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Don't mess with Newegg newegg.com
1370 points by keerthiko  3 days ago   189 comments top 44
mixmax 3 days ago 13 replies      
It seems to me that the legal system in the US is largely broken, and that just about anyone can be sued if only you find the right grounds. Being sued and defending yourself is enormously expensive which is what patent trolls exploit.

Why not use this offensively against patent trolls? Find all sorts of ways to take them to court, the American legal seems to have plenty of opportunities in that regard. There are some problems with standing, but I'm sure that a concerted effort could be effective.

Sue them into the ground with guns blazing. Sue them for everything from not upholding workers rights, to misleading advertising and spelling mistakes. Make them taste their own medicine.

The effort could be crowdsourced.

suprgeek 3 days ago 1 reply      
Awesome Principled Stand by Newegg!This is one of the reasons to support buying from them.

However this only underscores how easy it is to sue over flimsy patents and how expensive and time-consuming it is to go after and shut down these horrible trolls.Add to this the fact that Patent reform was killed in the Senate by Pat Leahy & Harry Reid (Both of whom are notorious supporters of trial lawyers & pharma) and it is a net loss for the tech industry this week

miles 3 days ago 1 reply      
Despite rarely buying from NewEgg (outside of the continental US shipping is a bear), I'm signing up for their Premier membership simply to support them in the fight against patent trolls. Their product photos and customer reviews have also offered a lot of value to me over the years.
dctoedt 3 days ago 0 replies      
The article is out of date -- in a good way -- on one point: It says that to recover attorneys' fees from a troll, the winning defendant must show that the troll acted in bad faith. The U.S. Supreme Court changed that rule last month, easing the burden of proof considerably, and giving trial judges far more latitude on that score. [1]

[1] http://patentlyo.com/patent/2014/04/discretion-attorney-liti..., by patent law professor Dennis Crouch.

TheMagicHorsey 3 days ago 1 reply      
Lee is a hero. Most patent lawyers talk in very measured tones when it comes to patent trolls, because they don't want to foreclose the possibility of feeding at the money faucet themselves.

Lee doesn't give a fuck. He straight up calls them thieves and asshats. Baller status.

slaven 3 days ago 0 replies      
I feel it's really important for us, as consumers, to support companies like Newegg. This strategy is really risky for them (despite all the good PR it brings).

It's easy for patent trolls to just move onto different targets and avoid suing combative companies like Newegg, but if we vote with our dollars maybe more companies will see that they too should take a stand.

tdicola 3 days ago 2 replies      
Wow I love that they're taking a stand, and got quite a laugh out of the image. Definitely makes me want to support Newegg as a customer much more in the future.
thedaveoflife 3 days ago 0 replies      
The lesson from this article: PR can be an effective legal deterrent. Publicize your victories.
Erwin 3 days ago 0 replies      
Cheng did a "AMA" on reddit -- here are all the questions & answers in a convenient tabled form: http://www.reddit.com/r/tabled/comments/2693ur/table_iama_hi...
ArtDev 3 days ago 0 replies      
I am a longtime customer of Newegg. No where will you find product reviews written by such a dedicated base of geeks. Newegg customer service is also really really good. I buy virtually all of my hardware on Newegg, even if its a few dollars more.That said, I am an even more loyal customer after reading this article.
onedev 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is so beautiful, I am going to support the hell of out Newegg extra deliberately from now on (e.g. buying stuff even if it's more expensive, takes longer shipping).

I absolutely love this. Lee Cheng, rock on!

hkmurakami 3 days ago 2 replies      
Personally, I love the fact that this title evokes the "Don't mess with Texas" line, given that it's the East Texas courts that aid patent trolls so greatly.
ajju 3 days ago 0 replies      
Well done Newegg. From now on, Anytime I buy electronics, i am going to check Newegg first.
djb_hackernews 3 days ago 0 replies      
> the defense managed to move the trial out of the Eastern District of Texas, a jurisdiction that is known for favoring plaintiffs in patent suits.

They REALLY need to publish how they did that, because that'll help every other company battling patent trolls.

takinola 3 days ago 0 replies      
It seems to me that there is a good way for the industry as a whole to address the issue of patent trolls without waiting for legal reform by attacking the economics of the business.

Trolls make money by simply1. Amassing patent portfolios (the only real fixed costs for this business)2. Sending infringement letters to victims (sorry, targets)3. Walking to the bank to cash the checks of companies who cannot afford a legal battle.

Once a troll goes to court, the economics of the business start to fall apart as the legal fees add up and eat into profits. Also, they risk invalidating their patents which jeopardize future revenue streams.

It should be possible to create an alliance of companies (Apple, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft are obvious candidates) that have an interest in a strong ecosystem of innovation to put together a fund that makes legal defense grants available to anyone in the mobile/web space who can demonstrate they have a plausible defense case. The amount needed would not be large (less than $20 million a year should be sufficient to cover the entire industry) since just the fact that every kid on the playground now has the ability to face up to the bullies will reduce the bad behavior considerably.

finkin1 3 days ago 1 reply      
As the CEO of a small 5-person startup, getting sued by a patent troll scares the shit out of me. Seeing Newegg take it to these asshats puts a grin on my face. I'll be voting with my dollars by shopping at Newegg.
sgdesign 3 days ago 1 reply      
> Thanks to the efforts of Lee Cheng and his legal team, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a trial court to reconsider its earlier denial of Neweggs request for attorneys fees and costs in the patent infringement lawsuit brought on by SUS.

Wait, so what did the trial court conclude? Are they making the troll pay or not? I feel like I'm missing something?

Also, isn't it worrying that they had to appeal in the first place?

us0r 3 days ago 1 reply      
Acacia Research has been at this for a long time now. I remember when they went after porn. They claimed to own streaming media and thought the adult industry would settle. While some did, one company took them up and won. If I remember he said it cost them $500k to defend.
swang 3 days ago 3 replies      
NewEgg and Nintendo seem to be the only companies willing to actively fight patent trolls. Anyone else?
hollerith 3 days ago 0 replies      
Right now was a good time for me to learn that Newegg takes a principled stand against patent trolls because I've been thinking of starting to buy from Newegg because I keep on hearing bad things about how Amazon treats its employees.
danieltillett 3 days ago 2 replies      
Does anyone know why these cases are so expensive to defend? They can't be that complex given the troll basically has nothing. Could you not just hire a junior lawyer out college for next to nothing and put them in charge of running all the defences?
zinxq 3 days ago 0 replies      
Whenever I can, I buy from Newegg for this reason.
DigitalSea 3 days ago 0 replies      
We need patent reform now.

"their patented technology related to the registration of websites on search engines" this right here is conclusive proof the patent system in the US is broken. Lets fix this now. How many legal/government resources have been wasted because of trolls like SUS? Leave the judges to put real criminals away.

Thank you for making a good example for the rest of us NewEgg. There are too many people that are unable to defend themselves in situations like these, it is great to know there are companies out there willing to fight (even if it takes years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to win).

throwaway7767 3 days ago 0 replies      
I really appreciate the NewEgg strategy in these cases. They're fighting the good fight. And it's a great move to make the most PR splash from their victories to discourage future trolls.

If only they shipped outside the US, I would give them all my business. :)

heyheyhey 3 days ago 2 replies      
> Most companies choose not to recover their legal fees in patent suits because prevailing defendants are required to demonstrate that a plaintiff acted in bad faith. This is extremely difficult to prove and its usually easier to just walk away and count your losses unless your name is Lee Cheng.

Interesting. So if you're a patent troll, there is little to no downside to constantly suing companies aside from the legal fees?

rbanffy 3 days ago 1 reply      
Is there a "Patent Troll Response Command" to coordinate the response of companies being sued and to facilitate the creation of groups to fight such lawsuits together?
joshstrange 3 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder if someone has patented the idea of sue for patents that you never actually use...

Would love to see patent trolls sued for trying to sue for patents they don't use.

galaxyLogic 3 days ago 0 replies      
The big companies probably don't worry too much about the "trolls", and the current legislation reflects that. They have the legal and financial resources to defend themselves. The Trolls make life hazardous for smaller companies who might go bankrupt because of them. For big companies it's probably just good that smaller disrupting innovators get out of business sooner rather than later.
MrBuddyCasino 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is an interview with Paul R. Ryan, former Forbes CEO and now the guy behind Acacia Research, the firm behind the Newegg patent law suit. Was surprised he is not as slimy as I expected: http://vimeo.com/57723958
superuser 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'm a little surprised that patent trolls get such a bad rap on hacker news. I would argue that patent trolls exists to protect the small inventors. Without patent trolls, the big companies can easily infringe the small inventors' patents knowing full well that the little guys can't afford to go up against them in court. The patent trolls merely step in to enforce the rights of the small inventors.

That is not to say that software patents are a good idea or should be allowed, and one could certainly make the case against them, but that's a separate issue.

bsimpson 3 days ago 0 replies      
> "those asshats"


klunger 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm American, but have lived in Scandinavia for a couple years now. When I incorporated my bitty start-up last year, I could choose between incorporating here or in the US.

Despite the higher tax burden, I ultimately decided to incorporate here. Why? There were a lot of reasons, but the two biggest ones were:1) I didn't want to worry about patent trolls2) I didn't want to worry about net neutrality effecting my first users (we are starting local)

the_watcher 3 days ago 2 replies      
I really wish NewEgg had shirts that looked better than the ones they sell.
arjn 3 days ago 0 replies      
Newegg is my hero!
galaxyLogic 3 days ago 0 replies      
In respect to SW patents isn't the recently renewed US legislation more a problem than a solution. As I understood it, it is no longer who wrote a piece of code that exemplified an idea first, but who first filed for the patent for it?
shmerl 3 days ago 0 replies      
That's one of the reasons I avoid Amazon and prefer to buy on Newegg.
lazyant 3 days ago 2 replies      
Great but singing victory too soon, Newegg haven't won any money yet
Shorel 2 days ago 0 replies      
If only they would sell stuff to me (I'm not in the USA).
joshjdr 3 days ago 3 replies      
I agree with the principle presented here... but before we all hail Newegg, I'll explain why I have not conducted business with this company since 2009...

Here is a letter I wrote Amex then, disputing a nasty transaction with this company. https://www.dropbox.com/s/8b8dg9diowqz48y/Amex%20Dispute%20R...

This is real, and I won.

eklavya 3 days ago 0 replies      
We need more of this.
fusionefredda 3 days ago 0 replies      
I hope for the patent trolls the same that happens to SCO
khaki54 3 days ago 0 replies      
apparently at newegg you can say asshat on the corporate blog. I like that
sidcool 3 days ago 0 replies      
Pretty bold move by Newegg.
mantis369 3 days ago 2 replies      
Newegg are cheapskates. The publicity from doing this pays far more than the money they'd save by settling with patent trolls.
Why I was forced to shut down Lavabit theguardian.com
742 points by cottonseed  5 days ago   226 comments top 29
tptacek 5 days ago 22 replies      
This summary is probably misleading. A different perspective on the facts of this case is on display in the 4th Circuit ruling on Levison's contempt charges:


In short: Levison claims that the DOJ demanded access to the content of all his users messages, and implies that after he complied with that order, they escalated to demand his TLS keys.

But that doesn't seem to be what happened. A fuller timeline of Lavabit might (please correct me) look like this:

t-n..t: Levison complies with numerous court orders demanding information about users of Lavabit.

t: Levison is served with a court order demanding the metadata associated with Snowden. It is unclear whether this demand is actuated by a device that DOJ mandates installation of, but what is clear is that there was a debate between Levison and the DOJ about Levison's capabilities w/r/t/ furnishing the DOJ with information about Snowden's account.

t+1: Levison refuses to comply with the DOJ order, while indicating that he has the technical capacity to comply with at least some of it.

t+2: DOJ escalates with a magistrate court order requiring that Lavabit use its technical capabilities to defeat its encryption of Snowden's information --- a capability that Levison acknowledges having, that is obvious from the design of Lavabit, and that has a precedent in other "secure" email providers.

t+2..t+13: Levison spends 11 days stonewalling DOJ, refusing not only to comply with the order but also to meet with the DOJ. Per the 4th Circuit: "As each day passed, the Government lost forever the ability to collect the target-related data for that day.". Levison is playing chicken, and DOJ is now furious.

t+13: DOJ arranges to compel Levison to appear at a district court hearing, while reiterating that it requires only the metadata information surrounding Snowden's account.

t+14..t+17: Levison delays 4 more days.

t+17: Levison, via his attorneys, replies to the DOJ's order with a counterproposal that involves billing DOJ for his time, collecting a limited set of information, and furnishing it to DOJ only at the conclusion of the entire collection period.

t+20: DOJ, furious and contending that they've lost all reasonable faith in Levison's cooperation with their investigation, demands the TLS keys for Lavabit in order that they can control the collection of the data they need from Lavabit.

Again: please correct details here where I'm wrong.

Most readers of this thread will have enormous sympathy for Levison and his efforts to stymie the DOJ's investigation of Snowden through his account on Lavabit.

However, a jaundiced, cynical, or purely pragmatic reader might also find grave flaws in Levison's response to this situation. His position on the matter does not appear to have been content-neutral: he complied with previous orders. More importantly, when an order came in for an account he had a personal interest in, he escalated matters so that DOJ would end up compromising everyone's information, by playing a game of chicken he was sure to lose.

liquidise 5 days ago 1 reply      
This article, which simply confirms what many speculated took place with Lavabit, makes my blood boil. I don't know what is worse: this specific technology instance, or the idea that similar instances have existed for some time.

Either way i find then entire paradigm infuriating and undermining to our supposed liberties.

pdknsk 5 days ago 3 replies      
> My company, Lavabit, provided email services to 410,000 people including Edward Snowden, according to news reports [...].

Does he write "according to news reports" for legal reasons? Obviously he should know, I think.

> The government argued that, since the "inspection" of the data was to be carried out by a machine, they were exempt from the normal search-and-seizure protections of the Fourth Amendment.

That's insane.

primitivesuave 5 days ago 2 replies      
I applaud Ladar for making the right choice on this one. On one hand, there's a lot of skepticism about an email service whose security breaks as soon as the private keys are stolen. On the other hand, assuming Ladar is a smart individual who knows how to securely store the keys (he is), he couldn't possibly have foreseen that the government would embroil him in a cat-and-mouse game.
auston 5 days ago 4 replies      
So what can we do about this as Americans?
tom_jones 5 days ago 0 replies      
It reads like a an unbelievable chapter from Orwell's 1984, and it occurred in the United States of America, the oft stated bastion of democracy.

At every possible opportunity resistance was stymied, with the presumption that the will to resist would eventually collapse.

They lost because they never once contemplated the possibility of you being willing to shut down your business because of your principles, something they couldn't fathom or conceive of, since such a concept is anathema to their wholly illegal and unconstitutional activities.

rrggrr 5 days ago 1 reply      
I just donated $25 to the EFF. I hope everyone else will do the same or more.
pekk 5 days ago 2 replies      
This again? Lavabit was forced to shut because of the way it was implemented, and its proprietor has been cashing in on that design flaw ever since. There is no reason why complying with one search warrant should EVER require disclosure of the SSL cert for the whole domain, or any other disclosure sufficient to read data from customers other than the one covered by the warrant. But this is just what everyone claimed when Lavabit was closing.

If you build a business on selling security to people and you make such a mistake in the design of your software, you failed to deliver what you promised to your customers and you deserve to fail.

And not get bailed out because you thumped your chest about having to service search warrants when you chose to set up in US jurisdiction. If you don't want to be obligated to comply with lawful US requests like search warrants then don't set up in the US.

biotech 5 days ago 4 replies      
Is there an open-source, decentralized service that can be used for encrypted email? Something like that could be much more difficult to compromise.
listic 5 days ago 1 reply      
So, the encrypted email is illegal in the USA. Is accessing the Internet over VPN legal?

Pardon my ignorance, I am new to the issues of encryption and privacy. Always assumed I can worry about it later, but the time has come at last. About time, when my native country is enforcing the laws that permit internet censorship an increasingly wide scale. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Internet_blacklist

eyeareque 5 days ago 1 reply      
This sounds like something you'd hear about in a communist country. We are in a lot of troue if we don't do so drying about what our government is trying to do. Eric Snowden and Lavabit are two examples of people who will be seen as heroes in the future.
retrogradeorbit 5 days ago 0 replies      
roma1n 5 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if the Lavabit author would be amenable to e.g. a kickstarted with the goals of

- open-sourcing lavabit- making it ready for instant deployment e.g. using Docker

A kind of "just add a VPS" platform...

snambi 4 days ago 0 replies      
Overall this is not good. Sure, the govt can do what they want. But what useful information they got from these emails? Did it make the country safer? Did it make the world a better place?

Using the law is one thing. Using the law for the intended purpose is a different thing.

Not sure whether the law is really used for the right purpose.

ommunist 5 days ago 0 replies      
Following guelo. I agree - Levinson is a hero. I am almost sure he is the last American hero. Once the US citizens loose their right to privacy, they will not be able to produce such heroes anymore as a nation, and will transform to something like complacent Russians (who lost their rights to privacy much, much earlier).
S_A_P 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is truly maddening stuff. I applaud the guardian for running this...
agarwaltejas 5 days ago 1 reply      
One doubt which I have is what if the servers are moved outside the United States to any other country? Would the agents still have rights to get access to it?
jokoon 5 days ago 1 reply      
what would have happened if he just decided to delete snowden's mails and account to save his company ?
erjjones 5 days ago 0 replies      
Open Source your code and the community will help you see it a reality
h1karu 5 days ago 0 replies      
Why would any privacy related service provider operate within the United States of America ? It's one of the worst jurisdictions for that kind of thing.

To me that makes no sense whatsoever, so this start-up was doomed from the very onset.

gdonelli 5 days ago 0 replies      
hellbreakslose 5 days ago 0 replies      
May the force be with us!
redthrowaway 5 days ago 2 replies      
The original article, which was likely buried due to having 'Snowden' in the title:


room271 5 days ago 3 replies      
I submitted this link 6 hours before the OP but it didn't gain much traction. I though Hacker News had a way to prevent double submissions?


superduper33 5 days ago 1 reply      
Careface. If you don't like the laws here, GTFO of the country.
AaronBBrown 5 days ago 0 replies      
I was half expecting this to be about Apache Kafka.
arcolife 5 days ago 0 replies      
For all those looking for an encrypted email service, take a look at https://protonmail.ch/
3327 5 days ago 1 reply      
This is fucked up. This type of court due process is not America. That being said Snowden is a Russian pawn and traitor but thats another matter.

Regardless of what might be the case even if its sealed there needs to be a process that allows fairness. "search" needs to be well defined its pretty general when it comes to software and tech and can be interpreted any way you want.

Perhaps time for some digital legislation?

Level3 is without peer, now what to do? cringely.com
727 points by mortimerwax  5 days ago   381 comments top 35
ChuckMcM 5 days ago 16 replies      
There is an interesting unbalance because Comcast has so much leverage by owning the last mile, they can push around Tier 1 providers. I'd like to fix that, mostly by creating a public policy around municipally owned Layer 1 infrastructure between customers in their cities and a city exchange building. Conceptually it would be no different than the city owning the sewers and outsourcing the water treatment plant to a contractor (or two). Creating a new "ISP" would involve installing equipment in the City Exchange(s), providing compatible customer premises equipment to subscribers, and then patching their 'port' at the City Exchange to the ISP's gear.

Its going to be a long conversation :-)

mokus 5 days ago 0 replies      
> Nobody paid anybody for the service because it was assumed to be symmetrical: as many bits were going in one direction as in the other so any transaction fees would be a wash.

The justification for peering is not equal traffic, it's equal value - my customer wants to communicate with your customer. Regardless of the direction of traffic, the traffic is equally valuable to both of us because the traffic is the primary thing our customers are paying us for.

Unless, of course, I can get you to pay me for it anyway because of some unrelated advantage such as the fact that your customers can leave you more easily than mine can leave me. Comcast and others are attempting to leverage exactly that - in many regions they have no viable competition whereas Netflix and L3 are much more replaceable in their respective markets. This is a prime example of abuse of a monopoly.

mhandley 5 days ago 9 replies      
Would be very interesting to see what happened if the big CDN providers just depeered Comcast for 24 hours. Would certainly cost Comcast a fair amount in customer support calls, bad publicity, and properly bring the debate to the general public.
JoshTriplett 5 days ago 7 replies      
Somebody has to pay the money to upgrade the equipment and bandwidth available at these exchange points. The very reasonable argument in this article is that the ISPs should pay that cost, which seems reasonable given that their customers are demanding it. It sounds like the ISPs are playing a game of chicken, trying to see if their peers like Level3 will throw money in to pay for the ISP to upgrade its equipment and bandwidth. That's certainly something the ISPs can try to do; on the other hand, what are their customers going to do, not use Netflix and YouTube? If a pile of customers of one ISP start reporting that they're all having a poor experience with high-bandwidth video, and there are a pile of well-publicized press releases blaming the ISP, customers will start complaining to the ISP, and they'll have to upgrade their infrastructure eventually. (And in areas where they have competition, there's an incentive to upgrade before the competitors, to avoid losing customers; while there isn't such competition in every locale, there are enough locales with more than one ISP choice to make those customers painful to lose.)

But what does any of that have to do with mandated peering requirements at the NSFnet exchanges? Who would enforce that, and why, when any two major networks can set up peering at any number of meet-me rooms? Requiring that an ISP peer as much traffic as is available or not peer any at all seems ridiculous; some ISPs will suck more than others, but that's the problem of them and their customers, not a problem for the entire Internet.

Meanwhile, I'm surprised there aren't more startups and VCs looking to bet that "new ISP that doesn't suck" is a viable business model. People are chomping at the bit for Google Fiber, which seems unlikely to grow to a national level without developing competitors. This is a space with very few competitors, and there hasn't been serious competition in that space since DSL stopped being a viable option.

pessimizer 5 days ago 2 replies      
This cable-menu style image from the comments is scary: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1567010/original.jpg
jrochkind1 5 days ago 1 reply      
You would think, okay, if Comcast is terrible at maintaining sufficient peering for it's customers needs -- and if the OP proposal to throw Comcast out of peering exchange points happened, that would certainly lead to increased terribleness for it's customers -- then eventually it's customers would choose a different ISP. The market would solve it.

The problem is that in many many markets, Comcast (or another ISP) are pretty much the only choice. Customers don't have another option, no matter how much Comcast underfunds it's peering infrastructure or gets thrown out of peering exchange points.

So what is the consequence to Comcat for underfunding? What is the consequence to Comcast for even such a disastrous outcome as getting kicked out of the peering exchange point? Not a lot.

I'm not sure what the solution is, but 'regulate them as a common carrier' is certainly part of it, since they are a monopoly, and the common carrier regulatory regime was invented for exactly such a monopoly.

cobookman 5 days ago 4 replies      
I've previously interned at one of the mentioned Cable Companies, and I see both sides.

The solution is to make it 'capitalistic'. Change all of our internet contracts from Unlimited (up to 'x' GB/month), to a simple $/gb cost.

It would be in the ISPs best interest to provide their customers the fastest internet connection as possible. E.g, if a customer can stream a 4k video vs SD then the ISP would make more money per unit time.

Think of it this way, if comcast charges $0.25/GB, and a netflix SD show is say 1GB and HD is 4GB, then comcast grosses $1 for HD and $.25 for SD for the same customer streaming request.

Over time its likely the price per GB would decrease, just like it has for cellular.

On a more evil side, this would also stop chord cutters. Pirating content is no longer 'free', and Netflix would cost significantly more than $10/month ($10/month + 'x'GB * $/GB).

As for what rates to expect, if comcast charges in ATL $30-55 for 300GB, that'd be about $.10/GB to $.20/GB. As for speed tiers in a $/gb system, your guess is as good as mine.

signet 5 days ago 2 replies      
If a customer is paying for an internet connection, they are paying for access the full internet, to the best of their ISP's abilities. This is the net neutrality law we need: ISPs should be compelled to upgrade their backbone links as they become congested, to satisfy their customer's demand. Congestion can be easily monitored and often these peerings are "free". (Yes there is a non-zero cost to increase switch and router capacity and to have someone plug the cables in, but it's not like Level3 is charging for the bits exchanged.) But the point is, since most ISPs are de-facto monopolies in this country, we need rules telling them they have to upgrade their capacity to meet their customers demand, if they are promising broadband speeds.
brokenparser 5 days ago 2 replies      
This wouldn't happen if those ISPs didn't have local monopolies. Networks should be opened by selling traffic wholesale to other companies so that they can compete for subscribers on those networks. The network owners would have more than enough money for upgrades and if they don't, downlevel ISPs will sue them.
fragsworth 5 days ago 0 replies      
The proposed solution is at the bottom of the article (which is why everyone seems to have ignored it):

> The solution to this problem is simple: peering at the original NSFnet exchange points should be forever free and if one participant starts to consistently clip data and doesnt do anything about it, they should be thrown out of the exchange point.

I do have a couple questions though - who is in charge of the original NSFnet exchange points, and do they have this authority?

jamesbrownuhh 5 days ago 0 replies      
The UK experience is, broadly speaking, that any ISP who is sufficiently tall to have the appropriate interconnects can offer a service to a customer via the incumbent's last-mile infrastructure. (This is for telephone-based ADSL broadband - the UK's only cable operator is not bound by this.) But, furthermore, competitor ISPs are enabled to install their own equipment and backhaul directly into local exchanges, known as LLU - local loop unbundling. LLU allows competitor companies to provide just your broadband, or your voice telephone service, or both.

There is one further step, whereby the prices of the incumbent monopoly are regulated in areas where no competition exists. Ironically this works in the opposite way to how you'd think, as it forces the incumbent NOT to offer their lowest prices in that market - the intention being to make monopoly areas prime targets for competition and to ensure that potential competitors aren't scared out of the area by predatory pricing.

It's an odd system with good and bad on both sides, but it seems a lot better than being stuck with a single source of Internet access.

timr 5 days ago 3 replies      
People keep claiming that there should be a "free market" for bandwidth...but then they say that the ISPs should have to absorb the costs of peering (which can be significant -- the hardware isn't free) without passing the costs on to anyone. The backbone providers complain when the cost is passed to them; the consumers scream bloody murder when the costs are passed to them in the form of a bill.

Obviously, there's no free market in the status quo: we (consumers) basically expect to pay a low, ever-declining price for bandwidth, while someone else eats the costs of a growing network infrastructure. There's an economic disconnect, and legislating that it shouldn't exist seems worse than futile.

I say: pass the costs on to the consumer, and break down the monopolies on last-mile cable service. If the cable companies had to compete for subscribers, they could still pass on the costs of improving their infrastructure, but they'd have to compete with everyone else to do it.

In other words, the problem here isn't "net neutrality" -- it's that we've got a monopoly at the last mile that we need to destroy.

guelo 5 days ago 1 reply      
If the peering ports are congested that means that either the ISP needs to add more ports, or they are oversubscribing their capacity. Just make it illegal to sell more capacity than you have and the problem is solved.
ry0ohki 5 days ago 1 reply      
"and make their profit on the Internet because it costs so little to provide once the basic cable plant is built."

That's some big hand waving, because laying the cable costs a fortune, and takes many years to recoup the cost which is why there is so few are competing for this "super profitable" business.

rrggrr 5 days ago 0 replies      
Godaddy, Rackspace, Google, Amazon, etc. have skin in this game. With multiple redundant network connections they could, for a day or a week, defend neutrality by shaping their traffic to the lowest common denominator or routing their traffic to avoid the peer's punitive bottlenecks. Today its Level 3 and Netflix, but tomorrow it could easily be them.
xhrpost 5 days ago 2 replies      
I like the article overall but I don't understand the author's proposed solution. The issue as it stands is apparently a lack of peering, in that big ISPs are using transit to reach large content providers rather than directly peering to those networks. So how would "kicking them out" for a maxed out connection work? If I buy transit from Level3 and my connection maxes out, I'm no longer allowed to be a customer of Level3?
guardiangod 5 days ago 0 replies      
I don't know why everyone is up in arm over this. Here is reverse thinking and a perfect oppoturnity for everyone.

The current situation is that Comcast doesn't have the equipment/resources to handle extra internet traffic at its peers. Most people want Comcast to buy more stuff to handle it, why don't we think the opposite way- get Comcast to decrease its amount of traffic?

If we can get Comcast to consume less traffic, they wouldn't have to complain to other peers about load asymmetry.

The best way to decrease traffic? Make Comcast has less customers.

Why does Comcast has so many customers, even though their resources cannot handle it? Because they have a government mandated monopoly in the last mile, so they are forced to have more customers than what they can handle.

We can come to a conclusion that last-mile monopoly -> network congestion -> forcing L3 to pay for peer.

If Comcast has to compete with other ISPs for last miles, the traffic load would shift from 1 single entity (Comcast) to 10+ smaller ISPs. In such case the traffic load problem would not exist.

Another solution is to breakup Comcast.

See? This is a perfect opportunity. Comcast can has its multi-tier network, but at the price of the last mile monoploy. After all, if they want to have the right to choose peers, we customers should also have the right to choose ISPs.

sbierwagen 5 days ago 1 reply      
Regulate ISPs as utilities.
mncolinlee 5 days ago 0 replies      
I can't help but wonder if the RICO Act applies to this sort of extortion. My first thought was FCPA, but none of the ISPs involved can likely be construed as "foreign officials." The behavior can be described as demanding kickbacks, however.
api 5 days ago 5 replies      
While I agree with the general thrust of the article, there is one fallacious argument here.

Cringely argues that cable breaks even and money is made on the net, but that's an artificial distinction. What if cable disappeared? Would they still make money if they had to pay for the upkeep of the network with only Internet fees? The desperation and risk of this game of chicken convinces me that the answer might be "not much." The loss of cable might very well be apocalyptic for these companies, at least from a shareholder value and quarterly growth point of view.

What's happening is very clear to me: the ISPs are trying to either harm the Internet to defend cable or collect tolls on streaming to attempt to replace cable revenue. That's because cable is dying a slow death. This is all about saving cable.

The fundamental problem is that cable ISPs have an economic conflict of interest. They are horse equipment vendors that got into the gas station business, but now the car is driving out the horse and their bread and butter is at stake.

tom_jones 5 days ago 0 replies      
Along these lines, can someone ask whether net neutrality ever existed at all? Akamai and F5 have been helping big corporations like Disney circumvent internet bottlenecks for over a decade now. Those who have had the money have managed to purchase faster delivery schemes for over a decade.Could it be, then, that telecommunications companies are consolidating so that they can extort money not from the small guys, but from the big guys? Are Hulu, Netflix and others willingly submitting to the extortion because they see no other way out?To be sure, the telecommunications industry is in desperate need of regulation because providing good service at a reasonable price for a reasonable profit is not good enough for them.
jvdh 5 days ago 0 replies      
Just for scale, backbone links these days are not 10 gigabits/sec, more in the order of 40-100 gigabits/sec.

The Amsterdam Internet Exchange is the largest and most important exchange in Europe, and it's peak traffic each day reaches 3 terabits/sec.

eb0la 5 days ago 0 replies      
The problem is not to peer or not to peer. The problem is WHERE to peer.

I work for a european ISP and the problem we have is the location of the peering. Big content providers will happilly peer with you in, say, Palo Alto or Miami; but they will refuse to add a peering connection in Europe. Why? because today the problem is about WHO pays the Intercontinental route (which limited and is expensive bandwidth).

Level3 is known in the industry as a pioneer for bit-mile-peering agreements. This means you have to sample the origin and destination of the IP packets and make some calculations to know how many miles the packet has traveled and pay / get paid if someone dumps long haul traffic to a peer. Getting to this is complicated with current tecnhology and many companies are refusing to peer with Level3 because they don't know what will happen with their business with bit-mile-peering agreements.

neil_s 5 days ago 1 reply      
Since everyone is pitching their own solutions, how about I post mine. Let's take the example of Netflix and Comcast. Instead of no deal with Comcast, and thus giving Comcast Netflix users really slow or no service, Netflix should make the deal for now, and tell subscribers that if you use Comcast the Netflix rental is higher. By passing off the higher costs to the users, Comcast customers are given the incentive to switch ISPs.

Everyone shows loss aversion, and so will be determined to find out why being on Comcast gets them penalised. They will learn about its dick moves, and complain to Comcast to make them remove these fees so they can access Netflix, which they have already paid for access to.

Rezo 5 days ago 0 replies      
The extreme download vs upload traffic asymmetry between Comcast and L3/Netflix has been mentioned several times as a straw man argument for why Comcast is justified in charging Netflix directly.

Maybe Netflix could find some creative uses for all that idle viewer upload capacity to reduce the deficit ;)

- Have every Netflix client cache and serve chunks of the most popular streams P2P-style. You could have a DHT algorithm for discovering chunks or have Netflix's own servers orchestrate peer discovery in a clever way, for example by only connecting Comcast customers to peers physically outside of Comcast's own network. This would reduce Netflix's downstream traffic and increase viewer uploads.

- Introduce the Netflix-Feline-Image-KeepAlive-Protocol, whereby every Netflix client on detecting a Comcast network uploads a 5MB PNG of a cat to Netflix's servers over and over again while you're watching a video. Strictly for connection quality control purposes of course.

Havoc 5 days ago 0 replies      
> Its about money and American business, because this is a peculiarly American problem.

Hardly. We've experienced the whole interconnect brinkmanship locally too (South Africa). Its actually quite the opposite - the interconnect things are a lot nastier in other countries because it tends to be paid for (powerful co vs underdog) whilst the bigger US setups seem to run mostly open peering.

rossjudson 5 days ago 0 replies      
Level3 should drop the same percentage of outbound packets from Comcast, that Comcast drops on the inbound. If every tier 1 did, Comcast's internet service wouldn't look all that good any more, would it?
keehun 5 days ago 2 replies      
Maybe I'm nave beyond any recognition, but shouldn't the ISP's or whoever is peering charge based on the bandwidth amounts? It sounds like they have a flat-rate contract with each other and now they're charging more?
Eye_of_Mordor 5 days ago 0 replies      
Lack of competition all around - just break up the big boys and everything will be fine...
swillis16 5 days ago 0 replies      
It will be interesting to see how gaming download services such as Xbox Live, PSN, Steam, etc would be affected as there as the file size of video games gets larger due to advances in the video game industry.
GregFoley 4 days ago 0 replies      
The problem would disappear if ISPs used metered pricing. Why do we have unlimited commercial broadband?
snambi 5 days ago 1 reply      
why there are no last mile providers like comcast and ATT?
droopybuns 5 days ago 4 replies      
So on the one side is the fat-cat ISP who doesn't want to make expensive capital investments ih their transport.

And on the other side is the fat-cat vc funded video content providers, who don't want to pay for the their mp4-based saturation of all the pipes.

This is a negotiation. There are two active media campaigns that are trying to gin up our anger against The Other Guy (tm) as part of their negotiations. I just can't get invested in this nonsense.

lifeisstillgood 5 days ago 2 replies      
1. Peering is based on equal traffic both ways.At the moment we tend to download gigabytes with a few bytes of request. As video-communications really takes off (yes chicken and egg - see below) this will get lost in the noise

2. rise of ad-hoc local networksThis might come out of mobiles, this might be me dreaming, and it might come with sensible home router designs, but ultimately most of the traffic I care about probably originates within 2 miles of my house - my kids school, traffic news, friends etc

A local network based on video comms - that will never happen. just like mobile phones.

3. electricity and investmentIn the end this is down to government investment. Let's not kid ourselves, gas, water, electricity, railroads, once they passed some threshold of nice to have into competitive disadvantage not to have, governments step in with either the cash or the big sticks.

Fibre to the home, massive investment in software engineering as a form of literacy, these are the keys to the infrastructure of the 21C and it's a must have for the big economies, and it's a force multiplier for the small.

spindritf 5 days ago 11 replies      
Except its actually right (not wrong) because those bits are only coming because customers of the ISPs you and me, the folks who have already paid for every one of those bits are the ones who want them.

What is the source of the notion that, because you paid for your consumer broadband, all bits are paid for and the charge for carrying them cannot be split with the other side of the connection? Why is it so bizarre that both sides of the connection have to pay for it? Because you're used to your phone working differently?

As an analogy, you know how you used to pay for a subscription to a magazine and there were ads inside which advertisers (the other side of the connection via the magazine in this case) also paid for? The magazine split its fee in two: you paid part of it, and the advertisers paid the other part. It's the same here.

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with charging both sides. You may prefer a different fee structure but a better argument than "I already paid for it!" is necessary.

Using the wrong dictionary jsomers.net
587 points by jsomers  6 days ago   135 comments top 43
grellas 5 days ago 2 replies      
This piece - beautifully written - reminds me of an old PBS documentary I once saw about how a savory-looking new food offering got flattened and homogenized into something really unappealing as it went through the fast-food commercialization process. So too with words as they populate modern dictionaries with trite and sterile definitions in tow.

A word does not stand still. It can mean one thing in one era and something related but different in another. It can mean one thing in one place and another in a different place where people came to use it differently. It can have a literal meaning, constituting some tangible thing. That meaning can then be applied by analogy or metaphorical usage to some intangible attribute. As it is ported from one time or place to another, it can continue vibrant in its home tongue or it can die and be absorbed by another tongue. Or it can continue in its original tongue, die in its original meaning, and continue vibrant in other meanings. Caesar's ferre or latus (same word, different forms) could mean "to bear" (as in bear a load) or "to bring" in his day and can today have spawned such words as rich and varied as "superlative" (connoting borne or carried above) and "circumference" (connoting "brought around") (see my write-up on this here: http://www.grellas.com/article_word_origins_fero.html). Wycliffe's "knave", or "young boy" as it meant to him in the 14th century, is today a far more sinister character than originally meant. Sinister itself derives from the Latin, meaning left-handed. And so on and so on, almost literally ad infinitum.

So how does the compiler of a language go about capturing what it all means when putting together a dictionary? First, by deciding to be either prescriptive (stating how words ought to be used) or descriptive (stating simply how words are used). Second, by deciding how much to bring in of the historic origin or etymology of a word. Third, by deciding how much to illustrate its usage with examples from existing literature. And, of course, by deciding how to formulate the meaning or the various meanings of the word as used in then-current usage or at times in historic usage (anachronistic words).

As pointed out in this piece, modern dictionaries tend to do this task superficially, by committee. They are serviceable. They are helpful. The are easily accessible. Thus, they have utility. But they rarely go beneath the surface of a word's meaning and, in so limiting themselves, even leave the false impression that words mean only what the flattened, homogenized, "fast-food" version says they mean - that is, something not very interesting. As the author of this piece points out, when a dictionary is so done by committee, it misses much of what is valuable in words.

But there is a reason too for the fast-food character of the modern dictionary and that is that people have limited ability or patience to want to dive into the deeper or subtler meanings of words. That takes hard work and, while a joy to the one coming at it from a specialty angle, is off-putting to many modern readers or even writers. People want something fast and to the point, without too much nuance.

For those who value the joy of words, and who seek to write with some measure of nuance and precision, there is (for English) the old Webster's (as noted by the author), there is Samuel Johnson, and of course there is the OED (a stupendous achievement with huge emphasis on word origins, illustrative usage, and subtle shades of meaning). There are also major (and very thick) Latin and Greek dictionaries that go deeper into many of the words from which the English words were derived. So too are there medieval dictionaries capturing the English of Chaucer and Wycliffe, as well as dictionaries of Old English, which bring out the Germanic origins of many of the words that predated a good number of those we use today. But of course this brings us back to the point that massive complexity this way lies. Word meanings can have a priceless fascination just because their study can take you into many times and many eras and many languages. For those inclined to dive deeply, and to work hard in seeking to excel in expressing themselves, the resources are there for the taking. Just don't expect an easy path.

The author of this piece does a splendid job of suggesting the joy of words as one uses a solid dictionary to help bring them to life. This is an excellent read and one to be highly recommended. The rest (the hard work) is up to you.

AaronFriel 5 days ago 1 reply      
One of my favorite works of literature is the preamble to A Dictionary of the English Language, by one of the first lexicographers, Samuel Johnson. Perhaps I'm so fond of it because I can beat his prose over the head of prescriptivists and Francophones in an argument, but whatever the reason, I find it beautiful and captivating.

Here's a passage (joined from two paragraphs) describing the futility of prescribing language or fixing it with a work as diminutive as his dictionary:

    When we see men grow old and die at a certain time one after another, from    century to century, we laugh at the elixir that promises to prolong life to a    thousand years; and with equal justice may the lexicographer be derided, who    being able to produce no example of a nation that has preserved their words    and phrases from mutability, shall imagine that his dictionary can embalm his    language, and secure it from corruption and decay, that it is in his power to    change sublunary nature, or clear the world at once from folly, vanity, and    affectation.        With this hope, however, academies have been instituted, to guard the avenues    of their languages, to retain fugitives, and repulse intruders; but their    vigilance and activity have hitherto been vain; sounds are too volatile and    subtile for legal restraints; to enchain syllables, and to lash the wind, are    equally the undertakings of pride, unwilling to measure its desires by its    strength.
I suppose early lexicographers had to become a master of language themselves - or persuade themselves it was so. If they didn't, how could they presuppose to describe the entirety of their language in such a tome?

The full text of the preface can be found here: http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Texts/preface.html

mrspeaker 5 days ago 2 replies      
Wow - that was a fantastic(al) and fun read - and then ends up with a cool bit of hacking to actually fetch and add a dictionary from 1913 as the default on your 'puter. The perfect HN post, I say!
loevborg 5 days ago 1 reply      
My secret weapon for writing English prose is the "Kenkyusha Dictionary of English Collocations".

A collocation dictionary gives you words that commonly go together with another word. In particular, you find the right verb to go with a given noun, or descriptive adjectives to further chacterize that noun. It's helpful for brainstorming. It also helps a lot (but not only!) if English is not your first language. In my view, a collocations dictionary is more useful than a thesaurus.

The Kenkyusha dictionary includes Japanese translations (unreadable to me), but the collocations are given in English. It's very comprehensive, more so than any other list of collocations I've seen.

It's hard to find as a book, but a digital edition can be found on a well-known Swedish sharing platform.

madaxe_again 5 days ago 6 replies      
And you'd still be using the wrong one if you use Webster's. The correct (inasmuch as anything can be correct in this world - correct for me!) choice is the compact edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, which is quite possibly the most glorious duology of volumes of infinitesimally minuscule type ever published, from Aa to Zyxst. Many happy childhood evenings of eyestrain and ebullient exclamations of sesquipedalian rhapsody.

It even comes with a magnifying glass.

kemayo 5 days ago 2 replies      
I know I'm going to come across as un-romantic or anti-intellectual, but I don't like the "literary" writing style this seeks to emulate. The quotes provided in the article from McPhee all seem over-written to me -- topically, I suppose I would call them fustian.

I like prose which adheres to the "as simple as possible, but no simpler" rule. I'm well aware this is a matter of taste.

apetresc 5 days ago 3 replies      
While I appreciate the author's love of language, and I also enjoy his examples, he's being a bit disingenuous when he acts mystified and offended about why dictionaries these days aren't written like those a hundred years ago.

It's obvious. Dictionaries these days are used to help literate people learning a new language (of which there are many more than 150 years ago) rather than aspiring playwrights. Comparing a "flash" with "eyes suffused with tears, or flowers wet with dew" is fanciful, not what an immigrant trying to decode an instruction manual needs.

languagehacker 5 days ago 0 replies      
The reason for the difference between Webster and Oxford is pretty simple if you do a little studying on the history of language documentation between the 18th and 20th Centuries.

Probably the most important, seminal dictionary was from Samuel Johnson. The two-volume Dictionary of the English Language was published in 1755. It was an incomplete catalogue, full of opinion and jokes (see the definition of "oats" at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Dictionary_of_the_English_Lan...). But it was a big deal at the time, and very much in the same vein of Diderot's Encyclopedia -- a great philosophical idea born of the Enlightenment, but certainly incomplete and not necessarily easy to distribute.

When Webster started in 1806, Samuel Johnson was the best precedent he had to work off of. So it served as a major influence for his format and approach. Webster's goal, of course, was to provide an adequate account of American English to provide additional national identity to a growing nation.

The Oxford English Dictionary, on the other hand, had an entirely separate goal. They wanted an objective academic reference to fully catalogue the functional meaning, language of origin, and first documented use of each word.

So what happened between 1805 and 1878, when James Murray met with the Oxford University Press to set the groundwork for what would become the OED? Well, over the 19th Century, comparative philology became a big deal academically. This coincided significantly with the increase of nationalist movements in Europe. As vulgar Bibles had established the linguistic boundaries of major mercantile polities between the 14th and 17th Centuries, a combination of historic and scientific research into those languages helped to formulate an intellectual sense of nationality for different states during this time. In other words, the political situation in Europe created a market for a more objective, historical tool for cataloguing language, and not a companion for generating flowery prose. And you can see that as this happened about 70 years after Webster started, the emphasis on science over editorial had amplified over time, as scientific academies and universities increased their influence in their respective nation states.

So to say that something like the OED, which has an amazing history (really, look up The Professor and the Madman), is devoid of soul just because it adequately fulfills its historical, scientific, and political purposes is nothing short of melodramatic. I actually think it's a good thing dictionaries don't editorialize too much.

Each speaker already injects bias into each definition they write simply based on their local dialect and how they individually evaluate word meaning. Why make this bias worse by letting them crack wise when you're just trying to look up a simple word?

literalusername 5 days ago 1 reply      
The dict protocol, and dict.org in particular, provides easy access to Webster's 1913 as well as other dictionaries.

I normally use Webster's 1913 from the command line, since I usually have a terminal in front of me. I keep this in my .zshrc:

    function dict () {        if [[ $1 == (d|m) ]]; then                curl dict://dict.org/$1:$2 | $PAGER        else            echo 'Unknown command. Use (d)efine or (m)atch.'        fi    }
That allows me to issue queries such as `dict d example` to define "example", or `dict m exampel` to figure out how "example" ought to be spelled.

arooaroo 5 days ago 1 reply      
[Self-declared interest: I'm an ex-employee of Pearson Education, the publisher of Longman Dictionaries, and I used to work on the dictionaries team.]

The author may appreciate English learners' dictionaries as a possible source of greater lexicographic stimulation, such as Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English or Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary. These are aimed at learners of English at an advanced level and therefore can be quite insightful for natives too.

On the negative side most dictionaries in this space compete for having definitions expressed as simply as possible. But on the positive they outline significant language nuance, enumerating a word's usage in to multiple fine-grained senses. An entry such as 'go' will have 30-40 different senses of the raw word itself, and then as many again in various phrasal verbs and idiomatic usage.

Synonyms and antonyms are a common and significant feature in learners' dictionaries too.

Sure, the examples aren't from Shakespeare either but they are usually modern language, derived from vast language corpora of real world language use.

Edit: I am of course in British English mode; whilst the dictionaries I referred to do accommodate American variants of usage and spelling they are primarily British English titles. There are exclusively American titles such as Longman Advanced American Dictionary and Oxford Advanced American Dictionary which would suit American readers too.

Despite sounding like a salesman I have no interest in either company or publication - just the language!

ecmendenhall 5 days ago 1 reply      
You're probably using the right thesaurus. The default on Apple devices is the Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus, which is great at conveying little shades of meaning. I'm always delighted to find a "Word Notes" entry by an author I like. Try "bourgeois" for Zadie Smith or "feckless" for David Foster Wallace.

(Here's a list of all the word notes by author: http://lasersoptional.com/2012/08/21/it-was-wonderful-marvel...)

dang 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is beautiful! Anyone who has such feeling for English at its most alive is someone I want to read more of. It's an exemplary piece of intellectual detective work, too, with a satisfying reward.

