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792 points by wwwarsame  17 hours ago   149 comments top 59
technofiend 16 hours ago 4 replies      
Mohamed let me tell you about my little sister. She was the opposite of me in that she hated school. Truly hated it. She said she'd never set foot in school again after graduating high school.

But, she wanted to be a police officer, and that required college. So she put herself through school by being a prison guard. My little 5'3" sister running around bossing grown men like it was nothing.

She made it through school and got hired as a police officer. She spent the next five years as a dispatcher. Nobody wanted to put her on the streets. But she persevered and eventually she won the day and became a patrol officer. I dare say except for getting married it was the happiest day of her life.

Don't let anything stop you, man. Smart isn't everything: perseverance counts for a great deal.

bootload 15 hours ago 4 replies      
"My name is Mohamed, and I am a jail guard!"

G'day, Mohamed don't make the mistake of defining yourself by your job. You are much, much more than that. You work (and survive) in a Jail? That now makes you 10x better than most nerds on HN in understanding and handling people. Scan HN and the general press and you can see how badly Startups and their users are hurt by this and you'll realise this is a desirable skill. Start from there.

downandout 12 hours ago 5 replies      
Before you do this, consider the following question: would you rather spend your time learning to build the Uber app, or learning the skills to build Uber (the company)? Those are two truly different skill sets, and the latter is far more rare and valuable. The ability to raise money, build teams for a variety of functions, budget, and execute on an audacious vision is far outside the realm of most software engineers.

Unless coding is truly your passion, hire someone or find a technical co-founder. Spend your time learning how to plan and build stable, scalable businesses and teams. Your goal should be to build an organization that can employ all of the software engineers necessary to carry out the vision for your business - not to be able to write all of the code yourself.

Rogerh91 4 hours ago 2 replies      
Welcome Mohamed.

"This place is overwhelmingly full of smart people, and I sometimes feel out of place!"

Don't feel out of place. You may just be suffering from Dunning-Kruger effect.


The smartest people for me are those who can drop all pretensions and learn as much as they can. You're well on your way.

Alex3917 11 hours ago 2 replies      
That timeline would be doable, but Spring 2019 wouldn't be bad to shoot for either. Here is an alternate 3.5 year plan:

- Year 1: Learn to code full time. Later in the year, start applying for jobs as a developer.

- Year 2: Get a job as a full stack dev. Devote nights and weekends to improving your development skills as much as possible.

- Year 3: Get a cofounder, and work nights and weekends on your project.

- Year 4: Go full time, and work for 6 months to launch the product and get enough traction to do YC.

The problem is that if you don't spend any time actually working as a developer, you'll be limited to only doing very simple projects. And also, it's much more likely to work if you can find a cofounder and work with them part time for a while before going full time.

As someone else already said, you'll also need the skills required to create a good product and build a good company, both of which are entirely different.

SoftwarePatent 54 minutes ago 0 replies      
Welcome! With your background you might be interested in the YC startup Pigeon.ly. Maybe you could apply to work/intern for them to gain experience. http://blog.ycombinator.com/pigeon-dot-ly-yc-w15-a-startup-f...
radmuzom 16 hours ago 1 reply      
All the best. My advice to you would be to try and think how you can provide real value to people (which rules out 90% of "startups" in Silicon Valley) and make a positive change in their lives.

This does not mean you have to solve world hunger, it can be as simple as having identified a loophole which allows for corruption in jails and you use technology to close that loophole.

primitivesuave 15 hours ago 1 reply      
Hey Mohamed! I'm really glad you're making a startup. When I started my first startup, I had no idea how to make "mywebsite.com" link up to my actual website - the whole process was a mystery to me. It was like wandering around in a dark room and bumping into the furniture and walls.

I got the business started with just a simple Bootstrap template and PHP form, and it worked great! After around 6 months of learning new things every day through the Internet, chat rooms, etc, all in an effort to improve the website, I felt like one of those days I just found the light switch, and the whole room was illuminated.

Nowadays I can work on my own schedule on coding projects that I truly enjoy doing. Two years ago, I didn't even know what I was capable of building. There were certainly those days where it all feels a bit overwhelming, but like another great commenter pointed out here, perseverance is key.

peterjancelis 16 hours ago 1 reply      
I hope your MVP will be catering to prison guard or prison management. You probably got some unique insights there that few developers have.
jnbiche 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Good luck with your endeavors! Regarding learning to code, I'll just reiterate what others have said that Python is an excellent language to learn with (that said, it's not ideal for everything, but it is a great learner's language).

Also, if you haven't already, I'd suggest switching to Linux or OSX and get used to working on the command line. Most developers in the start-up scene will be working on OSX or Linux, and learning how to use the command line will benefit you enormously.

greens231 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Hey Mohamed,My name is Kabir Narain. I started programming in Jan 2014 and recently launched my first app (www.almostfamous.club). Start by making simple websites or apps for the phone that you use. Its daunting at first but in around one year you should be feeling pretty confident of yourself. My email is 1119231@gmail.com Mail me if you need any assistance. Good luck!

PS- i did not go to college or attend any programming courses so believe me, you CAN do it! (i was training as a sea navigator on board merchant ships before that)

sureshn 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I urge you to read this article before you decide to take the entrepreneurial plunge http://qz.com/455109/entrepreneurs-dont-have-a-special-gene-...
trentmb 16 hours ago 0 replies      
> This place is overwhelmingly full of smart people, and I sometimes feel out of place!

You and I both- I commend you on your humility and look forward to your success.

daSn0wie 12 hours ago 1 reply      
Intelligence doesn't matter as much as you think:


Comparing yourself to others is always a losing game. Compare yourself to where you were when you started this journey, and you'll see that you've come pretty far.

Get ready for the rollercoaster (emotionally) ride, and good luck!

dr_hercules 11 hours ago 1 reply      
How about working as an employed programmer first - learn from colleagues - and then after three years reconsider founding a company.

I mean sorry, but if you worked so far as a jail guard then you probably don't have enough experience for you ambitious dreams yet.

Honestly though ... this text seems so generical and naive that I have trouble believing its authenticity ...

geektips 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Hi Mohamed , all of the people here given you great advice on the language to learn and tools to use. I think this will be helpful for you https://github.com/ripienaar/free-for-dev
hliyan 17 hours ago 0 replies      
You've given yourself two years -- that's good, realistic. May I ask what level of knowledge skill in what areas you're aiming for by fall of 2017, and how much time you plan to devote per, say week, for the exercise?

Also, good luck. If you need to be pointed in the right direction, I'm sure a lot of people here (including myself) would be happy to do so during this period.

Cblinks 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Hey Mohamed!

I doing a coding challenge where I'm building 6 apps in 60 days. Take it one day at a time. The smartest person in the a game isn't always the person who ends up winning. The person who doesn't give up usually wins. You should check out codeschool.com. They have great courses.

maxschumacher91 15 hours ago 1 reply      
Dear Mohamed,

do you think you'll be able to use your specific insight into the prison system as a basis for your idea? I bet there are many problems waiting to be solved.

Prisons are big money, especially in the US.

Greetings and all the best for your journey to YC

zongitsrinzler 14 hours ago 5 replies      
Hey Mohamed.

I am interested in how someone who is not an engineer/investor/etc even came to hear about Hacker News?

atroyn 14 hours ago 1 reply      
Hi Mohamed

Your goals are admirable, and I think you're on the right path. Do you have some product or company idea in mind already?

The one piece of advice I'd like to give you is, there's no need to rush. There will be plenty more YC intakes, and you'll have tons of good ideas - learning to execute on them by trying a bunch of different stuff is the best way to get there, and to do that you need to give yourself time to learn.

kaa2102 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Congratulations! The journey is long and challenging but totally worth it. Approach the startup world with the intellectual curiosity of a visitor in a foreign country. There are some great ways to learn how to code. Instead, I've found it beneficial to Learn How to Do X to Accomplish Y. There are numerous programming languages, APIs, platforms, devices, technologies, methodologies, etc. Focus on the X that helps you do Y. Udacity, Khan Academy, Coursera, and W3Schools.com offer a great start (some are free) for programming. A good start is learning front end development: HTML, Bootsrap. CSS, Javascript.

Find some like-minded individuals. You can join tech meetups, Google Developer groups, etc. Good luck on your journey my friend! Keep building!

Jugurtha 16 hours ago 1 reply      
Welcome, Mohamed..

A little word of advice that I hope will save you a lot of time and frustration:

- Don't wait to complete your training to start your project. Start with the knowledge you have and tweak it over time. If you have no knowledge right now, start by sketching in English. It seems stupid but just the fact of abstracting human needs that seem obvious to us and formalizing them into logical steps will help you tremendously.

- Write code about random stuff you think about. It will be ugly and you'll laugh at it, but you will be lightyears ahead than if you wait when you finish your training to start writing code. It doesn't need to be great, awesomely useful or something.

- Compare yourself with yourself. "..wrote 3,000 lines of Python in a day to build a Segway" made me hate myself. Fight that urge. I know I still am. Reading biographies of great people, seeing what people are actually doing and building makes me feel miserable, incompetent and good at nothing.

- Understand that the points above are for you just in part, they are mainly for myself :)

Here's something to make you feel less inadequate:


Work to get better. When the itch presents itself, you'll have the skills to scratch it.

Good luck.

wwwarsame 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Mohamed here....

Wow. Seriously? I wrote this after coming back from work, and went off to sleep (it was around 2AM). I don't know what to say, but thank you to all for taking the time to respond and upvoting this thread. I have never expected this to happen. I will respond to each commentor who specifically asked a direct question as time allows, but for now, I will jot down more about me and why I have the career that I have.

To start, I earned my BSc in Public Health and Safety. After few years in the field, I became disgruntled with my career choice and felt miserable going to work each day. I felt trapped in a rat race full of fake smiles. I had to decide that I will either do this for 30 or so years and retire, or just leave. Well, the decision was made for me and I was fired...ahahah. I wish they could also fire my student debt. The annoyance I felt working in such environment where I was not being challenged enough and not learning much was oozing from every pore on my body, and managers could smell it.

Fast forward, I went off to Africa for vacation and the basic life necessities we enjoy every day such as clean water, electricity and food safety were non-existent. Everything in many parts of Africa are run by NGO's. There were rules that prohibit people from planting their own food! The NGO's want to supply you the food from their end. Being self sufficient is not part of the game for these NGO's. Anyways, I could go on forever about the dire situations in Africa and the corruption from within the nation and from outside agencies, but it will be too long for one post.

Fast forward some more, and I came back home. No job. No savings. My cousin told me to apply for a corrections job. I got it. And guess what? I love it. I use my natural verbal judo skills and empathy to get the job done. It is scary, but ultimately, you either get yourself in hot water or stay out of the hot water as a jail guard. I chose the latter. Long story short, I really enjoy my job and there are multiple ideas and what if's I come up with when I am there. I was always around entrepreneurs. The best entrepreneur I know of personally is my mother. I learned from her the idea that create something people want. In her case, it was order what people want. I always wondered why my mother would order only ladies clothing and jewelry and perfume for women only. Why not men? Because my mother understood these women and their inherent need to change clothes all the time, and she satisfied this by purchasing everything they needed as a wholesale from Middle East. She never bought even once what men want. She stuck to her believe and made a lot of money doing it by satisfying her core customers: housewives. I think we can all learn from people in our lives that made a silent contribution to push you to entrepreneurship, and for me, it was my mother.

I have declared this little blurb last night because I can't stand being the idea guy anymore. I have countless ideas, but I understand the need to learn and become a sufficient partner when I do find a co-founder. The idea I will work on with the online coding bootcamp is from my workplace. I would like to streamline something so redundant that I do every day using technology. There are multiple things I could work on, but I have to start from somewhere first. Off to work for now, again, I will respond to direct questions from certain commentors. Again, thank you.

amirouche 15 hours ago 0 replies      
I'd like to say that everything about coding is not startup. There is a life for code outside startups.
ramykhuffash 15 hours ago 0 replies      
This is an awesome post & I'm excited to see the support from HN.

I like how you're giving yourself a solid goal and plenty of time to achieve it.

Quick question - you mention that you'd like to build an MVP yourself, do you know what product you'd like to build or what market you're interested in serving?

naveensky 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Hi Mohamed, Good luck for your journey. It would be really exciting to know more about your journey, I hope you will have time to maintain blog or post more here :)

Again, if you need any tech help, feel free to ping me at @naveensky (twitter) or email in my profile :)


nailer 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Awesome Mohamed! Start small, and use the free resources - try the Learn the Hard Way series. Python is a great language to start with, JavaScript is a little more difficult but you can do more things. Attend meetups too, they'll inspire you and it's nice to be able to speak to people in real life about this stuff.
radcam 13 hours ago 0 replies      
From Mohamed to Mohamed, i own my iOS app and i can help you with anything iOS. i teach iOS and Swift to non-programmers and CS graduates. I'm not in the U.S. but if you ever need anything hit me up on Twitter @moubarak
richardboegli 15 hours ago 9 replies      
MS Access - Learn it first!


The first few reasons that come to mind:

1) To quote a friend of mine, If a 50 year old boilermaker can work it out, then anyone can.

2) MS Access will more than likely be installed on your computer at work.

3) Almost all "startup" type programs will need databasing of some sort.

4) It has macros and modules (VBA - Visual Basic for Applications)

5) As you start to learn Visual Basic for Application you can use this to potentially automate things at work as it available across Word and Excel.

Read these to get started:

Database basics [1]

This article provides a brief overview of databases -- what they are, why you might want to use one, and what the different parts of a database do.

Database design basics [2]

A properly designed database provides you with access to up-to-date, accurate information.

Learn the structure of an Access database [3]

Becoming familiar with the tables, forms, queries, and other objects in a database can make it easier to perform a wide variety of tasks, such as entering data into a form, adding or removing tables, finding and replacing data, and running queries.

[1] https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Database-basics-2C5...

[2] https://support.office.com/en-gb/article/Database-design-bas...

[3] https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Learn-the-structure...

Stratoscope 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Wow, Mohamed, this is great. I'm glad I stayed up late enough tonight to see your post. Please feel free to give me a shout via the email address in my profile - I'd be more than happy to kick around any ideas to help you get started.

What kind of computer do you use - Windows, Mac, Linux? I'd like to give you some suggestions for programming tools (mostly free, some you might pay for), but of course the details will depend on which OS you're using.

I second nailer's suggestion that you may want to start with Python for some of your initial learning. It's an easy language to get started with, but also very powerful. Even if you end up using another language later on, your Python skills will remain valuable - it's great for writing anything from little scripts up to large apps.

Ruby is also really nice, you wouldn't go wrong with that either. And of course you'll want to learn JavaScript eventually too, regardless of what else you do. You could start with any of these really, but Python is probably the easiest to begin with. What you really want to start out doing is to get the basic concepts of programming down - and these carry over from language to language.

One suggestion I'll make right away: in every language you work with, find and learn how to use a good debugger. For JavaScript, every browser has a nice built-in debugger. (I like the one in Chrome, but they are all pretty good.) For Python or Ruby it will depend to some degree on which OS you use.

And a good IDE with built-in syntax checking, autocomplete, and all that is really great to have.

Some people will tell you not to use IDEs and debuggers and things like that, as if it were a sign of weakness to use good tools. Or that if you follow Test Driven Development you should never need to use a debugger. Don't listen to them!

I see so many people asking questions on Stack Overflow that they could have answered for themselves in a few minutes if they only knew how to debug their code. Testing is important and you should learn all about it and do it, but debuggers are for more than just fixing bugs. They help you explore and learn how your code works, and what the APIs you're calling really do, in an interactive and visual way.

Here's a Stack Overflow post of mine from a couple of years ago with screenshots of a few Python debuggers:


Don't worry if there's a lot of stuff in those screens; it will all make sense as you get into it.

You'll also want to get into version control sooner rather than later. Most people use Git these days, although Mercurial is very good too. I recommend avoiding the Git command line though, at least at first. You have enough to learn as it is without having to deal with that arcane system. But there are some nice visual interfaces to Git. I like SmartGit a lot and recommend it. It's free for noncommercial use. Or you may want to start with something even simpler like one of the free clients from GitHub.

Again, let me know what OS you're on and I'll make some specific suggestions for various kinds of tools.

p.s. Top of Hacker News on your first post! Not too shabby...

zitterbewegung 16 hours ago 0 replies      
You have experience with Jails and guarding things? I would ask you to figure out some type of problem that requires the protection of some type of asset.
zyngaro 10 hours ago 0 replies      
I agree. HN is really unique in the web landscape. A lot of smart and nice people here. It's a great community that inspired you to take that challenge and that's amazing. Good luck.
felixrabe 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Hello Mohamed. I'd be very interested to hear about your journey starting today, whatever you end up doing, whether you persevere (what I hope) or not, no matter.

Would you start a blog someplace and post a link here so we can be part of your adventure?

Axsuul 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Good luck Mohamed! There's nothing stopping you :)
brobinson 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Do you already have a business idea or two floating around in your head? Just curious.
onassar 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Eid Mubarek Mohamed. Reach out if I can help with anything product/tech related :)
vjdhama 15 hours ago 1 reply      
Awesome man!! Your humility just inspires me. Ping me (@vjdhama) if you need any kind of help with coding or any aspect of learning for that matter.

I'd be more than happy to lend out a hand.

arisAlexis 16 hours ago 0 replies      
maybe your MVP will actually matter to lots of people and become useful for humanity since you are working for this specific sector that innovation is rare.
ghufran_syed 2 hours ago 1 reply      
My daughter and I were in the same position around 18 months ago. Neither of us knew any coding, but we wanted to do a startup. I have an mba and another professional degree and wanted to do a startup, so in theory, I could have tried to find a tech cofounder, but in the end, felt I would be in a better position if I learnt to code. As usual, paul graham says it better than I can, "anyone reasonably smart can probably get to an edge of programming (e.g. building mobile apps) in a year. Since a successful startup will consume at least 3-5 years of your life, a year's preparation would be a reasonable investment. Especially if you're also looking for a cofounder."

I would advise against the bootcamp (unless it's free?), you don't need one as long as you have one or two buddies who code, who can advise you on what to learn and help you when you get stuck, the response to your post suggests that you will have a lot of people who would be willing to help! It might be a good idea to put an email in your HN profile, make it easier for folks to get in touch.

We started with python (udacity cs101), lisp/scheme using the free 'simply scheme' book ( https://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~bh/ss-toc2.html ) together with learning some of the tools like unix command-line/vim/git, then a course on web programming (udacity cs253), while she was doing college full-time, and I was working full-time.

We then started learning rails and working almost full-time on the startup around Oct 2014, and launched v1 of our web app in March 2015. Still working on getting more customers :). Don't be in too much of a rush to leave what you do now: I think it's definitely a good idea to have a 'day job' that pays the bills, while you work on little projects that are interesting to you and help you learn the various technologies, you may well find one of them turns into something a lot bigger.

We also applied to yc (unsuccessfully), which may have been good for us: I think the value of the advice they can give is high, but I now think it's kind of a waste of the opportunity if you're not raising money at the end. We are still figuring out 'what users want', and in hindsight, raising money would have been both difficult to resist, and a terrible idea for us at that time.

Most of the advice yc gives is 'open source', for example, paul graham's essays and books, jessica livingston's book, the yc startup school etc, so you don't need to get into yc to learn what they have to say.

I now think that the best time to go through yc would be after you've internalized what they teach, have made something users want, are growing, and now need funding so you can grow even faster. I think YC fulfilled a different role in the early days when it was so small, but is now so competitive, it's best to think of it a bit like hiring an investment bank when looking to IPO. In theory, they take a chunk of equity in exchange for good capital markets advice that will get you a much better valuation: as far as investment banks go, this is usually self-interested bullshit, but I think would be an accurate description of the value of yc.

Best of luck, and get in touch by email, it would be good to chat!

arianvanp 16 hours ago 1 reply      
Awesome. If you ever wanna chat about coding or so. discuss geeky stuff. I'm always idling on IRC (freenode) on the nickname `arianvp`.
pknerd 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Please create a blog and share your progress with outer world. It can help you alot!
zalzane 7 hours ago 0 replies      
> This place is overwhelmingly full of smart people, and I sometimes feel out of place!

Rule 1: Don't confuse intelligence with experience.

Technological and critical thinking skills can be learned by everyone given enough time and effort. A lot of people dismiss any possibility of becoming technically minded by saying "only smart people can do that", even though they have the potential to gain the same skills.

motyar 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Join Github.com, show up, create something, dont tell; show.
darrellsilver 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Hi Mohamed what bootcamp are you joining?
sidcool 14 hours ago 1 reply      
Good luck dude. I am sure you will rock. Independent of the outcome, your journey is going to be glorious!!
dheavy 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Good luck Mohamed. With your perseverance I'm absolutely certain you'll make it!
cekanoni 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Fingers crossed for you man, have a fun learning this is nice motivation.
EGreg 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Mohamed - I would recommend learning about basic software engineering practices but NOT building your own app. It takes years to become good enough to do that successfully. Instead, learn how to hire and manage developers, especially overseas developers on upwork.com (formerly odesk), how to share equity (read Slicing Pie book) and most of all how to design the user experience, and market yourself to investors (create an online portal for investors that works on mobile and desktop browsers.) Use invisionapp or something similar to show your app to others, and iterate THAT. Your first customers are actually investors and developers!
justmaintain 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Become an entrepreneur instead. You work in a jail, possibilities for content creation in such environments are endless.
maqbool 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Good luck Mohamed.
Alex999 14 hours ago 0 replies      
All i can say is "Best of Luck"
sharavsambuu 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Good luck man you can do it!
empressplay 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Good for you! Best of luck.
ai_ja_nai 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Good luck!
12jason 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Jail guard that must be interesting
owaislone 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Good luck my friend!
MurWade 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Hello. good luck. i will be watching you. haha
alouanchi 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Good luck man, wish you all the best in this journey.
Dear Google Mail Team plus.google.com
707 points by ingve  2 days ago   255 comments top 70
dasil003 2 days ago 18 replies      
I could see 20% false positives on spam for Linus equating to 0.1% of false positives across the board since I suspect the people emailing Linus are 200 times more likely to be running their own mail server than the general public.
billconan 2 days ago 5 replies      
very funny, right after I saw this, I decided to check my spam folder just to see if anything important has been filtered out, and I saw an email sent by google marked as a spam:

this email is sent by google when logging in google account from a new machine. they tag their own email as spam ...

Hi xxx,Your Google Account xxx@gmail.com was just used to sign in from Chrome on Windows.

Don't recognize this activity?Review your recently used devices now.

Why are we sending this? We take security very seriously and we want to keep you in the loop on important actions in your account.We were unable to determine whether you have used this browser or device with your account before. This can happen when you sign in for the first time on a new computer, phone or browser, when you use your browser's incognito or private browsing mode or clear your cookies, or when somebody else is accessing your account.Best,

The Google Accounts team

secabeen 2 days ago 5 replies      
I run my own mail server with full SPF, DKIM and SRS, routing the mail through a relay at a reputable VPS provider on high-reputation IPs. Over the last few months, there seems to be this pattern where if I email someone @gmail who I've never mailed before, they don't seem to ever get it. I wonder if this is the issue.
chbrown 2 days ago 2 replies      
I'm kind of surprised that Linus uses Gmail.

It's likely that he'll actually catch a Googler's attention, but for many of us, user feedback is not an option.

@jacquesm's http://jacquesmattheij.com/ham-or-spam-gmail-not-to-be-trust... is another recent instance but again, there's no call to action.

Gmail is great for some people, but I prefer having more control, and I highly recommend https://FastMail.com if Gmail is failing to meet your needs.

c5karl 2 days ago 4 replies      
I've had a problem with false positives in my spam folder for months. A large percentage of the email newsletters I subscribe to end up in my spam folder every day, and clicking Notspam doesn't help. I can Notspam a certain newsletter every day for a week, and then the next day that same newsletter will end up in my Spam folder once again.

I'm starting to think that Notspam signals have no effect at an individual level. Either that or the button is simply a placebo.

Fortunately, the false positives for personal correspondence from individuals are still extremely rare, at least for me.

LukaAl 2 days ago 1 reply      
Happened to me as well.Some of the eMail were just "updates" email that I like to receive but if they get lost is not a big deal.But a couple of them were very important one, and to make things worst, they were answer to email in which I was in CC. So, a colleague of mine send an email to someone and CC me. The second person answer and that mail is marked spam for me but not for the person who wrote the original eMail.Doesn't make sense that an answer to a legitimate conversation is by default a legitimate eMail?
cybojanek 2 days ago 6 replies      
How much of this is caused by people marking mailing list emails as SPAM instead of properly unsubscribing?
incepted 2 days ago 0 replies      
After reading this, I went through my spam folder and it's looking overall quite okay EXCEPT that all the comments on Google+ in response to things I posted these past few weeks are marked as spam. All of them.

Yup: Gmail is marking comments originating from Google+ and written by legitimate users as spam.

tortilla 2 days ago 1 reply      
Wow, just checked my spam folder and there was an important email marked as spam by Gmail. It was from a known contact I had already corresponded with.
tempestn 1 day ago 0 replies      
What would be really fantastic is if Google let you set your own spam threshold. I can't even imagine it would be too difficult. Presumably they determine a numeric 'spam likelihood' number for each incoming email already, so this would just mean being able to customize the threshold that that number is compared against. Obviously entering it numerically wouldn't be very user friendly, but even 5 levels from most to least aggressive (like Spam Assassin and such offer) would be extremely helpful.

Even better would be if you could have different handling for different levels, like black-holing or auto-trashing the absolutely-definitely spam, making it easier to occasionally scan the regular spam box. I get something over 1000 spam emails per day, so it's just not feasible to give even a cursory look over them to find the false positives. I can't even imagine what it would be like for someone like Linus.

Unfortunately, that would draw attention to the fact that the spam filter isn't perfect, and would require users to make choices with tradeoffs, so I can't imagine it's a very attractive option for Google.

scrollaway 2 days ago 1 reply      
I am subscribed to the wine-devel, wine-bugs and wine-patches mailing lists (https://www.winehq.org/forums). Having the exact same issue.

It seems to very easily flag discussion about .exes as spam, it's really disappointing. It's been several years and the filters haven't improved, despite me religiously flagging spam/not spam in those lists.

In the end I just gave up and set up filters to specifically prevent marking incoming emails on those lists as spam. It misses the odd linkedin invitation, but it's not like it was catching it before...

noinsight 2 days ago 0 replies      
He already got a response from the Gmail product manager, must be nice being Linus.

Notice the comments from Sri Somanchi. He's listed as the product manager here: http://gmailblog.blogspot.com/2015/07/the-mail-you-want-not-...

mkhpalm 1 day ago 0 replies      
The unfortunate thing about gmail is its gotten worse than AOL was to deal with on the spam front. I feel like there are historical lessons worth learning regarding where all those @aol.com users went.

1. Everything became "spam"

2. They got to a point where they believed they were the standard

3. Nobody could do anything about it

I can think of many places where this same situation has played out. Its yet to work long term without disastrous results after a reign of technical darkness. That doesn't seem to stop people from thinking it won't happen to them.

Its fine to aggressively fight spam. If you choose to error on the side of false positives then its in your own interest to provide reasonable recourse. If not, you've left a very large gap that somebody else will come in and fill. Just as google did.

lucb1e 1 day ago 1 reply      
The real shocker is that Linus Torvalds uses gmail, where you have no control over anything regarding your account (exhibit A: look an awesome new spam filter which you can't turn off!). I would never have thought he'd do that.
qmalxp 2 days ago 1 reply      
A few months ago, I wrote a simple Android app and put it on the Play Store. Now every two weeks I receive unsolicited spammy emails about ad campaigns and increasing user awareness. Funny how those get through the filter.
elevensies 2 days ago 4 replies      
It might not be related, but I've been seeing some spam in my gmail inbox in the past month. It seems that something has upset the balance. For example, this went to my inbox:

From: [...] Baby <[...]baby@gmail.com>



blfr 1 day ago 0 replies      
They also started delaying or outright rejecting some mail more aggressively so you don't even get to find it in spam. A few days ago I received a confirmation code from my CA sent to hostmaster@ the next morning after I requested it.

What's even worse they rejected email to postmaster@. I know you can adjust the spam filter sensitivity somewhere in Google Apps but come on, you should not reject any mail to postmaster by default.

jrapdx3 1 day ago 1 reply      
FWIW after reading this article, and comments here, I decided to check on the gmail account of a small not-for-profit organization I belong to (I'm the unofficial IT guy). I was shocked, there were 4127 spam messages, and just 98 unread items in the inbox. Slogging through the spam I did find some non-spam mail, but altogether that was <1% of the 4127 spam items.

Of course gmail deletes spam more than 30 days old, so how does it happen than an obscure educational non-profit gets over 4000 spam messages a month? Gmail must be a huge spam magnet, but still a mystery how those messages find their way into this spam bucket. (Unless in the past somebody had abused the account and the email address is on a thousand spammers lists...)

In any case hard to be certain what criteria the spam filter uses to declare a piece to be "spam". Not all the misclassified emails were sent from "private" servers, it would be useful if it was more clearly specified.

balls187 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Check your spam folder" is now a default instruction for automated email notifications.

Luckily it's pretty easy to scan the folder for valuable messages.

However, having to do that is clearly not ideal.

Had a wedding RSVP get flagged as spam.

rcarmo 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've been on the other end of this for a few days - basically any company I do business with who has their e-mail on Google simply doesn't get my e-mails. Sometimes I get an active bounce (i.e., a reject due to my originating address), sometimes... Nothing. No pattern, either. Same destination, different behaviors.

The mail simply does not reach my suppliers'/partners' inbox, and as a result we're all losing time and patience with this

The really funny thing? Some of those people I work with are @google.com.

(And yeah, my corporate domain is clean, SPF'd up to the wazoo, etc.)

barrkel 2 days ago 1 reply      
Mailing lists are a massive source of false positives for spam. I've pretty much given up on trying to use gmail to subscribe to them.
rn222 2 days ago 0 replies      
Google Mail Team, please test all future spam algorithm changes against Linus' inbox.
Jemaclus 1 day ago 3 replies      
I've been actively interviewing for the past few weeks, and I've noticed that a very large number of emails from companies and recruiters (mostly recruiters) have been marked as Spam or at least shunted off to a non-Inbox folder. I don't have any specific custom filters in place, so this is 100% Gmail's doing. I find that interesting and frustrating -- and none of these companies/recruiters have ever seen this before! Seems like a relatively new phenomenon, at least for these people.

I wonder what Google's internal metrics show...

datashovel 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think even Google should fear the prospects of Linus Torvalds on a mission to "fix email".
hunter2_ 1 day ago 0 replies      
Linus's 20% is not a false positive rate -- how has nobody caught this? Let's assume that "the 0.1% false positive rate [Google] tried to make such a big deal about last week" is actually a false positive rate by the normal definition.

The false positive rate is defined as (the number of false positives over (false positives + true negatives)). However, Linus quite obviously calculated the 20% as (false positives over positives), i.e. (200 / 1000). If Linus happened to have 200,000 true negatives (i.e., non-spam messages that were not flagged as spam), a number that I'm making up because he did not disclose one, then his false positive rate would be (200 / 200,200) ~= 0.1%.

Think about it... whether his email address was harvested by all the spambots in the world or none at all would have no effect on the fact that out of 200,200 legit messages, 200 were incorrectly flagged. This is why the false positive formula doesn't even include true positives! The 800 true positives (actual spam messages) don't matter to the formula. Therefore, neither does the 1000 total (true+false) positives. Don't divide by it.

multinglets 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm guilty of this too, but it would really be great if we as a society could develop some impulse against putting all of our eggs in the first shiny basket we see.
joezydeco 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've been fighting this for months. I run a simple mail forwarder for our local school PTA (so that president@pta gets to whomever is the current president, etc).

I've enabled every possible thing to make it work (DKIM, SPF, who the hell knows) and mails forwarded to my members with gmail (or Google domain hosted) accounts are always getting the forwarded email in their spam folders.

rectangletangle 2 days ago 0 replies      
Been having similar issues as of late. A few very important emails got classified as spam; not nearly 20%, but still enough to compromise my confidence in the system.
OscarCunningham 2 days ago 0 replies      
I had to disable spam detection entirely on gmail because I was losing important emails every week. So now I just delete spam by hand.
noer 1 day ago 0 replies      
I looked at my own spam folder, there were 51 messages. ~15 of them were from recruiters and probably meant for me, ~20 of them were newsletters I had probably signed up for, but didn't miss at all and the rest were split evenly for people trying to sell me prescriptions and people trying to use my bank account to hold money. Overall, 50% of the messages were actually FOR me, but it's totally fine that I didn't see them. I'm definitely wondering how many of Linus' messages were actually important enough to not belong in spam. I understand that he probably receives a lot more mail than I do, but I'm wondering how many of those messages he actually missed. Other than the ones that are part of threads he's replied to.
berberous 2 days ago 0 replies      
I had a similar issue at some point, where for a month or two, quite obvious "not spam" emails were getting caught in the filter. Nobody else on the internet seemed to be having the issue, and then it suddenly one day stopped happening again. I rarely mark emails as spam/not spam, so I don't think it was anything I did.
BinaryIdiot 1 day ago 0 replies      
The false positives with GMail really sucks. Case in point literally all Microsoft emails relating to billing on some of my products simply go the spam (my credit card recently updated and I forgot to update it everywhere). So thanks to this post I noticed and can go fix it!
davidw 1 day ago 0 replies      
Something like this happened to me recently:


A Googler on HN was kind enough to get in touch with me and help bring the problem to the attention of the right people at Google, who fixed things on their end and made a few suggestions on my end. Presumably, Linus Torvalds will get about 1000x as much Google love as I did.

Good idea to check often though: I just discovered a few LiberWriter customers in my own spam filter... :-/

someguy1233 2 days ago 0 replies      
Checked all my spam boxes on my various gmail accounts, seems nothing bad has happened with mine.

At least they're nowhere near as bad as Outlook. I have one of my domains on their free Live Domains (grandfathered plan, can't get it for free anymore, similar to google apps) - and 90% of my emails end up in spam, even if they're from a reputable company with sane mail setups such as Digital Ocean, Github or even Google.

To make it worse, with Outlook you can't turn off the spam filter, and it's known that Microsoft sometimes SILENTLY drops emails for various reasons so they never even make it to your spam box...

