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Visualizing Algorithms ocks.org
1250 points by callum85  2 days ago   88 comments top 21
mbostock 1 day ago 14 replies      
Author here, ask me anything. And dont miss the related work section at the end theres a ton of links there to inspiring work.
prezjordan 1 day ago 2 replies      
Off-topic: Why isn't my macbook a jet engine right now? I've read plenty of blogs with nothing but a parallax scroll at the top and my computer fan goes insane.

But, on this blog, TONS of dynamic code running and not a peep.

domdip 1 day ago 0 replies      
Funny thing about that random comparator shuffle - Microsoft used it for their browser selection screen (part of the EU antitrust settlement). Oops!


resu 1 day ago 2 replies      
Breathtaking work!

Found a ton more interesting examples here: http://bl.ocks.org/mbostock

goblin89 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Anyone interested will probably also enjoy Mike's talk Design is a search problem from Openvis conference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fThhbt23SGM
VMG 1 day ago 0 replies      
This one is also interesting (requires WebGL) http://ottoallmendinger.github.io/js-quickhull3d/
jqm 1 day ago 1 reply      
This was really great.

Especially maze turning into spanning tree. That one was truly mind blowing.

Artemis2 1 day ago 1 reply      
Great piece of work!

I've seen in the piece of code corresponding to the Fisher-Yates algorithm this snippet: "n-- | 0". Has the "| 0" any importance?

yazinsai 1 day ago 0 replies      
+1 if you didn't understand a thing but kept scrolling for the sweet, sweet animations
prestonbriggs 1 day ago 1 reply      
Here're are a couple of papers you'll probably enjoy:

Design and implementation of the UW Illustrated compilerby Andrews, Henry, and YamamotoPLDI '88


The University of Washington illustrating compilerby Henry, Whaley, and ForstallPLDI '90

reader5000 1 day ago 0 replies      
Really is interesting how proper visualization allows you to see very subtle probabilistic distinctions that probably only a phd in stochastic processes would understand intuitively.
mu_killnine 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is incredible. As a non-CS major, it's been truly a fascinating read!
sys32768 20 hours ago 0 replies      
How did you people learn these things without visualizations?
idibidiart 1 day ago 2 replies      
I wonder about visualizing the algorithms that visualize the algorithms. Being serious and curious here.
appreneur 1 day ago 0 replies      
Beautiful...just to understand that algorithms also paint beautifully ...visualising algorithms awesome!
johnsteve 1 day ago 0 replies      
well this excites me now. can anyone help me master the basics or suggest any good book?
gadgetdevil 1 day ago 1 reply      
The web is truly the new <canvas> for the artist.
mellisarob 1 day ago 0 replies      
please recommend a good book that would assist me with the basics.
joaomoreno 1 day ago 0 replies      
Great job, this both reads and looks great!
lpwaterhouse 1 day ago 0 replies      
Hug of death?
ilovecookies 1 day ago 0 replies      
How many times has this been on HN..


I know it's more times but I haven't found those threads..

My startup failed, and this is what it feels like medium.com
889 points by wbharding  4 days ago   251 comments top 87
GuiA 4 days ago 4 replies      
I met Nikki while I lived at a Hacker House in Mountain View for a few weeks in January 2012, having recently moved to the Bay Area. I remember being impressed at the time by her intensity, and by the fact that she actually had a real product with real users that solved a real problem.

An audible "oh no" came out of my lips when I clicked this link and realized I was reading about someone I had shared a few dinners with.

It's important for little pieces of history such as this one to be recorded. For the founders, to whom it gives a sense of closure, and for the community. So that we don't forget our comrades who didn't make it to the other side, but still have insightful lessons to share.

The press likes to glorify the AirBnBs, the Googles, the Facebooks - but as founders, I think it's important for us to be realize that this is only a tiny visible part of the iceberg, and that at the end of the day, there are so many factors at play that it would be foolish for us to focus solely on the "how many millions did they make". Human stories are never boring, and experience is one of the most precious thing others can share.

Thanks for taking the time and effort to write this, Nikki. We're with you.


"Investing money, creating new products, and all the other things we do are wonderful games and can be a lot of fun, but it's important to remember that it's all just a game. What's most important is that we are good too each other, and ourselves."(http://paulbuchheit.blogspot.com/2012/03/eight-years-today.h...)

birken 4 days ago 7 replies      
Well written. One thing I always find funny about the startup world is the idea that hardship is good. Hardship isn't good. Hardship sucks. Sometimes hardship is something you need to survive to accomplish your goals, but not always. While there are a lot of successful startups that went through a lot of hardship, there are a lot of them that didn't. It seems that based on a lot of factors that were outside of your control you were playing the startup game on "hard mode" and you gave it a pretty good run anyways.

Also a pretty good lesson that having a good job and comfortable life maybe isn't so bad after all (a very un-silicon valley lesson).

andrewljohnson 4 days ago 5 replies      
It struck me when she glossed over how/why her two co-founders left. There's got to be a deeper story to why two "co-founders" would leave right when 1.2M is secured.

She said they decided to tell me they were leaving the company without even a hint of warning - my guess is there was no agreement in the first place or a lot of unnoticed warnings. To conclude she's just too trustful is almost certainly a flawed conclusion.

I'm sure she learned a lot from this experience, but she seems to write off the deserters as flaky. I'd be asking myself what I did or what lies I was telling myself that made me think I had co-founders when I really did not. That sort of character judgment is as important as product judgment.

vijayboyapati 4 days ago 2 replies      
I was in the same YC batch as Nikki. The thing I remember most about her was her enthusiasm. I also remember that her presentation on Demo Day got the loudest applause and most interest. Sad to hear 99dresses didn't make it, but I'm sure Nikki will have a bright future. Few young women her age will have gained the experience and insight that comes from founding a company and seeing it fail. As Michael Jordan said "I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
nostromo 4 days ago 5 replies      
Sometimes I wonder how non-technical founders can sleep at night with all the stress. It elevates cofounder risk to a single point of failure for the entire company.

Seeing through "developer bullshitting" is a dark art that is hard to master without spending a bit of time as a developer.

mindcrime 4 days ago 2 replies      
One thing Nikki has going for her is that she's young. At 22 and already having the experience she's had, she has a great opportunity to learn from those lessons, tap into the network she's built, and ultimately do something great.

I love the aggressiveness and the spunk she clearly has. Looking back on my own life (I'm one of the "older crowd" in HN terms), I wish I'd been that ambitious at that age. Or, maybe ambitious isn't the word, maybe "focused" would be better. In either case, I wound up waiting until my late 30's to found a startup and now I'll be 41 in about a month, and we're still looking for the mystical, mythical "traction". :-)

The downside is, being this old, I feel a certain sense of "this is my last shot". If I fail with Fogbeam Labs, I doubt I'll have the energy, passion, drive, and mojo to try again. So if there's a lesson in my experience, that I'd try to share with the younger crowd, it would be "Be more like Nikki, and less like Phil". :-)

lubos 4 days ago 4 replies      
So I see another startup failed story. Thinking I'll read it later after getting something done. an hour later, I start reading...

Right in the first sentence I see "99dresses". I have to admit, it took me a minute to process what's going on. She has been receiving significant coverage in mainstream Australian media. As someone, who is running startup from Sydney (there aren't so many of us), this felt like someone in your family has passed away even though I've never even met Nikki.

I'm not even sure what I'm writing here... I just feel sad.

kevinalexbrown 4 days ago 4 replies      
I take complete responsibility for this failure. Were other people involved in 99dresses? Of course. Was any of this their fault? Absolutely not.

I understand what you're going for here (and it's nice), but it's fair to let your team share responsibility for the defeat. Otherwise it never really feels like they were part of the successes.

AndrewWarner 4 days ago 4 replies      
Nikki, I just sent you a request for an interview on Mixergy. This is a courageous post.
UVB-76 4 days ago 0 replies      
Strange as it might sound, I'm rather envious of Nikki.

Although the business didn't work out, to have gained so much life experience at such a young age is incredible.

boyter 4 days ago 1 reply      
I met Nikki in Sydney while at a start-up camp.

I will admit to being slightly jealous because she did get a lot of attention due to what I thought was solely being a tall attractive female that dresses well. However having read this seeing and seeing how this played into her impostor syndrome has made me re-evaluate my thinking. The attention might be useful, but I can totally understand questioning if its because its who you are or what you are doing. Since everything in the start up world is about what you are doing I can see this attention leaving you with self doubt.

She certainly has done more then I have, and at a far younger age.

Sorry for the bad thoughts Nikki. I had been following 99dresses loosely over the years and I had hoped you would succeed as there are so few start-up stories that come out of Sydney. Wishing you the best of luck with whatever you chose to do in the future.

jakejake 4 days ago 0 replies      
I really appreciated this article. I'm on year 5 of my "startup" which has struggled and kicked and clawed and just barely hit profitability at the end of last year. I have to admit that it feels totally uncool that we have hung on all this time instead of just quitting after spending somebody's millions of dollars in 6 months. (We never had millions to spend, but anyway). There are so many times when you feel like things are just not going to work. Working hard and persevering are ideas that don't always jive with the "fail fast" strategy.

Even after all this time and things beginning to look positive, I still worry constantly that we will backslide or somebody will come along and take our marketshare or any number of other things. I wish that 99dresses had a different outcome, but still it is an encouraging story. No doubt with this kind of attitude and experience Miss Durkin is going to find success. I think it is extremely important to know that not every venture has to take off within six months to be successful. It's a long haul for most of us.

mmaunder 4 days ago 0 replies      
There's some very old entrepreneurial wisdom that says if your business can make it past year 4, it has staying power. I thought that was bullshit until I made it past year 4 and right about that time we discovered efficiencies, lucrative markets, a kick-ass business model and what we are really good at.

And yeah, not having money is really really awful, especially when it goes on for years with no certainty that it will ever change. But as entrepreneurs, that's how we do.

iD3 4 days ago 1 reply      
22 is so young.

At 21 I was on a plane headed home from another country. I cried in the office. I cried on the plane home. We'd Burned almost half a million dollars, a couple of years of work, let go a team - and had nothing to show for it. With no degree, no more money and no job I moved back in with parents.

So I suppose this article resonates, and in the most literal sense - I've been there.

I think the hardest thing for me at that moment in time was I didn't really have a handle on just how young I was and how much more I had coming. It was all I'd really done with my life up to that point.

It's taken me quite a few years to gain that perspective, and it's a difficult thing to communicate. The world is inconceivably vast and expansive and you have the next half century to build within it. Yourself, your ideas, your creations.

At that age and on that scale it's only a failure in the moment. Then, as time passes it becomes just another step along the way. It imparted knowledge upon you, and opened doors you don't even know about yet. All of the parts that hurt fade away and you're just left with the experience gained.

The fast-paced echo-chamber of the technology startup world is a particularly hard environment to step back and get a real sense of perspective in, which makes it a particularly hard environment to fail in, especially as you'll always be reading about someone else magically killing it.

I've failed since then, and I've succeeded since then. But as the years roll by, I've come to realise that the winning and losing don't even matter, because the journey just keeps on going regardless. If I saw myself now, when I was on that plane at 21, I'd have thought I was looking at someone who had mythically 'made it'. But you know what? I haven't. It's exactly the same: I've got another 40-odd-years of succeeding and failing ahead of me, in both my personal life and my professional life.

Personally I find that quite cathartic.

nish1500 4 days ago 1 reply      
Your story is mostly about you not getting a VISA, getting back-stabbed by people, spending 2 months fund-raising, media coverage, personal issues, your age, your gender. There is hardly anything about why the startup failed.

But maybe the article isn't about the startup - it's about the emotional ride. Maybe that's why a lot of startups fail - they get so involved with other things, it's not about the startup anymore.

wauter 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Just curious: why is there nothing anounced on 99dresses.com about this? Will the business go on after all? Are we in the final days and will it then just suddenly out of the blue shut down?
Fede_V 4 days ago 1 reply      
Thanks for being so raw and honest about this - even the less glamorous parts. It isn't easy to talk honestly about issues like gendered expectations and approaching VC, black hat marketing, or emotional manipulation for Visa, and a lot of people would have chosen to gloss over those aspects, but it takes a lot of guts to be upfront about the darker sides of running your company.

Reading this, it confirmed an important lesson that I learned in a completely different setting (grad school). It's much, much better to do an impossible project with an excellent mentor and fantastic coworkers, than an easy project full of low hanging fruits with colleagues you can't stand.

People who were in the former condition all flourished, even if it meant pivoting to a completely different project after having invested 2 years in a dead end idea. People in the latter camp burnt out completely and almost uniformly dropped out of grad school. The few that stayed were basically running on spite the entire time.

mindcrime 4 days ago 0 replies      
As a very wise man once said[1]

"It ain't about hard you hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done. Now if you know what you're worth, now go out and get what you're worth".

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Z5OookwOoY

rudimental 4 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks for posting this! It sounds like it was incredibly difficult at times. Hard to imagine, but thanks for making it vivid.

I would love to hear more about the following (not holding my breath):

"After hiring a few people and finding an office in NYC we were ready to launch. We solved the chicken-and-egg problem using techniques that we promised never to speak of again because they squarely sat on the grey/black spectrum of naughtiness. If there was a line, we definitely crossed it. We had to. These hacks were harmless to others, so I figured it was only a problem if we got caught."

Edit: ++empathy.

rwhitman 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've worked with a weirdly large number of female-run and female-focused startups and clients over the years. I could write a long, blunt tirade about this.

Basically the cards are stacked against these businesses from the day they are funded.

Male tech folks make a lot of false assumptions about female focused businesses. For investors it can mean leaving a complicated business model under-funded. For developers it means blindly taking a cofounder title in exchange for an equity-heavy compensation deal without thinking through what it means to work on a business you arent passionate about, for years, at reduced pay.

In both cases, if there isn't an early slam-dunk hockey stick marker of success, guys dont have the stamina to tolerate a female-focused business for very long. They bail. The company never gets its next round of funding. The engineering talent runs for the hills. Its not cool to work on a company for girls, especially a struggling company for girls. So male talent will just split as soon as the going gets rough.

Each time the company has a setback, the guys all start to bail. So the company needs to find new talent and appease many people at every little bump in the road. This is hugely costly and results in a lot of unnecessary crisis moments, doubts, and subsequent pivots.

The sad part is that a lot of female founders leave startups for good after one failure. I have a linkedin network filled with former female founder superstars who work in humdrum non-tech management roles. Women take the loss on a much more personal level than men do. So every time a female founder is stunted, and then abandoned by her male support network, she may be gone for good.

Whats the solution? Im not sure, but I think it has a lot to do with adding more female investors and developers to the world. That and encouraging more former female founders to come back, mentor and try again

the_watcher 4 days ago 1 reply      
>> You rarely hear the raw stories of startups that persevered but ultimately failedthe emotional roller coaster of the founders, and why their startups didnt work out.

I feel like I've read this sentence, or a version of it, so many times that it self-refutes. You hear plenty about people who failed. Not as often as the next big thing (since no one puts in the effort to send out press releases about how their failure happened - although that actually might be an interesting strategy for figuring out a next step if the post-mortem is honest enough), but it feels like once a week or so a post like this hits the front of HN.

jpatte 4 days ago 1 reply      
"Fail fast, fail early, fail often! they all chant, trying to put a positive spin on the most excruciating pain any founder could experience."

Is it just an impression, or did she get this sentence the wrong way?

The whole point of this saying is to make you realize that failure should actually not be such a big deal. Failure isn't an dead end, it's a step forward on the difficult path of entrepreneurship. Therefore, saying things like "I couldnt fail. This was my baby, and if it was going to fail it would be over my dead body." can only lead you, indeed, to excruciating pain in case of failure.

Resilience is an excellent quality, and I think the only way to give your best and surpass yourself is by facing real challenges, but please remember that you cannot in any way resume 4 years of ultra rich/challenging experience with the two words "I failed". Jeez, just having survived 4 years in her very first startup experience is already a success.

I sympathize with her pain; I just find it sad that she doesn't seem to realize the incredible experience and skills she gained from this adventure. Those years were absolutely not wasted; the chances of success for her next startup are incomparably higher than for her previous one, and I wish her all the best for the future.

Edit: A startup is first a human adventure. After it "failed", ask yourself the right questions:- Did I learn something? Do I know better?- Am I a different person? A better person?- Did I help some people in any way?- Did my social skills improve? Did my network grow?- What about my legal/technical/managerial/whatever-ial knowledge?

If you can answer "yes" to any of these questions, than this adventure wasn't a failure at all. :)

thomasfromcdnjs 4 days ago 1 reply      
Bad luck. Though, where are all the expenses? Seems to just be an iPhone app with not much schelps, could your technical partner manage it part time?
pbreit 4 days ago 1 reply      
Gotta hand it to OP. Sounds like she gave it her all as a very young founder. I suspect after re-grouping she could have a bright future.

The one thing that made no sense to me was why they didn't stay in Australia and go after local market. Does the concept not work there?

fsniper 4 days ago 0 replies      
That is a really good and emotional post mortem. I think we need more of these. Great lessons are learnt from failures.
dougabug 4 days ago 0 replies      
The "sky high heels" might invite more attention, but the patronizing comments part make me wonder whether it was the right kind of attention.

"99dresses was squarely focused on trading cheaper fast fashion (fast fashion is really hard to re-sell for cash)" I wonder how much demand exists for cheap secondhand clothes which go out of style quickly. Isn't it the point of this type of clothing that people can buy it new for not much money, and not worry that that it often doesn't hold up well? The clothes themselves are probably mass produced in third world countries for next to nothing. This seems like a very vertical online thrift store.

Does the world need another online thrift store?

XorNot 4 days ago 0 replies      
So I remember hearing about 99dresses in the Australian press, and this write up does leave me wondering the same thing I was wondering at the time:

Was the product ever successful in Australia?

Fully 20% of Australia's entire population is concentrated in Sydney alone - what was the expected total market (for a product heavily invested in shipping physical items) that didn't work here that there was a need to, apparently, move so quickly and wholly into the US?

semerda 4 days ago 1 reply      
Nikki, thanks for sharing your story. You definitely experienced alot!

It sounds like you hit 2 of the biggest issues startups can face. Co-founder disputes and Product issues.

Re Co-founder disputes - once money gets involved and the cap table is in your favor in the early days, the st will hit the fan. Raising money dilutes everyone and that too has a negative effect of the minority holders and can create some bad energy.

As you found out working with the right people is super super important. What I have found that has worked super well for me is working with people I have worked with before. One, you know they are good (the ones you choose to start a business with them) and the honeymoon period doesn't exist so its all about execution. I don't believe in cofounder dating events.

As you found out having a mobile product is a big deal. People are mobile creates. Even more now then ever. So being able to reach them via the computer in their pocket is an opportunity not to be missed.

Regarding the Visas, E2 Visa would have gotten you into USA. Or you could have setup an entity remotely in USA and through the company setup E3/H1B for yourself and your cofounder. There are some obstacles to jump but possible with the right legal/immigration team.

Finally, I didn't see in your story mention of an advisory board? I have found that getting the right people around you can open doors to investors, industry people, advise on technology, product etc... highly recommended if you can use them wisely.

Overall I believe the experience you have gained at such a young age will only set you up for big success in the future. Don't give up and keep on going! Good luck!

harel 4 days ago 0 replies      
I understand the frustration and outright sadness at a startup dying. Its your baby while its there, and sometimes, you wake one day and its not. But that is the nature of startups. Like you said - the odds are against you from day zero. But we do it regardless for that 10% chance of "not dying" and the even more anorexic chance of "making it big". I think ultimately we're doing it for the ride. And I think every person going into a startup should be given a little laminated fact sheet explaining that he's joining an enterprise which will try to fight this statistic and nothing is guaranteed in this rollercoaster. Same way the banks have to warn you before you invest in a portfolio, that your investment might be buggered to hell, people should be aware the same applies to tech startups. If nothing else, that might cut down on the disappointment of letting your staff know its over.

Keep at it Nikki. Well done for your first round. Level up now and go at it again.

greghinch 4 days ago 0 replies      
Quite a roller coaster of experience for 22! I'm sure we'll see great things from Nikki in coming years.

You kids doing startups in your early 20s have so much going for you! I wish I'd not waited until my 30s to get on this train, there's a lot more to lose (and less time to sort something out...)

thomaspun 3 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you for sharing your story.

My YC startup failed two years ago and it still has an impact on me. I learned a lot and wish I knew what I know now back then. My cofounders parted ways within one year of YC and I became a self made single founder. One of the biggest mistakes was not taking breaks. I thought I had to work twice as hard to compensate. It just went into this vicious cycle: depressed & tired -> not productive -> worked every waking moments -> depressed & tired.

jacquesm 4 days ago 2 replies      
> I had to fly back to Australia to get a working visa as soon as the funding paperwork was signed, and the next day my two co-founders decided to tell me they were leaving the company without even a hint of warning.

Hindsight and all that. But still, don't just take on anybody as co-founder, easy come, easy go.

Super tough to read all this, I'm really sorry your hard work did not work out but you've done all that could be required of you and then some.

I very much recognize your trust issues, but over time even that will fade.

31reasons 4 days ago 0 replies      
Wow I am kind of jealous of getting an opportunity to fail so spectacularly. It is obviously very hard but Nikki is very young and decades ahead of her to try new ventures. I call this great learning experience a success if you haven't lost your arm or a leg and can still function as a normal human being. She is definitely a winner, its pretty obvious to me.
tmsh 4 days ago 0 replies      
My uncle used to say that instead of having the handful of successful entrepreneurs come back to b school to tell their war stories -- they should sponsor at least one lecture of an entrepreneur who, in their most recent enterprise, failed. And I would tend to agree.

Very well-written. Makes your readers stronger in novel ways for reading it. Thanks for sharing.

It's all about knowing how to light up parts of the graph in life though. Now you know. Second time will go further.

dkersten 4 days ago 0 replies      
Just don't let it stop you on whatever your next venture will be! The experience will stand for you.

I had a startup crash and burn almost a year ago now. We wrote a blog post about it too: http://blog.piratedashboard.com/post/69595110761/out-of-the-... Basically, we made a ton of mistakes that ultimately led to a founder disagreement that prevented us from closing an investment deal which may have saved us. So we cut our losses and moved on. My new startup has evolved a lot from what is mentioned in that blog post and is doing well so far (but not yet at the stage where I feel secure).

Losing your startup is almost like losing a loved one. After putting so much into it, when its gone it sucks. Really bad.

But in the end, you just gotta move on and not let one failure stop you.

MrGando 3 days ago 0 replies      
Hey there Nikki,

Nice story, I have a similar one myself. I remember that I followed 99dresses quite closely two years ago, I was the technical co-founder of a Fashion & Tech startup, and we were trying to do something really similar for a while. (I'm also foreign, got a lot of local press coverage, traveled to Silicon Valley to work etc.)

I've been the leaving co-founder of a startup, mostly because I thought (and told) that my co-founder was incompetent and bringing zero value to the table. He took it pretty bad, but at least I was honest about that (and right).

You're very young, I'm 28... my biggest advice would be for you to get a stronger technical background. You can still do it, you are young, and it would greatly empower you.

If you wanna have a chat shoot me an email or add me on skype 'n_goles'.


creature 4 days ago 1 reply      
Post-mortems like this are always really enlightening. I'd really like to know more about some areas the author glossed over, though. What were the grey/black tactics they used to get past the initial chicken-and-egg problem? And what change did they introduce that caused a near-revolt of their userbase?
graeme 4 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you for writing this. I've bootstrapped my business. For the first 2.5 years, cashflow was tight. You've described the fears I had of seeing it all crumble, not necessarily because the idea was bad, but because the friction was too great.

I hadn't heard of your startup before this post. But from reading the comments here, you and your startup are very well regarded.