I think the article should be called "Using the Right Dictionary". It is far too good to commingle with the shite genre that is internet bait titles.

tobinfricke 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is a beautiful essay, thank you.

What is the literal meaning of "a diversion of the field"? Is "diversion" used in the sense of "that which diverts, and makes mirth; pastime; amusement", and "of the field" in the sense of "pertaining to a large grassy open area where one might kick a ball around"? If so, it seems a bit of a stretch to apply the phrase to an activity that takes place on water. (Though Webster does also give a broader meaning for field: "An unresticted or favorable opportunity for action, operation, or achievement; province; room.")

stcredzero 5 days ago 3 replies      
This is the place where all the words live and the writings no good.

The New Oxford American dictionary, by the way, is not like singularly bad. Googles dictionary, the modern Merriam-Webster, the dictionary at dictionary.com: theyre all like this. Theyre all a chore to read. Theres no play, no delight in the language. The definitions are these desiccated little husks of technocratic meaningese, as if a word were no more than its coordinates in semantic space.

This is the article that's complaining about where all the words live and the editing and writing's no good. (Perhaps this is intentional or tongue in cheek?)

EDIT: the clamour of pedantry Could be the motto for the 21st century tech industry.

mcguire 5 days ago 0 replies      
Dictionaries are all kinds of good, clean fun. From http://machaut.uchicago.edu/?resource=Webster%27s&word=potat..., potato:

In 1913, "Potato (?), n.; pl. Potatoes (#). [Sp. patata potato, batata sweet potato, from the native American name (probably batata) in Hayti.] (Bot.) (a) A plant (Solanum tuberosum) of the Nightshade family, and its esculent farinaceous tuber, of which there are numerous varieties used for food...."

In 1828, "POTATO, n. A plant and esculent root of the genus Solanum, a native of America. The root of this plant, which is usually called potatoe, constitutes one of the cheapest and most nourishing species of vegetable food; it is the principal food of the poor in some countries, and has often contributed to prevent famine. It was introduced into the British dominions by Sir Walter Raleigh or other adventurers in the 16th century; but is came slowly into use, and at this day is not much cultivated and used in some countries of Europe. In the British dominions and in the United States, it has proved one of the greatest blessings bestowed on man by the Creator."

...which may go a certain distance towards explaining why the modern default dictionaries are not Webster's.

This message brought to you by the word "esculent", because it's lunch time.

timdierks 6 days ago 4 replies      
This article began with John McPhee, who begins many great things. Somers' article is the most practical single bit of writing advice I've seen in a long time (it even includes software you can install).

If you're not familiar with McPhee, you're missing out. He's one of the greatest English-language essayists of the 20th century. My favorite is "Coming into the Country" (on Alaska), but the Hacker News set in general may prefer "The Control of Nature".

anywhichway 5 days ago 7 replies      
Stephen King seems to disagree: "Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule."
thinkersilver 5 days ago 0 replies      
As a teenager I collected dictionaries for this very reason,it was exciting because each word became more than the sum of its letters but a treasure hunt that would last hours. Halfway through the article I thought he should just use an old edition of Merriam Webster or an Oxford Dictionary that predates the early 80s only to find that he does mention it. My word toolbox now consists of:

* Old Dictionary , Oxford and sometimes Websters

* Roget's Thesaurus

* Online etymology tool

* English Wordnet

* Oxford's Modern English Usage by Fowler ( 2nd or 3rd edition ) - it's a hoot to read.

* Samuel Johnson's Dictionary - if you want a nice bedside chuckle.

There are many ways of slicing and dicing this data set to fit a particular writing style( e.g like Stephens King's no adverb policy,); If the data is ingested in a tree form , searching for word replacements based on Part Of Speech, sound or syllables , mitre is not that hard.

Using these techniques doesn't necessarily make you a better writer but it sure does make it more fun!

wodow 6 days ago 1 reply      

        I applied myself to the perusal of our writers; and        noting whatever might be of use to ascertain or        illustrate any word or phrase, accumulated in time        the materials of a dictionary. --Johnson. [0]
To use the dictionary files he has hosted on S3 [1] on Linux, GoldenDict [2] works well.

[0] Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1913

[1] https://s3.amazonaws.com/jsomers/dictionary.zip

[2] http://goldendict.org/

leephillips 6 days ago 0 replies      
This article is superb and beautiful. Just go read it. I love it when procrastination is repaid.
Sonthun 5 days ago 0 replies      
He lists the http://machaut.uchicago.edu/websters website as a way to read the 1913 Webster's dictionary. As soon as I saw that I started looking for a plugin to put in my Firefox search bar. Turns out they offer a plugin right on the site:http://machaut.uchicago.edu/plugins
pauleastlund 5 days ago 0 replies      
I clicked on this thinking it was going to tell me what substitute I should be using for /usr/dict/words. The payoff I got was much better.
phkahler 6 days ago 0 replies      
For the wordsmiths out there, you can visit Websters actual house at Greenfield Village in Dearborn Michigan, along with a number of other historic buildings. Note: I didn't say "home" because that's not where the house - nor any of these buildings - originally was. However, they are well preserved and all in one place. Mr Ford's idea of a history museum was rather unique.
mmorris 5 days ago 0 replies      
If anyone wants to install the Webster's Revised 1913 Dictionary as a Chrome Search Engine, you can find it listed on the Mycroft project [0]. Just click on "Webster's 1913 Dictionary" and set the Keyword field to whatever you'd like to type into the Chrome address bar to activate the search engine.

[0]: http://mycroftproject.com/search-engines.html?name=webster

AnonJ 1 day ago 0 replies      
I don't really think modern dictionaries are that bad. In fact I don't find them bad at all. When I prepared for SAT and had to go through all the SAT words, I did it with joy because I could form endless hilarious and crazy imaginations in my head just using the solid definitions provided by normal dictionaries. This article seems too much.
skybrian 5 days ago 0 replies      
I enjoyed the article, but I think it implicitly encourages elitism through reliance on an old authority. Not all writing styles or writers will benefit from mining a well-written dictionary of flowery language from many decades ago. What about the various dialects of English that have sprung up since then? We should be borrowing new words as well as old.
e12e 5 days ago 0 replies      
I'm a little shocked that anyone would not be using a proper dictionary (be that Webster's or Oxford). I always aptitude install at least "dict-gcide" and "dict-moby-thesaurus" -- and usually also "dict-devil" as well.

Clearly not everyone do -- great way to bring attention to proper tools for writing.

However, a small aside -- the phrasing: "In fact [the definitions are] so much better that to use another dictionary is to keep yourself forever at arms length from the actual language." is somewhat unfortunate. Arm's length is exactly the distance one should be from one's dictionary of choice (be that an actual book, or accessed via a keyboard/screen) ... ;-)

If anyone feels the need for a little balance against the flourish of this text, I can recommend reading an essay or two by George Orwell, for example:

"Politics and the English Language"http://www.gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200151.txt

markbnj 5 days ago 0 replies      
I probably enjoyed this post more than any other I've read so far this year, and would have enjoyed it every bit as much even if it had not mentioned one of my favorite authors of non-fiction. Whether we have actually lost something or not I can't say, but at least it seems certain there are no more Noah Websters, just as there are no more Bertrand Russels, etc.
sitkack 5 days ago 0 replies      

    ARCTIC    Arc"tic, a. Etym: [OE. artik, OF. artique, F. arctique, L. arcticus,    fr. Gr. ursus bear, Skr.        Defn: Pertaining to, or situated under, the northern constellation    called the Bear; northern; frigid; as, the arctic pole, circle,    region, ocean; an arctic expedition, night, temperature.        Note: The arctic circle is a lesser circle, parallel to the equator,    23 28' from the north pole. This and the antarctic circle are called    the polar circles, and between these and the poles lie the frigid    zones. See Zone.

lotsofcows 6 days ago 0 replies      
I use etymonline.com for similar purpose. Searching for the etymology of words gives you something akin to older dictionaries.
egypturnash 5 days ago 0 replies      
Oh my god it ends with a way to get the 1913 Webster's into Dictionary on a Mac. Installing that so hard right now. Because most of the time when I pop open Dictionary it's to look for the same kind of inspiration he describes John McPhee as finding.
MasterScrat 5 days ago 0 replies      
The "js" in the URL led me to believe this article was about Javascript and its object notation ^^
cratermoon 5 days ago 0 replies      
When I was studying writing and composition in college (well before computerized dictionaries and word processors were common), all of my professors had strong opinions about dictionaries, and made specific recommendations about which ones to choose. I still have and sometimes use my Webster's New World Dictionary 2nd College Edition from back then.

I'm really glad to see someone writing up about how to not just use the dictionary built into your software, but to evaluate and it change it to suit.

jc123 4 days ago 0 replies      
http://tinyurl.com/ddddictI created a short link in case using someone else's computer.
alanning 5 days ago 0 replies      
That was beautiful. I am very glad that I clicked on that link. (I need to study that dictionary...)
zem 5 days ago 0 replies      
beautiful piece of writing. it reminds me of why chambers was my favourite dictionary when i was growing up; the definitions had a definite sense of style and individuality to them.
marc_omorain 5 days ago 0 replies      
I would love to see a homebrew package to install this dictionary on a Mac (or better yet, for it to be the default in OSX 10.10).
H4ssi 5 days ago 0 replies      
Love this post!Does anyone know about a german dictionary of such a quality that s/he could recommend?I really enjoy disecting words/sentences/speech and to find those pin-point-descriptive paraphrases/expressions :-)(pls do not judge my english, I r no native speaker :O)
joncrocks 6 days ago 1 reply      
Isn't this a function traditionally fulfilled by a Thesaurus?
vacri 5 days ago 0 replies      
What a weird essay. The author doesn't want a dictionary, but a thesaurus, which gives you alternate ways of communicating your concept.
niix 5 days ago 0 replies      
Thought this had to do with dictionaries in CS.
stblack 5 days ago 0 replies      
Can we please stop linking to websites with meta viewport tags that set the maximum scale to 1.0?
ryandrake 6 days ago 0 replies      

"New Oxford American Dictionary is the TLDR of dictionaries. There are others out there if you have extra time to look up a word."

New DuckDuckGo design duckduckgo.com
580 points by ashishk  6 days ago   213 comments top 75
Spittie 6 days ago 2 replies      
That's awesome! I've been using the beta for a while and it's been much better than the old site.

A bunch of ideas/complains:

- It's awesome that you're showing me a nice map when I search for places/address, but let's be honest, I'll probably need to load it into an online map (OSM, MapQuest, Google Maps) to get directions. So a "open in map" button would be great (yes, I can copy/paste the address and !bang it, but it's not exactly a great experience)

- Sometimes I just want to search for images or videos. Yes, I can search "Images X" or "Videos X", but it's not nice. Also you get the minimized image/video box. I'd add two bangs, !i and !v (those right now alias to Google Images and Youtube, which have !gi and !yt anyway) to search for images/video and that will auto-open the images box.

- Auto-suggestions are neat, but please add an option to remove the "select-on-hover" behavior. It's really annoying to casually move the mouse and select something else.

That's mostly it, otherwise I'm really, really happy with DDG. Thanks, and I wonder what the future will reserve!

yegg 6 days ago 4 replies      
Here's the announcement I just posted on our blog: https://duck.co/blog/whatsnew

Thank you to everyone who provided feedback to us during our public beta period! Please keep the feedback coming so we can quickly iterate. We really do listen to it all.

ianstormtaylor 5 days ago 4 replies      
This is a really amazing direction in terms of design. Like most people probably, I've pretty much ignored DDG because it didn't seem to be doing anything more than Google already did, but this design is really interesting for going in a new direction.

The only thing that stands out to me as less useful than the equivalent Google search at this point is the hiearchy of the results. Google uses a link-like blue color for the titles of each result, which seems like a leftover from a past age of the web, but is actually useful for scan-ability because the text of the headers stands out.

Compare the current DuckDuckGo... https://i.cloudup.com/vrwZgUkOty.png

...to Google... https://i.cloudup.com/eFCFEE5TYG.png

...to an adjusted version of DuckDuckGo... https://i.cloudup.com/jluIYZWtzz.png

Having an extra color for the headings lets you scan the page much more easily, which lets you get to the result you wanted faster. The downside is that since their brand color is red, it feels "best" to have the highlight color red. But then that has some negative emotional connotations. Tried green as well, but it didn't stand on it's own enough since there's so little green on the page.

Anyways, I've switched to DDG as my default and will try it out for a while again. I also love those favicons that show up next to the domain names.

Walkman 5 days ago 5 replies      
Honestly, I don't care how clean or nice the page design is, until it can't give me good results. Here is an example:

The other day, I was searching for a Django core developer's contact. I knew his exact name was Baptiste Mispelon so I searched that directly.

On Google [1] after his Twitter and Github accounts, the first picture is correct, and I did not have to do anything else, the contact infos are there, his picture is there, great.

On DuckDuckGo [2] the picture is not even close, and the first couple of results are not as useful as on Google [1].

I think it is a mistake to concentrate on clean design on a search engine until the searching algorithm is not that good. AFAIK Google's page ranking algorithm is well known, when I were in university I even heard stories that a student (going on the same class as me) reproduced the algorithms only on his own!

TL;DR: I want to search relevant information with a search engine, not to look some nice webpage.

[1]: https://www.google.hu/search?q=Baptiste+Mispelon

[2]: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=Baptiste+Mispelon

k-mcgrady 6 days ago 2 replies      
Instead of putting a large box at the top of some search results with what you think I want, why not put it to the side (the way Google does) and make use of the large amount of waster whitespace. I have tonnes of horizontal space available, not much vertical.
joosters 6 days ago 4 replies      
White text over white images on https://duckduckgo.com/whatsnew - not very readable!

(Edit: How odd; a reload caused the page to be displayed differently, with the images below the text and icons.)

mike-cardwell 5 days ago 1 reply      
I use <alt>d to select the text in my address bar. If I am on a duckduckgo search results page, it seems this keyboard combination is intercepted and I'm bounced off to one of the results (well, the 'd' on it's own does this too). I can also use <ctrl>l, but I've gotten use to using <alt>d.

[edit] I have bug reported this. They have a very good feedback system on their website.

james33 6 days ago 1 reply      
I've never really bought into DDG, especially for its lack of features. It still can't match Google, but this is certainly a step in the right direction and gives me pause to think about using it at least once in a while now. Glad to see progress in search outside of Google for a change.
egfx 5 days ago 1 reply      
Arnor 5 days ago 1 reply      
I've tried DuckDuckGo a couple times before. Today I decided to give it one day and see if I felt more comfortable with it. I was having a really hard time parsing the results so I did a search side by side in Google and DuckDuckGo. I looked at Google and thought "yeah, I know I want link #3" then I looked over to DuckDuckGo and saw that the same link was result #2 but I couldn't identify it as the page I wanted just by looking at the results page. Further analysis helped me to understand the process I use for parsing search results. It turns out that the most important part is the URL and I've trained myself to look for that in the format Google renders it (right after the link). When I realized that this was what I was actually looking for, it all became much easier.
shmerl 5 days ago 1 reply      
The fonts look messed up for me (Debian testing / Firefox 29.0.1). In some cases letter i has a shifted dot (see the word Wikipedia in the last search result in the image below):


The fonts come from here:

* https://duckduckgo.com/font/ProximaNova-Sbold-webfont.woff

* https://duckduckgo.com/font/ProximaNova-Reg-webfont.woff

gejjaxxita 5 days ago 1 reply      
Small but surprisingly annoying thing about DDG: I have to hit TAB too many times to start cycling through search results, on google one TAB takes me to the first search result, on DDG it's an unintuitive series of links.
edwintorok 6 days ago 1 reply      
What changed since the preview was announced? https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7700192The contrast on the main page is still too low.
Patrick_Devine 4 days ago 0 replies      
The new design looks pretty slick. I really dig the bootstrappiness of it. I do, however, have a couple of nits. I couldn't figure out how to make the weather in centigrade, so I tried searching for this:


It came up with some interesting results. The images opened automatically for me (not sure why) and were a little off the mark. Ideally there would be a link to switch between Celsius and Fahrenheit, with maybe even a cookie to save your preference, although I don't know if that's very anti-DDG (does DDG store cookies for anything?).Yahoo "solves" this by having you go to weather.yahoo.ca to default to metric. At any rate, given that 95.5% of the world's population uses metric, it'd be a nice feature.

skizm 6 days ago 1 reply      
Unrelated UI nitpicking: I feel like I should be able to scroll on this page. Just seeing the top of the virtual screen is annoying.
Geekette 5 days ago 0 replies      
Wow DDG, you guys are on fiyah! I just rebooted Firefox and saw the new new look; love it. What I noticed:

* Someone looking to search immediately may be confused/frustrated as the text entry field is currently not visible until the slideshow ends.

* Consider relocating the "press" button away from bottom right; I almost missed it and only saw it because I'd been on the page for a few minutes, finished the slideshow and was looking for more.

* Also, when I saw that button, I thought it meant "press this to see something cool", so I was disappointed when it only took me to the company press page.

* I really like the background colour scheme on the front page but you might consider switching it off as it doesn't carry over to other pages. I.e I found the visual discontinuity a bit jarring when the search and press pages didn't reflect it; that's when I realized that the biggest message I got unconsciously was that my default DDG pages would now be in this colour (with ability to change it). I see now that the pages depicted on "inner" screen were the usual white, but I honestly didn't see/process that against the bolder background.

bluthru 6 days ago 0 replies      
Really like the new update, but I still don't like how there is a dead click space between the results, and I find the background hover to be unnecessary.
clarry 5 days ago 0 replies      
In the old version, the instant answer box would usually load after the results and with some delay. Very often it would materialize the very moment I click on a result, causing the content to move, leaing me to a place I did not want to visit. That was my biggest issue actually.

I can't seem to trigger it now. So I guess it's an improvement.

chimeracoder 6 days ago 2 replies      
I've been using DuckDuckGo as my primary search engine for almost three years.

It's improved fairly steadily in that time (as measured by how often I end up falling back to appending "!g" to my search), but this is the single biggest improvement I can remember in my time as a user.

Aside from the auto-complete (which is nice), it feels significantly faster, and it's also easier to parse visually.

I'm really excited about seeing DuckDuckGo evolve, and it seems more and more people are as well: https://duckduckgo.com/traffic.html

frik 5 days ago 1 reply      
Your intro says:

  Smarter Answers  Answers to your questions from the best sources,  developed by our open source community.
Where is the open source repository located? I would like to browse the templates/recipes/sources. Found nothing on http://duckduckhack.com

yalogin 5 days ago 0 replies      
The main thing to me is they still do not have driving directions. That to me is really needed to make it useable to the mainstream public.

Also searching for say chicago, IL does not show the maps tab. We need to search for Chicago IL for that. Not sure why the comma is throwing them off.

dredmorbius 5 days ago 0 replies      
On the page layout: one very positive sign is that my custom stylesheet appears to make no difference whatsoever to how the page displays. Which means that either the CSS classes have all been changed or my suggestions (recently here on HN) were all adopted.

I noticed the change, and it didn't annoy me much (any change is a bit discombobulating), which is actually high praise. I haven't stumbled into any "woah, that's cool!" features yet (though I'm noticing a few things and nodding appreciatively).

Just checked the "what's new" and I'm pretty much liking.

I'd still love to see time-bounded search provided. That's one of the very few uses that will draw me back to Google for general Web search (Google's special collections: books, scholar, news, etc., may bring me in more often).

I've been using DDG off and on for a couple of years and solidly since last June. It's definitely working for me.

TheLoneWolfling 6 days ago 3 replies      
Not sure if anyone at DDG would ever read this, but my comments on the preview are still valid.

The contrast is way too low, it prefers vertical over horizontal (I, like any people, have a widescreen monitor. Displaying 3 search results by default is a little absurd), a couple other issues.

It feels like a mobile interface.

Oh, and there's no way to revert to the old version. The options merely change the color scheme, as far as I can tell.

donbronson 5 days ago 0 replies      
Adding images makes DuckDuckGo now a legit competitor for Google for my usage. The usability has also dramatically improved as well as load times. Their mobile javascript needs to recognize gesture swiping and other minor UX improvements. But this is a leap forward for them.
hngiszmo 6 days ago 3 replies      
The first time I saw that (so called) design I literally hit refresh 5 times to hopefully get that missing CSS file. Having all in just light grey and white doesn't really help finding anything quickly and why hide the path of the url onMouseOut is beyond me.

DDG is my search of choice and the pain induced yesterday is not enough to swap back to google but still, not happy at all :(

dredmorbius 5 days ago 1 reply      
More search results than layout, but as a friend pointed out, "open source office suite" produces notably and significantly different top results in DDG and Google.

Specifically: the DDG results don't rank the arguably top-rated open source offic suite (LibreOffice) at the top of the results page, instead showing an order suspiciously similar to that of Bing. Google (both logged in and out) puts LibreOffice at the top of results, as does StartPage.

Some argue a bias against free software by DDG. I apply Hanlon's razor, but this is one example where improving results would be a bonus.

Screencaps of results:


orrsella 5 days ago 2 replies      
Interesting to see that many of their "whatsnew" examples use Yandex[1]. Is that a new partnership?

[1] http://imgur.com/3tBrS7h

ankurpatel 5 days ago 0 replies      
Good design but disappointing that the search and Menu option disappear when the browser size is shrunk to tablet or mobile phone resolution. Not responsive.
okbake 5 days ago 0 replies      
I think I found a bug. I'm using the dark theme and customizing the colors. If I set my background color to #000001, all of my text will turn blue (#0202FF).

Also, setting the Header option to Off is the same as On With Scrolling. This is on ff29.

Other than that, I think I'm finally switching over to ddg.

rane 5 days ago 1 reply      
I used DDG as my main search engine instead of Google for two weeks just now, but ended up going back because very often DDG just couldn't find the results I'm used to finding with Google in that amount of keywords.

Usually I had to add "github", "npm" or some other word that would narrow it down for DDG, while Google just knew what I wanted and/or already visited.

Maybe it's the lack of personalized search results or Google is just smarter. Either way non-personalization is a double-edged sword.

hysan 5 days ago 0 replies      
I really like the new design, but I'm still hoping for better discovery of bangs. Perhaps DDG could include links to suggested bangs alongside Images and Videos based on the search term. With the final link being a dropdown of all other available bangs (sorted by potential relevance maybe). Another possibility would be to include the list of bangs (or a shortened one) in the pull out side menu. For me, bangs are one of the best features of DDG, and it's disappointing that they aren't more discoverable.
scrabble 6 days ago 1 reply      
Still not totally in love with it, but it's still my primary search engine. While looking for ways to alter the UI, found the Dark theme -- so that was a plus.
rakoo 5 days ago 1 reply      
Very good job DuckDuckGo team! I was just thinking that I'd have to switch back to Google because of the poor results... but this new experience has given me some hope.

What saddens me though is that we (as in "the users") still don't have a strong guarantee on the respect of our privacy. We still have to trust the DDG team. I know there is no easy technology to do it, but still, the whole thing is only marginally better than using Google.

lazyjones 5 days ago 1 reply      
Looks good, but they really need to weed out some spammy websites from their index.

For example, all the <domain>.<something>stats.com sites that try to get traffic when people search for various brands, or this strange one: http://www.loginto.org/<domain>-login apparently it tries to steal login credentials, or I don't see the point).

cvburgess 5 days ago 1 reply      
The UI is super slick. Bravo!!

I miss some of the simplicity of the old DDG but after adjusting the only thing i find missing is the StackOverflow integration. It may totally be there, i just haven't had the right query yet...

dvcc 6 days ago 1 reply      
I feel like this hasn't been really tested in Chrome on Windows. The gray, detail information on search results is pretty hard to get past. I kind of just give up using it halfway though, looks like it might be better on other browsers though.
webwanderings 5 days ago 0 replies      
All the more power to competition and diversity of choices. But I see these reinventions and makeover campaigns and I really wonder if things are going well or not.

I use search engines for a niche blog, and I have a need to keyword search certain specific terms which are not common words. I have consistently tested all the available search engines (there aren't many). And I have always arrived at the same conclusion: there is no better search engine out there then what Google maintains.

I am no blind Google lover, but when it comes to practicality of effective and useful products, you have to have the best, in order to make your case.

cgag 5 days ago 0 replies      
I've started using ddg instead of consistently skipping it by using g! since the new design came out. I didn't really grok how much the design played into my trust of its results until now.

Big improvement imo.

bm1362 5 days ago 0 replies      
When it loaded, it failed to load the CSS etc. I saw the typical white page with black text and thought maybe this was their way of chiding those critical of the redesign.
tzury 5 days ago 1 reply      
Dear Gabriel Weinberg, after so many posts on HN, I am still missing the point behind DDG.

Can you tell me, the end user, what are other benefits of using DDG aside _privacy_ (given I am using chrome/incognito by default)?

backwardm 5 days ago 0 replies      
Just switched my default search engine to DuckDuckGo for a self-initiated 10 day trial. All the work you've put into the new layout / results look great.
me_bx 5 days ago 1 reply      
The "Meanings" feature is a great thing, semantic and ubiquitous at the same time.

It works well with "orange" as in the example, but searching for "Apple" directly shows result for the company without displaying the "Meanings" panel. We can't see the fruits' search results using that term, which is quite disappointing.

It gets more puzzling when you search for "Apples" and are displayed with the meaning tab

try: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=orange vs https://duckduckgo.com/?q=apple

Edit: apart from that this redesign is very pleasant :)

pubby 6 days ago 0 replies      
I hope a setting gets added to make the images and videos tab always display fullscreen results. The default display of only 4 images at a time is pointless to me. Good work otherwise.
Holbein 5 days ago 0 replies      
I don't like the low contrast and drab grey of the result page. It makes it much harder to jump between results with the eyes.

Luckily, there is a "classic" mode. Please Gabriel, make classic mode the default mode again.

tripzilch 4 days ago 0 replies      
This looks absolutely gorgeous!

And thank you so much for not including the large(-ish) position:fixed header/banner that we saw in the preview last week. Vertical screen estate is so precious on today's widescreen netbooks.

izzydata 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is really neat. I played around with the site awhile back and I found it particularly displeasing due to its layout and design, but now I'm really liking this modern and more minimalist look.
anilmujagic 5 days ago 0 replies      
Is there a way to filter results by time, like on Google? I can't find it.
gdonelli 5 days ago 0 replies      
Nice. first thing I tried was to scroll down.. (I was on my Mac). I think because of the cut iPad(?)/Screen... Was it just me?
wtbob 5 days ago 1 reply      
'Sorry, this page requires JavaScript'
gcd 5 days ago 1 reply      
I never really gave DDG a shot until now. I tweaked the link color as suggested above to the DDG orange #C9481C (surprised blue was the only option.. had to use custom color and dig into your CSS to find that) and I think I'll give it a shot for at least a week. !bang seems to make up for any deficiencies (I'll probably be using !gm the most, for when I need directions).. right now things are looking great. Keep up the good work!
fotoblur 5 days ago 0 replies      
First I'm the founder of Fotoblur.com, a creative photo community. I just went to check out the site. What I'm concerned with is when I search for fotoblur (https://duckduckgo.com/?q=fotoblur), and go to images, it looks like you've slurped the image source and not the source page the image comes from. You're also providing a link to download the image. Don't you have any thoughts for user's copyrights or even content providers of which you've swiped content from? Boooo.
geekam 5 days ago 1 reply      
How to turn off auto-scroll and turn pagination on?
blueskin_ 5 days ago 0 replies      
Horizontal scrolling on a desktop is FAIL.

I also hate the way results have no apparent division between them, not even a prominent title; it makes them all blur together when I am scanning the page.

mstade 5 days ago 0 replies      
I'm loving the new version. I tried switching some time ago, but found the results lacking and the experience just annoying enough to not help me get to where I wanted. Now with this new version it's a whole different ball game. I've been using the beta for a while, and it's just so good .

I'm loving it excellent work!

ixmatus 5 days ago 0 replies      
Awesome change, results are much improved too, using it as my default.
PaulKeeble 5 days ago 1 reply      
I am a not a big fan of all the results being down the left hand side of the page. Considering how the top fancy gadget thing seems to extend well past the right of my page with silly right arrow buttons it seems a lot of the screen is just being wasted and it would be nice to have the results at least centred.
nchlswu 6 days ago 1 reply      
Please. There's no need to have the non-descript hamburger icon on a page designed for desktop
Thiz 5 days ago 0 replies      
If I could change the name of two great ideas doing great stuff they would be Ubuntu and DuckDuckGo.
hrjet 5 days ago 1 reply      
I like DDG, but have to ask, what is the revenue model? Is it going to serve ads eventually?
shmerl 5 days ago 0 replies      
Is image search new functionality or I just missed it in the older UI?
deathflute 5 days ago 1 reply      
A question for DDG or anyone who might know: How does DDG plan to monetize this without storing any data?
s9ix 5 days ago 0 replies      
This looks pretty awesome! Good to see them doing well.Sad realization: 'what rhymes with orange' did not give a cool response. I expected it to at least try according to smart responses, haha.
vohof 5 days ago 0 replies      
Wish they'd add pronunciation to their definitions https://duckduckgo.com/?q=define+duck
api 5 days ago 0 replies      
I tried DDG about six months ago and went back to Google, but I recently tried it again. The gap is closing fast. As of now it's my default search. Google still does a better job seemingly "understanding" queries sometimes, so occasionally I go over there, but I'd say I'm only doing that about 5% of the time.

One of my favorite things about DDG is that I do not have to worry about "search bubbles." I don't have to worry that DDG is profiling me and de-prioritizing results it doesn't "think" I would want to see. I know Google thinks search bubbles are a feature but I think they're a bug. I don't want some algorithm trying to reinforce cognitive biases for me so I don't experience the shock of a dissenting opinion. I've observed a few times that DDG seems to do a better job finding really obscure things, and I've wondered if this might somehow be related to profiling algorithms or lack thereof.

I also find the level of data mining Google (and Facebook) engage in to be creepy, invasive, and to hold a high potential for abuse. I'm certainly open to alternatives whose business model does not revolve around that kind of intrusive personal profiling. I'm aware that DDG does have an ad-and-analytics business model, but they seem to be taking the high road with it.

Prediction: "privacy is dead" will in the future be regarded as an idea that greatly harmed several multi-billion-dollar companies. I think it's firmly in the realm of utter crackpot nonsense, and anyone who thinks this is either hopelessly naive or delusional about the political, social, and economic realities of the world. A full-blown user revolt is underway.

wuliwong 5 days ago 0 replies      
Wow this looks great. Just set it as my default search engine. Thanks Gabe and company!
sergiotapia 5 days ago 0 replies      
Love the recipe search! This is fantastic!
brent_noorda 5 days ago 1 reply      
On my iPhone 4 browser, I don't find any way to close the DuckDuckGo web page. Until I figure that one out, this new DuckDuckGo is YuckYuckNo (ha ha, I made that one up myself, I'm so Ducking funny!
Asla 5 days ago 0 replies      
Very cool duckduckgo.

A question.Where do ddg guys get this massive taste for color red?

Thank you.

FlacidPhil 5 days ago 0 replies      
I love the Forecast.io integration, by far the most beautifully done weather app out there.
idealform01 5 days ago 0 replies      
doh! I kept trying to scroll down the page to see the rest of the image that looks like 1/3rd is cut off
whoismua 5 days ago 0 replies      
DDG is my default SE. Once in a while i ave to go to other SE (Bing second, Google third) but it's a small price to pay to give them a shot.

Hopefully the market share will be more evenly distributed among SEs. Let's do our part

higherpurpose 5 days ago 0 replies      
It seems to cause some problems with the WOT extension?
finalight 5 days ago 0 replies      
why duckduckgo instead of google?
newbrict 5 days ago 0 replies      
since when does noch rhyme with duck
oldgun 5 days ago 0 replies      
Looks good.
Fraudulent trading activity at Mt. Gox willyreport.wordpress.com
575 points by pmorici  22 hours ago   116 comments top 18
sillysaurus3 21 hours ago 4 replies      
The reason I'm inclined to believe this report's implications about Karpeles is because I spent a long time in Mt. Gox's IRC support channel talking with support reps, and they were paid to lie. They didn't know they were being paid to lie, but they were instructed by management to say "don't worry, all user coins are safe" right up until the day the Mt. Gox crisis report was leaked. They could have said "we are investigating the extent of the problem," but no, Karpeles was paying them to say "nothing is wrong," even while Karpeles was crafting his crisis report to investors about how all the coins were gone.

Karpeles seems to have a history of lying. He was caught in a lie by his employer in 2004: http://newslines.org/mt-gox/joins-linux-cyberjoueurs/

From a game theory point of view, it's interesting that the price at every major exchange depends on every other major exchange. For example, when Mt. Gox was active, if its price went up, BTC-e, Bitstamp, etc would simultaneously go up. It's a natural phenomenon which has rather grim implications: if an exchange is conducting fraudulent activity, then the entire bitcoin trading ecosystem is affected. And since bitcoin is completely unregulated, there's nothing really stopping anyone from manipulating the market. For example, no one knows who's behind BTC-e, but it has a lot of trade volume. What if they're engaging in fraudulent trading as well? There's every incentive to.

The inevitable conclusion seems to be: you can try to come up with a bunch of logical reasons about why the price of bitcoin is going up or down, but you can't ever rule out "the price is due to large-scale fraudulent behavior," i.e. it's a bubble. Bad behavior from one exchange will always affect all the others.

As Karpeles has probably shown, you can become a millionaire by manipulating the market and then escape all consequences by letting your company go bankrupt.

antonius 21 hours ago 3 replies      
Further proof that the absurd run-up in November when bitcoin reached $1,200 was illegitimate.
jackgavigan 16 hours ago 1 reply      
The ironic thing about this is that the nature of Bitcoin (specifically, the fact that all transactions are recorded in the blockchain) means that auditing a Bitcoin exchange is an eminently solvable problem. To my mind, given the ease with which Bitcoin wallets can be created, any exchange that commingles its clients' Bitcoins should be viewed with suspicion.

Yes, it's easier to dump everything into a few wallets, instead of maintaining individual wallets for every client. However, if the team behind an exchange isn't capable of dealing with the complexity of individual, segregated wallets, you have to wonder whether they're competent enough to run an exchange in the first place.

endriju 38 minutes ago 0 replies      
It is indeed unfortunate when people like Karpeles manipulate such perspective technology-based market as btc was. The trust is irreplaceable, and the bitter taste which users of mtgox experience each time they hear about btc has already had almost devastating effects on bitcoin economy. Lesson learned.
panarky 21 hours ago 3 replies      
Step 1: create USD out of thin air.

Step 2: buy BTC at $1200.

Step 3: sell BTC at $200.

Step 4: profit!

sciguy77 17 hours ago 2 replies      
As one of the many people who lost money in the Gox implosion, this is nauseating to read.On a less related note, I heard they recovered 1/5 of the missing bitcoins awhile ago. Anyone know what will happen to that 1/5?
kolev 21 hours ago 3 replies      
The fraud continues today in China. Those exchanges were caught several times faking volume and placing phantom orders. I think the game now is: fake price hike in China, sell coins for real money on Bitstamp, buy cheaper, repeat. Just look at the recent hike - no news, no reason for 30% jump from $440 to $580 in a week.
spacefight 18 hours ago 1 reply      
Well researched findings there. Imagine a world, where the same logs would be public of what and by whom happens on the stock exchanges where all the high frequency trading is happening these days...
kristianp 13 hours ago 0 replies      
The buy-bot has been speculated about since January at least: http://www.reddit.com/r/BitcoinMarkets/comments/1uosly/daily...

Is this the first article that links the leaked data to the "buy-bot"?

Tycho 17 hours ago 1 reply      
How does this fake_usd demand driving up the price of Bitcoin tenfold compare with the New York Fed's ex nihilo asset purchase program?
iancarroll 14 hours ago 0 replies      
It would be interesting to see what exchanges had higher prices during the climb to see who started it.
christianbryant 16 hours ago 2 replies      
Exactly the reason why technology must be open and transparent. Sadly, decision makers that define economic policy and allow organizations to reach this level of misuse (or misconduct) know little to nothing about what these technologies are capable of, or to what extent they can be compromised and manipulated. Kudos to the tech makers and users who do understand for maintaining a watchful eye and not hesitating to report wrong-doing, or the suspicion of wrong-doing. How can we get these guys in office instead of the people that are currently holding back good technology while letting loose the bad?
oznathan 12 hours ago 2 replies      
I don't think the bot is responsible for either bubble.

But, if it was, the bitcoin world owes everything to Mark Karpeles. Because of the price surges it got all the media attention, VC investments, hundreds of companies popping up, millions of users...

EGreg 21 hours ago 0 replies      
This is another example of centralization runing things. Once you have a "trusted" exchange, accounts can do shenanigans like buy bitcoins internally for no fiat money, whether through hacking or collusion.

An actual bitcoin exchange should just set up parties to do a 2-of-3 trade. It would be slower, but better for the stability of the currency!

etchalon 19 hours ago 2 replies      
Bitcoin - The economy of WoW, writ large.
PhasmaFelis 19 hours ago 2 replies      
I'm a fan of RationalWiki's Bitcoin article: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Bitcoin

> This is the sort of thing that gets bitcoins called "Dunning-Krugerrands."

Google is Breaking the Internet jeremypalmer.com
467 points by kposehn  7 days ago   296 comments top 45
Matt_Cutts 7 days ago 14 replies      
I talked about this phenomenon recently on This Week in Google with Leo Laporte and Gina Trapani: http://twit.tv/show/this-week-in-google/248 Skip to 4:15 in to listen to the discussion.

Note that there are two different things to keep in mind when someone writes in and says "Hey, can you remove this link from your site?"

Situation #1 is by far the most common. If a site gets dinged for linkspam and works to clean up their links, a lot of them send out a bunch of link removal requests on their own prerogative.

Situation #2 is when Google actually sends a notice to a site for spamming links and gives a concrete link that we believe is part of the problem. For example, we might say "we believe site-a.com has a problem with spam or inorganic links. An example link is site-b.com/spammy-link.html."

The vast majority of the link removal requests that a typical site gets are for the first type, where a site got tagged for spamming links and now it's trying hard to clean up any links that could be considered spammy.

If you read the original post closely, it's clear that this is a site asking for a link to be removed--the quoted email isn't from Google.

ronnier 7 days ago 6 replies      
I own http://ihackernews.com which reformats HackerNews for mobile phones.

I had a DMCA takedown notice sent to me on behalf of a website owner who didn't want me linking to their site. My hosting provider gave me 24 hours to remove the link or else they'd cancel my account.

The owner of the link claimed that their Google rankings were dropping because my site, iHackernews, linked to their site. With this, they were able to force me to remove it via a DMCA takedown notice.

milesf 7 days ago 4 replies      
My solution has been to recommend friend and family to switch to http://DuckDuckGo.com or just http://ddg.gg)

This may seem to be an impossible task, but in days not too long ago people switched search providers often. I went from the curated links of Yahoo, to Lycos, to AltaVista, to Webcrawler, to Google, and now DDG.

Google got a lot of mileage out of my in my mind with their motto "Don't be Evil", because I had some trust for them. I don't trust them anymore, and I regularly explain to others why they should no longer trust them either.

sbierwagen 7 days ago 7 replies      
Jeremy Palmer is a SEO marketer, who also appears to be doing some scammy affiliate thing. Google considers his links low quality because they are low quality.
jawns 7 days ago 3 replies      
"As a publisher I refuse to nofollow any links, outside of banners and advertisements. I compel you to do the same."

I believe you mean "implore."

andybak 7 days ago 2 replies      
From my understanding Wikipedia adds nofollow to stop incentivising people from constantly trying to sneak links into Wikipedia to boost SEO.

Any ranking system that gave any value to links would suffer this problem.

nofollow is a necessary evil if you allow untrusted sources to publish content on your site that contains links. It's a way of saying "I don't vouch for these links in the same way I vouch for other links on my site".

Sounds pretty reasonable to me.

franze 7 days ago 1 reply      
is google breaking the internet? naah (well at least not with google search - G+, google local and the new horrible google maps is a complete other story)

are webmasters breaking the net because they follow SEO worst practices? definitely.

i wrote this article for techcrunch in 2010 http://techcrunch.com/2010/07/07/startups-linking-to-your-co... the tl;dr: pagerank is thoughtcancer, if you start thinking of links as some flow of mystical pagerankjuice you will make bad decisions, decissions that will hurt your business, your users and in the end the internet.

the stupid "remove link emails" are just the newest iteration of this thoughtcancer.

my recommendation stays the same: link to whatever you like and link to whatever your users like, want or need, oh, and also link to your competition. but for gods, your sanities and the internets sake: don't do it for any kind of page/trust/magic-rank or any kind of link/penguin/panda-juices....

my name is franz enzenhofer / i'm the most successful SEO in europe / i do not care about links

jonknee 7 days ago 1 reply      
> Site owners and publishers are now afraid to link to each other because they dont know how Google might respond to that link. For example, Wikipedia and the New York Times have added the nofollow" attribute to most of the links outside of their editorial control.

I'm a little confused why he cares about nofollow links--if Google doesn't "own" the internet, what does nofollow matter? It's certainly better than not having a link at all.

Furthermore, the "credit" he so desperately wants publishers to receive is only a thing because of Google Page Rank in the first place.

mixedbit 7 days ago 0 replies      
To support the point from the article. StackOverflow had to put significant effort to figure out a policy that would allow some links to have a 'nofollow' attribute but wouldn't impede organic traffic from Google (see a discussion around this questions: http://meta.stackexchange.com/a/51156).

Such things should be handled automatically by the ranking algorithm. High quality sites shouldn't need to research what are the ranking algorithm internals. Today most sites prefer to stay on the safe side and put 'nofollow' on everything, which is detrimental for original content creators.

thu 7 days ago 1 reply      
Do I understand correctly that Google will try to punish you (or the other party) if you host links in exchange of money but that Google is doing it in its search results ? (And I receive from time to time unsolicited regular paper mail from Google so that I advertise my enterprise through them.)

Page Rank is a neat idea, but making everyone listening to Google so that Page Rank remains meaningful is stupid. What do you do if suddenly Google thinks Twitter or Facebook are to be considered spammy link farms (which would be true) ? Do you ask everyon to delete their tweets linking to you ?

userbinator 7 days ago 0 replies      
What really needs to be changed is Google's algorithms. The number of links to a site may be correlated with content quality and relevance but shouldn't be taken as an indicator of such, since it basically promotes large sites with lots of links - but not too many - while penalising the "less developed" (in terms of linkage) parts of the Internet, the parts that in my experience also tend to have the most interesting and valuable content.

Basing ranking on characteristics of the page content is also going to pose its own problems, since instead of linkfarming, the SEOs will just focus on generating useless content (they are quite good at that already.) Without very strong AI, it's difficult to tell whether the content was there just to spamdex or if it's something that may be equally low-entropy (for example) like tables of useful information. In my mind, even a totally random ranking (not one that changes every search, but maybe ~monthly) would be better than one based on links or page content. At the very least, it would expose many users to more parts of the Internet that they might not otherwise experience if they stayed within the first 1-2 pages of search results (if I'm looking for something that happens to be relatively obscure, I routinely go into the 100th or more page of results, since there is often good content there too!)

I haven't received any such link removal requests (the sites I have a relatively small), but I do not care about SEO that much and if I did receive any my response would basically be "go complain to the search engines, not me."

gordaco 7 days ago 0 replies      
This is a distorted variation on Goodhart's law [1], although in a non-economical environment. In other words, poorly thought incentives generate poor behaviour (this is not the core of Goodhart's law, but rather a common consequence). I'm not sure if all the blame for those incentives is on Google, or SEOs are culprits in some way.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodhart%27s_Law

toddh 7 days ago 1 reply      
This has happened to me too. A client who bought ads on my site wanted the links pulled so as not to make Google mad. That Google would think me a spammer is very very broken.
alexandros 7 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting that this is coming up again. I'd written an essay on the fundamental pattern behind what is at play here, it was well received on HN at the time:


cromwellian 7 days ago 0 replies      
Why are being saying 'nofollow' "breaks the internet". First, it's the wrong terminology, nofollow is an aspect of the Web, not the internet.

Secondly, nofollow applies to crawlers, not human beings. It doesn't even "break the Web", it has zero impact on an end-user's experience of navigating links.

What you could say is that excessive "nofollow" breaks PageRank and other search engines. Less melodramatic and link-baity, but more accurate.

What you could claim is that search algorithms are opinionated and 'mold' content and link structure across the Web. That would be true, but unavoidable. It's impossible to have a search engine that would not editorialize in some respect, and any engine that gained prominence for sending lots of traffic would quickly be descended upon by people like Jeremy trying to figure out how to mold content to game the algorithm.

Even if we had some sort of incredible AI based search engine that could understand meaning and nuance like spam, it might still have an editorial opinion that people would optimize around.

wmkn 7 days ago 1 reply      
There is this omnipotent master somewhere in the cloud. His power is large, but his ways are unknown. To please the Lord of cloud, strict rules have to be followed. Rules, that, when not followed, will cause the cloud Lord to strike you down with vengeance. Unfortunately, the cloud Lord is intentionally vague about these rules.

Some people have taken upon themselves the task to discover the rules that please the cloud Lord. In the process these priests have found a large number of arbitrary rules that have to be followed strictly. Breaking any of these rules is a reason for the cloud Lord to banish you to the dark corners of his empire - or so the priests say. For only a small fee the priests will give you a glimpse of the rule list that might you good standing with the cloud Lord. It may work, or it may not, because the cloud Lord works in mysterious ways.

mcv 7 days ago 0 replies      
I feel the article misrepresents the content of the email:

"We have discovered that a company we hired to help promote our website have used a variety of questionable techniques to secure links to our website. These links were placed purely for SEO purposes, with the intention of manipulating search rankings."

So basically the company hired people who spam links in order to game search results. Google is totally right in fighting that. The "natural" links on the author's site are not made by the SEO company, so those links are fine.

The probem is not linking to content you want to link to, the problem is hiring people to artificially boost your search ranking by spamming links in places they don't belong.

richdougherty 7 days ago 0 replies      
The nofollow attribute is a way for site owners to say "I don't endorse this link". nofollow is very handy for site owners because it removes the incentive for users to include spam links in user contributed content.

Howeverand I think this is the point of the articleuse of nofollow doesn't just disincentivise spam links, it also means that many valid and useful links no longer contribute to PageRank.

It would be great if we could have a way to allow all to links contribute to PageRank, but still protect ourself from spam.

Which got me thinking

At the moment the only options for site owners are to say "yes, I endorse this link" or "no, I don't endorse this link" (by adding nofollow). Instead I could imagine something more fine grained, a system where site owners could tag specific content within their site as coming from specific users.

Content tagged like this is neither endorsed nor disavowed, instead responsibility is pushed to the user who wrote the content. In other words site owners would be able to say something like this to search engines: "this content is created by user X, don't blame me if it's spammy!".

Smart search engines could use this more fine-grained content ownership information in their search algorithms. That means they wouldn't need to throw out all user contributed information on the internet just to protect the internet from spam.

There are a few challenges, of course. :)

* How to identify users? (Anonymously?)* How to have users endorse content on different sites?* How to work out which users are trustworthy?* Building a PageRank algorithm that incorporates fine-grained trust information.

But it's fun to think about technical solutions.

spindritf 7 days ago 0 replies      
Nofollow link to a human user is just as good as a regular, do-follow link. From reader's perspective this changes nothing so who cares? Game the link attributes as best as you think you can and let robots figure it out.

