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In Memoriam: Ian Murdock docker.com
1439 points by spb   ago   365 comments top 78
1
dang 3 days ago 0 replies      
We've closed this thread to comments by new accounts because of trolls.

If you have a new account and want to comment here, you're welcome to email us at hn@ycombinator.com.

2
dankohn1 4 days ago 0 replies      
I worked with Ian when he was CTO and I was COO of the Linux Foundation. With the Executive Director, Jim Zemlin, and a few others, we helped build the LF from the challenging merger of OSDL and the Free Standards Group.

He was thoughtful, funny, hard working, and incredibly well-connected in the free (and commercial) software communities. I will miss him.

3
spb 4 days ago 5 replies      
Also, for those who weren't previously acquainted: Ian was the "ian" in Debian, the Linux distro he created which is the basis for Ubuntu. He started work at Docker in November, which is why they are publishing this.
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xtat 4 days ago 1 reply      
I like this better than the docker post. https://bits.debian.org/2015/12/mourning-ian-murdock.html
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eddieroger 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is terrible. I met Ian when we worked at the same company for a bit, and he was a great man by my interactions with him. Just heartbreaking to read.

He went on a tirade the other night on Twitter after what he reported was a run-in with the police. The tweets got more incoherent as the evening went on, but it read like he was backing down from suicide. Since the linked release doesn't say that and it looks like he closed his Twitter, I guess we don't really know what went down. He also doesn't seem to have published the promised blog post. What a shame. I wish he'd found the help he was looking for.

6
segmondy 4 days ago 5 replies      
It really bothers me that traces of someone's existence can be wiped out with a mouse click, be it on twitter, google, facebook, or other sites. I read the tweets while this was going on, I was hoping he would find some other means to cope and raise awareness, and to hear that he actually went through with it. :-( I go to reread and see if there's anything I might have missed and his twitter page is gone as if he never existed.
7
minimaxir 4 days ago 3 replies      
Previous thread about Ian Murdock: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10803924

This news is, tragically, new information. :(

8
Quasimoto3000 4 days ago 2 replies      
Is this at all related to his statement on suicide and police brutality? What was the cause of death?

Source: http://techaeris.com/2015/12/28/debian-founder-ian-murdocks-...

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xtat 4 days ago 0 replies      
Ian was one of the kindest folks I've ever met. The tweets leading up to his death are troubling and I hope we get some answers http://pastebin.com/yk8bgru5
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r721 4 days ago 1 reply      
>Michael Morisy filed this request with the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States of America.

>From: Michael Morisy

>Subject: None

>To Whom It May Concern:

>This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request the following records:

>A copy of the FBI's files on computer programmer Ian Murdock (28 April 1973 28 December 2015).

https://www.muckrock.com/foi/united-states-of-america-10/fbi...

11
spang 4 days ago 1 reply      
Super sad to hear about this, as the Debian project has been hugely influential on my life. (It's the reason I went to MIT and became a software engineer.) Rest in peace, Ian.
12
ianamartin 4 days ago 0 replies      
I have little to say about this.

It's incredibly sad, whatever happened. I've felt the loss from many people in my life leaving too soon. We all have. Sometimes it's suicide, sometimes it's a car accident. Sometimes it's cancer. Sometimes people just get old and die. Sometimes people get mugged by thugs. Or Police. Maybe there isn't a difference between the last two.

But it doesn't matter right now. The process of justice is a slow-moving wheel. Sometimes it doesn't move at all. Sometimes it moves the wrong way.

For better or worse, that wheel is not in the hacker community's hands. Keep records, remember what you saw happening. But it's far too soon to expect anything concrete.

Instead, I think it's reasonable to think of what the family has to say. At least for right now.

So I offer this:

I use Ian Murdock's work every day at my job and every evening when I'm just playing around with stuff.

Debian has been the single most important technology that propelled and directed my career and my creative life since I started creating things with technology.

This person, who I never had the opportunity to meet, affected my life in amazing ways by giving me tools I never had and didn't have the ability to imagine.

Thank you, Ian Murdock.

13
goddess_divine 4 days ago 0 replies      
My heart goes out to his friends and family. The pain he was in must have been unbearable. I'm so sad that he felt this was the best way to find peace. It's a great loss to the community. hugs
14
cs702 4 days ago 1 reply      
Very sad.

We all owe him a debt of gratitude for the creation of Debian, the most widely used GNU/Linux distribution today.[1]

Does anyone here actually know what happened?

--

[1] Ubuntu is based on Debian: https://www.debian.org/misc/children-distros

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cm3 4 days ago 1 reply      
Even though I've used Debian in the Linux 2.x days, I'll always associate Ian with OpenSolaris and the opening of DTrace and ZFS first and foremost. Thanks for all the great gifts you gave us, Ian.
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samstave 4 days ago 2 replies      
I too have suffered from abuse from cops here in the bay area - specifically the city of Alameda, and one cop in particular.

I also suffer from depression, and have struggled with inappropriate thoughts due to my experience with police.

It is sad that he has apparently actually committed suicide - as I would have loved to join him in his fight against state abuse.

I wish I would have had the opportunity to work with / support this effort.

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warp416 4 days ago 1 reply      
I love Debian, and all OSS/Linux stuff, and I'm just really really sad. I don't know why people want to speculate on all the twitter stuff. I'm just gonna be sad, and drink some whiskey, and make a toast to a guy who made my life, and millions of other people's lives richer by what he gave the world. To you, Ian. May you find peace and rest. Thank you.
18
redwards510 4 days ago 4 replies      
Well, it appears his arrest was real, not a delusion. This is all the information they had on VINE.

https://www.vinelink.com/vinelink/detailsAction.do?siteId=50...

Offender Name: IAN ASHLEY MURDOCKOffender ID/CDCR:608067Date of Birth:04/28/1973Age: 42Race: WhiteGender: Male

Custody Status: Out of CustodyDate: 12/27/2015Reason:Bonded out

19
rdtsc 4 days ago 9 replies      
Please let's not dig up links or make speculations about what happened.

He was the founder of the Debian project, let's remember him for that or other contributions he's made to the tech community.

Debian has grown to be one of the most well known and popular Linux distribution, used in production, in the cloud, as the base for SteamOS, Ubuntu and other projects. It is and was a major part of what made Linux popular.

20
shmerl 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm Debian user and very grateful for all the wonderful things that Debian enabled, thanks Ian for creating it.

It's very sad when people pass away like that. Aaron Swartz and Ilya Zhitomirskiy also come to mind.

21
LinuxBender 4 days ago 0 replies      
Condolences to his family and loved ones. Words can never truly describe the feeling of losing someone this way.
22
aikah 4 days ago 0 replies      
My thoughts go to his friends and family. I don't want to speculate on what happened I don't think it is the time right now. Thanks for all your contribution Ian Murdock.
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coldtea 4 days ago 1 reply      
His other motivations for his act aside, the deeper societal (as opposed to personal) issue here is police abuse.

This incident shows nicely how this kind of thing can happen to anyone -- even a nice person (as say all who worked with/knew him), with no violent past, having built a huge community project, a family, working in a prominent startup, etc. White, too.

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andersonmvd 4 days ago 0 replies      
"they beat the shit out of me twice, then charged me $25,000 to get out of jail for battery against THEM" @imurdock https://archive.is/KTesC#selection-3101.1-3101.103
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jafingi 4 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, such a tragic loss. One of the reasons why Linux is to widely popular these days (Debian, Ubuntu, etc.).

Amazing work he did - he already did more than many people does in their entire lifetime. Life is fragile, appreciate it :-( Rest in peace, Ian.

26
bkuhn 4 days ago 0 replies      
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siculars 4 days ago 0 replies      
It's not lost on me that I'm reading and writing this on an Ubuntu desktop. Thank you, Ian. RIP.
28
dcgudeman 4 days ago 0 replies      
Found a copy of the odd tweets, sounds like he was going through something awful. Hopefully this will bring attention to how we help people experiencing mental health issues.
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gizmo 4 days ago 0 replies      
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mschuster91 4 days ago 2 replies      
Eh, @dang, can we get a black bar in Ian's honor, please?
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danielvf 3 days ago 0 replies      
The Debian manifesto, written by Ian can be found here.

https://www.debian.org/doc/manuals/project-history/ap-manife...

Not only is the manifesto a vision for a better way of doing a Linux distribution, Ian was able to build an organization that was able accomplish the vision.

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cdk 4 days ago 0 replies      
So very sad. Debian is what got me started with Linux. I remember dd'ing base images to floppy disks since the BIOS on the PC I was experimenting on didn't support bootable CDs. From then doing a net install seemed so futuristic at the time.
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tombert 4 days ago 0 replies      
I don't really want to make a comment about the reasons "why", but I do want to say RIP Ian.

I love Debian and it's derivatives. CrunchBang was the first distro I used for more than two days.

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sydney6 4 days ago 0 replies      
I didn't knew Ian, but Debian was the very first Linux Distribution i had come across, at a time, when i didn't even knew what a Linux Distribution was. This experience was the start of "something" that has changed my whole life since then. Literally, not only in terms of my profession.
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mbubb 4 days ago 0 replies      
Debian was the first thing I got to work - I tried to install other distros before that but Debian is the one that worked. Learned about software licenses (early days of trying ot get wifi to work).

I really wish I could do something. I feel acute distress at this news. It is not right.

36
dmurphydrtc 4 days ago 0 replies      
RIP Ian...Like others I find this very disturbing and troubling. I hope the truth comes out.
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innocentoldguy 4 days ago 0 replies      
I only met him once, but I thought Ian was a brilliant and funny man. Debian was the Linux distribution that sang to me, and is where I've spent the better part of the last 20 years. Thanks for all your admirable work, Ian!
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SFjulie1 3 days ago 0 replies      
People's last words stated in the form "please do" are called last wishes.

His last wishes went towards asking the community to push his story to the front page of HN.

Why does the institutions delete information in order to preserve his memory?

I have been in the free software community since 2 decades. Met a lot of developers. We were a tinge more numerous -compared to the era and time- freaks among freaks.

The number of schyzophrenic, LGBT, psychotics, diabetics, aspergers, autists ... outcasts of the society were high 15 years ago. Not all outcasts I will admit. Highly educated ones. Nerds, and geeks like with the true meaning of geeks before silicon valley in a 1984 fashion made it sound cool.