I doubt it feels that way right now, but I think you have a bright future ahead of you. Take some time to process and relax. Good luck!

coralreef 4 days ago 0 replies      
Man, just reading the story gave me anxiety.
zeeshanm 4 days ago 0 replies      
M$ was founded in mid 70s and had not made a dent until the 80s. More so their killer product was launched in the 90s that put them as the definitive leader on the map. In a way, it took roughly 20 years for M$ "to take over the world." Not to mention Gates and Allen started off writing software for traffic systems and I don't recall that was a huge hit. Innovation does happen relatively faster these days. But it's really hard to do one-to-one comparison of companies that are mega successful (aka they make a lot of money) and those that relatively bring in lesser revenue. Besides this I believe one really has to derive the meaning of success on her own. I would not consider you a failure by any means as you gave your best to the startup. There is so much you can take away from this experience. For example, you can write a book about your experiences as you have got a good talent for writing. You can travel around and give motivational speeches at colleges and networking events. You have got a good story to tell and I bet many of us out there would be interested in hearing about it. Don't worry too much that you could not save up. I don't think this is any way puts you behind anyone your age. I bet most kids your age have spent lots on crack, booze, food, superfluous relationships, etc. Whereas you have built a pretty good reputation that really can take you far.
clarebear 4 days ago 2 replies      
I cringed at the description of "a lady who took an obvious immediate disliking to me" in the visa office. It made me sad to recall times that a woman has controlled my destiny and denied me for whatever reason when the men would have let me in. I'm so sorry that Nikki also knows what that feels and looks like. I hope my daughter never does.
lizzard 2 days ago 0 replies      
I wish you the best of luck in your next venture, whether it's a startup or not. Lots of people are serial entrepreneurs!
mathieug 4 days ago 0 replies      
Hey Nikki. Have you thought about learning how to code?It's really never as hard as it seems to be. If you had a business model and some level of revenues then you might be able to sustain yourself financially, run everything yourself and keep it going maybe!?

Probably too late for that kind of advice though. But I believe a start up dies if you give it up. But you don't have to let it if you don't want to. Sometimes that's the most reasonable thing to do, but you don't always have to.

I'm in the same case as you. I had to let go of all my employees, Couldn't pay them anymore. And I'm now the only one on board doing all the code, design, marketing and everything. I'm just too stubborn to give up and I still believe in what we do 100%. (Damn I still say 'we' I mean 'I'. Just a reflex)I do feel your pain. But my best advice is to try to learn how to code and sketch things yourself. With all the skills that you accumulated you'll be able to create prototype rapidly, be less dependable and bounce back rapidly and next time you'll be fearless. Food for thoughts ;-)I wish you the all the best for your next adventures.

thegeomaster 4 days ago 0 replies      
I like her so much! This amount of perseverance and strength is so overwhelmingly commendable and inspiring.

I wish Nikki all the best in the future!

jqm 4 days ago 2 replies      
It's sad to read stories like this. But I have to wonder... if the concept is profitable what keeps it from being executed without 2 million dollars in investor money? So maybe you stay smaller... who cares? For you, it is about what you are making, not how big the company is. How much does it really cost to set up a database driven website? Hmmm?

Now, I realize this doesn't apply if the end game is a high dollar exit, but if you can make a decent living with your application/web site ("startup" and "founder" are overused terms in my opinion) who cares?

If you can't make a profit long term, then maybe you your idea doesn't deserve to live. Simply passing the bomb on to the next set of suckers be they the public at IPO's, or acquires, or VC investors hardly seems like the right thing to do (although no doubt it is done all the time... sometimes with incredible profits).

There is life outside the VC world. If it's a good idea and profitable and you love it....stick with it. If you are looking for a billion dollar exit... that's another thing entirely and it's time to move on to the next idea.

hakcermani 4 days ago 0 replies      
You have achieved so much at such a young age. Your whole life is ahead of you. I am 50+ and working on my first startup, with hopes that I will make it someday !Glad you shared your story. See this link - so many stories here, some very close to home for you. (http://www.fastcompany.com/3029883/bottom-line/11-famous-ent...). Take a break, clear your head, and come up with the next big thing.
mVChr 4 days ago 0 replies      
I feel for the author, but in reading this detailed post-mortem it's clear to see there was a combination of bad luck, poor planning, and a number of incorrect decisions. Hopefully she learned from them, will correct what she can and ride out what she can't in her next venture.
utkarsh_apoorva 4 days ago 0 replies      
Wow. Amazing story. I have heard of 99 dresses a lot - though women's fashion is farthest from my interest area. So you did build quite a brand. I am also pleasantly surprised to see that you probably have set up this blog just to share this article?

I have been an entrepreneur 5 years now, and I can totally relate with the part of showing a positive face when you have none - its an occupational hazard. Good luck for the next set of adventures.

BTW, I am sure the Valley community will be open to welcoming you back. You are an entrepreneur through and through - so if its not the Valley, Bangalore's doors are always open :-). Best of Luck.

jenius 4 days ago 2 replies      
> I just knew I wanted to solve a problem I personally experienced: having a closet full of clothes but still nothing to wear.

These are the kinds problems we are gunning for. These are the kinds of things investors are pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into. This is the scope of problem our industry is solving right now. This is why I'm often embarrassed to work in tech.

dicroce 4 days ago 0 replies      
Yeah, you failed... but you put yourself out there... that's what really living is all about.
matheusbn 3 days ago 0 replies      
Well if this is some kind a support I really don't know, but I think she should be proud, because with only 22 years old and doing all this (trip to another country, leading a startup). I wish you more luck on your another attempt.
andrewstuart 4 days ago 1 reply      
Too few female founders around. YC should shepherd this girl straight back into the game and support her.
zkirill 4 days ago 0 replies      
The author took many, many hits and still kept on going. I have an immense amount of respect for her and hope that she will embark on a new venture soon where she can apply everything that she learned.
spion 4 days ago 0 replies      
I don't think I've ever read a story about failure that felt this motivating and inspiring. Thank you for sharing it.
sid_xervmon 4 days ago 1 reply      
You will do well II time around.
cdelsolar 4 days ago 0 replies      
The site is still up and you have a core group of people who love it. Can't you just keep it and the app running for now? The costs for the servers can't be that high.
yepyepyep 4 days ago 1 reply      
You rarely hear the raw stories of startups that persevered but ultimately failedthe emotional roller coaster of the founders, and why their startups didnt work out.

Great post. However, when guys paint the other gender with a similar broad stroke as here, we go after them. I hope posts like this make it okay to state our general observations about the other gender.

skizm 4 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe I missed it, but how did the author get going with 99dresses as a non-technical person with no college degree?

EDIT: Nevermind. Found the answers. Turns out to be a pretty cool story actually: http://wpcurve.com/y-combinator/

sudhi_xervmon 4 days ago 0 replies      
Come back stronger Nikki. Best wishes and good luck
mbesto 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is what failure feels like. I hope it helps.

It does help. Keep writing. Welcome to the club :)

joeljp 2 days ago 0 replies      
Nikki, I know so many people that would give 10 years of their lives to experience the highs and lows that you just had. There are already enough cliches on here to keep you going. My hat off to you for giving it a real good go and I wish you every success in the future. You'll do just fine and will look back at this with a smile.
yoanizer 4 days ago 0 replies      
I know failure success. You just have to deal with it. Sometimes it's so hard that you have lock yourself in your room cry, and curse the world. That's fine.

That's just something you have to go through on your road to success.

ulisesrmzroche 4 days ago 0 replies      
Ya'll too soft around here. Truth is all the youth and heart in the world won't save you if you don't know how to throw a proper jab.
ilaksh 4 days ago 0 replies      
The part that I really am not sure of is the difference between failing and giving up or the difference between failing and pivoting. Or is failing just when you have to get a full time job?
andretti1977 3 days ago 0 replies      
Even if i obviously understand why she felt that way, there is something really wrong in the way she thinks: she didn't fail. It was the startup that failed.She felt bad because she impersonified her project. But a person is not the things she creates or tryies to create. That is a misconception. And this wrong (even if understandable) way of thinking, may drive people to depression and other dangerous situations.Please, remember that we live once and that we are not the things we create: we, as people, are much more valuable than anything we can do.
pasharayan 4 days ago 0 replies      
Hi Nikki, shame to see 99 dresses go down, wishing you the best post startup run.

If there were three things you would do differently, what would they be?

adventured 4 days ago 0 replies      
"Maybe its because most founders are men, and men generally dont like talking about their feelings. Maybe its because failure is embarrassing."

That would be regarded as sexist if it were arranged with such a blanket statement the other way around.

I've seen countless stories on HN where guy founders talk about the emotional side of failing and their startup going under. I'm not sure where she gets this notion. In fact, I see the emotional side written about more often than anything else. It seems like there's a few new stories every week on HN by some guy that failed, and he's discussing dealing with the substantial emotional fallout (how it affected his life, his savings, his family, his sleep, and how agonizing in general it all is).

jasonlgrimes 4 days ago 0 replies      
Literally, the best thing I read today. Well thought out and written. Keep rocking Nikki!
pyfish 4 days ago 0 replies      
Great write up. I look forward to when she is recharged and build the next great thing.
kapupetri2 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think your startup was doomed to fail because your business idea just sucked.
dreamweapon 4 days ago 1 reply      
I just knew I wanted to solve a problem I personally experienced: having a closet full of clothes but still nothing to wear.

Maybe her real problem was picking a big "problem" to solve that wasn't.

crassus 4 days ago 2 replies      
The crazy thing is that people go through this experience and want to do it again. A failed startup leaves you burned out, emotionally wrecked, and financially crippled. Why take another ride on that roller coaster? Pride? Status? Money?
samstave 4 days ago 1 reply      
Amazing read. And I recall when I first saw 99 dresses how much I recognized the need, where my wife has literally hundreds of dresses and doesn't wear much multiple times.

On mobile but will elaborate on this as I think the idea was amazing but could have also benefitted from something specific...


My wife as a great style sense - and also reasonable with her money. She would find amazing fashions at Crossroads in San Francisco where she could find desirable brands like D&G, BCBG and other smaller labels where women sold their designer clothes at a discount.

She picked up MANY amazing dresses from this place, as well as shoes. She hardly recycled dresses for events or dates and did it economically.

If 99Dresses had coupled with places like this where they had rental inventory as well, I am sure this would have been an amazing offering.

You could have had a daily rental price, as well as an option so that if the owner chose; a sell price.

A place like crossroads was actually pretty good at being discerning, yet well priced in their garments.

It would also had been an opportunity to provide brick-and-mortar fitting rooms... as well as local inventory. Connect this with a garment style ID and a "different sizes available via online at locations X Y and Z.

DISCLAIMER: Did 99Dresses have all this already?

I am amazed it did fail - I LOVED the BM and Idea.

aml183 2 days ago 0 replies      
Great article!
api 4 days ago 0 replies      
I had a big failure years ago. It was horrible, and in retrospect there were a lot of really screwed up things going on from day one. This included a business partner who turned out to be a delusional sociopath, etc.

Nevertheless I learned a tremendous amount. You learn things by going through it in the trenches that cannot be taught in school.

Currently working toward attempt two, which is probably much more likely to be successful.

inventor 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've developed a survival guide for creative geniuses. It's called Die Penniless, and people can sign up here for first access: http://diepenniless.com
sejje 4 days ago 2 replies      
"Let me tell youfailure fucking sucks."

"I felt like I was drowning in a black ocean, and I couldnt see any light at the surface. I didnt know which way to swim."

"I was fucking tiredphysically and emotionally. I wasnt sleeping properly."

"I had no bandwidth for anything else."

"I felt physically sick all day"

"I felt shame, guilt, embarrassment..."

"I was scared Id meet someone new and theyd ask me what I do"

"I was also embarrassed because I couldnt afford to pay for anything..."

"I wasnt depressed so much as disappointed."

..and on and on.

colinplamondon 4 days ago 1 reply      
Jesus. What a horrible comment.

She crushed it starting this business, got traction, built up a community, and was getting close to scaling what was a real business, with a real business model, and real money.

It's phenomenal how much her team accomplished on that money - which is not very much for a team of 5. Until you've run a business yourself, it's hard to understand just how much overhead truly does walk on two feet.

If this company had gotten to scale, it could have provided food for hundreds of thousands of men and women, selling extra stuff laying around their closets. And that's off a glance at their site and app. If your comment was your first response to an amazing post like this, you should look in the mirror.

loganu 4 days ago 4 replies      
Immature? Starting a company in another country when you're 19-21 is hardly the mark of someone that's immature. She's not giving anybody a bad name - she's got a handful of experiences and accomplishments that will help her career immensely.

And comparing her to the Collison brothers? 2 incredibly smart guys that were well-accomplished and millionaires before entering YC?

Nikki, I really enjoyed the write-up. Looking forward to see where your next adventure takes you.

captainderp 4 days ago 1 reply      
"It got to the point where I had to call the consulate hotline every single day and split test different types of crying

"for some reason a 5'11 woman in 7 inch heels commands more talking time and attention from investors

"As a woman going out in NYC my nights were normally cheap because cute guys would buy me drinks, but I am not the kind of woman who expects that.

Why did YC ever bet on such a dud? Like honestly good on you for trying and all but you sound very immature. I don't mean that in a negative way I mean that in having read your post that's how you come across. Your cofounders decided to leave you and you are calling them out - I wouldn't blame them at all - they made a choice and their equity would not have vested. Cofounders have walked away from much larger startups than yours and its for the reason that they did not believe in your vision. Seems kind of immature to call them out. No one wants to be led by someone who responds to their problems by sobbing.

Its a shame YC bet so big on a non-technical founder because you give non-technical founders a bad name. They got you in Forbes, Business Insider, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous other publications. The Stripe brothers had a billion dollar company before even getting half the notoriety you got. For a two-sided marketplace that's like getting to start a mile race with a kilometer lead. Any startup that gets such a ridiculous head start (global publications covering you before you get to 100,000 members) comes down to a failure to execute.

zenjzen 4 days ago 1 reply      
Is this what HN has become? A fail-blog? :(
aimhb 4 days ago 0 replies      
Stopped reading after the fourth misspelling of "it's".
nichochar 4 days ago 0 replies      
Good story. On a completely unrelated note, this girl is very beautiful, so that's rather positive
pravda 4 days ago 
austinz 5 days ago 9 replies      
That linked 42Floors blog post is terribly self-unaware.

> Most startups take the building of their culture very seriously, especially when the culture is still new and quite fragile.

If your culture is so fucking fragile that a guy wearing a suit (as opposed to a T-shirt and jeans) poses an existential threat to it, you need to re-evaluate whether you are actually building a company 'culture', or just some random agglomeration of the personality traits of the company's earliest employees.

> My friend Shawn just brought organic heirloom carrots and a 6-pack of Sightglass coffee to an interview as a gift. Thats awesome.

If I were a founder and you were a candidate who tried to bribe me like this, I'd politely show you the door. Why does the gift need to come before the interview? If it's a token of appreciation, why not after the acceptance or rejection? Are you hiring candidates based on their technical credentials, or their hipster credentials?

pron 5 days ago 1 reply      
> Without a natural feedback loop, interviewing mostly runs on myth and survivor bias.

It is a law of human nature that a chaotic environment breeds magical thinking and ingroup allegiance, and there are few business environments more chaotic than Silicon Valley, where startups succeed or fail seemingly at random. The noise calls for reason, and because there are no true known causes for success our mind demands some explanation. How many times have we read the line -- often written by some very smart people -- "correlation isn't causation, but we've found a strong correlation between....". What follows the but in that sentence is what is known as superstition. Correlation doesn't equal causation, but no buts follow. Actually, correlation plus confirmation bias equals magical thinking, and "data driven" correlation (with no confirmation bias) equals bigotry. Failing to realize that correlation without causation provides us with exactly zero predictive abilities (it might be "predictive" on unknown present data, but not on future data) is the root of a lot of evil. In fact, "data driven" correlation -- because it disguises itself as knowledge -- creates (or, usually, reinforces) a reverse causation.

> Whatever else one can say about the Mirrortocracy, it has the virtue of actually working, in the sense that the lucky few who break in have a decent rate of success.

This is the worst of all fallacies belying the "SV logic". Even supposing it were true, a large-number statistical observation says little or nothing about the behavior of a single random variable, or a single startup in this instance. Yes, the startup system "works" (for whom is another question) on the whole, but the vast majority of individual startups still fail. Learning back from correlative observations on the large system and implying the so called lessons to an individual company has little grounds in any rigorous reasoning.

> You can protest your logic and impartiality all day long, but the only honest statement is that we're all biased.

Understanding this is one of the keys to progress. How many times have we seen posts discussing sexism in tech deemed "controversial" here on HN? But the truth is that the chance a member of a society imbued with biases for millennia is not sexist (or otherwise biased) is extremely slim. The only way to fight this bias is to seek it out and see it (because it's there).

dkarapetyan 5 days ago 0 replies      
I have noticed this myself at a few places I have interviewed and after the 2nd or 3rd time you can kinda smell it. Most of the time the company is just a bunch of 20-somethings running around with their heads on fire, working ridiculous hours because they have no idea what their tech stack is supposed to actually be, all the while getting paid almost nothing for wasting their best years in a monoculture bubble.

Best thing you can do is just avoid those places like the plague. There are places that are run by grown ups and I don't mean people older than 20-something but people that are mature enough to understand what diversity and culture really mean. Places where there is a balance between work and personal life and where people don't pretend to be in a frat house because it is the only way they know how to handle themselves.

I think the only reason those cultures persist is because they are extremely cheap to maintain from a capital perspective and you can have 10 of them running in parallel to increase your odds of hitting a jackpot and getting acquired by google or facebook and raking in some nice returns for your investors which by the way are way older than 20-something. So if you look at it from that perspective it is all about maximizing returns from an investor's perspective and the rest of it is just-so story to keep the pipeline of 20 year olds churning. I think there are some nice parallels between virgins waiting in heaven and million dollar acquisitions. The tactics being used to exploit the minds of the impressionable are the same in both scenarios. The insular cultures that result from those tactics is just a natural byproduct.

pdkl95 5 days ago 1 reply      

   > Its not that were so petty or strict about the dress code   > that we are going to disqualify him for not following an   > unwritten rule, but we know empirically that people who come   > in dressed in suits rarely work out well for our team.
I suggest comparing this...umm... shallow attitude with this example from a very different end of the economic spectrum (which was a link I found here on HN late last year):

Type of job and income level seem to independent of the problem of gatekeepers (petty exercising of local power, often over superficial traits such as the current popular trends in apparel).

jasallen 5 days ago 0 replies      
This post is brilliant and correct. The best part is where he closes with the acknowledgement that the system works... to a limited degree. He's not just slamming it. It is actually an ok way to minimize risk at the cost of upside in the short term.

But it is unscalable for a couple key reasons. (1) Lack of diversity is lack of ideas and experiences, you may fail to find the "next big thing" simply because your echo chamber doesn't include that experience. (2) raw scale. There are only so many Stanford grads et al out there. When you need your 25th, 100th or 150th technical person you will need to have achieved either Google's cachet or start expending your parameters quite a lot.

Finding people's value is a very important management skill that seems to have been eschewed in this "cultural fit" culture. It's true there are some people that will be poison, but if the majority of people with the right skills are bad for your organization rather than the majority being able to be a positive, you should ask yourself if your organization is adequately healthy and robust, or is it an infant in an incubator, only surviving as long as you obsessively manage every input.

smoyer 4 days ago 1 reply      
"I want to stress the importance of being young and technical.Young people are just smarter. Mark Zuckerberg

I always chuckle to myself when I read this because I realize that one day Zuck's going to say "Hey, I'm older" and by extension he'll have to also say "Ouch, I'm dumber". I suspect he'll recant the statement due to "youthful arrogance" at some point!

lsh123 4 days ago 0 replies      
I am managing software development teams in small startups and big companies in the Valley for more than 10 years now. I've probably had several hundreds of interviews, looked at thousands of resumes and hired a couple hundred people directly. One of the things I always look for during the interview is how the candidate is different from me. I obviously don't want to have weird folks who behave outside of the social norm in my team. But I absolutely love employees with different than my experience, education, background, and especially I love people who disagree with me. The team members who can argue with me are my best employees. These are the people I will be chatting to bounce ideas. These are the people I will be working hard to convince that my proposal is the right one. And these are the people whom I will go to when I need an advice (simply because they might see the problem from a different angle than I do).

"The Company Culture" is important. But you do not create it by writing blog posts or even by having company off-sites every month. I create the culture in my team by re-enforcing my values every day during meetings or simple chats at the water cooler. Most software developers are smart and can easily see through the BS of startup or large company "culture building exercises" when the day-to-day processes in the company go in a completely opposite direction.

JVIDEL 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think the article makes a mistake with its use of the word "diversity" here since these days the common use its ingrained more as a matter of race/gender and not so much opinions, and really you can find plenty of groups with that idea of diversity where everyone thinks the same and there's no debate whatsoever.

The word OP is looking for is groupthink, and the problem he's describing starts with deindividuation, the process when the group cohesiveness takes priority over individual freedom of expression.

And well the problem with this "mirrortocracy" (which is just a new word to describe Nepotism) is the typical conundrum of " I want either less corruption or more opportunity to participate in it", basically the problem wont be solved until the number of people trying to enter the inner circle becomes smaller than the number of people trying to tear it down. But the reward for those who do make it is so high most individuals would rather live in what's essentially a tragedy of the commons than a place where there is more equality at the expense of a much lower chance of "making it big".

fnordsensei 5 days ago 1 reply      
Yet another absurdity from Monty Python has turned into reality. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zP0sqRMzkwo
7Figures2Commas 5 days ago 2 replies      
> This implies that there is a large untapped talent pool to be developed. Since the tech war boils down to a talent war, the company that figures out how to get over itself and tap that pool wins...You want a juicy industry to disrupt? How about your own?

This is a great post, but I take issue with the author's conclusion.

The harsh reality is that most of these so-called Valley Culture startups aren't actually competing in a "tech war." Most have relatively simple CRUD apps with at best moderate usage. Founders delude themselves into believing that they need far more engineering resources than they really do for obvious reasons, and investors have plenty of reasons of their own for indulging and rewarding these delusions.

The good news is that no disruption is needed. The majority of the Valley Culture startups will die off in the next several years and at some point, the economic and monetary policy environment will ensure that they're not replaced with a new batch of Valley Culture startups.

In the meantime, there are plenty of opportunities (in the Bay Area and elsewhere) for folks who don't want to deal with the nonsense.

qwerta 5 days ago 0 replies      
I would not call it *tocracy but business model. Company can pay under-market salary, if it inflates ego of its employees and make them feel special. It already works in science, fashion, medicine...
jmromer 2 days ago 0 replies      
> Well, dude, no, actually you can overdress for an interview and you just did.

I can think of two reasons why someone would dress up for a dressed-down interview:

(1) They don't yet understand the social terrain they've entered well enough (particularly salient: people with class/cultural backgrounds underrepresented in tech).

(2) They're conscientious enough to go through the trouble of dressing well for an interview in order to signal they care about getting hired.

So that's some of what you're selecting against when you reject a candidate for failing the "go-out-for-a-beer" test: irrelevant cultural differences and conscientiousness. Bizarre.

clavalle 4 days ago 0 replies      
>The problem is that all cliques are self-reinforcing. There is no way to re-calibrate once the insiders have convinced themselves of their greatness.

Sure there is; don't join the clique. There is no law, private or otherwise, that says you can't play your own game and win.

Despite the hype, the Valley isn't the only game in town even today.

They can self-reinforce all they want but if they start losing because of outside forces then they will have to reexamine their assumptions or fail.

vfxGer 5 days ago 1 reply      
What I find infuriating is how all these companies think they are so unique with their interviewing process then ask the same inane questions. This is worse when the same questions are asked by different people at the same company.

College qualifications or any real qualifications are being dismissed by more and more people but the vacuum that has been left is being filled with crap like 15+ rounds of interviews and/or 12 hour interviews.