They're only breaking their own ranking algo.

nso 7 days ago 0 replies      
I run a decent sized discussion forum. I literally get 3 of these emails a day. I have an auto-reply that goes something along the lines of "Unless you previously have hired shady companies to do shady SEO for you on the forums, these links are organic. Do not contact me again regarding this subject."
znowi 7 days ago 1 reply      
Reading the comments from Matt Cutts here, I see the worst is ahead of us.
soheil 7 days ago 0 replies      
That email is perfectly legitimate. I can see why now someone doesn't want their website linked from a shady website, that maybe at some point wasn't as shady. To say Google is "breaking"the Internet is easy to proclaim maybe only if to get enough attention on HN. He's using the same exact tactic as the one he is accusing Google of using, namely FUD. How is removing links and placing nofollow attr on links breaking the Internet exactly? If anything this will make the Internet more relevant. The opposite doesn't even make sense from the point of view of Google. They're making money by showing you the most relevant search results so if the Internet is broken and less relevant no one will be using their search anymore and they'll lose too.
crististm 7 days ago 0 replies      
This post convinced me to replace google.com as my default search engine. It's better to do that at my own convenience, than to be forced later when the switch costs become too large.

It's incredible how google shaped my expectation of looks of a search page results. I was like - WTF is that page? - oh... I've changed my search engine... Go figure.

willu 7 days ago 0 replies      
In some regards I agree. The rules are constantly shifting and they are unevenly enforced in a way that favors large, established sites which is frustrating for smaller players. Good examples here:http://nenadseo.com/big-dogs/At least the person mentioned in this article received an unnatural link notice. In other cases Google will just sink your site into oblivion overnight with no explanation or recourse.

At the same time, they have to deal with an entire industry that exists to exploit the very metrics they rely on to rank results so I don't blame them for just saying screw it, let's just float up our own content and well-known brands for every search and call it a day.

peterhunt 7 days ago 1 reply      
false positives happen. let's move on with our lives.

- a facebooker, working at a google competitor :P

humain2 7 days ago 0 replies      
I have website since 2007 and 90% of my visitors is Google visitors. 2 months back i lose 85% of my traffic without any reason. I don't have any message in Google webmaster. Google is applying filters to reduice my traffic on search results. Sometime it go to normal so i receive all my visitors and 2 days after penality comeback. I don't undertand how google works and i am not using any spammy links or other. So google is kelling the web ....
d0ugie 7 days ago 0 replies      
Jeremy: Sing it sister! But do you know what I like even less than occasionally not seeing eye-to-eye with Webmaster Tools? Link farming.

While I'm not sure I understand your objection to nofollows as a compromise, have you any alternative methods in mind to improve the web without "breaking" the internet?

hrjet 7 days ago 0 replies      
Kudos to the OP for standing their ground and not complying with the request.

Apart from the principles, there is also a practical problem with complying with such a request. How can one verify that the request is genuine? It could be a hacked email account from that domain. Or a rogue employee. Or someone who doesn't have sufficient authority within that company. How is the recipient of the request going to verify it?

davidgerard 5 days ago 0 replies      
IME, this is pretty much always a spammer trying to get their past comment spam removed.

So although I acknowledge the general message, the specifics really don't help the poster's case.

pgrote 7 days ago 0 replies      
Matt ...it is clear Google has no way of dealing with search past the no follow attribute. Is there anything cooking to make search good again without no follow?
eddie_catflap 7 days ago 0 replies      
I get a regular drip feed of these requests. Depending on my mood I check the outgoing link. Usually it's from someone recommending the service or product that the site asking me to remove the link offers. I've mailed quite a few of the requestors back. I explain that I've set all links to be nofollow and that it was a real person that created the link. Only 1 person has ever understood this. The rest all demanded the link still be removed with varying degrees of politeness. I just don't think site owners get it and to echo several comments here perhaps Google could make some clearer instructions about what they want.
the_watcher 7 days ago 0 replies      
>> webmasters are going out of their way to control the flow of page rank from their site to other sites.

I agree with 90% of this piece. But this particular comment isn't new. Webmasters have been looking to control flow of PageRank since they learned what it was.

bryan_rasmussen 7 days ago 0 replies      
If sites can make spammy links to another site and google would then hurt the linked to sites ranking it follows that a profit model would soon arise -> Make spammy links and charge to have links removed.

Has this been seen? Can anyone show a case?

TerraHertz 7 days ago 0 replies      
It appears to me that Google has a long term ambition to become the sole means of navigating the Internet. Inter-site links are fundamental to topic-related navigation, as the Internet was originally intended. It appears that Google is trying to depreciate inter-site linking in general, and skilled PR misdirection on the topic by a Google employee doesn't reassure.

One has to wonder to what extent the entire phenomenon of link spamming sites might be a Hegelian Dialectic tactic by Google - ie a manufactured problem, intended to prompt a 'solution' that is in fact more beneficial to Google's unstated intent. Are we really to believe that there's no algorithmic solution to mitigating the link-spamming nuisance?

Another dimension of this same ambition, is the movement to obfuscate URLs in browser address bars. Traditionally, Web users could copy, save and manipulate links directly as another means of navigating the Internet and maintaining their own records of Web places. As browsers progress further in the direction of eliminating direct user visibility of true URLs, this navigational method becomes less available. The Google-promoted alternative? Just search via Google!

As for why Google would want to do this, the obvious answer would be the usual 'money and power'. If Google succeeds in virtually eliminating all navigational alternatives to Google-searching, they then own the Net. For instance, if they wanted to make any given web site disappear, they could simply de-index it. That's a politically very dangerous power. Even if Google has no political agenda now (a debatable point), given such power they'd be guaranteed to become political. Power corrupts, etc.

We've been through this before, with a gold ring and a volcano. It's generally a bad idea to create 'one thing to rule them all', and Google is no exception.

al2o3cr 7 days ago 0 replies      
"linking with nofollow set" != "not linking". Repeatedly equivalencing the two does not lend the author much authority.
drivingmenuts 7 days ago 1 reply      
>As a publisher I refuse to nofollow any links, outside of banners and advertisements. I compel you to do the same.

No. No, you don't. You implore. If you compel, I rebel.

Also, if someone doesn't want you linking to their site, shouldn't it be more a case of "Whatever. Your loss."?

It's one thing if you're pointing out fraud, abuse, illegal acts or unethical behavior (in which case, you'd probably be posting the evidence on your own site), but if it's a friendly link and they don't want it, don't give it to them.

caseya 5 days ago 0 replies      
And the Panda 4.0 update rolls out today to shift the topic of conversation. Well played, Matt. Well played.


kevin_bauer 7 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe we should change <a href="..."> to <google="...">. or insert a google-search into the href-url!
pompano 6 days ago 0 replies      
What I have never understood is why google has put so much concentration on punishing the Websites that receive web spam. Why not balance it and punish the sites that don't prevent it. Punishing them sites will firstly de-value the link + push webmasters to actually do something on the other end. Sometimes it is out of the site owners control because they cannot prevent that link from being created. The google updates right now encourage negative SEO because that webmaster has no control of that link creation. If you start punishing the people who have control and are able to prevent spam then it makes them focus on being better at moderating that and allowing more relevant links from blog comments and such.
justinngc 7 days ago 0 replies      
Google and Matt will get things right.

We have to acknowledge that Google has been performing up and down the perfect margin (but not getting it perfectly right), but it is because, presumably, they are in the last part of the equation to make it all perfect.

The only thing is they can't simply solve it relying only to technology because search engines deal with people. People are emotional beings, search engine robots, are, not bring funny, just robots.

Consider this as equation Neo (of the Matrix).

javajosh 7 days ago 2 replies      
Are there any documented cases of a black hat attacking a site by linking to it too much? This would seem to be a difficult attack to thwart.
jqm 7 days ago 2 replies      
I understand the point.

But you could be friendly and agree to remove the links in questions since they seem to believe it will harm their business. Not doing so "out of principal" may effect others as Google believes your links are low quality.(although it sounds like their SEO company is mostly to blame for their problems).

judk 7 days ago 0 replies      
Mods please fix flame bait title.
neurobro 7 days ago 1 reply      
I can't help but wonder why Google thinks links from OP's site are "unnatural" (assuming they're all natural). E.g. is this a consequence of allowing do-follow links in comments - and if so, does vigilant moderation make a difference? Or perhaps an indication that the site was compromised and there are pages of spam hidden off in a corner somewhere?
Scribd and Quora considered harmful somebits.com
445 points by ctoth  21 hours ago   124 comments top 34
NelsonMinar 16 hours ago 1 reply      
I want to highlight one part of my blog post no one's picked up on: "some engineer actually wrote code to deliberately break document sharing on the web." Think of all the things an engineer can do with the skill to program computers, to make amazing things on the Internet. And he or she spends that time developing new ways to make it hard to read text on a web page. Ugh.

Frankly making fun of Quora and Scribd is like shooting fish in a barrel, but sometimes it's helpful to articulate the obvious.

bsenftner 21 hours ago 5 replies      
Quora is dangerously close to being a nuisance with all the pointless emails they send. I think I browsed the site a half dozen times max, and contributed to two-three questions. Now I get daily emails about distant friends activity on Quora. LinkedIn this the only site I've been tricked into joining that is worse with their spammy emails.
nhangen 19 hours ago 1 reply      
When you take an investor's money and lack the ability to generate revenue, you're forced to use shady 'growth hacking' techniques in order to fake hockey stick metrics for the purpose of finding additional investors ad infinitum.
weinzierl 18 hours ago 3 replies      
While I usually find the businesses funded by Y Combinator awesome I think Scribd is a bad apple. Not only is the user experience terrible it also has the smell of a bad neighborhood with all the pirated content it offers.

Today I incidentally read the current (March 2014) "Gutenberg 3.5 - Ebook Piracy Report"[1].It seems to be from an anti-piracy lobbying group,so its obviously biased, but it mentions Scribd even before Library Genesis.

That being said:Scribd seems to be (or has been?) one of the most successful Y Combinator companies[2] and is sometimes called "YouTube of documents"[3].

   [1] http://www.abuse-search.com/Gutenberg%2035h.pdf   [2] https://www.google.com/#q=scribd+ycombinator   [3] https://www.google.com/#q=youtube+of+documents

joshstrange 15 hours ago 0 replies      
I couldn't agree more. I have long though Scribd was toxic and a terrible idea in an age where browsers render PDFs flawlessly and that was before I knew of the find issues and DRM font. I have avoided Scribd links like the plague as every time I have accidentally go to their website I have found navigating (scrolling) the PDF to be nearly unusable and I despise how small the view port is. To be honest I have no clue what other content surrounds the document which I attribute in part to "Ad blindness" and I won't be checking now because I don't want to give them the page view.

As for Quora it is Experts Exchange 2.0. Hiding community sourced knowledge behind a login is shameful and disgusting. Especially since, if memory serves, they started out allowing you to see all the content then later added the blurring and popup. Thankfully I didn't pay much attention to Quora prior to this change and so I don't have any knowledge of mine locked up in. If I had I would delete my responses and repost the question and my answer to the appropriate Stack Exchange site.

I'm on mobile right now but once back at my computer I plan on adding both of these sites to my hosts file as I refuse to be an accomplice to or support their shady practices.

Thank you for highlighting what I have long thought about Quora and fully opening my eyes to the sins of Scribd which I have long disliked but lacked the interest to fully investigate.

ryanwhitney 19 hours ago 0 replies      
I tried using their "find" function (as it hijacks command+f) today in Safari, Chrome, and Firefox. It didn't work in any of them.

I wondered why Safari's own find wasn't working on the embedded pdf, but I guess that's because of their DRM font hack.

Icing on the cake was a tall ad that took over the browser window with a video when hovered over that was positioned tight to the right side of the page, completely blocking my ability to click and drag the scrollbar.

No more clicking on Scribd links.

Karunamon 19 hours ago 2 replies      
Scribd seems unambiguously terrible (DRM fonts? That's a whole new level of garbage), but I find it really hard to say the same about Quora unless you're confirmation-bias-ing your way to portray them in a bad light.

So i've got this website. You have to log in to post things there. Other people have to log in to see the things you post there.

Someone please explain to me again how this arrangement is evil? Seems pretty straightforward and fair to me.

Spam emails? http://gyazo.com/f4752783f03276b654dd3f7044cb6766

Seems to me like they give you pretty comprehensive settings on what you can turn on and turn off. And it's not like this screen was hard to find. It's in an "Email preferences" link on the same general settings page you set your password on.

mkempe 14 hours ago 0 replies      
It is quite puzzling that YC invests in and promotes companies that implement essentially DRM for documents and DRM for Q&A, with all the evil techniques that DRM requires and incites.

It appears that the movie and music industry are considered harmful, but imitating them in other domains is wonderful.

gergles 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Wow, I had no idea about the font on scribd. That's outright asshole.
csandreasen 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Scribd is a nightmare to use on a mobile device as well. I can't count the times I've open an article on my phone and wanted to view the linked PDF, only to get a brand new web page whose text is too small to read, can't be resized, and zoom buttons are unclickable because they overlap. Oftentimes there's a tiny "download PDF" link located in a the upper right corner which is incredibly difficult to press; after repeatedly attempting to press it for an inordinate amount of time, I can usually finally load it into a native PDF viewer.

In short, just supply a PDF link.

tonywebster 15 hours ago 1 reply      
I hate pay-walls and even login-walls, so I genuinely disagree with Scribd's payment model. However, I do think the service provides value in that users are able to upload a PDF and it renders in a pretty widely-compatible viewer format (in HTML5). Embedding PDFs across multiple platforms are still a terrible native experience, and on some systems it launches tons of painful Acrobat toolbars or just doesn't show up at all.

I have yet to find a free or open source solution that's incredibly easy to implement and embed (for bloggers). To get PDF content showing nicely inside of a scrollable iframe, you need to convert the PDF to HTML, and host images somewhere. That's not easy for people who just want to jump right into publishing blog content. DocumentCloud seems totally awesome, but their hosted platform is restricted to journalists; specifically, "newsrooms."

I use Scribd for legal research; there's a lot of attorneys who post PDFs of case pleadings, since (a) PACER is expensive to use, and (b) RECAP has terrible searching. To that end, it really is the YouTube of PDFs, and I love it for that. Of course, YouTube is ad-supported, so perhaps that'd be a better option for Scribd, but that tends to draw ire too.

For what it's worth, you don't need to pay for a Scribd account if you regularly upload content. I haven't uploaded anything in a few months and I was able to download, for free, the Declaration of Independence link that the author highlighted. Of course, you wouldn't know that unless you stared at the little text on the bottom of the page, so that should change.

chanux 21 hours ago 3 replies      
I think my continued use of these sites rigged with all dark patterns are just a nod of acceptance. Deleted Quora app from phone long ago and logged out. It's probably time I delete my account.

Update: Oh well. There's no delete feature implemented. You have to email Quora support.


gwern 17 hours ago 3 replies      
For avoiding using Scribd for public PDF hosting, I've been looking at http://pdf.yt/

(I keep wondering when the powers that be at HN will finally remove the Scribd autolinks on submissions, and keep being disappointed.)

sitkack 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Both sites just feel wrong. Not only is there an impedance mismatch in how they operate, there is a cognitive mismatch. Manipulative walled gardens which add negative value. Internet fast food.
SoftwareMaven 18 hours ago 1 reply      
For at least a year, links to Quora and Scribd have been considered, by me, to be non-existent. Every experience with them in the preceding six months had been awful, so I refuse to interact with them again (at least, until I hear how they fixed things).
dredmorbius 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Agree completely and YC should disown (and stop linking) both sites.

I've found some use pulling content from Scribd using text-mode browsers, but even that is exceedingly painful.

My policy is to ignore both sites, and I may well simply block the domains to avoid frustrations.

sandstrom 21 hours ago 4 replies      
I agree in the case of Scribd. Quora is not as clear-cut.

While I dislike their 'login-wall', it doesn't feel like a company focused around short-term profits.

I think their aim is noble, only that they are struggling somewhat to find ways to increase engagement and scope. Although subjective, I feel they are still on the right half of a good-insidious scale (Scribd less so).

spindritf 20 hours ago 7 replies      
What is a good alternative to Scribd? One that allows viewers to download the source file without too much hassle and displays the text properly? Google Drive?
hk__2 21 hours ago 2 replies      
Theres a trick to view everything on Quora without signin up: add ?share=1 at the end of the URL. It doesnt remove the loginwall forever, but its handy.
throwaway5752 20 hours ago 0 replies      
It works better when Dijkstra says it.

As far as pricing, isn't that what the uploader of the document sets, not scribd? And yes, quora is unfriendly to use IMO, but do you really feel like they'll make it through the next industry shakeout?

userbinator 10 hours ago 0 replies      
There are a ton of Chinese document-sharing sites similar to Scribd, and they use all the same horrible DRM-ish tricks (some even split the text between Flash and HTML) to make it difficult to save the content. I was briefly involved in a project to reconstruct a PDF from the contents on one of these sites, and the end result did work pretty well.
ecesena 19 hours ago 2 replies      
My opinion on Quora is totally different (note, I have no interest, nor I think my point of view is right or wrong, simply different).

I don't 100% support the idea of putting a barrier before content, but I understand their need to grow in terms of registered users (i.e. users for whom they have email or social account). It's a mere strategy for fast growing, a sort of compromise that they chose to do. I don't see this particularly different from the initial Reddit's strategy of fake posts to grow the community (from an ethical point of view, is hiding content so different than creating fake one?). My hope is that this will be just the initial strategy for acquiring users.

rrggrr 18 hours ago 2 replies      
Numerous Scribd uploads, which we needed for our business, were fine one day and irretrievable the next. The response from tech support was to re-upload the content, which wasn't possible. Haven't left, yet, because I'm not sure where else to go to host thousands of documents quickly.
Meekro 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Scribd is one of YC's flagship companies, and rightfully so I think. People forget how painful PDF viewing used to be: the viewers were slow to load, crashed browsers a lot, and spread viruses. I remember how some forums considered linking to a pdf without adding something like [pdf] after it to be a form of abuse (more technically sophisticated forums just added that on their own).

Scribd, and things like google viewer that followed, helped get us through a rough patch until browsers started implementing better pdf viewers on their own.

tambourmajor 20 hours ago 2 replies      
It would actually be great to have something like a web services donation flat rate. Basically something like http://flattr.com but but also for web services and apps, not only for creators and artists. A place where you can spend some money on the places you enjoy online without having to think too hard about it. For example, I would happily pay maybe $10 a month for reddit, Less Wrong and HN, just to cover independence, moderation, server costs and to prevent them from being forced to come up with annoying business models (like those on Quora and Scribd).
mercer 20 hours ago 2 replies      
I don't like Quora, and yet I find myself on Quore surprisingly often because a lot of the questions and answers highlighted in the emails that I still get in my inbox are so interesting.

Does anyone know of a less unpleasant site with Quora-like content?

anoncow 17 hours ago 0 replies      
scribd sells access to content that users post. It is like youtube selling access to user videos, keeping all the money and telling publishers - " here, you can watch a couple of videos for free"
herokusaki 17 hours ago 0 replies      
As a technical fix to the Scribd copy-paste problem you could implement a user script to perform frequency analysis on the text of the document and to correct the text as it is being loaded substituting the DRM font for a regular one. (You can't easily perform the substitution at copy time with JavaScript and put the modified text into the clipboard.
sferoze 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Quora is an extremely useful service. Whenever I am learning about a topic and want to clarify something, I post the question to Quora. And it is amazing how fast I get a response.

Once I was wondering how the dragon capsule got into orbit with the ISS. Robert Frost and another person spent a lot of time with me in the comments until I finally understood.

I've asked many other questions about where to find certain resources, how to accomplish certain task, etc. and the answers have generally been quite useful!

The great thing about Quora is the site has an active community who spend time on the site. Also you will find experts in certain fields who are willing to spend time answering questions and clearing up misconceptions.

It is an extremely useful and valuable site for me, I really appreciate the Quora community and the help I get from users who answer my questions.

I use Stack Overflow mainly for programming questions instead of Quora. Stackoverflow is amazing.

I have noticed the Stack Exchange network with so many different topics. I think I will start asking questions in the Stack Exchange network as well in addition to Quora and see how they both compare.

notduncansmith 17 hours ago 0 replies      
If anyone wants to read the Declaration of Independence as linked in the article (or any Sribd document blurred in a similar fashion), here's a bookmarklet that will remove the blur and promo boxes: https://gist.github.com/anonymous/f9a222112070b2313b27

It's funny, I actually used a similar trick (text-shadow + transparent font) for an optometrist's website a long time ago. It was just a neat visual effect though, no DRM garbage.

krisgenre 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Querying my full name brings up my Quora profile as the top result on Google, even over my G+ and Facebook profile. No idea how it happened.
yuhong 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I wonder if sama has seen this: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4503910
awkwit 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Hate scribd. Love Quora. Conflicted.
Theodores 19 hours ago 1 reply      
Scribd has not been going anywhere in recent years. I remember five years ago when their product was slightly innovative in that you could embed a PDF in your web page and, at the time, that was useful for me as I had some content that was PDF only and I did not want to recreate it. However, they soon added adverts and spoilt that mild utility that their service had.

I personally tend to avoid PDF files or, if a HTML version is available, I will go to that. I just don't like the format and avoid it. Sure my browser renders it fine but I avoid.

Similarly, with Scribd, I avoid. Others do to, and, in time, people will learn not to bother with Scribd. They will avoid it from both ends - uploading content and viewing content.

I believe you can just upload a PDF to a GDrive share and set it to be world viewable. Or you can restrict it. It all ties in to one's Google account, so why would you want to go to Scribd for that? Imaginably people will come to that conclusion and, before too long, Scribd will become even more irrelevant than they are now.

PDFium: Chromes PDF rendering engine is now open-source code.google.com
385 points by andybons  4 days ago   99 comments top 19
atesti 4 days ago 2 replies      
I found it interesting that it seems to use Antigrain by Maxim Shemanarev in https://pdfium.googlesource.com/pdfium/+/master/core/src/fxg... Chrome uses Skia). Unfortunately the author of Antigrain died: http://beta.slashdot.org/submission/3154635/rip-maxim-sheman...It's nice to see the fascinating Antigrain code to be used for PDF viewing every day!
reedlaw 4 days ago 4 replies      
This is good news because it renders PDFs a lot faster and better than pdf.js that Firefox uses. Also, I would have to install this binary blob to get Chromium to render PDFs. It seems Chromium could easily adopt this, but I'm not sure about Firefox.
yincrash 4 days ago 2 replies      
It's really interesting to see that there are foxit employees on the list of committers. I assume that means that it was initially a fork of the foxit PDF reader?
scrollaway 4 days ago 0 replies      
I thought Chromium's PDF engine was based on Foxit; did they change that?

EDIT: I see there are Foxit employees in the commit list. Well, that explains that!

Anyway this is great news. Kudos Google.

By the way, for those confused, the source is not on svn like Google Code fails to communicate but on https://pdfium.googlesource.com/.

zx2c4 4 days ago 2 replies      
This is great because it is now the best open-source PDF rendering library. GhostScript, Poppler, XPdf, pdf.js -- they all sort of work alright, but are pathetic compared to FoxIt, on which this source code is based. What we now have with this source is a high performance highly compliant clean codebase of C++ PDF rendering code. Excellent news. Expect lots of future PDF innovations to be based on this.
ferongr 3 days ago 1 reply      
It's interesting that this came, seemingly out of the blue, a little after it was made widely known (from the mozhacks article [1]) that Opera developers were working towards integrating pdf.js into their Chromium fork.

[1] https://hacks.mozilla.org/2014/05/how-fast-is-pdf-js/

wooptoo 4 days ago 1 reply      
I believe this is the source of the PPAPI plugin, and not something built into Chrome.

Anyway, this is great news for Chromium, as the PDF plugin can now be shipped to distro repos.

e98cuenc 4 days ago 3 replies      
In case the authors are lurking here, what are the main differences between this and poppler?
async5 4 days ago 0 replies      
It looks like they did it in a hurry (on the next day) just after https://hacks.mozilla.org/2014/05/how-fast-is-pdf-js/ was published? Competition FTW!
nppc 4 days ago 1 reply      
For some one using PDF.js (which works great both on Chrome & Firefox) for my company's enterprise app - does this matter much ?
steipete 4 days ago 0 replies      
Sadly no tests, no documentation (except the documentation from FoxIt). Not even source code documentation.
gue5t 3 days ago 1 reply      
In typical corporate code-dump style, no README and no clear instructions on how to build or what form the output takes. I installed gyp to try it and get a variety of errors depending on what I try (the furthest I got was complaints about v8.gyp being missing; does this have to build within the Chromium source tree?). Does any Google insider want to explain their internal build practices so a mere mortal can try to compile this code?
MrBuddyCasino 3 days ago 0 replies      
So it seems the SDK has the basic plumbing to make a commandline tool out of it: https://pdfium.googlesource.com/pdfium/+/master/fpdfsdk/src/...

Anyone interested?

crazysim 4 days ago 0 replies      
Read the description of the project. It's hosted here:


gkya 4 days ago 1 reply      
Just glanced the source code, and, isn't it bad to #include "../../../sth.h"? Wouldn't it be better to set the include path while compiling and just #include "sth.h"?
ksec 4 days ago 5 replies      
Why did they close down something like Google Reader and Not Google Code Hosting? Do anyone actually use it?

I wish they could either make Google Code decent or simply kill it and use GitHub instead.

Is this a new implementation? Of did Foxit release it as Open Source?

ahmett 4 days ago 0 replies      
Seriously, releasing on Google Code Project Hosting instead of GitHub? Even CodePlex is better than that.
rushi_agrawal 4 days ago 0 replies      
Isn't it annoying to see code.google.com as the medium of sharing code? I've got so used to Github that google code seems like an old 20th century thing..
runn1ng 4 days ago 0 replies      
So, apparently somebody still uses Google Code.

edit: .... just not for the actual code.

Is It Better to Rent or Buy? nytimes.com
376 points by ovechtrick  4 days ago   244 comments top 31
mbostock 3 days ago 18 replies      
Author here. Thought Id highlight my favorite, perhaps non-obvious feature: the slope of the charts tells you whether the variable is positively or negatively correlated with the cost of buying. And depending on the settings, that slope can change from positive to negative.

For example with the defaults, the down payment chart is flat. This means the total cost of buying is relatively unaffected by the size of your mortgage. Felix Salmon pointed out this demonstrates the ModiglianiMiller theorem:


Of course, theres still a big intangible difference between having debt and not having debt, like your ability to respond to market or income changes. And in an inefficient market, loans can be more or less expensive.

Playing with the variables and seeing slopes change from positive to negative or vice versa is interesting, too, because these suggest different optimal decisions. Like as your investment return rate goes up, the down payment slope becomes increasingly positive meaning when stocks are doing well (and assuming mortgage rates arent also going up), its better to have a smaller down payment and put more money into investments. To a lesser degree, your marginal tax rate changes the slope of the down payment as well, by discounting the mortgage interest payments.

The magnitude of the slope also gives a sense of your risk: you can see how sensitive the equivalent rent estimate is to small changes.

jbarham 3 days ago 1 reply      
This calculator ignores the fact that the market for real estate buyers is increasingly global but the rental market is local.

If you are in your 20's and grew up in a middle class family in Vancouver, Toronto, Sydney, Melbourne or Auckland, and have a middle class job, it is virtually impossible for you to be able to afford to buy a house in the city in which you grew up. E.g., here's a New Yorker article on the impact of the global property market in Vancouver: http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financial/2014/05/26/140526ta_....

The political fallout from the intergenerational inequality over property ownership in Canada, Australia and NZ is going to be very interesting to watch...

millstone 3 days ago 8 replies      
My wife and I found a great apartment to rent. It was spacious, quiet location, reasonable rent. We were happy for a few years.

Then the owners sold the complex, and the new owners set out to remodel everything, very much against our wishes. Construction crews started entering our apartment. They came in while we were out, laying down plastic sheets and moving our furniture around. They sometimes came in while I was sleeping, and while I was getting dressed. It was humiliating: I felt stripped of my privacy and dignity.

Buying allows you to control your property, but more significant to me is what renters must endure: arbitrary changes to their home, allowing unfamiliar men to enter their homes uninvited, etc. As a homeowner, nobody enters my home uninvited, unless they have a search warrant!

bane 3 days ago 1 reply      
Doesn't have the fancy d3 visualization, but here's a better analysis over the long run (30 years). It even stacks the deck against owning at the start by assuming 100% financing. There's a few missing components (mortgage insurance etc.) but even if you add those numbers into this rather detailed analysis, the conclusion doesn't change. It's actually a good enough analysis that you can just added or subtract a few other scenarios from it yourself and until you're describing some very bizarre circumstances, the basic conclusion holds. All the calculations and reasoning are provided here. Buying is unambiguously a better use of your money over the long term. It's not even close.


Lots of people here describe renting as having an upside because you can remain location mobile, but that's true of owning as well. The only option at that point isn't to sell your home and then buy one somewhere else, you can also rent out your current home, and buy a second one. You can continue doing that ad nauseum, except now you've convinced other people to pay for your mortgage instead of you. In the end you'll own a few properties and all the people who rented from you will own nothing.

Something mentioned in my link but not explicitly in the OP, rent goes up, mortgage payments stay the same or can go down. Over 30 years, your housing burden goes down significantly providing you with increased monthly liquidity.

At the end of the day, you own the property at the end and for all years >30 you effectively live for "free" (minus taxes).

I urge everybody reading the OP to take a few spare hours and run the numbers themselves and see if the easy conclusion here holds out for them.

jleyank 4 days ago 4 replies      
I said this when such a thread came up the last time: If you can (easily) switch jobs without moving it might make sense to buy. If you can't, however, renting is the safer option as you can move if/when there is a problem with the job. Domiciles can be rather illiquid at times, which sucks when you need to move for work.

It's a separate question if it's worthwhile to buy at all, as that's dependent on geography, present and future market trends, lifestyle choices, ...

marknutter 3 days ago 5 replies      
If you buy, you can do whatever the heck you want to with the house or your yard. That's true freedom and to some people - myself included - worth every penny.
gfodor 3 days ago 2 replies      
The problem with this (admittedly very good) calculator is there are two key knobs that require massive amounts of speculation but have a huge impact on the decision: projected return on investment and expected home price growth. Good luck predicting either of these over the next 10 years.
blue11 3 days ago 1 reply      
Buying a home is not an investment, it's a quality of life improvement. Something that I usually don't see mentioned in rent-vs-buy arguments is that the housing stock that's available for sale can be very different from what's available on the rental market. The two markets are similar only at the low end. If you want something nicer, the chance that you are going to find exactly what you want is very slim. Even "luxury" apartments for example typically have beige carpet, cheap appliances, cheap bathroom fixtures, etc. For a private landlord it doesn't make sense to upgrade the property above the bare minimum either. It's just not cost effective. And if you are looking to rent a single family house your choice will be even more limited. Now, if you buy your home, with some reasonably priced improvements you can improve your level of comfort significantly. Of course, not everybody cares about these things. If you don't care too much about where you live then renting makes perfect sense.
iamthepieman 3 days ago 0 replies      
I resisted buying for a long time for mostly flexibility reasons. Eventually, with a 2.85% 15 year rate and a roughly 2.5% home price growth rate it was just stupid not to buy.

This is a great tool. I would have to find a rental for nearly half (60%) the going rate in order for renting to make sense in my area.

Shivetya 3 days ago 1 reply      
I will tell you my reason to own a home, large at that, even though I am single. I have seen friends/coworkers have to move after leases were not renewed. I have seen friends/coworkers lose put up with stuff about their rentals I would not tolerate as an owner. Sure it go fixed, but damn. I have also seen them held hostage to rising rents just to renew.

Yeah it can be more expensive at times, more work definitely, but I never have to worry about someone else deciding they don't want me living here.

mcarvin 3 days ago 1 reply      
For full disclosure I am a founder of the company but many of the mistakes in math / modeling made in the NYT Tool are corrected at SmartAsset. One example is the tax consequence of ownership - which because of the standard deduction is overestimated for lower value homes (<$250,000).
refurb 3 days ago 1 reply      
The calculator is surprisingly accurate based on some math I did late last year when thinking about buying a house.

A small (1300 sq ft) house in SF can be bought for $750K in some neighborhoods in the south of the city. The ones in between the fancy ones and the crappy ones.

I did a pretty detailed analysis of what everything would cost. Loss of investment income on the down payment, insurance, property taxes, etc. And came out to around $4100.

You can rent the same house in SF for around $3750/month, so unless you're assuming a pretty spectacular rise in home values, it doesn't make sense to purchase.

re_todd 3 days ago 1 reply      
My uncle bought his house and pays $300/month in a neighbourhood where rent is $1,500/month on a similar home. He is near the end of a 30-year loan, and will retire soon, paying just property taxes and upkeep. Keeping the long-term in mind, it seems better to buy.
pilom 3 days ago 1 reply      
The New York Times has had this same calculator for years with all the same options and a much better interface: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/business/buy-rent-calcula...

Why did they make it worse?

hashberry 3 days ago 3 replies      
Two important adjustments when using this:

"Investment return rate" -- Only 4%? An index fund will return higher than that.

"Monthly common fees" -- Required if you are considering buying a condo. This changes the per month rent comparison dollar-for-dollar.

adamkittelson 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'd personally find this more useful if I could start with what I'm paying for rent and get a result of "If you can buy a similar home for less than $xxx,xxx then buying is better."
MrBuddyCasino 3 days ago 0 replies      
Don't forget the human factor! Though theory says buying a house is not always the best financial move, on average those people are better of when they're old, because they are forced to live more frugal.

People that rent an apartment or house usually don't have the discipline to live as frugal as buyers are forced to be.

al_gore 3 days ago 1 reply      
There is nowhere that I particularly want to live that I could possibly afford to buy in, though.
snarfy 3 days ago 3 replies      
When interest rates are low, prices are high, and when rates are high, prices are low. It's fairly straight-forward. Your payment works out about the same. You should buy when rates are high and prices are low because you can renegotiate the rate later. You can't renegotiate the price.

Rates are still pretty low now, and thus I continue to rent.

Tycho 3 days ago 2 replies      
zappo had a list of uk cities comparing rent prices with interest only mortgage price. Some cities eg. Edinburgh showed hardly any difference (for comparable sized properties).

What I'm not sure about though is how it compares to a traditional principal and interest mortgage. Obviously your interest payments fall as the mortgage amortises... So then how does total interest compare to money spent on rent in that case? That's what most people would be wondering when it comes to evaluating renting vs buying...

kerneis 3 days ago 1 reply      
Is this calculator very specific to the American market, or would it also produce accurate estimates for, e.g., France or the UK?
smackfu 2 days ago 0 replies      
Another variable that would be useful is property-tax growth rate. Because sadly that seems to increase pretty constantly.
secondForty 3 days ago 0 replies      
Really neat that you've updated this. One issue: The graphs of grey bars on white background have very little contrast even in different browsers on a nice monitor. The old version of the calculator has much more color contrast between the graphs and background and doesn't have this issue.
wkd415 3 days ago 4 replies      
Would love to see this for lease or buying cars...
oldspiceman 3 days ago 0 replies      
Rent or buy arguments universally skip what I consider the most important factor in any major investment decision: freedom. When you buy a house, you tie up major assets and take on a huge debt load. This provides a massive constraint on your life. You're less likely to take on a risky job opportunity, you're less likely to move for a good opportunity, you're less likely to purchase other things you enjoy, and you put all your eggs in one basket. On the last point, as Americans should know now, real estate is not a sure holder of value. You can easily lose 50-100K if you need to sell your house to move somewhere else but there are no buyers. The flipside of this is you may sell it for the asking price but need to wait a year to do so.
lazyant 3 days ago 1 reply      
We need one like this but Canada; no tax breaks on mortgage interests or property taxes up here :-(
hagope 3 days ago 0 replies      
Has anyone compared this to the Trulia buy versus rent calculator? http://www.trulia.com/rent_vs_buy/
judk 3 days ago 0 replies      
This analysis always misses the most important by far for non-yuppies: the housing mix for renting vs owning is very different. In my neighborhood, you can't rent a house, because everything is owner occupied.

Rent vs Own is a boring question. Rent This vs Own That is nearly impossible to quantify.

aet 3 days ago 1 reply      
I think the NYT has redone this interactive piece like 50 times now.
State of MetaFilter metafilter.com
366 points by danso  6 days ago   176 comments top 34
sinak 6 days ago 4 replies      
I've gotten far more value out of my Metafilter subscription than the $5 I originally paid for my account. It really is an excellent (and very well-moderated) community.

If you're interested, you can donate to help cover Metafilter's ongoing costs using this link:


patio11 6 days ago 2 replies      
It's not my section of the Internet most of the time, but I'm professionally obligated to know a little about it, so in case anyone here runs a massive consumer Internet property and can't make the bills with AdSense: you should strongly consider having a direct ads sales force. AdSense is very effective at fulfilling the role it was designed for, which is algorithmically filling your least valuable advertising slots. It is not good at getting top dollar for brand advertising, in fact, it is optimized in entirely the other direction. Brand advertisers sneeze out numbers which pay for the entire salary bill in a month.

This is particularly true if you have an anomalously strong community or an audience which is more valuable than "a generic Internet user in your company."

Even if you're not a massive B2C company, there are plenty of niche publishers who quietly receive $500 to $X,000 a month for each of ~6 ad placements rather than taking $125 in "webmaster welfare" from Google. At that level you don't even need a sales force -- just "your ad could be here" leading to a contact page works.

IvyMike 6 days ago 5 replies      
> Jessamyn, who has worked in some capacity on the site for almost 10 years and was instrumental in shaping the voice of Ask MetaFilter, is taking a voluntary layoff.

Holy crap. I think this is a giant mistake; IMO she's the heart and soul behind that site.

DangerousPie 6 days ago 3 replies      
I was actually surprised to hear that they are employing multiple full-time moderators for a site like this. Is there any word on how much they were spending per moderator?

When I read things like "current response times to contact form emails of less than a few minutes will increase" I am tempted to say they might have actually had too many until now, but I don't participate enough on that site to judge this.

Maybe it would pay off to invest some money in the development of better "crowdsourced moderation" features (like rating/flagging of posts) to save on staff in the long run?

mutagen 6 days ago 3 replies      
I just commented on HN yesterday on the success of Metafilter's model of charging a gatekeeper fee for posting. Maybe a one time fee is enough to keep spam at bay but not enough to pay moderators.

The bigger issue seems to be Google's algorithm changes. I don't think anyone would argue that Metafilter is a low quality site or that they should appear below some of the spammy and generally worthless sites that continue to stay near the top. Relying on ad revenue is difficult, especially when your core audience is the crowd that is typically running ad blockers and search traffic changes at the whim of a search engine.

mrbill 6 days ago 1 reply      
I can't think highly enough of Matt and the staff / family at MetaFilter.

This is why:



and finally


I've made lifelong friends and had many enjoyable meetups with local folks. It's going to be hard to think of Jessamyn as a not-moderator.

ronaldx 6 days ago 2 replies      
MetaFilter is a site which I always value, when I read it, but am rarely directed to: I don't remember ever noticing it in a search engine result.

I'm sorry to hear this and I will endeavour to more actively support MetaFilter and other uniquely valuable sites in the future.

ap22213 6 days ago 3 replies      
I used to love ask.metafilter.com!

I went there almost every day, up until a couple of years ago. Around then, I sort of lost interest, as most of the popular questions became 1) Can you recommend me a recipe X for Y?, 2) I hate my life, now what?, 3) Can I ask this question so that we can all bash men?

That's just my opinion. I'm sure it's not the reason for their downfall. It does make me sad, and I hope the data doesn't disappear.

(Losing karma is worth it sometimes, to state an opinion against the masses. Political correctness be damned.)

guelo 6 days ago 4 replies      
Damn, basically fired by a computer algorithm. We are living in the future. But is Google too powerful?
distantparts 6 days ago 0 replies      
There is supposed to be a softer Panda algorithm coming soon (Matt Cutts announced it in March 2014 - http://searchengineland.com/google-working-softer-gentler-pa...). Maybe that will help?

Google definitely caused a lot of collateral damage with Panda, especially to large sites with user generated content. And unlike algorithms that target aggressive use of links or ads, it's still very unclear how to fix a site that's been hit by Panda (I should know, my car review site was hit by Panda, and never really recovered, despite 2 years of improvement work).

Now that content farms are not such a pressing problem, Google should be able to dial things back a bit, so that good sites like Metafilter aren't ranked lower than they otherwise would be.

3pt14159 6 days ago 4 replies      
Why doesn't MetaFilter update their layout / aesthetic? If google is hammering them, I'm sure a large part of it is the insta-bounces a site this old looking has.
csense 6 days ago 1 reply      
Two problems with the site that I can think of:

(1) It's somehow 14 years old and this article is #1 on HN, but somehow I've never heard of it.

(2) I haven't been able to figure out what the site actually is, or what it does. I looked at the FAQ and the orientation page on the wiki, but I still have no idea what I want to accomplish by going to the site.

Tomte 6 days ago 3 replies      
Sad to hear this.

I got into some ugly argument right on the very first try at participating in a discussion on the site, wasn't really impressed by how the mods handled it (although the one I PM'd was actually quite okay), and never really gave it another try.

I always felt like I'm really missing out and this was probably all just bad luck and a bad combination of personalities in this specific comment thread, but whenever I went back to the site those memories kind of killed the fun for me and I never commented again.


franze 6 days ago 1 reply      

internal duplicate content, might not hurt (might hurt), definitely does not help.

force lowercase, always. 1 page == 1 URL, 1 URL == 1 page

always set a canonical, the canonical is content dependent, not URL dependent.

also, your tag pages are wasted, as you do not target a sensemaking phrase i.e.: "Posts tagged with lawschool" nobody searches for that.

also there is no sitemap.xml reference in the robots.txt, which is at least a warning signal.

also i got a very concerning result while doing a webpagespeed testhttp://www.webpagetest.org/result/140519_H1_10TE/1/screen_sh...i only got the first result of a tag page

i could see this with a first request no cookie (on firefox), too, this is very strange, and if this is communicated to google this will definitely lead to traffic loss. have you done an extensiv "fetch with googlebot" using webmaster tools?

my name is franz enzenhofer, i'm the most successful SEO in europe, write me a twitter message, so like now. hope you read this.

in just 5 minutes i have seen 3 warning signs, if this is all new to you, please just fire your SEO instead of your moderator staff!

wmeredith 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is a failure of Google's algorithm to recognize and rank appropriately quality web content. Shame.
nkozyra 6 days ago 3 replies      
This is a major bummer, but never having delved too deeply into metafilter, it seems like it's been basically unchanged for sometime, no?

I don't believe in change for change's sake (and this juncture somewhat reminds me of where Digg was a few years back), but the whole thing seems like it could use some modernization.

Maybe it has iterated a lot and I've just missed it or not noticed through the years of my casual encounters.

jedanbik 6 days ago 1 reply      
For those who are wondering what MetaFilter is, it's a meta-filtered internet space, a well-moderated community where people can talk about things on the internet, without making it all about themselves.

The About page is a good place to learn more about the site: http://www.metafilter.com/about.mefi

petercooper 6 days ago 0 replies      
The only advertising I see on there is The Deck which is divided up over so many sites I can't imagine any of them make much money from it. If I log out, I see Adsense too, which as far as I can tell isn't a good source of returns nowadays either, it's more in the last-ditch "I can't sell advertising myself, give me anything!" school of advertising.

I think they should take the Reddit approach: gold + directly sold ads. Directly sold ads would surely make a better CPM than Adsense and it could go on all pageviews rather than just non logged in ones..

oskarth 6 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder where they would be today if they took a monthly or yearly as opposed to a one-time fee. It seems to me like recurring revenue would turn the main problem into keeping users, rather than recruiting them.
noelwelsh 6 days ago 0 replies      
Ravelry, the social network for knitters, in its early days had several fundraisers that keep it going for a while. The amazing thing is these fundraisers (called "For the love of Ravelry") were actually organised by the community.

I think if Metafilter gave its community a chance to keep the site afloat they'd step up.

nervousvarun 6 days ago 0 replies      
Would hate to lose the Big Blue :(.

A site I've visited at least once a day every day for over a decade.

opendais 6 days ago 0 replies      
Well, damn. :/

That sucks but at least MetaFilter will live on.

brianbreslin 6 days ago 0 replies      
What would you guys say is metafilter's core objective now? I used to read it a lot between 2004-2007, then got bored. So if you could describe metafilter & its community, how would you?
whoismua 6 days ago 0 replies      
A year and a half ago, we woke up one day to see a 40% decrease in revenue and traffic to Ask MetaFilter, likely the result of ongoing Google index updates. We scoured the web and took advice of reducing ads in the hopes traffic would improve but it never really did, staying steady for several months and then periodically decreasing by smaller amounts over time.

Amazing power Google has. We desperately need this power distributed to 4-5 search engines, not one. I have been thinking about the changes, and I suspect that a lot of the "lost" traffic went to ads (Adwords) and YouTube. In other words it shifted from sites like MetaFilter to Google. Great ain't it? Google decides that it's own properties (where it keeps 100% of revenue) are more relevant than sites where it keep just about 30% of it. Proof for the shift are Google's own numbers: in house ad clicks have been grown by double-digits, quarter after quarter.

Oh, I have heard the "Chinese Wall," "Church and State" but frankly I no longer buy it. Something stinks , as we hear of a lot of losers and one winner, the one that also ranks.

Too many coincidences, too many punishing updates for non Google sites, and a very suspicious increase of Google's own ad clicks.

atmosx 6 days ago 1 reply      
Sorry for the silly question, but what is metafilter?! Like HN for general content with a price tag?!
darksim905 6 days ago 4 replies      
If a site like MetaFilter is barely surviving, how is that Stack Exchange, Reddit, et al can just keep going? Is it because those sites have VC backing or roots in YC?
joshdance 6 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting that the only thing I know about MetaFilter is that I heard they are a well behaved community. That is it. Know nothing else about the site. What it does, why I would visit etc.
sergiotapia 6 days ago 2 replies      
Really sad to see that even if you 'make it' and make a lot of money, you can (and probably will) lose it all given enough time. Never put all of your eggs in one basket. :/
lectrick 6 days ago 0 replies      
So Google killed Metafilter?
Mz 6 days ago 0 replies      
Old HN discussion of mefi moderation: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1711995 I had not seen it before. I thought it might be of interest.
techaddict009 6 days ago 1 reply      
Why dont they try Adsense?
kvirani 6 days ago 0 replies      
After a heartfelt letter to the public, and layoff decisions final, you are willing to pitch in some donation? How nice.

But would have even clicked the donation link prior, even if it were a prominent "Please donate. We need it!" button?

That's the real question folks.

JDDunn9 6 days ago 0 replies      
I didn't realize this was a legitimate site with real users. I always thought it was just a spam site scraping from somewhere based on the horrible design and excessive ads...
massysett 6 days ago 2 replies      
I'm stunned there was staff to lay off.

I've seen such disappointing vitriol in the comments of the main MetaFilter that I stopped reading it long ago. I do continue to drop by Ask, though. I'm surprised there was anything on MetaFilter that required so many full-time staff and looking back on years of reading MetaFilter still doesn't give me any appreciation for what they must have been doing. In particular, the quality of comment moderation on the main MetaFilter did not, to me, reflect the level of quality one would expect from several full-time staff.

YouTube to Acquire Videogame-Streaming Service Twitch for $1 Billion? variety.com
364 points by Ocerge  7 days ago   234 comments top 45
minimaxir 7 days ago 12 replies      
It's worth noting that Twitch partially became popular because it wasn't YouTube, and gamers could stream without content restrictions (e.g. copyright and region)

Miraculously, this could end up making YouTube comments even worse.

arrrg 7 days ago 3 replies      
Thats sad. Less competition, worse both for those watching and making content.