The bullied at school because of invisible differences. At least when you are visibly different you are not alone.

Free software was our haven, a community with strong bonds. I never met him though.

Since linux became "hype" the community has changed. Less freaks, more suits and ties more "opening to visible diversities" but in depth less tolerance towards the differences of the minds.

I am uneasy with the deleting of his posts *. Even though I guess I understand the family. There are so many ways people can be misleaded by his lasts words. Me included.

His lasts words are stinking of loneliness and oddity for me, though. Like a bottle to the sea.

I wish to try to open gently this bottle.

Whatever he wishes to have uncovered my clueless guess is the true nature of facing a world that is violent with a difference and a lack of empathy. Like a psychopathic society. He may not have been a "nerd" or "geek" or bullied at school but he seems to have died like one.

His tweets were long enough before his death. Thousands of people made the news seeable on the internet. Their was time to act. Yet, like for any freaks on the streets that every one sees and have empathy for, every one seemed concerned and no one acted. Liking on fb, talk on TED, news on HN are effectless in the real life.

What I see from the reactions to his last words is ... people are more concerned about being "correct" above all.

I also see his social shell cracking revealing his inner self. I see people close to him more concerned about keeping a nice image of him rather than accepting who he was. As a human. To fail is human, to err is human, to cry is human, to be in pain is human.

But the dark secrets is we all are freaks. And we face our fears and demons -- alone sometimes. Especially when being bullied. Society tends to blame the victims of bullying for their own weaknesses.

As soon as you call for help when fighting your daemons in your own honest language people walk away, by fear, of what? Contamination? Conflict?

My sympathy goes to Ian. My feeling goes to all the people asking for help that are ignored, but for which we make nice posts, hoping someone else will take care of it. (NIB)

I am even feeling myself both a jerk and wishing to respect his lasts words[1] writing this.

Maybe the only thing that we have to look at is at the bottle, and not open it.

A bottle to the sea is a signal to the world, and some are trying to hide this bottle.

In fact, I cowardly will not open the bottle. But I see it. I have the feeling it is important to not negate it.

"i have many stories to tell and do not want them to die with me" he said.

In my point of view not respecting someone's last world is like breaking a geas that bound generations.

What if no one respected the last wishes of Nicolai Copernicus on publishing is thesis?

sapere auso[2].

It is our moral contract to the one who passed away to respect their last wishes, else what will remain of us after our own deaths?

He was a human, he was in pain, he was alone, and that how he died, unable to tell his stories. And even as a complete stranger, I feel for him.

Maybe he was living in delusion. Maybe he was crazy. Maybe he had terrible stories to tell about DSA-1571-1. It is impossible for me to guess the stories he actually wishes to make the front page of HN.

I just read his words and see the pain of a human and respect them as is.

Let's respect the true memory of a man and respect his real last words, not the faade that is given to us.

[1] yes I assume this is him writing. I cannot be sure, but sometimes you have to trust and trust include the risk of being betrayed. Sometimes, [2] you have to dare try to know.

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dman 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is a great loss - he leaves behind a tremendous legacy.
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leandrod 4 days ago 0 replies      
I hope someone writes it up. It seems very strange, and we need to stop what seems to me a suicide wave in the last few years in the free software community.
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bussiere 4 days ago 0 replies      
Fuck , i began to use debian and everyone using tech now own him something i think.

That's a sad thing to hear.Fuck, people like this don't have to leave to soon.

Scheisse.

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2close4comfort 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is truly a loss.
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fredgrott 4 days ago 0 replies      
Sad to hear, my first exposure to Linux was in fact being a student at Purdue and trying one of the early releases of Debian..Ian will be missed
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shirro 4 days ago 0 replies      
Condolences to his friends and family. Ian and the hundreds of Debian maintainers who followed have left an amazing legacy which I use and appreciate every day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines

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rdtsc 4 days ago 0 replies      
I say maybe not doing that. If someone really, really wants to gawk, let them search for it.
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nxnfufunezn 4 days ago 0 replies      
Very Sad to hear this.My heart goes out to his friends and family.Rest in peace, Ian. You will be remembered forever.
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pincubator 4 days ago 2 replies      
I was the OP who posted the first thread which was linking to his life-threatening tweet minutes after he posted it (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10803924). Unfortunately it got deleted just before reaching to frontpage because "We are not going to have a thread to gawk at a human being saying he might kill himself."

Well, I was thinking exactly the opposite of gawking when I posted it. I wanted the community to pay attention, I wanted thousands of people writing him emails/tweets, supporting his fight against the traumatic experience he encountered with the police. So he could see that ending his life isnt the only way to reach out to people about his cause. I feel like we actually closed our ears to what he was trying to say by deleting that thread. What was so wrong about discussing it here as normal human beings? People in that thread were actually discussing his experience about police brutality. From his Twitter logs, you can see that he was tweeting to some Twitter accounts and was asking for help on his cause :( I just feel like it would be nice for him to see himself on front-page of Hackernews and see that community is also outraged by what happened to him. Instead, he was harassed by several random people on Twitter calling him names and wanting him to broadcast his suicide on twitch :(

I don't mean to hurt/blame anyone or any moderator. Maybe I just feel very emotional since I met with Debian when I was 18 and it completely changed my life. I also met with him at a couple of events and he seemed like a nice guy in person, too. I just feel a little responsible for not being able to do anything after reading his tweets :( I do hope that community doesn't let what happened to him forgotten and fight for his cause.

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shripadk 4 days ago 0 replies      
Exactly! His Twitter account is also missing! What is happening? Looks like he contemplated suicide on December 28th according to this article: http://news.softpedia.com/news/founder-of-debian-threatens-s...
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cmdrfred 3 days ago 0 replies      
I use Debian as my daily driver. Thanks Ian.
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jMyles 4 days ago 1 reply      
Holy hell. We are losing so many good people.

When I saw the tweets, I thought he just had a really rough night and was engaging in twitterbole.

What the fuck are we going to do?

51
joe563323 3 days ago 0 replies      
Thats really sad.
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qwertyuiop924 4 days ago 0 replies      
I miss him already.
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rdl 4 days ago 0 replies      
This would seem worthy of black banner on hn.
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bitL 4 days ago 0 replies      
Rest In Peace Ian! Thanks for Debian!

For the rest of you working on free stuff for humanity - go dark now, the times have changed, don't expose yourself in public. And start lifting!

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anupamsr 4 days ago 0 replies      
The most surprising this I find is that there is a person who is known all over the world and who announces to the whole world that he is going to commit suicide and yet there is no support system in place to help him. Is there not a single person who knew where he lived? Who could have visited him? Who could have called him? What a shameful society you guys live in?

This is where women are smart. Random women support random women but men... what a shame...

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mixmastamyk 4 days ago 4 replies      
Hmm, I don't understand this story and links here. Why would a very successful person with family commit suicide over police-brutality? No comprendo.

The appropriate response would be to get even through a court of law, or even paying to have some legs broken if it were justified.

Perhaps he was depressed or mentally ill?

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marincounty 4 days ago 2 replies      
I don't know what happened to him. I know, even as a white male, I have been harassed by police.

I fear police officers. I don't want to be around them. I broke up with someone, once I found out they dated a cop.

I'm not going to speculate on that Tweet. I could see how a bad run-in with the wrong cop, could push a vunerable individual over the line. Yes, I know there's good cops out there. (I saved you a cliche?)

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zem 4 days ago 4 replies      
also docker seems to have taken the post down; the link is 404ing and their main blog posts page doesn't have anything.
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jimrandomh 4 days ago 11 replies      
This was very recent, and the facts are not yet in. The best evidence we have to go on is his most recent tweets, captured on Pastebin (http://pastebin.com/dX3VSPkM). His Twitter account (https://twitter.com/imurdock) seems to have been deleted, which is extremely strange.

Main notes:

* He was repeatedly beaten by the police. He alludes to having taken photos of the injuries, and having been hospitalized, so this will be easily proven.

* His last tweet is "abcolucity i'll tweet it or twitch it or whenever the rufk can i have 30 minutes toe wtie my suittyes ?" This to me strongly suggests a head injury.

* "The rest of my life is to fight against the police.. they are NOT friends, so don't ever ever believe otherwise."

* "watch my blog later http://ianmurdock.com" "I'm not committing suicide today. I'll write this all up first, so the police brutality ENDEMIC in this so call free country will be known." There are no posts about this on his blog.

I believe this was murder: he died from a head injury sustained at the hands of the police. I also believe that the police will rule that it was a suicide; but he made clear future plans which weren't executed, so this will be a lie.

(EDIT: At some point in this saga, Ian's Twitter account got hacked. The deleted account, and the strange last tweet, were probably a result of that.)

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amlgsmsn 4 days ago 3 replies      
Looks like people from 4chan were egging him on on Twitter.

https://archive.is/2Cdj1

https://i.imgur.com/A1xlnVi.png

Is that something illegal?

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jafingi 4 days ago 2 replies      
Why has the blog post been removed from Docker Blog?

As far as I can tell, it was the primary source for the sad news.

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nailer 4 days ago 2 replies      
> I suppose it depends on how much faith you have in the community, particularly in its worst elements.

On that note, do you want to reconsider your post about the person who argued with Ian (who was awfully insensitive, but really doesn't deserve an HN witch hunt) elsewhere in this thread?

---

Edit: replying to your post below, due to rate limit:

Your post was flagged because you're mentioning both the full name and online handle of someone arguing with Ian about whether Ian should have spoken to the police or remained silent and sued them, in a thread about Ian's death.

The person was arguing for Ian's best interests, but even if they weren't, you can help the cause of online harassment by not harassing people online.

---

Edit 2, to reply to your recent edits: posting their handle because they argued with Ian in this thread is enough, but you posted a screenshot with the persons first name and last name in post #10814825.

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hitekker 4 days ago 2 replies      
Waiting can have a downside as well.

The first thing the NRA will do after a shooting is call for a "meaningful discourse" and for all the facts to come together.

They stonewall for a few weeks, weathering the storm of emotion, and then hold a press conference saying that the tragedy would not happen if there were more guns everywhere.

I personally believe there's a threshold for immediate groundswell of action, but that threshold is nowhere near being met yet. As you said, it's largely speculation right now.