The hiring process is currently broken. I think the only fix is to have proper, trusted qualifications (again?).

cafard 2 days ago 0 replies      
The thing that strikes me is that this isn't new. There is a famous story of Steve Jobs and his group abusing some guy who had shown up to an interview in a suit. DeMarco and Lister in Peopleware can be read as justifying aspects of this (see chapter 22).
CmonDev 5 days ago 4 replies      
"It's hard to find good people to hire"

Oh, come on! Where is this myth coming from? I don't know about USA, but here in London there is an over-abundance of IT workforce (what else would justify the sub 60k senior dev job offers).

kfcm 4 days ago 0 replies      
This problem isn't endemic to Silicon Valley (and SFO). It's spread to almost any given company in any given location in the US.
earljwagner 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think this is more about California culture than the Bay Area specifically. Are L.A. Or San Diego really that much different?
eli_gottlieb 4 days ago 0 replies      
> "The notion that diversity in an early team is important or good is completely wrong. You should try to make the early team as non-diverse as possible."

Why the bloody hell would you optimize for uniformity?

chillingeffect 4 days ago 0 replies      
FWIW, hiring/interviews aren't just problems in SV culture. They're problematic all across the industries I've worked in.

This article is simply pointing out how the lack of established practices manifests itself within SV culture.

You could write a similarly outrageous article about how the people at one of my former employers knew next-to-nothing about interviewing people and how that resulted in a pileup of even more people who knew even less :)

inventor 5 days ago 0 replies      
If like Rome, Silicon Valley should ever lose it's eminence, the blog post from 42Floors is a classic piece of evidence as to why it happened.
facepalm 5 days ago 4 replies      
So what is a good/correct hiring criterion? I was under the impression that nobody really knows.

And I am not convinced that it is a bad idea to look for "cultural fit". For example I don't dismiss anybody as a programmer who has never heard about Paul Graham or Joel Spolsky, but certainly consider it weird and it's probably at least a minus in my book.

invalidOrTaken 4 days ago 1 reply      
I agreed with the sentiment of this article, until I thought about it.

No one owes you a job. If you think companies are missing out on your amazing talent, start your own and prove them wrong. This is a million times easier to do with software than with a white-shoe Wall Street firm.

x0x0 5 days ago 3 replies      
Carlos sounds like a wanker who spends too much time reading trust fund assholes on gawker bitch (and lie! Hi Sam) about startups.

Way over here in reality: I've worked for 6 startups, some you've heard of, and some you haven't. At the smallest I was employee 6; at the largest ~60. Now, I'm not claiming I've never seen unprofessional behavior, but

1 - the interview process has been pretty obvious. Yes, I've grabbed dinner with founders at one company. What the hell do you think eating dinner with two people you just met to discuss their company is, exactly?

2 - In 6 startups, I've never gone drinking with the team before starting, nor do I know of anyone who has. None of my friends from those startups who are on im right now has either.

3 - At one startup, some engineers went to strip clubs. Not my thing. No known ill effects.

4 - I don't go drinking with coworkers except maybe once every three months. And drinking means 1-2 beers then out; it's been probably 3 years since I spent a whole night drinking with coworkers. No known ill effects.

5 - perhaps some people should leave sf and see the peninsula and valley. There's a whole world of startups here that have 30+ year old employees, some with kids. At many of these adult companies it's fine to come in around 9, bust ass, and walk out the door at 5:30. If you don't fuck around with pingpong and scooters all goddamn day, you'll find you don't have to spend 12 hours in the office to get your job done. Me personally: no fucking scooters, no ping pong. No known ill effects.

6 - I do wonder if Carlos would complain similarly if an employee came to an interview severely underdressed and the company held it against him or her. Probably not. So learning not to wear a 3-piece suit to a startup interview is just part of the gig. Do, oh, 60 minutes of reading on the internet and you'll probably be fine. Hell, email your damn recruiter and ask. He or she really wants you to get that job.

7 - For ultra-small startups, recruiting from social circles is just part of the deal. I imagine very few tiny companies really hire randoms off the internet, or whatever people did before craigslist and dice.

8 - whining about white and asian males is fine, but how on earth did he miss indian males? Has he ever seen the valley?

9 - on a serious note, it's really weird how startup demographics mirror cs degree demographics.

10 - and while I do strongly believe we should make the industry more inclusive -- holding tiny startups responsible for not creating a recruiting pipeline back to high school is ridiculous. I'm not sure where social responsibilities kick in; it's some gradient between the 1 person company and the $10B corp. But the small startups don't have the resources to do much about it.

342 points by itamarhaber  8 days ago   89 comments top 18
keypusher 8 days ago 2 replies      
As someone who is currently building out a distributed storage cluster system, this series has been amazing. Not only are the results informative, but I have learnt so much about clustering, consistency, testing methodology and what to look for when evaluating reliability on these systems. Very nicely done.
Radim 8 days ago 1 reply      
Indeed. ElasticSearch is super useful, but its docs used to be of the frustrating variety: "Explain minute API details, as if a passing note from the lead dev to himself, assuming all context and concepts are understood and obvious. Don't bother with why's & what's & high-level nonsense."

It's been improving lately though, "going big" helped ES here.

My personal favourite: an issue from 3 years ago, where ElasticSearch returns incorrect facet counts (as in, fundamentally BROKEN faceting). Still unresolved: https://github.com/elasticsearch/elasticsearch/issues/1305

lbarrow 8 days ago 1 reply      
Aphyr is truly amazing. This series of blog posts has introduced me to a rigorous, careful way of thinking about distributing systems. I'm a much, much better developer for having read his blog. How many people can you really say that about?
syntern 8 days ago 4 replies      

"Some people actually advocate using Elasticsearch as a primary data store; I think this is somewhat less than advisable at present."

"The good news is that Elasticsearch is a search engine, and you can often afford the loss of search results for a while."

My personal favorite solution would reliably channel data from a Riak cluster to an ES cluster. Anyone knows if there is something like that out there?

silenteh 8 days ago 3 replies      
I am currently writing a Golang client for Elasticsearch which uses the native binary protocol and I have to say the lack of documentation about it is making the process really painful!

I tried to use the Elasticsearch thrift plugin but unfortunately it does not work for the version 1.1 and 1.2

So basically I have to inspect each and every byte of each and every request and response in order to be able to send or parse data.

While developing the client a managed several time to crash the Elasticsearch server by sending malformed packets. In addition, this, brought me to review the networking part of Elasticsearch code and I think it needs a refactoring and a better, deeper and cleaner usage of Netty.

I hope they will soon sort out this and the problems mentioned in the article, since I think that Elasticsearch is really an amazing product!

Torn 8 days ago 0 replies      
From the article comments:

> seems like the ES team is moving in the right direction with testing this stuff https://github.com/elasticsearch/elasticsearch/commit/ef7593...

nsxwolf 8 days ago 1 reply      
Can someone explain the "Call me maybe" theme/meme? I know it is a song, but what's the relevance here?

Edit: I looked at the archive and found the original post where it is ... erm... explained?

room271 8 days ago 1 reply      
The 'Nic' he quotes in the article is me :) This is seriously the highlight in my career folks!

Although to be fair, he quotes me generously. Later on in that discussion I give up my wisdom and get confused again.

cjbprime 8 days ago 0 replies      
Aphyr is amazing and we're very lucky to have him doing this!
bzelip 8 days ago 2 replies      
I'm not much of a programmer, but it's great to know about this guy. The diversity link someone posted here [0] is inspiring.

Off topic question about Aphyr's website: the stylesheet is linked to only as`<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="/css" />`How and why does this work?


sjaaktrekhaak 8 days ago 0 replies      
Shay says they've already "fixed this" [1] and the aim is to get the fix in 1.3. I'm interested in what the fix actually is.

To quote Shay:"FYI, the improved_zen branch already contains a fix for this issue, we are letting it bake as this is a delicate change, and we are working on adding more test scenarios (aside from the one detailed in this issue) to make sure. The plan is to aim at getting this into 1.3. We have not yet ran Jespen (which simulates the same scenario we already simulate in our test), but we will do it as well."

[1]: https://github.com/elasticsearch/elasticsearch/issues/2488#i...

fasteo 8 days ago 0 replies      
I am a happy user of ElasticSearch I always thought that it would pass the "Call me maybe" test with flying colors...Well, not
linux_devil 8 days ago 0 replies      
Informative , started looking into ES since past week for indexing , really like the ease of use in ES , but definitely there are few points to be kept in mind.
AznHisoka 8 days ago 2 replies      
These problems are a major reason why I decided to not go with the typical 1 cluster-multiple replica infrastructure.

Instead I have multiple clusters, 0 replicas, and load balance against those clusters. No split brain problem, but the same data availability benefits as having replicas. Granted, the logic is all in my app now. Now when a cluster is down, I have retry logic to keep reindexing that data to that cluster until it succeeds.

programminggeek 8 days ago 2 replies      
Elasticsearch is great for um... search. Like, you use it as an index to point to the real system of record and it is not expected to be perfect (or shouldn't' be).

I though it worked out real well when used to alleviate pressure on the database which was being used for search results (which were sometimes ajax live search style). The big benefit was our database usage went down and search was better/more reliable.

The other big benefit is if elastic search goes down search stops working. That is FAR better than if elastic search goes down the whole database and site stops working.

At a big enough scale, with thousands of dollars in transactions every day, the database can't go down. Search can break gracefully, but the spice must flow (so to speak).

johnnymonster 8 days ago 2 replies      
whats up with the OP and barbie memes?
eli 8 days ago 7 replies      
I am probably just an aging fuddy duddy, but the animated GIFs make me much less likely to share this article with my team.
RossDM 8 days ago 0 replies      
The gifs are annoying when one is trying to focus on the text and sees movement out of their peripheral vision.
341 points by mmastrac  5 days ago   66 comments top 23
moreentropy 5 days ago 1 reply      
They also have an overlay for Google maps:


hcarvalhoalves 5 days ago 3 replies      
I see they have engineered their own detectors [1], but could cellphones be used as EMP detectors? They have GPS and antennas after all.

[1] http://www.blitzortung.org/Webpages/index.php?lang=en&page=3

j2kun 5 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe it's the sounds generated by the app, but I like to think that my furious clicking causes some of the lightning bolts.
larcher 5 days ago 0 replies      
Just before seeing this on HN, I randomly came across this article on "dark lightning" -- a burst of gamma rays that accompanies the RF burst that precedes visible lightning.


neumann 5 days ago 1 reply      
the range on those detectors is amazing.
arethuza 5 days ago 0 replies      
Was anyone else who has played the game Defcon a bit disturbed by this?


phreeza 5 days ago 0 replies      
Used this to find webcams of places with thunderstorms rolling in, and found this here in Switzerland [0], quite fun to watch when you skip through the history. Day started out lovely but now they are getting hammered.

[0] http://palacegstaad.roundshot.ch/

spektom 4 days ago 0 replies      
Hey! This site makes strange sounds, which drove me crazy - I've thought my hard drive is going to die..
gjm11 4 days ago 0 replies      
I don't know how complete it claims to be (in terms of what fraction of lightning strikes in notionally covered areas it catches), but right now there's a storm very close to me (Cambridge, UK) and it's displaying a good fraction, but not all, of the strikes I see and hear.
quarterto 5 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, the Alps appear to be going through the apocalypse.
rondon2 3 days ago 0 replies      
It seems to me that these strikes are happening in clusters at the same time 1000s of miles away. Is this related to radiation from the sun providing the tipping point?
thekevan 5 days ago 3 replies      
Europe: 1489 strikes

Oceania: 28 strikes

Asia: 0 strikes

South America: 913 strikes

North America: 15,826 strikes!!

RijilV 5 days ago 1 reply      
Worldwide, if you don't count Africa...
greggman 4 days ago 1 reply      
Doesn't work for Japan. I'm in a Thunderstorm right now in Tokyo. Nothing shows up on the map.
exabrial 4 days ago 1 reply      
So do the lines between stations and a strike mean that detector heard the strike? That's incredible if so... there's a station in California picking up strikes over Missouri.
omnibrain 4 days ago 1 reply      
I think this mashed up with other "radars" like flight and ship radar would be impressive.
cipherzero 5 days ago 5 replies      
How are they getting the data?
nraynaud 5 days ago 0 replies      
Northern Texas is just being pounded right now.
late2part 5 days ago 1 reply      
This is so cool!!
wazari972 5 days ago 0 replies      
cool, I'm looking forward for this evening's thunderstorm to confirm if it's actually/acurately working :) Average delay appears to be between 3s and 10s here in Europe, but closer to 3s.
aarkling 5 days ago 1 reply      
What do the lines mean?
Bangladesh1 4 days ago 0 replies      
Nice map
rikkus 5 days ago 0 replies      
Worldwide, but you link to the US page?
330 points by dvanduzer  8 days ago   37 comments top 12
Osmium 8 days ago 5 replies      
Very cool. What's the current best tool to help make the .srt file? e.g. the current best-of-breed text recognition / text alignment tool. Last time I looked at something like this there didn't seem to be a particularly robust solution, especially for text alignment.
tdicola 8 days ago 0 replies      
Nice tool, also I had no idea about the moviepy library used by the tool. Looks like a really nice little library for making small video edits in python. Cool!
nsxwolf 8 days ago 7 replies      
I wanted to do exactly this, but I wanted to do it at a word level granularity. So that you could input any text and get a video of random clips from many sources each saying exactly the words in the input string.

I don't think the metadata is quite there yet.

jpdlla 8 days ago 0 replies      
Really impressed with the example of instances of specific grammatical structures. Really great application of something useful with this script.
manish_gill 8 days ago 2 replies      
One thing that annoys me with subtitles is that when they even have all the sound effects. [SCREAMS LOUDLY], [OMINOUS MUSIC PLAYS] etc. So something like the Total Recall silence thing probably won't work to a great degree of accuracy in those cases.
chatmasta 8 days ago 2 replies      
I remember reading a while back that employees at big news networks (think Fox, CNBC, CNN, etc.) had access to some massive database of broadcast videos, and tooling built around the database to do exactly this. I can't find the source at the moment, but if anyone knows it, a link could be relevant.
captaincrowbar 8 days ago 1 reply      
I can't find, anywhere in the documentation or a quick skim of the source code, any clue as to which version of Python this requires.
derpplease 8 days ago 0 replies      

please somebody make an automatic rap impersonation generator

can make use of karaoke youtube clips for the background music...

nobody_nowhere 8 days ago 0 replies      
very cool!
LeicaLatte 8 days ago 0 replies      
notastartup 8 days ago 0 replies      
The video produced was extremely entertaining and insightful. I can imagine this tool being very useful for big data analysis.
finnn 8 days ago 1 reply      
Absolutely irrelevant correction: Jay Carney is the current, not former, press secretary.


331 points by radmuzom  8 days ago   97 comments top 20
ChuckMcM 8 days ago 6 replies      
That pretty much defines 'art' I think. The artist is compelled to see the vision through, it isn't about the money or the time or the cost. I am quite impressed he stuck it through.

A long time ago (1983 to be precise) I started rewriting Empire, a curses based turn based strategy game (Hi Walter!) because I was convinced I could make it so much better and I had spent a lot of hours playing it. When I was at Intel working on a high end graphics chip I joked with one of the design engineers that it would be cool if you could see little armies fighting but we both agreed there probably wouldn't be enough CPU / graphics capability to do that in real time, at least not in our lifetime :-).

While I never finished my efforts (-1 for me I guess) I learned so much along the way, I bought Dunnigan's excellent 'How to Make War' book which was the bible for wargames at the time (and to some extent still is) and tackled path finding algorithms, and automated forces deployment, and strategic evaluation with limited vision, and all sorts of really interesting problems/puzzles that each offered up a ton of interesting insight. Bottom line it wasn't a waste of time for me, even though I have nothing to show for it.

I love that Adam stuck with it and got it done. Very inspiring.

Kronopath 8 days ago 4 replies      
This article is pretty light on content. Much more interesting is the well-produced video the dev made himself, talking about his experience making the game, and talking about why it took 13 years.

The Game That Time Forgot:


munificent 8 days ago 3 replies      
I've been working on a roguelike for, I think, about 14 years now. It's gone through several rewrites, different languages, different UIs, and it's never come close to being done. These days, I tend to think of it more as a garden: something for me to putter around in but not as much a product (though I would love to get it to a point where other people can play it).
fredleblanc 8 days ago 0 replies      
With all of this dedication to a project, I had to download it and try it. Early on there's a room where everything is pitch black and it wants you to go back and find something "luminous." So you're thinking, probably a flashlight or torch or something.

Nope. It's a paintbrush with luminous paint. And it doesn't just light up the room, you have to fling gobs of luminous paint all around to reveal platforms in an otherwise dark room. And it's not just a ball at a time, each gob also trails lesser speckles that also help out.

I know this isn't ground-breaking or anything, but it's certainly a refreshing surprise from what you expect from games these days. It's something you wonder about, where the answer is clearly, "well, why not?"

I went from interested to impressed in a matter of minutes. I thought I was just going to download it to see what it was like, but now I'm curious what other great ideas will come out of no where.

z3phyr 8 days ago 4 replies      
Off Topic: Some people say that Game Development is Saturated, but I believe that there is still a lot to accomplish and still tons of ground braking innovations in every sphere of Game Development are waiting for many more generations of prodigy. Some people say that the Graphics are solved but I believe, we still have miles to go for true realism. Please carry on with the innovations in game dev :)
AndyNemmity 8 days ago 0 replies      
I knew I wasn't going to play it, but I found a let's play so I could see the details.


If you're interested.

barbs 8 days ago 0 replies      
That's awesome! Reminds me of Cave Story[1], a platforming-shooter created by 1 man over 5 years, also originally released for free.


tbirdz 8 days ago 1 reply      
I'm always impressed when I see people who have spent such a large amount of time on a single project. Me personally, I keep flitting from project to project, creating a prototype, or a proof-of-concept before I get interested in something else and pursue that. I think a lot of people fall into these categories, breadth first vs. depth first. It's probably best to seek a balance between the two, as then you will still devote enough time to polish the outcome, while still having the time to explore many completely different projects.
thisjepisje 8 days ago 0 replies      
This game changes your screen resolution, if you don't want this you have to select 'windowed' in settings.exe.
VeejayRampay 8 days ago 0 replies      
That's great. It's kind of (personal interpretation here) Rick Dangerous meet Wonderboy. Congratulations to the author for believing in his own dream, that's real dedication.
throw7 7 days ago 0 replies      
Dang. Props to the guy for seeing this through to the end.

I know I've had this same type of vision, except it was when I was making wads for doom. I had this wild idea of making this "super awesome" multi-level castle. I soon was bogged down with slowness and trying to do things the engine just couldn't handle causing artifacting et. al. Anyway, unlike this guy, I just gave up. :D

zackmorris 8 days ago 0 replies      
I, for one, applaud his effort :-)
Vektorweg 8 days ago 0 replies      
I also try to write a game since roughly a decade. But i'm really lazy, so i spend much more time in figuring out how to write a sufficiently good game in as few time as possible than to write that game.
runn1ng 8 days ago 0 replies      
Well, it still didn't took as long as Duke Nukem Forever.

But nearly.

xhamster 7 days ago 0 replies      
He should learn to code and remake it for Android or iOS?

Are there any good such games for mobile platforms? Maybe the game is not good enough though...

meanJim 8 days ago 0 replies      
I'm really happy this developer stuck through and made this game. It's really inspiring and it shows that not all projects have to be motivated by external motives. Sometimes you just want to make something because it matters to you.
georgedrummond 8 days ago 0 replies      
I guess he didn't read "Lean Startup"
notastartup 8 days ago 0 replies      
This is some crazy persistence and dedication to a project.

And to think my 5 years was long, 5 years I will never get back working on my web scraping project: http://scrape.ly

guyy321 7 days ago 0 replies      
This is awesome.
ansimionescu 8 days ago 5 replies      
Windows-only sigh

How difficult would it be to port this?

edit: it's not a snarky, rhetorical, question I really want to play this

316 points by aatish  7 days ago   62 comments top 20
woodchuck64 7 days ago 2 replies      
"Is there a clear evolutionary advantage for these leaves to be superhydrophobic?"


"The evolutionary benefits of sophisticated superhydrophobic surfaces are diverse. With plants, a water film affects the gas exchange which is crucial for many physiological processes (Brewer and Smith 1994 ,Brewer 1996). This is true particularly for the underside of the leaf where the stomata are usually located. Consequences of a disturbed gas exchange are inhibition of photosynthesis and suppression of plant growth; the latter can even become chronic (Ishibashi and Terashima 1995). This might explain why in numerous plant species the underside of the leaf is less wettable than the upper surface (Smith and McClean 1989). Moreover, a water film significantly increases leaching of nutrients (Tukey 1970). The prevention of a water film has an important side effect: the period during which dissolved air pollutants can damage the plant is distinctly shortened (Haines et al 1985).

Clearly, the ability of a plant to clean itself is an additional benefit. Naturally and artificially emitted dust that is deposited on photosynthetic plant organs causes shading, enhanced reflection, increased leaf temperature, decreased gaseous diffusion and increased transpiration through stomata and cuticle (Thompson et al 1984 , Eveling 1986 , Hirano et al 1995 , Sharifi et al 1997). As a result, the photosynthetic rate is reduced and the plant gets under stress sometimes to the point of damage to its surface (Eveling 1986).

Another important function of the self-cleaning mechanism is its role in the protection against pathogen attacks. Spores of pathogenic fungi are completely washed off surfaces of certain crops with well-developed epicuticular waxes, provided that the surface microstructure is intact (Neinhuis et al 1992). Moreover, a dense layer of wax crystals makes it more difficult for fungi to penetrate a plant surface (Schwab et al 1995). The almost permanent dryness of superhydrophobic self-cleaning surfaces is an obstacle particularly to pathogens producing spores which require free water for germination (Juniper 1991)."

aatish 7 days ago 4 replies      
Hey - I'm the author of this piece. Thanks for voting it up to the front page. I love finding cool science in ordinary/everyday places, and am curious to hear people's responses to the piece. Cheers.
devindotcom 7 days ago 1 reply      
Superomniphobic materials using this property are being made:


But this is a great article! I love getting into the nitty gritty of why nature is so worth replicating.

pdevr 7 days ago 2 replies      
This is something which has been known for thousands of years, unless I am missing something: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_effect

Edit: The relevant Bhagavat Gita verse: http://www.bhagavad-gita.us/bhagavad-gita-5-10/

Edit 2: @OP: Thank you for the article, it is well-written. From the comments so far, it is obvious that this is something new to many here.

jrkelly 7 days ago 1 reply      
And don't forget the whole thing self assembles with inputs of primarily light, water, and air at zero cost. Biology makes the rest of our manufacturing technology look ridiculously inefficient.
latortuga 7 days ago 0 replies      
I'm going to guess it was an adaptation that provided a reproductive advantage. You are supposed to be very careful about getting Tomato plant leaves wet when watering them because getting them wet makes them much more susceptible to diseases. Being resistant to such things would be a huge advantage. I've noticed such water-phobic behavior on other plants in my garden, specifically kale and broccoli.
chrisbennet 7 days ago 1 reply      
If you like this sort of thing, you might enjoy reading "The Gecko's Foot: Bio-inspiration: Engineering New Materials from Nature"It explains this and other neat tricks of nature.
suprgeek 7 days ago 0 replies      
If recent science is correct http://www.nature.com/srep/2013/130912/srep02617/full/srep02... then we should be able to actually touch the leaf and "feel" the needles ourselves.
mrb 7 days ago 1 reply      
I would love to see a SEM (scanning electron microscope) picture of the exact area where the water comes in contact with these fibers (instead of this non-SEM fuzzy picture: http://www.wired.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/plume-poppy-...). They have the equipment. They should have done it!
arjn 7 days ago 1 reply      
Very nice article, fun and informative.