Sadly I've yet to find any decent replacement mail service for my domains that's free (or very cheap) and of decent quality.

easyd 2 days ago 2 replies      
Google recently posted "The mail you want, not the spam you dont":


snissn 1 day ago 0 replies      
All of the emails my mom sends me are tagged as spam. I have a label that forces them to go to my inbox, but I still get a warning that gmail identified her emails as spam, and there's no clear way of over-riding it.
paulpauper 2 days ago 1 reply      
How to get a job at Google: add annoying stuff no one asked for, ignore requests users want
danbucholtz 2 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting. A few days ago I stopped receiving pull request emails as well. Granted I routinely delete these after I process them - but I was alarmed when I checked my spam and saw them there.
guelo 2 days ago 1 reply      
I fear SMTP is going to go the way of RSS at the hands of these giant corps. Closed protocols within machine gun lined walled gardens are the future. Sorry old idealistic computer hipies, we've failed you.
mathattack 2 days ago 0 replies      
I had an email from a Google recruiter go to the Google spam box. I didn't have the courage to send her the screen shot.

The lesson I learned is we still need to review the spam box once every day or two.

lolo_ 2 days ago 1 reply      
I've had the same experience with the LKML lately (been subscribed for about 8 months, generally spam filter has had v. few false positives), can't remember exact numbers, but big, big chunks have been incorrectly labelled.

There seems to be a fair bit of spam sent to the LKML, I don't know whether there's been more lately, but perhaps the large amount of email sent to many people for the LKML and the fact there's a decent amount of real spam sent there, combined with a more aggressive setting is an explanation?

BorisMelnik 1 day ago 1 reply      
I wonder why Linus chose Google+ as his platform for this? Seem's like he has been on a spam crusade lately, going after Github last week: https://plus.google.com/+LinusTorvalds/posts/WHLxTZnjhmz

I also can't stand when I get added to a repo and start getting messages from every single notification.

rsync 1 day ago 2 replies      
Why would Linus be using gmail ?

This is an individual who, in response to broken version control systems wrote his own version control system which he uses, primarily, to control versions of the operating system kernel that he wrote.

How is it possible that the above described person is moving his wrist around going clickity-click with a mouse just to read an email ?

ujjwalg 2 days ago 0 replies      
I wrote an article about spam filtering sometime ago. Context was "Spam Filtering should not have any False Positives, ever!".

If anyone is interested they can read it here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20141202174235-36852258--spam...

avinassh 1 day ago 0 replies      
Every week I usually get about ~200 spams. However last week the number was really high, some ~600. And without checking I deleted all of them. Now I am getting worried, if I deleted any legit email :(

Gmail is not my primary email, but still I do get important emails.

Zelphyr 2 days ago 0 replies      
Sadly, this is the typical level of quality for just about all Google products these days in my experience.
michel-slm 1 day ago 0 replies      
I could concur on the false positives -- I've had to repeatedly salvage mailing list posts marked as spam. Normally from the mailing lists where I lurk and do not actively contribute, but still...
holic 2 days ago 0 replies      
We've been seeing a huge number of messages sent through Google Groups via our Google Apps domain flagged as spam. I'm not sure what has triggered it lately, but it's almost impossible for us to communicate through our Google Groups email addresses anymore.
ivank 2 days ago 0 replies      
Funny, I used to get a ton of false positives in my gmail Spam folder (mailing lists, marketing I subscribed to, forwards from another address) but with the recent changes, I have just 1 false positive of 476 in Spam.
ciaoben 1 day ago 0 replies      
lot of variables when it comes with spam detectio ... I guess google has oversimplified some controls, and lot of private server with good reputation are closed outside.

In our company , ( we are a hosting email solution ) lot of time and human resources are spent to monitor and work with the work produced by the spam filters. I guess it is too soon for this kind of solution to be sostituite with AI.

userbinator 2 days ago 0 replies      
I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere at Google, some team are looking at Gmail stats and congratulating themselves on how much more "spam" they've blocked with their latest algorithm.
intrasight 2 days ago 0 replies      
All I see in my spam folder is people trying to sell me sex, drugs, credit, and fake Ray-Ban sunglasses. A quick review of 200 spam messages found one false positive from a whitewater rafting company.
lutorm 2 days ago 0 replies      
Just about the only thing that google persistently misclassifies as spam for me are logwatch emails. There must be a large number of people who don't know how to turn them off...
stevewepay 2 days ago 0 replies      
I get about 600 emails a day because I forward everything* from all my email addresses through a single email account, and I only see 9 spam messages in my spam box, and they are all spam.
liquidcool 1 day ago 0 replies      
Anyone know if Sendgrid or AWS SES is affected? Or even the email marketing shops like MailChimp, Aweber, ExactTarget, etc.
testercookie2 1 day ago 0 replies      
For some reason I didn't expect Linus to use gmail
oldgregg 2 days ago 0 replies      
No accident. Google controls enough of the worlds email now that can just turn the screws and capture the whole market.
usaphp 2 days ago 1 reply      
Wow 3000 spam threads in just 4 days, how can he find time for actual work if he has so many emails to read/reply!
kasey_junk 2 days ago 0 replies      
Assumedly my corpus is much lower than his, but I noticed similar things starting some time "this week".
minusSeven 1 day ago 0 replies      
This made me check my own mail box spam and that seems fine so dunno.
noobie 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've always had problems with Gmail's spam filter, unfortunately.
lancewiggs 1 day ago 0 replies      
So it seems this is clearly happening. The question is what to do about it?

1: Switch from gmail. (I've done this - using Fastmail)2: Increase publicity to drive Google to change 3: It's arguably abuse of monopoly power --> take it to court

Animats 1 day ago 0 replies      
Someone pointed out last week that signing up for the Google AppStore seemed to unblock their email.

Maybe Google is doing this on purpose to apply pain to people without Google accounts.

z3t4 2 days ago 0 replies      
Spam-detection is pretty much solved, with black-lists and white-list. In some countries it's illegal to send spam, so you can safely add them as white-list's.
applecore 2 days ago 1 reply      
If they're mostly patches and pull requests, why doesn't this guy just whitelist those email addresses and domains?
dljsjr 2 days ago 0 replies      
Runaway DMARC policies perhaps?
MichaelCrawford 2 days ago 0 replies      
I expect that some people mark a message as spam because they personally dislike the sender or because they disagree with them.

Say if Told you that your mother wears Army boots.

kolev 1 day ago 0 replies      
Gmail spam filter is definitely not working well for me. Obvious spam is considered legit and emails from senders that I constantly report as "not spam" still get into the Junk Mail folder. Outlook.com's spam filter is doing a way better job for me!
troymc 2 days ago 0 replies      
I guess we'll just go back to manually making filters.
paulpauper 2 days ago 0 replies      
Gmail is terrible in so many ways - Being randomly locked out of your account, the clunky user-unfriendly interface, the difficulty of marking certain senders as spam, ...
Ex-Googler says she exposed company-wide pay inequality with spreadsheet twitter.com
659 points by cgtyoder  2 days ago   456 comments top 42
ChuckMcM 1 day ago 9 replies      
The issue with pay was always a thorny one for me at Google. Not what they paid me, I thought that was fine, but that there was so much enforced secrecy around it.

The entire goal, as far as I could ascertain, of that secrecy was to keep people who had been mislead about how they were being paid, from being able to prove or disprove that Google was actually paying people what it said they were paying people.

And what had been presented as a really performance driven, no discrimination, reward metrics, was perceived to be yet another 'management beauty contest' where managers could swing bonus dollars toward people they liked (regardless of their performance) and away from people they didn't care about.

And to be clear, I was ok with that, it's how a lot of bonus systems are set up, but it bothered me that it was presented as something else. And while I didn't start a spreadsheet, I did get advised by HR that my questions were not helpful :-).

It was suggested that if it bothered me that much maybe I didn't really want to be working there, I thought about that and agreed with that conclusion.

anongler000 1 day ago 2 replies      
(ex googler here who has gotten, given, and approved peer bonuses)

A lot of confusion here is coming from how the peer bonuses are awarded so I'll give a brief explanation. You can nominate someone for any reason you like but you provide a justification, their manager sees it and decides if they should approve it or not (almost all are approved). Now the important point is the rules state you can't receive more than one peer bonus for a single thing that you do.

It's almost surely the case that 1.) her manager knew that and the other manager didn't or 2.) she had so many pending when her manager saw it that they thought to ask someone what the rules were. For #2 imagine you are her manager and you see 20 people queued up nominating the same person for the same thing, you are responsible for enforcing the rules (in this case giving your report Google's money, it's in the manager's best interest to _approve_ it since their report will be happier) so you don't want to make a mistake and ask around, then someone tells you 'sorry one bonus per thing they do' and you have to deny all of the rest.

I couldn't applaud her more for the salary spreadsheet she put together (it took serious courage) and the really healthy dialog that it brought (I was glued to it when it came out), but the peer bonus part of the story is almost surely not malicious on her manager's part and I hope she hears that somehow. It'd be really sad for everyone involved if this is just a misunderstanding (the peer bonus part at least).

marcell 1 day ago 3 replies      
Yes, I remember this spreadsheet. It listed pay by SWE (software engineer) level and geography.

Google has ~10 levels for SWE's. Most people are either SWE II, SWE II, or Senior SWE, and about 10% are higher than Senior SWE. In the Bay Area, IIRC, pay is in the $110k range for SWE II (base), around $140k for SWE III, and around $170k for senior. There is additional bonus (15%) and stock (can be 15-30% of base, depending on circumstances), and health insurance. Within level it varies by +/- $10k in base, and there are proportionally fewer women at Senior SWE and higher levels.

cperciva 1 day ago 3 replies      
I shudder at the data reliability issues of a self-selecting sample of individuals being asked to self-report salaries.

There may well be real pay inequity issues -- in fact, my default presumption is that such problems exist anywhere that there has not been a systematic effort to avoid them -- but unless there's far more to this spreadsheet than the article describes, I don't see how it can reasonably be taken to have any large-scale significance.

bigdipper 1 day ago 4 replies      
We did a similar thing at Microsost a few years ago. We discovered that it was not just the gender, but also your race mattered. A lot of us (south East Asians) were paid a lot less at the same engineering levels and there was a disparity in the bonus payouts too. The data was not insignificant, and we got to a statistically significant size really quick at some engineering levels (senior and principal).
nullrouted 1 day ago 6 replies      
I have a serious question and please don't crucify me but can this partly be because women aren't as confrontational as men and won't argue for a higher salary when hired (since we know thats when you get your good base salary)? I remember when my girlfriend got hired at her current tech company and I begged her to make sure they put her stock and bonuses in writing but she refused because she didn't want to piss the company off and lets say the deal went bad for her. Obviously this is an anecdote about one situation but I wonder could this be one of the reasons? Companies want to pay you as little as possible to get your talent, it is up to you to negotiate for a better salary and if that isn't happening then I'm not sure what you do? I believe for equal pay for equal work totally but I'm wondering if one of the reasons we don't see that is the salary negotiation process. Please share your thoughts.
thomaskcr 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think one of her tweets points towards a less malicious explanation for the problem, the one where she says "people asked for and got equitable pay". I'd like to see another column on a sheet like that basically asking "have you ever asked for a raise or just taken what was given?".

My anecdata and limited experience is that women rarely ask for raises and men do -- even if you don't mean to have uneven pay, over time that will create that situation.

It seems like other people have similar experience, I believe this is what prompted the no-negotiation policy at Reddit (which I think is a terrible policy for talent retention, if someone feels undervalued and comes to talk to you about it and your response is "no raises sorry" I'm not sure how you can possibly retain your higher performing employees).

tytso 1 day ago 1 reply      
The following Planet Money story is worth listening to; there are some real challenges and downsides with making all salaries public.


mrgriscom 1 day ago 2 replies      
The title of this post seems a little inflammatory. The main story is the borderline-illegal heat she got from management for providing a forum to share salaries, and the difference in treatment regarding the peer bonuses, which may or may not have been "technically correct" according to internal Google rules.

The only comment relevant to the post title I could find was "pivot tables that did spreadsheet magic that highlighted not great things re: pay", and to go from that to "exposed company-wide pay inequity" seems like a bit of a leap. Absent any further details about what those things are, how is this not just speculation?

uncoder0 1 day ago 4 replies      
On Topic: This seems very shady on behalf of her manager... I've never heard of the peer bonuses or read the fine print of how they work so I can't comment beyond my feeling that what happened to Eric doesn't seem right at all.

Off Topic: Is this style of prose common? I feel the proper medium for this post would be a blog rather than ~20 individual tweets.

Keats 1 day ago 1 reply      
If only there was a medium allowing more than 140 characters at a time.
overpaidgoogler 1 day ago 0 replies      
A lot of people here are saying that if job titles/pay grades are public (which they are not completely) then so should pay be. The problem with this is that promotions are already very political. People can and do get very angry when other people get promoted before them. Non public pay and bonuses give management some wiggle room to reward people privately.

There is always some question about whether management or popular opinion is fairer. On this I will just say that more extroverted people will tend to favor popular opinion while more introverted people will tend to favor management.

DavidWanjiru 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think the primary problem is the inability to measure performance, and thus have empirical values for what someone actually brings to the table. In sectors where measurement is comparatively easier, such as in sports, you can have players earning orders of magnitude more than their teammates for doing arguably the same job. Sports have their issues too, but I doubt you'll hear Yaya Sanogo at Arsenal FC in London complain about all this money that his teammate Alexis Sanchez is being paid yet both are attacking players. Geoffrey Colvin of Fortune magazine once wrote about this some years back, you could probably find it with a bit of google.
TheMagicHorsey 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Its almost like Hacker News wants me to feel good about not getting a job offer at Google. Thanks guys, I really appreciate it.

But as a side note, how many tech companies really have salary transparency. I suspect its none.

Facebook doesn't. Twitter doesn't. Microsoft doesn't. Uber doesn't. Amazon doesn't.

Hell, even my less than 50 person startup doesn't.

Nobody does.

Not saying Google didn't fuck up here by retaliating--they are assholes for that (side note, why is Google so full of frat assholes these days?). But still, this seems like standard procedure.

drcross 1 day ago 2 replies      
Maybe you guys who have a "it's not about the money attitude" won't join me on this but I wouldn't want someone with two thirds of my skill getting the same salary as me. Different people do different jobs to different levels. Bringing ethnicity and gender into this debate is the boogie man which is supposed to make you sit upright but with such affirmative action in the workplace these days employers are the same. Better workers should get better paid.
Fede_V 1 day ago 0 replies      
For the company, there's an obvious upside in maintaining secrecy. But, for people working there, what exactly do they gain by keeping their wages secret?

Google pays very generously, but it seems to me like workers have everything to gain from a more transparent process. Sure, a few people who are incredibly good at managing upwards might lose out, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.

deelowe 1 day ago 2 replies      
I guess I'm going to out myself a bit here, but I feel the need to clarify a few things. Full disclosure. I'm a people manager in TI and have been for a long time.

First off, I knew Erica a few years ago when she worked in our local office. She's a wonderful person and I hate that she's had such bad experiences. I don't know the full details, but I do know that one of the orgs she was in went through a lot of stuff early on. These are the typical startup is becoming a big company type of issues. They ended up letting people go, reorging the team, getting new managers, letting others go, etc... It was a major shake-up. I wonder how this impacted her. I know she transferred around the time all of this was happening (as did a lot of people in that team) and she became very outspoken. Her interpretation of what happened seems to indicate that she thought she was targeted. I don't know if this is the case, but I wonder if it was more of a team wide issue at the time than something specific with her. Also, it didn't help that we didn't have a regional HR person at the time, so whatever Erica was going through at the time was probably left unrecognized as she had no one to talk to about it. The company was growing fast and satellite offices were more of an afterthought at the time. Keep in mind the context. Google went from a couple thousand to like 60k employees in just a few years. There were growing pains all over the place and we certainly felt it in the remote offices. Especially when it came things like HR, benefits, etc...

I saw the salary spreadsheet. On the surface it seemed alarming. Especially to people who made assumptions about pay at Google. Here's some context. Again, I don't know any details about what's going on with Erica's department. This is just what I see on my end of things (I'm not in SRE, but am under the same VP).

First off, location is a big factor due to needing to be competitive in a particular region. Secondly, performance impacts both raises and the rate you come in at after promotion. People with good ratings tend to get better base pay. Yearly bonuses get a performance multiplier as well. Managers can see all of these factors (base pay, proposed adjustment for raises and promotions, multipler, etc...) We get insight into this during our salary planning process which happens twice a year for promotions and once a year for non-promo. The constants that are used for base pay are all decided based on a formula and in my experience it's completely fair and consistent. The formula literally takes a base pay for a particular job ladder, level, and region and then adds an adjustment for performance. Bonus is calculated as a flat % against pay + a multiplier for annual performance. There is no bias in this as it's all done via software. As a manager, I can do some small adjustments here and there, but it's usually at most a percentage or maybe two. It would be very difficult for me to directly influence someone's pay by say 10% or so. I don't think managers or bias in performance management is the primary cause for pay dependencies. Slight, yes, but not huge differences.

So how do people end up with such huge pay differences? Well, a few ways.

1) Google's job ladders and pay scales were kind of screwed up for a while. In one case I remember, people were adjusted by over 10% (up) in a given year, because the company realized they had the market rate set incorrectly. Google generally doesn't adjust salaries down, so if you got lucky early on and came in at a high salary, it sticks until something changes it (e.g. promo). There were a lot of people who got "lucky" as job ladders and market rates were refined over time. Keep in mind that Google went through all this during the great recession. There are a lot of factors here. In general, pay varied a lot early on. There are a lot of people in SRE who still have these inconsistencies reflected in their base pay.

2) Hiring negotiations. We all know this is an issue. Some people are very good at this and can get a huge difference of pay coming in. I won't go into details here as I feel it's probably a bit confidential, but I do see big differences in pay due to the negotiation skills of the person getting hired. Note that Google has tried to fix this lately by not negotiating base pay as much, but it still happens and was a bigger issue historically. In general, the higher the level, the more this is an issue.

3) Ladder/job transfers. Again, Google doesn't like to adjust people's pay down, so if someone transfers from one job type to another, they may come in making significantly more than what is typical for the new job. There are some rules in place to prevent this, but they aren't stringent enough to completely eliminate it as extremely tight rules would make transfers nearly impossible. Note that Google encourages transfers across ladders and teams.

4) Tenure (raises). If someone stays in a position for a long time and consistently performs well, but doesn't get promoted, they may see their pay go up more (within the range for their ladder) as they get raises year over year. That said, I don't see this very much as usually someone who performs consistently well will get promoted, but there are some cases like when an individual refuses to put themselves up for promotion or they are at the top of their job ladder and can't get promoted.

And of course, there's a lot of other things that could be possible for people who've been with the company more than 5 or 6 years. In the early post IPO days, there was a lot of chaos. There were jobs without ladders, weird things with contractor conversions, very little consistently across eng teams, etc... It was a bit wild west like. HR was a bit of a mess back then too. Again, since pay doesn't usually get adjusted down, you'll see these inconsistencies and on the surface, they'll look odd. Typically, if you dig a little deeper though, there's a good reason.

Alright, so back to the spreadsheet. Ah... the infamous spreadsheet. This just seems like it has bad news written all over it. Here's how this thing came to be. An email went out and basically said "hey, put your pay into this sheet." Now, please note that the person who sent it had been pretty vocal previously about bias, unfairness, etc. I'm pretty sure there might be some selection bias in this methodology... Also, Google spreadsheets tracks revision history, so nothing was anonymous. When I looked it over, I didn't really see anything alarming to be honest. There certainly inconsistencies, but they seemed to be linked to the issues I mentioned above. The biggest factor seemed to be location. Note that this spreadsheet was shared PUBLICALLY for a while. The whole way this was done wasn't that great. I don't take issue with the concept, but I personally found the way this was conducted a bit unprofessional. An anonymized survey would have been much better.

Finally, let's talk about bonuses (outside of annual bonus). There are ways for people to give bonuses to others at Google for deeds they deem to be outside of normal work duties. Typically these are things like assisting with something that's not part of one's job ladder, helping with volunteer projects, or having significant impact on a large project. The amount of review these bonuses receive depends on the dollar amount. Peer bonuses are a relatively small fixed amount. Anyone can award them to anyone else and they only require manager approval. By design there is little guidance and oversight. How these get awarded is EXTREMELY inconsistent, but so far the company seems to be somewhat ok with this given that they are a very small amount. My policy (and the general guidance) is that they should be for small efforts that are outside the scope of the individual's job ladder. These are like 1-2 day things here and there. Not large project contributions and not for things that someone is consistently doing. If the individual is performing something consistently, then we are expected to reflect that in the persons performance reviews so that it gets factored into their yearly bonus and annual pay increase. Hopefully the reason for this makes sense (hint: it's better for the individual).

Finally, I also don't think I would have approved peer bonuses for what was done with this spreadsheet. Not because of the fact that these individuals collected people's pay, but because their methods were very poor. I'm pretty sure all it did was anger or confuse people. Why not collect the data anonymously, rope in an analytics team, do an analysis, control for bias etc.. and then present at a CFR or even all hands? I find it hard to believe that anyone would push back on this at Google.

egonschiele 1 day ago 1 reply      
Is there a link to the spreadsheet? I think open salaries are important, and that would be really interesting data.
drumdance 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've long thought all salaries should be disclosed, especially for public companies. Look at professional sports leagues and Hollywood. Free agency changed everything in sports, and Hollywood's studio system collapsed when stars realized how much power they had.

It would take some adjustment, but I believe full disclosure would level out some of the inequality. As it stands the CEO captures the lion's share of value created by the whole enterprise.

jaseemabid 1 day ago 0 replies      
I don't normally do this, buts hard to not nitpick this time.

Why would you split a story into 50 tweets? Its the hardest way to read content.

golemotron 1 day ago 0 replies      
I saw an article about Google about six months ago that said that people in the same position could be paid wildly different amounts based on the company's assessment of their contribution and the cost to replace them.

The first thing I thought was that this is a good way to compensate people. Second thought was that it would cause much gnashing of teeth to anyone who decides to look at equal pay for equal work based on job title and seniority.

Does anyone have that article?

forrestthewoods 1 day ago 0 replies      
More and more I feel that income for all workers should be public information. Sweden does that and so far their world hasn't ended.
davidf18 1 day ago 0 replies      
While the spreadsheet might show differences in pay related to certain factors such as gender and age, it doesn't really reflect the most important quality which is how well they produce (e.g., some people code better than others). Is this piece of info somehow encoded in the spreadsheet?

Of course, merit doesn't matter in countries like (the old) Soviet Union. But I only want to work for companies and with people that compensate on the basis of merit and not some otherwise external factor.

yarou 1 day ago 0 replies      
Most corporations operate essentially like a cult.You are expected to drink the Kool-Aid and tow the party line.Pay inequality is just another symptom of a systemic problem we have in the tech industry.Labor is fundamentally not respected, nor is it justly compensated at the fair market value.
superplussed 1 day ago 1 reply      
Stories like this put me more in favor of going with a Buffer-style transparent salary policy [1] with my startup. Whether to open it up to the public or not is a separate issue, but having it be transparent internally just seems to make so much sense.

[1] https://open.bufferapp.com/introducing-open-salaries-at-buff...

belovedeagle 1 day ago 0 replies      
Interesting that she doesn't just come out and say that Google was paying women less? I wonder why not?
bsaul 1 day ago 1 reply      
I wonder if anyone that's ever ran a team of people would complain about salary secrecy.

I mean there are so many occasions for employees to be pissed of at or jealous from each others, you know bringing money into it is the worst idea.

Plus, the biggest screw up you can get with your salary is if you don't compare it with offers from different companies. Not inside it.

alexqgb 1 day ago 1 reply      
"All the world's information, organized."

"You mean like this?"

"Holy crap, no."

kzhahou 1 day ago 0 replies      
GOOD managers can only dream about such a strong opportunity to champion their reports.
grondilu 1 day ago 0 replies      
> "just because, for example, one employee negotiated harder than the other"

Isn't that a perfectly valid reason, though?

yAnonymous 1 day ago 1 reply      
Creating a spreadsheet to collect salary information isn't really something that deserves a bonus.
chrisbennet 2 days ago 1 reply      
That's pretty hard to believe. Next they'll be telling us that Google conspired with Apple and other large firms to suppress wages!
akhilcacharya 1 day ago 0 replies      
Don't Googlers openly state that they pay unequally?
curiousjorge 1 day ago 1 reply      
Where is the spreadsheet?
geofft 1 day ago 2 replies      
This is just a recopying of the tweets without any additional story. Better URLs may be the first tweet in the stream


or the Storify with her consent:


Per HN guidelines on linking to the original source, I think this should be changed to one of these.

The subject of the story / author of the tweets also has problems with this particular reporting:


(What's the legality of writing a news article that is primarily a bunch of tweets -- long enough to be copyrightable -- from someone else, without a copyright license, and without significant independent commentary? What's the ethics of posting it without their approval?)

brobdingnagian 1 day ago 3 replies      
Release the spreadsheet.
LGBT_2000 21 hours ago 1 reply      
This is fucking horrible. If there was so much as an ounce of truth to all the noise Google has been making about "diversity" over the past couple years, they had better have one hell of an answer for all this very, very soon. And if they don't, well that also is one hell of an answer, although an extremely discouraging one for any of us concerned with fairness and equality in the tech space.

Erica: sharing your experiences the way you did was extremely brave. I can only imagine what you must be going through having already braved such a minefield of abuse in what ought to be a progressive and accepting work environment. Keep fighting the good fight.

issaria 1 day ago 1 reply      
Oh god, stop gossip and you don't need to whine.
kuni-toko-tachi 1 day ago 0 replies      
If you don't like what you are being paid, QUIT.

I sure as hell wouldn't want someone like this working with me. Immature and highly unprofessional.

anagor 1 day ago 0 replies      
Since when does a socialists got into a private high tech sectors?Since when do people have to be paid the same?Each and everyone is unique in their abilities and the value they bring to the employers, so should be their salary.
marvel_boy 1 day ago 0 replies      
Summing up. Haters gonna hate. Even at "Dont be evil" GOOGLE.
SCAQTony 2 days ago 3 replies      
Her premise smells fishy:

one Sunday at her previous company, she and some coworkers were bored and decided to put their salaries in a spreadsheet. As it spread through the company, thousands of employees added their salaries and it allegedly revealed not great things regarding pay. ...

I find that extraordinarily hard to believe. If the salaries are accurate within that spreadsheet then I suspect something more sinister took place such as a blatant theft from HR.

Friendships are lost over the subject of pay and I doubt that Google would be unaware of a spreadsheet such as hers circulating throughout the company reaching thousands of people without Google figuring it out. (I am also surprised still still has a job after bragging about this.)

Let's talk about a hypothetical public-facing service reddit.com
432 points by kgm  1 day ago   64 comments top 11
smacktoward 1 day ago 3 replies      
> You have a moment where you envision the future of virtualized storage and think about how great it will be when storage is nearly free and outsourceable and you can stop buying disks from Amazon every few months

The future is now! Instead of you sending money to Amazon and them sending you disks, they keep the disks and you send them the money anyway.

Progress! :-D

rosser 1 day ago 2 replies      
...Extremely Massive Corporation...

I knew EMC storage was utter shit when, upon attempting to create a new RAID group, I realized that the configuration tool's default was to stripe across drives within a shelf, not to create stripes that span shelves.

Worse, to create the more fault-tolerant, shelf-spanning RAID volumes, one must manually add drives, one by one to the array, in a process that involves about 44 (slight hyperbole) clicks per disk.

And then there was the fact that the configuration tool was Windows-only.

Yeah, screw those guys.

intrasight 1 day ago 2 replies      
Got a good chuckle. Such is life in IT. Gotta admit I missed the "Extremely Massive Corporation" hint.
galoppini 17 hours ago 1 reply      
SourceForge has posted info about current infrastructure and service restoration activity at http://sourceforge.net/blog/sourceforge-infrastructure-and-s...

[Disclosure: I work for SourceForge]

zatkin 1 day ago 2 replies      
I was hoping they would stay offline. It's really disappointing to see a good service turn into a money wringing desperation.
eCa 1 day ago 0 replies      
> made by an Extremely Massive Corporation who until now you've generally respected.

As usual, one's respect for BigCompany is inversely correlated to one's use of their products.

nitrogen 22 hours ago 0 replies      
One can hope that if this hypothetical public-facing service never returns, they will ship the backup tapes to the Internet Archive instead of Honest Bob's Social Data Mining and Market Manipulation.
amelius 13 hours ago 0 replies      
> It writes a full 32 bits of numeric user ID to its filesystem, but to save a few bytes it only stores 16 bits of group IDs. Some engineer probably thought that'd be enough for anybody.

I'm having the same issue with the number of hardlinks, which, for linux ext4 systems, is limited to 65000.

bootload 23 hours ago 0 replies      
'all the knowledge about how to handle this moody piece of hardware is lost, like tears in the rain'

Offworld, Roy Batty reference.

chris_wot 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Yeah, they dealt with EMC. That's never going to go well.

(continues reading)

simonebrunozzi 1 day ago 2 replies      
"Let's talk about a hypothetical public-facing service that offers tools for collaboration, revision control, and software publishing." - it was hard not to notice that he was referring to SourceForge. :)
How a car works (2012) howacarworks.com
504 points by gshrikant  2 days ago   116 comments top 20
AlexMuir 2 days ago 19 replies      
This is my site!

This was a pleasant surprise to find my own site on HN this morning! I wondered why it was getting a few more FB likes than usual today.

I'm happy to answer any questions.

I finished this redesign last week so any feedback is welcome.

The main task was to recreate labels and annotations on the illustrations in SVG format, and to reformat the articles in a way that flows nicely and is responsive, but without needing complex markup in the articles. I'll write about the process if there's interest.

I've previously written a little about this project:



Current traffic is 200k uniques a month and it's taken about two years of steady growth to reach that point.

giancarlostoro 2 days ago 5 replies      
I always feel so uncomfortable about my car considering how old it is, and I know nothing about it or how it works. Everyone around me just cracks open their hoods and fixes their car, swaps tires, etc. I can't just move stuff around without actually understanding what anything is. I honestly have been wanting to learn more about cars. It also helps keep up with mechanics when they tell me things I don't fully understand, I don't imagine they want to sit around all day answering my questions, they probably have other people to work for. I only vaguely understand the things that have gone wrong with my car and the symptoms.

Thanks for such a beautiful website, and for everyone else sharing some interesting links. Being computer savvy is not entirely helpful when it comes to the mysteries of cars (not entirely anyway).

Btw I would love for there to be an Android app if possible. :)

fauria 2 days ago 1 reply      
I highly recommend "Engineering Explained" channel on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/EngineeringExplained
jsingleton 2 days ago 1 reply      
De Lorean Owners Handbook: http://www.howacarworks.com/manuals/doc/d3218-owner-s-manual

Nice. It must have taken guts to build a car in Belfast during the height of the troubles. Not that it worked out that well in the end, but it is an iconic car.

aunty_helen 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is great. As for the criticism that a lot of the content is old, most of the core concepts can be explained better with older tech as it's simpler. This allows you to focus on what is happening and leave the extra details about what technology a part or process has for a case by case basis. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYAw79386WI is a great example of this.

Saying that, an article on direct injection, common rail diesels, efficient turbo charging, variable valve timing, MAF VS MAP EFI would be worth considering.

Lorento 2 days ago 6 replies      
Seems to be very dated. Plenty on adjusting carburetors, in fact adjusting all sorts of no-longer-needing-adjusting parts.
Kluny 2 days ago 0 replies      
Great site! I'm going to add it to my car fixing workflow. Ie, thing breaks -> read relevant article so I understand how the system works -> find a good tutorial -> source parts -> fix.

If you are looking for article suggestions:

- Article about different fluids and their properties. I'm betting that you've covered oil weights already, but how about coolants? Regular coolant has a lower freezing temp than water, but does it have a higher boiling point as well? Exactly how poisonous is it and what things will it damage when spilled? Same for trans fluid.

- Possibly out of scope, but an article about how to source parts for older cars. This has always been a tough problem for me! I go with something like: look up parts schematic from manufacturer's website -> search for part by part number -> try to find the cheapest generic part (though sometimes it's worth it to pay for quality) -> find that generic parts don't exist -> go on a merry hunt for used parts on ebay and at scrapyards.

abakker 2 days ago 0 replies      
A few pieces of feedback. In the suspension section, it would be worth explaining a few things about truck suspension, also. Like solid axle, front and rear suspension, both with Coil and Leaf springs. Also, dampers are incredibly important in large trucks/SUVs because if they fail, body roll has much higher likelihood of causing you to lose control. Finally, a "bounce test" really won't work with many SUVs or truck where there is simply no way to compress the suspension to any meaningful degree with your hands.

personally, with trucks, I like the "speed bump test" where you drive into a speed bump and if the truck/SUV continues to oscillate upon returning to the correct height, your dampers probably need work. Additionally, since most trucks/SUVs use similar oil volume dampers to cars, the life of their dampers is frequently lower than in cars. The ones in my TRD Tundra lasted about 40K miles.

matthewrhoden1 2 days ago 2 replies      
I didn't see the article for when it's 2AM and you can't get that one last bolt off.
nogridbag 2 days ago 1 reply      
Neat site. My father was a mechanic and thus I should know all of this stuff, but I wasted away my life behind the keyboard instead :D

I often find videos do a much better job at explaining some concepts. For example, the section on differentials:


After reading this I feel none the wiser. Whereas after watching this ancient Chevrolet training video from the 1930's I feel like I completely understand how diffs work:


chrismartin 2 days ago 0 replies      
Very nice illustrations, but you are missing important systems that are found on many/all cars from the past 20 years, like front wheel drive, CV joints, closed-loop emissions control, OBD-II and CAN bus, distributorless (electonic) ignition, electric power steering, CVTs and dual-clutch automatic transmissions, and TPMS.

Diagnosing a check engine light by reading OBD-II codes, for example, is something that every owner of a car produced after 1996 will eventually need to deal with.

You should rebuild your content around systems that are found on the majority of cars on the road today.