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gregmac 4 days ago 2 replies      
Wayback machine got a few recent tweets[1], including a couple mentioning Ian[2]. Other tweets include traffic updates, talk of breakins, a boil water advisory, stuff about computers, and other random things.

He retweeted "Ian Murdock just deleted his Twitter account" from @faissialoo [3], which seems strange, given this account is self described as "A weird 14 year old Muslim indie game developer, editor and cereal enthusiast from london who loves content creation and messing with computers." with 138 followers.

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20151230193102/https:/twitter.co...[2] https://i.imgur.com/Cp8z6Mp.png[3] https://twitter.com/faissialoo/status/681957776680218624

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zipwitch 3 days ago 0 replies      
Can you provide anything to support that particular narrative? Or any narrative at all?
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hueving 3 days ago 3 replies      
>mugged by thugs. Or Police. Maybe there isn't a difference between the last two.

I find it incredibly distasteful to offer this political commentary in response to a death that has no information about the cause. Please don't ever do this again.

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CaptSpify 4 days ago 0 replies      
Do you have any facts for that? I'm inclined to think there was foul-play here, but there's no proof at the moment AFAIK, so I'll withhold judgement. No need to get conspiracy-theorist-y without proof.
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dang 4 days ago 0 replies      
There are a bunch of comments in this thread that go over the line, but this is one of the worst. To say that a family that just lost a loved one are "spitting on an open grave" is such a breach of the site guidelines that (a) I am going to kill this comment outright and (b) we will ban your account if you post anything else like this to Hacker News.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10814108 and marked it off-topic.

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krapp 4 days ago 0 replies      
Probably because a number of comments have been (justifiably) flagged, and given the inevitable flame-sensitive nature of the topic, the mods may have weighted it down a bit. A post's rank can be a function of any number of factors beyond just vote count, including possibly the size of the thread, and its age. Regardless, having even popular threads drop in rank is inevitable, and necessary.

It seems you've gone into the threads which rank higher than this currently and asked why each deserves to be there. That's clearly spamming the threads, so please stop.

Also, as per the site guidelines: Please resist commenting about being downvoted. It never does any good, and it makes boring reading.

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mirimir 4 days ago 0 replies      
I didn't know Ian Murdock, except by reputation. But from the general tenor of the eulogies, I get that these tweets were not typical for him. Unprecedented, even. If it weren't for the fact that he's dead, I'd suspect that someone had hacked his account. I suppose that someone could have, and then faked his suicide. But that wouldn't be consistent with his arrest.

Anyway, this is all just too over-the-top speculative. There will be investigations, by prosecutors and by private parties. He was famous enough that this will not get buried. Until then, the drama is not at all useful. And I'm sure that it's very hard on people who love and respect him.

Edit: It's not about censorship. It's about respect and compassion.

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dang 4 days ago 2 replies      
We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10814254 and marked it off-topic.
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dang 4 days ago 4 replies      
We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10813805 and marked it off-topic.
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mrschwabe 4 days ago 0 replies      
It is concerning to see flagged (deleted posts) which have theorized certain unlikely yet plausible scenarios. Just because an opinion or idea is controversial, doesn't mean it is offensive or not-constructive. Speculation is apart of free speech and should be treated as so.
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andersonmvd 4 days ago 1 reply      
The top comment of this thread was deleted. Is it censorship or am I mistaken?
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Esau 4 days ago 0 replies      
I am a little disappointed that there is nothing on the Debian home page.
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alashow 4 days ago 0 replies      
G
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rodgerd 4 days ago 1 reply      
HN should be ashamed of itself (but it won't be). This thread is awful.
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ilaksh 4 days ago 0 replies      
The next release of Debian should have a police brutality protest day built in that just shows a message about Ian's final tweets and ways to help the situation with the police, and won't do anything else all day.
The Website Obesity Crisis idlewords.com
1078 points by jmduke   ago   360 comments top 60
1
rdtsc 3 days ago 25 replies      
I think it is because people (designers, coders, etc) get bonuses and paychecks for creating stuff more than tearing down stuff.

Put this on your resume -- "Implemented feature x, designed y, added z" vs "Cut out 10k lines worth of crap only 10% of customers used, stripped away stupid 1Mb worth for js that displays animated snowflakes, etc". You'd produce a better perception by claiming you added / created / built, rather than deleted.

So it is not surprising that more stuff gets built, more code added to the pile, more features implemented. Heck, even GMail keeps changing every 6 months for apparently no reason. But in reality there is a reason -- Google has full time designers on the GMail team. There is probably no way they'd end the year with "Yap, site worked great, we did a nice job 2 years ago, so I didn't touch it this year."

2
Too 2 days ago 5 replies      
> It's like we woke up one morning in 2008 to find that our Lego had all turned to Duplo. Sites that used to show useful data now look like cartoons.

That is the best description I've heard of the recent trend of making every item cover 30% of the page so that you can only fit 2 data points. What is the deal with all this? Keeping the number of options down is one thing, but making repeated tables of data gigantic serves no purpose at all. It might look good in a thumbnail of a screenshot but actually using it is next to impossible.

3
userbinator 3 days ago 4 replies      
"Chickenshit Minimalism: the illusion of simplicity backed by megabytes of cruft."

This is not restricted to websites - a lot of software has suffered from the same trend, where newer versions look simpler - and often have reduced functionality - while for some reason still requiring more resources than the previous version.

4
lewisl9029 2 days ago 4 replies      
A large part of the code bloat problem can be resolved if the JS ecosystem's most popular build tools had support for some of the advanced compilation features in Google Closure Compiler, like dead-code elimination and cross-module code motion [1].

ClojureScript makes heavy use of the Closure Compiler's advanced compilation features, and as a result generates code that is often orders of magnitudes smaller than what it would be without those features. Think of what a bloated mess a ClojureScript app would be if it had to include the entire ClojureScript standard library with every build. This is exactly what's happening in JS world, where developers include by default the entirety of any utility libraries they're using when they're only calling a handful of functions from them.

Before anyone starts suggesting "just use Closure Compiler for JS projects", it's really not that simple (at least when I last looked into it). There's a huge amount of friction involved in using the Closure Compiler for a regular JS project (most of which wouldn't apply to a ClojureScript project because its JS output is machine-generated, and its build chain is designed to work exclusively with the Closure Compiler and all its quirks), namely writing all your code as Closure Modules, defining externs for any third party libraries you use, and setting up the JVM-based compiler itself and integrating it with the rest of your build tools.

I hope to see some improvement in this area with the dawn of ES6 modules, since they were designed from the ground up with static analysis in mind. Robust and accessible dead-code elimination and cross module code motion for ES6 modules could easily bring about a revolution in JS code sizes on the web.

[1] https://developers.google.com/closure/compiler/

5
timthorn 2 days ago 1 reply      
Byte magazine had a cover feature 23 years ago entitled "Fighting Fatware".

We're doomed to repeat history...

https://archive.org/details/BYTE-1993-04

The article starts:Dave Brown, a Keene, New Hampshire-based entrepreneur, got his Christmas wish last year - a copy of Microsoft's Access relational database manager for Windows. Excitement turned to disappointment, however, once Brown tried to run the program. Despite the fact that his system had the 4 MB of RAM that Microsoft recommends, Access was "hideously slow." A call to Microsoft technical support revealed the truth: He needed at least 8 MB of RAM to achieve acceptable performance. Now Brown has two options: He can spend $200 for more RAM or wait for version 1.1, which Microsoft claims will run better with 4MB.

6
BinaryIdiot 3 days ago 1 reply      
For the most part this is a pretty good article. I find that the more removed someone is from the real, vanilla HTML the more bloat they will inadvertently bring in. Need to focus a form? Download an angular plugin because you're using angular, why would you want to do it natively!

The native DOM is pretty inelegant but at the same time it can't be ignored; it must be understood. You don't need a new plugin, font, css reset file to accomplish everything you want and you can even do it cleanly!

I was a little concerned about this part though:

> [...]ad startups will grow desperate[...]This why I've proposed we regulate the hell out of them now[1].

I'm all for downloading of your information but some of the other things are just a bit off the mark. Like deleting your data can be problematic in any type of collaborative / productivity app. The right to go offline is nice in theory but many devices may actually need the internet to work and without it it wouldn't be able to function. I mean yeah the examples given are good examples as to things that can be "smart" and "dumb" but what about similar things, like sensors and other types of trackers? Seems like market pressures would be better to change those items than regulation.

[1] http://idlewords.com/talks/what_happens_next_will_amaze_you....

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Animats 3 days ago 1 reply      
On Google's AMP, which endlessly reloads a picture carousel: "These comically huge homepages for projects designed to make the web faster are the equivalent of watching a fitness video where the presenter is just standing there, eating pizza and cookies."

On trying to fix the problem: "These comically huge homepages for projects designed to make the web faster are the equivalent of watching a fitness video where the presenter is just standing there, eating pizza and cookies."

Someone recently commented on one of my web pages for being unusual in that the pictures were all directly related to the copy.

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meesterdude 2 days ago 1 reply      
Overall, this was a good article and it had me eyerolling at some of the dumb...dumb things people do. Like the internet.org background logo continually downloading a movie. Whoever did that should not be making websites.

Likewise, I took a look at my project and was able to chop the JS size in half by yanking out some libraries I no longer use, so now the JS and CSS are each under 500K each. Still a 1.2MB load overall; but it's also cached and an app people will visit more than once.

I hate that my CSS is close to 500K though. The design itself isn't that complicated; but I'm basing it off of a bootstrap theme and until I know what I'm using I can't prune much.

And I think that's a source of some bloat: frameworks and libraries. But, It's a tradeoff; it's code I don't have to write, which lets me get a better product to market faster. Sure, I could really spend the time to prune all my assets; and i think one day that will be a good move to make. But for me, and for many other projects, it's a tradeoff.

Usually media is the big one to blame, and things like streaming a background movie and eating up hundreds of megabytes in bandwidth to display it is simply irresponsible.

In Apple's case, they probably want their images to be high resolution, which is understandable. But even then they could (may even already) run it through some compression filters to reduce the size without hurting the quality.