There are several products that can coat materials to make them hydrophobic. "Neverwet" and "Ultra-Ever Dry" are two. Check out their videos on youtube.

usaphp 7 days ago 0 replies      
I would love to see more of these kind of articles here on HN
kevinwang 7 days ago 1 reply      
Perhaps they're superhydrophobic to allow water droplets to roll off and be absorbed by the roots?
js2 7 days ago 0 replies      
I immediately thought of jewelweed which in addition to having water repellent leaves is also medicinal - http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/Plants.Folder/Jewelweed.htm...
im3w1l 6 days ago 0 replies      
I really liked looking at the vibrations of the drops. Especially the drop at 15s. I think it is the l=2 mode?


spyder 7 days ago 0 replies      
It's called the "lotus effect" :


And it works even with honey:


TheScythe 7 days ago 0 replies      
Two reasons for this come to mind, in addition to the "rain on the roots" idea: dry surfaces are less able to support fungal/bacterial growth, and suspended water is less likely to damage the leaf cells with jagged ice crystals in the event of frost. Awesome article! :)
mplishka 2 days ago 0 replies      
Did want to share that I came across this phenomenon on the underside of Silver Maple leaves the other day, and on the underside of Weeping Willow today. (The tops wet really well) What fascinates me is that the Silver Maple is native to the same areas as other Maples and yet, those other types are not hydrophobic at all - not on the top or the underside. Why would two plant leaves of the same genus, growing in the same area, have such different leaves?
asimpletune 7 days ago 0 replies      
I believe the explanation for why the leaves are so hydrophobic is quite simple. Those leaves are huge. Since they are so huge, they act as a canopy, preventing needed water from reaching the ground... unless the water could just somehow bead up and roll off the leaf. Saying a leaf is hydrophobic is another way of saying that water doesn't stick to them. If water doesn't stick to them, it falls off. Very simple, and ingenious!
peterwwillis 7 days ago 0 replies      
I was going to say before I read the rest of the article that there's probably an uneven surface on the leaf that's allowing the droplet to retain its superior surface tension.

Conversely, the waterproofing nature of bird feathers is, apparently, not well understood. It was originally posited that the hydrophilic oils from the Uropygial gland spread during preening added to the waterproofing nature of the feather, but (according to a Wikipedia edit which has no citation that I can find no further evidence of on the Internet) there's some theory about an electrostatic state due to the mechanical process of preening keeping the feathers free from water sticking to them. It's also claimed that powder-down birds use their feather residue as waterproofing, but that seemingly hasn't been proved either.

Ah, I found the paper, I think [1]: Here's a paper from the 1950s which did an intense study of ducks and various states which might affect their water-repellent nature. It turns out that removing the Uropygial gland from newly hatched ducklings resulted in their feathers being just as water-repellent as ducks that still had the gland. Interestingly, the diet of the birds seemed to effect the water-repellent nature more than anything else, but also completely dependent on where they were fed.

The end of page 6 and the rest of 7 point out the theory of the barbules in the feathers being responsible for the waterproof nature. The idea is that when they are properly aligned, air between the barbs (when at a constant distance from each other) keeps a narrow enough distance that the surface tension of the water is maintained, similar to this leaf. So this is probably where the idea of an "electrostatic" force came from (or the paper by Madsen that's cited: "Madsen, H., 1941: Hvad gor Fuglenes Fjer-Dragt vandskyende ?. Dansk Ornithologisk Forenings Tidsskrift, 35: 49-59")

Can somebody stick all that into the Wikipedia article? I'm lazy.

[1] http://wildfowl.wwt.org.uk/index.php/wildfowl/article/downlo...[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20437221 a modern paper confirming the results)

kamalkr 7 days ago 3 replies      
How hard is it to make artificial hydrophobic material? Wouldn't they make great windshields?
Google Domains google.com
311 points by jnymck  4 days ago   228 comments top 50
ep103 4 days ago 9 replies      
So now my domains can be hosted by a company famed for its responsive and transparent customer service!
toomuchtodo 4 days ago 4 replies      

Integration with Google cloud resources (a la AWS Route 53), 10 million lookups/year free, pricing appears off the bat to be $12/year, free private registration.

And support! "With Google Domains, you get phone and email support (M-F, 9am to 9pm EST)."

joeframbach 4 days ago 7 replies      
Serious question: What happens in three years when Google decides to "sunset" this service like Wave, Labs, Reader, Buzz, Code Search, Knol, etc? Their target audience doesn't know how to work with registrars, which puts them in the worst possible situation when Google Domains is dropped. Will they help their users transition to other registrars?
chatmasta 4 days ago 2 replies      
So it is now possible to give Google, who is solely responsible for a high percentage of your site's traffic, access to:

- Your traffic (Search)

- Your analytics (Analytics)

- Your income (AdSense)

- Your advertising (AdWords)

- Your hosting (App Engine)

- Your DNS (Cloud DNS)

- Your domains (this)

That gives their search algorithm a pretty full picture of who owns your website, where you get your content, how much customers like it, any other sites you own, how much traffic you get, how much money you make.

And they can delist you whenever they want.

No thanks. I'll keep my Google to a minimum.

spindritf 4 days ago 2 replies      
This is great. Google is a company that is very serious about security, and has essentially no customer support so no way to social engineer your way around that security. Perfect for domains.
tdicola 4 days ago 1 reply      
I don't get it, I already have a domain managed by Google with my Google apps account. I understand they shut off this service for new signups a while back. So are they releasing a _new_ managed domain service? How long until I am forced to go through some ugly merge process to put my Google apps account onto this new system? Would really love to hear the rationale for killing the old service to replace it with something that looks a heck of a lot like the old service. After shutting down Reader and all the trouble my Google apps account already gives me (every new Google service has issues with Google apps accounts in my experience) and other annoying things I really hope Google doesn't screw up my email. If it ain't broke don't fix it!
Thiz 4 days ago 1 reply      
They stole $200 from my adsense account accusing me of clicking my own ads, which I never did. Their automated system never let me prove I didn't do it so they just stole my money.

I give a flying fuck if I was a false positive in a huge corporation with millions of customers they can't serve all with quality support.

No, Im not giving them my business never again until they apologize.

sudonim 4 days ago 0 replies      
I can't be the only one who likes using different businesses for different services? It's bad enough to use Google for email, calendar, docs. I wouldn't buy with / transfer my business domains to them.

http://gandi.net and http://dnsimple.com are both great options in this space.

laureny 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm excited. Not so much by the fact that Google now provides this service (which I may or may not use) but because this is going to put a tremendous amount of pressure on other ISP's, and competition is badly needed in this field.
eli 4 days ago 1 reply      
Hasn't Google's been a registrar for years? You could register a domain for $10 as part of signing up for Apps at least 2 or 3 years ago.

I guess the new part is they're offering it standalone? Seems like a lead gen effort for AdWords/AdSense more than a serious product.

hysan 4 days ago 0 replies      
> Talk to us

> We arent ready for everyone to join yet (you currently need an invitation code to buy or transfer a domain), so we want those who join to play an active role in helping us improve. We're working hard to offer our customers the best domain experience possible, and we welcome your input, questions and feedback.

For a company that is notoriously bad at communicating with its customers, this is the one thing I would expect Google to not get right. Even at the private invite scale, I seriously wonder if Google will be communicating with customers with the tact and empathy required of good customer service.

vowelless 4 days ago 3 replies      
> Create up to 100 email aliases with your domain, such as help@your_company.com or sales@your_company.com, and have them forwarded to existing email accounts, like you@gmail.com. This way, your email is a professional reflection of your business.

So there are no actual email boxes included?

gmays 4 days ago 0 replies      
A couple weeks ago when the new Google My Business platform (http://www.google.com/business/) was introduced I thought it was very interesting. To me it signaled Google's interest in entering the small business game by building a platform for SMBs to have a consolidated online presence.

They wouldn't have combined the products and created a platform if they didn't plan to expand it. I thought about how significant it'd be if Google included some sort of website builder along with the Google My Business platform. They organically have more reach with SMBs than any competitor can afford to buy. That combined with the high switching costs of websites and they have a massive opportunity as long as they don't misunderstand their target market.

Now they're offering domains and teaming up with some of the biggest website builders out there. I'd wager that 1) it's only a matter of time until their domain service is offered as part of Google My Business and 2) they offer their own website builder/CMS.

The website builder industry is competitive and noncompetitive at the same time. The companies that spend the most on marketing have the shittiest products and the companies with the most product potential 1) don't advertise or 2) don't cater to small businesses as much as they should. They're all asleep at the wheel in one way or another.

tinkerrr 4 days ago 7 replies      
"No additional cost for private registration" is badly required in the industry, and glad to see Google take the lead.

Also, there should be an option to 301 redirect your blogspot blog to a domain held by Google. Lots of bloggers have outgrown their .blogspot.com blogs.

lsh123 4 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting. Google is going to directly compete with GoDaddy which is about to have IPO. Curious to see the impact on the GoDaddy's price.
pdknsk 4 days ago 1 reply      
> Use Google Synthetic Records for integration with Google App Engine, subdomain forwarding and Google Apps setup

What is Google Synthetic Records? Google Search doesn't know.

owenversteeg 4 days ago 0 replies      
Based on a screenshot [0] the price appears to be $12/yr.

[0] http://domains.google.com/about/img/sprites/features.png

rhizome 4 days ago 1 reply      
Not on your life. Domains simply aren't complicated or expensive enough to think twice about feeding Google's consolidation and analytics game. Perhaps harsh, but come on. Domains.
vachi 4 days ago 1 reply      
google has attempted domain names previously, and it has previously sucked, very badly, 1. you could never get to a customer support, no phone number, and emails were all auto responses sending you to faq2. there was no dedicated dashboard for domain management, billing etc

this is a revamp and product consolidation and it is super late to the game, hopefully the transition for current users will be easy

jqueryin 4 days ago 3 replies      
Just as an aside, the startup I work at provides these services with Google Apps included. We handle automatic domain registration, DNS setup, automate the process of verifying your Google Apps account, allow Single Sign-On to GMail, and more. I'm guessing the tech crowd would particularly find the automated google verification interesting.

The other best part is we match the pricing of a Google Apps for Business account and offer a 15 day free trial with no credit card required.

We partner with the likes of Startup Weekend and .CO since our goal is to help you get your ideas online fast.

For those of you interested in checking it out, I'd love feedback:


tambourine_man 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm glad they are more focused on their core competences and are not distracted by side projects.

I'm also glad to see the amount of work that went on developing this site, white text over white background, for example, is super readable. Sweating the details indeed.


insky 3 days ago 0 replies      
I remember getting my Bigfoot for life email address. It didn't exactly last that long. But basically that was email forwarding. But you had to change your reply-to in outgoing emails, and it was a little confusing for recipients.

Email forwarding, doesn't stop Google reading the mail as it goes through transit. Which is a little unsettling. I'd be interested to hear/read their privacy policy regarding this.

dcc1 4 days ago 1 reply      
1. Can't pay with bitcoin so staying with namecheap

2. Google offers 0 support

3. Google rolls over to quickly to copyright requests, whats to stop them from pulling the domain from under you

No thanks

lwh 4 days ago 0 replies      
Will my pagerank increase if I register with one of their TLDs?
nachteilig 4 days ago 0 replies      
Right now I have a reseller account with OpenSRS/Tucows, and I have to say that this service from Google interests me. OpenSRS has seemingly been stuck in the 90s with UI stuff for a while now, and recently started charing $3/year extra for private registration.

Looks like I'll give it a try as soon as I get an invite.

badclient 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm amazed that Google did not buy godaddy when it was purchased by private equity.
bhartzer 4 days ago 3 replies      
Really, Google? You are calling the new gTLDs "domain endings"? Is that what we're supposed to call them?
pyrophane 4 days ago 0 replies      
Any idea what TLDs they currently support?
nospecinterests 4 days ago 0 replies      

Lots of people will sign-up. These people will love the service. They will come to need this service for their businesses to survive and function properly. Two years afterward Google will do what they have done time and time again, close down the service - for unknown reasons - at every users expense.

Will it happen? I don't know but they just don't have my trust for the long term. Yes, I know that you can transfer domains fairly easily but nothing is ever that easy.

stormbrew 4 days ago 2 replies      
Free whois privacy. Hopefully this pushes some other dns providers to do the same.
andrewgjohnson 4 days ago 0 replies      
Continues to surprise me that there isn't some kind of registrar service as part of the suite of services provided via AWS. I suppose ditto to the Google Cloud platform. This is great, I'm especially drawn to the built in "up to 100" email aliases. Sounds like it may only cover the receiving of @your_company.com emails and not sending but definitely a nice start, particularly in a Google Apps is pay-only world.
kin 4 days ago 0 replies      
Great news to me, recently switched from GoDaddy to Namecheap and I still don't like the experience.
briholt 4 days ago 1 reply      
Is there nothing Google won't compete with?
thegeomaster 4 days ago 0 replies      
Any suggestions on how one gets an invite? How broad is the program?
kolev 4 days ago 0 replies      
At $12/year, I'm not leaving GoDaddy, which pricing nobody can beat. With the Domain Club pricing, I get .com at $8.19. The only thing GoDaddy lacks is an API, but can't pay 50% just for this luxury.
joell 4 days ago 0 replies      
waitingkuo 4 days ago 0 replies      
Is it a Business as a Service? Seems it'll integrate lots of SaaS such like Shopify, Weebly, ...etc
fuzz_junket 4 days ago 0 replies      
Oh look. An opportunity to let Google own even more of the Internet. Let's do it.
marban 4 days ago 0 replies      
Your move, Amazon.
lsiebert 4 days ago 0 replies      
So, where can we get an invite?
southflorida 4 days ago 1 reply      
and speed of site will never be an issue (host wise)... and indexing out the gate. wish i would have waited to buy that domain i just had to have saturday night :/
robomartin 3 days ago 0 replies      
Right or wrong, and from more than one angle, this is the way I look at it:

First, the last thing I want on the internet is a monopoly. Google, for all intents and purposes, is a monopoly when it comes to search and advertising. Because of that it has unique power to attempt to own other areas. If Google was known for great customer service and generally benevolent behavior this might be OK. The reality is that many of us have had really ugly experiences with this company.

I don't buy the distinction being made in terms of paid vs. unpaid services. Every Google service is paid. Every single one of them. Don't think so? Then why doesn't Google turn off ads on "free" services? No, people are paying with cash or with eyeballs-on-adds. Either way Google is monetizing each and every set of eyeballs in some way. "Free" is an illusion.

Competition is great, but Google is not a competitor it's a nassive search monopoly that could easily use that monopoly to favor any one of it's products over competitors who depend on Google search and rankings for their very survival.

At a minimum it is a potentially huge conflict of interest. If Google registers your domains, hosts your sites, runs your ads, places ads on your site, runs your email, provides your analytics and provides your search-based traffic you are one button click away from various incredible nightmare scenario each and every morning 365 days per year.

So, no, thanks, but no. I've been saying "no" to you for years, ever since that time you behaved badly, cost my clients a huge chunk of their business and all we could do was scream at a computer monitor.

No, thank you. I will stick with other excellent choices for domain registration. I will also stick to Linode and AWS for my servers. And I will stick to building sites supported by something other than advertising revenue. I will also host my own email, which isn't hard at all. I will use your analytics and, if needed, I will do some advertising with you. Alhough, lately, using Facebook intelligently for that last part is producing better results.

In other words, having learned my lessons I will not allow my clients or myself to walk into a situation where you can hurt us by behaving as you often do.

I just can't see trusting Google. Trust is one of those things that costs massively more to regain once lost. Google has done absolutley nothing to regain the trust of those of us who have seen what can happen.

Live long and prosper.

jonthn 4 days ago 0 replies      
When a giant shakes, everyone moves. It doesn't even have to be particularly disruptive -- this is good for everyone who owns or brokers domains.
saeedjabbar 4 days ago 0 replies      
Looking forward to giving this a shot.
pstop 4 days ago 2 replies      
An invite only beta to an at request service? That's kinda dumb. It most certainly won't be a representative sample.
esbonsa 4 days ago 0 replies      
Have you purchased a domain name before? yes and no...
2close4comfort 4 days ago 0 replies      
Ahhhhh...its invite only what gives?
sogen 4 days ago 4 replies      
wow, first Google's phone support
fourstar 4 days ago 0 replies      
Once again, Google trying to consolidate all the eggs into a single basket.
dota168 4 days ago 2 replies      
Invite-only beta....

watch the hype fade away in a week and everyone will forget this exists (hello Google+)

307 points by jermo  2 days ago   58 comments top 17
gingerlime 2 days ago 3 replies      
Looks nice. It's great to see more d3-based charting libraries. I'm personally using Rickshaw[0] to power the charting of Giraffe[1], a light weight front-end for Graphite. Sorry for the plug, but it's important to give some context.

One obvious thing that felt like Epoch was missing was hover-over info. At least I couldn't spot it on the examples.


haberman 1 day ago 3 replies      
Looks really nice. Since I started using React, though, I've wanted to find a similarly nice charting library that is reactive instead -- that renders to a React component with SVG instead of mutating the DOM directly. This would help minimize the number of DOM updates when just a few data points change, and seems like it would fit better within a React app.

(This approach unfortunately rules out D3, which mutates the DOM directly and doesn't have smart diffing AFAIK).

Anyone know of a reactive charting library?

nichodges 2 days ago 2 replies      
I've just finished up a project using NVD3, and at first glance this looks like a slightly simpler option. This is a good thing - NVD3 has become complex to the point where I would recommend someone to just learn D3 rather than use a reusable library.

Epoch appears to be a good alternative for people who just want to quickly build charts for today's web. Great work.

snorkel 2 days ago 1 reply      
Very smooth animation, but those colors ... ech ... I wish it had the color and style customization that Highcharts offers, for example gradient fills and opacity support ... or rather I wish Highcharts update animations were this smooth.
eterm 2 days ago 0 replies      
It looks really good, although one slightly confusing thing is that the static line graph appears to be smoothed but the real time one is unsmoothed and there isn't a configuration option listed to change that?
CptMauli 2 days ago 4 replies      
Again, something which all of these projects ignore, no step chart and no way to have gaps for missing data.
hackerews 2 days ago 1 reply      
this is great. i like the variety of graphs, especially heatmap. however, it'd be great to have hover effects and interactive legends with these time-series like in rickshaw and dygraphs.
whocanfly 2 days ago 1 reply      
This looks great. How do I plot a timeline where values are sum of all values that lie within a time unit, say, 1 day/1 hour?
alok-g 1 day ago 0 replies      
Are there any charting libraries that do 2D and 3D both? If not, are there separate 2D and 3D libraries with a consistent and modern look and feel?
snowwindwaves 1 day ago 0 replies      
the killer feature for me in a charting library is the ability to have multiple Y-axis scales. Say I want to have three time-series, so I am plotting efficiency in %, power in megawatts and flow in m3/s on the Y-axis and time on the x-axis, three Y-axis scales are required.

Usually I end up with multiple charts or some SCADA program has made it so the Y-axis scale changes when you select a series if there is only 1 chart.

hendry 1 day ago 0 replies      
Another time line graphing library without things like moving averages that I want. :/
lalwanivikas 2 days ago 1 reply      
Would you recommend this over FusionCharts for personal projects? (BTW FusionCharts is free for personal use
grogenaut 1 day ago 1 reply      
It'd be great to know on that front page what language it is in. Without having to browse into the git repository or extract the zip distribution.
eddd 2 days ago 1 reply      
i don't see any example how to plot real-time chart using http api - therefore this 'real-time' is not that useful.
Argorak 2 days ago 3 replies      
"Built for Developers" - well, I certainly hope so!

Who else would a JavaScript library be built for?

farnulfo 2 days ago 1 reply      
Why use a common name that have a different meaning ?
mellisarob 2 days ago 1 reply      
it seems good but more content is advisable.
Go support for Android docs.google.com
306 points by myko  7 days ago   156 comments top 21
Pxtl 7 days ago 9 replies      
So I've finally been learning to write Android Java... and honestly, as a C#/Python developer, I figured it would be easy to pick up. Holy crap, how do you people live like this?

Yeah, I'll be trying out Go for Android. Give me an excuse to learn Go. Still don't like the idea of going without generics and exceptions, but maybe it'll surprise me. I figure we're all just biding our time until Rust is ready.

notatoad 7 days ago 3 replies      
Is this an official project supported by either the Go or Android teams, or is it just an independent developer planning to take on this challenge? Who's David Crashaw?
fidotron 7 days ago 4 replies      
Intriguing. I'm not aware of much, if any, interest in Go in the games community, but there we are. C# seems to have finally taken off big time.

What would be cool/interesting is if you can write half decent audio processing code in Go for Android without the GC kicking in at the wrong moment.

They're 100% right about the broader API though.

danielrakh 7 days ago 8 replies      
Apple releases a series of books with hundreds of pages and hours of video using Swift, and Google releases a one page Google Doc proposing to use Go. And then people wonder why Apple is able to attract so many developers to their platform...
micro_cam 7 days ago 2 replies      
I've been following this and, for me, the real story here is .so support from go which they need to implement to allow this. Previously the go run time has expected to be the one running the main method. The changes to the runtime to support android will also hopefully allow go to be used for things like extending python or R.
dmoy 7 days ago 4 replies      
I am excited for this, if only because it might finally give me a random excuse to learn how to write code in Go. Does someone have more context on what the timeline for 'go 1.4' is?
eddanger 7 days ago 0 replies      
I haven't tried Go programming. I really like all these alternate programming languages/tools coming to all these platforms. Very cool. So many things to learn, so little time.

However, I like Ruby. In that department, RubyMotion the popular iOS/Mac alternate programming toolset is coming to Android. Seems the floodgates of "use your language of choice" are opening...

If you are interested in alternate languages and tool sets for your development I'd give this a look. http://www.rubymotion.com

shadowmint 7 days ago 1 reply      
It continues to amaze me that as people lay more and more interesting ways to interact with android using the ndk, even from within google itself, the official word on the NDK remains; don't use this unless you really really have to.
kriro 7 days ago 1 reply      
I've recently written my first toy app for Android (first mobile app) and it was more challenging than I thought it would be. The API seems a little odd but like I said first app so I'll have to get used to it.

Go has been on my radar since forever but I haven't written anything in it. This sounds like a cool announcement. I think my next mobile experiment will involve Apache Cordova though but now I'm tempted to give Go a shot (game is fine with me)

steeve 7 days ago 1 reply      
On a side note, it's already possible to build Android binaries with CGO as long as you use the external linker. Just build for Linux + external linked from the NDK.
xkarga00 7 days ago 0 replies      
That's really good news. I have been waiting for it for do long! Maybe Go will prove not to be suitable for Android development but still the whole ecosystem around will only gain from such an opportunity regardless.
bane 7 days ago 0 replies      
Okay, this could be interesting. I'm especially interested in how good the performance will be compared to Dalvik.
macspoofing 6 days ago 0 replies      
I expect Dart to make it to Android (officially) before Go.
napolux 7 days ago 0 replies      
"it also makes it possible to use the same code to bind to languages like Objective C" Yeah, go for it. :-/
Zigurd 7 days ago 1 reply      
> Providing a Go equivalent to the Android platform is intractable.

It may be several step beyond what a small team could do in a short time, but not intractable.

Shooting from the hip, the job looks like this:

1. Add Go language and debugging support to the ART runtime environment

2. Port the standard Go packages, using a single-architecture backend modified to produce ART compatible binaries to bootstrap

3. Add equivalent support for RPCs (AIDL) and Renderscript

4. Build equivalent APIs for those in the android.__.__ packages that make sense in Go, possibly taking this an an opportunity to redesign some APIs

5. Create equivalents for the apache.__.__ and java.__.__ that don't have equivalents or alternatives in the Go packages

6. Splice in an intermediate representation and refactor the Go compilers to be ART pre-compilers, or take the easy way out and compile go to a possibly enhanced Dalvik bytecode

It may seem daunting that Dalvik and ART embody Java runtime support, and that the current (near-future, really) toolchain goes Java -> Java bytecode (and acquires a lot of Java-oriented tooling this way) -> Dalvik bytecode -> native code precompiled for ART. But I do not think it would bloat an Android runtime too much to add Go as a first class citizen. The build chain has become a little awkward anyway with Dalvik bytecode as an intermediate step that making a Go back-end that compiles for an ART-specific intermediate language might be cleaner.

How do I put an asterisk in a comment here?

kvmosx 7 days ago 0 replies      
This is great news, good to see Google building a mobile + desktop interface with Go. Just like Apple did with Objective-C.

And yet with Go there is more use of it for CLI apps and web apps. Adding mobile to that equation just makes it even more complete.