Syrup-tan 2 days ago 0 replies      
There are also some great animations on how a 4-stroke engine works from animagraffs.com;


csbowe 2 days ago 0 replies      
The section on how cars are designed is entertainingly out-dated.
ZeWaren 2 days ago 0 replies      
I love the fact that you can buy the pdf using bitcoins.
jshelly 2 days ago 1 reply      
I was disappointed to see that there is no guide on replacing brake pads for disc brakes. It seems like everyone in the world knows how to do this but me.
noipv4 2 days ago 1 reply      
Nicely done. Man you should really add a section on the Tesla Model S and possibly the Roadster.
kiddico 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've been looking for a site like this for so long! <3
dang 2 days ago 0 replies      
Previously discussed at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4974055.

Edit: after a year or so, reposts are fine. This is just to point out to readers that the site had appeared beforeindeed, was an old Show HN.

donkeyd 2 days ago 0 replies      
I heard, that in soviet Russia, the car drives you.
Homejoy says goodbye homejoy.com
376 points by philip1209  2 days ago   392 comments top 80
jclune 2 days ago 8 replies      
I run a company similar to HomeJoy in Japan, and I disagree with most comments here.

1. Those who claim cleaning is not a "skilled job" should get off their keyboard, spend a day cleaning their moms house, and get back to me when they learn they are 3X slower than a pro and destroyed something with bleach-based spray.

2. It feels like nobody here actually read Adora Cheung's quotes about multiple lawsuits coinciding with investment timing. That is obviously the reason they shut the doors.

3. Those who claim flaws in matching business model are to blame are making non-quantitative assumptions. Just ask yourself, how high of a percentage of users sharing direct phone # would cause a growing company to collapse? Also the supply side risks losing stable income or insurance coverage.

I do quite a number of things much differently than HomeJoy, and quality control being a major one. There are certainly a lot of challenges and operational complexity to keep my team innovating. Japan has the highest customer service standard in the world (and hardest to satisfy customers), which is great for building a more solid foundation. If any hackers are leaving HomeJoy and want to move to Tokyo, I'm hiring!

jasonwilk 2 days ago 8 replies      
I wanted HomeJoy to work and tried to use the service a few times. What the failure came down to:

1. The cleaners were not professionals. It felt like they were just recruiting anyone who wanted a job. You could really feel this with the lack of passion from the cleaners and the severe lack of quality cleaning. Most of the people complained and were quite rude sometimes. Cleaning is very much a skill as much as it is manual labor.

2. People don't want to let just anyone into their home to clean. Especially for those that have valuables, you want someone you trust who is going to hopefully be your maid for years to come. I wouldn't want someone new every time and for that reason, I used HomeJoy only at our office but even that wasn't enough due to poor quality.

Someone on this thread further explained this well, which is that HomeJoy is at a high level, a match making service. Once you find a match, why do you need HomeJoy? Connect directly with the maid and have them come on your own schedule for a fraction of the price.

I used to feel the same way about Uber. If I found a good driver back in the day I would get his phone # and take him exclusively to the airport. Uber solved this with UberX and by having a wealth of seemingly skilled drivers that made it a true on demand service. Having to book an appointment like HomeJoy seems like it is not a true OnDemand service, just a nicer UI than any other maid connecting service.

AirBnB I feel had a similar problem. For frequent business travelers, finding the right place at the right price is awesome and I would usually try to stay at the same place and connect with people directly. AirBnB solved this with overwhelming demand for the service (the place I like may not always be available) and with their insurance policy and scheduling tools for renters.

In any event, I don't feel like HomeJoy failing is indiciative of a bubble in the On Demand economy. There were inherent principles of this business that made it destined to fail that others in the space won't have a problem with.

fraXis 2 days ago 24 replies      
I used Homejoy and I liked it's ease of use. But after the cleaning lady they sent me was done, she offered me her direct phone # and told me I could contact her directly for any future cleaning needs.

I always wondered how this business model was going to work if Homejoy's contractors could just give out their phone # at the end of their first service and the customer could just contact them directly for any future needs, instead of going back through Homejoy for any future bookings.

tptacek 2 days ago 8 replies      
I get the sense that many of the people involved in Homejoy are well-intentioned and hardworking. But I can't say that I think it's a bad thing that tech startups are finding it difficult to monetize unskilled labor.

The technology that most companies like these offer (with the possible exception of Uber) is a commodity. The real asset they have is the network effect. Which makes the balance of power between the tech company and the "1099 contractors" deeply suspicious. What are these companies doing for the laborers that makes them valuable enough to be skimming returns from the work?

callmeed 2 days ago 2 replies      
So Forbes named Homejoy one of the hottest startups of 2013 (and they make a 30 under 30 list). They raise money from top-tier VCs and angels. Adora does quite a bit of speaking (it seems) on growth, regional expansion, and startup inspiration. They expanded to 30+ markets.

But they were really just selling cleaning services for below coston the backs of 1099 workers. It's a worse model than Groupon and I can't fathom how the founders or investors thought it would work.

It all feels icky to me.

storgendibal 2 days ago 1 reply      
Higher prices, questionable convenience, and poorer service.

The quality of the cleaning had deteriorated over time and the price was higher than independent cleaners I later found through personal referrals.

I had 4 different Homejoy cleaners. The very first one was awesome and I thought, "Wow, this is great". Then every single cleaner after that was terrible. Two of them started wet mopping before vacuuming or using a dry swiffer, thus pushing wet dirt around. Another one let the toilet brush sit in the toilet in a way that the entire brush, handle and all, fell in. When I came over to oversee her, to make sure she doesn't do other things like that, she got angry and refused to work until I went into another room.

As other's have said, the model sucks. In order to make money, you need to charge above market rates to get your cut. In order to justify that, you need to offer something to both sides of the market. The customer expects convenience and high quality service. If you cannot provide both those things, why would people use Homejoy? And of course, what are you offering the service provider to stay on your platform?

Lastly, there was no Android app and the web app had so many bugs that even the sign-up flow was hit or miss. The sign-up flow! Logging in from my phone never worked and I always had to use a laptop. Unreal.

acabrahams 2 days ago 4 replies      
I never used the Homejoy service, but I was in the audience for the Startup School Europe talks last year where Adora gave a fantastic speech (Notes: http://theinflexion.com/blog/2014/07/26/notes-from-startup-s...) about going through so many ideas and working so hard to get to Homejoy. The talk's ending had a 'And look, we made it, so you can too' feel, and I had no idea that they were doing anything but crushing it after all those years of grinding work.

Its hard not to be disheartened when a pair who seem to have worked as hard as they have still don't make it with an idea. I just hope they keep going.

gsharma 2 days ago 0 replies      
I never used Homejoy, as they were pretty pricey. I have cleaners charging me 1/3 of what Homejoy quoted.

That being said, I talked to several (10-15) people who used Homejoy at least once. The responses I got from most of those people was that the cleaners weren't professional. In fact several of them mentioned that cleaners didn't know what Homejoy was. They were sent for cleaning by their contractors. In other terms, the cohort I talked to had a really low NPS for Homejoy.

I think Homejoy wasn't able to nail down that user experience of their real product (i.e. Cleaning) no matter how amazing their on-boarding/booking experience was.

It must be very disheartening for the founders and the team. All the best to the their next adventures!

birken 2 days ago 0 replies      
At the end of the day, this is a lesson in unit economics. If you want to make a successful startup, your unit of sale better be super profitable.

Most successful technology companies sell bits, with high fixed costs but very small marginal costs. This means if you grow really big, your fixed cost growth will eventually flatten out but your profit can continue to grow. Facebook, Google, AirBnb, Uber.

If you are selling something in the real world, especially if you are owning the whole process, then your marginal costs are going to be pretty high, which means your profit margin is going to be lower. This is completely fine and a ton of businesses run like this, but these businesses have to be very careful with their fixed costs. You can't grow like your average tech startup because this model is different than most tech startups.

The exact reason they are going out of business is less important than the fact that a business with high marginal costs is very fragile. A slight increase in a high marginal cost can destroy your profit margin, whereas if your marginal cost is extremely low then you are much more resilient.

High fixed costs + low marginal cost = Good

High fixed costs + high marginal cost = Be careful

philip1209 2 days ago 3 replies      
They've raised almost $40M in funding:


zaidf 2 days ago 1 reply      
My problem with Homejoy/Handy etc. is the high degree of unpredictability in the quality of each cleaning. My conclusion is that for something like home cleaning, you want to find a regular person -- not someone new each week.

Our regular cleaner(which I found through nextdoor) recently had to quit. It was enough to upset me for a bit because finding a quality and consistent and affordable cleaner is very hard. Luckily I was able to find another promising cleaner from nextdoor.

When looking for a regular cleaner, one of the things I have learned is that you want a "career" cleaner. You don't want someone who is doing it as a past time to make some extra cash. That might work with Uber/driving but it doesn't seem to work with cleaning that well. If a non-serious Uber driver cancels the ride, you just call another one. If your cleaner doesn't show up, you can easily lose a day before finding a replacement(and hoping he/she delivers).

mbesto 2 days ago 2 replies      
As tptacek said, I'm sure many of the people who created and work for these businesses are well intended and hard working, and we have to applaud them for that.

However, the writing is on the wall for any "sharing economy" service that is simply a technology wrapper for non-SSN'd workers in the US. A couple of challenges that aren't solved by technology:

1. Many unskilled labor positions, especially those that incorporate illegal immigrants, are paid in cash.

2. The price points are absurdly low to create any sort of margin to sustain a business (I can only assume most of these companies are doing < 10% gross margin)

3. Response of workers turns sour when they realize the system inevitably becomes indentured servitude.

4. "Rigorous background checks" - I have yet to see how technology has made background checks any more "rigorous" or how this has allowed companies to scale the quality of workers.

5. Scaling quality - many of these services (moreso for services like Thumbtack) start by hiring skilled people (usually MBA students, aspiring actors, etc) who are looking to earn a few extra bucks for fairly unskilled activities. People enjoy the service since they not only get a higher quality service but also because "it comes with a smile". There is only a limited pool of these type of workers, which inevitably means the supply side of the business gets eliminated at a certain scale.

I think there might be a place for these type of businesses, but perhaps not in the venture world.

iblaine 2 days ago 1 reply      
Their HQ was a mess. If your business is cleaning then you should have cleaning in your blood and dream about pine sol when you sleep. I get the sense that the company was started for the sake of starting any company. In doing so they created a company without any vision.

Look further into the company and you see things like the founders saying working on Christmas Eve is ok. Presentations where they say luck is irrelevant and working hard and smart are the keys to success. That's some American Psycho sh*t.

telecuda 2 days ago 0 replies      
Homejoy customer here. For me, they succeeded in making home cleaning accessible to a guy in his early 30s who clicked a few buttons past a Facebook ad to schedule 2x/mo cleaning - a big stress reliever and quality of life improver. I never used a cleaning service prior to Homejoy.

Where they failed was in providing an adequate supply of cleaners (no one available for weeks on occasion) and last-minute cancellations without substitutes.

Never did a cleaner solicit me to hire direct, but I DO think Homejoy should leave their customers with a way to reach the cleaners I did like for rehiring. Why not, after all?

artag 2 days ago 0 replies      
There is a ton of analysis in this post about what went wrong. As someone who runs a service marketplace business, I know how hard it is scale this type of business (scaling quality, managing a remote workforce, supply churn, repeat usage and all the other things...). The founders had worked long and hard to succeed (knowing them first hand). They also happen to be incredibly nice people - always willing to help others. All the best to Adora & Aaron. I look forward to seeing what you launch next!
stevejohnson 2 days ago 1 reply      
For a house with 4 roommates, this service worked great as a solution to the "tragedy of the common [space]" problem. We've been using them for a year or more now and I'll be sad to see them go. I hope they follow through on putting people in touch with the actual cleaners.
pyrrhotech 2 days ago 4 replies      
I really loved the idea, and maybe I'm just being cheap, but no way I was going to pay $250+ a month to have my 1296 sq ft house cleaned. That's a $150/month value at market rates in my area. $100/month for a bit of convenience was not worth it at all to me.
zach 2 days ago 0 replies      
A lesson to take away here is that a startup which faces legal/regulatory threats to their existence has to be small enough to be ignored or huge enough to change the rules.

Uber is probably the first company you think of, with their absurdly large investment rounds, or maybe PayPal, but don't forget YouTube. They went from a little video portal with everyone else's stuff on it to a protectorate of one of the world's largest businesses so quickly the copyright holders had no chance to deprive it of existence.

The danger zone is in the middle. Homejoy didn't expect to be in this kind of trouble, but once they were, it made finding a huge round of funding both necessary and impossible. So this is the rational decision.

ChuckMcM 2 days ago 2 replies      
And the recode story (http://recode.net/2015/07/17/cleaning-services-startup-homej...) which has a bit more clarity. Trying to fund raise a sharing economy business just after Uber gets a bad court decision on the employee/contractor question is hard. It is almost like having your company go back to being a 'seed round' level risk for some investors.

It also lends credibility to the 'not a bubble' discussions if stage C investors are showing restraint but that is a different discussion.

binarysolo 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'm surprised they didn't offer to transition/sell their customers to Handy... that's prolly mid-tens of dollars in lead-gen fees off an active customer list of... thousands of customers probably (as well as a less-active list prolly in the tens of thousands range)?
ylhert 2 days ago 1 reply      
Is this the beginning of the end of the on-demand bubble?
bryanlarsen 2 days ago 1 reply      
Problem A: good cleaners bypass your service, using you as a cheap referral service.

Problem B: paying cleaners as contractors is legally problematic.

The solution to both those problems is the same: hire your cleaners as employees. Then you can prevent them from free-lancing on the side in a competitive business. In states where a non-compete isn't enforceable (like California), I believe that you can still enforce it while they are employed by you.

nicholas73 2 days ago 1 reply      
I once asked Adora why they are not a marketplace instead. She replied that the branding and bonded/insured cleaners would be more attractive to customers.

Obviously easy to say in retrospect what mattered in the end, but I'm wondering what is a method to test this kind of assumption?

I go by my own use case - I really only care about price, and I build trust by the person and not by the company. I prefer to stay home while it's being serviced as well.

bkjelden 2 days ago 1 reply      
I think the key differentiator between successful "uber for X" companies and unsuccessful ones will end up being the customer experience in the industry each company attacks.

Before uber, getting a taxi sucked. Talked to anyone who traveled extensively before uber, and they'll have plenty of stories about cabbies who tried to rip them off.

AirBNB is having similar success because getting a hotel also sucked - it was often overpriced, and the quality of the room often sucked, and as a consumer you didn't really have any feedback into the system.

But home services? Most people I know are able to mine their personal network pretty easily to find good home cleaning and home repair services. Or at least, it's a lot easier for them to do that than not get ripped off by a taxi driver.

These companies won't win in every industry "just because". In order for these companies to be successful, they have to bring some improved experience to the table that customers simply won't be able to live without once they've tried it.

Sad to see things come to an end for the team, though. I hope they find great success in whatever they pursue next.

throwaway239842 2 days ago 0 replies      
Posting with a throwaway to address a few realities:

1) I used Handy to book a cleaner for the first time -- I loved her, she did a great job, and I immediately cut out the platform and hired her directly. I felt a little bad about it, but not enough to not do it. Handy got a single transaction out of me, for what is now approaching a year of work. Transaction-fee marketplaces work best where there isn't a natural inclination towards an ongoing relationship (Uber, AirBnB, eBay).

For example, on AirBnB, I'm actively looking for a different adventure each time, so it's hard to cut out the platform. When I'm traveling on business, it's the exact opposite, I'm looking for a reliable, consistent experience with no surprises. That's why hotel chains try very hard to ensure a completely consistent experience between stays, and even between hotels -- so that I can book a Westin anywhere in the world and know that I will be getting the exact same bed: https://www.westinstore.com/westin-heavenly-bed.aspx

2) Homejoy is at a disadvantage because they cannot hire illegal immigrants, and cannot pay them under the table. Under-the-table payment, and illegal immigrants, are common in all cash service business, this is no exception (My cleaner is not an illegal immigrant, since she was able to work through Handy, but she always shows up with a different partner, and very few of her partners speak any English -- I suspect that at least some of them are not licensed to work legally). I also suspect that she does not report everything, or anything, on her taxes.

3) Home cleaning is a high-trust business and one where I'm likely to want the same cleaner each time. The marketplace is interested in sending me a different cleaner each time. The company's needs are in conflict with its customers needs.

jimjamjim 2 days ago 3 replies      
As a former customer (have not used in years), I actually felt uncomfortable with the cleaners. Not because of anything they did, but because you could just tell they were low income and being paid very little by Homejoy (I think less than $15/hr). It didn't feel right, and I stopped using them in part because of that.
ivankirigin 2 days ago 2 replies      
Cofounder Adora Cheung is worth following. The story is a great example for founders. Check out her lecture at Sam Altman's startup class: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yP176MBG9Tk
bane 2 days ago 0 replies      
Having recently spent a bit of time finding a roofer, an all purpose handyman, a drywaller, a cleaner and a yard guy, I finally have a good personal team I can use. But my god it took a couple years to assemble them. And there were quite a few duds along the way. I went through 5 roofers just to get one small job done and finally had my handyman just go rent some ladders and do it.

It sounds like such a first world problem, but finding quality people and reasonable prices to do this stuff is such a pain. I didn't use homejoy to find these folks, I just worked my personal network until I got them, but I can definitely see a market for something like homejoy.

It's a really great idea and it's a shame it didn't work out.

outside1234 2 days ago 1 reply      
Pretty interesting analysis around how the funding in the sharing economy is drying up after the "they are employees" decision by California.
tomlongson 2 days ago 1 reply      
I have a hard time understanding this. The markup and demand is extremely high. Were they just overvalued so couldn't meet expectations?
piratebroadcast 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is the same company that posted the infamous Christmas Eve job opening ad to HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8794956
cjf4 2 days ago 0 replies      
This one's interesting to me, because it seems like they had done all the right things, had a real product, and worked really hard (I think I remember Graham saying she worked as a cleaner part time during YC).

Without knowing any of the specifics, this seems to be a good correction of a couple threads of thought. Most notably, startups are not a science, and not every business that is technologically lagging will be drastically changed by a modern tech platform.

It really comes down to value. Seems so simple but I think the startup community would do well to incorporate the importance of creating value in their pedagogy.

sprkyco 2 days ago 0 replies      
Looks like Google may have picked up some of the team:https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9904483

So not ALL that bad.

narrator 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think the problem here is low quality and lack of adequate screening. This seems to be a problem with a lot of online businesses. In a different way it was a problem for PayPal when they started. They were overrun with fraud and had to find clever ways to control it. Anytime you interact with the general public, especially people with out a resume doing cheaply paid work and with the general public internationally you are going to have, among the quality people, a bunch of bad apples, people with mediocre talent and weirdos, disgruntled and otherwise. The value that a sharing economy online service adds is screening out all that and delivering high quality.

When moving into a new area it takes a while to figure out who the trusted providers are. Sometimes the top guy on Yelp is outrageously expensive and overbooked and you have to ask around the neighborhood. Then when you've found the right people you trust, you form a relationship and use them forever and they take care of your stuff. The problem is that once I find my trusted guy for X I just stick with him. Homejoy seemed to be turning that experience into a dice throw.

shah_s 2 days ago 0 replies      
How can they raise $40m and fail so quickly? How did they burn through that much cash? I hope they actually explain why they failed so others can learn from it.
jjarmoc 2 days ago 4 replies      
When I hear about companies like this going under, I always think how odd it is that I've never previously heard about them.

Then I realize, that may have been part of the problem.

andersonmvd 2 days ago 0 replies      
I saw them on How to start a Startup. Was a good lecture. Sad to see they closing the doors.
soheil 2 days ago 1 reply      
I live in SF and the few times I used the service I was relatively happy. I certainly thought the cleaning was done better than Handy, but Handy got them beat in pricing. I also thought their UI was much friendlier than Handy. With Handy there is no way to terminate a recurring cleaning without contacting customer service.

In busy places like SF traffic and parking seem to me to be a major hinderance for services like Homejoy. Perhaps if they provided shuttle service of some kind for their cleaners it would solve that problem.

Also there is a lot of customization when it comes to cleaning vs Uber for example. With Uber you just go from point A to B, a pretty well defined problem. With cleaning services it's a bit more complicated, do you clean the light switches, door knobs, under the sofa (what if it's a 1 ton sofa?)... I think people have vastly different expectations to what it means to have someone clean your house. Sure, with Uber you care if they driver is not rude, plays your favorite music and doesn't drive like a lunatic, but there isn't a hundred others things that would significantly influence the experience, with Homejoy there is.

arihant 2 days ago 2 replies      
Could they operate as small business and/or flip the company as a running small business? I imagine home cleaning is sort of loyalty space, where they must have a good number of regulars?

It's also interesting that they are managing a workforce of around a 1000 cleaners, and they burnt through $40 MM. That's the amount of seed Elon Musk needed for SpaceX.

mslev 2 days ago 1 reply      
"Unfortunately, we cannot process any refunds or credits at this time."

Ouch. What would cause them to not be able to offer refunds?

serkanh 2 days ago 0 replies      
Any type of business that based on being intermediary between buyer and seller run the risk of "losing" customers. This holds especially true with service business. I ran a nationwide lead generation service which basically matches POS/Payment processing companies with retail/restaurant business which was purely performance based. No initiation fee, no monthly fees to enroll with only 5% commission on the closed leads. And guess what; even if i sent the business tens of leads (averaging $7000 value with at least 40% profit) per month they resorted to either not pay or simply became incredibly sloppy on follow ups so i required to be in the loop. I may have not bring in any additional value to acquirer of the service, but for the service provider i was offering them a qualified business opportunity which they would not otherwise obtained.
philip1209 2 days ago 1 reply      
Looks like Google is hiring the Homejoy engineering team:


aranibatta 2 days ago 0 replies      
Rather than looking at it from a purely business perspective, I think that HomeJoy accomplished a lot in its tenure. It set an industry standard and a format that I'm sure will stick for a long time. It made huge strides in quality control and tackled a lot of the problems in the industry, if not completely solving them. You can only hope that Google keeps that spirit alive, and having met her, I have only amazing things from the impression that Adora Cheung left on me. I'm sure whatever she chooses to do next, she'll do it well.
Simulacra 2 days ago 0 replies      
I thought HomeJoy was an awesome idea at first, until I started reading about the experiences, and tribulations, of their ...contractors? Not even sure what to call them, other than hardworking people who, when you balance it all out, weren't making that much. I'm sure the CEO and her brother made a killing, but house cleaning is tough work, even for people who do it professionally every day, for a living. I think those people should be employees, they should be given job protections, and they should be treated (and paid) a lot better than they are.
euphoria83 2 days ago 0 replies      
I tried using Homejoy multiple times but decided against it each time. The reasons varied from their cost, to not getting specific enough services, etc. I think they lacked in implementation, at least a little bit.
somberi 1 day ago 1 reply      
Benjamin Harrison said this circa 1890s:

I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth or shapes it into a garment will starve in the process.

My sincere question is - Why not just make them employees? It does increase the cost of the service from 20$ to 30$ an hour, I would still have the service but use it at half the frequency. But I will be glad knowing the cleaner is treated fairly.

handy_nyc 2 days ago 0 replies      
I can very confidently say that Handy is headed in the same direction Homejoy. Handy is facing a myriad of class action suits in Boston and is facing a number of legal battles with exempt and non-exempt employee suits. I've seen the cash burn in the space and it is very unfortunate senior leadership doesn't pay attention to it. It's all about making it look like hockey stick growth to investors. The cleaning professionals working on the platform are all very unhappy too.
iaw 2 days ago 0 replies      
I met someone who worked for homejoy and was stupidly compensated, before homejoy he had worked at groupon. Verbatim he said to me: "I never want to work at a company that is profitable."

I had horrible experiences with their service, and I believe that multiple factors contributed to this shutdown, but I can't shake that quote from someone being paid a quarter million dollars a year by homejoy.

nodesocket 2 days ago 0 replies      
I literally just had my place cleaned yesterday by HomeJoy. I have a small studio apartment in SF, and it cost $110 total. While it was expensive, the cleaner actually did a really great job, though it was a bit difficult communicating (she is Chineese, and not fluent in English).

I honestly never saw this coming, as I assumed HomeJoy was doing awesome. It will be interesting to see how Exec/Handy handle things moving forward.

The startup game is tough!

codingdave 2 days ago 0 replies      
HomeJoy seemed OK, but I never seriously looked at them because I have always been so happy with ServiceMagic (now HomeAdvisor). When you have a solid competitor who has been in business since 1999, you need a strong differentiator. HomeJoy was/seemed more focused on cleaning, HomeAdvisor on repairs and improvements... but it always seemed to me that they were trying to re-invent a wheel that didn't need re-invention.
amerf1 2 days ago 0 replies      
"I used Homejoy and I liked it's ease of use. But after the cleaning lady they sent me was done, she offered me her direct phone # and told me I could contact her directly for any future cleaning needs."

I used Airbnb and the host told me the same thing, he said book 3 nights and the other 20 pay me cash or transfer the amount to my account and avoid the Airbnb fee

blake8086 2 days ago 0 replies      
I actually just had my home cleaned yesterday through this service. I'll be sad to see it go =(
Skrypt 2 days ago 0 replies      
As happy customers & friends of the company I'm sad to hear this news today. I wish everyone on the team all the best.

I'm curious to one day read a post mortem on the company, and especially about these last few months.

Our last appointment is scheduled for Monday.

Thank you Homejoy.

S4M 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm surprised. I don't know much about Homejoy but I read once that it was the company in the YC portfolio that has the highest growth, so I thought they would become a unicorn at some point. What happened to them?
kevinkimball 2 days ago 4 replies      
what happened?
icelancer 2 days ago 2 replies      
The service was getting increasingly terrible in my market. I am not surprised at all to see it go the way of the dinosaur. Too bad, this type of service has a lot of value to busy professionals and people with families.
7Figures2Commas 2 days ago 0 replies      
Homejoy was (at least at one point) the fastest growing company in YC history according to PG[1], and if you go back and read the press, particularly around its funding, it was treated like it was already a success.

Its rapid demise is a good reminder that growth isn't profit, and funding from top tier investors doesn't actually signal that you are building a sustainable business.

Incidentally, I have pointed out the employee misclassification issue numerous times[2][3], and wrote last year[4]:

> It's going to be very interesting in the coming years to see which of these on-demand companies continue to thrive because I personally think it's inevitable that many of them are going to be forced to reclassify their workers as employees. I suspect some investors aren't giving this enough consideration in their due diligence.

If investors are now doing their due diligence (gasp) and realizing that many of these portfolio companies are not going to be able to effectively defend against misclassifcation class actions, Homejoy is not going to be the last of these highly-funded on-demand companies to literally hit a wall.

[1] http://www.reddit.com/r/EntrepreneurRideAlong/comments/1uyr6...

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8489834

[3] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8468863

[4] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8709632

confiscate 2 days ago 0 replies      
Sorry to hear this guys. Know you guys worked hard on this. Best of luck
ryandrake 2 days ago 0 replies      
When I first heard of this company, I thought, "Too small a niche to grow--they'll never survive". This is a service for a very limited market--rich people who don't already have a housekeeper and can't manage to keep their houses clean. Nobody I know socially would actually pay someone to clean their house for them.

Yet, so many customer testimonials here on HN. Are there really that many people so busy/well-off that they can't take a few minutes once a day or so to pick up after themselves and rather pay someone more than their mobile phone bill to do something so trivial? I guess I was wrong about the market size but damn...

jtwebman 2 days ago 0 replies      
What was the added value over other smaller cleaning services?
jondubois 2 days ago 0 replies      
That's surprising considering how heavily marketed they were. I think everyone assumed that they were going to be a success.
minimaxir 2 days ago 4 replies      
This serves as a strong counterpoint to the infamous "Dear Future Homejoy Engineer" HN job posting: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8794956

Working as a family on a holiday may not be enough to save a startup.

h2014 2 days ago 0 replies      
There are a lot of these types of on demand startups creeping up in Europe so it'll be interesting to see how that plays out.
soheil 2 days ago 0 replies      
What is the urge to hijack scrolling so high? Is it because people who those developers work for have shitty mouse/trackpad?
cobrabyte 2 days ago 0 replies      
Crap... really liked this service.
dlu 2 days ago 0 replies      
What? I had no clue this was comming. I'm surprised there wasn't more signs
h2014 2 days ago 0 replies      
I also wonder what their exit strategy was supposed to be?
kzhaouva 2 days ago 0 replies      
best of luck to the founders on their next venture
blhack 2 days ago 0 replies      
This really bums me out :( -- My girlfriend and I have been making use of homejoy a lot lately, and it has really been helping us keep up with the house.
taigeair 1 day ago 0 replies      
Rough landing...
curiousjorge 1 day ago 0 replies      
I remember listening to her talk way back when there was sam altman's startup video series.

I thought it was very cool that she worked with her brother. You don't see sister/brother as business partners usually. She was also a hard worker from the impression, reading quarterly statements to find 'gems'. Lot of doing this and that. It really sounded like they were doing great, she and her brother knew what they were doing. $39.7M in 5 Rounds from 15 Investors seem like a pretty good winner.

And then suddenly this. A shift in the industry or inability to be profitable and sustainable ( I don't know why homejoy failed). Cleaning houses to find out what home services would be like (lean startup approach) and YC branding (quit your job and lets go) with 5 rounds of funding and still did not emerge as a winner. In hindsight it looked like they were doing everything out of the YC/lean textbook without really forming their own ideas. It's probably comfortable this way.

It appeared like they did everything right and they probably were but it did not produce success from the investors point of view. I think what we can learn from this is that just because somebody or something looks like they are doing everything right or talk like they know what they are doing it may not be the case.

I wonder had they bootstrapped and operated as a small business catering to a focused market instead of trying to expanding to different markets with easy capital flowing to SV, they could have ended up with a cash flow positive and recurring source of income.

I wonder if the bubble is popping and the skewed flow of capital is forcing stakeholders to operate outside of their means or comfort zone and resulting in failure. It was valued at $130 million dollars apparently. Who else out there YC or not, have unsound valuation? Surely, there will be similar stories in the future.


Reading that article it is the same type of very logical and well rounded writing found on YC that shows expertise but then in this case it wasn't enough. What I observe to be interesting is that it mentions 'from failure to $XX million dollar in funding'. Perhaps raising a ton of money feels like success and that gives false confidence and incompatible strategies.

I find it really hard to swallow that it took 50 million dollars to figure that out where investing 150k in airbnb would've yielded immense return. Back to my original strategy of avoiding piling up positions on a single bet no matter how certain you are it's a winner and instead making numerous limited bets across large number of startups. Sell half of your equity to the guy investing $15 million dollar in the next series round in case it fails.

icpmacdo 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is a pretty big company going under right, a billion + ?
samstave 2 days ago 0 replies      
I really REALLY wanted to use Homejoy -- but only for the folding/ironing of laundry. (I have three kids - so a house of five produces a lot of laundry)

$25/hour with a several hour minimum... Wow - no thanks...

classicsnoot 2 days ago 0 replies      
1. Those who claim cleaning is not a "skilled job" should get off their keyboard, spend a day cleaning their moms house, and get back to me when they learn they are 3X slower than a pro and destroyed something with bleach-based spray.

Finally someone said it. Some moron posted ITT that 'no one is passionate about cleaning someone else's shit', which I find ironic as this website is populated by many people who clean up other people's shit online. It never ceases to amaze me how easy it seems to think the only job with subtle nuances is your own. Thus far in my life, I have done construction, plumbing, lawn care, film, 'fixing', security, and professional driving (not chauffeuring), and I always thought it cute how the pros in each of those vocations could go for hours about the skill and attention to detail required to be proffecient, then in the same breath speak of another vocation like it is simple. I think it is safe to assume that if someone is willing to pay for a service it probably requires some level of skill.

Full disclosure: in my "unskilled", workaday life I am constantly explaining the immense amount of time, effort, and skill required to make internet fix.

notNow 2 days ago 0 replies      
Were determined to support you to keep your homes humming and business buzzing, so we will do our best to ensure partners and clients who want to continue to work together get a chance to do so independently of Homejoy.

Is this why they had to terminate their operations because clients and partners managed to cut them out of the loop and to do business independently of their platform?

smt88 2 days ago 2 replies      
No surprise there. Tone-deaf marketing and there was a horror story a few years ago about the culture.
ianlevesque 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'm just so glad they didn't say it was an incredible journey.
jwise0 2 days ago 0 replies      
It looks like they have taken the Steve Miller Band approach [1] to users who are also creditors: http://blog.homejoy.com/faqs/ . Hope you didn't have a gift card!

[1] i.e., hoo hoo hoo, go on, take the money and run

aestetix 2 days ago 3 replies      
If your company cannot afford to stay in the black with real employees (as opposed to contractors), you need to re-evaluate your business model.

Edit: and the downvotes are rolling in! Would anyone who has downvoted this comment care to share why?

The self-hating web developer joequery.me
342 points by dumindunuwan  20 hours ago   175 comments top 49
patio11 18 hours ago 7 replies      
There are few things in life more important than choosing one's peer group well. The Internet gives you many more options than we had available prior to the existence of it. Choose wisely and re-evaluate that choice periodically to see whether your peer group continues to represent your goals and values.

Why? Your peer group literally gets arbitrary code execution on your brain. (It's a flaw in MonkeyBrainOS 1.01 which we haven't patched yet.) You'll tend to find yourself valuing what they value. You will tend to find yourself achieving outcomes strikingly similar to their outcomes.

Given this, picking a peer group whose values are not your values and whose outcomes are terrible is a poor choice.

There is some cognizable peer group of "the most misanthropic 10% of commenters on Internet threads about programming languages." The majority are not professional programmers. Most are not very happy people. You can generally tell a lot about what a person values by what they spend their time doing; someone who professes to value the great intellectual challenge that is Real Programming but actually ships comments which make other people feel bad probably, to a first approximation, values making other people feel bad.

If you do not also want to grow into a values system where making other people feel bad is the highlight of your day, consider choosing a better peer group, where e.g. feeding one's family through honest labor is valued and having very loud opinions about NodeJS not so much.

skrebbel 18 hours ago 3 replies      
For all of those who, like the OP, believe web dev isn't real programming:

 - it is - uploading WordPress isn't web development
I worked in embedded systems for a few years, and let me tell you, the quality of people is exactly the same as in web dev. They do pointer arithmetic all the time (way too much), we pass functions to functions all the time (way too much). They use ancient compilers and tools, we invent a new frontend build pipeline every week. They build systems that are so badly structured that they take a night to compile if you change one line. We willingly make WordPress plugins. And the list goes on.