It's something we should all be mindful of. You can, but don't have to go to extreme lengths to reduce the size of the site. There are often some low hanging fruit you can reach for that get you 80% of the way there. And obviously if its site that people a lot versus a site that people will visit once, your priorities for optimization are going to be different.

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TomorrowRich 2 days ago 1 reply      
The forum software "Discourse" is a good example of hugely over-engineered bloat and Javascript being required to display some text.

They even require that you have the latest smartphone hardware! To display a forum post!

As with the examples of Facebook and Google, these are intelligent people working at these companies. Yet they get it completely and catastrophically wrong...

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mschuster91 3 days ago 8 replies      
> The article somehow contrives to be 18 megabytes long, including (in the page view I measured) a 3 megabyte video for K-Y jelly, an "intimate lubricant".

(Warning. Swear words incoming, because the situation has grown far out of control)

Fuck websites with autoplay (or autoplay-on-hover) videos. Fuck them. Whoever has invented or implemented this crap, please resign from your post immediately.

Even in 1st world countries, people use 3G/4G with data caps to work or are in otherwise bandwidth-constrained environments (public hotspots, train/bus wifi) etc. You are screwing over your users and don't realize it.

Also, something especially Spiegel Online comes to mind: 30 secs video clip with a 25s advertising clip. Fuck you.

> Why not just serve regular HTML without stuffing it full of useless crap? The question is left unanswered.

Easy actually: because a well-defined restricted subset of HTML can be machine-audited and there is no way to abuse it. Also, Google can save resources at indexing.

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liampronan 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've found Google's Pagespeed Insights[0] to be a great resource for keeping obese sites in check. Their site will give you stats on load time as well as instructions on how to optimize that time, which is very important especially on a user's first visit -- e.g., I will bounce from a new site in X seconds, but may give an established site (think Amazon) X + Y second time to load.It's easy to miss how important page load is when you've been working on a site a bunch, but every extra second of load time has been show to impact sites' bottom lines [1].

0 - https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/1 - http://www.fastcompany.com/1825005/how-one-second-could-cost...

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makecheck 6 hours ago 0 replies      
For all the effort that browsers go to in order to make sites "scary" when there are bad certificates, etc. I would love to see a big, red, scary page that says "you are loading a web site that is consuming an unreasonable number of resources, are you sure you want to continue?". Make that the default, make the warning limit 400 K, and watch web sites (complain first, and then) change.
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SwellJoe 3 days ago 2 replies      
I have been using slow internet more often lately, because I'm traveling full-time again, and only using 3G/4G broadband. It is remarkable how large some sites have gotten since I was last in this situation. Despite mobile broadband being somewhat faster now than a few years ago, the time to load (to usability) for many sites is much higher. HN is notable for loading instantly in these circumstances, not because the server (I'm guessing it still runs on one server, plus CloudFlare, but I might be guessing wrong) is blazing fast, but because it is so small.
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vinceguidry 2 days ago 1 reply      
It's way easier to acquire stuff than it is to get rid of it, whether it's website bloat or personal possessions. It takes discipline to adhere to procedures that trim unneeded code / dependencies as they loses relevance. If you don't do it while the reason the code was put in in the first place was fresh in mind, there will be a natural tendency to kick the can down the road.
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vancan1ty 3 days ago 1 reply      
I think the primary reason for the rise of increasingly heavy sites is that animations and visuals can be used to attract and "hook" your reader.

Just as fish like shiny spoons and minnow lookalikes and monkeys like shiny objects, humans like pretty pictures and flashing visualizations.

Distraction is the same principle that drives the success of TV. It is so damn easy to just sit in front of the screen and grok out, never mind the fact that the signal to noise ratio is often astonishingly low.

Quality thought and challenging content consumption is much harder than simply letting yourself admire shiny visuals. Therefore, simple websites, while they may contain excellent and meaningful content, will often not stimulate the user's interest as much as animated websites with large pictures.

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riboflavin 2 days ago 2 replies      
My only concern about this is that a lot of the technologies identified as "adtech" on that diagram just... aren't:

* Vimeo

* Hootsuite

* LinkedIn

* UserTesting.com

Marketing != advertising. The overall point is really valid, but this is a dumb way to back it up.

It's bad enough to just take the ad-serving parts of the diagram he uses, which add up to hundreds of technologies (or use Ghostery on any news site).

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collinmanderson 2 days ago 4 replies      
Is it hypocritical that this website is over 1 MB and has over 100 requests?http://www.webpagetest.org/result/160101_KN_FH3/
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ahoge 3 days ago 0 replies      
Most of the weight comes from images. The average website (Alexa top 1M) contains over 1.4 MB of image data:

http://httparchive.org/interesting.php

Be sure to pick the most suitable format and to optimize your images. You can also try to serve WebP to browsers which support it. When it replaces JPEG, you save about 30%. With PNG8, it's somewhere between 5 and 50%. And with PNG32, if you substitute it with a lossy WebP, easily 80%.

Scripts come 2nd with ~363 KB. ES6's will thankfully help with that. Creating the structure of your application declaratively enables better tooling. Not only does this make your editor a lot smarter, it also paves the way for tree-shaking.

If you tree-shake your application, only the actually used library features will be included in the shipped bundle.

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bhauer 3 days ago 2 replies      
I was having a good time, reading the article with a grin on my face. Until I got to

> On top of it all, a whole mess of surveillance scripts

And I just lost my cool and laughed out loud. Well written, sir.

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CaptSpify 3 days ago 0 replies      
Disclaimer: my own blog. If this is considered spamming here, feel free to remove

https://blog.thekyel.com/?anchor=Why_I_Block_Scripts_and_Ads

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bikamonki 2 days ago 1 reply      
So I keep telling clients: if we use WP for your low traffic site is like renting an 18-wheeler to move a small box. Yet, I feel like doctors must feel when patients argue 'quoting' something they read on the Internet: suddenly they are the experts now :(
22
dchest 2 days ago 0 replies      
Don't miss the video of this talk liked at the top:

https://vimeo.com/147806338

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TazeTSchnitzel 2 days ago 1 reply      
It won't be long before my site which literally downloads an entire Windows 95 disk image on every page load will be considered average-sized. It's a mere order of magnitude away.
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jokoon 2 days ago 1 reply      
Aren't there page optimizers, that can factor html and css and make it smaller ?

Another simple way to solve this would be to just "compile" a webpage, like pre-parsing the dom tree, and write this tree file into a binary file. That would remove the parsing stage, which take a lot of CPU cycles, and is the reason why most web services have their own smartphone app instead of a simple combination of html+js.

Of course, if mozilla does it and creates such format, no developer will use it and it will die, so again it's up to something bureaucratic like the IETF.

It boils down from the fact that markup language were not really meant for web applications.

We are in 2016, and there still isn't a well designed, versatile document format for the web. I have completely zero clue how a browser displays a webpage, while there seems to be a lot of opportunity to optimize things there by moving away from a text-centered solution. I don't understand why there is nothing on this, all that is required is saving the intermediate data a browser has just after parsing a html file. Computers are not designed to eat raw text every time.

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ufmace 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm most fascinated by the slides on the bookmarking sites. I'd really, really like to know exactly how a bookmarking site with 3k daily users manages to rack up a $23,000 monthly AWS bill, that they only managed to reduce to $9,000. Did they try as hard as possible to split everything out among as many AWS services as possible? Yikes.

I just threw up a little blog and a few tinkering sites on AWS. Looked around at a few blogging systems. Guess I coulda used Wordpress or Ghost or some other DB backed thingy and used one, or two or three, of their database services for the backend, which would probably be much more expensive and hard to maintain. Decided to go with Jekyll instead. Don't need anything but a nginix now.

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Houshalter 3 days ago 3 replies      
I think most of the problem is from images. Images, and especially videos, take up way more space than text. The Russian novel comparison is somewhat misleading in that regard.

But it shouldn't really be an issue because of progressive image loading. At the very least, the text should always load first. Back when I had dialup, it could take ages for a page to load completely because of the images. You could watch them slowly fill in, line by line. And if you didn't care about them, you could ignore them.

There's also now FLIF, which progressively loads images at higher and higher resolutions as more of the file downloads: http://flif.info/ The images look very good even at like 10%. Ideally once the image gets to the desired resolution, it wouldn't download any more of it. So it covers resizing issues too.

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AstroJetson 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'm wondering what the collision between fat web pages and bandwidth caps will look like. Lots of sites have untold amount of garbage on them and I'm starting to notice that many of them have automatic page reloads running. So unless you remember to close the window, it can be back there sucking up bandwidth.

I also wonder what effect encryption on the pages will have. Lots of info should be cached, but most of us are behind proxy devices, how do they do with the encrypted ones?

His website is a good example, it's clean, total page is 1 Mbyte of text with 102 calls from the page (for the thumbnails). It's sad to see a single graphic as a banner taking up that much space.

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chippy 2 days ago 0 replies      
Developers in web companies get the latest Mac Book Pros, and it works okay on their machine.

They develop and make things without thinking about normal people.

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agumonkey 2 days ago 1 reply      
And then you have http://okmij.org/ftp/ , S/N ratio : NaN
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manigandham 2 days ago 1 reply      
I agree with most of this article, but there are some basic problems.

1) Page size alone is not the same as user experience. This is easily explained by youtube or netflix. Videos are tens or hundreds of MBs but start instantly and you get the experience you need. Well made websites follow the same important content, navigation first approach and stream in the rest as necessary.

2) The comparison of page size and how you can fit entire Russian novels in the same size is just weird. The text of the site doesn't add up to megabytes, if it did then it would be an equivalent amount of text as those novels. The fact is that the modern web has lots of visual design and media. Even if you use CSS, people still want images, not just text. That's not a bad thing, it's just an evolution. Even this article has 1MB of images (even as just thumbnails and many not necessary). Whining about images is not helpful.

3) The thing about ad network model is just random and seems like the author has no experience in advertising itself. Either way, talk of bubbles and tracking without actually looking at all the angles and nuances is also not helpful and just derails the topic.