Makers of (gaming-related) content for YouTube worried about the future of YouTube have often already been relying on Twitch to provide them some stability, to stand on more than one leg. This competition also insured that YouTube couldnt do literally anything. Makers of content had a place to go if things didnt work out.

This is a potentially great move for Google and more specifically YouTube, but I dont see any upside for anyone else (ignoring those profiting from the sale for the moment).

tomasien 7 days ago 1 reply      
Congrats to Justin and everyone involved in Twitch!

As a side note: most of my friends are LoL fans, and I seriously believe professional gaming will be one of the major professional sports in the next few years, perhaps on the level of Hockey. They're super normal, social, extroverted people - yet they'll interrupt a trip to make us watch a LoL match on Twitch. They all came of it independently too.

I really believe Twitch could have been a big, independent company. They did what they thought was right and I NEVER want to be that guy that craps on acquisitions, but I wish this one hadn't happened. I was rooting for Twitch big time. Still, very happy for them, hope YouTube does this right! I assume if everyone doesn't Riot (pun intended) the technical chops at YouTube will actually make Twitch a much more pleasant place.

dshankar 7 days ago 1 reply      
This is now probably Y Combinator's largest acquisition!
Maarten88 7 days ago 5 replies      
Compared to recent other aquisitions, 1 billion somehow seems like a bargain. Twitch has clear potential to play an important role in the future in TV and entertainment. Compare that to i.e. Snapchat...
tpeng 7 days ago 0 replies      
WSJ confirms talks -- "early stage" "deal isn't imminent"


tjmc 7 days ago 0 replies      
Wow - what an amazing ride to acquisition. To think it all started when Justin strapped a camera to his head! Congrats guys!
smoyer 7 days ago 3 replies      
My son watches a lot of Starcraft tournaments on Twitch and his immediate response was that YouTube might actually improve the infrastructure so that they could handle streaming to everyone who wants to watch.
Nanzikambe 7 days ago 0 replies      
Twitch is massive in the Eve Online community along with other MMOs precisely because it isn't Youtube and allows streamer to play whatever background music they chose.

I can a fairly substantial move away from it if Youtube begin applying the policy that removes all audio, if even a snippet of something copyrighted is detected.tracks for

owenwil 7 days ago 2 replies      
This is disappointing. YouTube's 'community' is extremely toxic, I can imagine if Twitch is rolled into it, it'll die a long, slow death.
burritofanatic 7 days ago 0 replies      
One summer night in 2007, I found myself playing poker with Justin Kan in a living room of the "Y-Combinator" building in San Francisco. Emmett Shear may have been there, but amongst the crowd in the living room was Steve Huffman, who was playing around with a new electric guitar, and Alexis Ohanian who was doodling on paper. I didn't know what reddit was at the time, nor did I know that the acquisition by Conde Nast had occurred -- I only connected the dots a several years later.

After seeing this headline, I can't help but think that the power of networks is real, as is the results of deliberate, focused dedication to one's direction and craft. Pretty awesome stuff, congratulations!

robryan 7 days ago 1 reply      
If they do acquire Twitch I hope that they still let it run separately and just improve the back end (as while it has improved it still lags for a lot of people around the world).

I worry if they tried to roll it into youtube that it would turn people away. Their numbers are pretty dependent on a small number of League/ Dota/ Hearthstone and a few other games casters and steamers.

bobbles 7 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder how companies like Sony feel about this considering a part of their service is now owned by Google.
dang 7 days ago 1 reply      
Since this is unconfirmed, we added a question mark to the title.
scotty79 7 days ago 2 replies      
Semi-related question... Do you know who came up with an idea of allowing companies to own other companies (and when)?
Orangeair 7 days ago 4 replies      
Why on Earth would Twitch let themselves be bought by a company that was in the news just a few months ago for systematically destroying the Let's Play community?
sergiotapia 7 days ago 0 replies      
I hate YouTube with a passion, this is terrible news for Twitch users. YouTube is absolutely dreadful and makes design decisions that just go against common sense. This is a terrible loss. :/

Will I still be able to see Twitch streams on my PS4? Blergh.

programminggeek 7 days ago 2 replies      
It's interesting that YouTube is acquiring Twitch and not Google. I realize that's sort of a smallish point, but it's interesting how that might be announced officially. Google obviously owns YouTube, but in terms of branding and identity and control, it's interesting.
nedwin 7 days ago 0 replies      
Justin Kan = 2 acquisitions in 2014. Not a bad result.

Has anyone else done that?

mhartl 7 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, congrats to the Twitch team!
wildmXranat 7 days ago 1 reply      
Time for for Twitch V.2. in my opinion.

There is so much copyrighted material on Twitch streamed by users, whether it games, music etc that it would throw youtube TM-auto filter into overdrive.

bdz 7 days ago 1 reply      
You now need a Google+ account to spam Kappa

And in before every popular channel gets shut down for copyright infringement...

tomasien 7 days ago 0 replies      
This tweet from a friend I assumed hated YouTube and loved Twitch sums up why this might actually be a home run https://twitter.com/macpheed/status/468237136882597888
tomeric 7 days ago 1 reply      
Twitch has rapidly become the site I stay on the longest, mostly for Hearthstone and Magic the Gathering streams. It's the first time I enjoy watching a "sport" live. Just a few hours ago I decided to pay for a Twitch account in order to not see ads, something I wish YouTube would allow me to do (I don't want to use AdBlock, because I think it's unethical).

I hope that if this is true, it's a feature that YouTube will copy and not one that will be disabled in the future.

trevmckendrick 7 days ago 3 replies      
Was Twitch a YC company?
vdaniuk 7 days ago 3 replies      
If confirmed, this would definitely be a smart decision. Twitch will be extremely important in ecosystem development as e-sports break in the mainstream worldwide. Lots of engaged eyeballs.

Google near monopoly on online video market bugs me though, community at large would benefit from multiple players and more competition.

KalobT 7 days ago 0 replies      
A lot of people are saying this is a bad move because insert reason that contradicts YouTube's existence. But consider Tumblr's sale to Yahoo! and nothing changed. Google bought YouTube when Google has 1% of the internet traffic. YouTube already had 6% [2006] (and is the worlds most popular site per unique visitors).

To be honest, I'm surprised MSFT didn't try to buy them first.

J_ 7 days ago 0 replies      
Does anyone roughly know what Twitch's revenue/profitability is? I know that they're pretty profitable, but I'm not sure to what extent.

1 billion USD seems somewhat low considering Snapchat was valued at 3.5 billion, and I'm pretty sure their revenues are non existent in comparison to Twitch's revenues.

karangoeluw 7 days ago 2 replies      
> Reps for YouTube and Twitch declined to comment.

Yeah. I call this just a rumor.

cpeterso 7 days ago 0 replies      
Why is this labeled a "YouTube acquisition" instead of Google?
free2rhyme214 7 days ago 0 replies      
Here's an idea: Google buys Twitch and shuts it down. Thus making people go directly to YouTube to stream.

But something more realistic is they buy Twitch and then integrate it into YouTube so everyone has to use YouTube to stream everything. Smart.

rinon 7 days ago 1 reply      
Does anyone have any other confirmation of this? Seems like a crazy rumor, but... maybe?
relampago 7 days ago 0 replies      
After reading this headline my first reaction was a verbal "aww man!" I don't really know why. Is it that I don't trust google? Maybe, but I think it's more that I like supporting the little guy and not the BnL's of the world. When I hear of an acquisition like this, thinking of Valve, I fear the brands I love will never be the same.
hookey 7 days ago 1 reply      
I know of some Twitch streamers who migrated to Twitch entirely and stopped using YouTube because of what it had turned into.Where will they go to now?
elinchrome 7 days ago 0 replies      
Newbie question here. How can youtube acquire things? Wasn't youtube acquired by google? So isn't it google acquiring?
creativityland 7 days ago 0 replies      
This will be interesting given the recent Google Plus integration into YouTube. Will the same happen to Twitch?
Natriceus 7 days ago 0 replies      
My guess is that people who fled from Youtube to Twitch will just move on to other streaming sites, which in turn just helps to splitter up various communities even more.
free2rhyme214 7 days ago 0 replies      
Justin Kan is now going to be pretty rich. Good for him. Congrats!
room271 7 days ago 1 reply      
Surely this is a massive competition concern and should be blocked on such grounds?!
sjg007 7 days ago 0 replies      
Congrats to Justin and co... including ycombinator. Big exit.
firat 7 days ago 0 replies      
Twitch.tv + Google Glass will be interesting.
toastedzergling 7 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder how many more months I have until I'm required to use a Google+ login to chat on twitch.
tyrrvk 7 days ago 0 replies      
curious is Twitch is seeing the writing on the way wrt net neutrality? They see big fees incoming from the ISP's to stream their content and decide to get under Googles wing now...
benguild 7 days ago 1 reply      
Why is this worth $1bil?
vecio 7 days ago 0 replies      
I don't know what this means to my startup Shou.TV
How I bypassed 2-Factor-Authentication on Google, Facebook, Yahoo, LinkedIn shubh.am
366 points by sounds  9 days ago   143 comments top 27
Shank 9 days ago 5 replies      
I love how Google's response is akin to "well, if the password is compromised...anything is possible" logic and tagged as won't fix. Facebook and Linkedin of all people immediately triaged and started fixing the issue.

Unacceptable response from a company promoting its services as identity and communication platforms.

kabdib 8 days ago 3 replies      
Google's response _The attack presupposes a compromised password, and the actual vulnerability appears to lie in the fact that the Telcos provide inadequate protection of their voicemail system. Please report this to the telcos directly._

... is reprehensible. It's a problem with the design as a whole, Google's customers are going to experience the flaw, and just passing the buck doesn't make the problem go away. I'm really disappointed in Google.

jameshart 9 days ago 1 reply      
Seems to generally demonstrate that sending a token to a voicemail is secured at best by voicemail PIN; he's demonstrated effectively that it certainly doesn't require possession of the phone. That turns two factor authentication -something you know, something you have - into 'wish-it-was-two-factor-authentication' - something you know, and something else you know.

Sounds like the right approach is indeed to not give away 2fa codes when the recipient hasn't demonstrated that they have the user's phone in their hand

danielpal 9 days ago 6 replies      
Sorry, couldn't resist. Shameful self-promotion, but this is why companies shouldn't implement their own two-factor authentication. Getting everything right is hard and chances are that you aren't reading or informed of the latest attacks.

At Authy we are obsessed with Two-Factor Authentication and spend a huge amount of time looking at whats happening in the ecosystem, which new attacks do we need to be aware of etc. It might look easy to build a quick two-factor authentication system, but history will repeat itself, and like passwords we'll see lots of bad and insecure implementations because its harder than what people think.

JulianRaphael 9 days ago 3 replies      
Maybe Google's incredibly irresponsible response hints at their general strategy regarding authentication on the internet: they are already pushing for the replacement passwords.I'm quoting: "[Google plans] to release an ultra-secure and easy to use identity verification platform that eliminates the need for long, user-generated passwords. Dubbed U2F (Universal 2nd Factor), the consumer-facing side of this initiative will be a USB dongle called the YubiKey Neo. Built to Googles specifications by security specialist Yubico, the YubiKey Neo is a small, durable and driverless device that requires no battery. Plugged into your computers USB port it will add a second, highly secure layer of verification when you point Googles Chrome browser to your Gmail or Google Docs account. Youll initiate the login by typing your username and a simple PIN. The browser will then communicate directly with the YubiKey Neo, using encrypted data, to authorize account access. With U2F verification, if someone wanted to login surreptitiously to your account, he or she would need to know your username and PIN while simultaneously having physical possession of that specific YubiKey Neo."

Furthermore, they had Regina Dugan, former DARPA director and now their VP of Engineering, Advanced Technology and Projects, on stage at All Things Digital in 2013 talking about electric tattoos and edible passwords which would turn your whole body into an authentication token with a 18bit ESG light signal. (Link to talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzB1EcocAF8).

So maybe they just don't care because they won't use 2-factor-authentication for much longer anyway.

crb 9 days ago 3 replies      
Would recording a DTMF tone as your voicemail greeting get around the "press any key to get your code" prompt?
cturner 9 days ago 1 reply      
A different issue - but around phone companies and security.

When your contract is running low, they call you and ask you to tell you them your security information as part of resigning you under new terms.

To emphasise: they cold call you and claim to be from the firm (which you don't know - it might be a phishing attack), and then ask you for your security details. They socialise their customers towards being vulnerable to phishing attacks.

I had this ages ago with an Australian provider (Telstra), and recently in the UK (O2).

Having followed up, I know it to be O2 policy that they are happy to do this. They... defended it on commercial grounds around practicality.

I'm sure that I'm not the only one to have though this is crazy. I raised an incident but as you'd expect it went nowhere. Has anyone else tried to pick it up with firms that do it?

Imagine a simple piece of legislation that banned calling and asking for security information. Would there be edge-cases that would make this a bad law?

rdl 9 days ago 1 reply      
I hate 2fa based on SMS or voice auth. Requiring proving control of a number is decent as an anti spam or flooding technique, but is horrible for authentication of anything high value enough to justify 2fa.

I also strongly prefer 2fa systems which allow me to enroll my own hardware token or use a software token (eg AWS IAM) vs systems which supply the seed so I can't (CloudFlare is depressingly the only service I use which still suffers from this, despite being otherwise pretty awesome.)

thret 9 days ago 6 replies      
Here's an idea: get rid of voicemail completely. The only person, the ONLY person I know who has used mine is my father, and his message is always "Sorry I missed you, call me when you can." Which I know already, thanks.
cstrat 8 days ago 0 replies      
Probably should note, for all Australian readers:

    All vulnerable endpoints for Optus Voicemail have been fixed. Including the endpoint I used to bypass their initial fix.

enscr 9 days ago 0 replies      
Very comprehensive and will written post. Also, good job on the due diligence of alerting all concerned parties and posting detailed responses.

Google's reply is too complacent. Despite this being Telco's fault, Authy & Duosecurity are better at mitigating it.

izacus 9 days ago 2 replies      
Hmm around here in EU pretty much noone uses voicemail (and is disabled by default on most mobile accounts).

Is that such a huge issue in US?

raesene3 9 days ago 1 reply      
Interesting article, I've always thought that phones are one of the weaker links in the 2FA chain (but a lot cheaper than dedicated tokens).

The general use of SMS/voice mail has another potential weak point which is where people start using VOIP services a lot. If an attacker has compromised someone's client computer with the usual set of trojans and they use something like Skype to receive SMS and voice calls, 2FA which relies on tokens via SMS or voice could be easily compromised as the attacker will already have access to them..

mjs 9 days ago 0 replies      
At least if you have a recovery email address configured, you can only initiate the process that sends codes to phones via a link sent to the recovery email address.

So being able to intercept codes sent to a phone is not enough: you also need to have control over the recovery email address.

nwh 9 days ago 1 reply      
For the Optus (and their MVNO) it's fairly trivial to just nuke the voicemail completely with a call to a specific code. Seriously, who even uses it anyway? Bear in mind that in Australia we are charged a clear dollar a minute to retrieve voicemail messages.
currysausage 9 days ago 2 replies      
Wow, this Open Sans font is just plain unreadable on Windows (7) machines. It might be the fault of Windows' subpar font rendering, but here, the font is just too thin and blurry to be read.

Damn, how I miss the days of simple HTML pages with no styling at all. Not beautiful, but readable, usable, fast, and ... yes, somehow beautiful in a pragmatic and very nerdy sense.

monsur 8 days ago 0 replies      
Hang on. The first step of this exploit is that "The attacker logs into the victims account on a 2FA enabled web application". How does the attacker do this if the account has 2FA enabled in the first place? And if the attacker can already log into the victim's site, why are the other steps even necessary?
iLoch 8 days ago 0 replies      
I never use TFA if it's SMS based. I don't understand why every company isn't using the standard TOTP TFA with a secret key, that way I can manage who has access to my TFA codes very easily. I just scan a barcode on my phone once and I'm able to generate TFA codes for myself, what's better than that?
noisy_boy 9 days ago 1 reply      
Am I missing something or the fact that once gmail password is compromised, the attacker could easily change the phone no. or set it to use Google Authenticator? Further steps regarding voicemail etc. will be moot after that.
beyondcompute 9 days ago 1 reply      
Yes, the Google's response (if it is real) to this problem is embarrassing. "It is not our problem that we practically post your credentials to open access at some occasions" [as this post shows using voicemail is akin to doing this in case of significant number of providers]. That's so disregarding to customers.
kolev 9 days ago 1 reply      
Microsoft and other services don't use 2FA for all services. I'm sure this can also be exploited to log into vulnerable service without 2FA and then being logged, change the password.

My favorite is services that use secret challenge responses to reset passwords. Some of those "secret" questions are colors, car makes, etc., which narrows down the choices to just a few.

It's unfortunate that many idiots carry the title of "software engineer" when they completely hack basic analytical thinking and basic math skills to prevent such exploits!

kolev 9 days ago 0 replies      
Can those services that require interaction be tricked by hacking the voicemail and recording a message with touch tones in them? Fortunately, most that require # also use it in voicemail greeting recording to end the recording, but the example, there are some that require any key, which probably is vulnerable.
tedchs 8 days ago 0 replies      
If your telco has broken voicemail, I suggest using Google Voice and doing the dance to forward your no-answer/busy calls there.
Siecje 9 days ago 0 replies      
Why is it a phone call and not a text message
kolev 9 days ago 2 replies      
Third comment on this post, but anyway. Why are 2FA providers still using SMS and not USSD (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unstructured_Supplementary_Serv...)?
PythonicAlpha 9 days ago 1 reply      
2FA based on mobile phones is a very weak method of security. It goes worse, when using smartphones. When you use your smartphone to access internet services (worse: make banking) secured by 2FA, your 2FA is reduced to 1FA, Trojaner prone security.

There are also already cases known, where attackers just made phone companies send a "replacement" sim card and the attackers intercept those. Thus the second factor was very simple out. Some phone companies are more aware now, but all is very much prone to social engineering.

So: 2FA is only a good idea, when using some dedicated device, else it just makes the barrier a little higher, sometimes not so much, as you think.

Theodores 9 days ago 0 replies      
To use an automotive analogy this is a bit like using social engineering techniques (e.g. pretending to be from the electricity company) to enter someone's house and then, once in, getting paperwork pertaining to their car. Theoretically you could then ordering a new set of keys from a locksmith, doorstepping the locksmith (when he arrives with the replacement key). You could then steal the car. Realising this stunt could work with any of the manufacturers that the locksmith can get keys for, you could then complain about how useless their cars were, that their locks were essentially broken. Of course, the attack would be entirely theoretical as the car 'stolen' would be one's own (because you were testing this attack vector so you could blog about it).

He should have got a job with News International. Essentially their 'phone hacking' relied on standard, factory set voicemail codes and their 'work' only came to disgust the general public when they deleted voicemail messages off a murdered teenager's phone, in so doing giving the parents false hope that she was still alive (as they were able to leave new messages as the voicemail inbox was no longer full).

Had the 'journalists' at News International known about this little trick for 2FA then, would they have really been able to glean anything useful? Yes, however, it would have been a one-time trick.

As soon as some junior royal (or footballer or politician) realised that they could no longer login to Facebook/whatever (because the password had been reset), they would have to reset it for themselves, plus they would have emails in their main inbox stating that their password had been changed. During this time the Facebook/whatever account could be thoroughly gone through, however, on-going access would be unlikely. So, in practical situations, e.g. getting scoops for 'newspapers', there is still limited use to this technique.

The greatest bug I never fixed (2010) makandra.com
355 points by triskweline  4 days ago   61 comments top 16
kemayo 4 days ago 1 reply      
Blizzard added a function to get around this, in response to this sort of chat-tunneling: SendAddonMessage [1]

It stops the drunk text-transform, and also doesn't have to worry about hiding the text from the channel you're trying to talk into.

Overall, Blizzard has been very good about adapting to what their addon community is trying to do. They add official support for hacks if they like what the addon does for the game, and deliberately break some if they don't like its effect.

[1]: http://www.wowwiki.com/API_SendAddonMessage

patio11 4 days ago 1 reply      
The author is the principal of the company which produces RailsLTS, which I was involved in as a customer. I wasn't aware that we shared the WoW connection, but that makes me like them even more. (I sort of hope we do not need an advisory about RCE via session cookie tampering because Rails is drunk.
twic 4 days ago 0 replies      
So getting drunk makes it harder to make new friends? Oh computers, you so crazy!
heterogenic 4 days ago 1 reply      
I can verify that, when inebriated, I am a terrible judge of character, and trust many people I shouldn't (even when my friends try to warn me off)... The number of times I've gone out questing while drunk and ended up in the company of some loser (while wearing sub-optimal gear) is uncomfortably high. The next morning my memory is almost always corrupted. Only by sheer luck have I not yet been fragged in a PvP area (and having rolled female this life, I wouldn't have much chance of defending myself.)

Clearly, this is not a bug, but a feature.

vitamen 4 days ago 1 reply      
As a Game Master we could see all these hidden communications betweens addons, and it would dwarf the amount of true communication a player would participate in. A raid group could be filled with 1,000 lines of addon chat a second, often contributing to lag that they would then complain about. Addons were powerful, but were certainly a source of many issues, and nobody wanted to hear that they needed to disable their addons to fix their issue.
akx 4 days ago 0 replies      
Ahhh, how I do miss the times of WoW pre-1.3, when addons could trigger spells and such at will.

I wrote a (likely very unsuccessful, as it's now disappeared from the internets) addon called DancingGnome, that allowed one to bind arbitrary input series to spells -- it was meant to bind dance pad moves to spells. Up-Up-Up for Fireball, Down-Up for Fireblast, those were (some of) my binds.

More successfully, though, I wrote Chatr, which popped up "IM" windows for private chats.

And another addon that allowed covert chats that looked like (to people with the addon) they were being said in public channels.

Ah, those were the times (for a given value of times).

_asciiker_ 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is one of the most clever ways to blame a bug on booze I have ever read!
markbnj 4 days ago 12 replies      
That's a great story. How would you have fixed it without having to find another channel to transmit over? Could the plugin sense the character's condition and delay until it abated?
esquivalience 4 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if this could be exploited by registering usernames that accord with the errors? The user would[0] then be trojanned in to people's friend list with a presumed level of trust they did not deserve.

Not sure if this would have any value, but I'm sure someone enterprising could find a way to exploit others trust. That's not a new concept.

[0] (This of course assumes that the only lisped-up content is the usernames, not the whole syntax, which I think is an acceptable assumption given that it's fully out of date anyway)

lugg 4 days ago 0 replies      
There is a newish add on called oqueue it does a similar p2p hack to form groups across servers for rbgs and now raids (no in game feature for rbg forming). Very fun to hack the code and give yourself impossible stats for jokes and invites. Haven't done much more than that but the hack was useful when you are playing an under geared alternate character that punches way above its weight and can't find groups due to gear level.

I'm almost certain you could get yourself invites and hijack group leadership with it (the addon takes over those functions)

cryowaffle 4 days ago 1 reply      
Not to be that guy, but how was this hard to find if WoW was adding the ...hic to the text? Couldn't you examine the exchange, see the ...hic and immediately recognize that would be added because drunk?
joeblau 4 days ago 0 replies      
MIM attack from the server! Great post; I've never played WOW but I can see how this would be very hard to track down.
legacy2013 4 days ago 0 replies      
I wish I had thought of this when I was trying to develop a WoW Addon. I was building an advanced party gui and wanted to communicate the whereabouts of each user, but was stmyed about how to send information between each instance
chris_wot 4 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder if there would be a way of sending drunk text that forces it to sober text?
akc 4 days ago 0 replies      
So you're saying it's a lossy format.
superduper33 4 days ago 0 replies      
What are common mistakes that new or inexperienced managers make? quora.com
350 points by asianexpress  6 days ago   147 comments top 32
IgorPartola 6 days ago 12 replies      
So at one point I took on a management job, stepping up from a (lead) developer. I felt like the whole thing was kind of a train wreck and I am still slowly analyzing the black box recordings from it. This was my first time having direct reports that were not one or two interns and managing a team of seven other highly intelligent people was quite a chore in itself. What bugged me is that I could never tell if the problem was the environment or something I was doing. I tried to be fair. I mentored people when I could help. I tried to not be overbearing when I had nothing to add. I present challenging problems to the people who I thought would find them interesting. I advocated for my guys to the upper management, trying to improve working conditions. I insisted on being flexible, discarding what was slowing us down, and adopting what was good. None of that seemed to help: my dev team learned to resent me for delivering the bad news (for example the dev team was the fallback for doing data entry for weeks on end when nobody else could handle it and we had no time to finish better data entry tools because of it), and my boss(es) learned to resent me for not delivering what they expected.

I know that there were quite a few problems above me. Lack of leadership carries far and wide and there was a disconnect between what the products did and what the management thought it did. Lack of money (think lack of compensation, lack of tools, lack of time for anything but immediate returns) did not help either. I do keep questioning whether I was doing all the wrong things or if I was put in a situation designed for me to fail, or perhaps both.

After I left I understand the company hired three different people to replace me: a manager, a dev lead, and a support engineer. I suppose that's some kind of a sign that I was trying to do too many things at once. Most of the engineering team also left after I did. The least I could do is give them the great recommendations they all deserved so all of them moved onto exciting new pastures. However, I cannot help but feel like I failed at this task that I felt sure I could tackle and I don't understand why.

Please excuse the rant. These types of topics always trigger those same feelings in me.

Edit: now I work as a developer on 2-3 person teams. I have no reports. I get to be productive again! I can write code that doesn't have to suck to compensate for poorly chosen deadlines. This is good for the soul. I do miss leading a team though; not managing but really leading. One of my proudest moments was when I was allowed to follow a system of estimates and sprints I put together and for 8 weeks my team delivered on schedule and exactly what was promised. That was one of my more joyful moments.

kabdib 6 days ago 4 replies      
Good managers realize they have to be managers and can't do an effective job of engineering (this is certainly true of a first-level manager with more than a few reports).

The best managers I've had have sighed wistfully and wished out loud that they could do engineering, but made a conscious decision not to. The really good managers will be very interested in how you are getting along with your career, and it will often not come as a surprise to them when it comes time for you to leave ("time to go, grasshopper").

The bad managers were bad for numerous reasons, but many of the worst were micro-managing, getting in the way, having technical arguments, dishing out unreasoned mandates to solve things one way or another, or generally trying to be Boss Engineers without actually being part of the team. Sucked hard. The times I've switched jobs underneath these bozos, I've called it "Firing my boss."

polemic 6 days ago 1 reply      
Those answers are great, but they're also very high level and general.

One of the best pieces of advice, badly paraphrased below, I've heard from a military context.

   "Any time you instruct a subordinate, you must be     prepared to deliver the same instruction every single    time they perform that action, and expect it to be     performed in that way until otherwise instructed."
This is a warning about micromanagement, flippant decisions and how to delegate. For example, if you tell someone off-hand not to bother you with X, be prepared to never be bothered with X again. If you tell someone how to shine their shoes, be prepared to tell them how to shine their shoes every single day.

Again, this is an a military context where orders flow downhill, but the same applies in other areas of business. An experienced manager knows where they need to set the boundaries within which their staff operate, with as much autonomy and initiative as possible. An inexperienced manager doesn't understand how to balance this equation.

PS if anyone has a better formulation of the above, please share =D

incision 6 days ago 2 replies      
I surely agree with most of what's posted there - a majority of it is straightforward common sense that's barely even specific to management.

"Don't procrastinate, communicate clearly" are to management what "eat less, exercise" is to losing weight or "only buy things you need, spend less than you earn" is to saving money.

The problem isn't managers that they haven't read this compilation of checklists or its equivalent in any of the thousands of management books out there.

The problem is the brokenness of management as a role in general.

Too many organizations are stuck in an broken structure which makes management the most direct if not only way to advance in terms of status, pay, autonomy or all three.

The end result are incompetent managers who need to be taught common sense or unhappy ones who are far better suited to other roles, but recognize them as dead-ends.

If becoming a manager stops being desirable for all the wrong reasons you won't have to remind your new, inexperienced managers not to be lazy or not to manage by intimidation.

sambeau 5 days ago 0 replies      
The single most common mistake I see managers making is assuming that their job is to manage the people rather than the project, closely followed by trying to micro-manage the project itself. Trust and delegation are key to all of this.

A good manager looks after a project not its people, concentrates on the big picture while letting others deal with the small details. A good manager achieves this by delegation.

Assuming you've hired the right people in the first place you should be able to let people get on with their jobs if you try to do their jobs for them you will fail through lack of expertise or lack of time.

I would add that iteration is also key - a manager should check on a regular basis that what has been planned is what is being done and that if not ensure there is time to change what is being done as early as possible. Good staff and good managers appreciate that some things will take a few iterations to get right but it is better to iterate than to take the first version of everything (and foolish to plan for this) - not iterating leads to over-design and slow progress as everyone desperately tries to second-guess all the situations their work might have to cover.

Iteration is also the best way to get a feel for individual workers' pace and abilities.

sheepmullet 6 days ago 4 replies      
Problems I found with the top answer:

Performance management: It is highly unlikely as somebody new to the team, and brand new to management, that you can work out who the high performers are and who the under performers are within the first few weeks. If you get it wrong then by making it official and documenting by email you will get the entire teams backs up.

Not explicitly managing resources: Really bad advice. How do you know what is important within the first few weeks? Often you will only have a high level view of what the team does within the first few weeks. Try and do this too quickly and again it can backfire.

mp3jeep01 6 days ago 2 replies      
When I first started work out of college I kept a notebook of "things I like/don't like" about my managers, mostly as a training piece for myself. One of the top qualities one of my managers had was his comfort level with admitting to me "I don't know the answer to that, but I think I know where we can find it".

Probably summed up as something like "check your ego at the door".This goes for not only managers, but any member of an organization -- pretending to know something when you really don't and being afraid to ask questions is a huge red flag to me for both managers and employees alike.

And back to the list, IMO that's a pretty good list, especially coming from one person's experiences.

TwistedWeasel 6 days ago 0 replies      
The hard part for me was that managing engineers takes a lot of time and energy, it's not possible to be a full time engineer and a full time manager.

Over time your understanding of the technical details of the work your team is doing will atrophy and where once you may have been an expert on all aspects of the system you must now rely on the judgement of the senior members of your team when making decisions. This is hard for a lot of people, to know that you don't know enough to make a decision and then to trust your team enough to help you make the right one.

Building that trust is important, because without it you'll make bad (or at least uninformed) technical decisions. it's easier if you moved up into a managerial role from a team you worked on instead of being hired to manage a team you just met.

ryanburk 6 days ago 3 replies      
the top answer is really well done, but lacks the gem from the second answer: "One of the major rookie mistakes I have made and see many others make is the assumption that human motivation is tied to economic outcomes"

put another way - you might have a personal ambition to have a title like "VP of Engineering" or make $500k a year, but most others don't. so if you project your motivations / world view on those who work for you, you will have a bad time building a great team with a great culture. knowing what your people value is really important and will help you get the best work from your team.

hessenwolf 6 days ago 0 replies      
There are some old IEEE articles on management for techies that, in my humble opinion, are simply brilliant.

Delegation: (usually the first failure I see)http://www.see.ed.ac.uk/~gerard/Management/art5.html

And the rest:http://www.see.ed.ac.uk/~gerard/Management/index.html

vidar 6 days ago 1 reply      
My experience is that the more experienced the manager, the more he will remove himself from all conversations, the rookies always talk about themselves.
pascalo 6 days ago 0 replies      
What really always rubbed me up the wrong way was approaching me to come up with the question "OK, how long then?". Because "managers" tend to ask this when neither scope nor current state of the project are visible, and are then getting offended when one points out to them that it's an impossible question. They then usually proceed to ask you to just make something, clearly demonstrating that they don't want to improve the disaster state of the project or care for your opinion in any shape or form, but instead prefer some randomly made up number.

So whenever I hear this question in that very particular tone, I already plan my exit strategy because I know it's going to be a train wreck.

deathanatos 6 days ago 0 replies      
> Lowering the bar - Inexperienced managers have low standards, or lower their standards, in an effort to make a hire. Good managers know that they're much better off keeping a high bar and waiting for the right candidate.

I'm facing this argument right now, and it's unclear to me on what my manager's opinion on this is. I'd rather not trade quality. While I agree with the quoted answer, I can't think of a good argument to back it up, and the answer doesn't provide one. Can someone give something more concrete here, especially something more concrete than, "well, a weak hire will cost you more in training / patience / bringing them up to speed / constant mentoring"? (or is that really the argument?)

abdinoor 6 days ago 1 reply      
A number of the points in the top answer are really symptoms of not being aware of what is going on with your people. One of the fatal flaws (for the manager if not the company) I have observed in poor managers is a lack of spending time with the team members.

At least in tech, many managers are promoted from individual contributor roles and they only carve out a little time to be a manager. Usually that means they don't know what is going on, and when issues do come to their attention those issues have been festering for quite a while.

bjelkeman-again 6 days ago 2 replies      
I probably have made all of those mistakes at one time or another. Some of the mistakes where bad enough to nearly sink a company. Hopefully I make fewer of them now.

It is humbling to have a great team actually letting you manage them, especially when you mess up and the tell you and they let you learn from your mistakes.

When you have teams like that it is easy to manage. If you do, take really good care of your team. They are worth it.

edderly 6 days ago 1 reply      
I think the biggest mistake new managers make is to forget that you are principally managing people. Even though day to day there's a lot of email, meetings, project management and office politics it pays to remember that you succeed through your staff as much if not more than through your personal efforts.
emilioolivares 6 days ago 0 replies      
Mistake #1: It's not about you, it's about them.Mistake #2: Not having frequent one-on-one meetings with your direct reports. For this I recommend you listen to: http://www.manager-tools.com/manager-tools-basics. One-on-ones are considered the core of the management trinity.Mistake #3: Not giving timely, frequent feedback.Mistake #4: Not coaching your team to help them grow.Mistake #5: Not wanting to let go of your individual contributor responsibilities.


Tactic 6 days ago 0 replies      
The biggest mistake I see managers make is that they think they are there to deliver completed projects to upper management. They are playing project manager when they should be playing people manager.

A good manager's job is to make sure their direct reports have everything they need to get their job done. The proper information, tools, training, time, motivation, etc. If they have the proper staff the rest of the success will stem from that.

I have employed that as a manager and expect it as a direct report and have only ever seen success when it is employeed both in the military and the private sector.

zhte415 6 days ago 0 replies      
A handful:

Not delegating.

Not working through others.

Not managing a group's resources.

Promoting one's self while failing to support one's boss.

Appropriating others' work as one's own.

Not growing relationships with other groups in a non-protective, non-clique, non-silo'd way.

Following, rather than questioning, organisational policies (i.e. not managing upwards).

blisterpeanuts 6 days ago 0 replies      
Micromanagement is the #1 problem I've seen with inexperienced managers (and some experienced ones, too). I'm surprised the article didn't mention that, although a couple of the commenters did, at least.

You have to hire good people that you can trust to do the job, up front. Then you have to trust them to do the job. It's as simple as that.

Dolimiter 6 days ago 1 reply      
Can't we ban links to the Quora website? It doesn't let people read the page without logging in.
alien3d 6 days ago 0 replies      
Software development.1. Don't have experience programming(medium is okay for fast debug).2. Don't have experince in meeting room.AltitudeE.g don't play with your phone in meeting room don't voice opinion.. It you don't talk how people would knew it ?3. Follow Up Client And Vendor .Some new born or over experience take think as simple.(Serious Issue).4. No Money Manager.Just wanted to request people work for them without money(Serious issue).

There's a lot to write here.. but above seem important to me dealing with problematic manager.

peterwwillis 6 days ago 2 replies      
I wish there was a way to share this list with a manager without seeming like a dick.
iQuercus 6 days ago 0 replies      
"Thinking too small - A successful leader is going to create growth and opportunity for their team. A leader who thinks small is unlikely to do either. Instead of planning how to grow your business 100%, plan how to grow it 10x or 100x."

This attitude could potentially backfire. It can lead to a closed-loop that eventually results in dishonesty to meet unattainable numbers. Better to plan growth empirically and adjusting for things like regression to the mean at the team and company level.

Shivetya 6 days ago 0 replies      
Not knowing when someone has to go or worse, having the confidence to make them go. Far too many cannot organize their thoughts properly to justify it to themselves or even HR.
snarfy 6 days ago 0 replies      
Praise publicly, criticize privately (with the person you are criticizing, not behind their back).
novaleaf 6 days ago 1 reply      
off topic, but wow, quora is actually letting me read past the first answer without logging in. they are finally wising up after I ignore the call-to-signup for the umpteenth time?
doxcf434 6 days ago 0 replies      
One thing I didn't see on any of the lists is ethics. Truly world class managers and team builders are also very careful about ethics, and see it as more important than their project, job and career.
jaunkst 6 days ago 0 replies      
Listen. Don't think. Keep it simple stupid. Let the leads lead, and we'll just listen.
JoeAltmaier 6 days ago 0 replies      
OP lists all the issues from the point of view of management.

From the employee point of view, here are some common manager problems:

Employee comes in earlier, leaves earlier than manager: manager assumes employee is only working the hours they see; they act on this and insult/piss off the employee with their assumption of slacking.

Manager optimizes group for his own metrics e.g. maximize resources/minimize commitments to increase likelihood of meeting all objectives. Company loses (spending way too much for the minimal accomplishments); employee loses when manager won't permit taking on anything but the most mundane projects.

Manager cherry-picks opinions in group to justify the approach manager Wants to take, instead of letting the experienced employees make their own plan. Managers don't 'get to' make decisions; they are supposed to gather information to make the Right decision.

himanshuy 6 days ago 0 replies      
Wish, I could post it on my company's intranet.
klodolph 6 days ago 1 reply      
In other news, Quora doesn't blur out the second answer and ask for you to log in?
Ask HN: What do you do when your entire being opposes the task at hand?
348 points by septerr  3 days ago   194 comments top 91
jblow 3 days ago 24 replies      
I felt obliged to comment because I feel I know what you are talking about and I also worry that much of the advice posted so far is wrong at best, dangerous at worst.

I am 42-year-old very successful programmer who has been through a lot of situations in my career so far, many of them highly demotivating. And the best advice I have for you is to get out of what you are doing. Really. Even though you state that you are not in a position to do that, you really are. It is okay. You are free. Okay, you are helping your boyfriend's startup but what is the appropriate cost for this? Would he have you do it if he knew it was crushing your soul?

I don't use the phrase "crushing your soul" lightly. When it happens slowly, as it does in these cases, it is hard to see the scale of what is happening. But this is a very serious situation and if left unchecked it may damage the potential for you to do good work for the rest of your life. Reasons:

* The commenters who are warning about burnout are right. Burnout is a very serious situation. If you burn yourself out hard, it will be difficult to be effective at any future job you go to, even if it is ostensibly a wonderful job. Treat burnout like a physical injury. I burned myself out once and it took at least 12 years to regain full productivity. Don't do it.

* More broadly, the best and most creative work comes from a root of joy and excitement. If you lose your ability to feel joy and excitement about programming-related things, you'll be unable to do the best work. That this issue is separate from and parallel to burnout! If you are burned out, you might still be able to feel the joy and excitement briefly at the start of a project/idea, but they will fade quickly as the reality of day-to-day work sets in. Alternatively, if you are not burned out but also do not have a sense of wonder, it is likely you will never get yourself started on the good work.

* The earlier in your career it is now, the more important this time is for your development. Programmers learn by doing. If you put yourself into an environment where you are constantly challenged and are working at the top threshold of your ability, then after a few years have gone by, your skills will have increased tremendously. It is like going to intensively learn kung fu for a few years, or going into Navy SEAL training or something. But this isn't just a one-time constant increase. The faster you get things done, and the more thorough and error-free they are, the more ideas you can execute on, which means you will learn faster in the future too. Over the long term, programming skill is like compound interest. More now means a LOT more later. Less now means a LOT less later.

So if you are putting yourself into a position that is not really challenging, that is a bummer day in and day out, and you get things done slowly, you aren't just having a slow time now. You are bringing down that compound interest curve for the rest of your career. It is a serious problem.

If I could go back to my early career I would mercilessly cut out all the shitty jobs I did (and there were many of them).

One more thing, about personal identity. Early on as a programmer, I was often in situations like you describe. I didn't like what I was doing, I thought the management was dumb, I just didn't think my work was very important. I would be very depressed on projects, make slow progress, at times get into a mode where I was much of the time pretending progress simply because I could not bring myself to do the work. I just didn't have the spirit to do it. (I know many people here know what I am talking about.) Over time I got depressed about this: Do I have a terrible work ethic? Am I really just a bad programmer? A bad person? But these questions were not so verbalized or intellectualized, they were just more like an ambient malaise and a disappointment in where life was going.

What I learned, later on, is that I do not at all have a bad work ethic and I am not a bad person. In fact I am quite fierce and get huge amounts of good work done, when I believe that what I am doing is important. It turns out that, for me, to capture this feeling of importance, I had to work on my own projects (and even then it took a long time to find the ideas that really moved me). But once I found this, it basically turned me into a different person. If this is how it works for you, the difference between these two modes of life is HUGE.

Okay, this has been long and rambling. I'll cut it off here. Good luck.

adrnsly 3 days ago 3 replies      
I know the exact feeling you're talking about - I used to work at a wonderful small dev shop where things moved fast; whole projects were wrapped off in a week or two.

Until this one project where we were asked to 'fix' an already written Android app (written by an Indian outsource then sent to Canada). The contract was for a massive amount of money, everything looked clear cut and straight forward, how could we say no?

For almost 7 months (!!!) my team and I had endless meetings next to a wall map containing the 5000+ classes that each had to be dissected, understood and reimplemented properly. All the comments were in at least two different foreign languages, and even the best translation services (human included) could only give us at best translations like: 'not class, forwards' or 'use brick making way here', most likely due to the comments being poor in their original language in the first place (not due to the translation).

At first I had great momentum, I was an unstoppable force; then quickly things started slowing down - each task started taking hours longer, than days longer, than weeks longer. Ultra trivial fixes like the placement of one statement outside a try catch, could easily take a whole month to locate (by a team of 4!).

After pouring my heart and soul into this project day after day, grinding myself literally to the bone; I started getting depressed, physically sick to my stomach for days at a time, starting fights with co-workers over absolutely nothing, just so I wouldn't have to look at that fucking code one more time. Anything to just not look at that code one more time.

By the end of the project (which we did actually manage to complete), I was waiting for that moment of euphoria, that release of completion, that I would never ever again need to look at that code, or work on that project.

But it didn't come.

I was paid more than 100k for completion of the project, so I was well reimbursed for my time.

That's when I realized that it's really not about the money, it's not about the team, or the language; It's not about your repo, or your source control techniques. It's not about agile, and it's not about problem solving. It's not about working from an office or from home, and it's not about the mother fucking 'culture'.

When you're lying on your death bed, and you look back; will you be proud that you spent all that time and suffering to fix an app for some asshole who is trying to make a quick buck by exploiting people who aren't technologically wise enough to realize what they are doing?

The next day my boss asked to meet with me privately; thinking I would be fired (and happy with the idea) we met briefly at a local coffee shop. She said that all the anger, depression, and self loathing was 'worth it' because 'I made a lot of people rich' in the process (myself included) and they were happy to deal with that (and even to pay for therapy).

I was offered EVEN MORE money to continue working on projects exactly like these, to the company we had just discovered a cash cow of an app crop, and I was the golden goose. I could easily do this the rest of my life, and lead whatever life I wanted to outside of work.

I quit on the spot, and laughed and cried the whole way home. Knowing that I would be blackballed in the community that I had worked so hard to establish myself in.

Literally career suicide. The company didn't recover, and a lot of people were (and still are very pissed off with me - like angry emails, restraining orders, fucking pissed).

I promised myself that from now on I would only do work that I believed in enough to starve to death for (and it was looking for a long time like that was going to be the case). The truth is, if you want a job where you can make 6 figures (or even 7 if you're doing it right), you will find it. You will always find it, and they will always be there.

There is a vacuum of talent on the community of expert programmers caused by major corporations like ibm, amazon, facebook, twitter, and snapchat just filling up cubes in their 'programmer cluster'. A group of people they can throw whatever stupid, or trivial tasks at - and you won't say shit, because damn that pay is tasty. You're breaking peoples rights to privacy, doing WAY less than ethical things, and you probably don't even know it (because that's how it's supposed to work, or someone else above you clearly isn't doing their job).

My only advice is to get the fuck out. Run, run as fast as you possibly can and never look back.

Never respond to any recruiters for any reason, never respond to job offers, and don't even think about looking for another position at another company (I promise it's the same thing, no matter how they promise you otherwise, and tell you that their culture is the dopest - nothing like clubbing seals with some rad people right?).

Get off your ass, and do something worthwhile. If you can't do that, then learn how. If you can't do that, then you're a drone and you should keep that shitty job because it's the best you're ever going to do (in which case, fuck you, you make the world a worse place for everyone by whoring your skills out to unethical assholes for cash).

Make something that garners zero profit, make something that only helps people, make something that changes the world for the better. You will quickly see your entire world, and all the people in it change before you eyes. You will get more job offers in your inbox than spam, because the world will see that you don't give a fuck about anything but getting shit done and helping people.

Today I run a few companies, the largest of which is a NPO machine learning research firm offering free services to help cure cancer, track missing children, follow and assess viral outbreaks, and front line ML research pushing the needle of science forward (email: freeML@gatosomina.com for services); and some of the others include: organic vegetable gardening as a service (physical outdoor labour, everyday, which I enjoy more than anything) and free apps that assist paramedics and doctors (without ads or bullshit).

If you want to be happy, like, really, actually happy (and not just wealthy) you're going to have to risk it to get the biscuit; and it's going to be the hardest battle you've ever fought in your entire life, by at least a few magnitudes.

Good luck, it's a jungle out there.

bguthrie 3 days ago 2 replies      
People tend to reserve pair-programming for tasks they perceive as being unusual, complex, or otherwise needing extra review. Personally, I've found it can be helpful even when you simply need to stay on task. When you both have the same goal, you can rally each other; it's typical to become more productive together than you would have been apart.

If this sounds like it could be your style, grab a buddy and see if you can hammer out some of the small stuff together. If not, some of the other suggestions here are good as well.

ryandrake 2 days ago 3 replies      
Oh boy, so I get to be the contrarian again.

First of all, isn't it a bit dramatic to say "your entire being opposes" your task? It's not like you're out committing genocide or something. You're programming, and you have to work on a crappy programming task. Every programmer who ever worked a professional job has had to do this at some point. If the very fiber of your soul is wrapped up in your employer's MegaAccounting Client V3.0 REST API, I'd recommend re-thinking your emotional attachment to your job.

That money you get every two weeks is called "compensation" because it is compensating you for your time, which you would probably otherwise spend doing something more pleasant. This is the realistic world of grown-up work life.

If your company's Marketing bone-head says the customers want a green oval button instead of a system-standard button, well, it's stupid, but I'd laugh at how much they're paying to get this ridiculous code written and just write the damn code. It's really not worth losing sleep or sanity over. Not being emotionally attached to your work allows you to shrug off the stupid stuff that Really Doesn't Matter.

ebiester 3 days ago 0 replies      
I wish I was done with the series of blog posts that helped me get over this! :)

I struggled with this for years and years. This is not one problem , but three: it is a problem with wisdom, speed, and discipline.

Luckily, we can learn tricks to improve each one.