I walked away there because I strongly prefer learning a new frontend build pipeline every week over using ancient compilers on piles of legacy code. In many ways, web dev is where the edge cuts. But neither is better or worse, and there's fools and geniuses everywhere.

austenallred 18 hours ago 9 replies      
The "language hate" in programming is truly cancerous.

I know several people who started programming only to get twisted and turned around by experienced developers saying, "Don't learn PHP" then "Rails is a joke and doesn't scale well." I talk to them a week later, and they're trying to build a simple web app in functional Haskell, and their environment is all messed up because they are using a zsh configuration they don't understand and github is telling them to put stuff in their .bashrc.

Especially when you're getting started, it just doesn't matter. Open up a text editor - it doesn't matter if it's vim or emacs or notepad, and start building something - it doesn't matter if it's PHP or Node.JS or Rails or LISP. Just do stuff. Then take on the next challenge, and grow from there. You don't start out hacking the Linux kernel.

Momentum is the thing that truly matters. Learning and creating is like a conveyor belt - if you stop the conveyor belt to move the things around and make sure that you're doing everything right, progress stops, and you're probably going to do more harm than good. Keep the conveyor belt running at all costs.

Discouraging that momentum because the language isn't "good enough" is like telling someone who is learning to ride a bike that they should jump on a motorcycle. No one would question that motorcycles are better than bicycles, but you probably don't want to start on one.

My general rule of thumb is that if you don't know why something is better yet, you should generally avoid using it. If you don't know how to write CSS, you don't need LESS or SASS or Gulp or Bower or whatever. Once you write a project in CSS, the need for SASS becomes obvious, and you appreciate it.

Of the several programmers I know, I don't know any who started out writing machine code. Most started out writing PHP (some Java), but they got the ball rolling and learned quickly.

pmichaud 19 hours ago 3 replies      
Yeah, modern web development is actually really fucking hard mainly because you have to know so many different things. To build an application from scratch, and do it well, you have to have deep knowledge of, let's see...

* At least one server side language

* Probably a server side framework



* Maybe a preprocessor language like SASS or CoffeeScript



* Probably a SCM like Git

* At least one server, which means the server software itself, like Apache or Nginx, the server for your language like phusion passenger, probably an OS that you're not familiar with

* a whole slew of build tools and the like relevant to whatever ecosystem you're in

And more shit I'm not thinking about (oh, all about images types and compression). And that's just basic stuff, not even considering setting up a database server or, heaven forbid, a cluster. Or anythging like redis, or a queuing system or redundant hardware.

That's not nearly a comprehensive list, but I think my point is made.

It's true that generally web dev is less mathy. I personally scratch that itch with graphics and game programming, but web dev is a hairy beast, so don't let anyone get you down about it.

Xophmeister 17 hours ago 1 reply      
Like many here, I don't believe in the OP's premise that web development isn't real programming, but likewise, I really hate it too! When I have to do it, I much prefer getting involved with the backend-side of things; I loathe frontend development. My main reasons being:

1. The framework churn at this point is beyond ridiculous. In my last/current project, I just gave up and wrote everything by hand with a bit of jQuery for DOM manipulation. It may not be pretty, it may not scale, but it actually works, it took me maybe a day-and-a-half (rather than the weeks of time I've lost experimenting with Framework X) and it will be tractable when I (or some other developer) comes back to it in the future.

2. Ultimately, by in large, web development is just making CRUD applications. Having to go through all that pain and not having much to show for it at the end (in terms of novelty) is kind of soul destroying! When one writes, say, a command line tool, that's ultimately more about manipulation. In my mind, doing creative things with data is much more interesting than simply providing a means to store it.

sombremesa 19 hours ago 1 reply      
Web development is real software development. The people who say or think otherwise usually just don't know any better.

That being said, there are different tiers of software development (including web development) in general. Most developers are actually abysmal at architecting good software. This might be down to a number of things - time pressure, lack of experience, lack of skill, apathy, "life happens" etc.

Anyway my point is, abysmal software is everywhere. Thankfully, customers don't mind. If your software is important, you'll write tests.

Udo 12 hours ago 1 reply      
The motivation behind developers dissing each other for their chosen field of work and their tools is absolutely puzzling, and it does real harm. Nobody would assert that printf("hello world!"); epitomizes systems programming, yet print($foo); is apparently considered synonymous with web development and lowest of the unspeakable arts.

Inept programming can be found all over the place. A newbie program doesn't magically get better because it's a kernel module written in C, anymore than it gets magically worse because it's a guestbook script written in PHP. The astonishing thing is this goes arbitrarily deep in the tech taxonomy tree: Ruby on Rails is considered a pro-grade environment, even though it's partially focused on mitigating newbie mistakes. PHP is considered a beginner-grade toy, despite the comparatively vast expertise one needs to write correct code in it. The web is a stupendously complex thing to write software for, there is nothing low or trivial about it.

When I was relatively young in the late nineties, my contact to other programmers was extremely limited. I was working at an ad agency, where I developed and maintained an in-house DSL for web programming. When the second full-time developer was hired, their first move was to diss pretty much everything I had made. "How can you write a web framework without regex?" "A document-based database? Abomination!" "A stateless server? That's crazy, why didn't you write a persistent app server?" "A real programmer uses Emacs"

Over the years, this mode of interaction still exists. Most people avoid it by hanging out only with developers who use the exact same stack they do, and when the winds shift they all switch together and pretend the old tech never existed. We had the chance, as a programmer subculture, to leave this ridiculous and arbitrary in-group/out-group stuff behind, but instead we embraced it and turned it up to eleven.

kisstheblade 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Most often the technology isn't the most important thing in "web development". Understanding the customers needs (often better than the customer) and implementing them is the point.

Of course technology is important but just using sane (and proven) technologies that all on the team understand is often the best way forward. Wery seldom the problem with custom business apps is the technology or "webscale" issues etc which get all the attention on eg. HN. When creating apps which will be usen for maybe 10+ years using the most hip language or framework isn't so smart when considering maintainability. Eg. Java/PHP/mysql are all etremely well understood and work wery well.

I've been doing this kind of development for about 15 years and not once has an application eg. needed to be clustered in any way for performance reasons (for HA reasons maybe).

ihsw 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Honestly I think the author wouldn't have such a crushing sense of inferiority if providing for his family wasn't an issue.

I'm very serious about this -- few people can handle the Sword of Damocles[1] hanging above their hands, those impossibly high stakes, that not only are they intimidated but they're paralyzed.

It's a deer in the headlights moment, except instead of being in an instant it's experienced over the course of days/months/years.

Morbid fear of failure can be crippling, even if you're more than capable of completing the task, and failing so consistently -- in the case of the author -- can actually have a damaging effect on your capacity to do such work. You regress.

How does one handle such situations?

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

Arun2009 13 hours ago 1 reply      
There are a couple of problems that I see with the entire premise behind this article.

1. Web development can be challenging. Writing a simple blog or wiki system in PHP might be "easy", but creating a wordpress.com or wikipedia.org is a whole different ballgame. Latency, scalability, architecture, high availability, manageability, security - the challenges are endless.

2. I don't understand why software developers tend to value the "difficulty" of the technology used in a product over the utility of the final product to end customers. Creating a web app in PHP for sharing daily tidbits in your friends' lives may not be as challenging as writing a compiler for a functional language like Haskell, but its end value may far eclipse that of the latter. Facebook and Twitter after all started as fairly simple applications but are multi-billion dollar companies now. I would even say that there is a certain unix-like elegance in using the easiest, simplest technologies to create the maximum returns in terms of utility to humans. And that, IMO, is far from being a "brain-dead" skill.

allan_s 13 hours ago 1 reply      
Also one of the question the OP has not answered, and that I've seen a lot of people asking themselves is

How one does leave web development.

I'm graduated from an engineering school, were most of my classmates were doing smallwebsites/wordpress plugins etc. on their freetime for the easy money (as anyway it's very rare, if not impossible, to find a freelance job as a student on embedded system)

To the point that when they're graduated, as they've accumulated experience in web development, they find a job in it. And later they get defined as a "php developer" , though we did learn about data structures etc.

Then HR will discard your resume when you apply for a embed system or other non-php related job, because you got nothing marked with it on your past experiences (even if you had worked on some arduino on your freetime).

So how one does the conversion ?

 * create/participate to open source projects in the field you're interested ? * try hard to find a job that involve both, so that internally you can try to make the transition ? * remove the PHP experiences from your CV so that you're just a "junior"?

therealmarv 17 hours ago 1 reply      
I worked several years in my early programming career in a big software company who developed mission critical software: traffic control software. You think they are bad ass programmers? You are totally wrong... the system (btw it was often Java or C based) we programmed on was so complicated that you need at least half of year day to day experience to know what you are doing there. And most frustrating part: There was no inner beauty in this beast! At the end you see a lot of ancient stupid code with the same stupid and dangerous ducktape as everywhere else. And the programmers there are no bad ass elite programmers... I would even say that many of them are below average young programmers because they worked several decades in their highly specialized area and have no clue about other technology (they will never be e.g. web developers). The most significant difference is that the whole building process: First there is a lot and a lot of specification (this sucks so much), then they adapt one ancient industrial system to this specification (this sucks maybe even more) and to get this thing ready for mission critical usage they do more than everywhere else Quality Assurance: Test, evaluation, verification, test, evaluation, test, evaluation, test, test, test... this sucks too. So after maybe 3-4 years they are ready and ship... and guess what... it is tested again. I'm happy I left this area... they are also very strict with software you could use, so the innovation process is F* slow there.

My advice: Change your inner attitude and thinking about programming. And the most important part: Do not care about what people think... only care about yourself. I've seen so many programmers (and I hate this attitude) who think they are so much more bad ass because they program in this and this language or area... so what? And why? I don't care and I do not need to compare myself with them.

dack 19 hours ago 2 replies      
I've definitely had these feelings too - sometimes still do (the feeling of struggling with a problem i assumed should be easy). I also tend to naturally spread out my knowledge a little too thin on various projects and not really make meaningful progress on any of them.

Two things have helped for me - one is to have a useful project in mind for the thing you are learning, so you have a payoff at the end. The other is digging into the details of the thing to really understand the subject - and make a mental note that you're implicitly committing to struggle and frustration in exchange for the reward of knowledge. If you aren't willing to struggle you won't get very far in any subject. It's great to have the initial interest/spark, but perseverance is what really changes you as a programmer.

signaler 13 hours ago 0 replies      
A web developer wears many different hats. These days you have to be a real polymath to make really beautiful and functional websites. I never enjoyed the limiting belief that web development is some symphony of JS+HTML+CSS in the browser. It's more than that, and it is multi disciplined. Elements of WebPerf, Browser Engine quirks, progressive enhancement, A11Y, Design, UX, build scripts, templates, design patterns, server backend, frontend, bothend, mobile/handheld, analytics, rendering engines, etc

The list could go on for some length.

Not to mention the various principles borrowed from 'real' software engineering canon, like D.R.Y, K.I.S.S, etc.

In terms of proficiency and confidence, you should look up the DunningKruger effect


And its ugly cousin:


Gibbon1 4 hours ago 0 replies      
I just have a small comment about the difference between professionals that went into the profession via the front door, college, certs, etc. And those the went into though the back door, learned on their own because someone somehow decided to pay them. Generally the latter are people that get some satisfaction out of the trade. But there a lot of professionals that went to school to become X and found they hated it once they got out. Yet they owe all this money, and they can't see any other way to earn the money they are used to. These people are usually very unhappy people.

The others that are generally happy with what they do, and aren't the type of people that like playing power and status games with what they see as the lesser races of programmer.

To the point, if you find a career you like, that's like hitting a home run in life. Letting unhappy people convince you to give that up is really terrible.

enobrev 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I've always been a fan of collecting money for solving problems and letting others worry about whether what I'm doing qualifies as "real" programming. Knowing how to listen to potential clients has gotten me a lot further than worrying whether PHP is a real programming language.
pascalo 15 hours ago 0 replies      
I have been in the business for 15 years now.I started as the guy that did the table-and-frameset static websites, and if I look back now there's a myriad of things that I had to learn and 75% of that I have probably forgotten again.The myriad of protocols, languages, frameworks, toolkits that you have to keep up to date with. Fashions in what the devs think is cool and what the customers ask for.

The most amazing thing to me however is what the browser and web technology now allow you to do. The way I see it, browsers are not document viewers anymore, they are akin to operating systems, and the web dev skills you have let you make awesome stuff you'd never dream of 10 years ago.

I have been tinkering with packaged chrome apps and UPNP, and in my mind it's nuts that I can do this, me, the humble web developer.

So to echo one of the sibling posts here: Just go and build something. Doesn't matter what. In the end what matters is whether people use your software or not. If you blogged and it made a difference, don't let anybody rubbish that for you. You're already a cut above the rest.

ctvo 13 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm constantly impressed by people who have true, in-depth knowledge of any space.

If you're world class at HTML / CSS, know the specs intimately, know the differences and quirks in rendering engines and can explain why IE8 renders a selector differently -- that's impressive. That's also very valuable.

That wouldn't be considered real programming by a lot of folks. Who cares.

I've found that going broad is fun, going deep is hard. If you find yourself seeking challenges, there's often little need to branch out. If you dig deeper, you'll run into highly technical, hard problems really quickly. You also gain expertise few people have.

yomritoyj 16 hours ago 1 reply      
In intellectual pursuits like programming, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that only intellectually hard things are worthwhile. Which in turn leads us to think of an intellectual ladder with mathematics at the top. This causes us to disregard the creativity and effort required to produce useful things (such as websites) even when no intellectually hard problems need to be solved. I think this is a toxic frame of mind for anyone who is not a mathematician.
phantom_oracle 4 hours ago 0 replies      
To the person who authored this piece of text that will apply in X-odd decades from now, I hope you inspire every coder in 2035 who is "starting out programming" to say:

Fuck your functional, static, super-fast, super-optimum, super-niche, super-scalable, super-everything language that only 64 other people in the world are using, that barely has any auth wrappers because your bus-factor of 2 prevents you from doing anything else except optimizing your compiler to be "almost as fast as C". I will learn my shit-hole language that the dickwards at GooFaceZon and the asswires at redundant CS colleges refer to as "a mistake of a programming language" because frankly ...

My shit-hole language will do many important things, among others:

- Make me productive

- Pay my fucking bills

- Allow me to learn, because I understand shit at this level, was not born a savant and don't dream in code (whatever the fuck that is)

- Allow me to live beyond the screen, because having a family, going outside and letting the sun touch your skin sometimes is good

So fuck it all, and fuck it all true and well. If COBOL and VB6 aren't dead, long live WordPress!

keithpeter 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Disclaimer: I'm a civilian

If you generate value for an organisation by making a Web site work for them then I think you are a programmer!

By the same token, if someone could lose business/data as a consequence of a serious software error on a system you have implemented, then you are certainly a programmer and you have a lot of responsibility.

nicholas73 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Funny, coming from an electronics background, I can understand the stack down to the metal. But from my point of view, the further away from the metal you are, the further you are away from monkey work.

The author could not have flipped things more on its head to me. It's ALL monkey work, in that it's a lot of tedious glue work and calculations. Except the higher level you are, the easier it is to be executing your vision, rather than meeting some spec.

You are a lot more likely to come up with a webapp business idea, than you are going to have the opportunity to design the next CPU or what not.

Business matters aside, I also find coding challenges to be more like puzzles, whereas circuits to be like a stack of math problems. If you don't like being a code monkey try being a (used) human calculator!

Grass is greener, I suppose.

dempseye 18 hours ago 0 replies      
If it's any consolation, "real programming" doesn't have any prestige either.
Animats 19 hours ago 2 replies      
That's sad.

Web development is hard for all the wrong reasons. There are so many layers of bad, half-broken stuff to deal with, encapsulated in new, half-broken stuff. Worse, it has fads. Sign: "It has been [0] days since the last new Javascript framework." Web developers must run very hard to stay in the same place.

It's hard to get excited about this, when in the end, the result is usually a web page which could have been displayed faster in HTML 3.2.

Roboprog 6 hours ago 0 replies      
In the end, language choice is up to your employer for most jobs. Don't sweat it.

Back in the 80s when I was in uni, the only job I could get in the area was in a language called dBASE (later Clipper). Nothing like the "real" languages we learned in school. BUT, we got stuff done, quickly, to allow entry and reporting against the data kept on the "real computers". A few years later, after graduation, at that job, I got to see a "C" program somebody wrote to tie into one of the systems I did to speed up a batch process, as I needed to fix a few things in it. It was a real enlightenment to see how bad the code was (in some ways). I didn't feel so bad about what I did after being able to fix this "expert" code.

Don't let the bastards get you down, as they say.

PS - I've been a Java programmer for the last decade, but I'm doing Angular on an overhaul project at my latest job. I like Javascript (feels like the rich, "local", UI stuff I did in the 80s, all over again), but CSS is hard. Don't feel bad about "only" knowing web page stuff.

and ... many other posters already mentioned the primary importance of simply earning a living, honestly.

tracker1 4 hours ago 0 replies      
I don't know that I agree with the article's premise... while I feel for the author, and even the referenced poster in reddit... I have to say that I love web development. I started out very early on in the Web, I wanted to create interfaces and applications that people used. I'd spent time on BBSes before/since, and just want to create a usable system.

I started out with design work. I learned JS because I wanted to accomplish a given task... I read a big book (JavaScript Bible, 1st edition iirc), over a weekend, and applied that when I got back to work monday... over time, I became more interested in the backend... SQL, livescript, (now classic) ASP, VB5/6/COM/DCOM, and then C# when it came out.

The .com bust, while painful was actually a great learning experience for me. I knew C# was the next step out from VBScript/ASP, but I was unemployed... I managed to get the cheapest/complete book on C#, and without VS was stuck using the command line interfaces. It was a really interesting, and challenging experience. By the time I finally got to use VS2003, I really didn't care for it, but VS2005 was decent.

Since then I've dabbled in C/C++, F#, Perl, Python, Ruby and a few others... I've had Go on my radar for a while, but haven't had a use case for actually trying it yet. I've also spent the past 4-5 years advocating for NodeJS usage. I find the development paradigm it offers, and the constructs you can acheive (more functional composition, less classes) are closer to my mindset.

In the end I like knowing how different softwares work together, how the data is stored... to some extent, I don't really want to know the details down to memory access and drivers. At this point in my life, I have an understanding conceptually, but practically I don't care so much. I now know enough to not even hit certain bottlenecks, while not prematurely optimizing for others.

It's something that simply comes from experience and understanding that you can't know everything, and just trying to continue to learn and try new things. I get imposter syndrom like anyone else, but I understand that it's all part of the process.

afarrell 9 hours ago 0 replies      
It is easy to write shitty code as a web developer and get something to work, however unmaintainably and unprofessionally. That doesn't make it any easier to write excellent, clean, and extensible code. In fact, it makes it harder because you're more likely to find yourself in an organization which has been able to survive without being able to write clean and professional code.

Branching out into other domains can give you insights if you find them interesting, but if you do in fact care about web development, focus on taking pride in what you build as a web developer.

OliverJones 6 hours ago 0 replies      
This author wrote, "PHP was a terrible language, and PHP developers were terrible programmers. JavaScript was a terrible language, and JS developers couldn't perform asymptotic analysis to save their life. Web developers don't have degrees and it shows in their code. Drupal/Wordpress developers are an absolute joke."

What a crock! What a good reason to stay away from online forums like reddit! The userface of any software, done well, is painstaking and valuable work. It's a poor craftsman who blames his own tools. It's a freakin' troll who blames other peoples' tools.

This has been going on since the beginning of the computer industry. Real mean program in machine language: assemblers are for wimps. COBOL? feh.

This is nonsense. By this reasoning, Michaelangelo was incompetent because of his choice of painting materials.

I hope Joel's article will be seen by lots of people, and that our trade can mature.

sklogic 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Nothing really changed since the times mocked by http://web.mit.edu/humor/Computers/real.programmers
hyperpallium 15 hours ago 0 replies      
I've been affected by this recently. I used to focus on the outcome, on real problems solved; on value created, to help people - not impress them. An outcome/engineering approach focusing on ends, not means (maintainability etc is a result, though logically secondary to the thing itself).

Helping people is way more satisfying than impressing them.

For example, youtube and facebook have helped many people, even though they use PHP. And PHP has helped a lot of people, by being simple and effective (I've always thought templates are a simple but brilliant idea).

As a learning method, it's not about getting a comprehensive, deep understanding, but actually doing something useful, and just learning what you need for that. You get satisfaction along the way, and the pieces come together, giving you a lead for comprehensive understanding - if needed.

[ PS Personally I got turned off webdev years ago by tedious browser-compatibility - though I understand that's long been solved by platforms like jquery etc. Also, it needs more visual design aptitude than I have... ]

kayoone 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Imo web development in the open source field is a lot more complex than say developing in a strictly Java or .NET environment.Let's face it, most .NET or Java programmers are building some kind of CRUD app too.Over 10 years ago i have started with PHP and Perl, going from horrible spaghetti code to full fledged Symfon2 apps that use abstraction layer upon abstraction layer. I have written NodeJS servers that analyze event streams of hundreds of servers and push realtime statistics to AngularJS frontend apps. These days i am building apps in React and am exited for the prospect of React Native. I have also worked in C# and Unity3D for game programming and built realtime multiplayer 3D action games. At heart, i consider myself a programmer who uses the right tool for the job and i work primarily on the web. I am still proud of it because it's one of the most vibrant fields of tech to be in and companies pay good money for my work.Even though i did lots of PHP in my life, i never ever touched the code of Wordpress or Joomla or similar though.
gitaarik 11 hours ago 0 replies      
It's sad some people tend to think as being a programmer is all about programming. You have to focus on the goal: the product that you are creating. Then you decide what's the best tool to make this product, and it doesn't matter what field that belongs to. If it helps you make the product you want to make, then it's good.

Of course you might get bored creating a certain product at some point because it's become too easy for you. But as long as you don't reach that point, don't rush yourself. I would say.

niix 10 hours ago 0 replies      
I can relate a bit to this article. Although, I never find myself "hating" what I do per se, but I definitely find myself looking for something more "difficult". I've done the same as the OP, bought C books, read a few pages, wrote some example apps, etc. But I quickly lose interest.

I work as a "software engineer" by day, which is basically a glorified title for a guy who writes a ton of JavaScript. But I like to put a positive spin as to why this profession is so easy: Maybe it's easy because I've been doing it for so long. Maybe it's easy because I really know what I'm doing.

I find it important to always challenge yourself and continue learning. Honestly the JavaScript community is great for that, hell every couple of days there is some new framework to learn.

Overall, it is sad how down the OP is on his self, I hope he can find his way again. Programming is one of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever had, and I wish everyone could see that same enjoyment.

wmt 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Damn. The thing is, web programming is real programming. I work with low level system security components, and before that worked on medical software, i.e. what the author considers "real programming". However, during the IE 6.0 era I also did multiple corporate internal web UIs with PHP, ASP and JS, and projects on those platforms can be just as demanding as high performance low level C projects.
_navaneethan 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I am a Python/Django developer. I love my learning and work in Django web development.

Aren't you injecting me a negative thoughts?

From web development, try to go for scaling multiple architecture machines, or go for big data processing or go for Arudino, you have plenty to explore..

I personally feel, there is nothing wrong to switch the work, as long as you have the desire to obtain the specific label in that area and dedicating yourself for it.

roflmyeggo 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Seems a little bit rash to differentiate web development from "real programming" with such a binary lens.

There are both good and bad web developers, just as there are software engineers.

If one wants to learn more about software engineering then of course there is nothing wrong with that, however it strikes me as odd to pursue it solely for the "higher prestige" that it carries amongst the programming forums.

seige 19 hours ago 0 replies      
I wish you nothing but the best in your journey back to confidence. I have been there too and occasionally my mind gets tripped in the same thoughts again, but I realized that web dev is the only thing that I know that let me builds what I want to build. It might be easy for some but it is effective for me.
leke 8 hours ago 0 replies      
That was a great read and something I've experienced myself. It's nice to hear I'm not the only one with doubts about my abilities. Hopefully, it's these doubts that will empower us to become much better at our profession, so good luck to us all.
amirouche 14 hours ago 0 replies      
atlih 12 hours ago 1 reply      
I find web developers in general more knowledgeable. Sure they are not working in low level programming, but those that are working in low level programming often don't know what DNS, FTP or SQL is.

Remember that those who work in low level programming had nothing to do with writing the language or building the compilers. They just got a degree and started working.

dandrews 18 hours ago 0 replies      
In re: the vast number of available programming languages... not really a new problem. I've always been amused by the "Tower of Babel" illustration on the cover of Jean Sammet's 1969 book, Programming Languages: History and Fundamentals.


ishanr 17 hours ago 0 replies      
One reason for this is also that there are not many intermediate books on web dev. There are beginner books and then there are advanced books. Once you know the basics its a bit difficult to advance on the path without proper guidance. So you turn to other places and that is where you see the crazy linux hacking and you think OMG! this is real programming.
SiVal 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Okay, Joe,

I had to drop out at age 20 to financially provide for my mother (who was experiencing a major depressive episode and could not work)...

It's possible that you are experiencing the same thing. I have no qualifications to offer in this respect, but don't take this possibility lightly.

...and my two younger siblings (ages 2 and 6 at the time). ... There I was at age 20 providing for a sizable family... being a good son for my mother and being a good brother for my siblings. I was performing the role of the man my father and my siblings' fathers refused to be. I was entering the workforce as a real programmer. I was proud.

Oh, and rightly so! A real man is someone who steps up like this--someone like you--not someone who implements file systems in assembly.

So here is where I might have some qualifications to offer. I've been a pro developer since before you were born. I've done orbital calculations, nuclear weapons effect mitigation, realtime hardware, done standards committee work...in so many languages (Fortran, Lisp, C, C++,...up through Swift), but there have been times when the development platform I've chosen has been one that was held in low esteem by a lot of programmers (BASIC, Perl 4 CGI years after Perl 5 w/mod_perl was common), or not even considered programming at all (e.g., Excel, FileMaker).

I chose these as the best tools for the particular job under whatever normal or bizarre circumstances existed, and whatever tool, X, I was working with at the time, I was known as "the X guy" by my coworkers. And those coworkers have changed again, and again, and again, so remember me as an X guy, others a Y or Z guy.

I eventually learned to just focus on being as valuable as I could. Usually, what people need most from me is not arcane physics or CS knowledge (darn it! I worked hard on that) but just my ability to find them a solution that is most helpful to them. The most helpful solutions are usually not technologically impressive, as it turns out. I'd rather build them some microservices in Go but sign them up for SquareSpace instead and fill in a template.

Turn your attention, not to other programmers, but to the people you can help with your skills and to their problems. Try to get a lot more of your professional satisfaction from being useful to people who need you and less from how elite you think you are perceived to be by other programmers.

Web dev gives you all sorts of ways to be extremely useful to people. Do it. Feel good about solving their problems and let it motivate you to keep improving your ability to come up with valuable solutions. Yes, I understand that building yet another CRUD web app to sell dog food or whatever doesn't feel like curing cancer, but those people are trying to support their families, too, and it's not easy, and they need your help.

At the same time, yes, I can relate to a personal desire to do technically demanding work (but do it for the personal satisfaction of taking on the challenge, not to impress other programmers), but the way most people get into that is not usually to get an advanced degree. They prove themselves valuable at less technically demanding work, work on side projects in areas that interest them to develop new skills and, at some point, they spot an opening to utilize (make useful) those new skills for their employer. If it works out, their job responsibilities might change. Do it again and again, and eventually they will change.

I hope that turning your focus toward the people who need you and away from other programmers can help restore your self-respect and motivation. Good luck.

amelius 16 hours ago 0 replies      
I have two problems with web programming. One is that the tools (e.g. HTML, CSS) seem to be designed for non-developers.

The other problem is that it is really, really hard to build a business on intellectual work, since eventually all good ideas end up as open source.

timvp 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Good article. Web development is not the same as embedded development of course but it is also not just 'generating' CRUD applications with some js/css to make it nice.

Hope to see him succeed in his reinvention of his career :)

kukabynd 10 hours ago 0 replies      
one of the best posts and threads recently, thanks for sharing everybody!
vdaniuk 18 hours ago 0 replies      
There is a simple path to the professional satisfaction for programmers who work primarily with web development. Learn a little marketing, a little entrepreneurship and make your own side projects. For fun, profit or social good. None of the arrogance or denigration won't touch you then.
vivainio 18 hours ago 1 reply      
For something fun yet with that elusive 'real programming' edge, play around with Rust.
jqm 11 hours ago 0 replies      
I like web development but have to admit I do look down a little on people who are able only to click some buttons and get WordPress running and then people consider them "programmers".

Likewise, people who are able to drag some stuff around in MS Access and are considered "programers".

It's not necessarily the amount of skill and effort involved (although admittedly that is part of it), it's the fact that, in my experience, soon enough these "click and drag" type systems usually break. When they do, the button clickers often don't have the skills to fix them. This is, in my opinion, the refining fire that separates "programmers" from "Next" clicking hacks. And often it would have been, in total, more efficient just to learn a bit of real programming in the first place rather than to fix the messes created by "easy" systems. I'm not complaining because I've made money fixing problems button clicking "programmers" created but couldn't fix. In MS Access, in WordPress, in Sharepoint, in Lotus Approach, etc.

It's better to take the time to learn how to code. PHP isn't my preference, there are better languages, but it's probably OK. Oh, and I don't worry about what people think of web developers. Their opinion doesn't really matter. But button clickers as opposed to coders... there is a real difference and it shows up soon enough.

Last point, OP messed up by ordering a bunch of books. He should have ordered just one. Don't try to drink from a fire hose. You will get knocked on your ass and all wet, and you won't even get your drink. Also, besides learning, you have to keep producing. Even if it's boring and some people don't respect you. A certain level of income take precedence to learning. If you don't have it then the learning is done because you can't fund it. So... priorities.

Rockstar lib will make you a Rockstar programmer in 2 lines of code github.com
312 points by harel  1 day ago   51 comments top 15
SturgeonsLaw 1 day ago 6 replies      
> Rockstar is one amazing library, which will make you a Rockstar Programmer in just 2 minutes. In last decade, people learned C++ in 21 days. But these days, it has come down to just 10 minutes. But, I wanted to do better.

Curious about the 10 minutes thing, I followed the link through to Sam's Teach Yourself C++ In 10 Minutes on Amazon.

Uhhh... Can't explain this though: https://i.imgur.com/dVndZzz.png

avinassh 1 day ago 3 replies      
Holy Shit! I am the author of this library. Wow, I can't believe something I built is #1 on HN now (:
xgbi 1 day ago 1 reply      
These guys trying to hook up Github users seriously messed their algorithms...I get offers for Web dev and Ruby shit whereas 99% of my OSS contributions are C and C++.

If even Google HR team is not capable of just simply take a look at a Github user contributions, I don't know how you should trust these new recruitment techniques.

otis_inf 1 day ago 2 replies      
Now the wait is for the PR to make the github commit profile picture contain the word 'Rockstar' with green pixels.
mianos 1 day ago 0 replies      
This rocks. Mainly because I like python and this proves even git c++ rockstars are made with python.
escobar 1 day ago 1 reply      
I particularly like that he faked the tweet from Life at Google (tried to find it, couldn't), that gave me a good chuckle. I enjoyed the Readme overall, thought that it had a good tone to it. Not too sarcastic but not too serious. Just enough to make me get it's just a silly fun thing he did in some free time.
fallat 1 day ago 2 replies      
I'm surprised this wasn't a thing sooner. I found out I could modify my github commit calender thing like over a year ago. Awaiting for mainstream abuse (hilarity) to kick in now thanks to this! :)
Laurentvw 1 day ago 1 reply      
Has anyone tried this on their github account? I'd like to see what the commits look like.

Edit: Looks like it's just hundreds of hello world commits. I was expecting unique code for each commit! :)

Walkman 1 day ago 2 replies      
The author is wrong about this one:

 Rockstar is Python 3 only library. Rockstar programmers don't code in Python 2.
Exactly the opposite is True: rockstar programmers code forever in Python 2 and newbies use Python 3 (beside core developers)

dalke 1 day ago 3 replies      
The README brings up a cultural reference I didn't understand. It says "Many people have received jobs from the big 4 after becoming a Rockstar"

I hadn't heard of "big 4" before. I thought it might refer to tech companies, like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, etc. but couldn't figure out which 4. http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/tech-sanity-check/schmidt-c... says "Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook", are the big 4 category of 'platform companies' while http://battellemedia.com/archives/2011/12/the-internet-big-f... uses the phrase the big 5, which also includes Microsoft. Then again, the speaker in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJZCUhxNCv8 comments about working at the "Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft - sometimes called the Big 4".

This suggests that the "big 4" is more a concept then an actual definition.

On the other hand, further search gives another possibility. The big 4 can refer to the audit firms of Deloitte, PwC, EY and KPMG ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Four_%28audit_firms%29 ). It was "Big Eight", then "Big Six" and "Big Five", before ending up with 4. At http://www.narrowingthegaap.com/recruiting/how-to-get-hired-... you see "How To Get Hired By the Big 4: The Hiring Process (Part 1)" which starts "The Big 4 hire only the best and the brightest. This is only a partial truth at best. I know this because I have met some really dumb people working for the Big 4. So no, to get hired by a Big 4 you dont need to have a 4.0 GPA with a double major in ..".

So does the github project mean the audit companies, or the tech companies? I think the tech companies are more likely to offer $200K jobs for programmers, but have little knowledge of the audit world.

I'll also hypothesize that the term "big 4" came from the audit world and was reused in the tech world by analogy.

empressplay 1 day ago 1 reply      
Hilarious, seriously. Scary, too...
nickpsecurity 1 day ago 0 replies      
Like with power-leveling, it wouldn't surprise me if there's programmers that throw decent code together [for a price] to help crappier programmers get jobs. It would be less noticeable than Rockstar lib at least until the interview. Has anyone seen this kind of thing happening?
rootlocus 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Borat: Great success, yes? Very nice!
tajen 1 day ago 0 replies      
I similarly once used Git to evidence cheating [1] at a corporate hackaton. It was none other than the CEO team who committed half the files before the kick off.