EDIT: author definitely loses some respect for this, I'd expect a legitimate reply: https://twitter.com/baconmeteor/status/683040882757505024

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cwyers 2 days ago 0 replies      
I feel like this is a really good diagnosis of the causes of page bloat and the harms, but the remedy is more nostalgia than anything. The web of the 90s, with amateur blogs and Geocities sites and what have you, the peer to peer content model, it's gone and it's not coming back. The thing about the Eternal September is it's eternal. The Web has transformed into a place where 99% consume and 1% produce. And that's game over. There may well be an adtech bubble bursting, but that's not going to bring the 90s back.
32
Tomte 2 days ago 0 replies      
Things That Turbo Pascal is Smaller Than: http://prog21.dadgum.com/116.html
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hal9zillion 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'd be very interested to see the difference in average page size between online publishing/new media and other types of sites. I think so much of this crisis is driven by the economics of that business model. Theres so much incentive to track & analyse users with various scripts, a desire to have a pretty looking site with lots of images (the biggest factor in page bloat) and comparatively little in-house technical resources or spare cash to devote to something as relatively exotic as web performance.
34
yason 2 days ago 0 replies      
One factor might be that web pages are big enough that they begin to allow contributions from different, orthogonal origins.

The initial designer might do the first main layout and bolt in some menus and the main text area.

But other people then gradually want to add these extra panes, those hot videos, that extra image viewing layer, this advertisement, all kinds of scripting, new functionality that all comes together orthogonally but will together take megabytes of space. These can be added without going back to reworking the original design too much so people can go in, think "I don't know how the whole page is actually built but I can just add this little thing here and not mess with anything else", and copypaste one more of the latest features onto the page.

Or this mechanism could even be automated: new people just add extra page modules to a database and the original workhorse will go rebuilding the HTML with the new additions in it and nobody is left to oversee what all they're actually serving out on each page load.

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hyperpallium 1 day ago 0 replies      
"The way to keep giant companies from sterilizing the Internet is to make their sites irrelevant. If all the cool stuff happens elsewhere, people will follow. We did this with AOL and Prodigy, and we can do it again."

I love this grassroots empowerment, but the internet is mainstream now, and like pop music/tv/news and consumer product manufacturers like nestle, proctor n gamble, colgate-palmolive etc, big corps are fantastic at targetting it. Most people don't want cool stuff.

BTW turning off js and images solves a lot of this problem - unless you need to use the site.

36
makecheck 2 days ago 0 replies      
A fantastic article.

When there is no penalty for over-consumption and it is far easier to do the stupid, inefficient thing, then the stupid, inefficient thing will be done.

To really combat this problem, we need:

- Good tools that ensure the easy thing is also the optimal thing.

- Penalties for pipe abuse (e.g. web browsers that make it really easy for users to see the Wall of Shame with the web sites most responsible for gobbling up their data plans and batteries). Sadly the only thing I have right now is the OS X app-shaming model that points out high-energy apps, and then Chrome or Firefox or Safari get all the blame for what is clearly the web sites themselves.

37
unimpressive 2 days ago 0 replies      
Typo:

"The graphics card on my late-model Apple laptop could not literally not cope with the load."

Moving aside from said pedantic nitpick, a hilarious and brilliant essay. I'm definitely going to be stealing The Taft Test, perhaps somebody should make a web app that lets you perform this operation automatically?

38
ivanhoe 2 days ago 3 replies      
Yeah, but just a few years ago when building a site you never needed an image wider than 1600px, and now you have lots of people with retina and 4K screens. Add just one full-width HQ image and it's 500+KB on top of everything else....
39
Tomte 2 days ago 1 reply      
Nice timing... two days ago I've decided to lose the web fonts on my web pages (not implemented, yet).

I still think Equity Text is gorgeous, but the fonts are actually much bigger than any of my pages. Even the long ones with a few graphics.

40
carsongross 2 days ago 0 replies      
Browsers are really, really good at rendering vanilla HTML.

Amen, brother. HTML, for all its layout flaws, is a gift to us developers. The fact we are moving away from leveraging the raw parsing and updating functionality written in C/C++ is a travesty.

41
jordanpg 2 days ago 3 replies      
All of this is true, from a technical standpoint, but does any of it really matter in the modern world?

This sounds a bit like a structural engineer designing an elegant, perfectly constructed shopping mall, and then complaining about the massive corporate/commercial, orgiastic takeover that occurred after the mall opened.

With the exception of bandwidth concerns on data-capped mobile plans and diehard *nix fans that do all their web browsing with Lynx, why does bloat matter? Every one of those linked sites loaded on my home 10Mbps connection in <1 second to my eyes.

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daxfohl 2 days ago 0 replies      
Though more than this, is the app gluttonous crisis. Websites, sure, drown me in your fatty acids. The alternative is a "lean" app.

Yes it runs slimmer and faster. But why does every app I install need to know every facet of my existence, and every facet of what every other app knows about every facet of my existence, and so on? This is a much bigger problem.

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buro9 2 days ago 1 reply      
I wish there was a tool that could follow a browser session and tell me what, specifically, I hadn't used in my bootstrap CSS.

Or a tool that could similarly tell me which parts of JQuery I could just delete.

I feel the sites I have produced are fairly trim and optimised, with the exception of the CSS and JS. Sites like https://www.lfgss.com/

Yes they're responsive, and they load fairly fast, and they're encumbered with web fonts... but it's the CSS and JS that is the real bloat.

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ksec 2 days ago 1 reply      
Purely in terms of Web page size ( and not loading speed ), images is the biggest problem. We have been stuck with Jpeg for far too long. I really wanted Bpg to take off. It should at least save 30 - 50% off images size, which is now the biggest weight in web pages.

Then there is Web Fonts, along with JS Library. Most of them should be cached already.

So really, we need to cut the images size down. That's it!

45
anujdeshpande 2 days ago 1 reply      
On similar lines is http://deathtobullshit.com
46
csomar 2 days ago 1 reply      
I've had the same problem trying to find a WordPress theme for my weblog^. Well, I ended up hacking it myself. The reason? Despite hundreds of premium WordPress themes, they were all bloated. Even the ones claiming "Minimalist theme".

I wonder if there is a real market for such theme.

^ https://omarabid.com

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jarboot 2 days ago 0 replies      
Why isn't there a medium alternative to all this bloat? Do blogs or articles really need anything more than a pastebin-esque website for rendering markdown?

Sure it might not make much money without ads, but it would be cheap to host.

48
andreapaiola 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think you should be able to choose and also the opportunity to declut your webFilter and declut your web!http://andreapaiola.name/magpie
49
WalterBright 2 days ago 0 replies      
I often get flak for my old-fashioned, boring web pages, even during my brief appearance on Romanian TV. They consist of text with very little HTML annotation. But they're small and load fast :-)
50
rtpg 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think this hits a lot of points, but I kind of like having images on websites. It's kinda hard to do something under a meg and have many captivating images.

There's obviously a lot of stuff to fix for other stuff though.

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uptownfunk 3 days ago 1 reply      
Another thing I recall hearing during my days working in SEO. Is that more is better. The more words the more pictures the more content actually factors into the algorithms that put you at the top of the list.
52
ars 3 days ago 6 replies      
For the curious, this page that complains about large pages is 989K.
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PaulHoule 2 days ago 0 replies      
The right punishment is to force people who make bloated pages have Frontier as their internet provider.
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andreapaiola 2 days ago 1 reply      
Good developers are rare and cost a lot of money...Good managers are rare and cost a lot of money...

So we are here.

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soheil 3 days ago 1 reply      
> The article somehow contrives to be 18 megabytes long, including (in the page view I measured) a 3 megabyte video for K-Y jelly, an "intimate lubricant".

I wonder if he realized this might have been a case of interest based ads following him around and whether he would have still mentioned it.

56
quaunaut 3 days ago 0 replies      
Had to get one last one of these in for the year. The last dozen just weren't enough.

Nothing like tilting at windmills.

57
aruggirello 2 days ago 0 replies      
This. Made me wish I could upvote it twice! Or more...
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xdinomode 2 days ago 0 replies      
If you can't build a site without bootstrap, jquery, 500 png's/jpegs.. please stop coding.
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rgbrenner 3 days ago 2 replies      
As long as there has been an internet, people have been complaining about bloat. I remember articles like these in the 90s. They do absolutely nothing to improve the situation or stop the growth.

We need to accept that web pages will be even larger in the future, and start pushing the technology required to deliver those pages in a reasonable amount of time.

That means HTTP2, QUIC, zero-RTT TLS handshakes (in quic and tls 1.3), and other new technologies. CDNs certainly play a role here too with dynamic acceleration, better caching, and networking. (disclaimer: I'm working that last bit at NuevoCloud CDN)

That and improvements in connectivity are the only real ways to solve this issue.

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intrasight 2 days ago 0 replies      
UBlock Origin will largely solve this - except for inline SVGs. But I understand that they have to do that due to technical limitations with current browsers.

I've grown accustomed to reading unstyled HTML, and I gotta say - I like it.

Sites which host their own CSS and JS look as the designer indended. For example the Washington Post. I just checked the size. The home page is about 200K but when you add everything else it comes to 3MB.

Why should I care about this "bloat"? I don't. Computers are faster (by several orders of magnitude). The internet is faster (by at least two orders of magnitude). I have Fios - if you can get it you should too.

Springer Textbooks More Than 10 Years Old Available for Free Legal Download springer.com
970 points by nkurz   ago   170 comments top 70
1
msie 4 days ago 8 replies      
Sooo many good books! I'm exhausted! Here are some good ones:

MPEG Video Compression Standard:

http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/b115884

Chaos and Fractals:

http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/b97624

Proofs from THE BOOK:

http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-662-05412-3

Joel on Software:

http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-1-4302-0753-5

Programming Challenges:

http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/b97559

2
isb 4 days ago 2 replies      
3
bluenose69 4 days ago 6 replies      
Access seems to have been cut off about 2 hours ago. Presumably this was a mistake, but new-year optimists might hope that Springer did this on purpose, to gauge the market at low cost. As someone with a full-time job, I'd be happy to pay $10 to $20 to download an old book that might come in handy, but with conventional download costs being half the paper cost, I balk and just walk over to the university library so I can copy the 5 pages I actually need in the book.
4
mturmon 4 days ago 0 replies      
Larry Wasserman's All of Statistics is there at http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-0-387-21736-9.

Optimization by Lange is at http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-1-4757-4182-7

Time Series Analysis and Its Applications by Shumway and Stoffer (http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-1-4757-3261-0), who developed the EM tools for fitting state space models to time series by maximum likelihood, but were largely uncredited by the NIPS crowd.

