Ingrained deep within our mammalian brains is the instinctual desire for community and personal intimacy. We'd do well to remember ourselves and what makes us happy before we're reflecting from our own death bed.

[1] http://www.inspirationandchai.com/Regrets-of-the-Dying.html

brc 10 days ago 1 reply      
One of my close relatives passed away this year. She was the partner in a professional services firm, and well like by her staff. The entire company had a day off on the day of her funeral, and many of them were distressed by it. It was not a shock as she had been ill for quite some time, but it does entail an adjustment.

This is going to become more of a common occurence as the baby boom generation start moving towards an era of high mortality and are in senior positions. There are actually companies around which can help with transitioning through a period like this, including grief counselling for staff, strategies, etc. I worked with someone on a project once who worked for one of these firms. Up until that point, I had never even considered that they would exist.

stirno 10 days ago 0 replies      
Well written and it hits close to home for me.

Honestly, I've had a fear of being 'Colin' for years.. that if I were to be gone one day, all people I come in contact with, besides family and friends, would remember are the inconsequential things about me. Its an ego thing I'm sure -- that I feel I should be remembered.

I make an effort to have some real impact on as many people as I can. Something they would remember. I have no idea if I've been successful. All anyone really wants is to do something meaningful.

I hope that Colin had a great group of people outside work that could memorialize him properly.

RougeFemme 10 days ago 1 reply      
At one company where I worked, I resented the fact that the executive assistant to the CEO made more than I; after all, she was non-technical and "simply a secretary". Then she had a heart attack at her desk and died instantly. I felt guilty for my thoughts and resolved to find out exactly what her job entailed.

About 2 years later, her replacement was struck by an aneurysm at her desk and died several weeks later. I had been interacting her a lot for work-related projects and had had learned how stressful, difficult and important that job was and did not begrudge her her salary at all.

spacecowboy 9 days ago 0 replies      
When I first started working as a manager for a group of folks, my own manager insisted that if one day someone in my group didn't show up for work and there wasn't a phone call or email or a note, he said to always try to get in touch with the individual to see if everything was ok. My manager was so insistent on following this practice so I asked him why he felt so strongly about this. He said he had an experience in which he had one of his folks not show up for work - no phone call, no email, no note so he tried to reach the individual by phone. After no response given multiple attempts to reach him, by late afternoon, my boss decided to drive out to the individual's house. When he got to his house, he found the gentleman passed out in front of his house. Thankfully, this story ended up with a happy ending.
seanhandley 10 days ago 0 replies      

I mourn for Colin. And I mourn for the dry wind, devoid of intimacy, that blows out across the open plan stage of our working lives.

bdamm 10 days ago 0 replies      
We had a fellow in our QA department pass away suddenly. He died at home from "heart failure". I think everyone assumed it was a drug overdose, amid hushed rumors of rather strange behavior during a previous-job Vegas trip. It was sad, because he did good work. Like this fellow, a lot of people simply had superficial contact with him.

I wish I could say that his death motivated me to have more meaningful contact with everyone. But it didn't; it simply made me realize that you can't force that even if you want to. At least not for me. Some people seem to have meaningful exchanges easier than others, and I'm just not one of those people.

aortega 9 days ago 0 replies      
Thankfully never happened to my coworkers.

But many years ago I reported a pretty severe vulnerability in a common piece of software. A patch was issued and that was it. One of the developers then stopped answering emails and later I learn he died, probably by suicide. To this day I don't know if both events were related but I try to be extra nice when reporting vulnerabilities to developers since then.

frankydp 10 days ago 1 reply      
I have personally experienced this on five occasions in the work place. I can say that only once did no one have any idea that there was an issue. I have seen CO's, junior enlisted, and the inbetween. The powers of self loathing are in my experience not the driver, the most dangerous force is self confirmed failure. The type or scale of the failure does not matter, only the persons value of that failure matter.

That being said.