[1] I didn't phrase it like that at the time, because it could be accepted that desgin work isn't hacking. Most of the wiring with the real APIs happened during the night of the hackaton. Besides, ultra-preparing plans/assets for a corporate hackaton in advance is just showing high motivation. And commits at 6am from a CEO still hold me in respect 4 years later.

snarfy 1 day ago 0 replies      
> Many people have received jobs from the big 4 after becoming a Rockstar, using Rockstar


How Instagram closed my account and gave it to a football celebrity medium.com
299 points by javiercr  10 hours ago   93 comments top 22
xenadu02 9 hours ago 5 replies      
GitHub did the same thing to me. Changed my SSH keys and renamed my account. I used to have "rbishop", now some other developer has it.

No notice, no communication, nothing.

When I contacted the person at GitHub who did it he refused to answer any questions or explain anything.

So watch out... If you have the same name as an employee's drinking buddy, prepare to have your account removed without notice or explanation.

javiercr 9 hours ago 4 replies      
I am not the author of the post but I thought it was interesting because it's related to something I've been thinking for a while: the "namespace" for humans is quite limited.

World's population grow fast and practically no new first or last names have been introduced in the last years, therefore the chances of having another person with your exact same first and last names and more exposure than you is growing exponentially. Plus, thanks to the Internet, if someone with name X does something "remarkable" that name X will be associated to that individual forever, creating a "digital shadow" over those future individuals with the same name.

I remember someone who had my exact same first and last name, and he had bought the domain [fist_name][last_name].com ... The annoying problem was that person was also a developer and his website was awful. I was always worried that someone could google me, find his site and, as he was a developer too, think that poor site was mine.

tristanho 8 hours ago 4 replies      
From the Instagram TOS[1]: "5. We reserve the right to force forfeiture of any username for any reason."

Not saying that this isn't terrible customer service by Instagram, and they definitely should have given better notice, but when you agree to these terms of service you accept that THEY OWN your username... You signed up for this; it shouldn't be a surprise that they actually have these terms for a reason.

[1] https://help.instagram.com/478745558852511

covercash 8 hours ago 0 replies      
This happened to my friend's wife a few years ago - an Instagram employee hijacked her username: https://medium.com/@behoff/they-say-nothing-will-change-5c54...

After being picked up by some of the bigger tech sites, they returned the username to her.

ryanlol 10 hours ago 6 replies      
The modern policy of no customer support by these services is a little worrying.

I'm in a similar situation with google suspending my gmail account because I tried to make play store purchases while traveling (apparently this is a "suspicious access pattern").

Now I'm out 5 years worth of emails and have no way of contacting google (Despite being a paying google apps customer and registered on their payroll system). Frankly, I'd rather like to be able to pay to receive some support from these companies.

Oh well, at least they made my emails bounce.

tl;dr why don't web companies offer paid support to their users?

planetjones 9 hours ago 2 replies      
Terrible stuff by Instagram. Iniesta the footballer already has a very successful (5.4 million followers) account on Twitter using the handle andresiniesta8. It looks like versions 1-7 have been deleted. However the guy who wrote the article already has a Twitter account using ainiesta, which clearly isn't one of these imitation or mock accounts. The footballer hasn't moved Instagram handles, but it does look like Instagram are directing the author's alias to the footballer's existing account. Awful.
tzs 8 hours ago 0 replies      
The Instagram FAQs on their site say that account names are first come, first serve.

They say that if the name you want is on an account that seems inactive you should consider periods, numbers, underscores, or abbreviations to come up with an available name.

They say he violated their terms of service. I took a quick look at the TOS, and don't see anything that having the same name as a celebrity and using your name for your Instagram account would violate. I suppose it is possible that he violated some other term completely unrelated to this whole name thing, and that's why he got kicked off, and then they gave it to the football player even though the football player already had an established, verified, active Instagram account using the same name he uses for his verified Twitter account.

There is one TOS term that his name could be construed as violating, if one were take a ridiculous reading of the term. That's Basic Term 12: "You must not use domain names or web URLs in your username without prior written consent from Instagram". The football player has the andresiniesta.es domain. If we take "domain name" in the rule to include the domain name with the TLD portion removed, then any username with the string "andresiniesta" in it would be covered.

ceasarby 8 hours ago 3 replies      
I went to Instagram address he mentions and looks like all photos are still there. I'm not sure how designer guy looks like, but it's definitely not football players' headshot:https://instagram.com/ainiesta/
e_proxus 8 hours ago 1 reply      
I had a similar thing happening to me. Friends were traveling and shared their photos on Instagram, so I decided to log in to my old account which I hadn't accessed in a few years.

On the web page, it says "Your username or password was incorrect." Upon trying to recover my password with my email address I get "That e-mail address or username doesn't have an associated user account. Are you sure you've registered?" When trying with my username instead I get "Sorry, this user is not active."

I decided to try to login with the app, and there I got a message basically stating that my account was disabled because of not following the Terms and Conditions (same as OPs, don't remember the exact wording in English). They don't tell you what you did to break those conditions. They do tell you however, that there is no possible way to contact them or to get your account back. All your images are gone, your friends can't follow or contact you again and there is no way you can reactivate the account or get access to the user name. No email was ever sent notifying me of this happening, ever.

Worst "customer" experience ever.

Fastidious 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Assuming Instagram is behind this, it is bad business to do that. Instagram by itself is nothing, it's users are what made the service, and showing a lack of respect for them it is their worse publicity.
z3t4 7 hours ago 1 reply      
One part of Internet's success is that it's decentralized.

startup idea: Make it easy for "normal" people to have their own "Instagram" or blog.

leeleelee 7 hours ago 1 reply      
If we operate under the assumption that with free services like facebook, twitter, instagram, gmail, etc -- can and will delete our content and revoke access to the service without warning at any point in time -- doesn't that make the service somewhat useless?

Most users operate under the assumption that there is some sort of guarantee that their account will continue to exist and they will have a consistent day-to-day experience. That is a BIG part that makes the service actually "useful".

shkkmo 8 hours ago 0 replies      
The thing I find oddest here is that the his friends are now set as following the new account of the football player. Seems like at the very least there is a bug that needs to be fixed there.

I restrict access to my instagram account to approved followers. Now I wonder if someone could take over an handle of one of my friends and then have access to my posts.

_pdp_ 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Well my twitter handle is @pdp and there is a political party in Nigeria also named PDP. There is also this thing called "personal development plan". In other words, I need twitter spam filter because people don't know the difference between @ and #. Anyway, if you don't want to get in trouble just come up with a super unique username. Do the same for your personal site and your business site.
notjimhalpert 10 hours ago 1 reply      
It seems like he should be at least notified before they seized his account, though.
fixxer 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Well, I'm not going to sign up for Instagram. Wankers. Smells like desperation when companies are willing to alienate their core like this.
cordite 5 hours ago 0 replies      
It is shameful that it was done, but at the root, it seems to come down to: what is the product, and who are the users being swapped to who is the product, and what are the users.

Free services seem easier to hit critical mass with a low barrier to entry, yet unless it is a paid-by-end-users service, end users seem to get trampled like this.

Zaheer 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Same thing happened to me. The trend of larger online services having non-existent customer support worries me.
giancarlostoro 8 hours ago 0 replies      
What really weirds me out is why didn't they go for his full name instead of a shortened version? If it was the PR team, they could have a better time telling people to follow him on Twitter (edit: I mean Instagram) based on his full name wouldn't they? Weird.
ypcx 10 hours ago 0 replies      
And this while thousands or more spam bot accounts are added daily, and while Instagram could easily ask or force the user to change is handle. Anyway, good to know.
intrasight 10 hours ago 1 reply      
Get a new Instagram account. It is a free service.
oldmanjay 10 hours ago 2 replies      
The hyperbole of the talk of violated rights took my sympathy about down to zero. It's a shitty move on Instagram's part to be sure, but I don't think even the most European of Europe's governments defends the right to the Instagram account name of your choice.
Teslas Model S Gets Ludicrous Mode, Will Do 0-60 in 2.8 Seconds techcrunch.com
263 points by arturogarrido  2 days ago   278 comments top 20
stefanobernardi 2 days ago 10 replies      
Even if not a software update, I still find Tesla's way of thinking of a car as an actual (continuously update/upgrade-able) product fascinating. Very rare for hardware.

It gives an amazing user experience, "Hey restart your car and it's now got X and Y". Respect.

Edit: clarifying the term "product".

rjusher 2 days ago 5 replies      
One thing I don't understand is the position of the big car makers(BMW, MB, AUDI) being a passive observer in this field.

Tesla is getting so much, that if any automaker that can deliver a car with half the specs of a model S, and keeping their model's prices as a mass produced car, would deliver a big punch to Tesla, and would greatly move the market forward.

Is it the investment necessary for building a network of charging stations?

I highly doubt it is because Tesla has more money for R&D than any other car maker.

Is getting a Model S, earns you the title of being an early adopter. Because I believe the market already shifted towards this type of vehicles, but I may be polarized, because I already desire an electric car.

liamk 2 days ago 3 replies      
Amazing, that's as fast as the Lamborghini Aventador https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamborghini_Aventador
vvanders 2 days ago 1 reply      
More impressive to me is the fact that the 90kWh battery is already trickling down to the Model S. It was originally developed for the Model X.

I think it's safe to say that we'll see Model X features moving down to the Model S much faster than previously thought. This is how you relentlessly improve a product instead of holding specific features to a Model without solid technical reasons.

rdl 2 days ago 2 replies      
If you can do this as a $10k update "safely" with a computer-controlled pyro fuse, I wonder what you could do by hacking the firmware and replacing it with a piece of busbar. 2 seconds?
csense 2 days ago 1 reply      
I like the Spaceballs reference. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mk7VWcuVOf0
Animats 2 days ago 2 replies      
More usefully, there's an option to increase the range to 300 miles. That's still only half the range of many stock gasoline cars, though.
leeoniya 2 days ago 8 replies      
so it's a fuse that costs $5k or $10k. is it made from 5oz-10oz of solid platinum? what am i missing here [1]?

[1] http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3D...

burger_moon 2 days ago 2 replies      
0-60 times are nice but I want to know what the 60-100 time is. That's what generally used for 1/4 mile estimates.

Is there any diagrams of information easily available about the couple style used between the motors and the wheel hubs? I wonder how they're done and what the limit of them is with the amount of torque they put out. In a previous life I used to build a lot of race cars and shearing axle bolts wasn't uncommon in drag applications.

It would be awesome to see them test out a full on drag tesla.

mhurron 2 days ago 1 reply      
Does it cause it to go to plaid?
Jun8 2 days ago 0 replies      
On a different note: is it possible to opt out of Tesla software updates (for whatever reason)? AFAIK, this is not possible (http://my.teslamotors.com/forum/forums/same-distasteful-appe...) The two options when an update is available seem to be install now or later.
devy 2 days ago 1 reply      
It's a $10k upgrade, not cheap! I wonder which Ludacris song[1] was the hold music looping before today's Tesla press conference call...

[1] http://www.theverge.com/2015/7/17/8994519/tesla-ludicrous-sp...

mrfusion 2 days ago 3 replies      
How can they get that many amps out of the battery? It seems like you'd need a capactior to have that kind of power?
myth_buster 2 days ago 8 replies      
Tesla's seems to be beating a dead horse! Don't get me wrong; I love what Tesla does but making a faster production car seems to be an answer to the critics who I think have already taken home the message that the electric car is as fast as the best IC car!

I think what they should address is getting out the affordable Model 3 as fast to the market as they can. They may loose the game if the incumbents beat them to it. They would need volume to sustain their production and maintenance costs. Once every manufacturer gets onto the electric wagon, a lack of wider adoption, could become their Achilles heels.

braum 2 days ago 0 replies      
and still no Model X or even serious updates about it... and yet I will still let them keep my $5k until it arrives...
fowlslegs 2 days ago 1 reply      
Seems like they took inspiration from the branding on the Chromebook Pixel LS (Ludicrous Speed)--the 16GB RAM, i7 one that I'm lucky enough to have ;-)

Fun fact: most cars today run about 20 separate operating systems. My guess is Tesla is fairly above average. Anyone have a figure on this?

curiousjorge 2 days ago 2 replies      
this alone will be a good enough excuse to get this car if you could afford it.

Asides Nissan GTR, supercars running in 300,000 USD will do roughly 3.0~3.1. hypercars like pagani, p1, porsche, laferrari achieve sub 3.0

I'm extremely impressed. Even more because this was just another regular software update.

aswanson 2 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if it will have a "Drake" mode to do 0-100 real quick.
jkot 2 days ago 0 replies      
Where is source code?
ck2 2 days ago 3 replies      
No-one needs this, I predict accidents.

I hope insurance companies can determine which models have this and inexperienced drivers should pay more.

Just hope no-one kills anyone.

See what Hacker News looked like on the day you joined bemmu.github.io
219 points by bemmu  16 hours ago   92 comments top 54
tomkwok 15 hours ago 6 replies      
View page source.

 <script> $(function () { var = new Firebase("https://hacker-news.firebaseio.com/"); var = "http://news.ycombinator.com/"; $("#").hide(); $("form").submit(function () { .child("v0/user/" + $("#username").val()).on("value", function() { var = .val(); if ( && .created) { var = new Date(.created * 1e3); var YYYYMMDDhhmmss = .toISOString().slice(0,19).replace(/[-T:]/g,""); var = "https://web.archive.org/web/".concat(YYYYMMDDhhmmss, "/", ); $('body').fadeOut(); location = ; } else { $("#").show(); } }); return false; }); }); /* ASCII art omitted to save space */ </script>
Wow, non-latin characters for variable names.

And if you'd like to learn some Chinese, here is the definition of all Chinese characters appeared above.

 = fire = error / mistake = time = result (a term / expression with figurative meaning) = fruit = human / person

My pick: 'HNSearch old HN search engine will be shut down later today'.


jrockway 8 hours ago 1 reply      
8 years! It was still called "Startup News" back then. The front page when I joined looks very much like it does today -- a few articles about Google (6!), some startup-y articles, some politics, some business-y articles, some pure programming articles, etc. A good mix, but things are still pretty good today.

I remember exactly why I joined, incidentally. With increasing regularity, /r/programming was making me very mad. I would post a detailed correct answer to someone's question, only for some troll to immediately reply with some insult and "proof" that I was totally wrong, even though the proof was totally wrong. It happens once, fine. It happens every single time I comment, I'm out. I have not been back in 8 years.

I will admit this happens from time to time on HN, which is unfortunate because I like to comment and really only know what I'm talking about when it's programming-related. But it hasn't made me mad enough to leave, only to nostalgically think back to the good-old days.

(I did start using Reddit again, too, but I only read unpopular subreddits. I can handle /r/AskReddit for some time killing, but things like /r/flying and /r/amateurradio are very pleasant communities with enough activity to be interesting a couple times a week. /r/anime is infuriatingly stupid, /r/awwnime is much more tolerable.)

HeyLaughingBoy 8 minutes ago 0 replies      
Thanks for this!

The quality of the front page was either much better back then or that was just a lucky day!

542458 11 hours ago 1 reply      
Ha! This is really cool. A few interesting things on mine:


"Code.Google.com now supports git"

Google code got the axe earlier this year.

"Michael Arrington reportedly to launch CrunchFund to invest in startups"

The rumours turned out to be true.

"Court OKs Airport Body Scanners, Rejects Constitutional Challenge"

They're everywhere now!

"Italy and the euro: On the edge"

Good guess, but turns out Greece is a bigger problem.

japaget 7 hours ago 0 replies      
It only approximates the date you first joined. It uses https://archive.org/ the Internet Archive) to load the archived page nearest to (or nearest before?) the date you joined. Since the Internet Archive does not mirror HN every day, the page it will show you may differ by a few days from your exact signup date. It so happens that I joined on March 11, 2009 but I was shown the page for March 10, 2009 instead. You can use http://www.waybackhn.com/ to get a list of the top stories on the exact date you joined HN.
agotterer 32 minutes ago 0 replies      
What a day. Highlights:

- what happened to pownce

- Amazon Dynamo white paper announced

- justin tv got funded

- Microsoft to open source .net framework

Thanks for making this. It appears the search is case sensitive, might be worth fixing.

Todd 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Clever idea. Top item on mine:

My YC app: Dropbox - Throw away your USB drive (getdropbox.com)


Edit: Look at the stats! 27 points kept it at the top after 8 hours. How things have changed.

noenzyme 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I think a cool derivative work would be to see today's HN but filtered to only see activity of people who joined before you.
hga 11 hours ago 2 replies      
I joined 8 years ago, and the topic selection is not markedly different in nature, which I find remarkable. Then again, there's a reason I'm still here and not e.g. Slashdot, which I started following even earlier.
bootload 15 hours ago 1 reply      
"The reason I chose today to drop out was because of a conversation I had with pg last week. He said bluntly that Octopart's chances of getting funding were worse if I stayed in grad school."

Classic. Top story the day I started, "I Dropped Out of Grad School Today" @sam (octopart) [0],[1]

[0] https://web.archive.org/web/20070221033032/http://news.ycomb...

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20070223035643/http://octopart.c...

edw519 14 hours ago 3 replies      
Doesn't work for me:

Sorry, your username was not found. Maybe you have never submitted or commented anything.

 user: edw519 created: 3070 days ago karma: 72254 about: Free ebook, "The Best of edw519": hn.my/edw519 twitter: @edw519 http://twitter.com/edw519 e d w 5 1 9 a t g m a i l https://hn.algolia.com/?query=edw519&sort=byDate&prefix&page=0&dateRange=all&type=comment 5,008 results

djyde 1 hour ago 0 replies      
See what Github looked like on the day you joined http://djyde.github.io/github-cakeday
BCM43 11 hours ago 1 reply      
Cool, top story for me was "Experiment: No Comment Scores"


bambax 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Apparently I joined the day PG and Jessica got married:


I wasn't at the wedding! ;-)

cbaleanu 15 hours ago 0 replies      
This is great! Reminds one of just how fast time flies.Melancholy aside, this[0] was #1 on the day I finally created an account.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4220353

cwp 10 hours ago 1 reply      
Wow. I knew it's been a long time, I didn't realize I joined so near the beginning. Mine has "Why we made this site" submitted by pg.
ismail 10 hours ago 0 replies      

Some interesting things on mine:

Does Apple's Steve Jobs have cancer again? (alleyinsider.com)


Toyota Announces New 516-Mile Range Fuel-Cell/Electric Hybrid


Interesting to note how HN has grown since then. Much more people on, though content has stayed similar.

In retrospect Jobs did still have cancer, and the Toyota hybrid was not much of a game changer.

Semiapies 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I just get "Unknown" with this name. Are they mis-formatting the request or something?


ETA: Nevermind, archive.org just has a bad snapshot or something for that day.

joshstrange 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Oddly enough on my first day the OP of this post (bemmu) first posted (I assume) about his Candy Japan business (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2745694). Funny how that works out.
jedberg 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm amused that a top post when I joined was "How long did it take you to figure out that the up/down arrows next to the links are for voting?"

FYI this was 8.3 years ago, which was about 200 days in, but very close to the public launch I think.

larrykubin 8 hours ago 1 reply      
Wow, I guess I showed up pretty early. I still remember going to Startup School in 2007 and being so excited and inspired that I quit my job a few months later.

Note: I probably should have stopped following startup news after the first year or so, I don't think anything I've read after that has been that beneficial, it's just an addiction at this point. I went to Startup School for a second time in 2008 and realized that I didn't need to be there, I was trying to recapture a feeling -- but after the initial inspiration I just needed to get busy.

Why we made this site

34 points by pg 5 hours ago | 7 comments

Odeo up for sale (so they could focus on this Twitter thing)

17 points by beau 11 hours ago | discuss

Web 2.0 is a bubble for 3 reasons

12 points by xyzzy 16 hours ago | discuss

Startup School 2007: 3/24 at Stanford

26 points by phyllis 1 day ago | discuss

burger_moon 12 hours ago 0 replies      
This is neat. Good job.

I'm a pretty big fan of one that got posted here about a month ago, waybackhn. It chooses random day/months/years and shows the front page for either. I've spent a lot of time reading through old stories and comments from years before I got into this field. It's opened up my mind a bit to see what people were talking about years back.

rossriley 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Plus a change.

This was top story for me. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=211630

cellis 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Startup News new | comments | jobs | leaders | submitlogin


Your bank has a REST API now (wesabe.com)14 points by dawie 5 hours ago | 3 comments


Facebook: $6 Billion? Nah. [John Battelle] (battellemedia.com)10 points by aston 4 hours ago | 5 comments

thomasreggi 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Awesome. One of the first posts was "Google Removes http:// from Chrome". I remember that!
Jimmy 11 hours ago 0 replies      
One of the links from my page:

"MySpace v. Facebook: It's Not a Decision. It's an IQ Test"

Yeah, I joined a while ago.

msutherl 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Turns out this enduringly useful text was on the front page when I joined: http://www.unixwiz.net/techtips/be-consultant.html

Bonus, also interesting: http://www.forbes.com/special-report/2011/migration.html

txutxu 3 hours ago 0 replies      
The day I did join I was stupid and did use my memory for the password.

Latter I did create another account, yes.

lcfg 11 hours ago 0 replies      
These throwbacks have a way of being very topical. 12th item on Hacker News that day for me is "The Next SourceForge": "SourceForge has been rethought, reimplemented, and rejuvenated."
ryanmarsh 8 hours ago 0 replies      
11. What Every C Programmer Should Know About Undefined Behavior #2/3 (llvm.org)

LOL, some things change, some things stay the same

driverdan 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Story with most votes for me was about terrible Google customer service in 2009. Some good discussion that's relevant today. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=790800
scelerat 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Four front page stories about why the lucky stiff's abrupt reclusion.
rglullis 10 hours ago 0 replies      
First link of mine seemed interesting at the time, but I guess it was one of those YC duds: https://web.archive.org/web/20070405032412/http://news.ycomb...
blhack 9 hours ago 0 replies      
minikomi 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Nice one. Seems the day I joined was just 4 days after the big Tohoku Earthquake. Things were quite strange in Tokyo those days..
waterlesscloud 8 hours ago 0 replies      
"Tesla Says It Is Now Profitable, Ships 109 Roadsters In July"


bsbechtel 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Interesting! Meteor.js, which I've been using on my latest project, was debuted the same day I joined :-
Brajeshwar 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Nice. But you need to sanitize the username case-sensitivity.


rozuur 8 hours ago 0 replies      
So I haven't commented or submitted anything
janoelze 13 hours ago 0 replies      
December 1, 2011. The frontpage was filled with the Carrier IQ thing unfolding.


peteretep 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Bitcoin hit $4!
endlessvoid94 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Obligatory "I joined on the first day" comment, w00t
BenoitEssiambre 6 hours ago 0 replies      
"browser stats: IE8 passes IE7 (arstechnica.com)"


epmatsw 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Huh, I joined the day MegaUpload went down. I don't remember, but I expect that those are probably related.
slamus 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Show HN: thefacebook.com

Just joking :)

DiThi 13 hours ago 1 reply      
Neat, exactly the same :P

It's wrong by one day. The page with my first comment didn't exist until the next day and I registered to write that comment.

joeblau 11 hours ago 0 replies      
A lot of SOPA stuff was going on which explains why I made the Stop SOPA awareness banner browser plugins!
corford 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Apparently I joined (after lurking for ages!) on or close to the day Steve Jobs passed away.
captn3m0 13 hours ago 0 replies      
I joined the day Stripe launched. I was a lurker for a long time, though.
jumperabg 10 hours ago 0 replies      
I haven't commented on anything :( :D
ashwath 11 hours ago 0 replies      
This is very nice!
jozan 15 hours ago 0 replies      
This is cool and simple. :)
bluehazed 10 hours ago 1 reply      
"Google reader is dead"
noobermin 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Does anyone else get a 404?
NASAs New Horizons Discovers Frozen Plains in the Heart of Plutos Heart nasa.gov
242 points by Thorondor  2 days ago   114 comments top 10
leemac 2 days ago 2 replies      
Seems like this entire Pluto mission has opened up quite a few questions for Geologists. For such a small world so far from the sun, it sure has some very interesting features and characteristics. The recent mountain range photo/3D map was incredible.

We live in some exciting times. Every few months we have a new probe somewhere teaching us so much about our tiny corner of the universe.

aklein 2 days ago 6 replies      
The numerical accuracy and calculations needed for getting the spacecraft so close to Pluto must be pretty awesome. Does anyone know what the precision is on calculations like these?

Also, anyone know why the spacecraft has to do a flyby, as opposed to, say, going into orbit around Pluto? Is it because the fuel involved in slowing down the spacecraft would be forbiddingly heavy?

BurningFrog 2 days ago 2 replies      

I expected just another dusty cratered rock.

yk 2 days ago 0 replies      
If anybody else has the problem that the first and last word of each line is cropped, just disable the ".after-body, .article-body" css. This brings back the scroll bars.
mkoryak 2 days ago 6 replies      
"Data from New Horizons will continue to fuel discovery for years to come.

why will it take years?

ashhimself 2 days ago 2 replies      
Serious question; how would they know it's no more than 100million years old. I consider myself a some what smart guy but this is... beyond me :)
atorralb 2 days ago 0 replies      
an image search and it comes out alot of old concrete walls... wtf? https://www.google.com/search?tbm=isch&imgil=5aN7IeRgNSROxM%...
evantahler 1 day ago 0 replies      
So... can Pluto be a planet again?
ajays 2 days ago 2 replies      
Where did the water come from on Pluto?
ams6110 1 day ago 0 replies      
What an annoying amount of crap on that page for a publicly funded website. Even the back button is hijacked.
A subsystem to restrict programs into a reduced feature operating model marc.info
217 points by cnst  1 day ago   93 comments top 20
geofft 1 day ago 3 replies      
This doesn't seem particularly better than Linux's seccomp-bpf or OS X's seatbelt. In particular, I don't really understand the complaint about not wanting to write a program, then turning around and writing a system call, running with full privilege on the system, that hardcodes all sorts of things about userspace.

I wish he'd acknowledge and discuss prior, effective work in this space instead of saying things "showed up" and they're "insane". For instance, a direct comparison to either seatbelt or seccomp-bpf would make it clear that the distinction between initialization vs. steady state is well-explored in production systems using this (like sandboxed Chrome renderers) and not novel.

TheLoneWolfling 1 day ago 3 replies      
So, do I have it right that this is effectively a way of a program being able to declare to the operating system "I shouldn't ever do <x>"?

Because, if so, that makes a whole lot of sense. (Adding security "for free" generally does).

This could conflict with on-the-fly upgrades, though. If it turns out that some later version of your program does in fact require <x>, then you'll have to kill and restart the process as opposed to upgrading on-the-fly. Perhaps not the end of the world, but worth noting.

ghshephard 21 hours ago 1 reply      
This is pretty brilliant/obvious in hindsight. In addition to the sandboxing protection, you also have a really good inventory of what privileges the application requires. Looking over the diffs in the applications - most of them are two or three lines - a #include <sys/tame.h> followed by something simple like tame(TAME_STDIO | TAME_DNS | TAME_INET);

What I really like about a lot of the OpenBSD initiatives, is they don't overthink their solutions - they make them as simple as possible, but no simpler. Signify, which avoided the entire web-of-trust/PKI complication is another example.

Animats 20 hours ago 2 replies      
Having fine-grained capabilities and the ability to turn them off is always useful. The usual problem is that some component needs to, say, open a file, so all code gets "open file" privileges.

There's a tool like this for Android phones. It not only can turn privileges off for an application, but also offers the option to provide apps fake info for things they don't need. You can, for example, deny address book access; if the app tries to access the address book, it gets a fake empty one. You can deny camera access; the app gets some canned image. This allows you to run overreaching apps while keeping them from overreaching.

binarycrusader 22 hours ago 0 replies      
See also, Solaris' Role-Based Access Control and Privileges models.

Privileges (seems to fit the post):https://blogs.oracle.com/casper/entry/solaris_privileges


Programming with Privileges Example:http://docs.oracle.com/cd/E23824_01/html/819-2145/ch3priv-25...


In particular, the Solaris privileges model allows a program to gracefully degrade functionality and drop and reinstate privileges at different points of execution.

vezzy-fnord 1 day ago 2 replies      
For another example of a similarly beautiful interface that echoes "difficult solution made stupidly simple to use", checkpointing under DragonFly BSD: http://leaf.dragonflybsd.org/cgi/web-man?command=sys_checkpo...

On an unrelated note, I've always had respect for how Theo de Raadt is both the project leader of a complete BSD system, yet also an active hacker. Contrast to Linus Torvalds, who's mostly a manager nowadays.

Mister_Snuggles 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is an interesting idea, but something about having various "behaviours" baked into the logic concerns me. I'm certain that Theo has thought about this and understands the implications better than I do though.

For example, if your process has TAME_GETPW opening /var/run/ypbind.lock enables TAME_INET. The reasoning behind this makes sense, but now it means that yp always has to open that file before it can do its thing. The behaviour of yp always opening that file before accessing the network is now required by the kernel.

The saving grace is that OpenBSD (and the other BSDs) are developed as a unified system, so if yp ever changes to no longer use that file, that change will only come as part of a version upgrade that includes the kernel, etc.

nitrogen 22 hours ago 1 reply      
I recently asked for exactly this on StackOverflow, but for Linux[0]. Is anyone aware of an interface to seccomp-bpf on Linux that is as easy to use as this tame() syscall?

If not, does anyone want to join forces to create one? An ultra-simple library that provides tame()-like functionality on all capable platforms should make writing secure software a lot easier.

[0] https://stackoverflow.com/questions/31373203/drop-privileges... if anyone's curious

icebraining 1 day ago 1 reply      
Windows 8 has an equivalent of this, using a "mitigation policy" called ProcessSystemCallDisablePolicy, which is set using SetProcessMitigationPolicy().

Chrome uses this for their sandbox of rendering processes.

brynet 23 hours ago 0 replies      
The kernel pieces of tame(2) have just been committed:


philsnow 21 hours ago 3 replies      
I can't see where in this patch forked children inherit the `ps_tame` from the parent process. I don't know this kernel at all but it seems like something like this should be in sys/kern/kern_fork.c

 pr->ps_tame = parent->ps_tame
Otherwise tamed processes could just fork a process to do things they've declared that they won't do.

SloopJon 22 hours ago 2 replies      
This interface makes a system call at run time to reduce privileges. I wonder if there is a way to do this statically and automatically, either with some header file magic, or by analyzing the symbols in the executable: just assume at link time that any system calls it makes (and only those) are allowed.
wfunction 1 day ago 6 replies      
This won't work for programs that allow for plugins, which are arguably those that need the most protection. Programs don't generally know what permissions plugins when they are compiled.
cnst 22 hours ago 0 replies      
For comparison, the man-page for FreeBSD's capsicum API: http://mdoc.su/f/capsicum.4.
stock_toaster 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Great to see another attempt at this model. I do like capsicum (seems pretty straightforward), but it seems like it can require some added complexity with things like casperd for dns.

Very interested to see how this works out.

MichaelCrawford 20 hours ago 2 replies      
A simple easy way to keep a lid on privelige escalation is to remove all the files that you computer does not absolutely require to do its job.

Especially the development tools: the Morris worm enabled portability by distributing itself in source code form then building its binary on its target hosts.

My sister once read a novel about some very traditional, strictly religious people who fastened their shirts with string ties as they felt buttons were hooks that the Devil could use to grab hold of you.

I feel much the same way about files. I dont know what tomorrow's zero-day will look like but the chances are quite good that it will depend on a file that is installed by default. Cliff Stoll wrote in "The Cuckoo's Egg" of a subtle bug in a subprogram used by GNU emacs for email. Had the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory used vi rather than emacs they would not have been vulnerable. ;-D

Yes it is a step in the right direction not to run daemons or windows services you dont need but its even better to remove them.

In 1990 I wrote an A/UX 2.0 remote root exploit to drive home my objection to one single file having incorrect permissions. Its source was about a dozen lines. That particular file was required but our default installs have many files we dont really need.

Also if you can read - not just execute - the binary to any program or library then your malware can load it into its memory then execute it. We have no way of knowing who is going to do that tomorrow but we do know there are many binaroies we do not really need.

If you develop code for your server, install the same distro in a vm on your desktop box then compile it there.

josephcooney 21 hours ago 0 replies      
This sounds very similar to code access security (CAS) that Microsoft's CLR had from around 2000 (but at the OS level rather than the VM level).
SFjulie1 11 hours ago 1 reply      
Let's say I received a SIGHUP and I need to reload my configuration after I dropped my right for reading /etc/ and all the syscall for provisioning my resources.

How screwed am I?

vmorgulis 1 day ago 1 reply      
It reminds me SELinux.
higherpurpose 16 hours ago 0 replies      
So when is OpenBSD getting rewritten in Rust?
Docker on FreeBSD freebsd.org
229 points by zdw  1 day ago   59 comments top 7
vezzy-fnord 1 day ago 5 replies      
The FreeBSD people seem to be on a roll when it comes to porting things. They mention a 64-bit Linux compatibility layer they recently rolled out in this post. But in addition, some iXsystems employees have ported much of the OSF Mach kernel (sans memory object/external pager interface) as a module, plus partial or full implementations of XPC, libdispatch, ASL (Apple System Logger), liblaunch and other facilities just so they can run the low-level Darwin/OS X userspace and launchd, especially. FreeNAS then wrote Cython bindings to all this for use in their system services. This is all in feature branches atm, but it should be rolling out soon enough.