5
userbinator 4 days ago 1 reply      
Looks like another good collection for archive.org to back up... ;-)

The site works without Javascript and contains direct links to PDFs, which is an unexpected bonus in this age of single-page JS apps and DRM. Very nice.

I wonder if the 2005 ones will also become free in 2016?

6
diffraction 4 days ago 3 replies      
While this may have been true when it was posted it is no longer true. If you think about it the idea doesn't make sense because the still living authors still want a cut. It's unfortunate because it's very difficult to find good textbooks just by searching yourself because the prices are so high.
7
kevindeasis 4 days ago 5 replies      
One of the things I've realized just a few days ago was that we need better technology to absorb content efficiently.

There are so many books out there that I want to read, but might never be able to read because I will not have enough time. It would be amazing if there was just a way to download a book and understand its contents right into my brain in a matter of minutes.

8
jarmitage 4 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting books with >4 star Amazon ratings:

The Meaning of Relativity (Einstein) http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-94-011-6022-3

Centauri Dreams: Imagining and Planning Interstellar Exploration http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-1-4757-3894-0

The Physics of Musical Instruments http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-0-387-21603-4

Introduction to Nanoscale Science and Technology http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/b119185

Scanning Electron Microscopy and X-ray Microanalysis http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-1-4615-0215-9

Structures or Why Things Don't Fall Down http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-1-4615-9074-3

Fundamentals of Power Electronics http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/b100747

Advanced Organic Chemistry A/B http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/b114222http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/b114293

Principles of Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/b97397

9
ternaryoperator 5 days ago 1 reply      
One of the best of these is Holub on Patterns [1], which is IMO the best book for learning patterns. How to implement patterns, how to know which ones to use where, and how to use them in combination. Excellent, clear tutorial. Implementation language is Java.

[1] http://goo.gl/DKFzCe

10
iamcreasy 4 days ago 0 replies      
Aaron Swartz would be really happy if he heard this news.
11
adaml_623 4 days ago 2 replies      
Well there are prices appearing now for me in the UK so apparently those freebies weren't intentional.

sad

12
8ig8 5 days ago 1 reply      
Filter for all books published in English at least 10 years ago (downloadable), newest first:

http://link.springer.com/search?facet-content-type=%22Book%2...

13
kfogel 5 days ago 2 replies      
Is there some sort of announcement from Springer about this? Specifically, one in which they state what the license is, e.g., CC-BY or CC-BY-SA or something like that? I'll bet they attached either the No-Derivs (ND) or Non-Commercial (NC) limitations, though -- would love to be wrong about that. In the PDFs I've looked at so far, they didn't bother to change the copyright statement at the front of the book, so they still all appear to be under traditional restrictive copyright, whatever new terms Springer intends notwithstanding.

-Karl

14
jacquesm 4 days ago 1 reply      
Thank you Nate, that is the best link of HN for the year. I'm seriously impressed with Springer for doing this. Who is next, Elsevier?
15
paulojreis 4 days ago 0 replies      
Oh, crap. What you have done... How am I supposed to leave the house, now? :)

BTW: found this gem for brain-science junkies: http://rd.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-642-79928-0 - Neurobiology of Decision-Making, edited by Damsio, Damsio & Christen (the first "Damsio" is Antnio Damsio, author of "Descartes' Error").

16
rswier 4 days ago 1 reply      
Searched for "Compiler" and was not disappointed.

Tim Budd's "An APL Compiler" is a classic.

I love the goofy title of Mads Tofte's:"Compiler GeneratorsWhat They Can Do,What They Might Do,and What They Will Probably Never Do"

Paid a handsome amount for these and many others at Reiter's Books back in the day!

17
raverbashing 4 days ago 0 replies      
For theoretical purposes, unless you're working at the very edge of the state-of-the-art, a book 10 years old is as good as new

Besides Machine Learning and some niche topics most books on the list should be very useful and applicable

18
zaf 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is simply fantastic. I'm sure all publishers will follow. +1 to Springer.

Here is my current read:

Alan Turing: Life and Legacy of a Great Thinkerhttp://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-662-05642-4

19
dang 4 days ago 1 reply      
This was discussed at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10800881, but another thread seems like a good idea, so more people can know about this. The intellectual riches available here are incredible.
20
isb 4 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you! Since the browsing experience on Springer is not very friendly, here is a link to all the old Springer titles in Amazon's catalog:

Springer:http://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=sr_adv_b/?search-alias=s...

Apress:http://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=sr_adv_b/?search-alias=s...

21
kickingvegas 4 days ago 1 reply      
"Formulas, Facts and Constants for Students and Professionals in Engineering, Chemistry, and Physics" by Helmut and Kurt Fischbeck. Just download it now and thank me later. http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-642-72555-5
22
LittlePeter 4 days ago 1 reply      
The fun is over. There are only 135 books available now instead of 56,000.
23
RBerenguel 4 days ago 0 replies      
Access is no longer open (at least not from my side)... I guess it was some bug at Springer? A pity.
24
sitkack 4 days ago 0 replies      
I really wish the ACM would do this, even if it was +15 years.
25
calvins 4 days ago 1 reply      
My favorite find so far is "Advances in Crypto" conference proceedings going back to the early eighties:

- http://link.springer.com/search?query=%22advances+in+cryptol...

26
yarapavan 4 days ago 0 replies      
For those who are interested in these kind of programs, please see directory of open access books (DOAB) site - http://www.doabooks.org/doab?func=subject&uiLanguage=en
28
datihein 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm now seeing "Get Access" (i.e., pay money) instead of "Download Book". I wonder if Springer shut this down? Or if there is some quantity or rate limit on the downloads?
29
vive-la-liberte 4 days ago 0 replies      
How long will they remain accessible for download? Hopefully indefinitely. I'm on vacation. Crossing my fingers I'll be able to download them when I get home.
30
bewe42 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is so awesome. Makes and ruins my day. I'm wondering what that means for authors and writing technical books in general though. Have authors a say in this?
31
xerophyte12932 4 days ago 0 replies      
I love how you can download individual chapters instead of the entire book
32
JohnHammersley 4 days ago 0 replies      
What a great announcement for the end of the year :)

+1 to msie's recommendation to read Chaos & Fractals (http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/b97624)

33
pmiller2 4 days ago 0 replies      
Best of all, you can use Lulu.com or a similar service to print them if you want nice hardcopies. :)
34
graycat 4 days ago 2 replies      
I downloaded the HTML of the page. Out in the middle of the text is a really simple version of the full list easy to work with in an editor. I got a list of the PDFs I'd like (basically nearly all the analysis and applied math and nearly none of the algebra or topology, and set up a script with the famous CURL to do the downloads to file names I'd picked out, etc.

But their Web server rejected, "closed", all the CURL connections. I tried some really simple software I had based just on sockets, and those connections were closed also. My Web browser connects and downloads the file one at a time just fine.

So, maybe I need a newer version of CURL that looks more like a Web browser?

Or just use Firefox, manually, one PDF at a time. Bummer.

35
ScottBurson 4 days ago 0 replies      
Some of these aren't very old at all! E.g.:

Intertwingled, about Ted Nelson, 2014:

http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-319-16925-5

36
vram22 4 days ago 0 replies      
This thread could be useful even if the Springer action was a mistake (or whatever) and the free books download facility has been withdrawn - because many people have mentioned book titles that they like. I, for one, was not aware of many of these titles, and my guess is that many others would be in the same position. So this thread is a useful resource. It would be great if readers who can, could vote this thread up for a day or two at least, so it stays visible until people get a bit of time to copy book titles to check out or buy later. Thanks.
37
lottin 4 days ago 0 replies      
For R users this book is a classic:

Modern Applied Statistics with Shttp://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-0-387-21706-2

38
gaurangagrawal 5 days ago 1 reply      
This is so amazing. Thanks for sharing. Computer Science books before 2005 can be found using: http://link.springer.com/search?facet-content-type=%22Book%2...
39
zump 5 days ago 0 replies      
Why is there no announcement by Springer on this?
40
BorisMelnik 4 days ago 1 reply      
Amazing! Right off the bad I found some great topics:

http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-1-4302-6383-8http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-642-30241-1

Looked like great reads right off the bad. Thanks OP!

41
kanche 4 days ago 1 reply      
Woah, it's a treasure trove! I am definitely checking out some of the books mentioned in the thread :)

Unfortunately, some of the old and gold Springer books are available only in paper format like Shreve's Stochastic Calculus for Finance [0].

[0] http://www.springer.com/gp/book/9780387401003

42
bitL 4 days ago 2 replies      
Can somebody please download them all and seed them?
43
jetskindo 4 days ago 1 reply      
In times like these I realize I just can't read all I want to read. There is so much it's overwhelming.
44
elorant 4 days ago 0 replies      
Seems like demand was so high they had to kill it. I guess thats what happens when you hit first page of HN, there must have been thousands of geeks downloading books by the dozens. Well it was good while it lasted. Managed to download a few books. Better luck next time/year.
45
rswier 4 days ago 0 replies      
Once again the internet has demonstrated it's ability to (semi-)autonomously heal damage and mis-configuration by replicating data from the faulty nodes. I trust the keepers of this valuable data will occasionally admire and validate these backups, replicate sparingly, and never profit except to enrich their knowledge. Guilty twinges may be eased by giving back to the nearest struggling technical book store in your area :)
46
codyb 5 days ago 0 replies      
Very cool. They've got one book in Italian, and I just started learning, maybe after my easy Berlitz, I'll try to learn some Italian and refresh some Mathematics at the same time.
47
wfunction 4 days ago 0 replies      
Does anyone have any list of "must-have" book recommendations for those who have access? Books that explain technical topics well? I'm thinking of topics ranging numerical simulation to ODEs to optimization to spectral graph theory to parsing etc.
48
yomritoyj 4 days ago 0 replies      
My selected and slightly annotated list, primarily probability and statistics https://www.jyotirmoy.net/posts/2015-12-29-springer-openacce...
49
conistonwater 4 days ago 0 replies      
Solving Ordinary Differential Equations II by Hairer and Wanner: http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-642-05221-7
50
steinsgate 4 days ago 0 replies      
Most of these books were already available for free (but not legal) download at Library Genesis http://gen.lib.rus.ec/
51
DrNuke 4 days ago 0 replies      
That's good for fundamentals but most of the applied science is inevitably out of date. Would not waste too much time searching dustbins, then: trying novelty is more intriguing.
52
siscia 4 days ago 0 replies      
Some of you can point out some interesting book about distributed system ?