Go in to work tomorrow and make a forceful effort to engage with anyone that you think may have any issue with failure overwhelming them. The only weapon that can help is others.

dzink 10 days ago 0 replies      
A classmate fell to his death from his apartment's terrace in a skyscraper a few months ago. We were just coming back for our second year of Grad school. He was full of life, working on a startup for which he had won some funding via a competition, spending the summer at an Angel investor group, serving as a favorite TA for a top VC professor. He was a self-made immigrant and the best parts of life were right ahead of him. Nobody knew what happened, but it hit too close to home.

His parents requested that his name was not mentioned on social media until they had a chance to take him home to Europe and tell their family at home. We got together to honor him and express condolences to family and after a week or two, things went back to normal on the outside. On the inside questions still remained, not about what happened, but about the implications it had on us, his classmates, who are just like him in too many ways to count.

xmjw 10 days ago 0 replies      
I've had this twice. Once to a car accident on the motorway in 2002. Once to a bizarre form of leukaemia such that (from our perspective) the guy had back pain on Thursday, and died over the Easter weekend by Tuesday in 2009.

Still think of them both from time to time. Some of my now-ex colleagues still comment on the anniversary of their passing on Facebook. I don't think I could honestly remember the dates if they didn't... Their names always stick with me though.

zacinbusiness 9 days ago 0 replies      
I've not had a coworker die but I've experienced immediate family loss (my mother when I was 10) and I know that being around things that reminds you of that person can be very difficult. I chose to move away (obviously not when I was 10, but as soon as I was 17 I moved a few towns over, now I live at the other end of the state, and as soon as possible I'll be leaving the country, but it seems that sometimes you can never go far enough).

It's interesting though, the way a conversation like this will turn in a community like HN. It goes into religion, but sort of the opposite of how it turns out in RL (or at least here in the bible belt of the U.S.) - most people will say "I'm praying for you and your family." and it's usually received with a "thank you" or similar, here on HN though (and in a lot of communities, such as at a university) these sorts of comments will be met with anger that someone believes something differently.

Personally, I've never had much use for religion. Most of my family is highly religious, and it's never seemed to do them much good though it does help them cope when bad things happen. And that's where I see the value in it. I know it's unhealthy to try to runaway from past pain, but that's how I cope. And when my family says things like "Well, God works in mysterious ways." I know that they are just trying to cope as well, and I have no right to judge them for that.

Empathy is a very important thing, I think, and people who get all defensive when religion comes up should take a step back and think about their own beliefs. The majority of these people (myself included) will talk about science, how we believe in things we can prove. But the simple fact is that isn't really true, is it? I believe, for instance, in the speed of light, and that highly gravitational objects can bend light and even space itself. However, I personally have not measured light or the effect that gravity has on it. I've read papers about it, and I've watched documentaries. But it's still just faith.

tn13 10 days ago 1 reply      
When I was working for an Indian out sourcing giant we had a 9 floored building each with a wide gallery. I liked working beyond 8pm and when I was about leave at 9pm I noticed a small crowd near one of the parking entrance.

Soon found that someone had jumped from one of those galleries. An sms from the individual to his elder brother blamed the extreme work pressure. Knowing his team and manager, surely that did not seem to be the case.

theorique 10 days ago 1 reply      
Thats Colin, says Bill. Dead people dont get salaries, so Colins appears as a surplus.


rdl 8 days ago 0 replies      
It was interesting working in a "high death rate" environment, and seeing the ways different organizations dealt with that.

The military (US, especially) seems to rely on tradition. I still think the US Army "last roll call" is among the best.

There were contractor and local companies who did basically nothing, and where the big issue was getting personal effects packed up/returned, and risk that final paychecks (or, in some cases, 6+ months of pay held until completion) would be paid out. And some where the loss of enough people led to the company folding, too, so there wasn't even anyone to pay that money.

Probably not frequent enough to be meaningful for a silicon valley tech company with mainly 20-50 year old employees, but maybe in an industry with older people (or, in 10-20 years, in tech), there will be companies which differentiate themselves by how they handle this kind of thing.