Good job Google.

marcoms 7 days ago 0 replies      
So is this basically the NDK but using Go instead of C? I was hoping I could not use Java at all...
blinkingled 7 days ago 0 replies      
Just as I had thought they would go (pun intended) about it - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7845660
fatihpense 7 days ago 0 replies      
I think title should be "Better Go support for Android NDK" Now it seems like a linkbait. I clicked and felt so...
Naks 7 days ago 0 replies      
I myself have been wondering why this is not their original plan with Go.
juliafayre 7 days ago 0 replies      
295 points by jmnicholson  8 days ago   181 comments top 39
Steuard 7 days ago 8 replies      
The biggest issue that I see with publishing this work in a physics journal is that although time travel is certainly a concept in physics, the research involved here is not physics research. I'd describe it as sociological(?) research intended to shed light on a problem of interest to physics. That may seem like splitting hairs, but there's a real question of competence here: as a physicist, I don't feel especially qualified to assess the methods they used or the reliability of the conclusions they draw. If they were instead describing an experiment to look for anomalous travel times of neutrino pulses or something, I'd know where to start: measurement apparatus precision, clock synchronization, etc. But here the observations are based on natural language and the conclusions are based on theories of how information spreads in social networks.

Like most physicists, I have zero formal experience in this. It honestly doesn't feel like a topic for a physics journal even though a reliable positive result would have profound implications for physics. In the same way, I wouldn't expect a technical article reporting measurements of carbon flow in the environment to be published in a political science journal, even though climate change might have profound implications for global politics. [Discussion note: the validity of climate change has nothing to do with my point here.]

All that being said, I also don't find their negative result to be particular compelling. If their two search terms were "Pope Francis" and "Comet ISON" as described, well, Comet ISON was a dud (and thus won't be much of a topic in the future), and it's easy to imagine scenarios in which future time travelers would not have a particular interest in Catholic history. And that's quite apart from the possibility that time travelers would make some modest effort to avoid asking their neighbors about future events. Maybe that's all accounted for in their paper in a compelling way, but I honestly don't see any way they could ever argue for more than a very limited negative result. And I'm not convinced that's publishable in any sort of competitive journal.

suprgeek 7 days ago 3 replies      
The "Real Paper investigating Time Travel" involved Searching the the Internet for two terms.

The conclusion that these searches, even if they had been found, (which they were not) implied "time traveling Internet savvy people from the future searching for events in their past" is a staggering leap.

Might as well theorize fairies from another dimension materialized into ours to poke fun at internet search analyzers.

I am surprised this thing was even published, given that it was based off a monumental leap that ignored Occam's Razor, did not find anything the authors hoped to find and was failure both on the theorizing and the finding front.

The system (flawed as it may be) worked for once.

bentoner 8 days ago 2 replies      
It's not surprising to me that no physics journals would accept it. Physics journals are, sadly, extremely wary of accepting anything that seems philosophical.

For example, serious people writing serious papers on the foundations of quantum mechanics used to have a hell of a time getting them published. To give a particular example (and I hope I'm not mis-remembering), I don't think Lucien Hardy was able to get this paper [1] accepted. (It now has 215 citations.)

[1] Lucien Hardy, Quantum Theory From Five Reasonable Axioms [quant-ph/0101012], https://scirate.com/arxiv/quant-ph/0101012

meric 8 days ago 3 replies      
"In the response, the editor said that (s)he has now sent the article out to another editor, one who is quite famous in this area, but who also agreed that this paper should be rejected without being sent out for peer review. In this reply, the famous editor said:

"I should point out that most stock markets around the planet devote considerable resources to looking for temporally anomalous market behavior --- unusual trading patterns before significant news events. When found, such signals are not typically attributed to time travelers, but more prosaically to insider trading."

I agree! This is one reason why we did not look for evidence of time travel in stock market trading. Early on, our group had discussed (briefly) this idea. On one hand, I was glad that finally we had a real criticism to address, but on the other hand, this famous editor's comment indicated to me, once again, that the journal editors did not fully appreciate the novelty, power, simplicity, and falsifiability of our approach. Instead, they gave straw-man criticisms that really meant, in my view, that they did not want to consider a manuscript so unconventional. In my reply, I argued in detail against this criticism and again asked that the manuscript at least be sent out for formal peer review"

I think what the response meant may be - even if a tweet about Pope Francis before Pope Francis was pope was found, it isn't sufficient to prove time travel exist - the tweeter could have a uncle who is involved in vatican politics and the tweeter read some of his uncle's notes. The stock market example was an analogy.

jostmey 8 days ago 1 reply      
And if that paper had landed on my desk for review in a top journal, I would have rejected it too! Just because it has the top "Almetric score" means nothing other than it was popular in the social media circles. Where was the tangible scientific contribution in this manuscript? This paper did do a wonderful job of gaining attention, though.
mseebach 7 days ago 3 replies      
I think the methodology of the paper is flawed. Why would a time traveller from the future be discussing "Comet ISON" or "Pope Francis"? According to Wikipedia, comet ISON wasn't ever bright enough to spot with the naked eye, and thus left no significant impact on humanity. It's obviously too early to decide if Pope Francis will leave a deep, significant impact, but odds are against it.

For this methodology to really work, you'd need to look for mentions of someone like Hitler in the 1920s (and that's not even evidence of anything as Hitler was slowly ascending to power during the 1920s). But again, why would a time traveller talk about Hitler then? Presumably a time traveller would either be very, very cautious to not be identified, or not, in which case he'd likely get himself revealed through carelessness.

On the other hand, I find it odd that they brush off analyzing the stock market (or any market, really). A cautious time traveller wouldn't buy into the market just before a sudden movement, that would attract way too much attention from insider trade authorities etc. Identify "black swan" events (dot com crash, 2007 financial crash), and look at people who slowly offloaded their assets prior to it. Identify "underdogs" that became huge (eg. Apple in the 90s) and look at people who slowly brought into it during that period.

mherdeg 7 days ago 1 reply      
This sounds like a good candidate for submission to the Journal of Articles in Support of the Null Hypothesis, my favorite journal, http://www.jasnh.com/ .
madaxe_again 8 days ago 4 replies      
It could be worse. You could have published a paper on gravity shielding, and be shunned for the rest of time. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_Podkletnov
kenjackson 7 days ago 2 replies      
This paper makes a very fundamental mistake, IMO. If you were to time travel to the future and do a query, you wouldn't query about a past event. You'd query about a present event.

For example, if time travel were created today, we wouldn't go back to 2000 and query about something that happened in 2001. We'd query about Lebron James or Obama.

They should be looking for queries about technology/people/events that are relevant/interesting in the era when time travel is done. Unfortunately, in order to know that you probably need to time travel to the future. :-)

gb 8 days ago 4 replies      
Perhaps no evidence was found because people from the future have seen this paper and therefore know not to reveal themselves this way!
lisper 7 days ago 1 reply      
I see little difference between searching for evidence of time travel on the internet and searching for evidence of pink unicorns on the internet. Current theory predicts that we should not find evidence of either one, nor any evidence of ESP, telekinesis, or a zillion other phenomena. So searching for evidence of these phenomena and failing is about as interesting as searching for evidence of anti-gravity by dropping a few dozen apples and failing.
jckt 7 days ago 2 replies      
Slightly off-topic, but normally HN is scientifically sound when physics or any other science is mentioned. But when it comes to time-travel/FTL, I can't help but feel that half the posters here seem to almost want it to be true. Or at least seem to think that all of our physics knowledge is worthless when it comes to FTL et al. Or is everyone just having a laugh?
corry 7 days ago 4 replies      
Imagine: Google itself could find proof of this, given that it's organizing the world's information. In fact, Google is one of the only entities that could actually 'prove' this out.

What would they do if they identified the time traveller? Locate him/her? Use his knowledge to further their plans? The knowledge may be potentially world-changing; whoever finds the traveller will be in a very powerful position.

Script idea: Eccentric googler finds proof of this and the company secretly finds the individual. Wild goose chase ensues. State actors get involved. I'd pay to see that.

If this had already happened, would we even know?

methodover 7 days ago 0 replies      
If one did find searches of Pope Francis before his appointment, reasonable explanations would include:

1) A random guess.2) Unintentional data storage (I.e., the search was made after the appointment but was stored incorrectly as happening in the past.)3) Deliberate doctoring of data. I.e., a hoax.

And probably a few other cases I'm not thinking of, all of which would be more reasonable than 'It's a man from the future.'

araes 7 days ago 1 reply      
I'd be interested to see what arXiv's Impact Factor was if it was calculated like a standard publisher (if possible). I would guess it might be a top ten, based on my anecdotal encounter rate with arXiv (I may self select) and it seems like we're moving into another encyclopaedia situation (open Wikipedia stomps heavily curated Britannica).

Frankly, can't wait. Despite all the editor conflict, Wikipedia is still one of the best inventions of the new millennia and if we eventually evolve towards having all SOTA research publicly accessible at our fingertips anywhere ... heaven.

kator 8 days ago 1 reply      
Best Quote: "Possibly publication could be coupled with a small amount of Kickstarter-like funding. Cain and I have not discussed the idea further -- we are both too busy -- but if anyone out there on the Internet wants to explore this idea further, consider me a supporter."
PaulHoule 8 days ago 4 replies      
For a paper like that I'd expect to see Haruhi Suzumiya as a co-author.
jimhefferon 7 days ago 0 replies      
I know this isn't the point of the article, but surely if you were a time traveller you wouldn't bet on the stock market and risk being found out or have your cash confiscated? Surely you'd research a financial instrument that has existed for a long time before your now and go back and make a modest investment in it.

You could do a number of things that are more subtle to establish ways for the investment to not be noticed, by moving the money around, etc., but I expect that your main concern would be how to fly under the radar while compounding works.

In fact, perhaps people in the time-travellers world who want to invest into their future would be chiefly concerned that time travellers in their future are coming back and dominating all the investments without ever plowing the proceeds back into their present ..

terranstyler 7 days ago 0 replies      
I somehow hoped the blog article would say that the submission was rejected because it was not novel because someone just published a similar article a few weeks before.

Now that would have been a refutation of time travel...

digz 7 days ago 0 replies      
I went to a conference* in 1994 in which Kip Thorne gave a talk on time travel. He made an offhand comment about evidence that backwards time-travel does not occur that was along similar lines. 2 points: 1) Not inconsistent for 'real' physicists to think about these issues. 2) I don't think this work is as novel in concept as the author thinks.

* Was for Carl Sagan's 60th birthday... was intended for serious audience of big time scientists but was intended to entertain.

andy_ppp 7 days ago 1 reply      
Of course it might be Precognition as opposed to Time Travel. The paper makes no attempt to differentiate between the two, just assuming Time Travel.

They have also not factored in the obvious assertion that given the publicity of the paper, any 'time travellers' to this time obviously do not want to be detected and as such probably spend their time writing scientific papers debunking their own existence.

hesselink 7 days ago 0 replies      
Great article, but I was annoyed that in an online science publishing platform, this article contained no links, but textual references that the reader had to look up manually.
aman_abhishk 4 days ago 0 replies      
Essentially, it must be noted that physics and any kind of science is driven by concrete data and mathematical analysis. This work is speculative, in very speculative at that. What he wrote is not a "paper", its probably an interesting article.
feralmoan 7 days ago 0 replies      
Concept attenuation.... don't think many 57th Century Ultra-monkeys (or drones, or praeter-singularity-humans or whatever) will know or care anything about the Pope. Brilliant thought experiment though, and love that it tests the bounds of discipline and rigour!!!
Swizec 8 days ago 0 replies      
I LOVED THIS PAPER! Summarised this paper in my 52papers project! [1] Definitely one of the most interesting papers I've read so far.

I should stop being side-tracked from that project, last post made over two months ago ...

[1] http://swizec.com/blog/week-11-searching-the-internet-for-ev...

radarsat1 7 days ago 0 replies      
> I mentioned this to my wife who surprised me by saying that she herself has seen -- or knew about -- every Dr. Who episode since the modern reboot in 2005


sriku 6 days ago 0 replies      
Did they consider facts about events added to Wikipedia before they actually happened? :) [1]

[1] http://xkcd.com/978/ - 'Citogenesis'

Shivetya 7 days ago 0 replies      
well if anything its easily proved that time travel is not possible within the lifespans of those searching for it for would they not try to reveal that to their past selves?
garretraziel 7 days ago 1 reply      
This reminds me of xkcd's "what if" Project.
sharemywin 7 days ago 0 replies      
"Does Tax Payer Money Burn Any Better Than Regular Money?" (Nemiroff & Wilson 2014). too funny...
stuartd 7 days ago 0 replies      
Seems a bit unfair as "The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline" was published in 1948.
brianolson 7 days ago 1 reply      
I wanted the punch line to be, "The Time Lords showed up and insisted we halt all experimentation."
rasz_pl 7 days ago 0 replies      
Method described would work only on Time Travellers that are stuck in our time with no technical means of going back and no detailed documented knowledge of current time [1]. Two queries chosen (pope and some comet) are non significant in daily life. You would be lucky to find 1 in 10000 people that ever in their lives formulated a question about those subjects out loud. In my opinion it would be more prudent to look for signs of prior knowledge about natural disasters. Stranded time traveller will be more interested in avoiding tsunami, earthquake, tornado or a flood, and will most likely know general time frame instead of detailed dates (unless he possesses [1] device).

*1: $25 WikiReader Pocket Wikipedia


Something tells me time traveller from the future would have modernized equivalent.

untilHellbanned 7 days ago 0 replies      
Onarbor, https://onarbor.com, is a peer-reviewed journal that would certainly let you publish this.
askura 7 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting but an obvious result to be honest.
zenciadam 7 days ago 0 replies      
I'm from 1843. Nice to meet you.
NoMoreNicksLeft 7 days ago 2 replies      
Whenever I mention my skepticism of the peer review mechanism, someone is always quick to claim how important and special it is, and that I should have faith in it.

Here, they reject a paper and refuse even to peer review it. They refuse to explain why they feel it unacceptable. It comes from a scientist who has already published, and in the relevant fields.

If they'll do this because of the slight risk of someone making fun of it, what will they do when the paper is politically inconvenient?

brento 7 days ago 2 replies      
Anyone have a TL;DR version?
h1karu 7 days ago 0 replies      
dicey subject area, and it's probably not God playing the dice :)
294 points by ashbrahma  1 day ago   109 comments top 22
sz4kerto 21 hours ago 8 replies      
"Bill and I talk about this with our kids at the dinner table. Bill worked incredibly hard and took risks and made sacrifices for success. But there is another essential ingredient of success, and that ingredient is luck absolute and total luck.

When were you born? Who were your parents? Where did you grow up? None of us earned these things. They were given to us."

Totally true, and very important to remember, especially for the HN crowd.

qeorge 22 hours ago 6 replies      
Reminder: you aren't Bill or Melinda Gates, but you are still rich from software. Maybe you could spend some of your funny money on someone else's healthcare?

I just sponsored a hysterectomy for $180 (1 year of Netflix) in 3 clicks on Watsi. That's crazy.

Maybe you can sponsor someone too: https://watsi.org/fund-treatments

jenius 19 hours ago 0 replies      
This is so, so good. An upvote alone is not enough to get across how much I appreciate this. These are the principles I've built the plans for my entire life around, these principles are at the core of who I am as a person. Seeing such an eloquently put and important message like this appreciated by so many people is absolutely incredible. Huge, huge respect for bill and melinda gates for the work that they have done and the good message they are spreading.
purephase 22 hours ago 0 replies      
tubbs 21 hours ago 0 replies      
I know it's cliche to have the founder of Microsoft be your idol person when going into software development, but Bill Gates is certainly worthy of that position. We at HN (an overwhelming portion, anyway) are so comfortable in our lives. Even little sacrifices could change the world for some of those less fortunate. Imagine what big sacrifices could do - they could change entire villages, countries, even continents. Think big. Even if you aim to help millions and only affect a few, your work was not in vain.

This was a really inspiring read, thanks OP.

pcunite 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Incredibly introspective and appropriate coming from one of the most successful people on earth.


eshvk 21 hours ago 0 replies      
This was truly phenomenal. I grew up in some of the poorest places, went through a lot of shit before things got better. It is really really hard to go through all that and come out with optimism and hope for the world, or even think you can make a difference as one human. Good on the Gates for believing that and having the resources to push this forward.
leaveyou 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Powerful. So much money and still big souls. There is hope.
xophe 18 hours ago 0 replies      
"Optimism is often dismissed as false hope. But there is also false hopelessness."

A poetic touch from a tech genius of our generation.

aik 16 hours ago 0 replies      
illini123 22 hours ago 1 reply      
> Let your heart break. It will change what you do with your optimism.
rpandey1234 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Here are some of the highlights of the speech on Youtube tagged by time: http://www.deebrief.com/#!/consume/53a37a3ba109a8020091e663
graycat 16 hours ago 0 replies      
I've long guessed, and this OP reinforces that, that much of what Bill and Melinda are doing now wasdriven by Melinda 'selling' Bill on some values that Melinda deeply held and got fromher nuns and the Catholic church. But, yes, thestory of Bill's visit to Soweto showed thatsome of Bill's own experiences made him fertileground for Melinda's values and goals.

I may be underestimating Bill's initial drivefor their work now, but generally I have toguess that Melinda is the main hero here.Oh, not to forget, one little thing Melinda did:She talked both Bill and Warren into handing over,what, ballpark $100 billion? Then for her secondday, the set up a value that all wealthy peopleshould give about 50% of their wealth tophilanthropy and got, apparently, quite a listof wealthy people to do just that.

Another good thing to respect about them clearlyseems to be their marriage; it looks likeon of their beet examples. Perhaps not justcoincidentally, their love and relationship,if more widely followed, would have helped those woman and children abandoned in South Asia.My view is that their example of a good marriageis huge not just for themselves but fortheir goals of curing poverty, that is, it iseasy to see that letting marriage break is oneof the biggest wastes in civilization, in particular,leading to poverty and the problems they are nowtrying to solve.

Why so many people are so eagerto bust up their marriages, or just not be verydevoted to each other at all, seems to be agrand determination to extract miserable defeat fromthe voracious jaws of magnificent victory and justinexplicable.

Congratulations to them both.

pitchups 22 hours ago 2 replies      
> "If we have optimism, but we don't have empathy then it doesn't matter how much we master the secrets of science, we're not really solving problems; we're just working on puzzles." Brilliant and moving!
indianheart 16 hours ago 0 replies      
I wonder why these scumbags choose my country ( India ) for painting poor life conditions always ? Agreed, there are cases of extreme poverty, but so in US, Africa, Brazil ( yeah, hosting world cup !) , Eastern Europe etc. Why pick India for prostitution ? As if in US there is no prostitution.Why not pick on own country. Just look at backpage.com thousands and thousands of girls doing open prostitution. How is that good thing ? or not a poor thing ? I wonder if there was political agenda for picking India ( since we are good friends with Russia ).Bill Gates is not a hero. Did you read stories from Paul Allen ( another co-founder those who don't know )?

here is the link : http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2011/04/15/microsof...

Why Stanford , a prestigious university, would invite such scumbags ?

If Gates favors so much of charity why not donate everything except $1 Billion ? Are $1 billion not sufficient to live for rest of the life ?

Is his charity ( which comes to around 30 %) a simply proxy for tax saving ??

Whatever may be reason , please stop painting India a bad country.

I am from India , lived in America for 10 yrs before returning , travelled all over US and I can tell you there are classes, hungry people, children / women related crimes all over the place. So first look at your own country, how they are killing people in other countries and then lecture others.

Worst commencement speech in history of Stanford I would say.

imranq 22 hours ago 2 replies      
hmm, that's interesting. I posted this last week, but no bites...maybe because I'm a newbie.

Anyway, a great duo-commencement speech, which inspires and provides some real-world advice

bby 21 hours ago 0 replies      
bill go hard
roadnottaken 19 hours ago 0 replies      
"a college in the suburbs of Boston"

love this

caruana 22 hours ago 0 replies      
That was very moving, I'm not sure how it hasn't been voted onto the front page.
bayesianhorse 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Remind me, which university did Bill Gates graduate from, again? ;-)
onmydesk 18 hours ago 6 replies      
Im going to be down voted for this.

To me, the speech was fairly embarrassing. Its as though some rich people saw some poor people on a poor person safari. Now they come back to tell of what they saw, as if everyone in their audience would be just as amazed at such things as they were.

Perhaps for a stanford graduate audience that is true?

Theres suffering in the world!? :O

Thats what I was left with. No-one rational could disagree with their points, the validity of the foundations purpose, etc etc and all of that.

But the speech made me cringe a little.

tnuc 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Bill Gates has good intentions and in some cases is doing well.

If only he wasn't so swayed by the likes of Geoffrey Sachs and Bono.There is a great book written by Nina Munk about Sachs, if only Gates could try and change his mind and look at it a little differently.


283 points by JoshTheGeek  2 days ago   194 comments top 45
sp332 2 days ago 4 replies      
The squished-up word is the control word, and the straight one is the unknown one. You only need to get the wavy word right and just guess at all the cut-off examples.
smackfu 2 days ago 5 replies      
Here's something interesting. If I go to the ReCaptcha demo page in Chrome that is logged in to Google, I get all house numbers, a lot of which seem like easy OCR. If go to the same demo page in Incognito mode, I get the two word version instead, like this blog is complaining about.


incision 2 days ago 1 reply      
I was just thinking this yesterday when I had to recover a Flickr account I hadn't used in ages. I had to solve captchas from Yahoo and Microsoft.

The Yahoo captcha used rotating, bouncing letters on a scrolling background of more letters - ridiculous. Microsoft's was just a typical smeared mess, but no easier to actually solve.

I think I failed each at least 3 times.

It's not just difficult captchas, but use of them everywhere. The site my university recommends for ordering textbooks starts inserting captchas if one searches more often than perhaps twice within a minute. Another I can't recall the details of requires a captcha solve to make any sort of profile change despite being previously authenticated.

joshfraser 2 days ago 2 replies      
I'll repost this once again. Why you should never use a CAPTCHA:http://www.onlineaspect.com/2010/07/02/why-you-should-never-...
nsxwolf 2 days ago 3 replies      
The audio captchas are psychotic. They are scarier sounding than anything I've heard in a horror movie lately, and I have never been able to solve one.
izzydata 1 day ago 2 replies      
Lately I've noticed 90% of my captcha's being a single number. That is it. A number like "1057" with nothing else. what do they honestly expect me to do with this?

Basically I have to fill in the number and then guess whether it was the first or second set of characters and fill out bogus before or after the number and hope I got it right. The numbers weren't even hard for a computer to read. The only thing it does is waste everyones' time.

gildas 2 days ago 1 reply      
Here's the one I got on linkedin recently


joelgrus 2 days ago 1 reply      
I always worry that they're getting harder because I'm getting old, so it's comforting that an arms race against bots is the real cause! :)
andmarios 2 days ago 0 replies      
I have this fear that skynet originally started as a captcha solver algorithm. :p
yaroslavvb 1 day ago 0 replies      
We found that neural networks can solve CAPTCHAS much better than humans, 99.8% on the "hard" ReCAPTCHA instances: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1312.6082.pdf

This is why visual recognition is just one of the signals you need to use to tell humans and computers apart http://googleonlinesecurity.blogspot.com/2014/04/street-view...

pbreit 2 days ago 2 replies      
I can't believe we have not figured out something better than captchas by 2014. I would imagine Google could figure at least how to bake something into Chrome which many would eventually follow. It's asinine that all legit customers have to go through such a silly, completely unrelated hoop.
Fice 2 days ago 1 reply      
Dear website owners, please, do not use reCaptcha. As was noted in other comments, Google discriminates against the users who try to protect their privacy by showing them nearly unsolvable variant. For instance, I see the hard version all the time since I started to use Privacy Badger for Firefox. It is also not impossible that they discriminate by user-agent.

And generally it is a very bad idea to choose the most popular service among the alternatives, as by doing so you are contributing to the centralization and monopolization of the Internet.

companyhen 2 days ago 5 replies      
What is everyone thoughts on this type of CAPTCHA?


aluhut 2 days ago 1 reply      
I realised an intersting thing there. I also get those complex captaches using firefox. But I also have an Opera12.17 running. With this one my captchas for the same page are ridiculousy easy. Sometimes it's just an house number. One item. I never had one even close to what I get on FF.
vinc 2 days ago 2 replies      
We need a browser extension to help us solve captchas with OCR. This is indeed ridiculous.
Tarang 2 days ago 0 replies      
I have to type this awful thing every time I log into Envato and I can never get it right. It's so frustrating. Envato refuse to acknowledge its an issue.