There are a lot of books about the subject but I don't know if those books are valid...

53
marincounty 4 days ago 0 replies      
It ended for my IP. Don't know if they set a limit of books per IP, or it just ended? 4:53 a.m. Pacific time. Good while it lasted.
54
sridharpoduri 4 days ago 0 replies      
this announcement made my holidays even more wonderful. all i need now is sneak into a corner and start soaking up this treasure trove of knowledge.
55
CurtMonash 4 days ago 1 reply      
Huh? I'm seeing 135 books there, total, including 4 in math.

Springer actually seems to offer >19,000 math books.

Is that the correct link? What am I missing?

56
baby 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is awesome! Does anyone know about cryptography in Springer? Any good 10 year old textbooks I should get?
57
wycx 4 days ago 1 reply      
Will we see the same thing from Elsevier?
58
copperx 5 days ago 0 replies      
Any suggestions?
59
hidroto 4 days ago 0 replies      
i wonder how many books we all downloaded

i got

APL Programs for the Mathematics Classroom Norman Thomson

Arithmetic Geometry Edited by Gary Cornell

BASIC Game Plans Computer Games and Puzzles Programmed in BASIC

An APL Compiler Timothy Budd

The Chemical Bond Tadamasa Shida

Holub on Patterns: Learning Design Patterns by Looking at Code

Proofs from the Book

60
jboggan 4 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you, this made my time period. "Graphs and Networks (Transfinite and Nonstandard)" woo-hoo!
61
iamleppert 4 days ago 0 replies      
Umm, what happened? I clicked on a few of those titles below and its asking me to PAY!!!

:(

Information should be free.

62
fithisux 4 days ago 0 replies      
Schneider's "Verification of Reactive Systems" is there and yuuummy.
63
pablooa 4 days ago 0 replies      
Anyone managed to crawl the site before prices appeared again? :P
64
anujdeshpande 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is pure money. Thanks for the link OP !
65
jjtheblunt 4 days ago 0 replies      
The title seems false: it's easy to find Lecture Notes in Mathematics titles more than 10 years old which are pay only.
66
shadowfax92 4 days ago 0 replies      
can someone share links of best CS books meeting this criteria?
67
enkephalin 4 days ago 1 reply      
so are retailers like amazon just going to carry on selling these books, for in some cases hundreds of dollars, without any notice that you can get it for free, albeit only digitally?
68
xt00 5 days ago 0 replies      
wow this is pretty awesome
69
singularity7 4 days ago 0 replies      
wow
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sytelus 4 days ago 3 replies      
If you get so excited by limited set of old book, here's something that will keep you awake for many many nights:

https://www.safaribooksonline.com/

For couple of $100 bucks you can get unlimited access to virtually every CS/tech book out there. This include brand new ones and even exclusive access to books with future publish date.

Open Letter to Mozilla: Bring Back Persona stavros.io
894 points by StavrosK   ago   236 comments top 51
1
SwellJoe 10 days ago 11 replies      
I hate that the best user experience for logins is "Login with facebook" or "Login with Google". I don't want to impose that privacy failure on my users, but I also don't want to impose the annoyance that is "Sign up with a username, email address, and password". Offering all of the options is also a compromise that complicates the user experience.

Now, here's the sad thing, for me: I didn't even know Persona existed until its demise was being discussed on HN and reddit. Persona is exactly what I want for my users and my sites; and for my own use of the web. And, I didn't even know it was an option until it stopped being an option.

In short: I strongly agree. Mozilla has to focus resources on areas where it can have the biggest impact on privacy and the open web. This is one of those areas.

I hated to see Thunderbird dropped from the Mozilla roster, as it is my mail client of choice, but I understand where they're coming from. I hated to see FirefoxOS end, but I never got to use it, and it seems to have been doomed from the get-go by poor market fit and difficulty competing with the three biggest tech companies in the world in a market where money and influence play a role in which devices get into users hands. But, Persona is exactly the right kind of thing for Mozilla to be doing, and there's no reason they can't do it effectively, and without a huge amount of resources.

2
Osmose 10 days ago 10 replies      
Disclaimer: I work for Mozilla, I maintain django-browserid (and StravosK is a valued contributor <3), and I have implemented Persona on many sites. This is all just my own personal opinion.

I was very bullish on Persona early on, but the fact of the matter is, we failed. And not just because (as I feel is being implied) some higher up suddenly came over and asked for an unreasonable amount of adoption for a revolutionary product.

We failed for a thousand reasons. It should've been supported directly within the Firefox chrome ASAP. It had branding different than the site you logged in to and was in a popup[1]. It took the name of another Firefox feature that users already knew about. Because the team was experimenting fast, the code quality of the service was such that outside contribution to it (or even cross-team contribution internally) was hard to impossible. There was no (or very limited) metadata available for things like a shared avatar or display name.

We had enough time to do these things, but we didn't. The team accomplished something really amazing, but it wasn't enough, and most importantly, putting more effort into what already existed was not going to work. This idea that Mozilla can just turn around and throw effort at Persona and make it win now is, IMO, wrong.

Identity needs more experimentation, that much is certain. But harping bringing back Persona in particular is beating a dead horse. We need a successor or a new project.

[1] Not only did this make Persona look incredibly sketchy without a lot of priming users, it had a major privacy issue of leaking your identity provider and relying party to Mozilla via a centralized iframe we host. A mailing list thread among the Persona devs and community failed to find a solution to this.

3
scrollaway 10 days ago 7 replies      
> I dont know if something like a Kickstarter campaign to raise some money to pay for engineer time would help sway Mozilla at all, but Im perfectly happy pledging a few hundred dollars and running the campaign, if necessary. I just really want to see Persona succeed.

I mentioned this by email, but I'll repeat it here:

I believe in the design behind Persona. I believe a well structured, free authentication provider, is one of the core pillars of a free web, which is exactly what Mozilla claims to stand for.

I believe in a free web and I'm also willing to put my money where my mouth is. I'm ready to pledge not just my money but my time. I am willing to volunteer my skills as a developer, UX designer and my experience leading FOSS projects to Persona, or a Persona-like project that has a chance of succeeding. If you are involved in this, feel free to email me (see my profile for a point of contact).

I invite others willing to do the same to say so here.

4
buro9 10 days ago 2 replies      
Anyone who wants to see a demo of it, just sign-in here (top right): https://login.persona.org/

Anyone who wants to see how easy it is to deploy (JS on your page, a button, and callback verifier on your server): https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/Persona/Quick_Setup

Anyone who wants to see it in action: https://www.lfgss.com/

I love everything about Persona except for the fact that Mozilla are no longer supporting a team around it, and it was given to the community in almost an abandon-ware fashion.

The idea that this could have made an impact faster is laughable, choosing an auth provider is such a slow process requiring considerable points of trust to reinforce it... one of the most significant points of trust was Mozilla itself, but it also needed a social reinforcement as more people adopted it. Mozilla didn't give Persona the time it needed.

My criticisms of Persona are nothing to do with the fungible nature of email as identity, which I think is OK enough in principle (it's no less identifying than anything else and changes less frequently than a phone number), but to do with:

1) The way Persona wants to centrally log-out from all sites, when a user's experience is that they can sign-out from one site and remain signed-in on another.

2) The lack of 2FA in the default instance they shipped/supported.

3) Some of the phrasing and language confuses users, especially after changing to Persona. i.e. They were still a user on my site identified by email address, but Persona would declare that they were not recognised... so I'd have to spend time telling the user to ignore that and sign-in anyway.

The core product though, was exactly what the web needed, and exactly what I needed for all of the sites I run.

5
xiaomai 10 days ago 0 replies      
Mozilla shutting down Persona was one of my biggest internet-related disappointments this year. It seemed like the perfect OpenID replacement (that might actually get used by normal people). Bring it back please!
6
darklajid 10 days ago 0 replies      
I've hit the upvote button, tweeted Stavros that I think this is awesome - but I still want to document my support with a post.

I don't have a FB account and don't use my Google account a lot. I should really delete the latter.

But it would be so much easier with Persona. Yes, a lot of sites won't adopt it, at least at first. But with a well supported alternative that I want to use, I'd have an easier time to say "fuck it" and close the browser window.

Right now I'm trying to go for the next best thing: Different accounts per service (vs braindead "Log in with Silicon Valley Corp").

Alas .. Persona would simplify my password store a LOT. I'd back a campaign. Not sure if I could offer hundreds of dollars, but let me state here that I'd find a way to add 50-80 right away/as an incentive to adopt the project again and I definitely would be able to contribute a recurring amount (a la Patreon etc) for the ongoing development.

7
saurik 10 days ago 2 replies      
For more (and better) counter arguments, start with this thread (which was about one particular comparison with Facebook Connect: possibly click to see the parent for context) and then follow my chain of earlier comments I link at the bottom of that one (which were more general, going into the flawed assumptions in Persona about email).

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7243172

(By the way, I am going to try to avoid wasting even more of my life arguing on Hacker News about the benefits or lack thereof of Persona, so I am dropping these links here to maybe seed discussion among others, but I am going to attempt to avoid ruining my Christmas Eve by forcing myself to never look back at this particular thread again ;P.)

Also, for anyone wondering if I have anything credible to say on this subject before bothering to read any of this--and maybe to the one person who downvoted me from 3 points to 2 points, which I noticed as I fleshed out the "I will hopefully leave" message ;P--I have run a service with tens of millions of users that only uses federated login (though accounts are optional, so I "only" have just over ten million accounts on file), and have been staring at this space since 2001, when Microsoft announced Passport (at the time, I even was thinking of starting my own single-sign-on service, but was a naive college student ;P).