It's insane.

arh68 1 day ago 0 replies      
On a related note, if you've got a free hour, there was a recent talk at BSDCan 2015 by Maciej Pasternacki on Jetpack, a container runtime for FreeBSD



oldsj 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I really like a lot of things about FreeBSD and would love to try it in the cloud but I feel like I'm missing something? Running FreeBSD on top of ZFS seems to be the smart way to go and yet this requires 1GB of ram minimum. If I spin up an instance of Ubuntu using ext4 by default, the OS uses around 50Mb of ram total. I feel like only the big kids who run on dedicated servers or who are paying for a larger instance get to use FreeBSD.
davorb 1 day ago 1 reply      
I moved from FreeBSD on a server two days ago, because it lacked Docker-support. Kicking myself in the foot right now...
lifeisstillgood 1 day ago 3 replies      
I just assumed we would not do docker because we have had jails for so long. In fact, ZFS and jail is docker no? I admit no familiarity with docker (played with LXC years ago and thought - gosh it's like jail! :-)
ukaaay 13 hours ago 0 replies      
I hope Sony will be implementing this with the PS4 for running an emulator of the PS3 for backwards compatibility in response to Xbox Ones recent emulation implementation.
mbesto 1 day ago 1 reply      
Does this mean we'll expect a native port on Mac OS X soon? :)
Pyxley: Python Powered Dashboards stitchfix.com
235 points by astrobiased  3 days ago   45 comments top 11
njharman 3 days ago 2 replies      
I've been looking for something to do this (below) in python at least on backend.

Big screen on wall with 6 or so boxes. Each box displaying data which updates in real time. Such as

 - scrolling list of source control commits - graph of busy/idle slaves - single big number, pending builds - graph of open ticket counts - etc
I can't tell if this is one of Pyxley's use cases?

huac 3 days ago 4 replies      
How easy is it to integrate a chart or graph into a larger project? My biggest gripe with Shiny is how difficult is to use the R calculate and graphing functions in a larger project without using OpenCPU as an API.

My guess is that with Python being a more general purpose language, this should be easier..

ivan_ah 3 days ago 2 replies      
How important is flask in this mix? How difficult would it be to back this by a django app for example? I'm asking because the charting would be REALLY useful for me right now, and I already have the django models...
sshillo 3 days ago 2 replies      
Will work great until you try to render 50,000 points and your browser crashes because it's build on d3.
njharman 3 days ago 1 reply      
link to examples is 404, a possibly correct link https://github.com/stitchfix/pyxley/tree/master/examples
butwhy 2 days ago 0 replies      
Hmm I have a python script that monitors a few datapoints but don't know how to appropriately save them and plot data on a graph/webpage. I might give this a shot?
m_mueller 2 days ago 0 replies      
This seems nice, but where did you define the datasource(s) for your examples? Did I miss something? I'm already using Flask, so I'd be interested in using this.
jfe 3 days ago 2 replies      
looks great. but i can't help but think it would save everyone a lot of time -- maybe not up-front, but in the long-run -- if we wrote these frameworks in c and just wrote language bindings for r, python, ruby, etc. why are we rebuilding good frameworks over again just because they're not written in our preferred language?
mistermaster 3 days ago 1 reply      
looks cool. shiny is very neat, but has the limitation of having R behind it and debugging ain't fun. I very much look forward to testing pyxley!
rrggrr 2 days ago 0 replies      
Too many dependencies and layers as compared to a pure python solution like bokeh, or seaborn and flask. I like that dataframe integration.
jqm 2 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, this is really cool. Playing around w/ US state maps in examples right now. I love stuff like this partially because of the hands on introductions to component technologies I had heard of but not used before.
Introducing Incremental janestreet.com
182 points by kilimchoi  1 day ago   50 comments top 11
mands 1 day ago 1 reply      
Looks like really cool tech - at a first glance reminds me of the UI.Next reactive rendering model in WebSharper/F# (http://www.websharper.com/docs/ui.next) which also has an OCaml/ML heritage.

Have been thinking about using OCaml again for a new project - does anyone know the state of libraries for common web tasks, like AWS, these days?

an_ko 1 day ago 0 replies      
Could we have a more informative title? "Incremental" means little without context.

Maybe just "Introducing Incremental: self-adjusting computations".

ScottBurson 22 hours ago 0 replies      
This sounds very similar to Kenny Tilton's Cells package for Common Lisp: https://github.com/kennytilton/cells

I haven't had occasion to use Cells, but I'm glad to be reminded of it, as I may have a use for it soon.

silverlake 1 day ago 1 reply      
Does this have any similarity to Goldman Sach's internal language called Slang/SecDB?
hellofunk 1 day ago 1 reply      
What is the difference between a "self adjusting computation" and a "genetic algorithm," or is it merely a choice of terminology? Here is a scholarly article that uses both in the same title: http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-540-87734-9...
EvanYou 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm not familiar with OCaml, but this looks very similar to the reactivity model used inside web front-end libraries like Knockout, Vue.js - in which each "binding" in the template is essentially a self-adjusting computation that updates the DOM. In addition, the Tracker library in Meteor enables similar dependency-tracking computations across the entire stack. It's interesting to see this type of reactivity model used in different contexts.
makmanalp 1 day ago 0 replies      
This reminds me a bit of Elasticsearch Percolate (https://www.elastic.co/guide/en/elasticsearch/reference/1.6/...) a little bit.
pron 1 day ago 0 replies      
We've made something very similar for Java/Clojure as part of Quasar: http://docs.paralleluniverse.co/quasar/#dataflow-reactive-pr...

Every Var keeps track of the inputs that affect its computed value, and has an associated continuation responsible for carrying out the computation whenever an input changes (which, in turns, triggers recomputations further down in the graph).

pvitz 1 day ago 0 replies      
I would love to see an OCaml alternative to Prophet/MoSes using stuff like this...
loosescrews 1 day ago 2 replies      
How is this different than lazy evaluation?
tomjen3 1 day ago 3 replies      
Am I the only who could can't find the RSS feed for that blog? Pretty strange for a tech blog to only allow subscriptions via email.
Artificial Killing Machine hackaday.com
190 points by wglb  2 days ago   56 comments top 10
guiomie 2 days ago 3 replies      
This link lead me to the API used by the project: http://www.dronestre.am/ followed by the twitter account linked to the api https://twitter.com/dronestream

I never thought the US conducted so many strikes, especially in Pakistan ...

slg 2 days ago 8 replies      
Just a reminder that a missile fired by a drone is no different than a missile fired by a manned jet or any other vehicle. Drones are simply a technology tool to help protect the lives of our own military. Drones are no different than something like stealth technology in that regard. I can't imagine that anyone would create an art project criticizing the US because the radar signature of our aircraft are too small. You shouldn't have a problem with how many people we kill with drones, you should have a problem with how many people we kill.
weinzierl 2 days ago 1 reply      
Reminds me of a short story written in 1914 by Franz Kafka called "In the Penal Colony"[1]. It's very much worth a read,an English translation is available at [2].

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

[2] http://records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/kafka/inthepenalcolony.htm


In the story the condemned prisoners aren't told their sentence. There is a elaborate machine - described in much detail - that carves the sentence into the skin of the convict. The machine works (or used to work) in such precision, that after exactly 24 hours an epiphany about the misdeed and death occur simultaneously.

rel 2 days ago 1 reply      
Visualizations like these are incredible and I want to see more like them. We're at a time where data wealth and transparency is becoming more and more sought out and computers/microcontrollers are incredibly cheap.

An installation like this one would be thought provoking in an art gallery or event space, especially if it's pulling raw data. The silence, or even onslaught of noise, would be deafening. Presentations like these give a much more tangible understanding than points on a graph.

ommunist 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is such a beautiful art object. Interesting, does it author know that white is colour of death in the Middle East?
feefie 1 day ago 0 replies      
(If you use headphones you might want to turn them down until you hear the volume of the cap guns in the video.)
yumraj 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think something like this is equally (or more) apt to the meat industry, just replace humans in this with say cow or pigs on the assembly line.
InclinedPlane 2 days ago 3 replies      
The current nearly worldwide drone campaign that the US is engaged in is one of the least ethical things this country has ever done. It has proven to be a mostly indiscriminate weapon, little better than using car bombs, and it has not only eroded America's moral high-ground on the international stage, it has in many cases destroyed a favorable image of the US and turned entire populations against us, for very little tangible benefit.
volaski 2 days ago 0 replies      
First thought those guns were automated drones flying around killing people
ctdonath 2 days ago 1 reply      
Worth mentioning the Red Alert : Israel iOS app. Informs you every time a missile is launched against Israel, rather distressing considering every notification means someone could/did die - and how often those notifications occur.
Legends in D3 susielu.com
203 points by jsweojtj  2 days ago   20 comments top 6
bane 2 days ago 3 replies      
A team I work with built a great internal tool with D3 and there were a few things that they did that really bumped it up to the next level:

- The data was the interface. Things that they used d3 to show, were also the interaction elements which could be clicked to focus-in on subsets of the same data. It was almost fractal, but also immediately clear and simple to use. There were no control bars or sliders or really buttons. Anybody who could use google maps could use this and it took about 10 seconds to show somebody how it worked before they could operate it at a high-level.

- The legend was not just a visual aid, but had interactive components in the tool:

1) Hovering over an element in the legend caused all the corresponding elements in the display to highlight so you could see where they were in a complex display. (and visa-versa, hovering over an element in the main display caused that element in the legend to highlight)

2) Clicking an element in the legend caused it to filter on-off, allowing various unimportant parts of the display to be eliminated.

These three things changed it from just a static picture into a useful analytic tool and getting more value out of the legend by turning it from just a picture into a fully interactive element felt so obvious in retrospect that legends I see now that are just a legend feel incomplete.

stared 2 days ago 4 replies      
Very nice! I was tired of making my own legends for each single things. And this one looks really nice and easy.

Though, one of my pet peeves: people, please don't use discrete color scales for continuous parameters. It distorts presentation for no good reason. For example two countries are colored the same way even though they are on the opposing edges of a bin (so the difference is being masked), or two countries are colored in a different way, even though the difference is minimal, but just passes an artificial threshold (then an artificial difference is being shown).

aubergene 2 days ago 0 replies      
Looks very good.

For the size legend, the defaults are a bit odd. You should almost always be using d3.scale.sqrt() as you're comparing area, also zero in the domain should usually map to zero on the range.

I made a similar legend for circle areas, but they are stacked within each other. http://bl.ocks.org/aubergene/4723857

mslev 2 days ago 1 reply      
I can't be the only one who thought this article would be about people who will be known throughout history for their amazing work in D3- champions, heroes, front-end developers!
geoffharcourt 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is awesome. After spending a lot of time tweaking chart legend code, I would be very happy to pull a polished toolset like this in to future projects.
couchand 2 days ago 2 replies      
"Tired of making legends for your data visualizations?"

No. It never takes more than about two minutes to whip up something basic like this.

Integrating your legend tightly with your visualization has lots of benefits, mostly in terms of enabling interaction.

Is Advertising Morally Justifiable? The Importance of Protecting Our Attention abc.net.au
183 points by dredmorbius  1 day ago   148 comments top 26
luso_brazilian 1 day ago 7 replies      
IMO there is nothing wrong with advertising in the strict sense of the word. "Here is this product. That's how it works. That's how it's different from its competitors. Here is the price. Here is the total cost of ownership as compared to the competitor. Here is how this product can satisfy your needs in this specific case":

But what is being passed today as advertising is nothing like that, it is more like high school psychological and emotional blackmail. "Here is this product. If you don't have it you are not in the ingroup but in the outgroup. You are not beautiful enough without this product. People will look down on you without this product. This product will make you more attractive to the opposite sex and more likely to land a high paying high profile job".

It is very hard to legislate this are because of freedom of speech concerns but the British have a very good set of regulations concerning to advertisement [1] and an independent regulator responsible for this area [2].

[1] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2008/9780110811475/conte...

[2] https://www.asa.org.uk/About-ASA/Our-history.aspx

DanAndersen 1 day ago 3 replies      
For quite some time I've felt that advertising/marketing, at least the sort we've had for the past century or so, is inherently immoral. The fact that it's a necessary evil in our economic system doesn't stop it from being an evil.

Modern advertising is not merely informing people about products and what they do. It's brain-hacking, where advertisers have figured out over decades of experience, and research into human cognitive biases and failure modes, ways of presenting the same product, the same information, but getting a desired response out of the target.

We accept this as a society because we tell ourselves that, as rational human beings, we have the choice to listen to or reject these messages. But modern understandings of cognitive biases show how advertising works on deeper levels, and even works despite us knowing about the tricks that are being used on us.

The problem is that there's a severe imbalance. Advertisers are getting better and better at attacking -- at figuring out precisely what makes us tick, down to the level of pixels on an A/B-tested website.

Are people getting any better at defending themselves? Are people being trained in dealing with their cognitive biases to make themselves resistant? Overall, I don't think so. There's no law of nature that says that attackers and defenders must be equal in strength; the situation we're in right now with advertising is like medieval warfare with the advent of the crossbow -- a great imbalance in favor of the attacker that disrupted the nature of combat for centuries.

sergiotapia 1 day ago 4 replies      
Ever since I've read this comic from Zen Pencils, I've taken a hardcore stance against any and all advertisements. I block everything with ublock origin, and mute my TV when ads come on.

I've sat down with my kids while they watch TV and it's disgusting just how much they POUND children with ads to buy toys. The advertising industry is insidious. Just absolutely hound them! I've seen taken the TV out of their room and taught them how to use Popcorn Time to watch whatever they want. No more ads in this house.


abhv 1 day ago 2 replies      
Our descendants will consider advertising like we consider tobacco: dangerous to your health.

Adv manipulates your agency, your ability to make independent decisions. Tracker-based targeted advertising exploits all human vulnerabilities that are used in "the long con."

Firms that make their money on more sophisticated advertising techniques understand this. It reminds me of the classic picture of 7 Big-Tobacco executives swearing to Congress that "tobacco is not addictive" despite evidence that they internally held reams of documentation from 1960s indicating the opposite [1].

[1] http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/settlement/tim...

chjohasbrouck 1 day ago 1 reply      
Advertisements are pure deception, and every time a consumer is exposed to one, the consumer loses and the advertiser gains. Having that opinion makes me a member of a tiny minority in America.

I remember hearing on NPR about a study some marketers conducted. They surveyed college classes in the U.S. They asked students in person to raise their hands if they felt their purchasing decisions were influenced by advertising. Almost nobody raised their hands. They also observed that many of those who didn't raise their hands were wearing branded clothes and hats at the time (and not the clothing's brand, completely unrelated brands like Monster energy drink). This means that even when advertisers have successfully converted one of their targets into a walking human advertisement, their target remains convinced that the advertiser has had no influence over them whatsoever.

So if your goal is to diminish advertising, that's what you're up against. The victimized not only don't realize that they're being victimized, but will also defend the rights of the victimizer to continue victimizing them as a matter of free speech.

cies 1 day ago 3 replies      
Oh boy I love this thought. I think very bad of advertising in public spaces. Was there ever a public discussion on this topic before bill-boards became the norm. Even in semi public spaces, likes the 20 or so Dutch TV channels people receive I feel that it is reason enough not to own a cable connection at all.

But... I would not make it illegal, but very heavily taxed. Tax billboards for 95% out of this world because they are disgusting (that 5% might give us 50% of the current tax income), tax companies into only having small logo's on their buildings and into sponsoring events/art/archtecture/etc.

Focus, awareness, peace of mind, not selling out, "outside and inside come in pairs".

tootie 1 day ago 2 replies      
You know what other part sucks? The number of brilliant, creative people who create ads instead of useful things.
jrapdx3 20 hours ago 0 replies      
In the medical practice world, marketing of pharmaceuticals has been an incendiary subject for some time. The common gist has been that medical practitioners are too easily influenced and merely hearing what a pharma company rep has to say will lead to inappropriate prescribing.

On such grounds many clinics forbid manufacturers' reps to have access to staff, else they would be tainted. Of course they'd be, a dozen years of training and 20 years on the front lines mean nothing, really, prescribers are clearly unable to know a sales pitch when they hear it, incapable of applying their own judgement concerning a product's merit.

Sure, there are instances where pharma firms have been unethical, but in my dealings with them, reps have mostly stayed within the lines. In case they don't, I'm not that delicate and can deal with overzealousness when necessary. Generally, it's a two-way interaction, I listen to what reps have to say, and the better ones listen to my feedback about clinical realities.

One thing that gets lost in the noisy public discourse is the role of marketing. In our economic system marketing is fundamental to distribution of goods and services. A pharma company could develop a break-through product, but if providers don't know of its existence it won't be used where it would make a difference.

Inadequate marketing has impeded uptake of a number of useful medications, and fewer treatment options is not a good thing. I'm not advocating a free-for-all in this sphere, rules are necessary. But we can have too many rules too, better to maintain an intelligent balance.

Sometimes I think about an interesting experiment: what if all advertising had to follow the same rules as pharmaceutical companies? Imagine a car commercial on TV, and the announcer having to murmur a list of all the defects reported for the car's vehicle class. You know, real truth in advertising would be very refreshing.

conanbatt 1 day ago 0 replies      
I find the concept of paying people for their information and time fantastic as way to battle advertising.

In other ways, wouldnt it be great to have the right to not be subject to advertising? Adblock has been great at providing such experience on the web to me..how about billboards? TV? Eliminate product integration? Etc.

I dont like using the word "moral" to describe a problem, because it makes it very subjective. The amount of money that goes into advertising is ridiculous and in aggregate it has to be doing lots of damage by opportunity cost and mis-information.

cvg 1 day ago 1 reply      
Ironically enough, it may be CPC ads themselves that allow people protect their attention. Browser add ons like Ad Nauseam, http://adnauseam.io/, automatically click on ads (after first being blocked) and ensure that there's a high price to pay for playing in the ad game.
drewmeyers24 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Definitely not the largest fan of online advertising --> http://www.drewmeyersinsights.com/2013/08/24/my-problem-with...

It's at the heart of the time suck economy we live in today (and which gets worse everyday): http://www.geekwire.com/2013/time-suck-economy-starting-buil...

jfoster 23 hours ago 1 reply      
The article states: "The advertising industry consists of the buying and selling of your attention between third parties without your consent."

Mostly, I don't think that's true. When I turn on the TV to watch a show, I think I am consenting to some advertising being present, and naturally the TV station has sold that advertising time to some other company. Similar situation with websites, search engines, radio, newspapers, etc.

The only situation where I think the assertion might be true is when it comes to advertising in public areas, outdoors, etc. I don't think it's reasonable to argue that consent has been given in those circumstances.

holri 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Advertising makes as unhappy or poor.It creates artificial tangible desires for needless goods.Unfulfilled desire makes us unhappy.Buying needless and worthless goods poor.
spodek 1 day ago 0 replies      
Banksy and peers, in a different medium, have been making many of these arguments for some time, in my opinion eloquently. They got me thinking about many of these issues of who gets to speak to the public and how do we decide, in ways I hadn't before.
davemel37 21 hours ago 1 reply      
This why there are no billionaire philosophers. Every argument he made about advertising i can make about his article, and about every interaction he had in his entire life with everyone he ever met. Just because economics are in play with advertising doesnt mean that everything and everyone else in the world shouldnt be held to the same standards.

Contrary to what this article claims...people do value their attention and are very particular and careful with how they allocate it. Good marketers also know how valuable peoples attention is and are careful to respect it...hence the rise of content marketing and value add advertising.

The argument that consumers dont give media permission to sell their attention is false. You can always change the channel, click away, drive a different route, and stop using an app. You make choices about how you allocate your attention and you accept the costs associated with it by allocating your attention to that media.

jmount 1 day ago 1 reply      
Upton Sinclair 'It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.'
jccalhoun 22 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm quite surprised to see so many here seem to agree with the idea that advertising is seemingly inherently bad. This article in particular is full of over-the-top writing that drives me crazy.

"advertising imposes costs on individuals without permission or compensation. It extracts our precious attention and emits toxic by-products, such as the sale of our personal information to dodgy third parties."

I wish my life was that important that my attention not only could be "precious" but that it was so precious that that I'm worried about the demands ads make on my attention instead of other things (like staying up too late making comments on web sites...).

superuser2 1 day ago 1 reply      
Products and services not directly necessary for sustenance exist only because of advertising.

If you are employed in an industry other than agriculture, textiles, or residential construction, there would be no work for you or any of your coworkers without advertising. If people's basic urges do not require them to give you money, then there is no money with which to write your paycheck.

Obviously it can be taken too far, but eliminating advertising from the world in all forms is probably not what you want.

panic 1 day ago 1 reply      
It's insane that advertisement spending is tax deductible (at least in the US) given how questionable its impact to society is. A slight change to the tax code would cut down on ads considerably.
constantx 22 hours ago 0 replies      
spam is bad, advertising is necessary to spread "product", just like how newspaper is necessary to spread news
imakesnowflakes 22 hours ago 0 replies      
I have asked here about this in the past [1]

I am not sure regulations will help much. For one thing, is is hard to specify where the limits lie, and to objectively detect when an ad cross the limits. Another thing is that all regulations bend depending on how much money you have to throw at those. And in this case it is a lot.

So along with regulations, I think it is also necessary to educate kids to defend against manipulations like this. I don't think schools will ever do something like this. So it should come from parents, from home. Teach them how such manipulations work, teach them how to recognize and avoid them. In the process, you will also teach them very useful critical thinking.

But there may be social aspects that work against these. For example, if you never watch ads in your home, your kid may get ridiculed in the school because he/she does not know about Ad xyz. The same way you will be ridiculed today for not using Facebook or whatsapp.

So, in short, I think we should talk about this, A LOT. Both online and offline.

Build a public awareness.

Make it cool, to NOT watch ads.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9690432

InclinedPlane 1 day ago 0 replies      
Advertising isn't just about business, if it were t'd be a lot more effective and less obnoxious. It's also about power. Being able to control what people see and listen to is powerful. Being able to inject your brand into the public consciousness is powerful. Many brands are familiar to us, and form a part of the culture background, because of advertising, regardless of if we use them.

This makes companies and advertisers feel good, because it's a demonstration of power, and of status.

MaxScheiber 1 day ago 3 replies      
This article has quite a cynical tone that I can't say I agree with. The argument that advertising is the business of harvesting customers' attention, while not necessarily incorrect, is disingenuous. The ad industry is not some diabolical entity that conspires to brainwash citizens of the world.

I would posit that the advertising market is actually quite efficient as opposed to being a market failure. Let's examine a paragraph from the market failure section:

> Movie theatres, cable channels, phone apps, bill-board operators, and so on price the sale of your attention at what it takes to extract it from you - namely, how easy it is for you to escape their predations. This is often much lower than the value to you, or to others, of directing your attention to something else.

The author makes the implicit assumption that advertisements automatically garner 100% of our attention. They don't. When was the last time you went to a movie theater before the previews started, sat silently, and stared at the advert loop? You probably have never done that! Instead, you give your attention to your loved ones or your phone. And maybe you'll watch the previews, but if you're even somewhat into watching newly released movies, those add value to you.

Some advertisements do capture our attention, and those are priced appropriately. Super Bowl commercials cost more on a CPM basis than a commercial to be aired during the Walking Dead, which in turn costs more than an Instagram sponsored story. This is the sign of an efficient market, not a market failure.

Moreover, people do avoid advertisements when they deem it necessary. Some people buy the premium versions of iPhone applications, some people only watch new TV shows on Netflix, and some people pay extra to watch live sports events on an ad-free Internet stream. Again, this is the sign of an efficient market, not a market failure.

You could, instead, possibly make the argument that advertising is a prisoner's dilemma. Perhaps the world would be better off without advertising. (I'm not even sure that this is true, given that advertising does benefit people.) But if there are no advertisements and a single company ran a TV spot, it would be at a huge competitive advantage. So everyone runs marketing campaigns. I really think this benefits the consumer more than the author gives credit for, however. Marketing is the field of creating value for a specific segment of the population, who in turn will enter into a long-term relationship with your firm and give you economic value in return. Advertising is an important part of this.

Also, to be clear, I don't advocate for marketing strategies that themselves are disingenuous. Moreover, there are perfectly valid arguments to make that inference-based advertising are immoral, or that Internet tracking is immoral. But the author is painting with absolutely massive brush strokes against the entire field of "advertising," and I feel the need to strongly qualify his argument.

There's a lot I want to say about this piece, because it seems that the author fundamentally misunderstands marketing. The entire bit about advertisers charging consumers directly is a terrible business idea, for example, for the same reason that we have grocery stores and shopping malls. However, I don't really want to spend all afternoon on a point-by-point response.

jqm 20 hours ago 0 replies      
I often feel a bit sorry for advertisers and consider they are simply wasting their money and effort. I have no more inclination to buy a car I saw parked on top of a giant rock on TV than I did before I saw the ad. I have no more inclination to drink a coke than I did before I saw the ad. The only ad I remember following or taking an interest in within recent memory was for a drone on youtube. Out of the thousands and thousands seen over the past decade. I realize maybe I'm not typical... but I simply can't fathom how commercials for things like shampoo on TV impress anyone. Are people really still susceptible in this day and age? I just don't get it.
obstinate 1 day ago 3 replies      
Depends on your system of morality. For example, you could have a system of morality that has the axiom: "advertising is inherently bad." In this case, it's hard to imagine it would be justifiable. An opposite system of morality also exists, of course, that says advertising is inherently good.

Since there is no objective standard of morality, and since "morality" is just a fancy word for "things that people consider good or bad," we probably just have to look out into the world and see whether advertising is against the morals of most. Given that we see little great outrage over the use of advertising, even among those who are aware of its risks, I have to conclude that advertising is morally justifiable.

vonklaus 1 day ago 5 replies      
ok, wow. First, let me point out how ironic it is that a news agency that makes most of it's revenue from advertising is the source of this article, and also that ABC is owned by Disney corp which is a pervasive media company creating advertising, receiving revenue from advertising and spends over 2 Billion annually on advertising[0][1].

Services we use daily are funded by advertising. Virtually all news and media companies. Sure, it is a bit nefarious to do some of the things that get done on the internet like trackers and info siloing and such, but seriously? Is not seeing an advert a moral imperative?

> I want to keep using this free email, social network, enhanced and personalized search capability, free cloud storage, document collaboration, real time news updates, weather, be entertained by television, be entertained by blogs, participate in an online community, etc

ok awesome, pay us money then, $1 a month per website/service you use?

> no

Or even the more infuriating, of course I would do that. Would you? Would you pay for google, facebook, twitter, reddit, HN, new york times, bloomberg? Maybe, but how much would you pay to that website your friend linked in an email? How many of you have apps or work at companies that get paid by advert revenue?

In a world where is is insanely easy to block ads, or to just ignore them, surely this isn't a question of morality. More of triviality and annoyance. I have 3 adblock extensions + uBlock as well as a DNS killer. I HATE ads. The reason ads are so annoying is because I have all of these things. So now companies search exploits to get my data to sell it and load tons of JS libraries to break through all of the blocking software I have. The situation sucks, but it isn't morality.

tl;dr If you think Axe body spray will get you laid, you are weak minded. Advertising pays for everything you use on the internet, and entrenched protocols are hard to disrupt. Get adblock, ublock and don't buy things you don't need.

[0]http://www.businessinsider.com/the-35-companies-that-spent-1...[1]I still think comcast is a shitty company

edit: As pointed out NBC is owned by comcast, ABC is owned by Disney corporation and I have edited to reflect that.

If Materialism Is True, the United States Is Probably Conscious (2014) ucr.edu
180 points by samclemens  2 days ago   204 comments top 40
tim333 1 day ago 6 replies      
Arrgh! This is what annoys me about reading much philosophy. The article is about consciousness which is a term used by many different people in many ways and with many different implied definitions. But does the guy give a clear definition of what he's talking about? No he leaves it vague but waffles on for hundreds of words in a way that you can't say if it's right or wrong because you're not sure what he means.

If you are using consciousness to mean being aware of stuff in a way that you can act on it then the questions are fairly simple - humans are conscious when in a normal state, not so when knocked unconscious. Likewise rabbits. The United States can show collective consciousness in that it's citizens in aggregate can be aware of things and react. If you look at a different meaning of consciousness in terms of subjective experience then probably other people have similar experience and rabbits a simpler version but it's hard to tell.

I don't get why philosophical writing tends to be so vague and waffly. Maybe because they don't achieve much in the real world unlike say neuroscientists studying consciousness and so need to hand wave and be vague to cover up the lack of real content?

dkural 1 day ago 9 replies      
A materialist rejects "consciousness" as a fruitful term, observing that it often leads to confusion and non-sequiturs, as contradictions often do. The paper itself shows how certain definitions of consciousness would have these outcomes. Materialists would say that you need a functional definition of consciousness: If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it's a duck. It's a bit like talking about a "soul". Humanity, for the longest time, thought there was a soul, separate from our mere bodies. They just had a "feeling" that it was real, despite not being able to provide a functional definition of what it is. Consciousness is no different. Coherence of the self is an illusion.
jerf 1 day ago 6 replies      
In his paper "Why Philosophers Should Care About Computational Complexity" [1], HN-favorite Scott Aaronson resolves to my satisfaction the question of whether a waterfall can be said to be computing the solution to some problem as it cascades over the rocks, because there exists a mapping in which the initial water state is the initial state of the problem, the gyrations of the water "compute", and the final state of the water can be mapped to a solution. He points out that we can with some actual mathematical rigor observe that the mapping itself can be said to be doing all the work.

Similarly, I feel trying to parse conscious intentionality by any known meaning of the term "conscious" out of something like "all the individuals of the United States" is a situation where the mapping is doing all the work.

Clearly, there is something to the "United States" as well as other groupings of human beings. But I daresay in a lot of ways these things are less mysterious than they seem... we deal with these groupings all the time, and if we thereby fail to ascribe consciousness to them, I'd say our experience should probably be listened to. Sure, groups of humans routinely do great things no individual could do, but at the same time, and with no contradiction, groups of humans fail miserably and stupidly too. We've all seen committees that fail to successfully accomplish a goal than any individual on the committee could have, or where the committee remains fuzzy on its purpose (pardon English's anthropomorphization, there) even as the individual members are all quite clear (but divergent). Rather than trying to throw this in the "consciousness" bucket I think it's better understood as, well, the way we all already collective conceive of these things, as human organizations, with their own foibles, characteristics, and properties.

It's not consciousness. It's something else. "Greater" in some ways, and yet, profoundly lesser in others. Trying to view it through the lens of "consciousness" is just anthropormorphism striking again, and I'd say actively harmful in terms of trying to understand the phenomena.

[1]: http://www.scottaaronson.com/papers/philos.pdf

teraflop 2 days ago 2 replies      
This is an excellent and thought-provoking article. I'm not entirely sold on the argument -- in particular, there's no reason to automatically assume that any sufficiently complex system is conscious simply because of its complexity. If you looked hard enough, you could probably find lots of complexity in e.g. the interactions between billions of individual cells in a slime mold, but most people wouldn't use that as a basis for calling it conscious. Human brains aren't just an undifferentiated mass of connections that somehow bootstrap themselves to consciousness; they have definite functional units that are genetically determined. Countries have at most a few thousand years of development behind them, rather than billions of years of animal evolution, and it seems a bit implausible that they would have developed the complex processes of consciousness so much more quickly.

We ascribe consciousness to humans by observing their behavior, not the structure of their brains. And it's true that countries do respond to stimuli and act with purpose, but (echoing Chalmers) I think a lot of that can be ascribed to individual people controlling a hierarchy, and not to the collective. If there's anything about a country that arises from the distributed connections between humans, it would be more likely to manifest as broad social trends, not specific actions like going to war. But those general trends seem to ebb and flow for their own inscrutable reasons; they certainly don't show obvious evidence of intelligent purpose.

Nevertheless, the concept is fascinating. And I think the author makes an excellent point that even if it's wrong, the argument is worth considering if only to help us come up with better criteria for what it means to say an entity is conscious.

egocodedinsol 2 days ago 4 replies      
I remember thinking about this after reading Godel esher bach. The reason I don't believe it's clearly probable is that it's hard to imagine that a system that hasn't been forged under as much natural selection to have much intentionality. And it's hard to imagine consciousness without that.

It's also with considering that the US could be sliced along arbitrary boundaries and it probably wouldn't change too much. That alone seems like such a structural/functional difference that arguing for the consciousness of a system like the US on simialriry-to-brains grounds seems difficult.

Still, the strangest thing I've considered is: suppose that the US, or some other group we are a part of, like the galaxy, is conscious.and we get good evidence that it's true. Then disturbing it's function, or destroying it could kill that consciousness. It would be like killing God.

amasad 1 day ago 3 replies      
Since the author established that the United States is a linguistic entity, then why doesn't they simply ask it. "Are you conscious?", "Do you have subjective experiences?". Surely whomever you direct the question at will laugh at you and no one would take you seriously.

A more plausible way for the US to take this type of question seriously is if it was indeed asked by a planet-sized alien. Then I expect the authorities in the US to come up with some traditional explanation of countries and how the US is one. And would reject the fact that it's conscious. If an entity doesn't believe that it's conscious, then can it be conscious?

I find it strange that the author didn't entertain such line of thinking since, to me, it makes the most sense. The first thing you would do when you want to know something about a language-capable entity is probably ask it. He mentions the Turing Test with regards to testing the consciousness of the supersquids, but why not the United States?

sebringj 1 day ago 2 replies      
A collection of entities or the pattern the entities partake in are NOT self aware. It's only the entity itself observing the pattern or collection as such, that is.

It seems people are postulating properties of collections and patterns of groups, then checking things off, one by one, being satisfied of the similarities. It is the person checking these things off that is realizing similarities then taking the leap of anthropomorphizing awareness into that idea.

Procrastes 1 day ago 0 replies      
I realize Mr. Schwitzgebel may have presented a conscious U.S. as a deliberately ridiculous idea to illustrate his point, much as Schrodinger did not intend his cat to be taken seriously. But as a card-carrying Science Fiction nut, I have to say, I find the idea plausible or even intuitive. Of course there could be a slow, broad form of consciousness that inspires extremely large and complex systems. It would live in the interactions and emergent coincidences of public and private life and it may even spill over into our more complex inanimate systems. It would certainly use them as tools or limbs.