If we want to attack this from the wisdom perspective, it is this: You are afraid of making the wrong decision because you are afraid to refactor. You are afraid to refactor because you don't have sufficient test coverage.

The good news is, for developers like us, test driven development is very helpful as a technique for getting us over these problems. If our team is not test-friendly, however, it will be difficult for us to make the jump because their code will not be written in ways to make it easy to test.

There are a few books I can suggest to help us jump the chasm:

1. Clean Code by Bob Martin. This book helped me think in more testable code, and also helped me understand how to make better decisions the first time around. It helped me by seeing patterns I didn't know first.

2. Refactoring by Martin Fowler. This one is old, but knowing the patterns of changing code gives us more confidence in knowing what is right, rather than hemming and hawing over what is readable and maintainable.

3. Refactoring From Legacy Code by Michael Feathers can help get from here to there. All of these help from three aspects: They help us develop a set of tests so we are less afraid of breaking existing things, they give us the freedom to experiment, and they help us break things down into smaller, more manageable problems by letting us think about "what is the next thing I can test?"

If we have the tests, we can be more aggressive in reducing complexity.


If we want to attack this from a Speed issue, then look for these things.

1. Look for patterns you use repeatedly, and try to settle down into a process. The fewer choices we make, the faster we can go.

2. Look to learn more about your chosen stack and language. It is possible that we are rewriting the wheel over and over. The more you understand the zen of your stack, the faster you can go and the more time you can devote to writing the same thing twice (without them knowing.)

3. Instead of hemming and hawing about the right solution, write all three. It is often faster to write all three and choose one than to get stuck in analysis paralysis. (That isn't to say you shouldn't think before you write code!)


Finally, you can attack this from a discipline angle.

1. Learn to meditate. By doing so, you can become more self-aware of analysis paralysis, calm your mind quickly, and mindfully choose a path.

2. Exercise. In the same way as meditation, exercise helps us learn to clear our mind and focus on command, and it helps sharpen our discipline chops.

With these, we can develop an awareness of how our body feels. Then we can develop an awareness of how analysis paralysis feels. If we can catch ourselves in the act, we can then institute something from our analytical skills: When caught in the trap, set 30 minutes on your timer, and bring out a pad of paper. If you feel you have the freedom, turn off the monitor.

Take deep breaths, and sketch out the solutions in the first ten minutes on the first page. Use UML or your own system.

In the next ten minutes, write a pro/con analysis on each path.

In the final ten minutes, make the decision. After this, your analysis time is up and you must code.

I suggest a combination of the above.

Good luck! It was one of the hardest things for me to defeat.

haroldp 2 days ago 1 reply      
I wouldn't say that my, "entire being opposes the task at hand". I would reserve that sort of language for ethical reservations about a task. I do not do things I consider unethical.

But I do encounter many chores in my work that are boring, that are bad ideas, that are for difficult customers, or often all three. I can have the same problems getting those tasks done, just like you describe. Actually, you seem to be way ahead of me because it took my far to long to figure it out. I thought I was losing my ability to program. I was wondering if I was going to have to find another career because I had lost my ability to concentrate. I was reading books on getting things done, and concentration and trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with me. I would sit down to do a task, check email, check reddit, check hacker news, check reddit, get coffee, go to the bathroom, check reddit, "Arg! I have shit to do!" Check reddit, check IRC, etc. I caught myself more than once closing a browser tab with some distraction, pausing for a half moment to organize what I should actually be doing and then open a browser tab to the same thing again.

The insite came when I finally got something engaging to do, and I just powered through it. I could still program! How did I get in the zone? How do I get there again when I need it? Well I worried about hat for a while, thinking there was some combo of sleep, nutrition, environment and task management software that I could line all up and get back to "the zone". It finally dawned on me that I subconsciously find distractions to avoid doing things I don't want to do. What a revelation.

How do I get over it? Well I still struggle with it, but simply identifying the problem was a huge step towards fixing it. Here are some techniques that I use:

Pomodoro technique. This is a productivity trick that actually works pretty well for me. The short version is that that you make a list of very small tasks, then work for twenty minutes (straight! no phone, no emails, no coffee, no bathroom), then take a five minute break. This helps with distraction problems because you can tell yourself, "I can goof off in 7 minutes". It sounds like a lot of interruptions, but I'm amazed at how much I get done with it.

Creating crisis. I work harder with the Sword of Damocles hanging over me, so I put those swords there myself. Call me back at 2:30 and I will have this done. Then I'm good for two hours of, "oh shit, oh shit, oh shit," type production.

Pair programming (and rubber ducking). This really helps to power through crummy tasks. Unfortunately, I work from home for a tiny company. I don't have anyone to program with. But if I am really stuck, I can ask my wife to sit next to me, while I explain what I am doing, and what I am trying to accomplish, and the details of what I am coding as I code it. I can use this occasionally to get over a hump.

Change of venue. I have struggled to find some shitty bug in some shitty spagetti code for a crappy website selling stupid things for WAY too long. The only way I broke through was to take my computer somewhere else, in front of other people. David Sedaris has a great story about a book suggesting he make a change in his house to help him quit smoking. Buy a new couch or something in order to change the venue. In our comfortable habitual surroundings we act in comfortable habitual ways. So he moved to Japan to stop smoking. I can't do this every day, it's just for breaking major blocks.

Anyway, I need to get back to work. Good luck!

rockdoe 3 days ago 0 replies      
Also I waste considerable amount of time trying to do things in the most readable, maintainable and simple way possible.

Is waste really the right word here?

They don't see how many hours I have wasted, how unmotivated I am. Instead they treat me as one of their most valued employees (oh the irony!).

"When given a vague, annoying feature to implement, very carefully considered approaches and built it in a surprisingly readable and maintainable way"

What you're experiencing isn't atypical - sometimes programming something sucks! Your employer values your ability to power through it and still get good results.

eduardordm 3 days ago 0 replies      

I'm a manager, and sometimes I feel like you. Sometimes I need to ask developers to do things I don't believe in or things I'll throw away in a few months. This also demotivates me. You need both a lot of discipline and just a bit "aloofness" to keep going. Care less about those tasks, think about friday.

If your managers are any good, they know you have wasted hours, they know you are unmotivated, and they know those meaningless tasks are the reason, this is why you are a valued employee. I'd rather argue to death with an employee because he thinks his idea is best for the company than one that will just accept any task like a robot. But sometimes you have to implement ridiculous things into software, from clients being just crazy or because of some strange contract clause. This is when discipline kicks in. Such situations shouldn't happen often, but if they are, that's when you should move on.

You don't need to get "in the zone" to get the job done. Just start by doing smaller pieces, put your headphones on. You could just ask why feature is being built, but I doubt knowing the reason will motivate you at all.

martin-adams 3 days ago 1 reply      
I can identify a few times I've experienced having something vague and complex thing to work on. If I were in your situation I'd look at the following...

1. If I'm working on something vague, try to extract more information about it. It's very hard dealing with frequent changes on a complex code base. I'd try to find out who the stakeholders are, customer is, and most importantly, what they are trying to achieve that this serves.

2. Break it down into smaller tasks and measure myself against these. I want to leave work having completed something and not return to work knowing I didn't complete something.

3. Try bringing a colleague in to help you, such as talking through the existing code and bouncing ideas off them. The energy a colleague puts in can help with motivation.

4. Make sure there is an end to it and that it's not an open scope. You'll never finish something if the stakeholder doesn't know what they actually want.

5. If this looks like it's the norm and you're not happy, while you say you can't change jobs now, put the plan in motion for when you can. Think about your CV, learning new things, etc that help. When the time is right you want to be ready to jump.

6. Get enough sleep. I find I procrastinate more when I'm tired. Of course, eat healthily and exercise.

7. Try to remove other distractions, such as any other commitments at work as a 10 minute interruption can cost you an hour if you're not in the flow of the work.

binarymax 3 days ago 1 reply      
It sounds like symptoms of burnout. I am not an expert but I have personally suffered from burnout before...and it took me a while to get over it. It sounds like you are additionally hampered due to being personally obligated.

As far as I know the only way to get over burnout is to stop. If you do not you will suffer more. I wish I had better news.

incision 2 days ago 1 reply      
1.) Doing things you don't want to do, but are necessary for a paycheck or otherwise is a basic part of being a grown-up. Lacking the discipline to simply get such things done and move on is a huge handicap as it's burning loads of time and energy that could be better spent elsewhere.

2.) This is surely arguable, but I think agonizing over a lack of satisfaction/motivation in a job is likewise a waste of time. If you can get those things at work, great - if not, don't try to force it - redirect it to side projects, friends, family or hobbies.

3.) Life is really short and full of trade-offs. Be sure to regularly re-evaluate your position or you might find yourself stuck rather than simply compromising.

>'How do you get in the zone and get it done when your entire being is revolting against the task?'

Through each of the things I described above. Whenever necessary I remind myself that:

* I'm a provider and professional, my family depends on me and I'm paid to do good work - getting this done is not optional.

* My time is short, delay buys me nothing.

* I have no shortage of great things to look forward to when I'm done.

mnw21cam 3 days ago 1 reply      
Yes, I left such a position to go and get a doctorate, because I was fed up with the dumbing-down of the codebase, the way that my colleagues wrote absolute undocumented spaghetti cruft, I had to keep fixing their bugs, and management were making some very dumb decisions about key features. As far as I know they are still going fine, which is surprising given I was the only one who could understand how whole subsystems worked, mainly because I knew how to write safe threaded code.

But, enough on that. A few years before then, I felt like you did, but I wasn't actually in that situation. There is a very real positive feedback loop in effect - you feel like you're doing a bad job, so work longer hours on it, end up taking longer, feeling like you have "wasted" hours, and feel worse about doing a bad job.

Believe your employers when they say you are doing great, otherwise you're likely to be heading down the burnout route which had me off sick for half a year. It's not every coder that has such high standards as you, and that is not something to be ashamed of. Be proud of the code that you have produced. Think to yourself "It's just as well I wrote this bit, because if X had, it would have been awful".

I know this sounds like extreme arrogance, however sometimes it is necessary for the purposes of regaining balance. It sounds like you are being a little too humble. If it gets too bad though, get some help from someone.

ChuckMcM 2 days ago 0 replies      
Time to gently move on to something else. There is a secret they don't tell you early enough, there is no "prize/goal/win" at the end of your life, you just die. Your life is the sum total of all the time you spend with friends and family and colleagues. And every day of that life you spend fighting yourself is a day you will never get back, you will never be able to change, and you will never cherish.

Dealing with a rough situation that you have no external control over is one thing, dealing with a lousy job you do have control over it. Let go, walk out the door, and look for something more fulfilling.

ollieglass 3 days ago 3 replies      
As a manager I've had to ask people to do work like this. I try to share it out as best as possible, so everyone's getting the least unpalatable tasks for them. I've also made myself available to talk through why it's required.

Those conversations have taken my team and I to interesting places. I've discussed brand positioning with developers, and shared spreadsheets of time-to-value models with designers, at times going far outside of people's skill sets and comfort zones. If someone insists a piece of work is a bad idea, I invite them to argue against it but insist that I need them to make their case rigorously. Sometime they'll convince me, sometimes they don't want to work through the reasoning, sometimes I'll try and develop their case and argue against myself. I want to reach a position where we either change the task, or we're both satisfied that the task should be done. If that's too hard, then I'm after a position where they at least have rational faith in my request and my reasoning, and are ok to do the work on trust.

I spend a lot of time on this, for a few reasons.

First, I don't want to ask anyone to do something meaningless. Burnout isn't caused by workload. Workload causes exhaustion. Burnout is caused by resentment. If my team resent their work, that's a deep and important problem. I'll tolerate a only very small amount of that, but I'll let everyone know I'm conscious of it, don't like it, and am working to get away from it. Burnout is toxic and damaging to people and the group as a whole.

And secondly, this kind of explanatory work strengthens everyone's investment in the team and the work. It strengthens the team's ability to think together. As people become better informed, all of our discussions become richer and more valuable. People enjoy the work more, and can relax and trust each other more, knowing that decisions are made in ways they can understand and agree with.

Finally this is also a litmus test for me. If a company won't let me in on it's decision making, dismisses my concerns as unimportant and tells me to just get on with something, they're indicating they don't value the team in the same way I do.

loumf 3 days ago 0 replies      
You can add meaning to your work by picking goals and accomplishing them. It doesn't matter what they are -- just as long as they can be accomplished and you know that you did.

Pick things that incidentally accomplish the assigned goal. For example,

1. Pick an amount of time, like 3 hours, repeat this cycle

2. make a branch

3. implement the feature in the fastest way you can

4. think about why this isn't acceptable

5. throw away the branch

6. do it again avoiding one thing that made the last one crappy

Also, weighing merits of different solutions and picking one is your job -- no need to feel bad about that. Come up with an assessment tool that will help you decide. Time-box decision making, but don't stop thinking about your solution -- just give it the appropriate amount of time, not unbounded.

Making progress is motivating. You want to end up at the same place but have the feeling of progress making throughout the process. I believe that it's possible you are taking the appropriate amount of time to do the work at hand, but you are getting into an anxiety/depression cycle because you can't get into a flow state.

Rudism 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'll throw my hat in with the folks who are saying to get out early before you find yourself in the midst of a truly debilitating burn-out.

That being said, I've worked a couple jobs in the past where I felt similarly to you--one of which I objected to much of what I was working on not only from a utility standpoint, but from a moral/ethical one as well. The only thing that kept me going was the social network I built of similar-minded coworkers. The ability to vent, joke, and commiserate with people who felt the same way I did at the company was extremely cathartic and served as my therapy. I don't think that's a good substitute for getting out and finding something else that you actually enjoy, however, which I eventually did when I realized how it was affecting my mood even outside of work.

djeebus 3 days ago 0 replies      
First and foremost, remember that you're writing code to bring in customers. Your codebase can be beautiful, pragmatic, semantic, and have 100% test coverage; if you don't have any customers, you don't have anything.

"Unnecessary complexity to the codebase"

It depends on what you mean by unnecessary. If you mean "won't bring in anymore customers", have that conversation with your managers. Not all of them are brilliant, and no one gets it right 100% of the time. If you can prove that the feature doesn't provide value, have that conversation with them.

On the other hand, if your boss ignores your input, and you're 1000% sure that there are other features that are more valuable to your business than the one in question, you can always push that one to the back and work on something that's more productive to the company. Depending on your political and professional circumstances, your boss may not notice or care, and their boss may forget about their red herring feature; you might be able to side-step the conversation altogether. This will only work if there's more than a few items on your plate that need to get done soon, and this feature can get pushed aside without delaying or blocking anyone else.

Bear in mind that if you go this route, you're putting yourself, your career, and your neck on the line. If it turns out that it wasn't a good idea and everyone agree with you, you'll look like a genius and gain some clout as a clairvoyant; if it turns out it was seriously necessary, you'll look like someone who pouts when they don't get their way. Either way your boss may also hold a grudge. I'm not saying it's the greatest way to go, just adding it as an option. It's helped me more than a few times in my career, but it's also frustrated my bosses a few times. Be gracious if you're shown wrong though, and quick to admit defeat if it's obvious you chose the wrong path, and you should be fine no matter what happens.

makmanalp 2 days ago 0 replies      
Mark Twain is rumored to have said something along the lines of "Eat your frog" (it may be apocryphal, but whatever: http://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/04/03/eat-frog/). The point is that you should get up in the morning and make a point of doing the worst, most boring, most disgusting task you can think of. And don't think too hard, just get it done. You can decide whether to improve on it later. Then, the rest of the day, you'll be freed of all the worry, wallowing and indecisiveness.

The other thing is that if they value you, it's probably for a reason. You're fulfilling their expectations and providing them with value. Take the compliment and go with it! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome

swalsh 3 days ago 0 replies      
You might be burning out, and not even realize it. I've been in a similar situation. The unmotivated mindset leads to additional hours compounding the effects.

My suggestion go on a vacation, if it doesn't get better... leave. You say you're not in a position to leave... but you have to, because its not going to get any better. You're not really doing anyone a favor by burning yourself out for them.

snorkel 2 days ago 0 replies      
Why would your managers fire you?

Your managers demanded a stupid feature, and you took long time implementing the stupid feature due to its complexity.

The only thing missing is you need to warn your managers before you start coding such as "This is going to take long time due to the complexity, many many weeks. Also I don't think it's right for the product either."

As long as expectations are clear beforehand, and you met those expectations, then no one is getting fired, and therefore you should relax and enjoy coding Easter Eggs into each shitty feature.

gknoy 2 days ago 0 replies      
> I am assigned a feature ... that I feel adds unnecessary complexity > [My] managers ... minds are already made up.

One of the things that I found helped me the most when dealing with features like this is to Let Go of Caring about that particular thing. We fight for what we believe is best, but when a customer, manager, or other higher-ranking stakeholder decides otherwise, it's out of our hands. You did your professional duty by arguing for the Better way (as you see it), but now it's time to make the new direction work.

UX team decides buttons should be the way that pisses you off the most? It's OK, you're not the main user.Manager decides that a "Calculate" button is better than auto-re-calculating? That's ok: the users are happier using that. (We can transition later.)They want an e-mail based workflow for approving things, rather than a web-based one? That's OK: these execs spend most of their time with their phones, and don't want to be logging into the website.

Often what we feel is "unnecessary complexity" is a workaround for a key use case that we didn't realize, or yields customer happiness because it's what they asked for. In that case, it's __necessary__ complexity, just like a bit of ugly code that patches a bug. Try looking at it from the perspective of the user or the manager, and really understand why they feel it is important -- quite often, it's addressing a weakness of your software product that you were not aware of, or which you felt was unimportant.

cognivore 2 days ago 0 replies      
Wait, how long have you been programming? 'cause this is essentially the job description of every programmer I know.
orky56 2 days ago 0 replies      
It seems your internal struggle about your perceived inefficiency is burning you out. Rightfully so if you are wasting time on what's not particularly important. Do your managers value the quality of your work as much as you do? If not, do you think you'd be able to live with a slightly lower quality deliverable that frees you from the stress? Perhaps it would allow you to work on that feature you do want to work on.

We have a right to be happy. We should make decisions that satisfy the majority of our lives and where do what we love. For things not under our control, we still need to love what we do.

The easiest solution to your problem is creating discipline and decisiveness. When you give yourself more hours to work than you are expected to, you create a vacuum of inefficiency. You work unsustainably on things of little value. Instead I would force you to a) figure out your success criteria, b) what are those steps, c) prioritize those steps, and most importantly d) set time limits for each of those steps. The constraint of time will force you to get to the 80% quickest. I have written some articles on these exact problems and in the process of creating an app with those insights. Feel free to read more here: https://medium.com/produce-productivity/ee13c1600b6b

neverminder 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm in a state that you've described pretty much every day. This is reality I'm afraid. Only the best of the best of us get to choose what they want to do, the rest are having a hard time surviving most of the time. I work in a software company and absolute majority of my coleagues are not interested in technology at all. Some of them sit on the same chairs for 15 years turning some ridiculous specs into useless code. As soon as the clock strikes 5 they get up from their chairs and proceed to the exit with unchanged zombie faces. I can swear I saw cows doing that somewhere in the countryside. I spend all the spare time I have to get as good as I can so that I could eventually not be ignored anymore and find a job that I would really like.
ScottBurson 2 days ago 0 replies      
Also I waste considerable amount of time trying to do things in the most readable, maintainable and simple way possible. This means weighing merits of different solutions and choosing one. I am a really hesitant decision maker, resulting in more wasted hours.

This time is not entirely wasted. Even in the worst case -- where the code you are so carefully writing winds up not being used after all -- you are getting good practice in code craftsmanship. The next time you are faced with a decision similar to one you are making now, you will make it more easily: not only have you considered the issues before, but you know how one of the possibilities actually worked out. This is how one builds experience.

I usually find that writing code slowly and carefully is in fact the fastest way to get it done, because it minimizes debugging and rewriting. There are exceptions, such as exploratory programming, when you know you're going to throw the thing away anyway, and in small utilities built for personal use; and there are times when getting something working quickly is important (for a demo, for instance) even though you know you'll have to rewrite it. But these are exceptions. When you're implementing important functionality that's going to be in the product for the foreseeable future and that others will have to maintain and build on, the slow, careful way is best.

It seems to me the real problem here is that although your managers value your work, they don't listen to your architectural opinions. That's a serious problem. Maybe at some point you'll need to tell them, "if you want it done that way, you'll have to find somebody else to do it". Pick your battle carefully though -- it needs to be a case where their way is clearly and substantially suboptimal.

buckbova 2 days ago 0 replies      
When this happens to me I take the time to refactor all sorts of "dependencies" in the process. It ends up being a net positive. Yeah, I added some complexity where it wasn't needed in one area but I've removed some legacy code or redesigned an ugly hack.

They don't know this code is generally unrelated or don't complain to me about it. Only problem with this is I can now be opening up new bugs because these revisions aren't always fully QA'd.

CaRDiaK 3 days ago 0 replies      
I get like this more often than I like to admit. I just break the entire thing down and write a multitude of check box's. Personally I'm using the bulletjournal technique (www.bulletjournal.com)

If I cant get the motivation then I need more abstraction. Abstract until you drop! You are naturally conditioned towards completing things and positivity. That's why people get badly addicted to games like farmville and such. You do something simple, you get something back, you do something else, you get something else. Really your just baking time. But the psychology of achieving is where the addiction comes from. It's not the game. It's the fulfilment from completing something. You need to see this progress visually so you feel like your moving.

It's not uncommon for me (when I'm really low and scraping the barrel) to have a task like for a job such as this;

[ ] Open Sublime[ ] Set-up folder structure[ ] Skim read spec[ ] note areas of concern for later [ ] Describe required method to self / colleague / rubber duck [ ] pseudo code initial method [ ] expand pseudo to code [ ] looks in spec for extra details [ ] list who needs to be contacted for further information[ ] email manager estimate[ ] take a break...

Now you can start to get "little wins" even on something you don't really agree with / want to do. The goal now becomes to tick those damn boxes, not to implement some feature you don't agree with. It might seem strange to tick a box for something as simple as opening a program, but if that's the level you need for your motivation then that's OK. The reality is these check box's are just mental milestones for progression. What's really important is your ticking them though. If you find yourself for hours on end not doing the list, the list is wrong somehow. Perhaps you don't have small enough tasks. Perhaps the tasks are too hi level and need to be split into sub tasks on those. Just tick, tick, tick.

Try it, it might work for you, it might not. This sure helped me though! Good luck.

doktrin 2 days ago 0 replies      
I can't say how much this post speaks to me. I've felt similarly for the last month or so, or ever since I was assigned my current project. I don't have any actionable advice, so I'll just share my current situation.

Without going into details, in my case the task is implementing a terrible, hacky solution for a total edge case problem. It's something I will probably never do again in my entire career.

It's draining. It claws at my self esteem, as I sit in the office wasting literal hours during a day not doing anything. The output of the 4-5 hours of actual work I put in over the course of a week appear satisfactory to the stakeholders, which is mind blowing.

I know that the sooner I get this done, the sooner I can move onto something more interesting. However, just working on this particular task has sapped my will like nothing I've experienced before in my career as a developer.

neumann 2 days ago 0 replies      
I stated a new job after living in Europe for 6 months for a change and immediately realised it is the same job I had back home, with the same destination. The mind numbing drain of the IT work juxtaposed with the non office lifestyle I had before taking the job and was literally destroying my soul. I hated it. I now joke that I became an alcoholic in 2 weeks, because I needed to be so blind drunk every night trying to justify how this will be good for my future. And the same as you, the worst part is that my new colleagues liked me and my managers lauded my on how fast I was, delivering great work. I spent the second weekend walking around trying to imagine other jobs, other people, the work culture. Eventually I decided that I could handle the work and push through it, but only if it guaranteed that I could hang out with interesting colleagues and work on interesting problems in the future. I went back my second week and tried to analyse what opportunities I would have given my current role and handed my resignation in after lunch. My boss was shocked, asked if I'd been poached or wanted to work on something else, but I had made up my mind and couldn't wait to try the next thing.

If that story doesn't bring any comfort because you have to stay, one approach is to be open about how you feel at a team meeting and see if anybody else is willing to timeshare the task. However, if this is the sort of task you will always face day-to-day, you will eventually have to decide if that's how you want to feel everyday.

falcolas 3 days ago 1 reply      
Not a therapist, but have a look (or better, have a professional have a look) at ADHD-PI. What you've said describes perfectly how I feel at work a lot of the time, and it's what I was diagnosed with.

I seem to have a finite pool for motivating (or more accurately forcing) myself to do work. And when that pool is empty, it's off to HN or Reddit I go. Frustrating, and I still don't have a solution yet.

Hope this helps.

scotty79 2 days ago 0 replies      
What are you feeling doesn't have all that much to do with what you do and what perceived atrocities you are paid to commit.

I have same feelings and I notice that they stem more from being responsible (often self assumed internal responsibility) for the state of the system no one else cares about the state of.

You are just lonely with what you do. People love you for the effect of your work, but you see that they don't care about what you do. And it makes your work meaningless (or even detrimental) from your point of view.

You imagine you could take solace from the fact that you system would be architected beautifully without all this crap people who pay you make you put in there. But that's not true. Artists are generally unhappy. They get happy though appreciation, but not appreciation of common-folk that just don't get art. Only by appreciation of fellow artists.

Programming is a puzzle. It doesn't matter what puzzle you solve. Solving a puzzle of not increasing fragility of your system by adding crappy feature is also a (hard) puzzle that can be solved better or worse. Sometimes solving puzzle brings pleasure if your solution is especially good and programmers think that's the right and only way to get pleasure out of what they do. But that's rare. For each time solution itself brought you pleasure you should have at least 10 times where your solution brought you pleasure just because someone seen it, understood it and respected it.

tl;dr Make company hire more competent people that can share your burden.

Jean-Philipe 3 days ago 0 replies      
Unless it's morally against my ideals, like violating privacy, stealing money from kids with phones, etc., I don't see that many problems with features I don't agree with. They want it, they pay, why not? Surely, if it was my own company or a team I'd value, then I'd hesitate to implement that feature and argue with everybody about it. But at some point, I leave the project and once I don't I own it anymore, I don't have problems with features I don't like. That is, unless they tell me /how/ to solve the task.

What helps me most is finding a technical challenge that makes the feature interesting and fun to implement. This shouldn't be too hard, if you are free to design the feature technically. Hope that little hack helps you getting things done.

flipped_bit 3 days ago 0 replies      
Welcome to programming!

"Also I waste considerable amount of time trying to do things in the most readable, maintainable and simple way possible"

Motivation is tied to your attitude here as you are looking to do more 'interesting' work, whereas the task at hand looks boring. However the task at hand could be important for the company, so it is important to take trouble understand the big picture here. Most engineers (and I am one of them) are too self-centered to do this, and this can be debilitating.

It involves coming out of your shell, being proactive to talk to the business, product and other areas and see why these set of features that needs to get done has important implications.

At the end of the day, everything is about service. If you enhance your attitude to think more in a service-oriented way (it is not all about you), this changes your 'attitude profile', and in turn can boost your motivation factor by several orders. Suddenly what looked boring becomes very important. It may mean to be more pragmatic ( no ideological fixations on 'purity of code'), roll up your sleeves and get it done.

The valuable service to the customer, can lead into repeat business, which adds to the bottom line, and that later could mean more bonus for you, which you can use it up for that special time with your BF that you have been planning for a while.

lnanek2 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is par for the course for programming. I usually just shrug, write it their way, and figure it is their money they are wasting. It's my job to mention better ways, but in the end, do it how I'm told. One work place in particular we often rewrite the same thing 3 times over. Sometimes it gets better, sometimes worse. On rare occasions, things do actually work out better their way if they knew a different product was coming down the line with different requirements, or a graphics designer pushed really hard for something that ended up making the app look cleaner or kept her engaged in the project even if it was a PITA for the programmers, etc.. So sometimes you'll discover it isn't so bad after you implement it. For the rest of those times, just grab a personal project, or hit a hackathon, and do it your way. Then don't grasp so hard on having it your way on work projects.
scardine 3 days ago 1 reply      
Don't get so emotionally attached to the job, it is not professional.

Sometimes I have the impression that the younger don't know how to take it like a man. There is a difference between complaining and whining, guess which one makes a man miserable...

Reality is hard to change, but perception is easy. You can really improve your happiness by reworking your perception.

Take some distance and look at the big picture: as an Employee, your main concern is if the pay check cashes. Everything else is ultimately a problem for the business owners (professionals are pragmatic, not cynic).

If your vision does not align with management and you happens to be right, it is a lot more sad for the company than for you personally. It is not your baby - wish them good luck, do your side of the deal as well as you can and don't suffer over it. You have your startup, your own baby to look after.

jejacks0n 2 days ago 0 replies      
As a programmer and perfectionist with Impostor Syndrome (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome), I've learned some ways to mitigate these frustrations and stress causing issues, and figured they might be worth sharing.

I think many of us know your pain, and as a consultant I'm exposed to it on a pretty regular basis. It takes some of the fun out of my job for sure, but I don't let it stress me out. First, we should always want to be passionate about the projects we work on, and I think this is a result of being passionate in general. Being passionate makes it enjoyable, and it allows you to bring your best work forward (which is rewarding), but in our industry we must always create a balance of cost and quality in the midst of a very complex process. To me, this all boils down to priorities and expectations.

When you take your own priorities and combine them with those of someone else, you will never be able to get them to mesh completely. Your priorities may be to make quality code, or to make it elegant or smart -- easily maintainable, extensible, etc. etc. These are things that make it fun, and programmers all know the benefits of these things. Clients, or your bosses, may not understand the importance of these things, or they may, and they may be willing to pay it down later, whatever the case may be, there are conflicting priorities at play and this is the thing you must mitigate to avoid stress.

For me, I must either disregard the external priorities entirely and do it the way I believe it "should be done", or I must disregard my priorities entirely and adopt the external priorities as my own. This may result in technical debt, or a slow progression in the future, or can raise the potential of bugs to be introduced, but these are not my concerns if they are not part of the external priorities.

It's important that you communicate all of my concerns up front, and if it doesn't impact the priorities that are communicated, you must trust that it's ok. If you don't trust that it will be ok, or think you will be negatively impacted by doing it the way you're being asked to do it, you should leave. A management(or client)/ employee relationship is built on trust, and if you don't have that trust you will be less happy than you could be.

neeleshs 2 days ago 0 replies      
Yes, I have been in these situations. For me, there was no getting in the zone - I used to spend a lot of time pushing back, trying to oversimplify a solution, or just freezing because I was not stimulated enough by the task at hand.

Ultimately, I chose the path of gritting my teeth and getting over it. During that phase, the code quality suffered a little, but I did not have to waste hours and hours of my life freezing on it. This phase lasted for a few months in some cases.

This is by no means a long term strategy - I accept it as part of any programmer's life and simply deal with it without being emotional about it as much as possible. I have been fortunate enough to get more exciting work than mundane stuff

jhh 3 days ago 0 replies      
I don't think that's specific to programming. It's what we all experience when we procrastinate.

Set yourself small very clear goals which you write down and where you commit yourself to finishing them in a given amount of time.

However, what your mind is telling you with the feelings you experience in my opinion is something along the lines of "Don't do this, it's not great".

So when you experience this very often, you need to change something in your life, or else you'll fall into depression because you have overcome your inner hesistation one time too often.

Don't take this as a scientifically accurate account, just my personal experience.

e12e 2 days ago 0 replies      
> (I am not in a position to change jobs at the moment. I am helping my> BF's startup by doing this job.)

Quit. Get out. Work out a plan with your BF. It's no good to you or himif you destroy yourself on work you hate. Be happy and poor togetherrather than rich and dysfunctional apart.

I've never had to work (for a long time) in a job I truly hated, butI've felt the pain of working in a company with a poor managementculture -- it's taken me a long time to get back the joy of developmentsince I left. I now work in a completely different, low paying job --but it's better being payed less and not having to compromise your workevery day. I'll probably end up with another job in the industry (well,I hope, anyway!) -- but I'll be very careful in choosing where I apply-- unless I manage to make a living independently.

For you it sounds pretty much anything, anywhere would be an improvementthough...

I had a gf that worked in a job that crushed her (shedid the right thing, moved away, got certified as a padi instructor andnow lives with her husband and their child, both working as divinginstructors -- I'd say she made the right choice :).

Quitting might not mean that everything works out for you and yourcurrent BF -- but it sounds like staying will ensure that things willnot work out for you.

Anyway, good luck, whatever you end up doing...

Sir_Cmpwn 3 days ago 0 replies      
The question I thought this title was asking, and one I'd like to hear answered, is: "What do you do when you're asked to do work that you feel is unethical, as a developer?" For example, I was recently asked to build a system wherein users would be refunded actual money into "credits", and allow the administration to modify the value (1 credit != $1) arbituarily.
stopachka 2 days ago 0 replies      
The biggest thing you can do is to align yourself as working together with your managers. You are not a code monkey.

What does this mean?

Well, if they assign you a vague task, you get clearer about it, you ask them why they want to do it, what the objective is. A lot of the time, you could be wrong, and with their objective it makes sense. A lot of the time you'll be right. The best way to show it is to mock it up, and explain your thinking on why it's wrong.

The biggest killer is when you feel like a code monkey, it's usually not the work.

zawaideh 2 days ago 1 reply      
Every job has some aspect of it that you will resent, and we've written about it on our blog (http://blog.sandglaz.com/how-to-do-tasks-you-simply-resent-d...).

I've been there before, and had some periods of time at a previous position where it felt like every minute of the job was a struggle. Getting things started was the most difficult for me, but once they were started, I could get them done.

If this job is just to pay the bills, and is not critical for your career, then:* Work on autopilot. Do what is required of you, and use some of your time on the job to learn things that would advance your career. For example, for each 4 hours worked, allow yourself an hour of learning something new to advance your career.* Find outside activities that you look forward to each day. Don't let the job define who you are. If you do, it could crush you.* Since they value you, ask to work reduced hours if possible. The less time you need to commit to the job, the less likely you are to burn out.

However, I can't help but recommend that you stay on the look-out for a job that brings you satisfaction and challenges you to do your best everyday.

thisone 3 days ago 0 replies      
Have I been in these situations? All the time. I care about the software we produce, so I have strong opinions about the development of it.

How do I handle it? I say my piece, I listen to the response from my boss. If he disagrees with my analysis, then I accept it, sit down and do the work to the best of my ability.

hownottowrite 2 days ago 0 replies      
Like others, I would encourage you to take some time off before you burn out. However, I also understand what you mean about not being able to escape this job.

I've had numerous jobs where I felt I couldn't leave for certain reasons. I would stay usually a few years too long and later come to regard the decision with a mixture of regret and weird, sanctimonious pride.

Take a few hours today and read Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. It's a short book, written by a psychologist and concentration camp survivor. The book demonstrates that is possible to find meaning in the worst situations, especially those you "cannot" leave. It may also help you understand why you need to think about choosing a different path.

MartinCron 3 days ago 0 replies      
A very short mantra that has helped me: "Own what you own".

That is, if I see a project as someone else's, and my job is to help them do their best, I am happier than if I see a project as "mine" and other people are just screwing it up.

Like many important life lessons, I learned this one a day too late.

bdcravens 3 days ago 1 reply      
Find something about the task that intrigues you, and build your motivation around that. A new gem, or new language feature, etc.

I've also found focusing on tests helps. Write as many tests as possible - focusing on getting those to pass. In theory, by the time you're done, the feature will be to.

exodust 2 days ago 0 replies      
Could be just laziness maybe. Mixed with possible relationshop pressures (hinted by earlier submissions I noticed).

"My managers don't fire me". Perhaps show managers the post written here? I dare you! But they pay your wage.

Put headphones on and listen to the right music or something to encourage focus. Yep!

I think everyone is in the same boat as you in some way or another. "wasting considerable amounts of time" could be a worry though.

"Seriously affects the quality of my life"... surely the quality of your life is not a consequence of "unnecessary complexity in the codebase"?Good luck anyway :)

Edited - I'd had some wines

mmilano 2 days ago 0 replies      
You're there by choice because your BF needs your help, yet you write about how you're surprised they won't fire you. That probably makes less sense than any feature request they have sent you.

It's a good question though.

After analyzing requests I have issues with, I will setup a meeting to discuss what I think are the issues, and propose a better solution.

If they push it off as "This is what the customer (or some other decision maker) wanted", I ask if we know if they have considered the issues and if we can propose alternatives.

If they still want to move forward, I ask or work with them to discover more detail about how it will be developed, and make sure they fully understand and explicitly acknowledge each piece I think is insane, irresponsible, or otherwise.

It usually doesn't get to that with good managers or clients. If it does, and it happens regularly, it's time to fire them and move on.

motters 2 days ago 0 replies      
If I was in that situation I'd try to get a different job. I know how hard it is to do that in the current economy though, so failing that I'd just do the minimum needed and be uncompromising about working only the assigned hours so as to maximize my utility outside of that particular employment role.
veganarchocap 3 days ago 2 replies      
Currently fighting that same problem, I'm more of a programmer, but I'm being placed on really, really fiddly UI 'features'.

I've made about 10 cups of tea, gone to the toilet about 6 times, read every tweet tweeted in the past 24 hours. Started three arguments, considered quitting and storming out... it's horrible and I'm glad you posted this because I've been going through exactly the same thing.

cheetos 2 days ago 0 replies      
I was in the same position as you five years ago. I decided to leave and work on my own product. I worked 80-hour weeks for months and years, sacrificed my health and relationships, but the motivation of working on my own thing kept me going. It was incredible. Just a few months ago, the product was acquired, and I joined their team. And now I'm dealing with the same nonsense I was dealing with at the original job.

As developers, this problem isn't going away any time soon. Our options are basically to create our own thing and be our own boss so there is no management to frustrate us, or just give in, write the code, take the check, and enjoy our lives outside of work. It's that simple, but it's also quite liberating when you allow yourself to accept it.

toxiczone 2 days ago 0 replies      
I don't have any tips for you. I am stuck in the exact same situation. I'm actually thankful that you shared your story and several of the comments posted here. It made me feel less lonely with my situation.

The quitting part, moving on to a new job is not an option for me as I am convinced that it is the same exact situation in most businesses around my area.

I started working on some personal projects which helps a lot, but does not solve my problem.

I find myself pushing to the last minute before the task at hand is due. The extra rush of adrenaline from the looming deadline gives me the kick I need to overcome the meaningless work I am about to do...

Good luck.

jheriko 3 days ago 0 replies      
you have to make a choice imo. you can either suck it up and get on with it or flat refuse to do it. if you feel strongly enough then refuse to do work and quit the job... fulfil your contract to the minimum possible whilst giving them every legal reason possible to want to pay you to go away.

however i feel inclined to reserve that for serious problems, like weak leadership, oppressive or immoral behaviour etc. rather than poor features or undesirable work...

doing things you don't want to do is part of work. letting your leaders make their mistakes and learn from it is part of it too. i'm strongly inclined to say you just need to grow up a bit and get on with it... and be grateful that this is a 'problem' for you because its nothing compared to what most people consider to a problem in the workplace.

peter-row 2 days ago 0 replies      
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference, right?

Your problem is not really knowing if you can change things. Or whether it's worthwhile to change things. Ultimately, you can't really know whether it's better to try to change things (communicating better, focusing more on design vs writing code faster, getting a new job), so you have to accept that.

So ... whatever you choose to do, you can't really beat yourself up over making a bad choice. It's a hard decision. Whether you stick with the job and try to change people's minds, do things the way you currently are (but without stressing so much), or find a new job is a difficult decision, but no choice really stands out as a clear winner (from the little you've said), so just pick one and go with it.

If you want a new job, go hit up linked-in.

If you want to do things the way you currently are, just accept that programmers "waste time" - there's a reason why competent programmers often only write 10 lines of code a day - it's not easy work.

You can try to communicate better, but really, some people just don't listen. Or maybe the managers don't have a choice - they either have managers or customers.

Finally, work harder on documenting / presenting your progress. It never hurts to write stuff up, and explain the decisions you're making or the technical reasons why progress is slow.

tomohawk 3 days ago 1 reply      
You can't care about the problem more than the customer, or you'll go crazy.

That is not to say you shouldn't be proud of the workmanship of what you build (not quite the same thing as being proud of the product).

Unless you have a position where you have design authority, stop worrying about the why, and focus on the workmanship. Impress those that do have this authority with how well you do with what you're given.

If you believe that you have insights into making a better end product, then learn to communicate those insights at the appropriate time (before they've made up their mind). Try to get ahead of the curve and propose your ideas.

Havoc 2 days ago 0 replies      
>>Have you been in such situations?

Similar - not coding though.

>>How do you get in the zone and get it done

I treat it as an optimization problem. Specifically because I have a problem with this too:

>>I waste considerable amount of time trying to do things in the most readable, maintainable and simple way possible

So I consciously aim to force that compromise between quality & time more towards the time side. That goes against my fundamental nature, but I've come to the conclusion that I must learn this...and as a result it feels more like a learning & personal development challenge rather than me doing something I don't want.

untog 3 days ago 0 replies      
You should change jobs. I know you are trying to support your BF's startup (do you have equity in it?) but if he really cares about you he'll understand that you are on the brink of utterly burning out and need a change.
marvin 3 days ago 0 replies      
My suggestion: Major lifestyle change before you burn out and involuntarily go out of business for six months. Take control of this while you still can.
lberlin 2 days ago 0 replies      
I can't comment on the situation of writing code for useless features for bad managers. That is a separate mental hurdle.

But I think all of us sometimes struggle with sitting down and getting things done. When we have a bad day, it's because we struggled making decisions and didn't end up accomplishing very much in our own eyes. We're our own harshest critics.

One thing that I've realized (actually just in the last few days) is that you simply feel 10 times better at the end of the day if you write a lot of code, knock of tasks on the to-do list, and generally "get things done".

Knowing that diving in and doing hard things will make you feel good makes a huge difference for me. It's like "Ok, this might suck a little getting started, but it's what will actually make me feel good and happy." It's really easy to sit and think, or read the internet, but it's not a good feeling at the end of the day.

As far as wasting time, whenever I'm struggling coming up with an approach or solution to a problem, I start writing it down. It usually doesn't get too far just in my head. But if I map it out, write it out, I get back to working on it much faster. An inefficient solution that works gets you much closer to the final product than struggling to find that "perfect" solution right off the bat. Make it work, then optimize.

TheGunner 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm glad I'm not the only one that gets this sometimes.

I can completely identify with some of the points made, my particular frustration is working with appalling specifications that are 9 times out of 10 incorrect/incomplete quiet often leading to features being written multiple times. It's demoralizing. I have no particular solution, some will say just knuckle down but it's easier said than done, there are some tasks that just can't be made interesting. Unlike the OP I can change job and am, next week.

sidcool 2 days ago 1 reply      
I might be playing a devil's advocate here, but isn't our job as an employee to follow the direction and vision of the management? I am not asking you to sell your soul. It's just that sometimes in a career one might need to do work that one considers below his/her capability. My manager sometimes makes me fill up excel spreadsheets of who is working on what and for how many hours. It sucks, I hate it. But I have to do it.

I am not mocking your situation. If it's really bad for you, follow jblow's advice. But if it's a once in a while demotivation, swallow the pain and go on. You will reach greater heights and from there these menial times won't matter.

Just my two cents.

tks2103 2 days ago 0 replies      



Listen to music.

I never found the ability to rationalize a task I dislike. Instead, I find joy elsewhere and try to preserve that feeling as I tackle the task.

ebbv 3 days ago 1 reply      
While I can 100% relate to your scenario, a big part of being a professional at any job (not just development) is being able to set aside your personal feelings and emotions and get your job done.

It's good that you are getting your job done, but it seems that you are still having issues setting aside your personal feelings and emotions. This is pretty normal for inexperienced developers. It's something you should focus on working on.

Here's how I developed that skill:

1) Remind myself that this is not my company or my project. It's someone else's. There's no reason for me to feel so personally invested in the project as a whole. If I've voiced my concerns and thoughts and been overruled, then my job is to get what is asked of me done to the best of my ability.

2) Have side projects that ARE personal and that I CAN be emotionally invested in. When you have a side project where you do call the shots and it's done 100% the way you want, you will find it is easier to not be so emotional over your day job.

3) Lastly, I have found that as I get more experienced and better at explaining myself, situations where managers overrule me and tell me to do something that is against my own recommendation become more and more rare (they'll still happen sometimes as long as someone above you can make unilateral decisions, so never expect it to fully go away.)

It's good that you've recognized your situation needs to change. Best of luck.

swframe 3 days ago 0 replies      
1) Look at the problem a different way and try to find a way to make it more interesting, attractive and (most importantly) impressive. I had to find and fix a tedious problem so I wrote a visualization, defect detection and automatic correction tool. If you have the freedom, try solving it with a new language or technology that you've always wanted to learn.

2) Challenge yourself to finish the project as quickly as possible. If a realistic estimate is that the work will take 1 week then try to finish it in 1-2 days. If it is awful work, try to get it over as quickly as possible. It helps if you can find an existing solution that you can use as a starting point.

3) If you're paid hourly, you might consider outsourcing the problem to someone off of elance. You should reframe the problem so that it doesn't require you to share any info (source code etc) from your employer with the person you outsource to. Ideally, ask the person to create an open source project on github.

cliveowen 3 days ago 0 replies      
Frankly, it's just called programming. Programming is that pesky, resilient three-headed monster between your idea and the finished product, you have to give in and tame it.
AnthonBerg 2 days ago 0 replies      
Coffee and smoking make this much worse for me. (In fact when I don't smoke and drink coffee I don't have this problem - whereas when I do, I do.) Leaves me to conclude that it's based in anxiety.
JSeymourATL 2 days ago 0 replies      
You've got a huge opportunity here to practice the art of Managing Up and Managing Oneself -- impacting your quality of life.

- Eliminate ambiguous requests. Can you probe for your managers stated/unstated objections & needs?

- What's the expected outcome? Are your recommendations easily understood and compelling? Is your business case sound?

- If the managers are happy with schlock work, can you ever be OK with that?

Ultimately, the power is yours.

alexhornbake 2 days ago 0 replies      
This advice was given to me by a friend when I was dealing with less than ideal employment situations.

1) Change the way you feel about the situation. Is this a me issue?

2) Change the situation externally. Talk to management, etc.

3) Leave

It sounds like you've tried #1 and #2 to some extent. I was in a similar situation. I left the company, and found a much healthier environment where I can actually use #1 and #2.

m_coder 3 days ago 0 replies      
It seems to me that this kind of situation is what some types of programmers try to escape by creating "amazing" code. This is the kind of code that you come back to a little while later and wonder what you were thinking when you wrote it.
Nursie 2 days ago 0 replies      
Express your concerns, do the work as well as you can, find another role.


lectrick 3 days ago 0 replies      
Learn to write GOOD test suites. Once you realize that they are preserving your sanity, they will actually become fun to write.
rlaanemets 2 days ago 0 replies      
I recognize the situation. Seems like the project is lead by people who have not failed before because of feature creep. If you get paid by hours then keep logging hours and try to be happy. But make sure they know about your concerns and feelings that their decisions may derail the project. And keep looking for a peaceful way out.
gmarkov 3 days ago 0 replies      
Consider the following - maybe your managers realize how vague task is, they also realize that you put a lot of pressure on yourself to make it, as I understand without strong support. I have been many times in same situation, usually when this happened first: I read "The humble programmer" :-),which reminds me that there is always something that I don't know, second: look again on the task and try to find its challenges, things that after completing them will make me a better programmer.
aniro 2 days ago 0 replies      
I just read this stern but lovely dirge in a novel last night..