I don't even get the point of it since you can get passed them by just hiring people off like at http://antigate.com/ for as little as 70c per 1000 captchas

Aardwolf 2 days ago 1 reply      
If computers get so good at solving captchas, are we also getting better OCR?

Time to switch to next, harder, AI problems as captchas :)

Pinckney 2 days ago 4 replies      
The problem isn't captchas, but users not understanding how to interact with them. So what if a few are bad? Hammer out best guesses, fast as you can, until you're successful. It's not as if you're graded on accuracy. There is no reason to ever resort to the refresh button,

Out of curiosity, I went and opened the demo page (https://www.google.com/recaptcha/demo/ajax) in a new incognito window and timed myself. I can do about 8/minute at maybe 90% accuracy.

Captchas are only a problem if you compulsively refresh in hopes of getting something clear.

Houshalter 2 days ago 1 reply      
A paper came out awhile ago showing that neural networks are extremely vulnerable to adversarial examples [1]. They showed even slight perturbations of an image generated with their method could cause NNs to misclassify it, but appear no different at all to a human. I am interested if methods like this could be used to extend the life of CAPTCHA a bit longer, even as computers are starting to beat even humans at object recognition tasks.


mathattack 1 day ago 0 replies      
I believe that this will eventually become a losing game. Normally there's an arms race between those creating security and those thwarting it. In this case, once the recognition schemes are as good as humans, the game is over for good.
nikanj 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think it's time to move to the ultimate captcha: "Is this post spam?"

Then we just hope that the spammers create a perfect solver again :)

wmf 2 days ago 0 replies      
Since 2012 there have been some changes that make it easier under "normal" conditions: http://googleonlinesecurity.blogspot.com/2013/10/recaptcha-j...
tempestn 2 days ago 2 replies      
Is it not obvious in the first case that "secretary" is the unknown word? Clearly ocr wasn't able to read it due to the fading. Likewise, the cut off words spanning two lines in the later versions are obviously the unknown words. The author states right at the beginning that he understands there is a control and an unknown word; he then proceeds to "hope" that the obvious unknown word is the control in the first case, then skip numerous captchas where the control word is straightforward and the illegible word is obviously the unknown. This certainly sounds like willful ignorance for the sake of a blog post.

Also, 'Onightsl? Onighisl? Are those even words?' No, my understanding is that dictionary words are never used as the control, so as not to be vulnerable to dictionary attacks.

Edit: I'm not suggesting that these captchas are in any way good; they do clearly have issues. I'm just saying that storyline in the blog post seems contrived. To me it would be more convincing if presented in a more genuine manner. However, perhaps he was simply very unlucky.

Tycho 2 days ago 1 reply      
If only we could invent the verbal equivalent of a trapdoor function. A word puzzle that would be extremely easy for computers to generate and humans to solve (since we understand language), but extremely hard for computers to solve.
wingerlang 2 days ago 2 replies      
Off topic slightly, but does people with dyslexia have a hard time with captchas?
atoponce 15 hours ago 0 replies      
I've said it before, I'll say it again: hashcash.
adestefan 2 days ago 1 reply      
I've recently seen a bunch of them with just one number. Just a single 7 or 4 on a white background and nothing else. Kind of scratch my head at those ones.
pertinhower 1 day ago 0 replies      
Shoulda stopped at number 5: "and khseeke" seemed pretty clear to me.

But point taken.

ademsha 2 days ago 0 replies      
[shameless blog post promo ahead]

One simple way for minimizing junk going through automated submits. Idea without using recaptcha at all:http://ademsha.com/notes/simple-proposal-to-stop-spam-going-...

It works only with JS enabled and uses randomization in order to stop bots learning how to avoid it.

pbhjpbhj 2 days ago 0 replies      
Recent discussion, https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7419667 (there are others)

Also a couple of examples http://alicious.com/hard-recaptcha-huh/.

paulmd 2 days ago 0 replies      

Pretty neatly conveys the feelings on this topic.

asaegyn 2 days ago 0 replies      
It took me about 30 min and >15 captcha's before I could register for this site. The audio didn't help either...

They are getting ridiculous.

bryan_rasmussen 2 days ago 0 replies      
hmm, I have to say I haven't had a recaptcha that bad yet, but I have had some bad ones....But uh... on the first bad recaptcha when trying to guess their password they thought - this recaptcha is ridiculous I will try to solve it of course but just right now I am also going to screenshot it because this is naturally the first thing I think to do!
mmagin 2 days ago 1 reply      
I experienced animated GIF captchas with Yahoo's login process. Not sure if that was better or worse than reCaptcha.
hammock 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's difficult, but I was able to read all of those captchas (the wavy ones). Maybe it's a special skill?
mcv 2 days ago 1 reply      
There are plenty of tricks around Visual Captchas. What you need is a semantic captcha that's only recognizable as such by a human. Hide a simple question somewhere in a piece of text.
opendais 2 days ago 1 reply      
I agree that those captchas are obscenely bad. :)

I think we really, really need a replacement solution for them that works as reliably vs. bots.

sebmarion 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is where Facebook comes in handy! Please add your captchas there: https://www.facebook.com/IHateCaptchas?fref=ts
talles 2 days ago 2 replies      
This made me remember: I once saw a website with a moving captcha.

Can't remember where I saw. Anyone knows?

progx 2 days ago 0 replies      
Alternatives exists, but the usage is low.

A simple solution is google Authenticator (or similar systems).

The only problem is a system for all kind of users and equipment.

kkhire 2 days ago 0 replies      
If i am relaxing back and have to enter a difficult captcha to watch a movie, I am not watching that movie.
vegancap 2 days ago 0 replies      
I had one read 'drink issue' once... Wasn't sure if normal capture or advice.
me1010 2 days ago 2 replies      
Easy...A stereogram "captcha" ...What's the hidden 3D image?More fun too...http://www.brainbashers.com/stereo.asp
hippich 2 days ago 0 replies      
It is funny how link [1] from my app solving this problem got more upvotes :)

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7944540

277 points by getdavidhiggins  6 days ago   130 comments top 43
kemayo 5 days ago 0 replies      
I note that the app store reviews[1] mention that it does a lot of forced ad-watching. One says "must sit through a 10 second bright full screen ad for bladder medication upon opening". This seems counterproductive for an app that you may want to glance at during the film, to say the least...

[1]: https://itunes.apple.com/app/id450326239?mt=8

Brajeshwar 5 days ago 7 replies      
In India, we have mandatory breaks somewhere in the middle of all movies. Even for Hollywood Movies, it is just shut off, sometimes right in the middle of a fight or an intense scene. We pee, have snacks and make phone calls. :-)

My first reaction when I saw Sin City somewhere in Detroit was, "How long is this movie?" Then I realize why everyone had popcorns and everything before the movie starts.

paul9290 6 days ago 3 replies      
We created something similar, but it lets you listen to the movies audio on your device using headphones.

We have a live demo on our site if interested - http://speakerblast.com.

We think 4D movies; movies that gets the audiences' devices involved into the experience could be a way of the future. Similar to the texting PSA in China created by Volkswagen (very effective).

patrickdavey 5 days ago 1 reply      
I went to the movies on Friday, the guy in the seat ahead was looking at his (bright) phone ~ 5-10 times during the movie.. it was pretty annoying. I really hope this sort of thing doesn't become the norm to be honest!
mleonhard 5 days ago 1 reply      
The Android app demands permission to access Photos/Media/Files. This app has no reason to read my images, videos, audio, or external storage. :(

Not installing.

skrebbel 5 days ago 3 replies      
I hope that a few movie directors see this app and will make it their next challenge to not allow any convenient pee break.

I guess "Crank" comes quite close.

mikestew 4 days ago 0 replies      
Movies in the U. S. used to have intermissions. _2001_ has been mentioned here. More recently, _Tess of the D'Urbervilles_ and _Ghandi_ in the 80s. (All of these from memory, I'm sure there are other examples.) It seems that after that cinemas just didn't do it anymore.

I understand that cinemas want you in and out as quickly as possible. At the same it would seem they can sell more high-margin soft drinks and popcorn if folks are given the opportunity to do so. In fact, there's no way in hell I'm buying anything at all even before the movie starts if I know it's a 3 hour "epic" that won't have an intermission. I'm going into that with a bladder that resembles Death Valley.

kyberias 6 days ago 3 replies      
Here's a metric for the overall quality of a given film: the relative amount of pee-time.
drallison 5 days ago 4 replies      
There is another, less high-tech, approach. Use Depend(TM)underwear or equivalent and simply pee as needed. Simple and non-disruptive to the movie experience of other patrons in the theater. Seems to me that the urge to solve all problems with an App is not a good trend.
smoyer 6 days ago 1 reply      
I usually make sure I've emptied myself out before the movie starts, then return to the "loo" sometime after the movie has completed. If the director left a scene in a movie, at least one person thought it was important enough to be watched ... after screening a film, I sometimes think the whole movie was a pee-time.
tobych 5 days ago 1 reply      
If this app were ever to be wildly successful, enough people would try to leave the theater at the same time that cinema operators would either lock the toilets or start having intermissions.
benbristow 6 days ago 4 replies      
Decent idea but don't cinemas normally frown on people using phones during a film?
Yahivin 5 days ago 0 replies      
Why not just stream the scene to you on your phone while you're in the bathroom?
tootie 5 days ago 1 reply      
I have to ask: why is this an app and not a web site?
fiatjaf 5 days ago 1 reply      
There should be a category for this kind of project (and a lot of others): "too much work for too little benefit".

I really think there are more important things to do with all this technology.

brownbat 5 days ago 0 replies      
I guess we're at the point where each of us carry around sufficient technology to give us subtitles on demand, useful if we missed a few lines of dialogue.

(We're probably not socially or legally cool with that, though.)

Ooh, a more experimental place like the Alamo Drafthouse might be able to pull off restrooms attached to each individual theater, simulcasting the show onto screens in there. Licensing for extra screens, even tiny ones, might be complicated though...

Here's to home viewing I guess.

turnip1979 6 days ago 1 reply      
I pee right before a movie starts. I try my best not to have any soda during the movie for this very reason. Still, sometimes, I have to go. You realize that bladders get naturally weaker for some individuals as they age right?
ChuckMcM 5 days ago 0 replies      
At some point these folks: http://www.oneonthego.com/ will sense a marketing opportunity.
mhb 5 days ago 0 replies      
gpvos 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is what smartphones were made for.
makeset 5 days ago 0 replies      
I've been using RunPee for a long time, and it's been fantastic. Yes, they broke it a couple of times, but whatever, seems fine now. If I have to get a new phone, the essentials I need are text, email, maps, and RunPee.
cjf4 5 days ago 1 reply      
I remember hearing Jordan Palmer (Carson Palmer's little brother) talk about this on Hard Knocks a few years ago.
dallasgutauckis 5 days ago 1 reply      
I made a mock integration of this for a coding challenge in NYC last week and won a free Android Wear watch: https://plus.google.com/103860840652017295649/posts/5qQ2djiV...

They should implement something similar, given the watch concept is significantly less intrusive and bright.

jbkkd 5 days ago 1 reply      
I'd love to see an app the combines Popcorn time with this. Instead of just reading about the missed parts, it'll stream the relevant part on your phone.Obviously it would have to be legal, therefore with some kind of partnership with the studios, and should recognize the scene you left the movie.

That is, if you're ok with using a phone while peeing.

Jehar 3 days ago 0 replies      
This leads to what strikes me as a potentially negative heuristic for determining what moments in a given film have worth. Summer flick drivel aside, would RunPee assign a high pee time to, say, Drive, which has a significant amount of mood-setting long shots without any dialogue or plot-relevant action?

Excuse me for probably taking this too far, but this app seems to imply that films are merely the sum of plot-related scenes, and that doesn't sit quite well with me. Would the app consider every establishing shot in Alien to be pee-able?

mhb 5 days ago 0 replies      
Opportunity for integration with Arduino-Based Bathroom Occupancy Detector:


kmfrk 5 days ago 1 reply      
Last I used it, they pushed an update that completely broke the app, because the performance was so bad. I loved it before, but the ratings suggest it's still bricked, so let someone buy the app, before you do.
meshko 5 days ago 0 replies      
But if this app ever becomes really popular it will render itself useless because there will be huge lines in the bathrooms.
afterburner 5 days ago 1 reply      
Great use for RunPee: finding out if any movie has extra scenes after the credits.
shekhar101 6 days ago 1 reply      
Are those celeb reviews for real? Excellent app :D
foreigner 6 days ago 1 reply      
I use this app on Android. It's awesome. My only criticism is it's ad-supported. I would gladly pay lots of money for am ad-free version of this app.
sareon 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is a great idea but I don't think it's unique. I remember a similar app that was on the iPhone when those apps first came out. I remember looking at it but it had a cost to download it so I never did use it. I just can't remember what it was called.
kken 6 days ago 0 replies      
I had to laugh
apricot 4 days ago 0 replies      
I envision an app called "Monkey Pissing" that enables users to reserve their spot at the urinal during specific times. "Get paid $13 an hour just to piss!"
stefan_kendall3 6 days ago 1 reply      
I can't make it through a movie without peeing at least once, if not twice. The app works well.
facepalm 6 days ago 3 replies      
Great idea, but how do they find the good times - simply by watching all movies? That might get old pretty fast.
emeidi 5 days ago 0 replies      
Silicon Valley, saving the world, one app at a time ...
seshakiran 5 days ago 0 replies      
Would this tell where the bathrooms are located and how long will it take you to get there and back? May be that will help to decide to leave or not. Imaginne getting notifications from the bathroom that you have a stall available to Run and Pee :D
auvi 6 days ago 0 replies      
innovation, at the vanguard
qwerta 6 days ago 0 replies      
That is great idea.
zwieback 6 days ago 4 replies      
For guys, if you use this app too often you might want to have your prostate checked out. I used to leave in the middle of a movie but post-op cancer surgery I luckily don't need this app anymore. I was in my early 40s when I was diagnosed so it's not just old geezers who should be aware. Luckily most cases are benign, though.
ignu 6 days ago 2 replies      
yes, please use your bright-ass smart phone in the middle of the movie theater. distract every person behind you while you figure out when would be the most convenient time for you to pee.

(this is why i don't go to movies anymore.)

linker3000 6 days ago 3 replies      
I'd rather have an app that screens all the other moviegoers so that I can arrange to sit in an area where I'm not surrounded by people who have some kind of Pavlovian response that 'movie' = 'feed my face with crunchy popcorn, slurpy drinks and sweets from a noisy plastic bag'.

People: You will not die if you go without carbs for a couple of hours.

276 points by nkurz  7 days ago   273 comments top 29
x0054 7 days ago 7 replies      
It is stunning that a public school teacher apparently makes almost 2x what a college teacher makes, at least in California. Mind you, I am not arguing that school teachers should make less, collage profs should make more. This is amazing though, were is the money going.

Anecdotally, I think a lot of the money is spent on outside services through a corrupt bidding process. Back in 2008 I used to run a document scanning company. We did large contracts for the state of California and the Four Seasons Hotel chain. We had glowing recommendations from all of our customers, including a lot of large businesses in San Diego. So, foolishly, we thought we could toss our hat into the ring when UCSD started looking for a company to do their document management. Our bid was (based on what we could find out) roughly 1/2 of the winning bid. We had all the required bonds, same quality, faster turnaround time, and we offered more services. We didn't get the job. So UCSD paid twice as much for the same document scanning service, meanwhile some poor adjunkt professor is eating cat food! Great!

hibikir 7 days ago 1 reply      
I think this is a natural result of having so many kids that have no idea of what to do in life.

Take a snapshot of the labor force of a country. Then try to figure out how many of those professions a high school kid understands. Do they know what those people find rewarding about their job? What they don't? Do they have any idea of how an entire career might look like? They don't. So when you ask one of those kids what they'll want to do when they stop formal education, they'll go back to the few things that they are taught are desirable, and the few other occupations that are close to them. One of which, for every single kid, is to teach, since they've been surrounded by them all their lives.

Keeping studying after getting a Bachelor's is also a very tempting option for kids that are afraid of change. Think of something very different from college, or get a master's? Go look for a job, or get a Ph.D? Inertia makes some people go for advanced degrees, even though they don't really understand the road they are getting into.

I know plenty of people who finished a Ph.D, started doing post docs, then realized that now their options had narrowed significantly, that the tenure track was not going to happen any time soon, so their options were to become adjuncts, study even more to consider teaching at a high school, or accept that 5-10 years worth of education was completely wasted. This leads to a major glut of qualified people, which then get paid very little.

I believe we should spend a whole lot of effort teaching kids what odds they are actually facing when they make their career choices. I still meet interns that are doing post graduate education at the same time that don't realize how terrible the odds really are, and that's with them working in a company that is one of the few industry outlets out there for people that went into Ph.Ds and then saw how scary the teaching market was, so it's not like they cannot hear plenty of stories.

Bad information just leads to bad resource allocation for all of us. We should help with that.

soup10 7 days ago 18 replies      
So the cost of college is skyrocketing and teachers are getting paid less and less. Where is the money going??
goldfeld 7 days ago 8 replies      
These basal, fundamental flaws in the educational system give me pause to awe, and a gut feeling the US is gonna get trampled many times over by the likes of China within some decades. So little regulation and such harsh capitalism is eating its heart out bit by bit. I guess what keeps America bright at this point is a legacy from the past century, that's slowly eroding, and the brain drain sucked chiefly out of Asia and Eastern Europe--at least the same hands-off market attracts those people with today a stronger educational background than the average educated American, but how sustainable is it to keep importing talent? Is the power of capital enough to keep the american infrastructure and investment momentum on american grounds indefinitely?
pattisapu 7 days ago 2 replies      
Good point on how the pay problem for adjunct faculty is intertwined with the "everyone gets a trophy" problem for students:

> I knew the instructor was an adjunct, and that she taught at several places to cobble together a living. I told the students that she was an adjunct, and that the class was easy because she was afraid of losing her job. Adjuncts are often evaluated solely based on student evaluations. As Rebecca Schuman put it in her Slate article Confessions of a Grade Inflator, popularity is the only thing keeping them employed.

xarien 7 days ago 0 replies      
Let's change the terminology a bit here. A professor is someone with tenure is on a tenure track. A lecturer is someone who is not. The article isn't talking about professors, which in the USA relies on research, publishing, obtaining grants, and tenure. Yes, a lecturer teaching a low demand subject is going to have a hard time. Just like most positions, there exists a hierarchy. The reason why this doesn't exist for primary and secondary educators is because of unions and that can be argued either way.
carsongross 7 days ago 1 reply      
The education meat grinder destroys adjuncts, it saddles many students with crushing, non-self-liquidating debt and it outpaces inflation faster than any other major cost category:


A bad product, the employees and customers are treated poorly, and prices are skyrocketing. Hmmm.

CurtMonash 7 days ago 0 replies      
There's a deeply-established credentialing systems that would blend very well with MOOCs and the like. That said, it's not the US undergrad one, and there's a worldwide belief that US university credentials are a big deal.

I don't know what things are like now, but in my grandfather's day European universities had a very different credentialing system from US undergrad institutions. In lieu of course credit, course-based grades, etc., they simply had a battery of (oral) examinations at the end.

US grad schools can be much like that. In essence, there were no course requirements for a PhD in mathematics at Harvard, but rather a three-day Qualifying Examination, a Minor Thesis (don't ask), and a traditional dissertation. Much the same was true of a physics PhD at Princeton then (the 1970s), except that there was an experiment in the mix (even for theoreticians). And in the Princeton math department, the joke was that students were asked the first day "Does anybody wish to submit his thesis?", and the record was 3 months.

jal278 7 days ago 0 replies      
You would think with so many colleges in existence, that some of them would resist this sort of policy -- are there counter-examples to the trend towards increasing 'adjunctization'?

Also, if the cause of adjunctization is rising administrative costs in colleges -- are there any universities that have figured out that problem? That is, how to prevent a bloated bureaucracy of overpaid administrators?

ForHackernews 7 days ago 0 replies      
Slightly ironic, but Guernica Magazine has a "jobs" page on their site: http://www.guernicamag.com/jobs/

If you click through, you'll find that all of their positions are unpaid. It seems that magazine editor is no longer a middle-class job, either. You have to be rich enough to be able to work for free.

jessaustin 7 days ago 0 replies      
This is a direct and entirely predictable result of the publicly-administered, nondischargeable-through-bankruptcy student loans. We can't have everyone going to college and also have all colleges be nice workplaces. Society has recently taken the former option, but one can imagine that decision changing.
steveklabnik 7 days ago 0 replies      
I was once offered an adjunct position to teach a class at my alma mater. They were excited to let me know I'd be paid $3,000 for teaching the class.

I had to turn them down, as I was already doing private corporate trainings, where we charged $3,000/day.

I didn't get paid that much, obviously, but I thought it was really amusing that the amounts lined up.

tn13 7 days ago 1 reply      
This just means that college teachers in certain cases are in high supply.
danso 7 days ago 0 replies      
This doesn't invalidate the OP's message in a meaningful way, but if you're interested in the opening anecdote, a reporter from Slate delved deep into the circumstances of Ms. Vojtko and found a more complex story than one just of woe: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/education/20...
TheMagicHorsey 7 days ago 1 reply      
American education is such a mess. First, it feels like the majority of American college students graduate from college after spending four years on material that makes them no more appealing to employers. Second, there seems to be a thick layer of insulation between market signals and students, so that students can't even figure out what they should be learning, even if they were motivated to do so.

Third, colleges seem to teach whatever garbage they feel like, slap a "major" label on it, and charge a ridiculous amount for it. As institutions you would be hard pressed to find more inefficient organizations in the economy. I can't for the life of me understand where all the money is going. It shouldn't cost $100,000 to turn a bright high school student into a programmer in four years. In some European countries they do a better job in two years, with one third the budget, even though labor costs are higher (see Sweden).

We have to face the fact that a lot of college lecturers are zero value-add to their pupils. This is a big problem underlying the salary issue that is hardly ever discussed. Moving outwards, many college programs are zero value add too ... outside the stamp of a degree which they confer. Which if you think about it, you could get cheaper abroad.

Only a matter of time before India or some Baltic state makes cheap degrees available to US citizenship holders at cut-rate prices. I don't think American employers care much where your degree is from ... at least for engineers ... so long as you have the right to work in America ... which a citizen would have.

xrange 7 days ago 1 reply      
>The caseworker paused and asked with incredulity, She was a professor? I said yes. The caseworker was shocked; this was not the usual type of person for whom she was called in to help.

So it is unusual now, but it is going to become more common in the future?

> So adjuncting is decidedly not a middle-class job. But it does sound like one, probably because, before the adjunct bubble, it was.

..."Professor" sounds like a middle-class job. I'm not in academia, but when I was in college in the 90's, adjunct sounded like a grad student on a stipend.

hershel 7 days ago 1 reply      
Teachers would probably have bigger problems.

According to clay christensen , the guy behind "the innovator's dillema" , more than 50% of colleges will go bankrupt soon(until 2020/2024).

mgback 7 days ago 1 reply      
It is stunning to me that such well educated and hard working people would want to work in such a corrupt system instead of striking out on their own for the betterment of society.
re_todd 7 days ago 0 replies      
I knew a professor who was an adjunct. She was nice, taught the class well, was very intelligent, and even wrote a textbook used by other universities. She still had trouble finding steady teaching work.
santaclaus 7 days ago 1 reply      
Do college rankings take the percentage of classes taught by tenure track professors into account? US News should dock schools with greater than X% of courses taught by adjuncts.
aosmith 7 days ago 0 replies      
And college is viewed by some as having dubious value. I know plenty of kids who racked up $200k in loans and can't find a job for the life of them.
grimmfang 7 days ago 0 replies      
>Some of these contingent employees are full-time lecturers, and many are adjunct instructors: part-time employees, paid per class, often without health insurance or retirement benefits. This is a relatively new phenomenon: in 1969, 78 percent of professors held tenure-track positions. By 2009 this percentage had shrunk to 33.5.