I propose a ridiculously expensive study with a huge grant wherein I give the United States an aptitude and personality test. Based on the results, we could attempt to find this 239 year-old citizen some rehabilitative help to reduce some of its more antisocial and criminal tendencies.

hyperion2010 2 days ago 2 replies      
A related question I like to consider from time to time: "Are corporations conscious?" They are composed of many individuals who we consider conscious and they gather a whole bunch of information on their internals. They even have entire departments of conscious beings devoted to communicating information to other conscious beings that often speak as if they were the corporation itself (sure, corps may have a strange habit of referring to themselves in the third person, but so do some people). How would we even measure this?
vermilingua 1 day ago 1 reply      
To all those who aren't yet sold on this idea, consider it like this: what if consciousness is not a consequence of organised systems, but rather a property of all matter. Who's to say that the slime mould doesn't have consciousness? To get all new-age and spiritual about it, maybe this could extend to any level of organisation, and the very act of conversing and connecting with other people is an expression of collective consciousness.The way I see it, this idea is to the traditional view, as the traditional view is to solipsism.
donatj 1 day ago 1 reply      
I don't accept consciousness as anything of real value as far as intelligence goes. There's no reason anything should want for consciousness. It's an abstraction layer our higher order has to the lower order, and emulating it is senseless. It's merely the childish desire to make something that resembles us. True, pure intelligence would be something so mechanically terrifyingly above anything the human mind wouldn't even register it as intelligent. Consciousness isn't worth emulating, it's just the crappy UI evolution gave us.

In the same vein, I see emotion associated with AI so often, and that is so frustrating. Emotion is the opposite of intelligence, it's a series of global variables the left over parts of our brain use to influence the parts in control, it's a bad system and need not be copied.

If there is a god, this is how I imagine it. Free from the flawed systems we live and deal with, free from emotion, free from compassion, a horrifying being of pure logic who you could never begin to comprehend

MichaelGG 2 days ago 3 replies      
Or phrased another way: we still have no real solid leads on consciousness. There's all sorts of neat things thought up about it, we have some questions we'll want to answer or dissolve, but there's not even a consensus on what consciousness is.

This is really disappointing, because consciousness is neat.

I also find it questionable to posit fake scenarios then try to draw conclusions from them. I can say "what about a fire that boils water, but it's actually frozen?", but it doesn't really mean such a thing is possible. See also p-zombies, an exercise in imagining nonsensical things in order to draw questionable conclusions.

kevinalexbrown 1 day ago 1 reply      
Anesthesia practically eliminates consciousness yet the brain states are probably more similar than brains and the United States. I'm not sure I agree that apparent similarity is good enough to conclude that the US is probably conscious under a materialist framework.

Definitely possible, however. And fun to consider whole galaxies exhibiting consciousness.

samclemens 2 days ago 3 replies      
Decided to switch out the actual title of this one ("If Materialism Is True, the United States Is Probably Conscious") for fear that it could seem clickbait-y. In fact I think the actual text is very lucid and thoughtful; for whatever reason, philosophers just seem temperamentally inclined toward "cute" titles like that.
dschiptsov 1 day ago 0 replies      
Oh, come on! It has nothing to do with materialism but everything with complex systems and what we call "ecosystems" - with the stochastic-within-fundamental-laws nature of what we call universe or reality.

Ecosystems could exhibit what appears (to an external [hypothetical] observer) to be a conscious, "intelligent" behavior due to obeying to underlying "forces" or "laws" - physical, environmental (herd behavior, etc.) economical (energy expenditure, diminishing returns), evolutionary (which affects populations).

Forest or town formations (which appears to be "optimal", "designed", while they just grew up causally out of individual "processes") are obvious examples.

Financial markets could be [falsely] viewed as "intelligent", while it is just a stochastic individual actions and "herd behavior".

Ants or bees colony, a big city at night, viewed from an aircraft - they all appear to have consciousness of its own, but no, it is mere an appearance. Nevertheless we cannot assert that these formations are purely chaotic - they are shaped by a chance, but in accordance with the underlying forces and laws which govern (or limit) behavior of individual "agents" within the system.

Just like all these atoms - they have their positions due to multiple causes (stochastic processes), but in accordance with fundamental laws of what we call "gravity", "magnetism and electricity", "conservation of energy", etc. There is no "intelligence" or "consciousness" apart from that, or That, as a Hindu would call it.

kailuowang 1 day ago 1 reply      
I have a similar view, that a society (not necessarily a political concept like country, but more culturally defined group of people) is the ultimate intelligent being. And the main rationale behind that notion is that society DEFINES human intelligence. We think human are intelligent beings but as a matter of fact, every capabilities that we deem signs of intelligence, such as language, logic, math are given to the human by the society. Suppose we have a unfortunate person who somehow is raised by a dog without any direct or indirect contact from the human society, he would demonstrate very little intelligent superiority over other advanced mammals - no language, no culture, not even logic.

As pointed out by the article, society as a distributed group entities demonstrate signs of consciousness, but that's not even the key, the key is society defines every single consciousness of the members in it: how we think, what we want, etc. A single person's intelligence is simply a tiny subcomponent of the ultimate intelligent being - the society. How intelligent we are are mostly determined by the society (doesn't mean that everyone thinks a like), and the exciting thing is that some of us get to contribute some improvements to that ultimate intelligent being.

cristianpascu 1 day ago 2 replies      
I am a dualist and I ought to accept that rabbits are conscious. They must have a soul of some sort to be able to have the Easy Problem of Consciousness between their ears. They see, they hear, they do lots of things. But I don't and I can't accept "consciousness in spatially distributed group entities."

The author, judging from the abstract (it's 7AM here), has it up-side-down. One has to first prove that spatially distributed complex entities (like an atom, molecule, the brain or a pen) has phenomenal experience, that is "there is something that it's like to be a pen". Then she can prove materialism is true. But to start with materialism being to true and then... well, who am I to judge.

Some say that materialism is refuting itself, in the sense that proving it true dissolves any kind of truth into non-sense.

sago 1 day ago 1 reply      
I made a serious argument once that god(s) have a mind, with some of the same rationale. Many individual people contribute parts of their brain to a whole that has will, makes plans, seeks goals, has moods, etc, where each of those cognitive states do not belong to a single individual. Some individuals have more influence, but there are few religious leaders who couldn't be excised for rapidly turning against the supermind. This isn't supernatural, and it isn't mystical. It would apply equally to the Market as to the Government as to God.

But like many flights of scientific fantasy (and like the article) it also isn't very predictive, it isn't verifiable, and it isn't ultimately very useful as a model.

I abandoned the idea when I recognised it as otological onanism.

barbarianboots 1 day ago 0 replies      
Has the author really never heard of group consciousness? This is not a terribly interesting argument, and certainly not one that counters the materialist perspective. It reminds me of a young earth creationist I once heard arguing that since the moon is slowly drifting away from us, then at one time is would have had to be far closer if the Earth were really billions of years old. In his mind that was an unpalatable conclusion, and thus sufficient to close the case. Anyone else would have just nodded his head and said, "yeah, and...?"
Chattered 1 day ago 0 replies      
For some wider context of his views, check out his other articles, particularly http://www.faculty.ucr.edu/~eschwitz/SchwitzAbs/CrazyMind.ht....

I don't get the impression that Schwitzgebel takes analytic philosophy very seriously, which is something I find very refreshing about him (compared to other philosophers of consciousness such as Chalmers). His early interest was on ancient Chinese philosophy, and in http://www.faculty.ucr.edu/~eschwitz/SchwitzAbs/ZZ.htm, he promotes what he regards as an ancient Chinese outlook about not taking language too seriously, which contrasts with traditional Anglo-American philosophy.

gopher2 1 day ago 0 replies      
I was thinking about something similar to this idea recently, but replace "United States" with a large corporation.

In a sense the United States is conscious, but the "experience" of being the United States, or Exxon mobile, or Google, is so far removed from the experience of being a person or even a rabbit that it doesn't matter. i.e. It's a metaphor more than anything else.

We take in information through eyes, ears, etc made up of cells. We think in a brain, experience emotions, inhabit a body.

The United States takes in information through organizations, people, computers, etc. It thinks and makes decisions via all sorts of different systems and processes. It doesn't have a physical body, it has different parts and material all over the place made of many different elements.

Perhaps it's true we only value forms of consciousness similar to our own.

I don't know, I don't philosophy well. This paper was thought provoking.

nickpsecurity 2 days ago 0 replies      
The article and comments miss what I think are tremendously important issues in this discussion: collective memory and group think. People in groups often take on a particular culture with group-specific reactions, activities, and memories. We've seen people get internally divided between their individual thought/reaction and the group thought/reaction on a given experience. Further, although author rejects U.S. feeling pain, Americans as a whole reacted with much of the same pain and shock when they watched planes hit the Twin Towers. Their emotional response mostly went in the same direction with the conflicts coming in on their assessments of what happened and what do do. Much like internal to the brain, conflict resolution and consensus kicked in to converge majority on an overall reaction that all Americans were conscious of.

So, groups and even America often act like an individual might even in terms of feelings. The groups memory is spread out among parts of its members. New members, like the author's aliens, even get some of that memory through information exchange, stories, sharing feelings, and indoctrination. Their mind can transition to a cross between individual mind and the group's mind.

So, brain stores its knowledge in neural connections and states updated by certain processes. Consciousness emerges. Details of it have varying levels of internal strength, conflict, and so on. Human groups store their knowledge in individual brains and connections between them via senses. Group's consciousness similarly has varying levels of commitment to specific ideas or actions with conflict. The question is, "What's the real difference here and how far can it go?"

If it can go far enough, then the U.S. might be conscious, have a collective memory, have the ability to feel pain collectively, and have an intent formed of members' consensus. That's stronger than the author's own claim. Yet, I think I've cited examples to back some of it up. The U.S. itself doesn't need a brain: its identity can be made of pieces of other brains, both storing knowledge & having feelings, plus their interactions with each other.

Note: I'll end with a possibly controversial view that I don't think all of U.S.'s members make up its consciousness. I think it filters out a lot of them. It has it's own self-organization and learning principles that are quite a bit different than the brain's aside from basic concepts of sensory processing, reflection, conflict and consensus.

rumcajz 1 day ago 0 replies      
The thing is we have no clear idea what we mean when speaking about consciousness.

Luckily, there are some people who honestly try to find out. Dan Dennett to name one.

Also this talk about consciousness by Susan Blackmoore is both funny and enlightening: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdMA8RVu1sk

novaleaf 1 day ago 0 replies      
On a related note, I'm of the opinion that the AI's have already taken over humanity, IE: Corporations.

As we develop AI, I see it naturally augmenting the Corporation's ability to make decisions, eventually supplanting humans in the high-order strategic planning.

Once that happens (and it will!).... hope for the best?

AnonNo15 2 days ago 0 replies      
One should really look into works of Russian publicist Sergey Pereslegin. He (plus other people) produced a lot of fascinating speculation on such concepts (superorganisms composed of humans and organizations)
dschiptsov 1 day ago 1 reply      
Consciousness is an appearance, same as when an external observer sees an "intelligence" in behavior of a whole colony if bees or ants or, which requires special tools, bacteria.

One of CMU's AI Guru (I forgot his name), back in 60s, described brilliantly a principle that "incredible complex" observable behavior of an ant is not due to its "intelligence", but due to obstacles in environment. This is the clue.

There are "meditation" techniques to observe "discrete" (non-continuous) nature of what we call consciousness.

stevebmark 1 day ago 0 replies      
tl;dr the United States may be conscious because consciousness is a purely physical manifestation.

You could skip most of this paper and ponder the deeper question posed by Sam Harris: how do we know anything is conscious? What if stars are conscious. Could we ever tell? Fundamentally we don't know the mechanisms that give rise to consciousness, so in theory anything could be conscious with a complex enough physical system. A country could be consciousness and we'd likely never know. Fun to think about!

hasenj 2 days ago 2 replies      
Maybe consciousness fades out as the size of the group gets larger and larger and there's some limit where it can't get conscious anymore (probably related to the speed of sound).

But consider this: you are aware of yourself, but how do you know that you are the only thing occupying your brain? I mean, what if your brain spawns 5 different conscious processes, each of them completely separate and independent from the others? And what you feel as yourself is just one of these 5 processes.

How could you ever know if that's true or not?

noobermin 2 days ago 1 reply      
May be I'm missing something. This doesn't strike me odd at all. I mean, one could say the United States chose to legalize gay marriage, or chose to forge a deal with another concious entity Iran. This is similar to a person making a change in their own body or making peace with an adversary, respectively. One could liken the democratic process and the political system as concious thinking, perhaps.

How is this any different? If you relax the definition of "concious", then why isn't the United States concious?

skissane 1 day ago 1 reply      
If the argument of this paper is correct, I think it would be evidence against materialism. If you find a position has an implausible consequence, that is evidence against that position, especially if its competitors (e.g. dualism, idealism) lack that consequence.
natch 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is an old idea, which doesn't make it less interesting. I prefer to think about the Internet possibly being conscious... more interesting because maybe the Internet consciousness is where the singularity will come from.
wwweston 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've had a similar suspicion for a while. Superorganisms of micro-organisms are a place we find consciousness; superorganisms larger organisms (like us) seem at least as likely to be conscious, if not more so, given that consciousness is already present in the components at some level.
bithead 1 day ago 0 replies      
>If Materialism Is True, the United States Is Probably Conscious

The author is lowballing here in the extreme. It would be the universe that is conscious.

techbio 1 day ago 0 replies      
Kind of cute to care about this, impressive references and all.

Thinking about thinking, troubling as it may be, presumes a supremacy of human consciousness the sensibility thereof is its own determinant.

A waterfall is a pretty analogy for the State. My point being...interesting that it holds together, but that being established, play your part or propose some alternatives.

jqm 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've never been a fan of anthropomorphism nor of overloading terms (with additional definitions). Everything descends into a primordial soup when this starts happening. And it is very hard to predicatively and rationally operate in a bowl of primordial soup where one thing is not distinct from another. Clear and crisp definitions and detailed distinctions are what makes higher order modeling possible. So no... societies are no in any way "conscious", even though they may at times act in ways similar to conscious entities.
snarfy 1 day ago 0 replies      
If it's conscious, it has the wit of a paramecium at best.
pron 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think that to a materialist, the question might not be a hard one at all. The theory may well be that consciousness depends on the strength of the connections between the components of the collective "mind", and that some range of connection power (i.e. the ability of one component to influence others) is required. You then measure the connection strength among people in the US, and it may turn out be well below the threshold require for the thing that will be defined as consciousness. After all, solids and fluids behave differently enough for the difference to be considered qualitative, even though there is just a quantitative difference in the strength of the connections between their components. So there may be nothing special about our brains except for the strength of the connection between neurons which lies within certain "magic" bounds. Collectives with connection strength either below or above those bounds may display some behaviors similar to intelligence or "consciousness" but not quite.

Other possible, but similar measures can be the number of components (much larger in the brain than in the US or an ant colony), or the average number of connections each element has. In any case the result may be the same: a quantitative difference may lead to a qualitatively different result.

Animats 1 day ago 0 replies      
You must be at least this tall to write about "consciousness".

At least there's only one mention of "quantum".

maaku 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is an old idea. Google keyword: "global brain".
If David Cameron bans secure encryption he can't intercept mythic-beasts.com
191 points by rabbidrabbit  16 hours ago   88 comments top 17
SCdF 15 hours ago 1 reply      
Honestly, it sounds kind of relaxing. Good excuse to get some sunshine.

On a more serious note, I can't help but think David Cameron is employing the technique of attempting something extreme so that he can do something less extreme (but still really bad) later with less oversight. Of course you can't ban strong encryption. His advisers know that, he knows that, _everyone_ knows that.

It will be very interesting to see what actually gets put (or attempted to be put) into law. Right now it's just a whole lot of unrealistic noise.

mike-cardwell 15 hours ago 3 replies      
It's pretty clear that the UK government doesn't have the power to ban encryption. This is just a distraction so that we are happy to accept whatever "less bad" proposals they come up with to increase their surveillance powers. I can't help but feel that peoples dislike of Cameron is a pointless distraction too. This is not Cameron. This is government. We will still be having this same discussion in 50 years, unless some miracle technical advancement makes it moot.
steaminghacker 13 hours ago 2 replies      
There won't be a ban, it will be licensed. Big companies like banks etc will get their licence right away, so your secure banking will be fine. Routers will still have wifi encryption because they'll have a licence.

The licence will be implemented as a fee for a digital certificate that properly authenticates.

So, you're a small startup with an idea for a secure messaging app. want a licence. no problem, its 10M. have you got the money handy?

cfstras 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Happily looking forward to being rick-rolled, I click the YouTube link. It fails, telling me the German content mafia doesn't allow YouTube to display the video due to licensing issues.


danpalmer 15 hours ago 3 replies      
As far as I remember (and I may be wrong), the specific quote from David Cameron was about banning encryption that can't be backdoored, so that the government can look at things if they need to.

Obviously I'm completely against that, because once there's a backdoor, it's all too easy to collect by default, instead of only when "needed".

With this clarification though, lots of this tech would still work. Most things based on TLS will continue to work, if every computer has to have a government CA certificate installed to allow MITMs. Hopefully HTTP Public Key Pinning will become more prevalent if this looks likely to happen.

c0g 14 hours ago 3 replies      
Except Cameron wants to backdoor end-to-end encryption like iMessage/Whatsapp, rather than mess with something like SSL. With SSL they can just get a warrant (or you know, don't get a warrant) and look at the server, where everything is in plain text.

One possible way to backdoor it might be mandate that companies keep copies of the encrypted messages, tagged with a device ID. Then to decrypt you need to get the person's phone, which is a clearer analogy to getting a warrant to search someone's house to look for things they have stashed.

DanBC 15 hours ago 0 replies      
The UK Crypto mailing list has some discussion.


EG: http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/pipermail/ukcrypto/2015-Ma...

But there's quite a lot of useful discussion there.

KaiserPro 11 hours ago 0 replies      
So what are we going to do about it?

We've spent the last year running twitter campaigns, but the people that matter (voters, well tory voters) don't do social media.

This means that you need to write a letter. Yes a real letter, not a fucking email. Write a letter to your MP, then a local Lord.

Then you need to write to your boss, tell them that the cost of business will go through the roof (if you're able to do business. )

Then start looking at jobs abroad. Because no doubt there will be a twitter campaign, meaning that nobody actually bothers to engage in how the democratic process actually works.

giancarlostoro 12 hours ago 2 replies      
Why do we still have politicians trying to pass laws in technology if they don't understand it at all? Really we need to change how laws affecting technology are approved or something. It's always the same thing, some politician is passing some law affecting technology in what seems like the most absurd approach.
aembleton 15 hours ago 2 replies      
9:15 : Think this is all a bit bizarre so phone colleague on mobile, she answers to say that shes having lots of problems too.

Mobiles are encrypted too: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A5/1

keithpeter 15 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm a very happy customer of mythic-beasts. They do insist on sftp/ssh/tls &c for all connections which is probably wise.

I hope this gets the idea across to influential civilians (i.e. non-techs). Humour can work quite well in the UK. The HGTTG references may be lost on the younger ones though.

kuschku 15 hours ago 1 reply      
The most unrealistic part is

> Youtube fails to load with a secure connection error.

YouTube still refuses to use anything more recent than RC4 encryption, so, if Cameron would ban all secure encryption, YouTube would probably still work.

lalm 15 hours ago 0 replies      
SSL can be intercepted though so it wouldn't be the target of this theoretical ban.
Zigurd 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Suggestions like banning strong encryption is a form of ritual abuse. It is meant to get the public used to the idea of pervasive surveillance. That pervasive surveillance will be carried out through a continuation of what existed before the Snowden revelations, which was a successful Straussian confection of fake freedom, carefully managed.
ackalker 12 hours ago 1 reply      
One-time pad encryption, implemented correctly, cannot be broken or backdoored.There is the matter of key exchange of course, but that is as old as the use of covert communications itself.Anyone who cares enough about their communication remaining secret will find a way of exchanging keys for which any attempt at interception by a government entity is entirely impractical.
joesmo 11 hours ago 1 reply      
What's to stop people from using strong encryption on their own, illegally, end to end? It's not like this is the first time the government has inserted itself in between people's legitimate communications and intercepted them with no recourse. If you assume that that is the default state of being (and except for a few small governments, it is), then you realize that the short periods of time where people could communicate freely and privately using networks outside of private in-person meetings have been lapses in government surveillance more than anything else and minor moments of relief for those who want to communicate privately. Governments will spy. That is a given. They will try to remove privacy. That is a given. Regardless of any laws and especially when it's as simple and undetectable as making some database queries.

I'm not defending any government's actions to remove privacy and spy on its people. Quite the contrary, once one has accepted that as inevitable, it's easier to move on. The need for human privacy is also, IMO, a fact. Some may dispute that, yet there are true, the only other option then becomes to go around the law. An unjust law must be broken. And it will. The worse the government gets, the more it will be broken.

I don't see why people in the UK and elsewhere couldn't get copies of software that still had strong encryption despite the idiotic laws. After all, it's just as easy to click one link as another. Will the UK be monitoring traffic for actual binaries and source code? Will the arrest people that use encryption they can't break? Will they arrest people for sending garbage data that looks like encrypted data but isn't and therefore can't decrypt? As the government gets more totalitarian, I think we will see even regular people training themselves in encryption and its proper uses. It's inevitable as people have more and more to lose. Once life, limb, and property are at stake, people either become competent or become victims, and people are generally a lot more competent than they appear when high stakes are on the line.

Of course, UK companies will be hurt. They won't be able to do a lot of business internationally. UK citizens will have their information stolen in massive data breaches. Bank accounts and identities will be compromised. Many accounts that are not with UK companies will be compromised because of password reuse. Cameron doesn't have to ban ALL strong encryption. Whatever systems he bans it in, will be compromised. That's inevitable. At the same time, the people don't have to put up with it. Stop online banking with banks that don't use strong encryption. Request paper bills. Clog up phone lines. Pay in cash if possible. These are all things a regular person could do in the event that strong encryption is banned that if done by even a small percentage will increase costs quite a bit. It may not get the law reversed, but it might get companies on the side of people if they have to cut paper bills again at a 10-100x cost over electronic ones, for example.

tl;dr: Governments will spy and people will use strong encryption regardless of the law as privacy is a human right and oftentimes necessary to survival. Businesses and convenience will suffer greatly.

tome 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Good old Mythic Beasts. Very happy customer here!
LAX becomes largest U.S. airport to allow Uber, Lyft pickups latimes.com
172 points by denzil_correa  3 days ago   120 comments top 13
SovietDissident 3 days ago 15 replies      
I used to live in Playa del Rey, which is maybe 10 minutes from LAX. There's a minimum fare for cabs of something like $17, which I was forced to pay. But the worst part was that every freaking time the cab driver would give me attitude for the short fare (ostensibly because they have to wait in that long line). What do you want me to do? Walk an hour home carrying my luggage? Uber and Lyft are a complete blessing.

Despite all these taxi regulations which are supposedly there to protect the consumer, all they did was create an entrenched oligopoly, where taxi companies were complacent because they basically lacked competition and didn't have to increase the quality of their service. But now that people have an alternative and are eschewing cab services in droves, they are crying bloody murder. Stop blaming the consumer, lobby to get rid of the medallion/regulatory model, and get ready to finally compete (or perish)!

ransom1538 2 days ago 3 replies      
My wife had a girls trip in Chicago. She made the error of just getting a "cab" and not using her UBER app. It turns out, what she got into was some kind of cab that didn't have a till. The driver was angry she didn't have cash, drove her around to an ATM, demanded $100, refused to let her have her items out of the trunk. Personally, I am no longer comfortable with her getting into cabs or non-uber black cars - it is becoming unsafe. If that driver decided to do something -- he would be off the grid.
jedberg 3 days ago 3 replies      
It was already allowed. I took an Uber from LAX a few weeks ago.

The catch was that they had to buy a $5 "temporary taxi license" (that Uber paid for) when they came in for each ride, which delayed them 5 minutes. Now they won't have to stop, which is nice.

xasos 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm assuming that LAX is the largest U.S. airport to allow regular Uber pickups?

You can request an UberTaxi or Uber Black car at ORD [0], which is the second largest airport in terms of traffic in the world [1].

[0] https://www.facebook.com/uber/posts/601574873216135[1] http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20140924/BLOGS02/1409...

mayneack 3 days ago 1 reply      
> To work at the airport, drivers cannot have convictions for reckless driving, hit and run, driving under the influence, sexual crimes or terrorism

I get that some of these are sort of taxi or driver specific and that the rules are a little odd anyway, but it seems that murder should be on this list too?

pbreit 3 days ago 4 replies      
What are the main, reasonable arguments for disallowing paid airport pickups? Safety? Traffic? Control?
unknownzero 3 days ago 0 replies      
Somewhat off-topic, it's interesting the article lists LAX as the third busiest airport, when I googled to see what the first two were out of curiosity it was shown right in the search results as the second busiest. That data on google appears to come from the wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_busiest_airports_i... for "Busiest US airports by total passenger boardings". LAX then appears to be listed as fourth busiest in "30 busiest US airports by total passenger traffic". These numbers obviously vary by year and it seems the one google picked up was from preliminary FAA data. No idea why this stuck out to me but for some reason I want to know why the author settled on third busiest here out of the myriad choices.
unabridged 3 days ago 2 replies      
How can they tell the difference between an Uber driver and a friend I called to pick me up?
ChrisNorstrom 3 days ago 3 replies      
How to get around Uber Airport bans: Take a taxi ride just outside the airport and from there get an Uber ride. It's still much cheaper.

Perfect Example: Orlando International Airport, is a jail. It has no sidewalks leading in or out of the airport. It's about 1 mile of 60mph road and ramps leading in and out of the airport with NO shoulders and NO sidewalks. Look it up on Google Maps. It's impossible to leave. After 11pm I arrive and the buses are not working, friend can't pick me up. A 6 mile taxi ride is $55 dollars! Uber ride is about $12. I try to hop on the Parking Spot / Rental car shuttles to get just outside the airport ban radius but they've caught on and no one will let me on. I'm not paying $55.

So I just grabbed a taxi and had him drop me off just outside the airport at a Denny's. Cost: $13 for 1 mile. Grabbed an Uber for the remainder of the trip which was $11. Paid $24 instead of $55.

mhartl 2 days ago 0 replies      
I usually Uber to the airport and taxi back. The latter costs almost 50% more. If this policy goes through, it will be a welcome change.
DrScump 3 days ago 2 replies      
it will be short-lived unless they overturn this ruling:http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-uber-suspended-2015071...
grapevines 3 days ago 0 replies      
What are the chances that somebody would do LAX to Santa Barbara ?
kkt262 2 days ago 0 replies      
Awesome. Being in LA this is really good news.
Russias Cold War Mapmakers wired.com
165 points by aw3c2  1 day ago   49 comments top 9
huhtenberg 1 day ago 3 replies      
> printed in red, was the Russian word . Secret.

That'd be "". "C" is what pirates print on their treasure maps in kindergarten :)

mashmac2 1 day ago 4 replies      
I have a colleague who flew relief aid missions into Russia in the 70's and 80's, and said the Soviet civilian maps were just terrible - they'd show roads in the wrong places and didn't show secret military bases, etc. He figured this out after accidentally flying over a Soviet army base in what is today eastern Ukraine... and then talked his East German military connection into getting him a copy of the military maps.
temo4ka 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Off topic: is anyone else annoyed by those background-fixed image sections? Because the height of the section is bigger than the height of the viewport while scrolling past those sections it appears for a moment that the page stopped responding; the effect is especially prominent on wide screens.
gtirloni 1 day ago 4 replies      
Guys company, Omnimap, was one of the first to import Soviet military maps to the West.

Import is a huge stretch. More like stealing state secrets (and now admitting to it publicly?).

gaius 1 day ago 0 replies      
If you are interested in wartime mapmaking and are in the UK, I highly recommend a visit to Hughenden


And of course it's free for NT members :-)

ommunist 1 day ago 2 replies      
So and where are IP rights of the still living former Soviet topographers? Is Mapstor paying royalty to specialists still operating at the 5th Cartography Enterprise in Minsk?British have been pirates for ages. Old habits never die.
cpach 1 day ago 0 replies      
Anyone old enough to have lived through those paranoid days of mutually assured destruction will find it a bit disturbing to see familiar hometown streets and landmarks labeled in Cyrillic script.

I was only a child during the Cold War, but yes, a few years ago when I saw one of these Soviet maps of the Swedish Tiveden forest, it felt quite strange. The quality of the map was indeed magnificent.

n0us 21 hours ago 2 replies      
I often struggle to find even the most basic information in online maps. Worse, when I am in a rural area and have no service I find no service at all. I've thought recently about keeping some paper maps in my car for such occasions, might have to look into getting copies of some of these.
olzhas 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Why people don't use USSR instead of Russia? or Soviet Russia?
Intellectual pursuits may buffer the brain against addiction berkeley.edu
152 points by currysausage  1 day ago   55 comments top 18
Devthrowaway80 1 day ago 2 replies      
This just sounds like a rehashing of the famous Rat Park experiments, where happy rats in a good (from a rat's perspective) environment refused morphine, but rats in traditional cages guzzled it. It seems like putting rats through little rat challenges would be stimulating and result in happier rats as well.

I think it's a stretch to say that intellectual activities buffer against addiction. I think the simpler explanation here is just that happiness buffers against addiction, which is not as linkbaity since it is common wisdom in recovery circles and has already been shown in other, more famous experiments.

I did degrees in computer science and pure mathematics, had all sorts of nerdy "intellectual" pursuits and still wound up addicted to alcohol, partly because I was deeply depressed and unhappy with who I was. Anecdotal, true, but I offer it as counterpoint to the handful of "I do nerdy stuff and am not an addict, ergo this article must be correct" comments in here.

Absentinsomniac 1 day ago 3 replies      
This jives with my experience using pretty much everything, including heroin. A high-level unscientific explanation I've had is basically folks prone to addiction feel like heroin or whatever replaces the feelings of success and companionship etc. I made it most of the way through college being an occasional user and passed up opportunity's to get shit because I was focused on a project or had hope of something happening that was exciting in the short term. This is probably a-typical. A lot of guys I knew are dead or fell in without much of an interest in other things. Like they had poor prospects in life.
dpatrick86 1 day ago 1 reply      
Maybe it's because intellectual pursuits are themselves an addiction all their own?


philwelch 1 day ago 2 replies      
Fun fact: cocaine is technically legal in the United States for medicinal and, apparently, research purposes. There is a single US company licensed to import coca leaves: the Stepan Company, which extracts extremely pure cocaine from the coca leaves, sells the spent leaves to the Coca-Cola Company (which uses them as an ingredient) and the cocaine to Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, which is presumably where UC Berkeley sourced the cocaine for this experiment.
CamperBob2 1 day ago 3 replies      
One possible case in point, the mathematician's mathematician Paul Erds, who was said to be a heavy methamphetamine user. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Erd%C5%91s :

 After 1971 he also took amphetamines, despite the concern of his friends, one of whom (Ron Graham) bet him $500 that he could not stop taking the drug for a month.[18] Erds won the bet, but complained that during his abstinence, mathematics had been set back by a month.

ibsufupu 1 day ago 0 replies      
Isn't this the same thing as eating more when you're bored?
task_queue 22 hours ago 0 replies      
This is the most HN sentence available, but:

Sitting down and really learning the internals of a language, it's community and tools enough to construct a large project with competence was definitely significant in my recovery from addiction.

pjc50 1 day ago 0 replies      
tlarkworthy 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is a minor variation of a 1980s result. It's the environment that is the biggest factor in drug use. This study does not disambiguate that it's intellectual pursuits over general higher standard of living. So I question the conclusion but not the effect https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_Park
nicholas73 1 day ago 1 reply      
My addictions are all "intellectual"... stocks, gambling, HN, Starcraft, Wikipedia.

Since I've never had any addiction to substances I assume the above is what I am susceptible to.

I never had problems controlling alcohol and I couldn't even get high on the times I tried [thing you smoke]. I can handle a lot of drinks but I just don't really have that desire unless there are hot girls around. [thing] just gives me a headache only.

pasbesoin 1 day ago 0 replies      
I am coming to the conclusion that addiction is in significant part a symptom rather than a cause.

In my own case, I am not "addicted" in the traditional sense, but following some adverse health events that have not been resolved, I have become more more habituated to using TV and "the Internet" to "tune out". When you are in chronic physical discomfort, it is easy to fall into doing whatever is most convenient and immediately effective to take your attention away from this.

I also ended up in some terribly noisy work and home circumstances (yes, both). This is another stress that one can seek to escape, especially when it is chronic.

And, said stress, as also the physical discomfort described above, severely throttles cognitive ability, in my experience.

TL;DR: It's a slippery slope. Avoid health and environmental issues, before they become chronic, self-reinforcing problems that may lead to behavior that has traditionally been defined as the source problem.

amelius 15 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm wondering why there isn't more research towards reducing the side-effects of drugs.

I mean, drugs are clearly a product that has certain desirable properties. So why aren't we improving the product, rather than trying to keep people away from it?

jmilloy 1 day ago 0 replies      
As others are noting, I suspect you could accurately trim that down to "Pursuits may buffer the brain against addiction." When all you're thinking about is the next bike ride you're going to go on, or how your homebrew cider is going to turn out next week, or what new thing your niece is going to surprise you with... those sorts of things work the reward system well, too.
amsilprotag 1 day ago 0 replies      
I don't think the research does an adequate job differentiating intellectual activity from agency. Is the learning and exploring their substitute for addiction? Or is it the linking of action and effort to reward?

I'd be interested in comparing the inert mice to mice that are rewarded sporadically for a physically demanding but intellectually effortless task, such as running on a mouse wheel. I'd guess the results would be similar.

robobro 1 day ago 0 replies      
A chess master / drug friendly guy once told me that his standard for ways of living relate to his chess game. He said he tried crack for a week or two, and while he was on it, his chess game suffered; that was enough for him to sober up.

Seems like this general principal is how faith can be used to treat alcoholism

infofarmer 1 day ago 0 replies      
OK, so basically memrise.com is the only thing between me and hard drugs. All the more reason to go practice my Mandarin.
contingencies 1 day ago 1 reply      
What about when "daily drill included exploration, learning and finding hidden tasty morsels" becomes the addiction?

Mmm, French cheese.... Belgian beer ...

I just spent three months gallavanting around Europe with my wife and young child, despite being technically homeless. During which time, I successfully quit smoking. However, many people's conservative rational/peer-pressure response to my situation would be "don't spend money" and "buy a house".

Conincidence, or not?

andyidsinga 1 day ago 0 replies      
hmm. I read the title as "incremental pursuits..."

which made me wonder...

The Last Great Steam Car (2006) damninteresting.com
149 points by jmadsen  2 days ago   45 comments top 12
bradleyland 2 days ago 5 replies      
> It is true that the technology poses some difficult problems, but one cannot help but be curious how efficient a steam car might be with the benefit of modern materials and computers.