"Do you wrestle with dreams?Do you contend with shadows?Do you move in a kind of sleep?Time has slipped away.Your life is stolen.You tarried with trifles,victim of your folly."

Life is short. It is time to see through the trap you have woven around yourself and move along. Just do it constructively so that in the end, EVERYONES interests will be better served.

jeffrwells 2 days ago 0 replies      
The advice of burnout, changing jobs, etc is well covered already.

I have been doing sole crushing work for years in school. When you don't have a choice, the most useful thing for me to get started is the pomodoro method. Spend just 25 minutes of agonizing work and plan what you want to do for the 5 minute break. Usually after 1 or 2 cycles I actually get focused and motivated enough to make some progress.

fenesiistvan 3 days ago 0 replies      
Just search the internet for "get the shit work done" to find the answer for your problem. Really. You can find also some good practices.

I believe that most of our jobs can be divided to two parts:

-the fun part (interesting/fun/profitable work)

-the shit part (boring tasks/emails)

So, just get the shit work done when it needs to.

KhalPanda 3 days ago 0 replies      
> What do you do when your entire being opposes the task at hand?

...anything other than the task at hand, obviously. :-)

JohnOfEgypt 3 days ago 0 replies      
Been there before, luckily just few times.- Put yourself in a good mood, music helps a lot, energizing beats, try Panjabi MC!- Slice the feature into small deliverable, hint: use index cards and a sharpie, yes, it's magic.- Finish one story (index card) at a time and have a tiny celebration (coffee, cookie, walk ...) every time you do that. DON'T skip the fun part.

Always think of yourself as an explorer collecting and connecting clues on a mysterious adventure!

Keep in mind, business drives programming, not the opposite. The codebase is only worthy as long as the product is selling (with the help of your managers).

rabino 3 days ago 1 reply      
Open HN.

No, seriously. I go work somewhere where people can see my monitor. Helps me keep out of Facebook, etc.

bowlofpetunias 3 days ago 0 replies      
For one thing, stop feeling guilty.

Whatever the reason you are feeling depressed with your current situation (already lots of good suggestions in this thread), feeling guilty about wasting time or cheating your managers is basically a form of inflicting self-harm on top of everything else.

You're getting paid for whatever you do, and apparently the people that pay you are happy with the results even if you aren't, so just put that aside and focus on what makes you happy.

JoeAltmaier 3 days ago 0 replies      
Argue more compellingly. Your managers don't 'get to' make the decisions, they are responsible for making decisions, using the best information available. As their best programmer, you are the source of that information.

When I am asked to do what is not rational, I refuse and give argument. But to play this card you have to be willing to pick up your coat and leave, not as a threat but as a last resort.

You say you're stuck there, but the reasons are not yours, they are someone else's. Get over that and your options open up.

pechay 3 days ago 0 replies      
Don't let yourself get paralysed by indecision.
pasbesoin 2 days ago 0 replies      
I spent a lot of time forcing myself to conform to others' wishes and will. Or to "work around" the problems, e.g. by staying late -- both to get some quiet time at work in which to concentrate, and to avoid some nasty neighbor issues at home.

Ultimately, I ended up at another definition of that word: "Spent".

I'm just saying...

iondream 3 days ago 0 replies      
sounds like you might need therapy. I've had a similar problem and speaking to a therapist helped.
moron4hire 3 days ago 1 reply      
Actually, you could probably quit and it wouldn't be as big of a deal as you expect. Most people over-estimate the risk of quitting. And most people are a lot more understanding than we give them credit for.

Every time I've reached that point that you have described, I've quit. It was the best thing for me every time, too. There is no point wasting your time doing something you don't want to do, especially if it's for someone you care about. You'll just do a shitty job and you don't want to dump shitty jobs on people you care about.

Is it just that the work is boring, or are you being asked to do unethical things? I mean, either way, I would quit, but if it's anything unethical I would urge you to run as fast as possible.

However, if it's just "boring" work, perhaps recasting it in a different light might help. Look at it as a game of seeing how many you can finish in a single week. Stop worrying about doing the "best" job on it. If the project is so boring to you, then you probably shouldn't care so much about the quality of it. Just dump out some garbage, get the checkboxes filled, see how much you can get away with. Make it a learning experience, a chance to test your boundaries.

aaronem 3 days ago 0 replies      
You have no power to choose the features you're assigned to implement. The most, then, for which you may reasonably be held responsible, even by yourself, is that you implement a bad idea in a good way. From the sound of it, you've got a lot of practice at that, and you've made it a habit. That being so, you have nothing for which to reproach yourself. Cultivate detachment, and relieve yourself of the need to try to take on more responsibility than your authority can support. This will free you to concentrate on what you can control, i.e., the quality of your implementation.

And, if you can't change jobs, then consider coming up with a side project. It doesn't have to be commercial, or even of particularly general application; even if you're just scratching an itch of your own, it'll give you scope to exercise the agency whose absence in your day job is giving you fits.

ChristianMarks 2 days ago 0 replies      
OP, do not listen to the moralizers who tell you that you need to exercise discipline and will power. Let them deplete their limited reserves of will power and see how far it gets them: you can change your environment so that you thrive in it. And that beats relying on will power and discipline by orders of magnitude. Quit early and often.
peterwwillis 3 days ago 0 replies      
So there's this feature, and you don't like it. You don't want to write it. So your brain starts backing away from it like it's a burning ship. You begin to give yourself excuses. You subconsciously imagine it will take a long time or that it will be tedious. You are basically subconsciously convincing yourself that you will hate it, for any reason. And the less you want to do it, the harder it will be to make yourself do it.

But it's in your head. Using simple tricks you can change how your mind interprets the thing, and put yourself ina more receptive state to be able to accomplish the task without it seeming like a battle of wills.

First, put yourself in a good mood. Listen to your favorite music, eat or drink something pleasant, think about the fun things you'll be doing soon. But whatever you do, don't villify the work or think "I can't wait for this to be over!"; that's just more avoidance.

Once you're in a better mood, walk through the work in your head so you understand everything you need to do, and estimate the time it will take, but shorter. Try to find something positive about it to work towards, or something good or interesting you want to see come out of it. It could be something as simple as timing how long it takes for you to write five methods. To prevent further avoidance behavior, remove your watch and hide your clock. If you can, move to a quiet place where you can focus with the least distractions possible.

At the end of the day, if you really don't enjoy your job, you probably need a different one. But it's a mistake to confuse a bad job with an unwillingness to do work you don't agree with. Consider yourself their savior, and do it in the best way possible so that it minimizes their crappy decisions and emphasizes your skills. Imagine you are a woodworker; maybe you didn't want to build a cabinet today, but you're going to build the best god damn cabinet those jerks have ever seen.

(Also: consider if you will be with this BF in five years and whether wasting this part of your life will have been worth it. Kind of a crappy thing to imagine, but you can't spend your life doing things you don't like just because it makes someone else happy)

itistoday2 2 days ago 0 replies      
Get someone else to do it.
logfromblammo 2 days ago 1 reply      
Just check out. Hang an "out to lunch" sign on your brain.

There is no solution within your reach for management that is ignorant with respect to your job. Stop putting forth extra effort that will ultimately be wasted. Clearly, you have discovered serendipitously that no one can tell the difference between you doing your job well and you doing your job poorly. So stop trying. Just relax and do the first thing that could possibly work. Really build up some technical debt. Management probably does not even know what that is.

That way, you can use the ever-increasing bogosity of the code base as an argument for being resource constrained. Lobby for junior employees that report directly to you. The end goal is to set yourself up for a job hop into a better position at a better company.

The one you are working for now can be definitively marked as a dead end. So milk them for cash and emotionally disengage. Get your spiritual fulfillment by investing your creative talent elsewhere. Meanwhile, coast until you can bail out safely.

That's about what I'm doing at my crappy, soul-crushing job.

skimmas 3 days ago 0 replies      
you quit.
OpenStreetMap is now navigation-ready stevecoast.com
339 points by dalek2point3  7 days ago   131 comments top 29
schabernakk 7 days ago 5 replies      
I tried switching to OSM in an effort to get away from google maps. People always say 'OSM is consumer ready' but forget that OSM first and foremost is the dataset. And as far as i am concerned, there is no good maps app on the iOS appstore that even comes close to google maps. and i think i tried pretty much all relevant ones. skobbler (which i just found out is part of coast) seems to be the most polished. but as long as there is no unified search and you have to enter streetname/adress/city in seperate boxes which excludes searching for the names of buildings (for example university buildings) for which the names clearly exist in the database and are shown onthe map, i have no choice other than switch back to google.

i really hope this changes soon and the UI/apps catch up to the greatness that is OSM.

edit: i have an iphone and although i live in canada i still use the german appstore (CC requirement).

that's why i can't comment on the app the original post was about as it's only available in the US store. it was more of a general remark about my frustration with the state of apps using the osm dataset. I want to get rid of google maps and I feel the maps part of osm would be ready for that. I can tolerate if the commercial store data is not as up2date. But if the general usuability suffers, i rather opt for gmaps.

thrownaway2424 6 days ago 2 replies      
Android really needs to do something about the permissions model. This app asks for every permission in the book, but I have no way to tell if the app will use these permissions for a good reason.
pedrocr 7 days ago 2 replies      
>were pumping all the good stuff that we can back in to OSM. This takes time due to OSMs consensus on not importing the masses of fixes we generate.

This seems strange. Anyone know the story?

Justsignedup 6 days ago 3 replies      
I'm just gonna point out something: OSM is 10 years old, and after countless hrs and investing its finally ready for prime time. People who think a new internet is coming via some disruptive technology need to read this article and realize that real, long-term, awesome change takes time.
dewey 7 days ago 3 replies      
Not really related to the post but they are talking about making OSM cosumer-ready and every time I try to use OSM instead of Google Maps I realise it's just not on the same level yet.

It doesn't have to be on par in terms of error correcting input or location based search result because they just don't have the data on me like Google does (locations close to my work place, home,...) but even just the basic task of searching for my street on OSM [0] will give me a bunch of information the end-user doesn't really need to know like:

- tags

- created by

- version

- changeset #

- location ID

Is there a "cleaner" more consumer friendly web interface for the maps, maybe with a prettier mapstyle like the ones used in apps like Foursquare (afaik they are using OSM)?

[0] http://www.openstreetmap.org/

ronaldx 7 days ago 0 replies      
Privacy policy says:

"Personal information does not include anonymous or aggregate information, which after processing may not be associated with a specific person or entity."

But I find this a dishonest definition of personal information.

The concept of the app depends on personal journeys being recorded and stored ("indefinitely"), which would very often and very easily identify a person via their home or workplace. There should be consideration for this in the privacy policies.

riquito 7 days ago 3 replies      
> Feel sorry for how proprietary maps are currently built. When theres a new road built, they all have to scramble to add it.

I'm not into the business of maps, but don't the major players pay Nations/Cities or third parties that have the latest data about roads to be promptly updated? (whoever build the roads must have the data, and they'll be happy to sell it I suppose).(ok, probably every city uses a different format or has the maps on paper...)

Then we can talk about if this data should be free or not.

janus 7 days ago 3 replies      
What's a good navigation app for Android that works outside the US? (Scout doesn't)

I have a couple of apps in my phone (Navigator and Waze), but the UI is really cumbersome compared to Google Maps. I use them because OSM maps are better in small tows in my area than Google Maps, plus you can keep offline maps.

clarry 7 days ago 5 replies      
So for those of you who live in the US, congrats.

The situation in my area is nowhere near as good. I've got a couple Garmin GPSes as well as a GPS capable phone, and I would just love to map every road and path in a 100km radius from home. Unfortunately all the mapping software I've tried is so horribly slow I'd have to buy a new computer to be able to do much at all with the data I can collect.

netcan 6 days ago 0 replies      
"This item cannot be installed in your device's country"


cheetahtech 6 days ago 2 replies      
I have totally converted to OSM with my startups.

We use it soley for all our mapping needs and it does quite well.

See it in action: https://rdnation.com/roller-derby-leagues

thrownaway2424 6 days ago 2 replies      
I installed this app and it seems fairly gross. Is it really just for driving through places and not stopping? Because it seems to have close to zero points of interest. In my town it is incapable of finding any restaurant or other eatery which is not part of a huge national chain like McDonalds.
GvS 7 days ago 2 replies      
"US and on iOS only"
whatts 6 days ago 1 reply      
Well, skobbler did all this for iOS and Android. And TeleNav bought skobbler for $24M in January [1] -- so it's obvious why TeleNav might be able to do this now.

But will skobbler support stop? Why switch from skobbler to TeleNav's own products at all? With skobbler, you can get your whole continent's maps for roughly $7.50.

[1] http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/30/telenav-buys-skobbler/

mjcohen 6 days ago 1 reply      
And then they charge you US $25 per year or $5 per month for maps!!!!

I'll stick with Co-pilot and Navigon. At least when you get the maps they are yours forever.

Semaphor 6 days ago 0 replies      
OSM has better maps than Google in my 200k pop town in the north of Germany. Recently google even tried to have me walk through a closed company to get where I wanted to go.

Sadly searching sucks (unless you know the specific address) and the reviews for the international scout app make me very wary of using it.

throwaway7767 6 days ago 0 replies      
Will the routing data be fed into OSM, or will telenav be building their own closed routing database that they use in conjunction with OSM? I didn't see an answer to that on the linked page.
mauriziopd 6 days ago 0 replies      
For those looking for a good Android app that uses OSM. I use Mapfactor Navigator and think it is great (I've used it in Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Crozia). It let's you use it with OSM data or Tom Tom, you can use Google for address search and use it offline if you need.

I'm not affiliated, just a happy user


tgb 6 days ago 1 reply      
Play store says the app is incompatible with both my 4.4 nexus 7 and my aging gingerbread phone, but doesn't say why. Anyone know?
twothamendment 6 days ago 2 replies      
Consumer Ready? It is about 8 years behind in my neighborhood. My street doesn't exist and it there in 2006.

Google has a street view of it and has been able to find my address since 2007.

cnbuff410 6 days ago 0 replies      
So the more we use this app, the more contribution I can make back into OSM AUTOMATICALLY, is that correct?

Hopefully they will release Android version app soon.

zmh 6 days ago 2 replies      
Maybe I overlook? Are there turn-by-turn navigation api yet? Over the last year, every time I check it seems to be not available yet. I believe most or all streets in OSM only support up to street level rather than street NUMBER level. Well, please point me to some counter-examples if I am wrong.
justizin 6 days ago 3 replies      
Scout app is nice, but no cycling routes - something only Google seems to do. :/
chromelyke 6 days ago 0 replies      
For those of you asking about Global options, it sounds like this will happen over time per the press release - http://www.telenav.com/about/pr/pr-20140519.html
gchokov 6 days ago 0 replies      
The last I saw a similar post, couple of months ago, the map was not ready in my home area. Now tough, it's pretty advanced. Awesome progress!
thegeomaster 7 days ago 1 reply      
I hope they start doing Europe soon, OSM datasets definitely need some love over here. And a big respect to all the people who made this possible.
leccine 6 days ago 0 replies      
I am glad to see OSM getting more popular because Google Maps is just getting worse by every day. The new WebUI is absolutely terrible, I had to permanently disable it because I could not even use my laptop while a GMap tab was open. They removed features I used and added many I don't care. On the top of these, the routing algo in GMaps is just laughable. It does not have the updated version of no left and no right turns, if you have 2 routes one with no highway one with highway it is going to pick the highway one even though it is 2 times the distance and so on. The traffic information is pretty much useless, only got better when they merged in Waze information but still bad.
chatman 6 days ago 0 replies      
How is this such a big news? There is no navigation option in default openstreetmap.org experience. And there have been several other navigation/routing websites based on OSM data before. I sense nothing new here.
Pain we forgot lighttable.com
329 points by Morgawr  8 days ago   153 comments top 26
weland 8 days ago 8 replies      
I also wish that programming were a lot different today than it was when I started learning it. That being said, a lot of this article's points are things I've heard before. They led to the development of Visual Basic & co., mostly by people who had no contact with the Smalltalk and Lisp environment in the 80s, while people who did were shrugging and throwing tantrums like WHY THE FUCK DIDN'T YOU FUCKING LIKE IT TEN YEARS AGO?

IMHO, all these things went down to the bottom of history because things like these:

> Anon the intern needs to be able to open up Programming and click 'New Web Form'

are adequate for people who usually don't program, and extremely inadequate for people who usually do. Generally, and for good reasons, programmers will dislike a tool that hides implementation details for ease of operation. Past a certain level of complexity, the time spent manually doing the right cruft becomes significantly smaller than the time spent manually cleaning up after a smart tool.

I sympathize with Anon the intern, but perhaps he should rethink his expectations about complexity; if discoverability is a problem, perhaps he could switch to something that's better documented?

And at the risk of sounding like an elitist schmuck who rants about how things were back in his day, maybe he ought to start with something other than web programming. The size and complexity of that tech stack is humongous, to the extent that a large proportion of those who use it don't understand it more than two layers of abstraction down. Programs are also hard to pack and the environment that runs them is hard to setup. Because it involves at least two servers, possibly with several add-ons in order to allow the server-side languages to run, learning at least three languages (assuming server-side JS is an option), two of which (HTML and CSS) aren't quite being used for their original purpose. This is a beginner's nightmare and it has exactly nothing to do with the development tools.

And then there are things that are far harder to solve than they originally seem:

> I want to just type 'email' and see a list of functions and libraries relating to email.

Related how :-)? Should MIME-related functions, needed to reason about attachments, also come up here? HTML parsing/converting, in case you need to deal with HTML email? Information cluttering does nothing to alleviate the opposite problem of information breadth: if Anon the intern's problem is he doesn't know how to Google for libraries or how to make efficient use of documentation, an IDE that presents him with a gazillion of possibly related things won't help him. Especially when, like all beginning programmers, one of his main difficulties is correctly defining the problem he's working on which, in turn, makes it likely for the solutions presented by the IDE to be nowhere even close to the one he needs, because the IDE (like Anon himself) thinks Anon is trying to solve another problem.

There is, on the other hand, a lot more truth in this:

> Tightening the feedback loop between writing code and seeing the results reduces the damage caused by wrong assumptions, lightens the cognitive load of tracking what should be happening and helps build accurate mental models of the system.

I do think that the real resolution to this problem is writing simpler programs whose state is easier to track. On the other hand, programming tools today suck considerably at presenting program meaning. Things like evaluating what an expression comprising entirely of constants, or at least evaluating it based on the default values of the variables involved, are well within reach for today's tools, and yet programmers' calculators are still employed because 99% of the available IDEs couldn't evaluate ADDR_MASK & IO_SEGMENT if the life of every kid in Africa depended on it.

This is wicked cool: http://repository.cmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1165&c... . However, I also find myself thinking that the very fact that we need debuggers that are this smart is proof enough that we don't reason about our programs well enough. Except for the fringe case of having to quickly debug a (possibly horrible) codebase I haven't written, I'd much rather prefer being good enough a programmer to avoid the need for a debugger that can tell me why foo is not 8 despite the fact that I fucking said foo = 8 ten lines above, than being a programmer with good enough tools to help me when I'm stupid.

ggchappell 8 days ago 1 reply      
What a wonderful article.

I'm not allowed to forget a lot of this pain. I teach programming, so I see it anew every semester.

And of course I still experience much of it in my own work. So, yes, let's deal with these issues better.

One little disagreement. In the "What?" and "Why?" sections the writer present some ideas for debuggers. While these are good ideas, I prefer to think of the inadequacies of existing debuggers as motivation for good practices: modularity, loose coupling, unit testing, etc. Certainly, it would be nice (say) to be able to examine the entire state of a running program easily. But I would rather code in such a way that I do not need to.

So to those who would write the World's Greatest Debugger, I say, "Good for you." But even better would be to turn your efforts to producing languages, libraries, frameworks, and programming environments that make such a debugger superfluous.

gedrap 8 days ago 1 reply      
I totally agree. It's true even for us, experienced Web guys (and gals), in this mess ruled by packages and their managers.

For example, I am trying to make my first Rails app outside a tutorial.

Okay, I want to use bootstrap. Should I use gem? Guess that's the ruby way. Okay seems like there a few of them. Tried one, another one. Doesn't work. Don't know why, since I am just copying half-cryptic stuff because I am new to Rails.

A friend suggests to use Bower. It's easier. Right! I had totally forgotten about bower, it rocks! Google: bower rails. Okay, there is that thing sprockets which I apparently need to configure. Googled, a few blog posts opened, they offer a bit different advice each, let's try. Doesn't work. Nope. Not really... Google: bower rails bootstrap sprockets. And yay! Works.

Two hours later, I have included Bootstrap. Properly.

cclogg 8 days ago 1 reply      
Oh man, I've definitely felt this pain many times lol:

"The samples will be missing lots of implicit information such as how to install the necessary libraries and how to deal with missing dependencies and version conflicts. Transcribing and modifying the examples may lead to bugs that suck up time. It's not terrible, mostly thanks to sites like stackoverflow, but it's still a lot of unnecessary distractions from the task at hand."

So many times, the actual programming isn't tough, it's just getting all of the stuff around it setup that is hard.

fragmede 8 days ago 3 replies      
> I want to just type 'email' and see a list of functions and libraries relating to email.

Do people even remember what life was like before Google?

I type 'email python' and get back a link to an email module. Am I being closed-minded in thinking that can't get much easier?

Yeah, I need to understand a bit as to how email works, smtp and imap/pop and what not, and how to send vs receive email, but some level of understanding is just necessary.

ilaksh 8 days ago 2 replies      
Can't be sure but it seems like the surveying has resulted in most of the right conclusions and the right direction for the project.

HOWEVER, I still think most everyone is missing the REAL issue here. As evidenced by the powerful tools cited in this article that address various aspects of the "programming" problem, there have been numerous efforts to move the state-of-the-art in software development forward. And to a great degree those efforts have _proven_ quite a few superior paradigms.

And yet, we haven't seen those new paradigms become truly mainstream for most programmers. Why? I do NOT believe it is because the approaches haven't integrated the right new concepts, because there are so many existing useful tools combining many different new ideas effectively which have failed to become mainstream among programmers.

I think many of those new approaches could and should have become normal operating mode for programmers.

I think the reason they did not is this: the core definition of "programming" (and by extension "software engineering" etc.) is an antagonistic and largely manual process of creating complex textual source code that can be used to describe system behavior. Period.

For example, if I want to call myself a web "developer" I DARE NOT use an interactive GUI tool to generate and maintain the source code for my web site. Web developers will always say, for example, they avoid this because the source code generated that way is less maintainable by hand. In many cases that may be true. In some cases with advanced code generation it is not. Regardless, I don't believe that is the actual reason. Its just a rationalization.

What do we call someone who's entire job entails creating a web page using a graphical user interface? In other words, this is a hypothetical person who has found a hypothetical GUI tool that can accommodate all of his web site design and implementation needs without any manual edits to source code. If he builds a web site or web application this way, and writes zero lines of code, do we refer to him as a very smart and advanced web "developer"? Or do we call him a web designer or simply a WordPress user (for example)?

We do NOT refer to him as a web "developer". He has no right to refer to himself as a "developer" or "programmer" because he has not wrestled through an antagonistic manual process to create complex textual source code. And that's what people are not understanding. The reason we don't call him a programmer is NOT because he didn't create an effective program or website. Its because the way he did it wasn't hard enough and doesn't match our outdated definition of what "programming" is.

To create a POPULAR system (among "real" "programmers") that makes programming more practical or easier using new paradigms, you must either redefine programming to include the possibility of new paradigms and a non-antagonistic process, or perhaps somehow trick programmers into thinking what they are doing is actually harder than it is. Maybe if there are a few places to type a command to generate source code, that will be sufficiently complex to still be considered "programming".

If you are too successful without doing those things then you will just have another tool that only "users" or "beginners" would ever admit to using.

unwind 8 days ago 1 reply      
I was somewhat surprised, but very happy, to see Verse mentioned in this context (although he did get Eskil's last name wrong, it's "Steenberg").

I co-developed the initial version of Verse with Eskil; I think it was a bit before its time perhaps. It was hard to get real traction for it, but at least the things Eskil has gone on to build on top have gotten some real attention. Great, and very well deserved!

shortstuffsushi 8 days ago 1 reply      
The analogy to me seems similar to that of programmers and compilers. I want to write programs to do xyz, but I don't particularly care to know the lower-level to machine level implementation. Instead, I know a roughly-english set of instructions to tell the compiler what I want to do, and it takes care of the rest for me.

Could it not be possible to take this even further, to the point where I say "I want to do ..." and all of the "code," be it high or low level is generated for me.

I realize making something capable of this level of abstraction would be incredibly difficult, but it would certainly be fun to try.

mkozlows 8 days ago 0 replies      
Articles like this one annoy me, because it's easy to diagnose big problems -- here, watch me do it: "Why should compilers choke if you forget a semicolon? If they can diagnose a syntax error, can't they also fix it? Can't functions be smarter about seeing when they're used improperly and tell you while you're writing the code instead of when you're running it? Why can't the code be understandable to anyone who knows English?"

What's hard -- and often impossible -- is fixing those big problems, because a lot of times they're genuinely intractable; and when they're not, they're often so difficult that they might as well be.

So just sitting around and complaining about them sounds insightful, but it doesn't really get anything done. And yeah, I know that they're allegedly working on "fixes" for these issues, but based on the track record so far (LightTable promised all sorts of revolutionary views of what an IDE could be; it's delivered... not a whole lot of revolution), I don't have any faith that Aurora is going to amount to much either.

And I don't want to be too negative, because sometimes a previously-intractable problem turns out to now be tractable, and it takes someone who was willing to question long-accepted pain to find that out. So I'd be pleasantly surprised if this project delivered something that had even as much effect as the development of, say, git or xunit. But I'm not holding my breath.

lemming 8 days ago 0 replies      
I'm glad to see IntelliJ getting some love there for making much of this easier - few companies have worked so hard at it, and the results are amazing. Looks like Microsoft is making some great steps too, Bing Code Search gets a bad rap for pandering to blub programmers but I'd love something like that in my editor.
tim333 7 days ago 1 reply      
Regarding Anon the intern wanting to build lunch_app I've been in a similar position learning programming from the basics and wanting build some apps. I'll put in a vote for web2py as being a good tool that gets around a few of the gripes in the article. It's largely one click to install server, editor, db, debugger etc. and was specifically designed for teaching beginners (it has versioning as well using mercurial but I wasn't able to get that going with one click). It also does most stuff you'd need and is all in Python so you can use the libraries and rewrite bits if you can't get the framework to do something. Even so it would take Anon a while to make his app but I think it's some sort of progress. The creator talks about it here youtube.com/watch?v=iMUX9NdN8YE
rafaelferreira 7 days ago 1 reply      
Not often I can read an essay that leaves me at the same time so excited and so disappointed.

Excited because I found myself agreeing with every point: isn't it obvious to everyone that the programming experience could be so much better? We created wonderful tools for graphical expression and number crunching, that keep getting better [1] [2], while our own day-to-day tools remain basically in a rut.

Disappointed because it seems LightTable is foregoing an incremental path to reach the goal, choosing the boil-the-ocean approach. We do need more long term start-from-scratch rethink everything kind of projects; like what VPRI's STEPS project aims to achieve [3]. But there is a lot that can be done to improve the programming experience today, and I don't see enough work in this area. IMO, the latest meaningful improvement in software development tooling was Intellij Idea around 2001 (arguably the functional programming renaissance represents another meaningful improvement, but the real breakthroughs there happened in the 70s). LightTable moving to the Blue plane leaves the PinkPlane unattended.

[1] http://www.adobe.com/technology/projects/content-aware-fill....[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UccfqwwOCoY[3] http://www.viewpointsresearch.org/html/writings.php

Goopplesoft 8 days ago 0 replies      
> We still program like it's 1960 because there are powerful path dependencies that incentivise pretending your space age computing machine is actually an 80 character tty. We are trapped in a local maximum.

Love this (although I don't like extra long lines). He's talking to you Pep8.

iammyIP 7 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe every tool that we invent and use is two-faced: it makes life both easier and harder, and therefore the wish to make programming easy could result in one of the most difficult journeys so far, comparable with inventing an AI indistiguishable from a human. If i imagine a success in 75 years, then i would probably sit infront and talk to a human-like android: "play me some music based on Bach with the voice of Eddie Murphy, mellow, with a hint of tragedy, but not too sad" - then it would in the blink of an eye play me some music and sing along with it. Chances are i would change Eddie Murphy to some other singer that is readily available at the huge human voice archive this machine has access to. But i am bored with archived and old fashioned music, i want something new and exciting. So i try to teach the machine a new voice. As it turns out it is pretty good at mixing characteristics of multiple voices and synthesizing a new one out of it. I let it do some hundred random variations with hints on what parameters i prefer. "that rough whiskey vibe - keep that and mix it with Presleys guttural hiccups"... "no , not like this, listen". I try to sing what i have in mind, but i am no good singer, so the next test comes out worse than before. "go back ... one more". We spend the rest of the day analyzing Presleys archive and filtering out the guttural characteristic that i meant. I heard i am an expert programmer, my grandma called me that, and i sit down with this android for a whole month and explain in all details the music i want to hear, constantly listening and tweaking my instructions in a flawless instant feedback cycle. The most time spent, or what i sometimes feel - wasted, is actually searching for the right words in my own head to describe what i mean. After 2 weeks i found out that we have broken down the characteristic of a singers voice into twohundredandeighty relevant parameters. Relevant not for everyone of course, but for me and this music i am working on. Maybe i am taking this too far. "delete MelodramaticChorusAccentuationTongueModulationMode two to four". I spend the next week with condensing these parameters down to thirtythree. At some days in the next week i am really without any inspiration and just let the android play thousands of random variations based on the current version that i judge on a 1 to 10 basis while doing some gardenwork. Sometimes i would only change a little note, or the single expression of a syllable. "uah insiide meeee... you see the "siide" must sound more desperate because this guy is on the verge of losing his lifelong dream at that moment." - we spend the rest of the day tweaking that "desperate" thing. This android is amazing. After a month and three weeks the music is ready. I save it and do some other things, mostly gardenwork and watching the drones fly at the evening - they really got some nice new formation techniques that i enjoy greatly. The next day i speak with Andreas (another real human) and tell how good the android has learned my personal preferences for singing voices and how fractalising Bachs harmonic structures to the fifth degree is worth it but no further without structural simplification at the base while keeping the dimensionalitys denominator intact (that was really a complicated talk, i cant get into all the details here). We agree to exchange our Androids preference patterns - my bach-presley11786 for Andreas painting-images9904, and our androids get automatically updated. Next day i try it out. This may take a while, Andreas has warned me. But over the next days i can watch the android painting a really amazing photorealistic but nonetheless astonishingly dreamlike image with Andreas pattern, although the process is, as he said quite slow by design, and one image at a size of four square meters takes about 3 weeks to finish since it includes a complicated technique of iterated de- and reconstruction with additional time for the oil paint to dry up inbetween. But the result is definately worth it. After the image is finished, i call Andreas and congratulate him for his exceptional good taste on imagery (afterall he worked two and half a years on it). He also thanks me for the musical pattern and asks if he can use the guttural Elvis thing in one of his next Crazy Donkey Singalong Performance. That asking just being a polite convention, i naturally give him full permission. We agree to hold another meeting to talk in detail about his structural approach to synthesize dreams without crossing over to kitsch in two weeks. The rest of this day i am back in my garden, the drones fly really low this week... maybe a thunderstorm is coming... but this is great! Every human is a programmer now, which essentially means that he tells other beings what to do, in more or less detail, and of course the fact, that these to be told are not humans anymore, but human-like machines. So, if one of these humans does not tell a machine what to do, he usually enjoys not telling other humans what to do (besides the endless debates about how to tell another machine best what to do (and not to forget - the debates about how it could be better to directly think to a machine rather than speak to it and why it has not been implemented yet)).
dreamfactory2 8 days ago 1 reply      
Great article but isn't a lot of this more about using different levels of abstraction i.e. frameworks, DSLs and specific to those? That could either take the form of being sufficiently focused that a simple text editor is adequate (e.g. high level commands, no cruft), or a full-featured managed environment (state, docs etc) specific to the framework. I'm not seeing how this is a task for a generic IDE unless I missed something about light table and they are creating a new language.
webmaven 7 days ago 1 reply      
While I am watching the development of LightTable with interest, it seems to me that the example used in the OP is missing the forest for the trees. It isn't hard to imagine Anon Intern managing to cobble together a solution for lunch_app that isn't an 'app' at all, just a form created with a builder like WuFoo or Google Forms, and some 'recipes' in a tool like IFTTT that has built in integration points for email, the accounting system, etc.

Arguably this wouldn't much of an improvement over the VB6 + Access status quo (or Visual FoxPro, or FileMaker Pro, etc), except that the individual components can be much more robust and scalable, monitored, auditable, and so on, without Anon Intern having to worry about any of that.

perrygeo 7 days ago 0 replies      
Or the pain we remember with fond memories. Like anything good in life, the struggle to do it well, to fully understand it, to master it, is what makes it worthwhile. It's also what makes programmers effective - we revel in solving complex but tractable problems.

There is an inherent tradeoff in creating any system: you can make the system very simple and it becomes too simplistic for the advanced users who want more control and detail. You allow too much control and detail and you alienate users who want simplicity.

A programming language/IDE is a system that affords advanced users the ability to solve an immense set of problems. That unrestrained ability comes at the expense of simplicity. The more constrained and specific that ability becomes, the simpler it can be (i.e. Excel is more constrained but far simpler than a Hadoop cluster)

zem 8 days ago 0 replies      
solving this problem was part of REBOL's dream.i really wish it had been properly open-sourced from day one and built up a good community and momentum around it; it was a very promising language.
politician 8 days ago 0 replies      
"The samples will be missing lots of implicit information such as how to install the necessary libraries and how to deal with missing dependencies and version conflicts. "

Docker pretty much solves this problem. Writing samples for your new project? Start with step 1 `docker pull yourproj/your_tutorial_image`.

SolarNet 8 days ago 0 replies      
Personally, I think this is an extremely important topic, we need to change the way we program. It isn't the 70's anymore, why do we still program like it is.

Why does it take teams of developers to create and manage applications which do really simple tasks in the grand scheme of things (and I realize the amount of complexity in building applications is staggering, but large portions of it could be better automated). Where are the auto generated GUIs, where is the ability to ship execution control to arbitrary devices, where is a hypermedia layer with independent view and presentation code?

I'm approaching this from a different angle than the light table guys appear to be (I agree with everything they are saying). My angle is an attempt to build a cross platform module system (where platform includes runtime and programming language as well operating system and architecture): https://github.com/OffByOneStudios/massive-dangerzone

My argument is: before we can build the next generation of useful tools, we need a framework for managing both generations. massive-dangerzone is an attempt at bringing next generation usage (like that described in the article) to existing tools. It's still a big work in progress though, and is barely useful at the moment.

logicallee 8 days ago 2 replies      
I'll delete this if you don't like it, but I think this is why non-engineers like Steve Jobs, Jony Ives, and a person at HP I won't name, were able to make remarkably good consumer products without knowing how they work. It may be better for a non-engineer to design a laptop than for someone who actually knows how it is put together and exactly how it works.

Of course, in a narrow sense, this means such a person isn't really designing it at all: the real engineers are, which may cause resentment. There is a very good chance that a non-programmer can design a programming IDE that is two or three orders of magnitude better (by whatever standard) than the status quo. This means such a person can't actually implement any part of it, or even know exactly what it's doing.

Quite a surprising conclusion.

By the way I have experienced this myself, when designing for a target I didn't know yet: after/while I was learning it, the resulting design iteration process was much worse than when I didn't know the implementation details. It's harder to think from the user's perspective, after you have been forced to think from the implementation's perspective.

SSLy 8 days ago 2 replies      
Edit: I've mismatched deps and imports, indeed that could be useful. Disregard my post.

If I select a function from autocomplete, its dependencies should be automatically added to the project without any fuss.

For the point, that that post makes, this one is at least available if you use IntelliJ with Java or Scala.

naturalethic 8 days ago 1 reply      
Pretty sweet article. Needs a once over from the author for some edits though. "if you don't have something useful to say, don't say nothing at all" made me giggle.
zan2434 7 days ago 0 replies      
Saved. Can't wait to look back at this in a few years.
dclowd9901 8 days ago 4 replies      
Are these guys ever going to actually finish the IDE, or postulate on what it means to program, ad infinitum. I'm glad they're being considerate in their design, but this whole project is starting to reek of over-aggrandized vaporware.
rch 8 days ago 1 reply      
I thought this project was about improving the programming experience for programmers, not students (or interns) who will in all likelihood never excell as programmers.

Edit: after downvotes I decided to read the whole thing afterall, but remain unswayed. This guy has an important opportunity and I sincerely dislike seeing it squandered.

Surface Pro 3 penny-arcade.com
323 points by ismavis  2 days ago   220 comments top 25
kgermino 2 days ago 5 replies      
I think this shows how dedicated the Surface Pro team at Microsoft is to making a rock solid product. Yes there's issues with branding, Windows 8 tries to be too many things at once, and it seems like the company as a whole (including the Surface lines) has absolutely no idea where it wants to be in five years; but I think the total focus on making the experience as good as possible combined with Microsoft's budget and a little time will yield very impressive results. I certainly hope so.

I love the vision of the Surface Pro with a good dock. A single device that can be docked with monitors and a real keyboard/mouse, used as a laptop or carried as a tablet would make an awesome machine. It seems they are there in principle right now but need some time to get it polished enough to be usable for most.

Too soon to count Microsoft out regardless.

hyperliner 2 days ago 15 replies      
It has to be really frustrating to be an engineer working on Surface and having to deal with the HN echo chamber, or MS bashing (some from Apple fanboys), or totally unrelated comments.

Maybe it should be a rule that these folks below post their own product for review. Hopefully they have something significant that can be open to critique.

Of course, that would not be too much fun.

- nivla: "Seriously, I am starting to believe that these tiny screwups are their signature."

- rasz_pl: "...rock solid product.. notice the number 3 in the name of said product? and still not good enough. Not to mention UI lags. 2014 and GUI is lagging. Someone needs to get shot."

- justin66 "> Windows 8 tries to be too many things at onceThat is a very, very generous description of Windows 8."

- jodrellblank: "2014, Intel Core i5, SSD and stutters when 'browsing files' in PS. shakes head"

- carlio: "I feel a little cynical by saying this, but does Microsoft really care about artists as much as they care about the audience they're reaching via Penny Arcade?"

- enraged_camel: "It's the execution that is lacking significantly. I've always said that Microsoft is really, really good at engineering, and really, really bad at UX and usability. After reading Gabe's review, I'm disappointed that this is still the case."

[EDIT: Software to "product" + line breaks]

nileshtrivedi 2 days ago 2 replies      
People have been able to run Ubuntu on Surface Pro 2 but it took some effort (custom kernel etc). If this has improved and if the new Surface pro can dual-boot Ubuntu without any issues, I'd definitely buy one. The hardware concept is too tempting.
Pxtl 2 days ago 1 reply      
Counter-point on surface-pro by another webcomic author:


Basically, Scott Kurtz found that the stylus lag on every tablet was so bad that he ended up using his Wacom Cintiq, which requires a wall-outlet.

girvo 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'll never understand why the comments on certain products and brands end up being so vitriolic and "my Dad can beat up your Dad!"-styled discussions are considered par for the course.

Frankly, I have Apple everything, because it works for me. My family use a lot of Windows and Microsoft products, because it works for them.

At the end of the day, these are tools, not lifestyles. I think we'd all do well to remember that you are not your gadgets...

coreymgilmore 2 days ago 0 replies      
Very well written review. I myself was worried about the switch to N-trig (having dealt with a few products in the past), but I glad to hear it is a non-issue. To me, the additional size is great. While I like the portability of a tablet, having the extra screen real-estate makes me more productive and thus worth the trade off of a larger physical size device. I think MS's third attempt at a tablet is finally the tablet/laptop/combo that I have been waiting for.
interpol_p 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm really pleased to hear about how good the NTrig digitiser is. Seems like an awesome painting tool.
ryan-allen 1 day ago 0 replies      
I just bought a Surface 2 Pro 4 weeks ago. It is an awesome piece of hardware.

The pen is great, I use it to sketch up stuff in OneNote like I would in my regular notebook.

I connect it to an external display and use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse at work, and I confuse people by running a fullscreen mintty.exe with terminal vim in my linux VM.

The stand is why I bought it over a Dell Venue or a Lenovo Helix (even though I think the Helix is the best offering).

It's a brilliant machine. I sold my Macbook Air 11" to buy it too! I sure hope Apple make something like this one day that runs proper OS X :)

lstamour 2 days ago 1 reply      
My only worry with buying the Surface Pro 3 is how I was burned by the Surface Pro 2 late last year when I got an original Surface Pro early last year. Very much like the iPad, they seem to be releasing new Surfii every 6-9 months. Since this model isn't available at launch with the i7 and only has Intel 4400 graphics, I expect early next year to see a bump in specs, perhaps Intel 5100 (or better) graphics by next March? Which has me wondering if I should buy now or hold off. If they had the ntrig bluetooth pen with OneNote integration in a smaller form factor for cheaper, I'd buy that first right now and wait for the larger device to get a bump in performance. That said, no question -- if you want OneNote for school in September or can afford to upgrade once a year, buy now. The only thing I wish it had was a touch-optimized terminal app with tabs ;-)
ChuckMcM 2 days ago 1 reply      
Being left handed I wouldn't have the problem Gabe does, instead I'd be activating a half dozen tools on the left margin of the screen. I appreciate the 'wrist' input for the JOT stylus which lets you tell it where you rest your hand normally.

I'll definitely try out the SP3, and I'm still trying to get my hands on a Samsung Note Pro (12" tab). The screen is what I crave, a 12" 3:2 aspect ratio screen with 2160 x 1440 feels pretty close to ideal in this form factor.

localhost 2 days ago 1 reply      
Looks like the Core i7 version is the i7-4650U model, with HD5000 graphics.

Details in Ed Bott's article: http://www.zdnet.com/which-cpus-will-you-find-in-the-surface...

Link to Intel specs: http://ark.intel.com/products/75114/Intel-Core-i7-4650U-Proc...

richardw 2 days ago 0 replies      
What kills me about this thing is that it's still an almost-notebook. They take a tablet and make you choose to run almost-Windows or Windows. It's most visible difference to other tablets is a great keyboard concept, but it's not quite a notebook in that it now needs a kickstand to stand up. I'd rather have a notebook that has a rational keyboard that holds the screen at whatever angle than something that is almost exactly the same, but somehow inferior.

I'm really not against the whole idea of a Windows tablet, but if the keyboard is that important...just make a keyboard that handles the weight of the screen. In fact, the keyboard I bought for my mother-in-law's iPad does that just fine (minus the variable-angle) so I'd still rather have the iPad or Android tablets. Or a well-executed ultrabook. Easier for working on the couch/plane/train etc.

Still, I'll forward this article to an artist friend. It looks great for a drawing tablet and maybe it'll work for him.

enscr 2 days ago 0 replies      
The app shown in the pictures is "Manga Studio"
smrtinsert 2 days ago 1 reply      
3:2 I need this so badly. I hope they solve the lag and handedness issues I really want to love this device.
_asciiker_ 2 days ago 1 reply      
As an old MCSE I am happy to see the Surface 3 reviews, for me (an Android tablet user) this means Microsoft is fighting not to lose the tablet race. The idea of replacing the laptop with a very well designed keyboard "docking station" is brilliant. And it does seem that they did do everything else right!
hyp0 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's interesting that there doesn't appear to be lag when he's actually drawing.
gcb0 2 days ago 1 reply      
i waited for this tablet release, and then, seconds before the impulse buy i remembered i should wait for Gabe reviews :) ...saved by the bell!

that said, i'm still anxious to a tablet with a decent perf/battery life and a good pen. tired of only consuming content on tablets. and i'm sure a keyboard is not feasible anytime soon. while i could already code with my palm custom pen input... albeit painfully, it was less painful then any apple soft keyboard.

jodrellblank 2 days ago 6 replies      
2014, Intel Core i5, SSD and stutters when 'browsing files' in PS.

shakes head

morbius 2 days ago 1 reply      
I've been a believer in the Surface concept since the beginning. I'd bought a Surface 2 last year and was blown away by just how unique and incredibly inventive the design was. The 16:9 screen and the lack of power really suffered it, though...

But like the MacBook Air, three generations in, and it looks like this is going to be Microsoft's Hail Mary.

I preordered one.

instaheat 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'm not too sure about that drafting board profile. Having not seen the device in person, at that angle it looks like it might break. Is there some form of support running along that line?
orionblastar 1 day ago 1 reply      
I mean yes it is good for art and drawing cartoons.

I have tried every Surface tablet and I don't like them. Just my opinion. I got a Nook HD+ that works better and cost less, and will sell it now that Nook tablets are not updated anymore and maybe buy a Kindle HDX to replace it. Even the Android tablets are more responsive.

My son has an iPad that is faster as well and it is only an iPad 3.

We can get pens for them that draw art and cartoons.

Just my opinion, the Surface could work better for others in different things. But for me and my son, we chose a different tablet due to the Surface being sluggish and locking up at times when we demoed it at the Microsoft store.

vfclists 2 days ago 0 replies      
Apple shills or what?
snarfy 2 days ago 1 reply      
The Penny Arcade guys live a little too close to Redmond for me to believe their reviews of Microsoft products are unbiased.
richard_cubano 2 days ago 2 replies      
He says that the reduction in sensitivity on the digitizer "scared the hell out of [him]."

Why do people say stuff like this? You know what scares the hell out of me? Getting mauled by a bear.

carlio 2 days ago 12 replies      
Gabe has written some very complimentary things about the Surface in the past, it's no wonder they're eager to hear his opinions and tell him what he wants to hear. "Yes Mr Gabe, we really like artists, like a whole bunch. Please write some more nice things!"

I feel a little cynical by saying this, but does Microsoft really care about artists as much as they care about the audience they're reaching via Penny Arcade?

Neutralizing the iOS camera click sound through active sound cancellation stackoverflow.com
314 points by dmd  2 days ago   105 comments top 10
TorKlingberg 2 days ago 5 replies      
I wonder if Apple is intentionally forcing the shutter sound, to prevent secret upskirt shots. I know several phones have had shutter sounds that cannot be disabled, and some countries have required it. In that case Apple might reject apps that use this trick.
ertdfgcb 2 days ago 3 replies      
This is a really cool solution to a problem that really seems like it shouldn't exist.
mschuster91 2 days ago 3 replies      
How is this possible? Doing ANC would require the sound to be played at the exact same microsecond as the target sound.
ja27 2 days ago 0 replies      
Barely related, but it's surprising how often DSLR newbies show up on photography forums asking how to disable the shutter sound on their cameras.
vpdn 2 days ago 0 replies      
Awesome hack! If anyone wants try it out and play around, here's a demo project:https://github.com/vpdn/SilentPhotoCaptureDemo
JosephRedfern 2 days ago 3 replies      
Is this how noise-cancelling headphones work?
rrggrr 2 days ago 1 reply      
Hilarity from the comments: I wish I could upvote twice: once for the inverted-cancelling hack, and once for answering your own question, just to counteract anyone daft enough to downvote you for that. Daniel Earwicker 1 hour ago
inafewwords 1 day ago 0 replies      
Another trick is to use a dummy cord. Use a broken headset and cut off the jack. Plug that into the phone.

Diverts sound to headset which doesn't exist. Or just put on a working set of headphones

pygy_ 1 day ago 1 reply      
Apple owns the copyright of the shutter sound.