There are some conferences where one of the first parts of the yearly meeting is listing all the former attendees who have died in that year; for the more ee-specific conferences where the average attendee is ~50-60, it's a much longer meeting.

mpclark 9 days ago 0 replies      
I was at a start-up that was essentially a bunch of young lads who had all been close friends since school. Without going into too much detail or focussing on the human tragedy, one of us died in an accident and, looking back, I think it really delayed the growth and progress of the company by a year (or maybe two) while everyone came to terms with loss, death and their place in the universe.

I think the company was quite lucky to get through the experience intact, and it was probably only the presence of a couple of older, more detached execs that made that happen.

mTemp 10 days ago 0 replies      
I worked with someone who joined our development team as a junior. He was a bit aloof, and slightly arrogant. I moved on soon after he started, he IMed me for the contact details of a contractor we worked with, and that was the last I heard from him. I was not surprised to hear, a few months later, that the guy had been fired, because of his attitude.

Fast forward another few years, and I was Googling (or was it Facebook searching?) ex-colleagues who I'd lost touch with. My search led to news articles that referred to his death. He was killed in a bizarre road-rage incident, where he was clearly the aggressor.

His family had created a memorial page on Facebook, but hadn't reported him deceased. I reported his FB profile as deceased, it was memorialized and I moved on.

I spoke to the ex-coworker about what happened (the same one who told me about him being fired a few years earlier), and he pointed out how kind the eulogies were- not really describing the arrogant prick we worked with.

sidcool 9 days ago 0 replies      
I have seen a lot of departments in my office understaffed. Immigration department, Talent management department, the HR department etc., who job is seen as mostly mechanical and less stressful. In reality, they juggle between a lot of things and are stressed. People keep on calling them and act as if the they are there to serve. I have raised this concern in my organization, but only to deaf ears.
dobbsbob 9 days ago 0 replies      
I worked with a guy who went golfing on one of the hottest days, drank too much and died of heat stroke in his sleep. Healthy guy too who was in perfect shape and ate disciplined nutritional food everyday and ran 5km in the morning while we ate mystery noodle bowls from a chinatown takeout window and rolled out of bed late
jbegley 10 days ago 0 replies      
I rarely read comment threads here. I'm almost as edified by the stories people are sharing as I was with the original post. Thanks to all.
davidw 9 days ago 0 replies      
Well that was a cheery way to start my day. That and the chargeback from a confused customer, and the (really) mirror I broke by accident. Perhaps I should just crawl back into bed and watch movies....
rowdyrabbit 8 days ago 0 replies      
When I was 20 and studying at university I worked during my summer break at a small company. We went on holiday for a couple of weeks over Christmas but just after Christmas Day I got a call from my manager telling me that one of the guys in my team was killed in a car accident and his wife badly injured.

I went to the funeral which was heartbreaking, the place was never really the same again without him. I still think about him every now and then, even though that was more than 10 years ago now.

alandarev 9 days ago 0 replies      
Luckily I cannot tell a similar story of mine.

But I would like to thank everyone and OP for sharing tough and eye opening moments, others usually go silent about.

Even-though people prefer not to talk about deaths, it is an ultimate force to rethink our own lives.

angrybits 10 days ago 0 replies      
A decade later you stumble across code they still had checked out in the ancient VSS repo. And then the rest of your day is a bit crappier.
Mustafabei 9 days ago 0 replies      
DUDE! That's all I have to say.
moron4hire 9 days ago 0 replies      
Moving houses, I found a t-shirt I kept meaning to give back to an intern I had had a few years before. We were close in age when I was at that job and we spent a lot of time together outside of work. I looked him up and found his Facebook page, where the last post was a year old, a memorial post from one of his family members. No information on how he died. It hit me a lot harder than I expected.

Holy crap, it's been a couple of years since I even learned he died and it still breaks me up a little.

andresidhil 9 days ago 1 reply      
Lets hope something like this won't happen again.
rurban 10 days ago 1 reply      
commonly called the bus factor. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bus_factor
       cached 30 December 2013 03:11:01 GMT