It's easy to shrug off questions like this, placing them in the category of "if it were feasible, someone would obviously be doing it already", but it's still interesting. Having read a pretty extensively about how steam locomotives work, and some additional reading about steam power in general, it's interesting to read this article and catch small windows in to the overall progress of steam during the era. For example, reading the remarks about closing the steam circuit reminds me of the progress made in condensate and heat recovery developed in steam power at the time. Really remarkable to see that in something as small as a car.

As an academic exercise, I think it'd be really cool to develop a "steam powered auto challenge". Of course, no one is going to get behind it because steam is not a green technology, but sometimes we can learn important lessons from the past. Working on a completely unrelated technology and studying its progress can teach us lessons about the development of current technologies.

Frenchgeek 2 days ago 3 replies      

( 1925 Doble E-20 Steam Car - Jay Leno's Garage )

jackgavigan 2 days ago 0 replies      
As recently as 2008, Scania and Volvo were eyeing steam for powering trucks: http://www.nordicgreen.net/startups/article/ranotor-develop-...
jhallenworld 2 days ago 1 reply      
A Doble engine powered this airplane:


tolmark12 2 days ago 0 replies      
Also interesting, North Korea's wood burning trucks developed out of necessity due to oil sanctions :


jakejake 2 days ago 0 replies      
Was I the only one who saw this as a sorta commentary on how we might be looking at combustion engines in 100 years? It will probably seem ridiculous that we were burning smelly fuel.
rmason 2 days ago 0 replies      
Bill Leer, inventor of the Leer jet, spent millions in the early seventies on a modern steam car as a solution to the oil crisis.


awjr 2 days ago 0 replies      
Steam is primarily an engine driven by gas pressure (as are most combustion engines). I see the compressed air car as an evolution of the Steam car. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compressed_air_car
garagemc2 2 days ago 1 reply      
Probably one of the most interesting articles I've read recently. Well written and to the point. Bookmarked that site.
ryanstanton 2 days ago 1 reply      
Steam is cool, yes, I love the history behind antiques and the insight into their periods of history, but electric is SOOOO much better. Steam does not give instantaneous torque, nor the ability to precisely control individual wheels / motors. I just can't see steam making a comeback.

Electric = exponential

Steam and ICE = incremental

ceequof 2 days ago 1 reply      
Something wrong with the text margins?
mikro2nd 2 days ago 1 reply      
Published 24 October 2006
Google Hires Tech Team from Homejoy, Readies Leap into Home Services recode.net
155 points by coloneltcb  2 days ago   55 comments top 15
dragonwriter 2 days ago 3 replies      
Note that -- in a not untypical for Re/Code demonstration of a near-complete absence of journalistic standards -- the assertion that Google's hiring of (some of) the Homejoy team is about moving into home services is not even attributed to any source or set of sources. The only sourced facts are:

(1) Google is hiring a portion of Homejoy's staff (sourced to Google)

(2) Homejoy's current platform will be shuttered (sourced to completely unspecific "sources", but this is pretty explicit in Homejoy's own public shutdown announcement.)

(3) Google "had set out to enter" the home services space "earlier this year" (sourced to a Buzzfeed article, which actually claimed that Google was in the process of readying an offering in the space, that doesn't indicate the timing of the planned launch, so really doesn't support the past-intention characterization given in the Re/Code article.)

So, Homejoy is shutting down (which we knew), Google has hired some of Homejoy's technical staff, and there were reports a few months back that Google might be readying some product in a space related to (but not identical to) what Homejoy was doing.

slg 2 days ago 8 replies      
This is an interesting move, it seems like an acqui-hire without all the upfront money to actually do the acquiring. I wonder what someone who owned equity in Homejoy would think of this.
nugget 2 days ago 3 replies      
I'm shocked by how quickly Homejoy seems to have folded. It was viewed as a baby Unicorn around Silicon Valley. Hopefully a more detailed post mortum will come out in the press in the next couple weeks.
prawn 1 day ago 0 replies      
You know when you watch movies like Total Recall, or Blade Runner, or play a sci-fi game, and there's that pervasive company that seems bigger than any political super power? That's what I think of when one of the Four Horsemen (especially Google) looks like expanding territory blatantly outside their core offering.

In this case, I'm hoping they're just hiring technical people and not looking at cleaning houses, but it always brings that fictional megacorp to mind and makes me uncomfortable.

rmason 2 days ago 1 reply      
There's a missing piece of the puzzle, on the surface this makes absolutely no sense.
chintan 2 days ago 0 replies      
Well played Google! using your Venture arm to recruit for your internal product.
hkmurakami 2 days ago 0 replies      
Thumbtack is funded by Google Capital. Homejoy was funded by Google Ventures.

I know that the two entities are distinct, so I guess this is Kosher?

cblock811 2 days ago 0 replies      
If Google is actually going to make a move here, I'm all for it. Homejoy was a horrible experience. Housekeepers leaving an hour early (their QA team confirmed this for me) and one stole my medication from the bathroom countertop... If they go under it's their own fault.
afarrell 2 days ago 3 replies      
Why would Google hire only the tech team? Home services seems like the sort of thing that absolutely demands a solid customer service and sales organization.
theseatoms 2 days ago 1 reply      
> "Type in a search query for a cleaner to come to your house; rather than send you to third-party sites, Google would bake the options directly into the top of results."

I remember hearing that Google can't aggressively promote their own services in search results. (Example: When I google "search", the top 4 hits are Yahoo, search.com, AOL, & DuckDuckGo.)

Is this a proactive measure on their part to keep anti-trust regulation at bay, or an established prohibited practice? In the latter case, is there any guidance around where 'the line' is regarding this behavior?

wahsd 1 day ago 0 replies      
Great idea. Hire a bunch of law and regulation flouting failures? I get the whole "you will fail far more than not" but it's not like they were doing something new, they couldn't even manage to take over something as simple as dispatching of cleaning services, let alone set up a cleaning service that didn't abuse its "independent contractors" aka employees.

It's kind of annoying, but hell, Google failed at "Home Services" at least once before, why not hire a couple people who failed at exactly that just a few days ago. It sounds like a winning only-makes-sense-to-google kind of strategy.

lingben 2 days ago 0 replies      
literal 'evil maid' attacks on the horizon

/s ;)

nodesocket 2 days ago 0 replies      
Golden parachutes, they don't just exist in finance.
richkuo 2 days ago 0 replies      
Google 'You dun goofed.'
Intro to RenderMan for Blender pixar.com
138 points by mariuz  2 days ago   71 comments top 6
jetskindo 2 days ago 6 replies      
I know everyone is excited about this but I would like to see the benefits of using it over cycles.

So far I must say cycles is pretty great

manishsharan 2 days ago 9 replies      
Can someone please advise me how to get started with this stuff? I have been developing enterprise applications which is boring to all kids, including my nieces and nephews. I wish I could something with Blender etc. to impress those kids. I have found the documentation to be too intimidating for an absolute newbie. I am looking for a dummies guide for rendering. I am not looking to change careers; just want to pursue this to get an understanding and hook those kids into programming.
mkesper 2 days ago 2 replies      
RenderMan is now free for all non-commercial purposes, including evaluations, education, research, and personal projects. The non-commercial version of RenderMan is fully functional without watermark or limitation. For further details please refer to Pixar's Non-Commercial RenderMan FAQ.http://renderman.pixar.com/view/DP25849

So this is non-free.

julius 2 days ago 0 replies      
Any links to a good comparison of RenderMan vs. Cycles? Performance would be nice to know.
yarrel 2 days ago 0 replies      
Blender is winning.
imaginenore 2 days ago 1 reply      
It gives me no reasons to use it over the standard Cycles renderer.
Designing a Programming Language ducklang.org
155 points by xigency  2 days ago   81 comments top 11
toolslive 2 days ago 2 replies      
"A program written in C can be deployed on virtually any operating system". Let me kill that illusion: While it is possible to write C that can be deployed on virtually any operating system, doing so is quite hard.

Operating systems have different system calls, and even if they are the same family (Linux vs Solaris fe) the semantics can differ. Another thing is that the resolution of the basic primitive types can vary: 'long' is not equally wide on all platforms, heck, even 'char' can be 16 bits on some exotic systems. Anyway, writing portable C is an extra level of complexity. Just write up a little socket server in C and try to get it running on Windows, Linux and Solaris, maybe mix in 32 and 64 bit and see if you still have the same opinion afterwards.

jrapdx3 2 days ago 4 replies      
The article starts out with a simple, incremental approach, pretty easy to grasp the concepts all the way through the discussion of the lexer and digesting the program input.

Then all of a sudden the density of the material accelerates dramatically. The discussion of the parser, and parsing as it applies to the language, becomes very opaque to readers not already familiar with the technologies being described.

It's perfectly OK to proceed that way for a sophisticated audience, but the first part of the article is written at a much more introductory level. An unsuspecting beginner may very likely feel overwhelmed about half-way through, and probably give up at that point.

When I got to the explanation of the AST, no surprise, it was exactly representable as an sexpr, which anyone with a few hours experience with Lisp or Scheme would recognize. Not sure, maybe it would have made more sense to begin with the parsed goal (the AST) and work backwards to explicate how parsing of the original syntax was done.

I guess parsing is a really hard subject to teach, but it's the core idea that the reader needs to grasp to be able to understand PL construction as the author laid it out. A still gentler introduction could be possible, if it doesn't sound so easy to do.

pearle 2 days ago 1 reply      
Jonathon Blow has a great series [1] on YouTube where he's designing and implementing an alternative to C/C++ specifically aimed at meeting the needs of modern game programmers.

It's an interesting watch.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TH9VCN6UkyQ&list=PLmV5I2fxai...

kctess5 2 days ago 0 replies      
Great read - concise yet decently in-depth. Something cool about parsers is how many practical uses there are, and how easy they are to play with.

I decided to learn Go recently, so I first wrote a little parser combinator library (which also returns concrete syntax trees). Then I implemented a little grammar for a shorthand to define parsers, and did the cst -> parser step to make it spit out working parsers. Example here [1] I got it to work for recursively defined context free grammars with some fun [2] deferred function reference trickery.

I haven't decided what to do next, but I've been kicking around the idea of writing a notation to describe cst -> ast conversion. That way one could easily define parsers that generate abstract syntax trees (which can be much easier to perform high level graph manipulations on then the underlying cst.) This, paired with a lexer, could be used for quite a few practical applications, including writing special-purpose languages/compilers.

I'm also interested in investigating the efficiency/time complexity of the library I've made and seeing what can be done to speed things up. I'm fairly sure a few tricks could speed things up significantly. Could be interesting to do some profiling to see how Go is doing with the functional code.

I did this all as a learning exercise/toy project, so I know that there are similar things already out there and that this is a solved problem. I'll might write something about all this once I do something more interesting with it. Eventually I might try to write an optimizing compiler...

[1] https://github.com/kctess5/Go-lexer-parser/blob/master/main....[2] https://github.com/kctess5/Go-lexer-parser/blob/master/parse...

keedot 2 days ago 1 reply      
I accept that some people don't know how, or don't want to dedicate the time to making a responsive site. I get that, I have sites that don't make sense in mobile, so we don't bother with a mobile design. But don't take away the ability to zoom on mobile if you don't. You lose a good portion of your audience.
arundelo 2 days ago 1 reply      
"Additionally, there are certain types of circular references that may never be freed under this scheme, although that's not a huge concern to look at from the start."

Early versions of PHP were released in the late 90s, with PHP 4, the first Zend Engine version, released in 2000. The first PHP that didn't leak cycles (PHP 5.3.0) was released in 2009. Beware of how long "not a huge concern to look at from the start" can last.



charriu 2 days ago 2 replies      
I think the first section confuses a couple of things.

First, a program can be compiled (static) or interpreted (dynamic) as stated in the article. However, that does not mean that you can't have a dynamic type system in a compiled language, or vice versa.

Also, if you add type inference, the examples given for variables in dynamic languages are perfectly valid examples for variables in a language with a static type system (the type would just be defined on first assignment).

sklogic 2 days ago 1 reply      
Nice. But, as usual, a bit too much emphasis on syntax and parsing - the least important part of the language. Semantics and intermediate representations are much more important. Also, not quite convinced about the choice of C vs. LLVM IR.
bigtunacan 2 days ago 9 replies      
Designing a programming language is something I've found very interesting for the past few years now, but this is the one area of programming that really still eludes me and seems unapproachable. I've been through Understanding Computation, but at a certain point I just no longer understood what the hell was going on I was just typing in the examples.

I have the Principles of Compiler Design book and I've made a run at that a couple of times, but it seems to theoretical for me to do anything useful with it.

I've been thinking about taking a go at creating something with ANTLR alone with the books The Definitive ANTLR 4 Reference and Language Implementation Patterns, but I'm not sure if I'll have much more luck there.

If anyone knows of a better path to get from here (can't design my own language) to there (clarity and understanding) I would love to hear your ideas.

I'm not trying to create the next Rust, JavaScript, etc... I just believe that being able to implement my own language would give me a deeper understanding. In fact I'm very much interested in the idea of reimplementing an interpreter or compiler for languages I already work with as a way of learning this rather than trying to create something new.

amelius 2 days ago 1 reply      
Anybody know the difference between the "green" and the "red" dragon book?
dummy7953 2 days ago 1 reply      
I really wish more help from human-computer interaction & cognitive psychologists would be used to design a programming language.

The programming language is (to me) the most expensive part of a system, because it determines how the coder works & interacts with the system. And the human resources involved in building the system are the most expensive (besides those used to maintain and run it daily).

There must be symbols used to write code that are more easy to cognitively process than others. There must be keywords that are easier to memorize than others. There must be ways to write a statement that are less prone to error than others. Let's start working on this important and neglected problem.

Must Be This Tall to Write Multi-Threaded Code bholley.net
144 points by mnemonik  2 days ago   107 comments top 29
jandrewrogers 2 days ago 3 replies      
The problems with traditional multi-threaded concurrency go beyond just complexity and safety. They also offer relatively poor performance on modern hardware due to the necessarily poor locality of shared structures and context switching, which causes unnecessary data motion down in the silicon. Whether or not "message passing" avoids this is dependent on the implementation.

Ironically, the fastest model today on typical multi-core silicon looks a lot like old school single-process, single-core event-driven models that you used to see when servers actually had a single core and no threads. One process per physical core, locked to the core, that has complete ownership of its resources. Other processes/cores on the same machine are logically treated little different than if they were on another server. As a bonus, it is very easy to distribute software designed this way.

People used to design software this way back before multithreading took off, and in high-performance computing world they still do because it has higher throughput and better scalability than either lock-based concurrency or lock-free structures by a substantial margin. It has been interesting to see it make a comeback as a model for high concurrency server software, albeit with some distributed systems flavor that was not there in the first go around.

bsder 2 days ago 4 replies      
Sigh. What's wrong with using lock-free data structures?

Go study java.util.concurrent. It's one of the absolute best libraries ever written by some of the smartest programmers I have ever seen.

The primary question is "Do I really need to wait or do I just need to be consistent?" 90% of the time the answer is that consistent is good enough.

Lock-free data structures are not a panacea. They don't always do as well as locks in the face of contention. However, if you have that much contention, congratulations, you have an actual spot you really need to optimize.

By default, though, lock-free data structures protect you from so much fail it's ridiculous. I don't dread concurrent programming if I have a good lock-free data structure library.

That having been said, if you really have to wait (normally for hardware access), then you MUST do certain things. Your "lock" MUST be as small as possible--if it isn't "lock with timeout", "single small action that always goes to completion even if error occurs", "unlock"--YOU HAVE FAILED. START OVER. Also, note the "timeout" portion of the lock. "Timeout" MUST be handled and IS NOT NECESSARILY AN ERROR.

Now, these don't get all the situations. People who need "transactions" have hard problems. People who have high contention have hard problems.

However, I can count the number of times I genuinely needed to deal with contention or transactions on one hand and still have two fingers left over.

Whereas, I have lost count of the number of times that I cleared out all manner of bugs simply by switching to a lock-free data structure.

smegel 2 days ago 2 replies      
I've written a lot of multi-threaded code, but I don't think I've written ANY multi-threaded code that doesn't involve queues passing objects (hopefully safely) between threads. As in, no locks, no semaphores, no accessing shared state between threads (OK apart from an global flag structure that just set various error conditions encountered and was only interacted with by atomic get/set operations and where order of access was never important). Adding a lock to a program is like a huge red flag - stop everything and really think about what you are doing.
tormeh 1 day ago 1 reply      
People: There are solutions to this shit. If you're building a distributed system or need to deal with loss of data regardless, use actor systems (Erlang or Akka). If you need something that's not quite as probabilistic and are willing to handle deadlocks use CSP (Go or Rust). If you need absolute determinism and you're willing to pay for it in performance use SRP (Esterel or possibly maybe at your own risk Cu).

If you need shitstains in your underwear use locks and semaphores.

nickpsecurity 1 day ago 0 replies      
Sounds like they're just using the wrong tools. Eiffel's SCOOP model[1] made things a lot easier back around '95. They've been improving on it since, with a lot of great work recently [2]. Various modifications proved absence of deadlocks, absence of livelocks, or guarantee of progress. I believe a version was ported to Java. A few modern variants have performance along lines of C++ w/ TBB and Go.

What are the odds that it could be ported to a restricted use of C++ language, I wonder?

Note: Ada's concurrency strategy also prevented quite a few types of errors. They're described in this article [3] on ParaSail, a language designed for easy concurrency that goes much further.

[1] http://cme.ethz.ch/scoop/

[2] http://cme.ethz.ch/publications/

[3] http://www.embedded.com/design/programming-languages-and-too...

Animats 1 day ago 1 reply      
The main problem with multithreaded programming is that most languages are clueless about threads and locks. They were an afterthought in C, and were viewed as an operating system primitive, not a language primitive. The language has no clue what data is locked by which lock. There's no syntax to even talk about that. Of course concurrency in C and C++ gets messed up.

Rust has a rational approach to shared data protection. Shared data is owned by a mutex, and you must borrow that mutex to access the data. You can have N read-only borrowers, or one read-write borrower. The borrow checker checks that at compile time. This gives us an enforceable way to think about who can access what.

SCHiM 2 days ago 1 reply      
I got quite frustrated when I read this article. That's because this article, and the many others like this, confuse the real issue.

This article, and those like it, all state that the problem with multi-threading and synchronization is inherent to the programing paradigm/language/architecture you're using:

> "Buggy multi-threaded code creates race conditions, which are the most dangerous and time-consuming class of bugs in software"

> "because the traditional synchronization primitives are inadequate for large-scale systems."

Ok. Fair enough, now tell us why that is so.

I get quite annoyed when the author then proceeds to turn it all around by saying this:

> "Locks dont lend themselves to these sorts of elegant principles. The programmer needs to scope the lock just right so as to protect the data from races, while simultaneously avoiding (a) the deadlocks that arise from overlapping locks and (b) the erasure of parallelism that arise from megalocks. The resulting invariants end up being documented in comments:"

> "And so on. When that code is undergoing frequent changes by multiple people, the chances of it being correct and the comments being up to date are slim."

Implying that the real problem with locks/threading/synchronization is actually communication, proper documentation discipline, programmer skill (soft and hard).

Of-course I'm not saying that the process of using primitive synchronization methods can't be abstracted over to make it easier to write _proper_ multi threaded code. It's just that this really feels like subjective politicking very much like the aversion to (proper use of) goto() in C/C++ code.

SEMW 2 days ago 1 reply      
> In this approach, threads own their data, and communicate with message-passing. This is easier said than done, because the language constructs, primitives, and design patterns for building system software this way are still in their infancy

"Still in their infancy"? That's basically a description of Erlang's concurrency model, almost three decades old now.

Is there a concurrency equivalent of Spencer's law -- something along the lines of "Those who do not understand Erlang are doomed to reinvent it"?

rayiner 2 days ago 2 replies      
It's much easier to use threads than to use them properly. Arguably, the stricture's of Rust's type system makes it harder to use threads. But it makes it almost impossible to use threads improperly. Both are probably good things.

I have seen some real doosies writing multithreaded code. We had a relatively simple data analysis project that took in spectrum measurements from a piece of hardware, logged them, did some basic visualizations, and allowed for controlling the hardware. Each of these functions ran in one or more threads. Imagine my surprise when I saw lots of uses of CreateThread but nary a call to WaitForSingleObject or even EnterCriticalSection. I think there may have been a Boolean flag to "coordinate" a pair of producer/consumer threads.

steven2012 1 day ago 2 replies      
I hate blog posts like this.

You get one guy, who is seemingly very smart, and he says basically "Don't do multithreading, it's very hard. Only an elite few, such as me, can do this right, so most of you out there DON'T DO IT!"

It's bullshit. Mainly because it's no harder than anything else, and has just as much pitfalls as every other type of programming. Yes, to a certain degree multithreading is hard, but it's not rocket science. But PROGRAMMING is hard. Not just multithreaded programming. There's nothing very special about multithreaded programming that should scare off people from trying it. Sure, you might fuck up, but that's

For example, our entire company was almost completely brought down a few months ago by our "architect" implementing a feature so poorly that it caused massive system instability. What was this feature? It essentially boiled down to a 1 or a 2. Customer accounts were tagged with either a 1 or a 2, an it's supposed to take a different code path for each, but he made it so fucking complicated and he didn't do his due diligence, the entire weight of his code cause significant downtime, and a customer that accounts for 60% of our revenues almost walked. And none of this is rocket science.

Of course, I worked at another company where one engineer thought "oh, asynchronous APIs are faster than synchronous APIs" so they implemented the entire API asynchronously. Of course, that required mutexes on the server side. And then more mutexes. And it got to the point where the performance was hell because of the unintended consequences of trying to make things faster. You would write a new API and the server would barf saying "You took the locks in the wrong order" but there was no indication of you ever doing anything wrong. It was a mess. So I get what the OP is saying, but it's not specific to just multithreadedness. I bet the same programmer would have made a mess of a single-threaded app as well. They are just shitty or careless programmers.

If you're careful, multithreaded programming is helpful and you can see some significant performance boosts from it. But like every other paradigm in programming, don't overuse it. A judicious use of simple multithreaded programming might help a lot, but there are few apps that benefit from an extremely complex system with hundreds of threads, massive amounts of mutexes, etc.

nbardy 1 day ago 0 replies      
It seems like the key to writing current code is to abandon the idea of understanding how to construct a concurrent architecture and to figure out how to adopt a pattern concurrent which provides certain guarantees. Often it is something baked into the language, but frequently it is a library. This is one of the reasons I'm so thrilled with Clojure.

1) Because it has STM baked in and there is a core library for CSP.

2) Because it is a lisp so adding foreign syntax is as simple as a library and doesn't need to be a language extension.

chipsy 2 days ago 1 reply      
The article's style got me into a ranting mood. I don't want "allusion links" that surface vapid text like "new superpowers" or "never ending stream of goodness". You are forcing me to click on them to know WTF you mean.
tsotha 1 day ago 1 reply      
It's really not that hard to write multi-threaded code. I just laugh when I read articles like this - I've been doing it for more than fifteen years now. By taking a tool like that away from your team you're stunting their growth and your product.
mannykannot 2 days ago 0 replies      
"The resulting invariants end up being documented in comments."

There's your problem. If you are going to use locks, you need a wider view of the system than you get at the source-code level. It is doable, but there is a big impedance mismatch between this approach to software development and agile methods.

jondubois 2 days ago 2 replies      
Thread-based concurrency has no future. It's complex and it doesn't scale beyond a certain point. Process-based concurrency is relatively simple (especially if your programming language has good async support) and it can scale indefinitely.

The one advantage of threads is that the overhead is lower when operating at low concurrency.But it's like algorithmic complexity, people only care about growth in complexity not about the initial offset.

zzzcpan 2 days ago 0 replies      
> However, these programmers arent fleeing concurrency itself - theyre fleeing concurrent access to the same data.

He's not wrong.

Modern real world example: Golang authors designed net library in a such way, that everyone who uses it has to think about concurrent access to shared mutable states. Which is hard and unnecessary. Event loops never had this problem, but for some reason got labeled "non idiomatic" by Golang folks.So I had to implement event loop myself.

atsaloli 1 day ago 0 replies      
Sigh. No mention of logic verification that there are no race conditions. Problem has been solved by Dr Holzmann at JPL http://www.verticalsysadmin.com/making_robust_software/
zubirus 2 days ago 0 replies      
>> In this approach, threads own their data, and communicate with message-passing.

This is the same paradigm as MPI, the message parsing interface. Using it, you also get for free the ability to deploy your "threaded" code in distributed memory architectures. But any person who had just a bit of experience with this standard can tell you how tedious is to develop a parallel code with it. Maybe this is product of the paradigm or just the verbosity of the API (see for example: http://www.mpich.org/static/docs/v3.1/www3/MPI_Alltoallv.htm...).I wish there was some sort of OpenMP or Intel TBB equivalent for MPI to ease out the pain.

aidenn0 2 days ago 0 replies      
My dad said he had to read Hoare when he got his M.S. in the eary '80s, and that half the people who read it didn't understand it, and half the people who understood it ignored it. It's 30 years later and people are still using crappy synchronization primitives.
ddmills 2 days ago 1 reply      
There is a relatively new actor-like language called paninij[1] which uses the idea of 'capsules'. I have been developing a java annotation based version of it called `@PaniniJ`. Capsule oriented programming enforces modular reasoning, which in turn allows the code to be transformed automatically into multithreaded goodness.

[1] http://paninij.org/[2] https://github.com/hridesh/panini

rpcope1 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think you really ought to have to read Little Book of Semaphores before you're allowed to touch multi-threaded code. [1]

[1] - http://www.greenteapress.com/semaphores/downey05semaphores.p...

ArkyBeagle 2 days ago 0 replies      
I am utterly ignorant of what Gecko looks like, but in largerish realtime embedded work, things always seem to end up in more formal design methodologies utilizing transactional models such as message sequences ( frequently expressed in charts. )
kabdib 1 day ago 0 replies      
Coroutines are great stuff. Being able to yield for an async result and then wake up later, without having to do expensive and buggy lock rendezvous nonsense, is manageable and scalable.
hyperpallium 1 day ago 0 replies      
Shared-nothing message passing is an answer, as used in Erlang, but I seem to recall reading that race and deadlock can still occur, just at a higher level.
MCRed 1 day ago 1 reply      
Erlang and Elixir solved this problem. I only write multi-threaded code in very limited cases when it makes sense to split processing out of UI on mobile devices.

Everywhere else I use Elixir, and I write multi-process code and I don't think twice about it.

And I never run into problems.

I'm really feeling like people keep choosing tools that haven't solved the problem, or even tried to, and then thinking that the problem is perennial.

It was solved a long time ago by erlang.

opnitro 2 days ago 0 replies      
Just so you know, this is broken on ios-safari. I love the title though.
zobzu 1 day ago 0 replies      
Love this sign, too bad I heard its gone
bronz 2 days ago 2 replies      
What is racing?
batou 2 days ago 1 reply      
Run this in your browser's console window to make it actually scrollable without playing find the sodding scrollbar:

 document.getElementById("contentpane").style.width = "100%"

What is the most ridiculous aircraft design? quora.com
147 points by anigbrowl  2 days ago   54 comments top 27
cc438 1 day ago 2 replies      
I know of one plane so crazy that it has to make this list even though it never left the drawing board, the Lippisch P.13A.

We all know the Nazis had crazy ideas, we know that had overambitious ideas, this is one of those crazy AND overambitious ideas that kinda, sorta made sense. It was a delta winged, pyramid shaped, supersonic interceptor powered by a coal-fueled ramjet: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lippisch_P.13a

It was basically an amalgamation of half-baked construction and propulsion ideas but the aerodynamic principles were fundamentally sound and incredibly advanced for their time. The aero research and data from this program was used with great effect by the US and USSR. It was basically the common ancestor from which all future delta-wing designs evolved.

ykl 1 day ago 5 replies      
One of the aircraft named is the Kalinin K-7 [1], which is a favorite ridiculous aircraft of mine. It's the most literally "flying fortress" looking aircraft ever made. The design process for the K-7 was "add engines until it flies".

Basically, the Kalinin K-7 was an attempt to build an extremely heavy, high capacity aircraft before the jet engine was introduced. As a result, the entire plane is prop-driven, and the plane has a crap-ton of engines. There's 6 on the leading edges of the wings, but when it turned out 6 wasn't enough, they just started adding engines anywhere they could until the thing flew. By the end, there were the 6 original engines on the leads of the wings, plus 4 more engines on top of the wings and two more on each side of the cockpit/cabin.

For some more reading/pictures, see [2][3].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalinin_K-7

[2] https://www.warhistoryonline.com/military-vehicle-news/serio...

[3] http://www.fiddlersgreen.net/models/aircraft/Kalinin-K7.html

TheOtherHobbes 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'll vote for the Lippisch Aerodyne. Picture here:


Arguably an update of the Stipa-Caproni from the 1930s:


tim333 1 day ago 1 reply      
Not super ridiculous but I thought the x32 which was Boeings competitor for the F35 was a bit silly looking. Also it came close to being the trillion dollar everyone must have it project if it had beat the F35 in testing.


georgerobinson 1 day ago 1 reply      
If you look at the Super Guppy with it's loading bay open [1] you can't help but wonder where they put all the wiring and hydraulics between the cockpit and the rest of the plane?

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aero_Spacelines_Super_Guppy#/m...

darkhorn 1 day ago 1 reply      
WalterBright 1 day ago 1 reply      
The asymmetric designs were to counteract the torque from the single engine.
SAI_Peregrinus 1 day ago 0 replies      
The Custer Channel Wing is one of the strangest looking.


dkraft 1 day ago 0 replies      

EVERY NOW AND then a new aircraft design comes along that just makes you shake your head, wondering where to start. The Oliver Hexplane is one of those designs.


tfigment 1 day ago 1 reply      
My favorite is the Flettner aeroplane since it uses the Magnus effect [1][2] as it generates lift without a wing. Screenshot linked in the original post [3].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnus_effect[2] https://youtu.be/2OSrvzNW9FE[3] https://www.quora.com/Whats-the-most-ridiculous-aircraft-des...

glabifrons 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm surprised the Pond Racer [0] isn't in there. With its (relatively) huge engine nacelles way out front dragging the tiny cockpit way in the back, I swear it's got to be the inspiration for the "pod racers" in Star Wars.

I'm also surprised to see the Proteus and X29 in the list.The Proteus was quite a ground-breaker and doesn't look too strange if you've seen a few gliders.I remember seeing the X29 on the front cover of (I think) Popular Science back in the day, and thought it was a beautiful design. Highly efficient, highly maneuverable, and I think this was the one with a vertical canard (under the pilot, not visible in most pictures) that allowed it to corner flat (for improved visibility during dogfights).

I think the Edgley Optica looks like something from Lexx, the Bartini Beriev VVA-14 belongs in a video game and the Handley-Page Victor belongs in Agents of Shield!

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0p7iNuTe3w0

Shivetya 1 day ago 0 replies      
I always was fascinated by the X-29 simply because it could not be flown without computers to make up to forty adjustments a second to keep it airborne. Hence the limitations imposed by the programming kept it from being as agile as many had hoped.

I have to wonder, if in drone form where crashing would not result in a pilot death could it live up to its supposed hype because its programming restrictions could be lifted to the point of it being always in near crash

hamiltonians 1 day ago 0 replies      
Spruce Goose, although the design conventional, was an oddity both for its size, very limited use, and backstory.
akamaka 1 day ago 0 replies      
I would add the 1930s Gee Bee Racer. It won many races, but it was essentially like strapping the pilot onto a big engine, with barely any wings and tiny control surfaces, and it frequently crashed.


digikata 1 day ago 0 replies      
My favorite is the Vought V-173 (and XF5U). Also known as the flying pancake (or flying flapjack).




Simple structurally, awkward looking on the ground, slow takeoff/landing speeds. Because of takeoff/landing dynamics I wonder if it would have been a safer platform for small civil aircraft. Though who knows how it would handle losing an engine.

aaron695 1 day ago 0 replies      
I find it incredibly sad that anyone would think these planes are ridiculous. Very fkn cool would be my thoughts.

But I'll switch my brain to thinking people are just using this poorly worded question bagging out hackers as a springboard for cool things people have tried (And some of them successful)

Back on topic always remember flying cars have been around or almost 100 years, it's not a technical problem -


7952 1 day ago 4 replies      
I wonder if we will ever see more use of rockets in aircraft design? With improvements in manufacturing (like 3d printed parts), simulation, cleaner fuels and better control (SpaceX) it could open up new possibilities.
tzs 1 day ago 0 replies      
Cracked.com put together a pretty good list here: http://www.cracked.com/article_18839_7-planes-perfectly-desi...
dangerboysteve 21 hours ago 0 replies      
OMG: 14) De Lackner HZ-1 Aerocycle flying platform, designed to carry one soldier to reconnaissance missions (1954).

So you are basically standing on top of a large blender.

danmaz74 1 day ago 0 replies      
There's a short documentary on the Martini Beriev VVA-14 on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZgWjxYTJS8

At least here we can see the wings, which aren't shown in the wikipedia article!

kinofcain 1 day ago 0 replies      
Not surprising to see Burt Rutan/Scaled Composites highly represented.


kumarski 1 day ago 0 replies      
Ekranoplans are the most unusual looking ones.
ChuckMcM 1 day ago 0 replies      
And here I thought it was going to be the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter :-)
dylanrw 22 hours ago 0 replies      
It's a veritable KSP gallery in there.
wahsd 1 day ago 1 reply      
It's amazing that with all that "experimental" stuff, the design of planes really has not changed much. I am sure there are certain things that were learned, but I also cannot get past the notion that there is a more appropriate method for initiating and supporting research.

I get that people's common refrain is "you never know what comes out of research", but I think that is also too easily used as an excuse to not apply some diligence and rigor. There are both real and virtual hangars chocked full of research that should never have been funded for a while host or reasons. I guarantee that a society that figures out how to more deliberately direct R&D funding will surpass the USA in technological advancement.

Does anyone know of any efforts to quantify the rate of return on R&D? I suspect that an honest calculation would invoke "abysmal" and "atrocious".

enraged_camel 1 day ago 1 reply      
At first I thought this was going to be a joke about the F-35.

Then I remembered Hacker News hates jokes.

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