That's enough to reject an app using this trick.

happyscrappy 2 days ago 1 reply      
On Android you can record without the user knowing which is way cooler.
Some of the work we did at Danger medium.com
313 points by kaptain  4 days ago   78 comments top 33
mcculley 4 days ago 0 replies      
I tried developing for the Sidekick when it came out. I had one and was very happy with it. The API and the hardware were a delight.

I remember being frustrated that the only means of technical support was a terrible walled garden web forum. There was no email gateway, so one had to keep checking that site for answers. I would have much preferred mailing lists and a public website indexable by search engines.

The bigger frustration was that T-Mobile was the gatekeeper for app distribution. If you wanted to get an app to a phone, it had to be on the store, you had to get T-Mobile's blessing, and they had no plans to support free apps. The carriers were very much still oriented around the ringtone economy and were terrified that you might put something on your phone without getting a cut of a fee.

People complain now about Apple and Google and the processes that impede app distribution, but the iOS and Android ecosystem is way better than what existed when the carriers were in charge.

I remember thinking that the Danger folks were very responsive and very sharp, but it didn't matter because they were in the end beholden to T-Mobile and T-Mobile didn't get it. There's an ecosystem lesson in there for anybody trying to build a new platform.

glabifrons 3 days ago 0 replies      
I resisted buying my own cellphone for a long time as I always worked for companies that provided them for me. Then got a job where they required me to provide my own.My first phone purchase was the first generation SideKick Color, and I loved it! I still have the SideKick II that replaced it (I traded my original one in on it pre-public-release). I still have the external camera that plugged into the SK Color's headphone jack too.

The screen was gimmicky, but oh-so-cool... it got everyone's attention, and allowed me to show people what it could do. Everyone was impressed - until they asked about ringtones. T-Mobile's laser-focus on hip-hop was a real blow there... I'm not into it, nor were any of the people I showed the device to. It really turned people away from it when they realized the target market was teenagers (even though it was an awesome techie's device).

The terminal program was my favorite part (I was a Unix Systems Architect at the time) and it got a great deal of (ssh) use.

I loved reading through the various descriptions of the apps being developed on the developers site (skdr?) and waited so patiently for T-Mobile to give the green light to so many of them (including a super-simple one, the voice-note-recorder), which they never did. I tried to get my own developer status (can't remember the term they used) so I could get a key and load the apps directly onto my device (via usb), but that was shortly after T-Mobile had made the process extremely difficult with huge forms to fill out and some catch-22 requirement that you had to already have a program published to get the dev kit (or something like that). I read a lot of complaints about that.

The best part of the device was the keyboard. It had the best layout and by far the best feel (and spacing) of any phone thumb-keyboard I've used since. Better than the Nokia N800 (NIT, not phone), better than the original Android G1, even better than the N900. It's the only thumb-keyboard I ever used that I could type on without looking at the keyboard, and quickly... far more quickly than anything remotely similar that I've tried.

After they cut the service, I used mine as a dumb-phone for a while until the microphone finally stopped working. That forced me to finally get a replacement (my N900).

One thing that's pretty impressive about the SideKick II... mine is still running (never been rebooted) since before T-mobile cut the service! I've had it plugged in the entire time for fear that if the battery dies, it will lose the games and programs I have installed (it acted sort-of as a thin client and downloaded all apps you had allocated upon powerup).

Pretty darned amazing uptime, considering what it was. :)

zurn 4 days ago 2 replies      
I wonder what this means:

> the world owes a debt of thanks to Jeff Bush who was the first person we know of to get a full TCP/IP stack working on a cellular data connection

IP is natively supported by GPRS and worked from day 1, and before that regular GSM-data had been used for TCP/IP for a long time.

cwyers 4 days ago 2 replies      
"As an interesting historical side note: the engineers who developed the Java runtime for hiptop would later join Google and lead the Android kernel engineering team; and develop Dalvik, the Java language runtime for Android."

I'm pretty sure that's less a historical side-note and more an invitation for Sun to subpoena you to testify the next time Google says their version of Java was a clean-room implementation.

tlrobinson 4 days ago 6 replies      
Random question: Does anyone remember a (translucent?) device (toy?) that was about the size of a graphing calculator and had a little antenna sticking out the side, and you could wirelessly send messages to other people nearby (within a couple hundred feet probably) with the same device? This was probably around 2001.
bonaldi 4 days ago 2 replies      
That web dashboard that combines mail, notes, calendar and to-dos in one screen is great - I would like that today, and I don't think I can get it.
rospaya 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is a really nice story, but I have to react to all the people swooning over this - Nokia (Symbian) had a lot of these functions back in the day, but it was never popular in the US so people often forget about it.
zachlipton 4 days ago 2 replies      
The Danger Hiptop was an incredible device. At a time when RIM basically thought the web was a useless feature on a mobile device, Danger built an amazing mobile browser (discussed in the article) that wouldn't be matched until the iPhone. Instead of a handful of limited text-based WAP sites, the Hiptop rendered full desktop sites and did a pretty darn good job of making them usable on a mobile device.

I still miss that General Magic bunny though.

Tiktaalik 3 days ago 1 reply      
I can't help but wonder how much better off Nintendo would be right now if they had bought Danger when they had the chance to partner with them.
lelandriordan 4 days ago 0 replies      
I had the Sidekick/Hiptop 2 back in high school because my mom had T-Mobile through her work. To this day I have not been stopped by more people asking about a device (not even the original iPhone I saved up for as a freshman in college). T-mobile was spotty at best in the DC area so nobody else I knew had it, everywhere I would go people would say things like "It has a browser!?!" or "I thought only Treos and Blackberries had email!?!". It was a sad day when my mom changed companies and we switched to AT&T(aka Cingular). I salute you Danger, I wish there were more small innovative hardware companies like you these days.
nppc 4 days ago 3 replies      
Nostolgia ... I remember those days.

Developers try so hard these days to implement push notifications from their apps & services and boast about all the IFTTT stuff.

Carries here in India used to provide email-to-sms as a free service. You would just send an email to +91PhoneNo@xyzprovider.com and that message would be sent to PhoneNo as an SMS (160 chars from subject).

Now a days if you want to send a message, you need to have developer accounts, install Software on the devices to receive the notifications, need to have a data connection on the phone, talk to push notifications clouds and a few other things.

notlisted 3 days ago 0 replies      
I loved the HipTop. It really was one of the first "smart" phones on the US market. The article's claim "we all started microblogging/lifestreaming" needs a little context as it claims credit that I feel belongs to someone else...

While Danger had a very basic implementation running internally (pretty cool, see [1]), they surely didn't have a clue of the potential/value of lifestreaming/public status updates.

Neither did I. As an initial beta-tester in May/June of 2002 I too had developed a HipTop mobile blogging site for private use (CF/SQL/Email, mostly cat and food shots!) -- demoed it to Om Malik who introduced me to T-Mobile -- but it was really Mike Popovic's HipTopNation [2], the first communal moblog launched on Oct. 4th 2002 and his Oct. 31 Halloween Photo Scavenger Hunt that sparked the popularity and showed the potential.

After HipTopNation quickly gained traction [3] with 1000+ mobloggers, Danger decided to launch a "hiplog" service/site to consumers on Jan 13, 2003 [4]. Joi Ito has a nice timeline [5]

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20041205233554/http://www.spies....

[2] http://hiptop.bedope.com/index.php?FILTER=zvxr@gevny.qnatre....

[3] https://web.archive.org/web/20050915215559/http://www.guardi...

[4] http://joi.ito.com/weblog/2003/01/13/danger-announce.html

[5] http://archive.today/e4Ie#selection-685.35-685.47

rdl 4 days ago 1 reply      
Kind of amazing that Danger's VC partner knew more about cellular networks than the founders did. I wonder who he was and which firm.
davb 4 days ago 3 replies      
And if anyone's wondering - the revolutionary audio engine the author mentions was the Beatnik Audio Engine (BAE), open sourced as the Mini Beatnik Audio Engine (miniBAE) [1].

[1] http://www.minibae.org/

msh 4 days ago 1 reply      
I am sad that the keyboards have disappeared from smartphones :(
bmalicoat 3 days ago 1 reply      
The best part of the hiptop IMO, was the development community. It was ultra tight knit and accepting of newbs. I have many fond memories of side loading apps from skdr.net and eventually reaching the point of uploading my own creations.
fjarlq 4 days ago 1 reply      
The main problem I had with my Sidekick was T-mobile's crummy coverage, even in the middle of silicon valley. I could endure the slow performance, but the coverage was so spotty in 2004 that I stopped hauling the damn thing around.
decktech 3 days ago 0 replies      
I had a Sidekick B&W in high school, and later a Sidekick Color, and people would ask me about it every single day. I remember having long AIM conversations under my desk in class. I later upgraded to a Sidekick 2, which was nice but had some build quality issues. I must have gone through at least four of them. To T-Mobile's credit, they were very good at replacing them quickly. I remember sitting at dinner one night, flipping it open to answer an IM, and the screen detached and flew across the restaurant. I replied that my screen flew off and that I would have to respond later :)
dasil003 4 days ago 0 replies      
Having spent 3 years from 2008-2011 biking by the Danger building every day on my way to work in Palo Alto (until one day it unceremoniously changed to Microsoft), but only being vaguely aware of the Sidekick this was quite interesting.
sscalia 3 days ago 0 replies      
I had a Sidekick Color and a Sidekick II. I also carried a Moto RAZR while I was in high school.

The sidekick was a phenomenal device. Battery lasted all day -- I could text and had unlimited data over GPRS (maybe EDGE?) - and I was one of the only students who could Google and read in class. I browsed forums, looked up answers, even started essays on that keyboard.

You had a persistent AIM -- and the interface was prettier and more fluid than Android (up to the latest release).

What a delight that device was.

yskchu 3 days ago 0 replies      
Some more history on wikipedia:


wilsynet 3 days ago 1 reply      
A few of my friends had a Danger device. My second hand observation (and you have to remember this was many years ago now) was that they were somewhat fragile.

One friend was on his 5th hiptop in 18 months, and another was on his 3rd in about the same amount of time.

If you drop an iPhone on concrete, it survives just fine so long as you don't shatter the glass. As for a wood floor or carpet, my various iPhones have survived several falls this way without any issues.

As for Danger, the devices would break frequently, even minor drops would result in the screen cosmetically undamaged, but something got loose internally and the device would stop working entirely.

I wanted a Sidekick / hiptop, but the perceived fragility was too much to overcome.

If anyone reading this worked at Danger, was my perceived fragility of the phone more anecdotal than real?

sleepybrett 3 days ago 0 replies      
He didn't mention the coolest bit, which was the crazy fliparound screen. Best nervous tic screen ever.
koonsolo 4 days ago 0 replies      
I used to create games for the HipTop, and was invited to those "Danger Developer Days". Really nice people to work with.
nopakos 4 days ago 0 replies      
Very nice story! Imagine that around the same time, in a parallel universe, Nokia was making the 9210 and 7650 smartphones with similar capabilities.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nokia_9210_Communicator
bch 3 days ago 0 replies      
Atlas 3 days ago 1 reply      
Great read! The cloud services on the Sidekick worked so well that T-Mobile would routinely tell customers to hard reset the phone when even a minor issue occurred.

That was all great until a storage area network upgrade failed and destroyed all data for many customers. When those phones stopped synchronizing, T-Mobile recommended a hard reset. That meant the data was gone forever.


nicholassmith 4 days ago 0 replies      
I always wanted a Hiptop but they never really seemed to show up in the UK. Great bit of technology history to read over though.
Zigurd 4 days ago 3 replies      
I found out about why deaf people used the Danger Hiptop once when I was already working on Android software development. I saw a young woman on the T commuter rail intently typing at almost unbelievable speed on a Hiptop, faster than I had ever seen anyone use any Blackberry or other device.

I knew about many of the Android team having worked for Danger, but I had never seen one "in the field." When she stopped for a moment, I asked her about the device. It was apparent she was deaf, so we used my pocket notebook to communicate. She told me all her deaf friends had Danger Hiptops.

doxcf434 3 days ago 1 reply      
I've yet to see a mobile SSH client that's as usable as Terminal Monkey.
jetzz 4 days ago 0 replies      
One more random and offtopic question: there was a tv show centering around handheld computers like epson hx20s back in 80s. actors are somehow fighting with bad guys using those devices. Does anyone remember such a show?
fulafel 3 days ago 0 replies      
I never saw these devices. Did they make it to Europe?
threeio 3 days ago 0 replies      
Awesome read, thanks.
Fira Sans: a Free, Open Source Typeface Commissioned by Mozilla donotlick.com
313 points by Boriss  2 days ago   131 comments top 27
edwintorok 2 days ago 4 replies      
Fira Sans is also one of the 3 free fonts (along with Charter and Source Code Pro) recommended by Butterick's Practical Typography: http://practicaltypography.com/

It is also used in Racket's documentation:http://typographica.org/typeface-reviews/fira-sans/

And here is how I use it in LaTeX:

  % Font settings  \usepackage[T1]{fontenc}  % Serif body font  \usepackage{charter}  % Math font  \usepackage[charter]{mathdesign}  % Monospaced font  \usepackage{sourcecodepro}  % Sans-serif font  \usepackage[lf]{FiraSans}

broodbucket 2 days ago 8 replies      
I wandered the internet for years looking for the perfect monospace font for me. There was never anything that fit; Ubuntu Mono was nice but a bit too "unprofessional", Liberation/Droid too boring, Microsoft/Apple fonts didn't fit either. I looked through so many font comparison sites, tried a whole bunch, just ended up sticking with the defaults.

Then I found Fira Mono. I use it everywhere. It looks great; it's very clear and easy to read, it has a nice style. Fonts are a very personal thing so thanks to Mozilla for finally letting me have one that was "mine".

gioele 2 days ago 3 replies      
> So great, in fact, that well be using it in Firefoxs in-content pages such as Preferences and the Add-ons Manager.

I prefer applications to use the default fonts provided by the operating system. Consistency before aesthetics.

gkoberger 2 days ago 0 replies      
cpeterso 2 days ago 2 replies      
Fira's designer Erik Spiekermann says the typeface's original name was "Feura", but English-speakers pronounced that name as "fhrer":


ComputerGuru 1 day ago 1 reply      
OK, so the zip file has 32 OTF files in a subfolder - awesome.But how does one install the .glyph files in the parent folder on, say, OS X?

I tried installing just the OTF files, but the extra glyphs are apparently not embedded in them and are inaccessible from (eg) Adobe Illustrator.

I can't find out how to embed the .glyphs (FiraSans_140521.glyphs and FiraSansItalic_140521.glyphs) into the OTF?

Mithaldu 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'm very impressed by this font, since it is the only font coming out of the open source community that i can remember which has hinting info, meaning it will still look good at font size 8 without smoothing.
jph 2 days ago 0 replies      
Gorgeous font. I'll donate $50 toward an italic monospace.
unethical_ban 1 day ago 1 reply      
As we discuss this, can HN get away from using Verdana? The site looks less than pleasing when viewing from a FOSS Linux install; to get the HN official look, I must install ttf third party stuff.
thenduks 1 day ago 1 reply      
I've instantly fallen in love with (the mono version of) this font. One thing that is a bit unfortunate though is it seems to have some odd line-height/descender thing going on.

In Sublime Text 2/3 I can fix this easily with:

    "line_padding_top": 0,    "line_padding_bottom": -2
But in iTerm2 all you get is a basic 'vertical character spacing' setting, and the best I could do looks like this:


cjensen 1 day ago 1 reply      
The sample on the page looks pretty horrific in terms of kerning.

I'm not very fussy about fonts. Am I the only one seeing this? Does the sample fairly represent actual use?

kator 2 days ago 1 reply      
I find I prefer fonts that I don't have to anti-alias. It seems all of these look quite horrific in iTerm2 unless you turn on anti-alias which then makes them feel to soft and fuzzy to me.
BjoernKW 2 days ago 0 replies      
Very cool. Just a few days ago I saw Fira's designer Erik Spiekermann give talk on 'Type Is Visible Language'
BorisMelnik 2 days ago 0 replies      
So glad that I found this font I have a project this weekend this will be perfect for. Have been looking for a new heading font for a while. Have been having a lot of fun with Campton and Open Sans (my standard) but this one has such a great style.
userbinator 1 day ago 1 reply      
The title in the sample image looks like "hra sans 3.1", with a really funny-looking 'h'.
kudu 1 day ago 0 replies      
If you need to load this from a CDN, it's available through Brick (http://brick.im/).
keithpeter 2 days ago 0 replies      
Nice range of weights.

Anyone know a source where I can get the Liberation fonts in a similar range? My Debian installation just has three weights.

gojomo 2 days ago 2 replies      
Do I understand the post correctly that the font is bundled in Firefox and thus usable with no download lag? (If so, does that go equally for all variants?)
azinman2 1 day ago 0 replies      
Looks reasonably nice at middle font sizes but chrome in my Mac renders the <14pt fonts quite poorly. Wonder why...
zatkin 2 days ago 1 reply      
Does anyone have this font in woff format?
mtford 2 days ago 1 reply      
Looks like it's down, and the official links for download don't seem to work anymore. It's available here on github tho: https://github.com/mozilla/Fira
chris_wot 2 days ago 1 reply      
Perhaps I'm blind, but what is the license for Fira Sans?
jumpwah 1 day ago 0 replies      
blue11 1 day ago 0 replies      
The monospace version of the font has too much vertical spacing to be used for programming. Everything looks double spaced.
SimeVidas 2 days ago 1 reply      
16 weights? What are the corresponding CSS font-weight values?
izietto 2 days ago 0 replies      
M is really ugly, just on my PC or for you too?
_random_ 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's OK, I guess.
A Windows 7 deployment image was accidently sent to all Windows machines emory.edu
311 points by slyall  9 days ago   138 comments top 36
perlgeek 9 days ago 10 replies      

"To make error is human. To propagate error to all server in automatic way is #devops."

Frankly, I'm surprised things like this don't happen more often. Kudos for the incident management. Also a big plus for having working backups, it seems.

miles 9 days ago 9 replies      
Snark and sarcasm aside, I am impressed with the level of detail that the IT department is sharing; it is refreshing to see such a disaster being discussed so openly and honestly, while at the same time treating customers like adults.
beloch 9 days ago 1 reply      
This reminds me of my undergrad CPSC days. The CPSC department had their own *nix-based mainframe system that was separate from the rest of the University. The sysadmin was a pretty smart guy who was making less than a third of what he could get in industry. Eventually he got fed up and left. About a week or two later the servers had a whole cascade of failures that resulted in everyone losing every last bit of work they'd done over the weekend (This was a weekend near the end of the semester when everyone was in crunch mode).

Long story short, the sysadmin was hired back and paid more than most of the profs. Academia may tend to skimp on salaries for certain positions, but sysadmins probably shouldn't be one of them.

Fuzzwah 9 days ago 2 replies      
I've just been hired to run a project using SCCM to upgrade ~5000 PCs from XP to Win7.

This was amazing reading. Reading such a detailed wrap up of an IT team going through my worst possible nightmare was enlightening.

8ig8 9 days ago 3 replies      
Mistakes are made. In related news...

Lawn care error kills most of Ohio college's grass


Fomite 9 days ago 0 replies      
Reminds me of some emails that went out at my old university during a cluster outage, and got progressively more informal as the night went on, detailing people leaving dinners with extended families, a growing sense of desperation, etc. The last email might as well have ended with "Tell my wife I love her."

It was both direct and funny enough that I was only mildly annoyed that the cluster was down.

jonmrodriguez 9 days ago 2 replies      
Forgive my beginner question:

Since a reformat was done to the affected machines, does this mean that researchers' datasets, drafts of papers, and other IP were lost? Or were researchers' machines not affected?

facorreia 9 days ago 1 reply      
> A Windows 7 deployment image was accidently sent to all Windows machines, including laptops, desktops, and even servers. This image started with a repartition / reformat set of tasks.

Wow. That is very unfortunate, to say the least...

rfrey 9 days ago 0 replies      
My nomination of the top bullet point of 2014:

* As soon as the accident was discovered, the SCCM server was powered off however, by that time, the SCCM server itself had been repartitioned and reformatted.

Fuzzwah 9 days ago 0 replies      
I was just watching the "Whats New with OS Deployment in Configuration Manager and the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit" session from TechED and hit the section on "check readiness" option which MS have added to SCCM 2012 in R2. It sounds like having this in part of the task sequence at Emory would have (at the very least) stopped this OS push from at least hosing all the servers.


randlet 9 days ago 0 replies      
Reading that just made me feel sick to my stomach and my heart goes out to the poor gal/guy that pushed "Go" on that one. Shit happens, but a screw up that big can be devastating to ones psyche.
pling 9 days ago 0 replies      
Not quite as disastrous but when I was at university the resident administrators configured the entire site's tftp server (everything was netbooted Suns) to boot from the network. This was fine until there was a site-wide power blip and it was shut down. When it came back it couldn't tftp to itself to boot because it wasn't booted yet (feel the paradox!). Cue 300 angry workstation users descend on the computer centre with pitchforks and torches because their workstations couldn't boot either...

Bad stuff doesn't just happen to Windows networks.

mehrdada 9 days ago 0 replies      
As soon as the accident was discovered, the SCCM server was powered off however, by that time, the SCCM server itself had been repartitioned and reformatted.

I guess that's how robot apocalypse is gonna look like.

chromaton 9 days ago 0 replies      
Reminds me of The Website Is Down, episode 4:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0mwT3DkG4w
stark3 9 days ago 1 reply      
There was a similar catastrophe at Jewel osco stores many years ago. Nightly, items added to the store pos were merged back with the main item file at each store location. The format of the merged data was exactly the same as loading a new file, except the first statement would be /EDIT instead of /LOAD.

One of the programmers decided to eliminate some code by combining the two functions, with a switch to control whether /LOAD or /EDIT was used for the first statement.

There was a bug in the program, and the edits were sent down as loads.

A guy I knew, Barry, was the main operator that night. He started getting calls from the stores after around 10 of them had been reloaded with 5 or 6 items.

Barry said it was the first time he got to meet the president of the company that day.

smegel 9 days ago 3 replies      
Automation can also mean automated disaster.
rfolstad 9 days ago 0 replies      
On the bright side they are no longer running XP!
grumblepeet 9 days ago 0 replies      
I _very_ nearly did this whilst working for a University back in the early noughties. Luckily I managed to get to the server before the "advert" activated and wiped out everything. It was so easy to do I am surprised that it is stil possible. I feel for their pain, but it does sound like they are doing a good job of mopping up. I did allow myself a snort of laughter when I read the bit about the server being re imaged as well. That is pretty darn impressive carpet bombing the entire campus.
svec 9 days ago 0 replies      
With great power comes great responsibility.
sergiotapia 9 days ago 1 reply      
Isn't this more the fault of the system architect than the guy who accidentally fired the bad deploys?

It's similar to a database firehose: If you accidentally start deleting all data you should have a quick working backup ready to quickly bring the dead box up to production.

ww520 9 days ago 0 replies      
Disasters as well as mistakes are unavoidable, such is life. A hallmark of a competent organization is how they handle the situation and recover from disasters or mistakes.

So far all the signs have indicated they are doing great in recovering. I just hope there won't be onerous processes and restriction afterward due to desire on "make sure it won't happen again" stance.

durkie 9 days ago 0 replies      
hah! delighted to see this here.

my roommate works at the emory library and has had a fun slow week there of coming home early many days because no one could do work. they were apparently also given laptops as an interim solution, but those somehow also wiped themselves eventually (?).

poor IT people...just as they're starting to get a handle on the actual sitation it starts blowing up on the internet.

zacharycohn 9 days ago 0 replies      
I thought this "accident" may have been on purpose... until they mentioned the servers.

In my days of university tech support.

deckar01 9 days ago 0 replies      
"As soon as the accident was discovered, the SCCM server was powered off however, by that time, the SCCM server itself had been repartitioned and reformatted."

Unicast fail.

keehun 9 days ago 0 replies      
I asked my friend attending Emory right now, and he didn't even realize anything was going on. He says that the Emory IT department has a notorious distinction on campus as being regularly terrible, mostly with an unreliable internet connection.

However, it looks like they handled this accident the best they could! Perhaps this accident would not have happened at a more reliable IT department.

mantrax5 9 days ago 1 reply      
You know how in movies you need at least two people to bring their special secret keys, plug them in, and turn them at once to enable a self-destruct sequence?

That is a real principle in interface design - if something would be really, really bad to activate unintentionally, make it really, really hard to activate.

If you design a nuclear missile facility, you don't put the "launch nukes" button right next to "check email" and "open facebook".

Same way it shouldn't be easy for users to delete or corrupt their data by accident due to some omnipotent action innocently shoved right in between other trivial actions.

I wouldn't blame the person who triggered this re-imaging process. I'd blame those who designed the re-imaging interface, to allow it to happen so easily by accident.

tbyehl 9 days ago 0 replies      
I've built a few systems for deploying Windows... and the last thing that every one of them did before writing a new partition table and laying down an image was to check for existing partitions and require manual intervention if any were found.
imgur 9 days ago 0 replies      

  > As soon as the accident was discovered, the SCCM server was powered off  however, by that time, the SCCM server itself had been repartitioned and reformatted.
That made me laugh. Poor SCCM server :)

sorennielsen 9 days ago 0 replies      
This happened at one a former workplace too. Only the Solaris and Linux servers was untouched.

It "mildly" amused the *nix operations guys to see all the "point and click" colleagues panic.

k_sze 9 days ago 3 replies      
Funny how they mention iTunes as one of the "key components" that are restored first, whereas Visio, Project, Adobe application are relegated to a second round.
nissehulth 9 days ago 0 replies      
Next time I'm about to complain about a bad day at the office, I will read this story again.
gojomo 9 days ago 0 replies      
"... to the cloud!"


"Yay, cloud!"

CamperBob2 9 days ago 1 reply      
stark3, you seem to be hellbanned.
lucio 9 days ago 0 replies      
reads like a short dystopian novel
leccine 9 days ago 1 reply      
We accidentally re-imaged all of the Windows servers with Linux the other day. Nobody noticed though...
filmgirlcw 9 days ago 1 reply      
I've never been prouder of my alma mater. /s
The NSA Is Recording Every Cell Phone Call in the Bahamas firstlook.org
306 points by uptown  6 days ago   114 comments top 14
suprgeek 6 days ago 2 replies      
What is most disturbing is that NSA & DEA seem to have such a Cozy relationship.

Given that one is a mostly domestic agency and the other is supposed to focus primarily on Foreign Intelligence, this incestual relationship sets up many troubling opportunities for abuse.

Absolutely needs to be stopped.

United857 6 days ago 3 replies      
I'm guessing the other unnamed country is Afghanistan. It's a major drug producer which would justify DEA's involvement but also has general terrorism/national security concerns for the NSA's own interest. The word length also is a good match for the blacked-out area.
frik 6 days ago 2 replies      
Don't forget Iraq and Austria.

  Translation:  As part of "Mystic" apparently the NSA monitored not only   all communications in Iraq, but also in Austria.  The   basis for this was a secret treaty, by which the   government knew about it, writes an Austrian magazine.   [...]

CurtMonash 6 days ago 2 replies      
Sounds a bit like a proof-of-concept, on the way to doing it for larger countries.
leeoniya 6 days ago 2 replies      
i will just say that if you're in the business of smuggling drugs and are dumb enough not to use secure communication channels, you deserve to be caught.

keeping that in mind, the only ones who end up in the dragnet are small-time stupid smugglers and your average innocent citizen. the value of the former at the expense of the latter is likely inconsequential.

rdl 6 days ago 2 replies      
I'm interested in the technology they use for this -- record on-site, requiring someone in the country maintain a pretty decent hard disk farm, or send every call back to the US over expensive bandwidth?

For the Bahamas, you could clearly do either, but for the Philippines, sending back all content would be seriously difficult. Which is why it looks like they just do metadata from the bigger countries.

For the unnamed full-data country, I'd probably bet on the Caymans. Antigua or another small Caribbean nation would be a possibility.

I assume there is another entire program for actual jihadi communications (Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, etc.) under different cover and pretense; the other countries in MYSTIC appear to be DEA LI based.

a3n 6 days ago 0 replies      
"The documents dont spell out how the NSA has been able to tap the phone calls of an entire country. But one memo indicates that SOMALGET data is covertly acquired under the auspices of lawful intercepts made through Drug Enforcement Administration accesses legal wiretaps of foreign phone networks that the DEA requests as part of international law enforcement cooperation."

"lawful intercepts." As opposed to what the NSA does with them later.

Hopefully the Bahamas won't indict anyone from the NSA, as we just did with China. /s

stefantalpalaru 6 days ago 0 replies      
We have always been at war with the Bahamas.
cgusto 6 days ago 3 replies      
Is anyone else curious on what data setup the NSA is using? Do they have some crazy non relational ZFS setup that makes Hadoop seem like a kid's toy? Or is it just a bunch of off the shelf enterprise SQL servers duct taped together?

My bet is on the latter.

kevinburke 6 days ago 5 replies      
Why are Greenwald & Poitras writing this in The Intercept and not The Guardian, or Washington Post?
aenean 6 days ago 4 replies      
Is there a list of every NSA revelation?
xacaxulu 6 days ago 2 replies      
Let's call this what it is: some government employees trying to get stationed in the Bahamas. It's an old ruse but effective :-)
sexmonad 6 days ago 3 replies      
Yes, this is the NSA's job - foreign SIGINT. If you don't like this, you need to use encrypted communications.
pistle 6 days ago 1 reply      
Is that thing with the two wheels on it some sort of high-density, digital storage device? It looks like a Mickey Mouse robot head.

There was one at my local second-hand audio shop in a dusty corner. I bet they didn't know they were sitting on such a device.

My No-Soap, No-Shampoo, Bacteria-Rich Hygiene Experiment nytimes.com
303 points by pavel_lishin  3 days ago   260 comments top 27
dbingham 3 days ago 9 replies      
I'm extremely disappointed by the number of highly upvoted responses in this thread that seem to come from a gut-level "Ewww... gross!" response, instead of a rational examination of the science.

Recent medical and biological studies are showing that we are, in fact, evolved to live with an entire symbiotic ecosystem of fungus and bacteria. And the total war we have waged on all things microbial in the last century may have been to our detriment.

I would expect a rational discussion of exactly what the science has an has not revealed along these lines from HN.

Instead, what I'm reading is a lot of posts along the lines of "Smelly dirty hippies" or "Oh my god, dangerous microbes! Unclean people!"

Come on HN. We're better than this.

tokenadult 3 days ago 2 replies      
The author of the story kindly submitted here begins by writing, "I was Subject 26 in testing a living bacterial skin tonic, developed by AOBiome, a biotech start-up in Cambridge, Mass. The tonic looks, feels and tastes like water, but each spray bottle of AO+ Refreshing Cosmetic Mist contains billions of cultivated Nitrosomonas eutropha, an ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) that is most commonly found in dirt and untreated water. AOBiome scientists hypothesize that it once lived happily on us too before we started washing it away with soap and shampoo." So what we are particularly talking about here is an early-phase human trial of a cosmetic product (which is regulated in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration under the Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics Act) which may or may not have the benefits claimed by the manufacturer. The trial is to find out if the new cosmetic does anything at all beneficial, without too much harm. Getting news coverage like this is of course public relations gold for the manufacturer.

I read most of the comments here before reading the article and then posting my later comment. A lot of the comments revolve around the issue of the health effects of "modern" human life. All epidemiological evidence to date suggests that living like a middle-class or wealthier person from a developed country is good for health. An article in a series on Slate, "Why Are You Not Dead Yet? Life expectancy doubled in past 150 years. Heres why."[1] refers to the steady long-term upward trend in healthy lifespan in the United States. Whatever we are doing about washing our bodies or our hair so far doesn't have any harmful effect that isn't swamped by the generally helpful effect of all the other changes of modern life. Life expectancy at age 40, at age 60, and at even higher ages is still rising throughout the developed countries of the world.[2] The overall trends are so favorable to further improvement to general health that if the observed facts about people who are already born and conservatively projected current trends continue, we can expect that girls born since 2000 in the developed world are more likely than not to reach the age of 100, with boys likely to enjoy lifespans almost as long. The article "The Biodemography of Human Ageing"[3] by James Vaupel, originally published in the journal Nature in 2010, is a good current reference on the subject. Vaupel is one of the leading scholars on the demography of aging and how to adjust for time trends in life expectancy. His striking finding is "Humans are living longer than ever before. In fact, newborn children in high-income countries can expect to live to more than 100 years. Starting in the mid-1800s, human longevity has increased dramatically and life expectancy is increasing by an average of six hours a day."[4]

On evolutionary grounds, there is every reason to expect that human beings have haphazard adaptations through natural selection to survive to reproductive age despite a world full of microorganisms that were neither created nor evolved to benefit human beings, but rather just to survive and reproduce themselves. There is no evidence whatever that there are any large number of bacterial species or other microorganisms that are actively "beneficial" for human beings, rather than simply being well tolerated by human hosts. To live to healthy old age and greater enjoyment of the natural world and all its wonders, human beings may very well be better off continuing the human way of shaping their environments and culturally transmitting environmental interventions that lead to "unnaturally" good health and longevity.

AFTER EDIT, TO RESPOND TO QUESTION BELOW: Yes, I am saying there is weak or no evidence of "beneficial" bacteria for human beings. This is to be expected from the consilient findings of evolutionary theory. (Human beings have had to live in highly microbe-free environments, for various reasons.) I am specifically asking for evidence, from medical review articles, that there are well accepted "beneficial" skin microbes. Which are they? What is the evidence that shows the benefit?

The author of the article seems somewhat convinced by her personally experienced anecdote. It would of course take much more long-term study (not to mention more double-blind study designs) before we will be sure what is beneficial for human skin in particular and human health in general by way of applying bacteria intentionally to our skins. Suffice it to say that I am not afraid of washing my hands with soap nor afraid of washing my hair with shampoo. The book The Checklist Manifesto reports on an experimental study in a poor country of promoting hand-washing with soap, and how that showed evidence of improving health outcomes. Let's not throw out good hygiene with the bath water until more research has been completed on this interesting topic.

[1] http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science_of_...

[2] http://www.nature.com/scientificamerican/journal/v307/n3/box...

[3] http://www.demographic-challenge.com/files/downloads/2eb51e2...

[4] http://www.prb.org/Journalists/Webcasts/2010/humanlongevity....

jrabone 3 days ago 11 replies      
So anybody who happens to have a compromised immune system gets to fight your personalised microbes, perhaps fatally? How very ... Darwinian ... of you.

Soap and water have saved more lives than any medication, ever. I now have no spleen (6 months ago I lost spleen, gallbladder and half my stomach as well as sundry peritoneal membranes to cancer) and nearly died as a result of post-operative infections. I take daily antibiotics, possibly forever. As a society, we don't just cleanse ourselves for our own well-being, we wash for others.

fragsworth 3 days ago 2 replies      
Just to be contrarian...

What if our culture of daily washing with soap contributes to our health in positive ways? If we make our bodies generally inhospitable to bacteria, we are probably inhospitable to many kinds of deadly bacteria as well.

It might be that if we all abandon soapy showers, we'll have a new era of diseases on our hands.

buckbova 3 days ago 6 replies      
> The most extreme case is David Whitlock, the M.I.T.-trained chemical engineer who invented AO+. He has not showered for the past 12 years.

It's hard for me to imagine that these people don't stink and that after a workout, run or hike they don't smell "strongly". I guess you can still rinse off in the shower to get sweat and grime off, but not use any soap.

For the sake of my lady, I'd have to at least give the undercarriage a good scrubbing.

arbutus 3 days ago 2 replies      
I'm curious how this works for people with long hair. To a certain extent, shampooing less can be great for your hair, for a lot of the reasons discussed in the article about skin care. Sulphates strip out your natural hair oils and do a bunch of bad things, so sulphate-free shampoos are a lot better. Additionally, once you get your scalp accustomed to less frequent shampooing and it stops producing tons of oil to compensate, life for your hair can be pretty good.

That said, I can never seem to get onto a cycle of more than just a couple days without shampooing before my hair is just too oily. Washing with just water isn't super sufficient either when you have long, thick hair.

DigitalSea 3 days ago 0 replies      
I don't understand why the general consensus seems to think this is gross. I ran a similar experiment where I stopped washing my hair, after I detoxed from shampoo/conditioner, my hair stopped smelling. It only smells for a few days and then the natural oils take over and do their job.

My fiance who is currently becoming a registered nurse said her teacher ran an experiment which concluded that if you wash your hands properly and long enough (at least 30 seconds) using water, it does as good a job as soap/antibacterial handwash. To prove this he swabbed students hands and also ran them under a light to inspect for anything foreign. He of course also made sure to mention that in a hospital using water would not fly, but I thought it was an interesting result.

What did we use before shampoo, soap and conditioner? Nothing. Mankind has lasted this long without buying antibacterial products, hasn't it? I think if anything, antibacterial handwashes, shampoo and conditioner have contributed to our unhealthy society, especially when put into combination with our zero nutritional diets and pollution-led lifestyles. I think we all get so sick because we don't expose ourselves enough to the common bacteria and germs that lurk in our everyday lives. At the end of the day we as humans are nothing more than bacteria. Look up a video of what happens inside of our bodies when we digest food, we are bacteria ourselves.

tdaltonc 3 days ago 1 reply      
It's always seemed odd to me that most people douse their skin in antibiotics every day. I'd love to see a study on flora, like this study on gut flora:


SyncTheory13 3 days ago 1 reply      
If it really does work (sounds like it!), they'll just need to invent something to help aid the transition, before it can be really find mass-adoption.

From the way it sounds now, I'd make the switch only if I could find the time to take a month away from life... Maybe a vacation where all I do is remodel my house and have groceries delivered.

pierrebai 3 days ago 0 replies      
IIUC, this firm would like to replace soap with a micro-biological mono-culture mist. Given that our skin is in direct contact with a lot of external bacteria and virus, this seems to be a biological disaster in the making if it were to take off.

Haven't we learned that mono-culture is a bad idea yet?

headShrinker 2 days ago 0 replies      
If any one is interested in a sort of guide on why or how, and what to expect when you stop using body soaps and shampoos...

It's also about all these products we buy because are told to, that are completely unnecessary. It's as if no one questions it,which I think is Weird


jsudhams 3 days ago 0 replies      
I am sure natural way is better in long run, than lab produced chemicals. I use natural powder created from dry Acacia concinna[0] and Hibiscus rosa-sinensis[0] and for the smell part in India every used to use coconut oil but now a days youngster dont like though majority of school going children are apply coconut oil to the hair after head-bath



whateveraccount 3 days ago 2 replies      
I probably use soap on my body 3 or 4 times a year (still wash hands regularly), and shampoo once a week and notice no difference from how I smell from when I am using both.

In terms of hair-greasiness, when I began my hair was much longer and did feel greasier and appear more out of order, but with shorter hair there is not much of an issue and the shampoo once a week can stave it off.

Anyways, it seems like he is greatly exaggerating how badly he smelled. I smell no different, granted I apply deodorant to my underarms once a day but probably would not have to. Nobody I know comments on any bad smells either.

lightblade 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm sold! How do I get a bottle?
jqm 3 days ago 11 replies      
The unwashed hair seems it would be a problem. I have fairly oily skin and hair and a few days without shampoo, (even if I rinse) and my hair becomes extremely greasy and nasty looking. Maybe there are bacteria that would eat this oil, I don't know. Anything this strong could probably also be used for oil spill clean ups. (As long as it didn't get down into the salt-pit strategic oil reserves I guess).

I do find the basic premiss of the article interesting and agree. We do use too much cleaner and are probably doing ourselves a biological disservice.

ekianjo 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's funny that people who claim that you don't need soap to wash yourself simply justify their action by "I smell good now" - so what ? How does smelling good mean anything about how healthy your skin actually is ? For all we know it may be the exact opposite.
stretchwithme 3 days ago 0 replies      
My Dad always claimed that daily showering killed off all the bacteria. I think we thought he was crazy.
huehue 3 days ago 1 reply      
Well, it doesn't work for everybody.

I gave no-poo a go for four months. My hair started to shed, got dandruff breakouts and going to the hairdresser was an embarrassment due to oily hair (machine got stuck frequently).

Tried many tricks, vinegar+baking soda and all that, to no avail.

I finally stopped when hair loss started to be noticeable.

Ive ditched commercial shampoos since, and found that using plain baby shampoo everyday with ketoconazol every third day gives me the best results.

jastanton 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is awesome to me mainly because I am just thinking of all the other undiscovered ways we are destroying natures answer to many of our man made solutions. My hope is that this type of science gets more attention every day.
andor 3 days ago 0 replies      
What about chlorinated water? Would these bacteria survive swimming in a pool?
thret 3 days ago 0 replies      
I can see how this could be useful on a cross-country trek, on the ISS, or in areas where clean water in short supply.

For the rest of us though, showers and baths are too much fun to give up. I'd still shower every day if it were bad for my hygiene.

omilu 2 days ago 0 replies      
Homeless people smell and overall look grundgy. According to this article they ought to smell fine, have beautiful hair, and skin.
ashutoshm 3 days ago 0 replies      
dont apply something on your skin which you theoretically cant eat.http://easyayurveda.com/2012/05/16/are-soaps-and-shampoos-re...
trhway 3 days ago 0 replies      
one can easily see importance of decreasing bacteria load for existence of a species in big colonies/cities on the example of ants vs. other insects - the ants are the only insects having glands producing antibiotic
danielweber 3 days ago 0 replies      
I did not realize my teenage son could be used as a science experiment.
avb 3 days ago 1 reply      
Something like this might be a great product for camping and backpacking.
DanBC 3 days ago 0 replies      
And this thread is why I never shake hands with people.
Osmo playosmo.com
305 points by choult  3 days ago   104 comments top 36
GuiA 3 days ago 2 replies      
The company introduces Osmo, an iPad suite of games for children which uses the iPad's camera to use physical tiles on a traditional tabletop as input. The demonstrated games include tangram, a tile based word guessing game, and a physics-engine based game in which players must draw a path for falling objects to hit targets.

While the product describes itself as using "reflective artificial intelligence, a groundbreaking technology that bridges the real and digital realms for unlimited possibilities of play", it falls under what we in academic HCI call "tangible interaction", following Shaer & Hornecker's definition:

"Interfaces that are concerned with providing tangible representations to digital information and controls, allowing users to quite literally grasp data with theirhand and effect functionality by physical manipulations of these representations." [0]

The four claims typically made when introducing tangible interfaces in products for children are usability benefits, learning benefits, collaboration benefits, and fun benefits [1]. Osmo does not escape to the rule, claiming all 4 in its marketing copy.

While Osmo does not include any information about research conducted with it that would demonstrate those claims, similar systems have been proposed in the past.

The word game is mirrored in Dekel & al's Spelling Bee [2], a game which uses wooden letter blocks instead of Osmo's Scrabble tiles, and LEDs embedded in the cubes to provide player feedback. The authors report high engagement from the test audience (children 7-12), but no learning assessment or long term engagement study was performed (arguably 2 of the most important metrics).

The tangram game is mirrored in past research projects, including Scarlatos & al's [3] tangram game. Xie & al's [4] paper performs a user study on 3 implementations of a puzzle game: physical, GUI based, tangible. The authors report finding same self-reported level of enjoyments from the test users on all 3. However, they report that repeat play was more significant in the physical & tangible version of the game, which does not create an argument in the favor of Osmo. They do report significant gender effects in the way of collaboration, which could be relevant for Osmo:

"While all gender pairings mean scores on the Interest and Enjoyment subscale were nearly the same for the TUI condition, the boy-boy pairs had significantly higher scores than the girl-girl and girl-boy pairs for the GUI condition. In addition, the girl-girl pair scores were significantly higher for the traditional PUI condition than for either of the computational conditions (GUI, TUI). For girl-girl pairs mean scores for Perceived Competence subscale were also higher for the PUI condition than for either of the GUI or TUI conditions. Mean scores for boy-boy pairs were highest for the GUI condition."

The last game implemented by Osmo, the physics game, is the least interesting of the 3 as it has less claims to educational value than the other 2. However, it is reminiscent of several similar tabletop based tangible systems and augmented reality systems. [5]

Unfortunately I have to go work now, and the edit window will be over when I'm back online :( But for readers who found the above interesting, I will leave a few more relevant papers [6][7][8][9]

[0] Shaer & Hornecker, "Tangible user interfaces: past, present, and future directions", 2010

[1] Zaman & al., "Editorial: the evolving field of tangible interaction for children: the challenge of empirical validation", Personal Ubiquitous Computing, 2012

[2] Dekel & al, "The Spelling Bee: An Augmented Physical Block System that Knows how to Spell", ACE, 2007

[3] Scarlatos & al, "TICLE: using multimedia multimodal guidance to enhance learning"

[4] Xie & al, " Are Tangibles More Fun? Comparing Children's Enjoyment and Engagement Using Physical, Graphical and Tangible User Interfaces ", TEI 2008

[5] Krzywinski & al, "RoboTable: A Tabletop Framework for Tangible Interaction with Robots in a Mixed Reality"

[6] Antle & al, "Hands on What? Comparing Childrens Mouse-based and Tangible-based Interaction", IDC 2009

[7] Resnick & al, " Programmable Bricks: Toys to Think With", IBM Systems Journal, 1996

[8] Price & al, "Let's get physical: Learning Benefits of interacting in digitally augmented physical spaces" , 2004

[9] Resnick, "Edutainment? No thanks I prefer Playful Learning", 2004

Greenisus 3 days ago 5 replies      
I don't understand all the hate in this thread. This is a clever and creative use of technology that combines a favorite toy (iPad) with the one thing it lacks: physical interaction with real world objects. From what I understand (I'm a new dad so I'm still reading and learning), this sort of thing is very important for a developing mind.
vinkelhake 3 days ago 2 replies      
That looks awesome. I'm considering ordering one for the kids.

This paragraph is pretty hilarious though:

"Osmo is crafted for kiddurability and always ready to go: no batteries, or Wi-Fi required."

Well, yeah.. Except for the actual iPad.

timdiggerm 3 days ago 1 reply      
>Top educators from over 150 elementary schools nationwide, including the Bay Areas best preparatory institutions, are raving about Osmos natural ability to foster creative, social, and emotional learning and how much their students love it.

If there's one thing I, as a teacher, do not trust, it's when teachers (sorry, I mean "educators") get excited about technology.

(Doubly so if educators = administration)

eykanal 3 days ago 1 reply      
Am I the only one who saw this and was hoping it was an online remake of Cyan's Cosmic Osmo [1]?

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

Pxtl 3 days ago 2 replies      
It's a neat concept - a nice, polished AR kit. The actual tangram concept is a bit disappointing though - dragging simple objects around on a flat surface is already something the iPad excels at. In this case it feels like it's somewhat obsoleted by modern touch-screens.

Obviously there are cases where touch-screens fail, but simple tangram puzzles work just fine with them.

I'd be interested in seeing this expanded to things that require too large a play-area to do conveniently with a tablet, or that involve manipulation that doesn't correspond to simple dragging (which you can already do well on the iPad).