Would be interesting to know if college prices began rising at a higher ratio to the CPI around this time.

KoalaOnesie 7 days ago 0 replies      
The author is correct, "adjunct" perfectly describes the fact that teaching is an add-on at most universities. Those institutions exist to obtain grants for research and donations from alumni. Educating undergrads is an unfortunately coincidence from the perspective of most tuition-gathering organizations.
javajosh 7 days ago 0 replies      
The first issue I'd like addressed is the outright fraud that is going on here: schools are hiring adjunct professors to teach class, and then don't pay them to grade papers or meat with students?

The other issue is the potential for market dynamics to correct these problems with college, if they exist: spending too much on admins, and skimping terribly on the teaching. Essentially kids are getting stiffed, and then employers are getting sub-par employees. If kids are going to college to get a better job, then these decisions on the part of schools are hurting them.

That said, if the economy really is all "bullshit jobs" (a sentiment that has floated around here recently) then the college admins know it won't matter how badly they educate the kids, and they'll never be found out. If that's the case, then I'd argue our larger concern is the fact that so many jobs are bullshit.

worldpeace 7 days ago 1 reply      
All of these brilliant people have driven their institutions into the ground chasing rankings and fads like diversity and prestige buildings. Universities have taken on mountains of debt, and just like the portfolios of those university trained traders on Wall Street that destroyed the world a few years ago, they are very susceptible to unthinkable events like young people no longer finding college worth the money. It will only take a small decrease in enrollment rates for the wheels to come off. Bankruptcy is all but guaranteed.
Codhisattva 7 days ago 0 replies      
RCA takes this back to Reagan's War on Education. It's ongoing and it's destroyed the most important institution in the nation.
baxterross 7 days ago 0 replies      
dying industry, dying profession.
__xtrimsky 7 days ago 2 replies      
At my computer science university (private university with HQ based in France) in downtown San Francisco, teachers were paid between 100$ and 300$ / hr, which I find decent.

100$ was mostly for teachers with not much experience, mostly students that graduated last year and were helping out as teachers.

webhat 7 days ago 1 reply      
I'm often sad and happy when reading this problem. Sad because it's the state of things, which sucks! And happy because the more that it's said the more chance there is that instructors will actually be paid well, and students can learn in an environment that doesn't treat their faculty as cheap throw away labor.

This addresses many of the issues that we are solving with our startup Oplerno.

274 points by aarghh  3 days ago   135 comments top 27
616c 3 days ago 5 replies      
So I skimmed the article once, then read it again.

I see the writer is here. I just want to say I understand your sentiment, but your title and content are filled with some annoying misinformation and discrepancies.

First of all, Nastaliq is not "the Urdu script". If you even skimmed Wikipedia, you would notice that the script does come oringinally from Arabic (where it is used, but more to your point, sadly not as much in print media, at least from my experience in the GCC) and was later well loved by the Persians, and later different portions of the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, and beyond). To call it Urdu script, just because it is popular, and to insinuate that it Naksh is the default script of Arabic (it is not the preferred one, by the way) is a huge stretch.

Another point: Naksh was invented by a Persian, but who grew up his whole life in Arab Baghdad and was an Abbasid court vizier in modern-day Iraq. He did not spend time in Iran (then Fars, as it is known today in Arabic), until he was a tax collector there after growing up in Iraq, and only for a period. He might have been ethnically Persian, but to call Naksh script Persian because of the guys family background is far-fetched, especially if you know how loose the cultural boundaries between Abbasid Iran-Iraq were (they were part of the empire and people, goods, and ideas freely flowed between them). It is a derivative of Kufic script, and has strong ties to the religious intellectual history of Iraq (Basra and Kufa were the seat of a massive amount of religious scholarship and still prominent beliefs in Islam; scripts and art were an awesome by-product).

Sorry for the rant, but I know this is probably not your field. As I guy who spent a lot of time studying Arabic and Arab and/or Islamichistory, I get very annoyed at the misinformation peddled by people about Arabic history and culture. I do not mean to be so blunt, but I hear people rattle off misinformation like this often, and it irritates me.

wirrbel 3 days ago 5 replies      
its an interesting read and I acknowledge the intent to keep the traditional and authentic writing system for Urdu.

I have a few thoughts on this though. One would be the legibility. Of course I cannot judge legibility of writing systems I do not like, but it seems that nastaliq would be hardly readable on a lot of mobile devices and I wonder how difficult learning the ornate script is. I am talking about alphabetization here.

Next thing is: I am learning turkish and turkish is written in the roman alphabet. As far as I know, it was written in a arabic/persian script before which was then reformed to use the latin alphabet. As far as I can tell this is today really uncontroversial and using the latin alphabet is actually the more suitable alphabet for turkish and its rich vowel system that is really important for grammar and meaning. Again I cannot really say anything for Urdu, but knowing it is not arabic but afaik a language of the indo-european family I wonder if there are more reasons to use the lating alphabet than just availability of nataliq fonts and rendering engines.

As a side note I would add a few observations relating to the cultural/heritage aspects. In Germany, the "Fraktur" was used widely even at the beginning of the 20th century (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fraktur ). Some authors, like Hermann Hesse refused that Antiqua fonts would be used for their writings until publishers convinced them that their works could just not be read by young folks. In a way, a lot of people argued against using non-gothic fonts, but in the end antiqua became quite standard. Nowadays we use the lating alphabet (and most people are not concious about that there ever was a switch).

abdullahkhalids 3 days ago 0 replies      
There is another problem with fonts. Popular fonts used on the internet only have information about the joining of the 28 Arabic characters. When the extra characters in Urdu are typed they don't join with the other characters in the word. eg. I will type the first line of the couplet here. Note how the third,fourth and seventh word are broken up.

I have written about some other issues with the Urdu language over here. http://upgoerurdu.nfshost.com/technical.html

alieteraz 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is Ali Eteraz. Thank you for recognizing this piece. It was a lot of fun to write. I've actually been to a Ycombinator event. Twice I think. A couple of your alumnus managed to talk me into downloading stuff or getting on email lists that, well, I didn't always use (though they did seem promising!). I am a writer based in the Bay Area and I really enjoy getting to learn about interesting technological developments and human stories within that. So definitely hit me up whenever you're congregating or plotting something interesting. My website is alieteraz.com or I am at @eteraz or FB.

Ali Eteraz

ps - I later got to meet Michael K. at the Unicode conference in Santa Clara, along with the Microsoft Windows team. The Windows Phone people, who I also really wanted to talk to because this is a mobile problem too, did not want to talk to me because they had a new phone coming out.

jey 3 days ago 6 replies      
> Utility had defeated tradition.

Is that supposed to be self-evidently bad?

ximeng 3 days ago 1 reply      
Unsurprising to see a link to Michael Kaplan in there. His blog was taken down due to what sounds like a dispute over patents with his boss. See this twitter conversation between Spolsky and him: https://twitter.com/spolsky/status/447024470256283648.


"It has been made officially clear to me that [my] Blog ... is for all intents and purposes dead."

Well, I blogged about a patent and included art, so my former manager took the Blog down with extreme prejudice.


Blog is now archived at http://www.siao2.com/ and has much more information on localisation.

gioele 3 days ago 1 reply      
Meanwhile, in the free software world...



(Harfbuzz is the default text layout engine for Linux GUI frameworks: Qt, GTK, etc)

scrollaway 3 days ago 1 reply      
That was an amazing article, and a great insight into middle eastern scripts in the digital world.

It doesn't look like it'll get out of the new queue, but I wanted to thank OP for sharing it anyway.

sharjeel 3 days ago 0 replies      
This article was making rounds in my social feed about a year ago. Disturbed by the extremely weak and some absolutely flawed arguments, I wrote a note: https://www.facebook.com/sharjeelqureshi/posts/1015180699836...
616c 3 days ago 0 replies      
And for the Arch Linux peopkle, have a Nastaliq font if you need it (or want it).


alieteraz 3 days ago 1 reply      
Please correct me if I'm wrong, but if Apple and Android make a nastaliq font part of the directory of fonts that go into their devices from the get go, there wouldn't be a problem.

Such fonts have already been designed. The issue now is to find Android and iOS developers who can make them default in the operating systems.

When I talked to Microsoft they said that on the smaller devices every last bit of memory was precious so they didn't want to stick extra megabytes or however big a font is. I think that Apple's cheapening out is worse than Android's, because at least Android offers the entire Urdu alphabet (though in naskh). Apple doesn't even offer the Urdu alphabet, requiring Urdu users to have to make do with 12 less letters.

sandGorgon 2 days ago 0 replies      
@alieteraz - your comments below have been extremely informative and though urdu occupies the collective conscious of all Indians through bollywood (90% of melancholic melodies are invariably in urdu), we have never given the script much thought.

I think you fought admirably with Apple, Twitter and Microsoft for getting Urdu fonts included ... but that is the wrong battleground.

The arena for you is simply the browser and mobile . All you need to do is get Nastaliq scripts adopted into Google Webfonts (free for anybody to use in their webapps) and into Android (installing a font through a Launcher theme is incredibly easy [1]. Do NOT try getting it included in the Android base)

do you think you can get together a Kickstarter to fund a nastaliq font, good enough to be usable ? and then try getting them into webfonts and android themes ?

[1] https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=pete.app.apext... and http://appcrawlr.com/android-apps/best-apps-launcher-fonts

kranner 3 days ago 0 replies      
For Hindi speakers who don't read Nastaliq, the sign on the wall is hilarious. Transliterated to Devanagari, it reads:


alieteraz 3 days ago 0 replies      
BTW. I published this piece in fall of last year. Long before it came on Hacker News, it had been passed around the Pakistani and Indian Twittersphere, and no one there was saying that we should let tech companies off the hook for not offering a) the full alphabet and b) the right script. It was, actually, the Pakistanis and Indians that made this article what it was. When I wrote it, I honestly thought I was just some eccentric who was annoyed for very personal reasons. Even as we speak the piece is being retweeted by professors and students at LUMS, in Lahore, and universities in Islamabad.

What's even more interesting is that as a result of writing this piece my own favoritism towards nastaliq actually LESSENED. But by the time my thinking evolved, the nastaliq purists had made the piece their own.

gauravk 3 days ago 0 replies      
Sad. I remember as a kid, growing up in Kashmir, I took special pride in my Urdu calligraphy skills. Writing each sentence was like an art project.
paperwork 3 days ago 0 replies      
A big reason nastaliq is not widely available on our screens is because rendering it correctly requires 'context sensitive shape substitution'[1]. Simple substitution of one character for another is not enough.

I've spent a couple of hours looking at how to render my own text, perhaps using something like http://typeface.neocracy.org/, but my day to day work is so far from text layout, rendering, client side javascript that it would be (too) large an undertaking.

[1] http://ww.cle.org.pk/Publication/papers/2006/context_sensiti... [PDF]

elandybarr 3 days ago 1 reply      
The article is great, but I don't think it adequately captures one of the difficulties with this problem, and that is the very high minimum number of characters that must be designed for an Urdu font. I think it is an order of magnitude higher than many would guess it at first.
Ghalib5423 2 days ago 0 replies      
In the 1960s, the Government of Pakistan tried to make naskh common in order to facilitate mechanization of printing. In order to do so, naskh was introduced in schools so that children get used to it from an early age. Some books started appearing in naskh. The daily newspaper Nawa-i-waqt started printing its second page in naskh. It was very unfortunate for Urdu that these efforts failed. The reason was simple. Instead of requiring that the textbooks be typeset in naskh, they continued to be handwritten, albeit in naskh-like script. Gradually after a few years that naskh started resembling nastaaliq more and more and eventually all traces of naskh disappeared. This, to mind, was the greatest setback suffered by the Urdu language printing.

Let me explain why I call it the greatest setback. Urdu books and newspapers were written by hand and then lithographed. The process was slow, mistakes were plentiful, dots above and below letters were misplaced, letters such as daal and waaw were indistinct from each other, and many times the printing was illegible. Please try to read a book produced by that method, and then compare it to the same book typeset in naskh; you will note the difference. I have a copy of Divan-e-Hafiz published in nastaaliq in the subcontinent, and another copy in naskh published in Iran. The difference in the clarity of text in the two is phenomenal.

This abortive attempt in 1960s to switch to naskh had nothing to do with religion or Arabization. Ayub Khan, in whose time the effort started, can hardly be accused of religion-inspired initiatives. It was simply to promote mechanized printing. If anything, later the religion-enthusiast Zia-ul-Haq did nothing to popularize naskh.Ironically, computer has saved nastaaliq, since software is now commonly available which is now universally used to compose material for printing. But naskh is still clearer to read, and in my opinion it is not too late to give it another try, and use naskh, while reserving nastaaliq for calligraphy. Undoubtedly nastaaliq is elegant and no script can match its beauty.

mchaver 3 days ago 1 reply      
For web development, perhaps you could create a simple system that detects if the user's device supports nastaliq. If not convert, it to naskh or Romanized Urdu (not sure which is preferred). As for dealing with all the data already written in naskh and Romanized Urdu, this is a bit more complicated because I am guessing there is not a one to one match between naskh and nastaliq (naskh has less letters), and Romanized Urdu and nastaliq. You would probably need to collect some data and use some machine learning techniques. If it is not too big you could use a client-side Javascript program, otherwise something like a Chrome extension or an API. There are similar things done for Arabic to handle various forms of Romanized Arabic (user does not have access to an Arabic keyboard) and Non-Modern Standard Arabic Dialects: http://www.yamli.com/
wmil 2 days ago 1 reply      
It seems like something analogous has happened with European scripts. There were huge changes in how characters were presented between different styles of handwriting, engraving, printing presses, and finally everything the computer world has brought us.

It just seems like the author has an extreme emotional attachment to a typeface.

thret 2 days ago 0 replies      
This feels like unusual timing. I am presently reading 'A Suitable Boy' by Vikram Seth. One of the main characters is sent into virtual exile where he learns how to read and write Urdu. Until now I don't think I'd heard of it.

My own opinion is that we should preserve history, remember it, but not morn it. We are programmers! How many writing styles and languages have we seen die to make way for something better (or worse?). This is a natural survival of the fittest cycle that effects writing styles, languages, civilisations and everything else. I have Japanese friends who read even less Kanji than I do. I see that writing style dying out over the next 50 years also.

m0th87 2 days ago 0 replies      
That's not the only way in which Urdu is "dying" - due to colonization, basically all modern words are in English.
Rapzid 3 days ago 0 replies      
I don't like how the article opens with the premise of a people struggling their whole lives to master writing in a particular style only to have their expression oppressed, then proceeds to talk about font rendering..

Generally though, I'm not really sure how I feel about trying to get people to care about something so precious in general. One one hand it's a shame to lose culture. On the other the internet/technology has its own culture and is it really lost in the age of 5c per GB storage?

capex 2 days ago 0 replies      
Anyone ready to work with me on creating a Nastaliq webfont?
merrua 3 days ago 0 replies      
Nastaliq is lovely to look at.
GhotiFish 2 days ago 0 replies      
>Utility had defeated tradition.

There is hope for humanity yet!

mellisarob 3 days ago 0 replies      
you need to come up with more details and authentic details because some stuff you mentioned it utter crap.
273 points by phpnode  4 days ago   162 comments top 32
danabramov 3 days ago 4 replies      
Reminds me of this comment by Petka Antonov on native V8 Promises being way slower than Bluebird[1]:

>I'd expect native browser methods to be an order of magnitude faster.

Built-ins need to adhere to ridiculous semantic complexity which only gets worse as more features get added into the language. The spec is ruthless in that it doesn't leave any case as "undefined behavior" - what happens when you use splice on an array that has an indexed getter that calls Object.observe on the array while the splice is looping?

If you implemented your own splice, then you probably wouldn't even think of supporting holed arrays, observable arrays, arrays with funky setters/getters and so on. Your splice would not behave well in these cases but that's ok because you can just document that. Additionally, since you pretty much never need the return value of splice, you can just not return anything instead of allocating a wasted array every time (you could also make this controllable from a parameter if needed).

Already with the above, you could probably reach the perf of "native splice" without even considering the fact that user code is actually optimized and compiled into native code. And when you consider that, you are way past any "native" except when it comes to special snowflakes like charCodeAt, the math functions and such.

Thirdly, built-ins are not magic that avoid doing any work, they are normal code implemented by humans. This is biggest reason for the perf difference specifically in the promise case - bluebird is extremely carefully optimized and tuned to V8 optimizing compiler expectations whereas the V8 promise implementation[2] is looking like it's directly translated from the spec pseudo-code, as in there is no optimization effort at all.

[1]: https://github.com/angular/angular.js/issues/6697#issuecomme...

[2]: https://github.com/v8/v8/blob/master/src/promise.js

throwaway_yy2Di 4 days ago 3 replies      
I think in most cases where you'd worry about JS array performance you should use actual numeric arrays [0] rather than the kitchen sink Array(). Also, I think those function abstractions have a pretty significant overhead?

[0] https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/JavaScript/Type...

(edit): Yeah, the abstraction overhead is ridiculous. Here's the forEach() benchmark again, compared to an explicit for loop (no function calls):

    // new benchmark in bench/for-each.js        exports['explicit iteration'] = function() {        acc = 0;        for (var j=0; j<input.length; ++j) {            acc += input[j];        }    }  Native .forEach() vs fast.forEach() vs explicit iteration      Array::forEach() x 2,101,860 ops/sec 1.50% (79 runs sampled)      fast.forEach() x 5,433,935 ops/sec 1.12% (90 runs sampled)      explicit iteration x 28,714,606 ops/sec 1.44% (87 runs sampled)    Winner is: explicit iteration (1266.15% faster)
(I ran this on Node "v0.11.14-pre", fresh from github).

Joeri 3 days ago 3 replies      
Today i was refactoring some js code that rendered a graph to svg. It was taking several seconds in some cases, and the developer had done a bunch of micro-optimizations, inlining functions, building caches to avoid nested loops, and so on.

I ran a profile. The code ran for 2.5 seconds, 4 ms of which in the micro-optimized js code, the rest updating the dom, five times all over again. Needless to say that i threw out all the micro-optimizations, halving the number of lines, and fixed it so the dom was updated once.

Anyway, the point i'm making is this: you should micro-optimize for readability and robustness, not performance, unless profiling shows it's worth it. I haven't known a case where pure (non-dom, non-xhr) js code needed micro-optimization for performance in half a decade.

sheetjs 4 days ago 2 replies      
Premature optimization is the root of all evil -- Knuth

V8 has excellent profiling tools (exposed in chrome and in nodejs) which should be used first before considering fallbacks. Before seeking a third party library, be sure to check if the function is called many times or is taking a long time.

For example, I found that throwing map out and using a straight array (avoiding the function calls entirely) can be up to 50% faster than using the functional suspects. But that, in the eyes of some people, unnecessarily adds complexity to the code and may not be worth changing

simonsarris 4 days ago 2 replies      
Here's another one for you, one of my favorites that used to be drastic: http://jsperf.com/pipetrunc

    blah | 0; // fast!    Math.floor(blah); // slow(er)! (except on FF nightly)
Caveat: Only works with numbers greater than -2147483649 and less than 2147483648.

olliej 3 days ago 2 replies      
As a person who works on a JS engine I can say that a lot of the speed up in this library is the failure to handle holes correctly - it's surprisingly expensive to do a hole check, although there's still room in most engines to optimise it, those checks are fairly time consuming :-/
jrajav 4 days ago 5 replies      
Here's a jsperf of fast.js / lodash / native: http://jsperf.com/fast-vs-lodash
nathanb 4 days ago 3 replies      
I'm a bit concerned about this...

On one hand, I'm a big proponent of "know your tools". I'll gladly use a fast sort function that falls apart when sorting arrays near UINT32_MAX size if I'm aware of that caveat ahead of time and I use it only in domains where the size of the array is logically limited to something much less than that, for example.

But on the other hand, I write operating system code in C. I need to know that the library functions I call are going to protect me against edge cases so I don't inadvertently introduce security holes or attack vectors.

If I know that some JS I'm interacting with is using fast.js, maybe there will be some input I can craft in order to force the system into a 1% edge case.

The lesson here is probably "don't use this for your shopping cart", but we need to be careful deriding Javascript's builtins for being slow when really they're just being safe.

netcraft 4 days ago 2 replies      
I wonder how these compare to the ones in lodash.
dgreensp 4 days ago 1 reply      
It's fairly well-known that Array#forEach is up to an order of magnitude slower than a for-loop, across browsers. The usual reason given is the overhead of invoking a closure from the VM. A JS implementation of forEach ought to be somewhere in the middle.

The speed-up for "concat" is surprising to me. I wonder if it holds for "splice" and if that is true across browsers.

VeejayRampay 4 days ago 5 replies      
Javascript. The language where you can reimplement basic functions such as map, each, reduce (which by the way are still available for objects in 2014) and have them be faster than their native counterparts.

It might be that I don't particularly like the language. but it's kind of frightening that we're building the world on that stuff.

Kiro 3 days ago 0 replies      
So the forEach magic that is so much faster is... a normal for loop:

  exports.forEach = function fastForEach (subject, fn, thisContext) {    var length = subject.length,        i;    for (i = 0; i < length; i++) {      fn.call(thisContext, subject[i], i, subject);    }  };
I knew that forEach was slower than a normal for loop but I was expecting something more.

illumen 4 days ago 0 replies      
I did this with CPython and psyco. It turns out that writing map() in python was faster than the builtin C version. Because the JIT was allowed to do some tricks, like inlining the function.
peterkelly 3 days ago 2 replies      
I think the forEach issue is a bad example, and something that could (and arguably should) be handled by the native implementation. The reason they get faster execution here is by breaking the spec.

A native implementation could have a single flag associated with the array recording whether it is sparse, and use the more efficient code path given here in the common space where it's non-sparse.

grhmc 4 days ago 1 reply      
Amazing, the "performance tests" here operate on a list of only ten items long: https://github.com/codemix/fast.js/blob/master/bench/for-eac...

I'm sure that is a statistically valid way to measure performance.

aikah 4 days ago 8 replies      
Some V8 people here ? how can a JS re-implementation be faster than the native implementation of a function ?
franze 3 days ago 0 replies      
micro-benchmarks are the root of all evil

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65-RbBwZQdU Vyacheslav Egorov - LXJS 2013 talk

i don't know if he actually said these word, but it was the overall theme of this (very entertaining and very enlightening) talk.

cordite 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm interested in what those edge cases are, to say it works in 99% of the cases but provide no caveats makes me think that I might be surprised by something if I use it.
syg 3 days ago 0 replies      
The slowness of functional methods like .map and .forEach for a time was due to their not being self-hosted. Since then, both V8 and SpiderMonkey self-host them, and bz has posted some numbers below [1].

But perf problems are more numerous still for these functional methods, because compilers in general have trouble inlining closures, especially for very polymorphic callsites like calls to the callback passed in via .map or .forEach. For an account of what's going on in SpiderMonkey, I wrote an explanation about a year ago [2]. Unfortunately, the problems still persist today.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7938101[2] http://rfrn.org/~shu/2013/03/20/two-reasons-functional-style...

dabernathy89 4 days ago 1 reply      
> there is essentially no performance difference between native functions and their JavaScript equivalents

> native functions often have to cover complicated edge cases from the ECMAScript specification, which put them at a performance disadvantage.

Aren't these opposing statements?

seanewest 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think this shows that standards bodies could implement less native language functionality and let community-made libraries/tools compete for those areas. ES6 goes so far as to implement a native module system, seriously calling into question any effort by the community at large to implement a competing system (e.g. browserify, requirejs).
CountHackulus 4 days ago 0 replies      
No mention of relative memory usage though. I've been bitten by this kind of thing too many times in node in the past to not wonder about it here. Especially for such core functions.
gpvos 3 days ago 0 replies      
It would have been nice though if they would have documented exactly which edge cases they're neglecting.
MokiD 4 days ago 0 replies      
A while back I was programming for a naive but well-written JS interpreter for set top box apps, where map was generally being avoided because of performance.