Either that or focus on vision-impaired students. Maybe a set of braille algebra-tiles[1]?


minalecs 3 days ago 0 replies      
I don't know I just get the overwhelming feeling that a lot of people aren't parents in this thread. My daughter loves these types of puzzle games on our touch devices. As soon as I saw the video, I have a good feeling she will like it. Really it looks fun , and the word game looks like something we can do together. I'm excited about this product. I really could care less about the actual learning aspects and more interested in the technology + fun aspect.
sutterbomb 3 days ago 1 reply      
Looks interesting. I want that technology but just to transfer paper notes/sketches to digital. I've tried using stylus on iPad for wireframes etc. but I can't quite get it to work same as sharpie & paper.
sendos 3 days ago 0 replies      
Great product (at least from an ingenuity point of view; would be interesting to see how kids react to it)

Side question: What is this style of info presentation called? Basically, a full-page-width webpage, with very sparse information that slowly shows up as you scroll down. I'm not too fond of it, but I see it a lot lately, so I assume it has been shown to lead to higher conversion rates. Does this presentation style have a name?

cJ0th 3 days ago 1 reply      
How do these games benefit from including a tablet?From what I can learn from the video the tablet assists you with counting points and lets you know when you've arrived at the right answer. Sure, it makes things more convenient. But what is wrong (from an educational point of view) with letting children add their points/checking their solutions themselves?
furyofantares 3 days ago 0 replies      
I played with this at the NY toy fair in February. The words game is really cool, you find yourself digging through letters as quickly as possible while trying to form the word but you also have to watch to make sure you are actually on the right track before you shove too many out there, and watch the other player too. The game is scored by giving you points for getting the word but you also lose points for every letter you shove in that isn't right. If you want you can just shove the whole stack in front, you'll instantly solve the puzzle but with an enormous negative score.

Something about that particular game is an experience I haven't had with either physical or digital games before, whereas most physical/digital hybrids I've seem could just as easily be done purely in one or both realms.

The tangram seemed like a bit of a dud for that reason, for example. It is nice to be able to get hints while playing physical tangrams (it can show you just the outline but tell you if you have a piece in the right spot), but that isn't really that much of an improvement over just having the pieces or just an iPad game.

The physics game where you draw on the pad is a strange demo to me. You can just do it as a drawing game without the paper, which is a bit less social, but again, this isn't much of an improvement. What is really cool, though, is the interactive outline of your hand or any object you put in front of it. But it doesn't really encourage that in any way, it just feels like a tech demo.

All that said, this product does excite me just because the word game gave me a feeling I haven't gotten in either a purely physical or purely digital space.

mikeash 3 days ago 5 replies      
OK, seriously, why is it so hard for companies to just tell me what their product is?

I guess it's some sort of augmented reality thing? With a clip-on mirror? (???) And a standard Tangram game?

"For the first time, fun knows no limits." Did somebody redesign zombo.com for the 21st century and try to attach a product to it?

There are so many beautiful product pages out there which completely fail at the basic task of telling people what they're selling. It's baffling.

mmcclure 3 days ago 0 replies      
I have siblings with kids (and iPads) so this looks like a perfect timeline for a Christmas present...but it's never a good sign when you try to give someone money and they won't take your CC because they're doing validation wrong.


fiatjaf 3 days ago 0 replies      
At first I thought this was a stupid, idea. In the, I became excited and envisioned a lot of opportunities for cool games.

I don't know why there are people in this thread talking about school and education. This is a toy. A toy should not be designed to educate. Kids play videogames the whole day these days. Osmo could bring them out of the videogame, make them interact with objects, not to learn, but to play, only. This should not be confined to small kids games, but also to all kinds of games, and other uses as well.

tbolse 3 days ago 0 replies      
There is a similar "augmented reality puzzle game" for adults called Reflow.


It was released Jun 01, 2012.

coreymgilmore 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is a great product. To me, the video (while marketing) showed exactly how kids would react to something like this. Nowadays, all kids know how to use an iPad so throwing in the physical pieces as well brings back the "legacy" way of playing. Plus, it has a nice teaching aspect and i could imagine a dual iPad "versus" mode to encourage a little competition.
danielweber 3 days ago 0 replies      
Okay, I don't get the product, but I'm impressed that as you scroll down the screen, the Osmo drops onto the iPad, and then the iPad drops into its holder.
cmiller1 3 days ago 2 replies      
Did anyone else get excited expecting something related to this?


rwhitman 3 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if there are other use cases for a little iPad augmented reality app on a stand beyond kids stuff
bullfight 3 days ago 1 reply      
I really like this. It seems to me to be an early approximation of Neal Stephenson's A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer from The Diamond Age.

A commensurate companion, guide, and teacher. Sure this may only be a few activities but the responsiveness and seeming magic to it is fantastic.

I particularly like that you can set down a toy in front of the camera and it renders out a flat illustrated version of that toy.

mcosta 3 days ago 0 replies      
The hate here, I believe, is because the ad is very artificial and the the children are clearly acting. Too obvious.
TruthSHIFT 3 days ago 1 reply      
I love this so much. But, when I step back and look at what you're getting for $58, I'm wondering why I can't build one myself. It looks like I'll need an iPad stand, a small mirror, and a fisheye lens.

Then, I'll just use the same apps as the other Osmo users.

druidsbane 3 days ago 1 reply      
I would love to see this with a giant screen. The iPad is great but kids needs space and room to play. Great start and I really feel that things like this will have a great impact in the future.
sergiotapia 3 days ago 2 replies      
If I lived in the states I would buy one for my kids in a heartbeat. The newton game looks like something even I would enjoy! Great job guys!
GhotiFish 3 days ago 0 replies      
To be fair, tangrams are pretty fun. Young me would rather it just show me the silhouette than showing me where to put the tans though.
huhtenberg 3 days ago 0 replies      
Looks great, but it really needs an independent review.
rainmaking 3 days ago 1 reply      
Needing to give kids an iPad raises all sorts of issues: Cost, breakage, internet exposure...

I would be very likely to buy a self-contained colored digital etch-a-sketch that logs everything ever drawn on it, which I can later put on my computer.

I know that would be very big brother of me, but it's for cute's sake!

joshcrowder 3 days ago 0 replies      
I don't have any kids but I'm buying one this is awesome - Looking forward to getting one of these to play with.
rainmaking 3 days ago 0 replies      
Not a bad idea in the last, but I strongly suspect my kids would be more interested in creatively disassembling the iPad than playing with Osmo.
artellectual 3 days ago 0 replies      
I am definitely getting this for my daughter.
pastaking 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is brilliant! Amazing job guys!
camus2 3 days ago 0 replies      
Looks SO awesome! that's the kind of article i like to see on HN!.Looks great,cant wait my kids to try that.
cristyansv 3 days ago 0 replies      
looks like a google product
digitalpacman 3 days ago 0 replies      
This blew me away.
radmuzom 3 days ago 0 replies      
Poor website. Till I read the comments here, I could not figure out in 30 seconds what the product does except that it uses artificial intelligence.
rplnt 3 days ago 1 reply      
What's with the weird space between "Pre" and "Order Osmo" in the header? Also, the percentage doesn't add up. Or is it supposed to be with shipping?

By the way, the price is ridiculous. Even the discounted one. That puzzle sells for about 4$ (that's with profit), let's be generous and say that the app itself is worth $10 (which it isn't) and we are left with $85 for a mirror embedded in plastic? Shipping not included?!

That being said, nice idea, I haven't seen it done before. Possibilities to extend this are great.

Arrakis washington.edu
282 points by conductor  4 days ago   84 comments top 27
teraflop 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is pretty interesting, but unfortunately their intro page doesn't do a good job of explaining why. (For instance, they use the word "unprecedented" without really saying what makes Arrakis different from previous exokernel-like designs.) I'll try to summarize what I got out of skimming the paper[1]:

When you have multiple applications running on the same machine, you need some way to safely share resources between them; for example, incoming network packets are a resource. A kernel handles this by keeping a data structure mapping sockets to processes, and demultiplexing data that comes in from the network card. Hypervisors work the same way, except at the level of virtual machines rather than processes.

Arrakis does the same thing, but relies on hardware support in the network card to dispatch packets to the right process. This relies on a standard called SR-IOV[2] which allows the OS to configure a PCI device to present itself as multiple virtual subdevices. The kernel programs the NIC to dispatch packets to different buffers depending on the incoming MAC address; after that, packets can be dispatched with no kernel involvement at all. Similarly, you can tell a disk controller to present a particular extent of a disk as a new virtual storage device.

The blurb about memory protection seems to be a red herring, because as far as I can see they haven't done anything to change that. There's still a kernel, which handles requests for resource mappings, and processes are still isolated from each other. But once they've requested the mappings that they need, the normal execution path doesn't involve any syscalls, and so there's no kernel overhead. The real contribution of the paper is designing an API around this idea and proving that real applications like Redis can be ported to it.

[1] http://arrakis.cs.washington.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/...[2] http://blog.scottlowe.org/2009/12/02/what-is-sr-iov/

GuiA 4 days ago 5 replies      
"Applications are becoming so complex that they are miniature operating systems in their own right and are hampered by the existing OS protection model"

Sure, that's true for browsers, as they mention, and a few other degenerate cases (eg. virtualization software?) - but that's certainly not the case for the vast majority of applications I run (text editor, terminal, mail client, IM client, etc.). How does this argument hold?

ChuckMcM 4 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting, its a fork of Barrelfish [1] which is the one-core-one-OS OS. When I first heard about it, it sounded like Multi-DOS (several instances of MS-DOS running at once) but its a bit more sophisticated than that :-). Other than cache contention (which is always going to be a problem) its an interesting approach.

[1] http://www.barrelfish.org/TN-000-Overview.pdf

akavel 4 days ago 2 replies      
Is this the same idea as "exokernel", and thus a (probably valuable) attempt at implementation of one, or does it differ in some important points?


pygy_ 4 days ago 0 replies      
In reply to many comments about the lack of safety of the approach: They claim that "[they] demonstrate that operating system protection is not contradictory with high performance".

Abstract of their latest paper:

Recent device hardware trends enable a new approachto the design of network server operating systems. In atraditional operating system, the kernel mediates accessto device hardware by server applications, to enforce pro-cess isolation as well as network and disk security. Wehave designed and implemented a new operating system,Arrakis, that splits the traditional role of the kernel intwo. Applications have direct access to virtualized I/Odevices, allowing most I/O operations to skip the ker-nel entirely, while the kernel is re-engineered to providenetwork and disk protection without kernel mediation ofevery operation.

We describe the hardware and softwarechanges needed to take advantage of this new abstraction,and we illustrate its power by showing 2-5x end-to-endlatency and 9x throughput improvements for a popularpersistent NoSQL store [i.e. Redis] relative to a well-tuned Linuximplementation.


michaelmior 4 days ago 0 replies      
If you like this concept, you may also find Mirage[1] interesting. Mirage compiles the application code into the kernel to run directly on the Xen hypervisor. (Thus system calls become ordinary function calls. They do some tricks to maintain security.)

[1] http://www.openmirage.org/

na85 4 days ago 2 replies      
>"The application gets the full power of the unmediated hardware, through an application-specific library linked into the application address space."

This is pretty concerning, actually. I don't think I want or trust shady companies like Adobe to be running DRM-laden code directly on my hardware.

Vendor lock-in is an increasingly common phenomenon and I'm picturing a really alarming future if this sort of OS takes off. I like that the linux kernel sits between my software and my hardware.

Want to watch a Sony DVD? Better hope you have a webcam so that the media player application can directly access your facial reactions to the media being played and upload it to Sony's servers.

leorocky 4 days ago 2 replies      
Hrm, I wonder what they were using for their source control before making it available on GitHub, they've squashed all commits into one giant commit which is really, really unfortunate, especially for people who might want to contribute or understand the code base better. There are tools to port commit history over into git, they should have used such a tool.


gumby 4 days ago 0 replies      
Looks like they have reinvented part of a capability-based Multics system. Perhaps they should go read Organick:


jmtame 4 days ago 1 reply      
Just wanted to say that I love the naming of the OS. Brings back memories to the classic Dune games I played when I was younger.
molsongolden 4 days ago 0 replies      
I was really excited when I saw "Arrakis" on the front page but after looking at the project I'm not sure why they chose the name.

If anything should be named Arrakis it should be a terraforming project...or a worm farm.

erikb 4 days ago 1 reply      
Although this might be the best operating system ever in existance, I think it's quite hard to get anywhere in the desktop OS market. How can they find users? And if they don't find users, how can they find people who work with them on their software?
getmailpin 4 days ago 0 replies      
No abstraction is better than having abstraction. See http://pdos.csail.mit.edu/exo.html
spiritplumber 4 days ago 0 replies      
Isn't this what DOS did?
dllthomas 4 days ago 0 replies      
I see the benefits to performance and arguably flexibility. I don't see why this provides "unprecedented reliability".
yazaddaruvala 4 days ago 2 replies      
Where exactly is the framework to build operating systems?

I just want a layer (ie all current linux drivers) without virtual memory or a protected mode (context switches) or process management.

Just a nice API to run code on a core of my choosing, and read and write data from device "streams".

auggierose 4 days ago 1 reply      
Isn't Arrakis something out of Dune?
drivingmenuts 4 days ago 0 replies      
Pretty much sounds like they're trying to turn my laptop into a PS3.
tempodox 4 days ago 0 replies      
I wish our office coffee machine had a direct demultiplexing port into my mouth. For the coffee, that is. Not the waste.

application-specific library: Yeah, all my circles are squares, too.

falconfunction 4 days ago 1 reply      
what language is it being written in?
EGreg 4 days ago 1 reply      
OK but how do you do pre emptive multitasking?
phillmv 4 days ago 1 reply      
Heh, this sounds analogous to what Gary Bernhardt finished "The Birth & Death of Javascript" with: https://www.destroyallsoftware.com/talks/the-birth-and-death...
npsimons 4 days ago 4 replies      
Been done before (some would say to death), and the reason we have memory protection between applications is forgotten because people don't realize how nice it is. Sure, sure, your big "well engineered" web browser needs direct access to the hardware for speed, but painful experience has taught us that giving apps programmers direct access to hardware is a recipe for failure. Besides, there are already plenty of workarounds to get faster (eg, mmap) or even direct access to hardware from userland, not to mention the myriad of virtualization and protection schemes and levels in userland (eg, SELinux). This seems like a solution in search of already solved problems. Although as a research project, it does seem interesting . . .
peterwwillis 4 days ago 2 replies      
If I understand this correctly, they want all userspace applications to be Ring 0? That sounds.... problematic, to put it lightly.
paraiuspau 4 days ago 1 reply      
arrakis...dune...desert planet...


mahyarm 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is embracing the second system effect & NIH syndrome that many large apps eventually get.
cobolorum 4 days ago 0 replies      
As an operating system for a dedicated, single purpose server this may be okay. As an operating system for mobile phones, this may one day be alright (when phones get about 12 cores). As an operating system for workstations and desktops, this is probably the worst idea I have heard in a long time. It sounds like a hipster version of multidos. At one application per core (or at least I think that's the idea), you are severely limiting the ability to multitask. So, on an 8 core system I have one core running the exokernel (1), another core running a gui (2), another core running an audio application (3), another running my web browser (4), another with my editor (5), another with git (6), another with a torrent going (7), and another with email (8). Due to the description, I am hoping that the GUI using a core and other applications having access to it is possible. I also hope that audio services don't need a core, or else the audio application developer will need to reimpelement OSS4 and/or ALSA in his/her application. That's just about idiotic... oh well...
The new VirginAmerica.com virginamerica.com
277 points by malditojavi  2 days ago   157 comments top 74
robertnealan 2 days ago 3 replies      
From a design perspective this is one of the most beautiful airline booking designs I've ever seen, but from a usability perspective it might just be the worst (save for maybe RyanAir).

The cities being laid out in a grid looks nice but is ultimately far more difficult to understand then just looking at an alphabetical list in a dropdown. Auto-picking your departure city based on your current location is admittedly a nice detail, but it wasn't immediately obvious how I change where I'm starting as the "link" was different than anything else on the page.

The "Who's Flying" section is massive for having so little real information. And why are that the font is 120px (or 12rem) but the "+/-" controls are faded out and tiny by comparison?

The calendar is again completely oversized, low contrast, and difficult to understand. My laptop has a 1440x900 resolution screen and I can barely fit a single full month in the window. If I happen to want to buy a ticket more than a month or so in advance, I need to repeatedly click "More Dates" which then appends another two months to the already crazy long page? Also, the low contrast purple highlight for all the dates inbetween departure/return isn't immediately noticeable.

When I click on a ticket price another window slides up over it - took a few moments to figure out what actually happened there. Overall the "ticket selection" again looks pretty, but when I can only see a few in the window at any given time it's far less usable than a standard clean list. Also, the "Continue" button looks identical to the other addon options, and it isn't immediately obvious how to progress if you don't want to upgrade your ticket.

The seat selection admittedly is admittedly fun looking though why are half the faces looking upset? Also, versions of the seat selection where they actually place the seat INSIDE the plane in it's real physical location are more readable than this abstracted version, though I do like how they clearly broke it up into sections that show the different cabin/seat types. Again though, I can only fit about half the plane on my screen at any given time.

Having the form adjacent to the seat selection is a nice touch as you can then easily track who's sitting where as you enter their information (especially if you're a family with kids), but for some reason they neglected to highlight the seat on the visual map. Also, the form is again overly tall and I can only fit about 2/3 of it at any time.

Overall I think it's a good start but hardly production ready. My gut instinct is that most people will be impressed by how "pretty" it is, but that the overall conversion rates will decrease significantly. The one really well done idea is the fixed header, though realistically it should progressively fill out with information and not show/hide ticket info at different stages in the process (for instance, it did show my takeoff/landing times and price which was extremely useful, but now hiding that to ask me who's sitting in seat 4B, which is already emphasized at the top of the form).

zaroth 2 days ago 1 reply      
Someone else was wondering if this was a parody, I think they might be right. There is so much funky with this, it does feel only half serious.

For me it started with 'Book from San Francisco'. I clicked on the 'Boston' button, and it shows this weird top status-bar drop down thing which flashes the message: 'Going to "Hahvahd," perchance?'. What?

Then the browser starts, a little bit too slowly, scrolling itself down automatically... Off putting.

A moment later, the mocking message slides up and away, and the top nav has been replaced by mostly broken status bar. Try clicking on some of those links in the status bar if you want to get totally lost.

Then that calendar view... I mean, if it showed 'From $199...' or whatever under each date, I could understand taking up so much space. I thought it was a lot harder to find the right date this way than with their standard date picker.

After picking a date, the flights table is significantly worse than their current design. No way to step forward/backward in dates, no weekly overview, super low contrast, overly spaced out, scroll down forever trying to see all the flights, no sorting,...

Even the seat map is weird, I don't know if it's just due to the super-low contrast, or the weird icons they put in place of seat numbers for the seats which are taken, or maybe the weird way they show the pricing for each seating area, but there was a lot of cognitive dissonance trying to understand what I was looking at.

What it comes down to is an interface which was trying to make things simpler actually introducing a huge amount of cognitive load where there didn't need to be any.

In the end, I zoomed out to 33% to get a birds eye view and while it's interesting to see everything on one page like that, I think they have a LOT of work ahead of them making it actually flow properly, fixing the contrast and layout, removing all the weird and distracting gimmicks, and bring back some of the core functionality that's missing.

tommy_mcclung 2 days ago 2 replies      
Would have been great, except for it suffers from the same problem the existing VA site suffers from. Almost every time I use the VA site, "something goes wrong". I just tried to book tickets for next week, got all the way to the end to pay, hit submit and "something went wrong". They just put a pretty front end on a broken booking system that breaks almost every time I use the site. The only thing I care about is that it works and the VA site consistently fails, this upgrade doesn't fix the core problem I've always had with it.
malloreon 2 days ago 2 replies      
The new boarding pass design is fantastic. Every airline needs to do at least that part immediately.
mfkp 2 days ago 2 replies      
I really don't like this new UI. Instead of having a sorted drop down, now there's a bunch of boxes I have to look through to find the one I'm searching for. Takes a lot longer than it used to.

Example: http://cl.ly/image/3D0f2u0Y300Y

brryant 2 days ago 4 replies      
The scrolljacking really makes for a terrible UI/UX. Designers: why is this something we're seeing more often? What is the main benefit?
smackfu 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's very linear and seems to work well only if you have all the dates completely locked down. I really prefer the designs that make it easy to see if travelling a day earlier or later would be much cheaper. I think the other Virgin sites do this.
tnorthcutt 2 days ago 0 replies      
1. Click show more dates

2. See more dates, but not enough

3. Click show more dates

4. See more dates, but not enough

5. Click show more dates

6. Nothing happens

7. Click show more dates

8. Nothing happens

9. Give up

vinceguidry 2 days ago 4 replies      
When I saw their new boarding pass I just had to laugh. Someone awhile back went and redesigned Delta's boarding pass[1] and got a lot of crap over it for not taking into account why the boarding pass was the way it was.[2][3] But apparently someone at Virgin was taking notes.

[1] http://passfail.squarespace.com/

[2] http://blog.timoni.org/post/318322031/a-practical-boarding-p...

[3] http://www.ryanholiday.net/this-is-what-real-analysis-looks-...

kposehn 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is slick.

Virgin has been my favorite airline for some time, but now just went up 3.14 notches.

rwc 2 days ago 1 reply      
Looks slick, but felt like the actual booking process was extraordinarily disorienting. Too much movement and jumping around.
aneisf 2 days ago 0 replies      
I love this. The boarding pass design is a nice touch, although I still feel like I'm going to fold it in a hurry to get it out of my hands and not in the way they intend.
qmr 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is horrible and broken. Real information replaced with "flat" design and stupid hip made up words like "fun-erer".

  No javascript:  http://i.imgur.com/8HkKyZx.png
There is a delay of at least 100ms scrolling up and down between pages. I would guess 150ms. I do not see any obvious way of changing this, and the scroll bars are hidden. What if I need to change something at the top of the page? I also managed to break scrolling ending up halfway between pages somehow. The only way to fix this was to painfully scroll all the way to one end to reset things.

  No CSS:  http://i.imgur.com/u5g0eaS.png
The site appears to scale horribly, and it looks like they are using javascript to generate styles. IANA web developer and have not studied modern web stuff in a long time, but this seems like A Bad Idea.

  No CSS or javascript:  http://i.imgur.com/Kb2JZAH.png
I do not even want to think about the accessibility issues.

All in all it seems like they are just following the flat design trend, for the sake of following it. I am sure they have good intentions, but just from analyzing this page I am underwhelmed.

mattangriffel 2 days ago 0 replies      
VirginAmerica, you can't brag about your site's responsive design and then tell me I have to turn my phone to Portrait mode when I'm in Landscape.
eevee 2 days ago 1 reply      
Fantastic. https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BoYFJleIMAAmgMH.png:large

beta.virginamerica.com is, of course, a blank white void.

Filling out a form and clicking some buttons is such futuristic technology that we can no longer figure out how to make it work without JavaScript.

jasonwen 2 days ago 3 replies      
This is super slick. Design wise it's ahead of its game, instead of another flat design website.

I love how they put "life" into their brand with those avatars and make it fun in this all too boring process of buying tickets. To be honest, I would be jealous of how innovative Virgin is lately when I'm another airline.

UX wise there are some things I would do differently. There are some rough edges but it's an iterative process and they'll probably track tons of things now. For example, changing prior steps will reset the date selection.

Deep respect for their team, I also love their new logo. Awesome!

doctorfoo 1 day ago 0 replies      
Yet another "made for mobile" site. I hate these. Huge font sizes, massive images, wide margins surrounding all elements, wasted space everywhere, floating header obscuring the content. Ugh.
jds375 2 days ago 0 replies      
Very well done. Beautiful and simple to use. Most importantly, everything is kept on the same page and it loads quickly. I can't begin tell you how frustrating it can be using something like Expedia or Continental and having to wait so long for the next page to load.... Sometimes it takes too long and I click 'back' and have to start the process all over (resubmit the form). By keeping it on one page that expands downwards, it easy to tell when the next widget is loading and prevents all of this from happening.
DigitalSea 1 day ago 0 replies      
As a developer myself, I've seen first hand this new trend of scroll-jacking, parallax, animated, full-screen sections come in quicker than a rain storm. I am just glad the whole horizontal layout thing isn't a thing any more, horizontal sites were way worse in my opinion than this new trend of turning websites into Powerpoint presentations.

I do like the aesthetic this new trend has, but accessibility wise, it's a no-go. I feel bad for anyone with eyesight problems in particular who comes across this site and has to read text on rainbow coloured backgrounds. These kinds of sites are not very well accommodating to colour blind visitors and that's no way to run a business.

Then there are screen height issues with the design. People on net-books and iPad's in landscape orientation are probably not going to enjoy this site very much as nothing really fits on the screen properly. The result is undeniably beautiful though, and from an investor/board member perspective, I can definitely feel the enthusiasm from here. This is the kind of site that gets everyone on board, except the developers who have to build it (in most cases).

shalmanese 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's pretty but it's missing the one feature I love from the old site which is to quickly scrub through dates to figure out if there's a cheaper flight earlier or later than my planned date. My travel plans are usually somewhat flexible so I'm often willing to shift by a day or two to save $100.
muxxa 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is really nice, but they haven't solved the following problem: sometimes you need more information from further on in the process in order to choose your dates. For some types of trip, the most important thing is a combination of departure time and price; you want the lowest price as long as the departure/arrival is within your acceptable range, and then you want to work 'backwards' to pick dates based on that.I don't know of any airline booking process that accommodates that use-case well.
orbitingpluto 2 days ago 0 replies      
I thought the option to select an avatar in the seating layout was an interesting feature: so the gregarious can sit with the gregarious, the droolers with the droolers, and the taciturn with the taciturn. Selecting a female gender would probably guarantee you don't get an empty seat next to you however...

But of course most of these booking sites actually hide pricing information until you tell them exactly when and where you want to fly. You won't find out that you can save some money by taking a two leg obscure routing or flying the day before.

lechevalierd3on 2 days ago 2 replies      
I really hate scrolling hijacking...
rmason 2 days ago 0 replies      
I may be just an old curmudgeon but I will choose functional over pretty every single time. By trying too hard to look hip it becomes a caricature of itself.
Myrmornis 2 days ago 2 replies      
In terms of implementation, it's interesting that they chose ugly URLs which encode everything


Note the a1c1i1: that's "1 Adult 1 Child 1 Infant" and it changes as you adjust the widgets (without a page refresh).

Also, minor detail, but I'm interested to see that they use PUT as well as POST to update the server with the selections. So that's following modern "REST" guidelines (use verbs properly) but the URLs are anything but!

EDIT: I put "REST" in quotes to refer vaguely to modern API practices. I know REST is strictly something else, please let's not talk about that it's really boring.

mrchess 2 days ago 0 replies      
Lost me at date picking, and then got even more confused when choosing "flights" -- incredibly hard to read the flight table.

Not a fan of this refresh.

jeroen 2 days ago 0 replies      
Something is broken. I get grey backgrounds and grey text when scrolling down. Selecting text makes the correct colors show up. The background images further down the site are missing.

After reloading the page, I now get text in the same color as the background. And the down arrows are missing.

This all happens in Safari. WFM in Firefox and even in IE8 it degrades acceptably.

smrtinsert 2 days ago 0 replies      
This ui is ridiculous. It honestly feels like a parody.
state 2 days ago 0 replies      
Somewhat unrelated: I spent the majority of the day on a VA flight and I feel like I'm still recovering from sitting under those colored lights. Really, seriously, what is the benefit? At first I just felt nauseous, and after a while it just turned in to a dull headache.

Usually air travel is great and productive, but that "club" lighting has got to go.

Dorian-Marie 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's pretty but I think they need to do some user testing, booking flight is actually harder:

* Choosing departure / arrival is hard

* Choosing the date is hard

* The "Continue" button is hidden

* I see avatars but I don't know what it means, and then I see that I can choose my avatar.

* ...

dc_ploy 2 days ago 0 replies      
It looks like I can't book a flight. "BUMMER. NO FLIGHTS ARE AVAILABLE FOR THIS DATE. PLEASE TRY ANOTHER DATE." Am I supposed to keep clicking around until I get something? Can I see a listing of "Available flights on the calendar." I tried booking DCA to SAN.
jrnkntl 2 days ago 0 replies      
Link to the new version: https://beta.virginamerica.com/
coin 2 days ago 0 replies      
Sucks on iPad. There's a weird too fast scroll acceleration.
smrtinsert 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is good time to mention that scrolling is the bane of all things usable, and the person who invented it should be shot. If I wanted to lose context of my operations I would hire some guy to scream in my ear every few seconds, it would be less annoying.

Scrolling uis clearly tailored to touch devices like this one really should be an available alternative, not the only interface.

stevenh 2 days ago 1 reply      
Cartoon characters everywhere? "cagillion"? "fun-erer"?

I'm not sure if the average customer will enjoy being treated as if they're five years old. I find this unbearably corny and unprofessional.

highwind 2 days ago 1 reply      
Why is the password limited to 16 characters long? I don't understand this limitation on any of the sites.
granttimmerman 2 days ago 0 replies      
Scrolling becomes is really buggy if you Cmd + f to search for something.

But overall, nice UI.

nailer 2 days ago 0 replies      
Tried to scroll down, nothing happened, then it scrolled way too far, then my browser was unresponsive and I had to kill it. iPad, iOS 7.

Edit: tried a second time and slowed down my scrolling to get the site to work. 'get Booking' doesn't work.

Like the folding boarding pass though.

pkamb 2 days ago 0 replies      
Page Down key doesn't scroll.
mrmch 2 days ago 0 replies      
Just booked a flight I'd been putting off; the new experience is worlds better than other airlines, though it still has its issues.

My favorite airline is still United; their website will let you get to the final billing page, and submit your cc, only to find that "that flight isn't available".

literalusername 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm glad it's finally compatible with LastPass! That alone increases usability quite a lot.

The cartoon characters strike me as misguided though. Their target demographic is not children.

Sami_Lehtinen 2 days ago 0 replies      
Lol. On my mobile out flashes between showing that yellow face an that laptop. Absolutely zero usability. They could show fail or 404 as well. Customer leaves the site in three seconds not even knowing or caring about what this s@@t is.
ericcholis 2 days ago 0 replies      
Just did a sample booking, and was very impressed. Some notes:

1) Some elements seem too far apart on a wider screen. Usual victim of responsive design without a max width.

2) The loading between steps is damn snappy, but feels slow sometimes due to the lack of an activity indicator. Slow is a relative term, but I instantly felt like I had done something wrong or the page wasn't responding.

11thEarlOfMar 2 days ago 0 replies      
Consider the alternative:


joedevon 2 days ago 0 replies      
The new site is not accessible unfortunately.
archagon 2 days ago 0 replies      
On a meta note: it seems that design-related posts on HN tend to be pretty controversial. Has there ever been a redesign posted here that garnered universal praise?
utopkara 2 days ago 2 replies      
Best scrolling experience I've seen in sites like this. It might not be right for all sites, but I would like to see it almost everywhere from now on.
benaston 2 days ago 0 replies      
Can anyone tell me the company(ies) that designed and implemented this website? They seem to have negotiated a much freer hand with the client wrt design than is typical.
iaskwhy 2 days ago 0 replies      
Text doesn't look right in the latest stable Chrome/Windows 7.
tericho 2 days ago 0 replies      
Late to the party but this is stunning. If any of the devs are reading this I'd love to chat about your Angular implementation.
madebymade 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think it looks nice, but find certain parts of the UX to be difficult / confusing. I found selecting prices particularly confusing, was not sure where i was supposed to be looking. Sure they will refine and iterate on it tho.
icpmacdo 2 days ago 1 reply      
What is the name of this new website design that is just one page that you scroll through.
laoba 2 days ago 0 replies      
Just one quirk with the home page. Read down to the bottom, and then I tried to scroll back up, and it would stop at each "Section" and would not let me just continue scrolling up.

OSX Firefox 29.0.1

0898 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Playful avatars", a "cheeky sense of humor". How is that a benefit to us? It's like they left in copy from the agency pitch.
ansimionescu 2 days ago 0 replies      
The boarding pass redesign reminded me of this (and my snarky side is wondering whether they just stole some of the ideas): http://petesmart.co.uk/rethink-the-airline-boarding-pass/
stephengoodwin 2 days ago 1 reply      
Everything looks great, until the "Get Booking" link didn't work on the final slide (in Chrome on iPad)
bmetz 2 days ago 0 replies      
Still can't change my login email ID.
astletron 1 day ago 0 replies      
Worked terribly in Safari on iPhone 4s. No excuse for that at this late day.
brianbreslin 2 days ago 0 replies      
Any idea how they are doing financially lately? I remember reading last fall they were struggling financially.
lilpirate 2 days ago 0 replies      
Well, on stock Android browser, there's just a redirect loop.
josephjrobison 2 days ago 0 replies      
Looks sexy I dig it. Good use of Vine embedding, and the pocket pass is something I would use.
omilu 1 day ago 0 replies      
I appreciated the humor, and the cool colors helped.
patrickfl 2 days ago 0 replies      
I am really liking this design and HTML is so clean. Anyone know what the breakdown of this stack is? A lot of the illustrations are SVG how are they animated?
verdi327 1 day ago 0 replies      
this site is beautiful. UX could be better but I don't understand why the comments are so woefully negative. It's still very easy to book a flight
philk10 2 days ago 0 replies      
BugGo tohttps://beta.virginamerica.com/cms/fly-with-usScroll down, click on the 'learn more' underneath the Internet section - link is 'fpo'

Now, how do I report it?:)

patrickaljord 2 days ago 0 replies      
Pretty cool to see it's using AngularJS.
swalsh 2 days ago 3 replies      
I love that the default city is based on location.
jonn_g 2 days ago 0 replies      
Try the keyboard navigation
h1karu 2 days ago 0 replies      
When I clicked that I wanted to go from Austin TX to Portland, OR it said "pack your plaid". This is just a poorly done rip-off of hipmonk's messaging. It's just going to confuse people who aren't familiar with silly internet-meme based stereotypes about whatever city it is they're choosing. It's just a bad idea. Portland's message should have said something about roses, or Mount hood, or even make reference to the fact that it rains a lot there, but not some fuzzy stereotype about how a certain age group tend to dress.
the_watcher 2 days ago 0 replies      
Pretty incredible how much better this is than every single competitor.
mrcwinn 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think this is imperfect but pretty wonderful. Great job. Feel proud for all the detail work you put into it, designers and engineers!
__matt 2 days ago 0 replies      
I should fly somewhere
sergiotapia 2 days ago 0 replies      
First thing I noticed is the san fransisco bridge and the gay community rainbow.
vinhboy 2 days ago 0 replies      
Did anyone else notice the adult humour on the first slide. Ha! Well done.
When AES() = a crypto-binary trick speakerdeck.com
266 points by ange4771_  6 days ago   34 comments top 14
aidos 6 days ago 2 replies      
That was a great read. I saw the title and figured it would quickly go over my head but it's all pretty understandable.

Does anyone know where I can download the src to have a look through?

Edit: found it https://code.google.com/p/corkami/source/browse/#svn%2Ftrunk...

drdaeman 6 days ago 1 reply      
There's also a word play in the title. "AES" transliterates to "" (acronym for " ") in Russian (and some other Slavic languages), which means "nuclear power plant". Thus, the "" sign.
krick 5 days ago 0 replies      
That's amazing. Didn't think it's even possible, however it turns out to be surprisingly simple. Also, laughed out loud because of that guy's twitter nickname on the 3rd slide.
thristian 6 days ago 1 reply      
I love the "HexII" hex-dump format he links to, it's so much less cluttered than the traditional one. I'm definitely going to have to try that out the next time I'm picking apart some binary file.
JoachimS 6 days ago 1 reply      
A good example of why a MAC after encryption is also needed. And blocking length extension attacks.
silsha 6 days ago 0 replies      
dikei 6 days ago 1 reply      
Cool trick, I have encountered something like this in a steganography wargame before, the only difference is they used Base64 encoding on the original picture instead of AES :)
reblochon 6 days ago 1 reply      
Does any one know the name of the hex editor used in these slides, the one showing the PNG chunks and JPEG information?
hzc 5 days ago 0 replies      
this is awesome. now I hide secret information in a seemingly innocent image. no one would want to use AES to decrypt it if the image looks fine.
BrokenPipe 6 days ago 0 replies      
impressive! a very cool hack!
glial 6 days ago 1 reply      
What's the benefit of AES using such small blocks?
ShowNectar 6 days ago 1 reply      
Where do you store the IV? Do you just append it at the end of the file?
frik 6 days ago 1 reply      

That's also the reason why one should limit the max-length of a password field (something reasonable), if one is using the salted-password in db approach. Otherwise someone could enter a very long password to do the trick (MD5/SHA1), see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MD5#Security .

What does GCHQ know about our devices that we don't? privacyinternational.org
264 points by bcn  3 days ago   157 comments top 21
hendzen 3 days ago 3 replies      
I doubt the components are backdoored by default in stock hardware. More likely, GHCQ was worried that other nations (China, Russia, etc.) were targeting Guardian journalists in an effort to gain access to the Snowden cache. As such, GHCQ probably was simply taking extra precautions in the event that hostile intelligence agencies had installed implants into the Guardian's hardware. Or perhaps, GHCQ/NSA had installed the implants themselves to monitor the journalists, and then wanted to destroy the evidence. See the leaked ANT catalog for an idea of the types of hardware implants that SIGINT agencies have developed.
patrickyeon 3 days ago 1 reply      
There is a possibility that GCHQ knows these chips are storing data without users knowing it.

It's equally possible that GCHQ isn't sure that they aren't storing data (double negative, I know). Or that GCHQ wants to be sure nobody at the Guardian was savvy enough to sneak data on to these chips.

I'm not suggesting one or the other is more likely, I really wouldn't know. I find it more interesting that they felt the need to do this, when really the only assurance they have that the documents are destroyed is the word of the Guardian's employees. Other than someone speaking up, there's no way for anybody to actually know if there are other copies floating around.

pjc50 3 days ago 2 replies      
We've been here before, 20 years ago, in the "Spycatcher" trial. The UK sued to suppress information from the book which had been printed in Australia from making it into the UK newspapers. http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/october/13/...

United Kingdom vs. Observer (sister paper to the Guardian) is worth reading at this point: http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/eng/pages/search.aspx?i=001-...

" These two newspapers had for some time been conducting a campaign for an independent investigation into the workings of the Security Service. The details given included the following allegations of improper, criminal and unconstitutional conduct on the part of MI5 officers:

(a) MI5 "bugged" all diplomatic conferences at Lancaster House in London throughout the 1950s and 1960s, as well as the Zimbabwe independence negotiations in 1979;

(b) MI5 "bugged" diplomats from France, Germany, Greece and Indonesia, as well as Mr Kruschevs hotel suite during his visit to Britain in the 1950s, and was guilty of routine burglary and "bugging" (including the entering of Soviet consulates abroad);

(c) MI5 plotted unsuccessfully to assassinate President Nasser of Egypt at the time of the Suez crisis;

(d) MI5 plotted against Harold Wilson during his premiership from 1974 to 1976;

(e) MI5 (contrary to its guidelines) diverted its resources to investigate left-wing political groups in Britain."

(a) and (b) are basically the same as some of Snowden's allegations: diplomatic meetings are bugged.

(c) is a routine violation of international law, although to be fair we were trying to invade Suez at the time;

(d) is MI5 trying to overthrow our democratic government, straightforward totalitarianism;

(e) is still going on, and Scotland Yard are involved as well (e.g. the deeply embedded undercover officers in the Green movement).

The judgement eventually held that MI5 attempting to block the publication of Spycatcher was a human rights violation. I would expect a similar result in an ECHR trial about attempts to block Snowden's leaks, if such a trial happened.

mutagen 3 days ago 1 reply      
Yes, this really clarifies how this may be misplaced paranoia. While I won't ever completely discount extreme paranoia when it comes to government spy agencies, I think this is a distraction from more relevant issues.

"On Saturday 20 July 2013, in the basement of the Guardian's office in Kings Cross, London, watched by two GCHQ technicians, Guardian editors destroyed hard drives and memory cards on which encrypted files leaked by Edward Snowden had been stored."

GCHQ was merely observing to see that the Guardian staff were cooperating. Instructing journalists to remove their 'special storage chips' while leaving others intact would be a breach of operational security. This event was more of a PR move because GCHQ, the NSA, and others had no idea what was going on and had to be seen "doing something", even if it was pointless, absurd, and violated the free speech rights of the newspaper and journalists.

datenwolf 3 days ago 0 replies      
If I may speculate about why those ICs were destroyed, then I'd wager on, that the decision about which ICs to destroy was not made by an engineer, but by some overseeing manager who went through a number of PowerPoint slides (like they were leaked over the past year) and identified those as a threat, because those ICs have been mentioned for being an active part in data exfiltration.

Let me explain: What those ICs have in common is, that each of them bases their function on fast switching of voltages:

The keyboard controller IC rapidly (at several hundred kHz) switches voltage through the key matrix row-lines (addressing the row) so that on the column lines the voltage is read out and thereby telling if a key is pressed, hence making the connection.

The touchpad controller IC does the same, but not for reading out electrical connection made by keys, but the change of capacitance caused by a dielectric (=finger).

The voltage inverter IC is switching a voltage to drive an induction coil for a voltage converter.

Now the (often unwanted) side effect of switching voltages is, that they create electromagnetic waves, that radiate away. Unless you're building a radio transmitter you don't want that, as this is then EMI (electromagnetic interference). EMI is a big concern in the design of keyboard, touchpad and voltage conversion controller.

But for spooks the EMI caused by regular device operation can be a great covert channel to exfiltrate information. To the unwary it just looks like the regular, random EMI but a spy agency may know how to cleverly use it.

Now making use of keyboard row-column switching caused EMI to eavesdrop on user input is by no way something new. This kind of tempest attack is as old as it gets. You can nicely see on an oscilloscope when the controller begins reading out the keypad (there's some pause before) and every row switching produces a pulse; if there's a key pressed the pulse looks different; also the shape of the pulse depends on the amount of wire closing the circuit, so this gives you the key position on the row and column, thereby telling you which key is pressed. When voting computers were about to introduced in the Netherlands European hackers demonstrated, that the entry system of the machines used could be eavesdropped on by their EMI. Unless you got yourself a super EMI optimized keyboard on your computer, you're likely giving away your inputs by EMI.

The touchpanel controller is similar.

Now the inverter controller is interesting, because those normally drive a display's backlight, which is more or less independent from the data displayed on the display. But then the display brightness can be controlled by software! So by having a spy program run on the computer that modulates the display brightness with some data you want to exfiltrate you can make use of that channel. However the bitrate will not be very high; if I had to make an educated guess, I'd say about 100 Baud to 1 kBaud.

Anyway I think those techniques may have been presented or documented somewhere and a person without the technical understanding at GCHQ command thought those particular controllers would maybe hold some secrets or are something special, while in fact the really interesting stuff happened somewhere else. It's not even clear that the laptop computer had display modulating spyware installed. But that's what I was looking for on suspect computers first, because the keyboard and touch controllers are boring and their principal vulnerability to eavesdropping by EMI emission is well known.

jimrandomh 3 days ago 1 reply      
One possibility, as mentioned, is that these ICs are not what they're claimed to be. Someone should take them out of equivalent devices, decap them, and publish some photos.

Another possibility is that they weren't just looking to destroy data, but also to sneak a peak at the data being destroyed. Scraping off a power IC might let them attach a power source, to turn on parts that were supposed to be off. Scraping off other ICs might get them access to I2C buses.

joshfraser 3 days ago 2 replies      
It sounds like there are 3 plausible reasons. (1) they had compromised those components and were trying to clean up after themselves (2) they were afraid someone else had compromised them (3) intentional misdirection.

If the GHCQ knew that these components were easily compromised, they would have bugged them themselves given their interest in the material on those machines.

fidotron 3 days ago 1 reply      
The purpose of the exercise was only partly to destroy any potential storage, but also to intimidate the Guardian. Having an air of fake mystery to irrational actions just adds to the effect.

If the whole thing was too easy the capacity for that intimidation would have been greatly reduced, and leaving it hanging allows paranoid people to latch on to stuff while giving GCHQ the air of having preserved some secrets, when their instructions were probably get rid of certain components, for sure, but randomly do some other stuff for confusion to cover exactly what it was we did have to get rid of.

mbell 3 days ago 1 reply      
> We have reached out to Apple to understand the storage characteristics of this component and the role it plays in overall device operation.

I spit out my beverage when I read that. They reached out to Apple to understand the 'storage characteristics' and 'role' of a DC regulator...

GigabyteCoin 3 days ago 0 replies      
Perhaps they were looking for common attack vectors/device modification surfaces, rather than looking for specific information there.

For example, perhaps the GCHQ have reason to believe that Chinese spys were bugging keyboards and mice sent to journalists and their companies. So they removed the chips that they knew could possibly be bugged and took them home for further inspection?

If they could prove that the Guardians computers were already compromised by Chinese spys, and that the guardian was holding top secret sensitive information on them... GCHQ could skewer the Guardian publicly for releasing state secrets to China.


highlander 3 days ago 0 replies      
Considering the circumstances, I wouldn't be surprised if they destroyed those extra chips just to troll the internet...
dclusin 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's surprising that they didn't destroy the entire computer to cover up what they were hiding. This seems like a relatively small subset of components to investigate.
vajorie 3 days ago 2 replies      
Who was that guy with that bigass beard was? You know, the one everyone in tech takes lightly and treats as the butt of the joke? He keeps owning your asses as you keep ignoring him.

The one who advocates open hardware. You know.

reggplant 3 days ago 0 replies      
Destroying those components would render the machine useless without external inputs and outputs, maybe their intention was simply just to disable the machine, executed in a rather odd manner.
josephcooney 3 days ago 5 replies      
GCHQ are probably pretty far ahead of the game as far as disinformation goes. Consider what the UK government did to cover up operation overlord.


I seem to recall a story where they put fake plans in the pocket of an army coat, which they put on a recently deceased person dressed in full military uniform (of military service age), and then strategically dumped it where they knew the germans would find it. Or maybe that was just a spy movie I watched.

motters 3 days ago 0 replies      
The most likely explanation I think is that these extra chips are targeted for implantation as part of Tailored Access Operations, or the GCHQ equivalent.


jradd 3 days ago 1 reply      
My theory is that they were not destroying any kind of persistent data on these components like IC's; rather, destroying what/where/whom they might be able to identify or correspond with via serial numbers, dates, manufacturer, locations of where that component came from, etc.

At least for the components of which have no memory, volatile or not.

Alphasite_ 3 days ago 2 replies      
Obviously, the easy answer is that theres somehow something that lets you record data in those components. On the other hand, you have to consider that perhaps those are components that they've known other groups (them selves included) to use to store data, so they want to ensure that they're destroyed. Perhaps they dont want any inadvertent leaks of the data to a third party?
shin_lao 3 days ago 0 replies      
Probably a procedure against potential bugs placed by a foreign intelligence.
ZenPro 2 days ago 0 replies      
When I was serving I always used to wonder why the Ministry of Defence never used to defend itself with a public spokesman about public allegations.

Now I know why - people are morons and no explanation will suffice. It is really not worth the time or resources to argue with people who have no primary experience of the subject they think they are qualified to argue about.

Carry on HNers; you are doing a fine job.

ZenPro 3 days ago 2 replies      
Just to be clear on this matter. The Guardian were given every option to return the classified material.[1]

In two tense meetings last June and July the cabinet secretary, Jeremy Heywood, explicitly warned the Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger, to return the Snowden documents.

>> At one point Heywood said: "We can do this nicely or we can go to law"

That is not intimidatory. It is exactly how I would expect a democratic institution to act. They didn't send in jackbooted armed personnel to shut down the editorial department. Two computer engineers arrived and oversaw classified material being destroyed. That's it.

It's about as intimidating as a police officer telling a suspect he can get in the car nicely or he can be handcuffed.

The Guardian were asked point blank in a Parliamentary Hearing - "Do you think the entire episode was a PR stunt?" and they said "No."

EDIT TO ADD: I love it :-) Voted down for publishing the story written by the Guardian about the entire incident.


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