I wrote quite a fast "map" (along with the others) that looked a bit like:

  exports.map = function fastMap (subject, fn, thisContext) {    var i = subject.length,        result = new Array(i);    if (thisContext) {      while (i--) {        result[i] = fn.call(thisContext, subject[i], i, subject);      }    } else {      while (i--) {        result[i] = fn(subject[i], i, subject);      }    }    return result;  };
I'm not sure if I just used "result = []", but on modern browsers I think that'd be recommended. But yeah, if you're programming for a web browser then using another impl of map is probably going to be a waste of time.

idbehold 4 days ago 0 replies      
Can you provide benchmarks against Lo-Dash?
talles 3 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder which projects does actually need that.

Hey I'm not bashing here, I thing it's kind cool for learning purposes attempts to do such thing, but I truly wonder if there is an actual production need for such thing.

nijiko 3 days ago 0 replies      
Submitted a pull-request that does decrementing iterations which in some browsers / engines can give an increase in performance due to less instruction.
hexleo 3 days ago 1 reply      
First time I meet fast.js, I think it's running fast. When I read introduction I was wrong, it just write fast... I hope one day js run in phone is really FAST.
webXL 3 days ago 2 replies      
Looks like John-David Dalton has some work cut out for him!
phpnode 4 days ago 0 replies      
this library does not overwrite any native functions or manipulate any prototypes, you have to call the fast.js versions explictly - it's opt in.
golem_de 3 days ago 0 replies      
did you ever google for fartscroll?
cristiantincu 4 days ago 1 reply      
> In fact, native functions often have to cover complicated edge cases from the ECMAScript specification, which put them at a performance disadvantage.

What. Is. This. I dont even.

The first stable release of PyPy3 morepypy.blogspot.com
268 points by pjenvey  7 days ago   84 comments top 11
Buetol 7 days ago 1 reply      
Wow, this is a very exciting moment for the Python world.

And they didn't even reached their funding goal for "py3k in pypy" [1]. This is dedication. I encourage everyone to fund this extremely incredible project!

[1]: http://pypy.org/py3donate.html

thomasahle 7 days ago 4 replies      
I wish the community would just switch entirely to pypy. Being able to just slightly performance sensitive code in python is a huge win.
rectangletangle 7 days ago 1 reply      
Awesome, I hadn't realized this project was quite this far along. If they get PyPy 3.4/3.5 going with NumPy, it will make a really nice package. Fast Python code for the high-level logic, paired with fast low-level number crunching. This could also help speed up the adoption of Python 3.
tedunangst 7 days ago 1 reply      
Minor note: the openbsd support (at least for 2.x) is amd64 only. Building for i386 at some point requires running a bootstrap process that doesn't fit in memory.
zyngaro 7 days ago 0 replies      
I've just made a small donation.
wldcordeiro 7 days ago 1 reply      
This is awesome, now just to wait for a Python 3.4 PyPy release :D
chris_mahan 7 days ago 0 replies      
Excellent. I've been waiting for this for a long time.
voidlogic 7 days ago 2 replies      
How does the performance of PyPy and Jython compare?
johnrds 7 days ago 2 replies      
I created a simple Terminal instance that compares Python and PyPy in a performance test:


(this lets you compare the performance on a real Linux system, without installing anything)

husio 7 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you.
derengel 7 days ago 3 replies      
I don't know or use Python but why an implementation that is trying to be "superior" still has the GIL?
265 points by acjohnson55  3 days ago   383 comments top 35
grellas 2 days ago 17 replies      
The Copyright Act is a federal statute that protects any public performance of a copyrighted work from infringing uses.

Aereo took what were undisputedly public performances of works from broadcasters to the public, intercepted them, and by a feat of what amounted to technological legerdemain turned them into what it argued were no longer public performances but, instead, individualized transmissions from its service to each of its end users as an audience of one.

In this case, the Supreme Court rejected that argument, relying heavily on the idea that it was merely interpreting a statute (the Copyright Act) that had been amended by Congress in 1976 in part to overturn a couple of Supreme Court cases that had interpreted the prior Act to permit cable-TV style transmissions of copyrighted material free of copyright restrictions. The Court held that, in doing so, Congress intended to bring cable-like services such as Aereo into the Act's sweep regardless of the particular technological ways in which it handled the copyrighted material as it re-transmitted it to its users. Treating such technology, in effect, like a black box, the Court emphasized that, regardless of its innards, this service appeared to all concerned - to broadcasters, to viewers, etc. - to be functioning just like a cable service and therefore fell squarely within the Act's coverage as Congress had intended to modify it in making the 1976 amendments.

The most fascinating part of the decision, in my view, was how the Court arrived at this result while simultaneously trying to narrow its impact so that modern technological innovations would not be hit by its shrapnel. The Court not only did so but did so emphatically. Indeed, it devoted an entire section IV (pages 15-17) of its opinion to that issue. "We agree", said the Court, "that Congress, while intending the Transmit Clause to apply broadly to cable companies and their equivalents [i.e., Aereo], did not intend to discourage or control the emergence or use of different kinds of technologies." The Court then goes on to suggest (without deciding) a number of potentially key distinctions by which things such as, e.g., cloud music services might not in any way be infringing, including the prospect of fair use or the fact that the user receiving a transmission from the service may already own the copyrighted works being transmitted. I believe this is a strong signal from the Court that lower courts are not to ham-handedly interpret copyright law to stifle innovation but are to apply it carefully to prevent its abuse.

All in all, this decision represents a guarded upholding of traditional IP protections that prevents the use of technology to enable free-wheeling use of broadcasted materials while at the same time limiting its holding to that narrow sphere. Given the technical wording of the Act, it could just as easily have gone the other way and upheld the Aereo service as nothing more than something that facilitates individual, "private" performances via a streaming technology. But that would certainly have glorified form over substance and, I think, the Court got it right in the end.

themgt 3 days ago 4 replies      
The really interesting question is the implications for future precedent/innovations. The ruling says "But this difference [Aero's technological setup] means nothing to the subscriber. It means nothing to the broadcaster. We do not see how this single difference, invisible to subscriber and broadcaster alike, could transform a system that is for all practical purposes a traditional cable system into a copy shop that provides its patrons with a library card.In other cases involving different kinds of service or technology providers, a users involvement in the operation of the providers equipment and selection of the content transmitted may well bear on whether the provider performs within the meaning of the Act. But the many similarities between Aereo and cable companies, considered in light of Congress basic purposes in amending the Copyright Act, convince us that this difference is not critical here."

What this seems to leave open is the question of whether a company that was e.g. a generic cloud service with various features and functions, among them the ability to rent a mini-antenna and stream recorded data from it to your computer, would still be infringing. It suggests the infringement is largely due to the way Aereo positioned and marketed itself to customers - the common sense reality of the service overrode the technological loophole they attempted to exploit.

selmnoo 3 days ago 4 replies      
I've mentioned this before on HN, I'll say it again: Aereo should now do a pivot, becoming a hardware reseller of TV-signal-receiver/streamer devices like this one: http://www.hauppauge.com/site/products/data_broadway.html - it can stream either over your local Wi-fi, or across the interwebs so you can watch remotely when you're out of the house. Broadband speeds are a bit slow, but they're getting there (slowly) - until then, rely on your friend who has Google fiber or something :). Basically you have Aereo service without the service fees (except the initial hardware cost and internet service cost). I'm especially in favour of this because it's putting back the power in the hands of the end customer -- finally, they own the device, they're not relying on the cloud, they're not facilitating another rentier operation.
motbob 3 days ago 1 reply      
The decision is limited to the question of whether Aereo violated the networks' "exclusive right" to "perform" their programs "publicly."

The dissent (Scalia, Alido, and Thomas) believe that Aereo did not "perform" at all. They believe that when an Aereo subscriber logs in and clicks the play button, that the subscriber, not Aereo, is doing that performing.

EDIT: Please note that the dissent would not have necessarily ruled that Aereo's service was legal. The dissent merely believes that Aereo's service complies with this one specific part of the Copyright Act. From the dissent: "[Our] conclusion does not necessarily mean that Aereo's service complies with the Copyright Act. Quite the contrary. The Networks' complaint alleges that Aereo is directly and secondarily liable for infringing their public performance rights and also their reproduction rights."

So this decision is designed to be as tight as possible. The Court is trying to limit the effects of its decision by constraining it to this one claim by the networks. From the language of the dissent, I have a hunch that even if this one aspect of the case had been decided in Aereo's favor, that some other aspect would have resulted in its service being declared illegal.

Scalia: "I share the Court's evident feeling that what Aereo is doing (or enabling to be done) to the Networks' copyrighted programming ought not to be allowed."

ISL 2 days ago 0 replies      
The majority opinion leaves open the possibility of bandpassing the antenna signal and sending the (already compressed) digital TV signal across the internet to to be decoded at the user's machine. It appears to be the "performance" upon which the majority's opinion hangs; if the "performance" happens in-app on the user's box, it's possible to evade this requirement.

On the one hand, I'd agree with Scalia that the "looks-like-cable-TV" standard is a shaky one, at best. On the other hand, the court is saying "Look, we agreed in the past, but Congress explicitly disagreed with us. Go fix Congress, and we'll agree with you; we're not legislators."

pgrote 3 days ago 3 replies      
Justices Breyer, Roberts, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan were the majority.

It isn't over since the case now goes back to the lower court, but Aereo can no longer argue they are the same as a person putting an antenna on their roof.

johnpmayer 3 days ago 3 replies      
Seems like, because Aereo isn't just a hardware renter but also an integrated SaaS provider, they were treated as such.

The court opinion talks in terms of user interaction with menus on the site to select shows. We're kidding ourselves if this works anything like "hardware rental". If it were, it would feel more like AWS.

cheez0r 3 days ago 7 replies      
The Supreme Court is wrong- the reason cable companies are treated as a 'public' performance of a work is that their distribution medium is shared- any subscriber can tune into that broadcasting of that work over a shared common carrier where one copy of the work is transmitted and many subscribers can view it. Aereo is different in that it only transmits the signal captured to a single subscriber at a time, removing the 'public' nature of the performance and hence invalidating their argument. How absurd.
jedberg 3 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder if Aereo would be legal if they dropped the DVR portion of the service. It seems like that is the issue here.

If it's really just me renting an antenna it seems like that is still legal.

dynofuz 3 days ago 4 replies      
This doesnt make sense. You are paying for renting the antenna. You're not paying for the content.
mikeash 3 days ago 1 reply      
I imagine this is a minority opinion here, but I don't see a problem with this decision.

Tech people like to treat laws as rigid rules that would be written in a formally specified language if only legislators were capable of such a thing. But they're not, and by design.

It doesn't make sense for a law to be written such that receiving on one antenna and sending the result to your users is illegal, but receiving one an antenna farm all located in the same spot and sending the result to your users is legal.

Do we really want to live in a country where the obvious solution is illegal but an insane workaround is legal? I don't want a precedent set where it becomes standard for laws to be bypassed with expensive and technically pointless workarounds. If we want to allow companies to receive TV broadcasts and stream them over the internet, we should do so. If we don't, we shouldn't. A situation where they're only allowed to do it if they have 10,000 separate and unnecessary antennas is absurd.

Personally, I think it's ridiculous that a TV station can broadcast their signal free of charge to anyone capable of receiving it, but if a company wants to receive it and then pass it along to somebody, they have to pay a fee. But the problem is with the ridiculous law, not with a completely reasonable interpretation of it.

executor14 3 days ago 0 replies      
Scalia's dissent likens Aereo to a "photocopier or VCR." He says the court's decision "will sow confusion for years to come."

More from Scalia's dissent: "The Court vows that its ruling will not affect cloud-storage providers and cable-television systems, but it cannot deliver on that promise given the imprecision of its result-driven rule."

jrockway 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is a disaster for anyone that offers cloud services. It's legal for me to set up an antenna in a data center and stream what I receive to myself. But it's apparently not legal for me to pay someone to do the exact same thing. What's funny is that if the antenna were connected to me via a coaxial cable, it would probably be legal. But since it uses packets and Cat-6 cables and that crazy Intarwebs thing, it's not. I don't get it.

This is annoying because it also obviously affects useful things like WebSDR. Since WebSDR nodes can tune VHF/UHF, they can receive copyrighted TV and music, which means they're now illegal to run under this ruling. (Fortunately, all the good WebSDR nodes are outside the US, so it doesn't matter in practice. But if you were going to set one up in the US, think again.)

dguaraglia 2 days ago 0 replies      
What bothers me about this is how quickly decisions are made when it comes to content and copyright.

Average Joe doesn't give a flying f* about his privacy, the loss of life in war, the obscene spending on failed military projects, the lack of social programs, the millions stuck with ridiculous student debt...

But hey, touch their right to watch Netflix or some local station from NYC from their house in California and SHIT GETS REAL!

Tsk tsk...

taude 2 days ago 0 replies      
So in my area, I can't get over-the-air TV. I even put an antenna on my roof, and it doesn't work. What's the governments responsibility for providing public band tv stuff to me? Seems like I'm forced to buy into the cable cabal?
pdq 3 days ago 0 replies      
Scalia, Thomas, and Alito wrote their dissenting opinion, starting on page 23.
Apoorv02 3 days ago 1 reply      
Aereo is not violating anything but they should have prepared for something like this. Absurdity is common when you are trying to provide similar service to the consumer in a better way without creating monopoly.
mckoss 3 days ago 0 replies      
The dissenting opinion is based on a theory that Aero did not make a choice in what they were rebroadcasting. I disagree as they carefully selected the geographic region for their antennas based on their belief in the market demand for (copyrighted) shows in that region. They also carefully adjusted their equipment to be tied to the specific frequencies of broadcasters. They knew and promoted precisely what content viewers would watch.
pontifier 3 days ago 2 replies      
I'm constantly amazed by the way the supreme court carves a razor sharp line through the issues. They always seem to examine these complex issues with the clarity they deserve. That's their job, but these are some fantastic and intelligent individuals, and are the only people in government, especially the justice system, that I have complete confidence in.

I truly wish I could have more confidence in other parts of government, especially lower court judges, and the police.

jusben1369 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think this is a good read as it relates to the broader implications of this decision;


jervisfm 2 days ago 5 replies      
Here's a (naive) question: In the US, is a Supreme Court ruling completely final ? What options, if any, are available to the losing party ? Is change through congress the only way to try to appeal rulings?

If there are no practical ways to repeal Supreme Court rulings, what happens when the Supreme Court makes a mistaken ruling?

rglover 3 days ago 4 replies      
Not surprised. The service works by rebroadcasting over the air signals and then charging for them, right?
ashmud 2 days ago 0 replies      
Bit of an "edit war" on their wikipedia page over declaring them defunct already. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Aereo&action=hist...
euroclydon 2 days ago 1 reply      
I haven't given Aereo much thought, but it seems like, if I could rent a VPS in Miami, I could watch Miami Dolphins games online for the cost of Aereo plus the VPS. That would be like $30/mo for 5 months. $150 total -- much cheaper than the NFL Sunday Ticket.

That alone is a big loophole!!!

sschueller 3 days ago 1 reply      
Does that mean good bye Aereo? Didn't they say they would shut down their service if they loose?
snowwrestler 3 days ago 1 reply      
I never liked the Rube-Goldbergian design of the Aereo system. It was clearly more complex than necessary, for the sole reason to try to find and fit through a loophole in the law.

To support that would set bad precedent, I think--both legally and technologically. Even if you hate copyright, I'd argue that this ruling is probably better in the long run because it clarifies the situation and the fight.

From that perspective I think the decision is essentially correct, although I'm sure it will be unpopular here.

However, I did read the syllabus, and there is some language in there referencing viewer participation in a public performance, that seems worrisome. But I'm not a lawyer, so I will be interested to see informed discussion of whether the specific legislation and precedents were applied correctly, and what implications were created by this decision.

evandena 3 days ago 2 replies      
So how does this ruling not affect the cloud storage providers?
kdot 2 days ago 1 reply      
I would love for Aereo to open source the technology, sell me an antenna so that I can run my own Aereo service and stream TV to myself.
mp99e99 3 days ago 1 reply      
very sad day for consumers and tech, lots of possible business models broken.
muyuu 3 days ago 3 replies      
Down. Any mirrors?
cowardlydragon 3 days ago 0 replies      
No way, a decision from the Supremes that favors entrenched corporate interests?

At least this time it isn't such a direct attack on the "common people"

notastartup 2 days ago 0 replies      
Are there any other services like Aereo out there?

What was the key deciding factor that they broke the law?

What will happen now to Aereo's investors money? Will it be used to pay a large copyright royalty fee? Can it pivot? I think the latter is unlikely seeing they had no other plans, they bet the horse.

Reading this article back in March, I would've been freaked if I was an investor.


    No. There is no plan. We believe in our merit and we do    think its the right thing. Progress is important. The     mission of this company was to try to create an open     platform, to try to wedge the system open a little bit.    And if we dont succeed in that despite our best     efforts, good law on our side, and the merits of our     case, it will be a tragedy but it is what it is.
Aereo CEO

cm-t 3 days ago 1 reply      
HN/reddit ddos'ed ?
Glyptodon 2 days ago 0 replies      
If aliens have a TV channel does that make SETI@home illegal?
electronous 3 days ago 3 replies      
This is precisely why old people shouldn't be anywhere near tech.
260 points by kwntm  8 days ago   153 comments top 33
Rudism 8 days ago 7 replies      
Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the whole reason gifs started proliferating on the net because people wanted to share short video loops, but didn't want to embed flash or video which may not load or play correctly in a user's browser? And now we are championing the conversion of those gifs back into video? Seems like a strange round-about way of doing things.

I forsee a future where all video clips on the net have been converted back and forth between gif and video so often that they all slowly merge into a single amorphous blob of greyish-brown pixels. Actually, now that I think about it, that would almost certainly be an improvement over the current situation.

ars 8 days ago 6 replies      
This is not true:

"A GIF is literally a sequence of independent images squeezed into the same file. An mp4 video can take advantage of all kinds of fancy compression techniques like keyframes and forward-predictive frames."

That's not why the mp4 is smaller. A GIF is not [just] independent images, you can have each frame reuse pixels from previous frames.

The mp4 is smaller because lossy jpeg compression is used on each frame, while the gif stores each frames losslessly.

This has implications from the predictive frames as well - the jpeg is lossy, so two almost similar parts of the images can be considered "the same", while the gif is not, so they must be identical in order to compress that way, and the realities of video noise makes that unlikely.

kudu 8 days ago 1 reply      
This article makes it sound like Twitter invented a whole new optimization, when they really just recycled a concept already in use by gfycat (http://www.gfycat.com/) and MediaCrush (https://mediacru.sh/).
Permit 8 days ago 6 replies      
I'm curious if anyone is noticed the flickering Loading icon when the .mp4 version loops? It only shows up for 50 ms, but seems kind of annoying. Or maybe it's just my machine?

Here's a cap: http://imgur.com/2R84ImD

Sir_Cmpwn 8 days ago 1 reply      
I made a site that drove this innovation, MediaCrush. It's open source.


if you want to try to do this yourself, our code is a good reference.


stonogo 8 days ago 10 replies      
This is on a fully-patched RHEL6 workstation:


Another example of "use bleeding-edge tech or go fuck yourself" from the modern web.

billmalarky 8 days ago 0 replies      
"Videos allow Twitter to leverage the browser. This means play, pause, and seek, but also cool things like slow-motion. Think your GIF is funny now? Wait til you see it in slow motion."

Gifs have built in slow motion, it's called waiting for the 10mb file to download frame by frame upon initial play-through.

TazeTSchnitzel 8 days ago 0 replies      
Much like what http://gfycat.com/ do, then?

Interesting also that 4chan recently added looping, muted WebM videos for similar reasons.

bluedino 8 days ago 1 reply      
Haven't things like gfyCat been doing HTML5 video from GIF's for a while?
protopete 8 days ago 4 replies      
Unfortunately the MP4 looks worse than the GIF, due to chroma compression in the YUV 420 colorspace. While each pixels luminance value is kept, the color information for a 4-pixel square is stored as a single CrCb pair, which is really obvious when you look at how the orange hat has artifacts against the blue background. Increasing the bitrate won't solve this either, since it's a limitation of the colorspace.
gdulli 8 days ago 0 replies      
Is there a flash blocker solution that removes all traces of the page element rather than leave an ugly placeholder? It's going to be annoying to see this on Twitter from now on.
jstalin 8 days ago 0 replies      
It's annoying to an oldtimer, like me, that animated gifs have now simply become gifs.
rudog 8 days ago 0 replies      
We've been doing that at my company on our mobile applications for a few years now. There is no reason to be shoving 5-10mb GIFs down a users throat on a mobile device. Not only does are MP4s smaller (file size), frames per second will be constant on all browsers, unlike GIF (although most browsers are supporting up to 50fps these days). Although outdated, you can read more about that here. http://nullsleep.tumblr.com/post/16524517190/animated-gif-mi...

I wrote a simple js lib for detecting the duration of a GIF for each browser. It was a fun weekend project. https://github.com/rfrench/gify

If webp gains more adoption, it's another alternative now that it supports animation.

lawl 8 days ago 2 replies      
So. Who was first. 4chan or twitter?

How long has twitter been doing this? Just out of curiousity.

(Yes I know 4chan doesn't convert but there was some talk that 4chan might be a major player in pushing webm forward. Is it even webm or x264? On mobile. Can't check right now.)

brickmort 8 days ago 0 replies      
I think now would be a good time to introduce HTML5 videos to the feed, or gfycats. At least on certain browsers.
pyrocat 8 days ago 0 replies      
The twitter "GIF" is a black box. gg
cbr 8 days ago 0 replies      
Another option (for supporting browsers) is to use animated webp: https://developers.google.com/speed/webp/faq#why_should_i_us...
supercoder 8 days ago 0 replies      
Can I skip the GIF and have Twitter just play an MP4 I upload ?
eph_unit 8 days ago 4 replies      
So, what is an easy way to convert gifs to mp4? How did they do this. I run a small gif-sharing site and should probably do this.
ahassan 8 days ago 0 replies      
This is why 4chan supports WebM videos now in addition to the traditional gifs.
megablast 8 days ago 0 replies      
This is what I see on the page: http://i.imgur.com/wFjEY8t.jpg

I can understand why twitter is saving money on hosting these new "gifs"

user24 8 days ago 0 replies      
Great, and we've lost the ability to save them to your computer, and to share them outside of twitter's ecosystem.
shmerl 8 days ago 0 replies      
GIFs indeed are bad for video (quality, size, no control, no sound, etc.) but in order for that to be really true, the site must allow embedding videos using the video tag (i.e. videos which people upload in proper video formats). Does Twitter allow it?
RRRA 8 days ago 3 replies      
The saddest part is that you can't add a zip to that gif and use twitter as a sharing platform.

cat x.zip >> y.gif and upload would have been nice ;)

goblin89 8 days ago 0 replies      
For me the main lesson here is that I should be more attentive and investigate. I remember noticing some ungiffy vibe about animated clips on Twitter, but quickly dismissing the observation. Perhaps if my timeline contained a lot of GIFs I'd dig deeper, but it doesn't help feeling shallow.
malkia 8 days ago 0 replies      
I would think it's to avoid any traces of steganography... naaah I'm just kidding....
cosmeen 8 days ago 0 replies      
This is what Gfycat http://gfycat.com/ is been doing since last year but as a service.
johnnymonster 8 days ago 0 replies      
Does anyone know what they are doing for the conversion? Any services out there do this?
webXL 8 days ago 0 replies      
This is an automated fix. Animated GIFs are the hack!
zobzu 8 days ago 0 replies      
its like many other sites do it and its much better that way
tomphoolery 8 days ago 0 replies      
attn: reddit, please do this
neotoy 8 days ago 0 replies      
Hopefully this will contribute to the extinction of gifs.
raverbashing 8 days ago 1 reply      
I had noticed that. Because of flashblock.

Yeah, a 20+ years file format doesn't do compression between frames, who would have thought...

       cached 28 June 2014 15:11:02 GMT