(later edit: I found another old thread on this subject that I am going to add here as an edit, mostly because any other way of adding it might cause meto see if there are any responses to this comment ;P. At the time, to this new link, there were two responses I hadn't bothered seeing and responding to: one from someone who insisted upon comparing the fundamental bug in Persona with an existing "worst practice" (as opposed to any of the better alternative options), and one who seems to be in left field assuming the value of a Facebook account is based on whether the user updated their email address: the point I was making is that Facebook isn't actually tied to email addresses, as they "understand" the problem inherent in relying on them for anything, and so users do not run into any of the issues that Persona not only doesn't solve but actually makes worse. Regardless, yeah: even without reading any comments from today I am already spending way too much time at this ;P.)

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8250301

8
dorfsmay 10 days ago 0 replies      
I created this Persona Advocacy mailing list 11 months ago, but didn't get any traction:

persona.advocacy@librelist.com

http://librelist.com/browser//persona.advocacy/2015/1/24/the...

You can subscribe by sending an email to (first message is ditched):

 persona.advocacy@librelist.com

9
stickfigure 10 days ago 0 replies      
I was an early adopter of Persona (my site is billed as example in the docs) and was similarly disappointed when Mozilla gave up on it.

In retrospect, I think that Mozilla made a mistake by centralizing the fallback identity provider. The fallback provider was just a temporary edifice to bootstrap the protocols; it didn't have to be run by Mozilla. Every website could have run a small stack which remained fully self-branded and would only verify email addresses for its own purposes.

I understand why Mozilla took the route they did - centralizing the fallback provider eased the RP implementation, made it possible to rapidly rev the protocols, and in theory made it more convenient for users since one Persona password would work across multiple sites. In practice, however, users were confused about the extra branding and the vague sense of logging into Persona so you can log into a site. More critically, it made the whole project depend on the whims of Mozilla - it's not just software we depend on, but infrastructure, and without Mozilla's support the infrastructure will eventually die.

If Persona is revived, I hope it becomes a complete software stack that every RP can run independently. The fallback IdP should be 100% branded by the RP so users are never confused about what site they are logging into. And as non-hosted software, it should be able to live and evolve as open source software without fear that some tepidly supported server will go down (or simply fail to evolve). IMHO, this is the only way that Persona (or at least the auth standard, which is what we care about) can survive long-term as a community project.

10
soapdog 10 days ago 2 replies      
The main problem with Persona was not the tech, Persona is great and works well. The problem is that building federated identity services is hard. Persona is not a centralized login system such as "login with Facebook". With Persona, once you decide to login with your email account, first Persona looks for an IdP with your domain/provider, the if not found it goes back to the persona catchall service. For a while gmail.com had support for Persona as well and it worked transparently. I don't know if that is still the case.

What killed Persona was not tech but the lack of traction. Developers loved it but failed to use it. By providing options such as FB, Google, Twitter and other logins, the user choose the familiar service and never tried Persona. In the end, the lack of traction together with the overall difficulty of building federated identity services killed it.

But what is dead cannot die! Persona still works, I still use it every day in lots of Mozilla properties and if I had to build some service that required logins, I would use it even today. It is in the hand of the community but with some care and more traction this can become cool again.

I will look into the source code and see if I can help somewhere.

11
patrickaljord 10 days ago 1 reply      
I don't really see the point in this and this is why: let's say Persona won and all the big ones switched to it (Facebook, Google, Twitter etc.) by becoming providers. Most people would still be using their Facebook, Google or Twitter persona anyway (except for a few privacy sensitive users who don't like SaaS anyway because it's bad for privacy according to them). So we would have a situation that would be de facto very similar to what we have now (3 sigin buttons for facebook, google and twitter) and then an extra one for people using their own hosted provider. This is what happened with OpenID, problem was that supporting people using their own providers became a nightmare as these providers went down or had some incompatibilities. People were just angry they couldn't sign in with their old providers, many of theme may have not even known they were using custom providers or what providers are and the other half would be privacy nerds who enjoy complaining every time their custom provider stops being fully compatible. For app owners, it would just be a big waste of time and resources supporting these users.
12
cmurf 10 days ago 0 replies      
Even though I didn't use Persona, having read this, I think this is a big WTF moment for all of us, not just Mozilla. Now I want this thing I didn't know existed because I have, and have had, a need for exactly this. I use a password manager, but I don't really want to use one. I certainly don't like my parents using them, because in fact I have to use them for them because the UI/UX varies so much among web sites. There is no standard UI for changing passwords or doing account resets. All of that shit could go away with this. Fuck. We need to go retrieve that ship!
13
prodmerc 10 days ago 3 replies      
I find Keepass and/or Lastpass are better solutions - you can have different logins for different sites, generate truly strong random passwords and login with two clicks in any modern browser.

I don't want Google (or God forbid, Facebook) knowing what sites I login to and part of my credentials, and I don't want websites to know my email address.

I know you say they don't have this information, but it's not hard to get access to it if they feel they want to. Google Web History already creeps me out :-)

I also feel more secure with different passwords (and even emails) on different sites.

14
charlieok 10 days ago 0 replies      
As I understand it, the main point of Persona was improving the situation around authentication and passwords.

Now, I'm seeing indications that Mozilla is working on implementing FIDO U2F support (Mozillas commitment to add FIDO U2F support to the Firefox browser).

https://www.yubico.com/2015/12/2015-was-a-yubico-rocket-ride...

That seems like a much better approach to improving the situation around authentication and passwords than Persona was.

15
wildlogic 10 days ago 2 replies      
This might be a silly question, but why do we need Mozilla to build this system? Is it a matter of trust in Mozilla and a greater likelihood of adoption if Mozilla is the organization providing this service?
16
drdaeman 10 days ago 1 reply      
Please, don't.

Persona is an inherently bad protocol that continues the unnerving trend to shift the concept of identities from something that's owned to something that's merely leased and temporarily granted.

It's better than "Login with $Provider" in a sense that $Provider doesn't get the data, but it's equally worse in a sense that $Provider still owns your identity.

I wrote about it here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10595347

17
fermigier 10 days ago 0 replies      
I've used Persona on one project (see: https://github.com/OWF/owf2014/blob/master/website/auth/pers...). I was awesome (much much easier than the OAuth dance with the various providers we wanted to support). I wholeheartedly agree w/ Stavros.
18
jaybosamiya 10 days ago 3 replies      
> As security people like to say, put all your eggs in one basket and stick the basket in Fort Knox

I'm not so sure I want to do that. The point is, even that single Fort Knox can be breached at some point, and if it is, then everything is lost.

I agree that nowadays, email is almost unanimously the way to verify a password reset, and hence all your eggs are already in one basket, but shouldn't there be further protections?

19
odbol 10 days ago 2 replies      
Persona is a neat idea, but there's a better one: get rid of password logins altogether. I should just be able to enter my email on ANY site, and they'll send me an email with a login button. I click the login button in the email, and am automatically logged into the site for as long as necessary.

It's exactly as secure as the "Forgot my password" reset nonsense, but streamlined to be way easier on the user. Then you only need one password: the one to your email. This removes the need for Persona to "add support" for different email providers. Your provider doesn't matter, just the fact that you can receive emails!

I'd really wish more sites would just do this anyway. For instance, every time I get an analytics daily report from Fabric.io, I click the link in the email, and it asks me to login. WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME TO LOGIN, WHEN I JUST CLICKED AN EMAIL YOU SENT ME? It's obviously me!

20
IgorPartola 10 days ago 2 replies      
While I think Persona is way better than password-based auth, I can't help but feel that it's also a sideways step. No, authentication should be provided by the user-agent, not by some third party identity provider (even if you control it by running your own). We have this for ssh: you have your private ssh key and it's up to you to manage having it in the right places (work desktop, laptop, phone, etc.) It's clunky, but that's OK: it's aimed at tech people.

Browsers should do something similar: provide a storage for private and public keys as proof of identity. But they should additionally provide a way to sync those identities across multiple browsers and machines. This latter concept will be familiar to anyone who has used LastPass. The former, well it should basically be a dropdown with your identities, and you choose one before clicking the "Login" button.

21
romaniv 10 days ago 3 replies      
> Anyone with access to your email account can simply reset any password on any site. The right solution is to make your email account very, very secure.

No, the right solution is to stop using email as sole identification for password resets. Yes, there are other solutions you can implement right now without waiting for some big company to save you.

The most obvious one it to create a second factor of authentication just for account resets. It could be via an SMS OR simply by asking user to print out/write down a special randomly generated "reset" number.

"But SMS costs money!" No, for most providers you can send an email to a special address reserved for the phone number. It will get translated to SMS automatically.

"But users will forget/loose their reset number!" Maybe, maybe not. It's a cultural thing. You don't expect them to loose access to their email, but that happens all the time.

22
tajen 10 days ago 3 replies      
- Can Mozilla set up a kickstarter for this project?

- Is it technically possible to create a Bash/SSH integration? The Linux world pretty much has SSO now, it would be an awesome argument to have this and Persona extend each other.

23
programminggeek 10 days ago 2 replies      
Not sure if anyone realizes this, but Mozilla is not really an open source thing. It's a company that happens to be a nonprofit. It deploys resources and runs itself like a Silicon Valley company.

It's not just a bunch of dudes in their basements writing code. They have like $330 million in annual revenue. They are sitting on like $90 million in cash.

Mozilla isn't about software for its own sake or just for the sake of the web. They are about self preservation and Persona wasn't going to keep them alive, so they killed it.

Mozilla is a company. That is what companies do.

24
NelsonMinar 10 days ago 1 reply      
We've had 10+ years now of failures to build a proper federated authentication system (RIP OpenID). The problem isn't technical, and it's only a little bit product design. The problem is political. The big companies with the influence to support a system like Persona don't want it. Facebook, Google, etc believe they can own identity on the Internet themselves, so they won't support a neutral identity provider. Which is a terrible situation for users.

Mozilla absolutely is the right kind of organization to try to attack this Gordian knot.

25
_pmf_ 10 days ago 1 reply      
Is there a short introduction as to how Persona deviates from the original decentralized OAuth approach? I'm a bit unclear why what didn't work for decentralized OAuth should work for Persona.
26
sgarrity 10 days ago 3 replies      
The best way to get Persona adopted would be to have someone significant other than Mozilla to adopt it. If IE, Safari, or Chrome had adopted, it would have had a great chance at success.
27
TazeTSchnitzel 10 days ago 0 replies      
It's alarming that after 2 years they killed it off for lack of traction, and not only that, decided they had failed.

How could they have possibly succeeded in that timescale? They seem to think there were flaws with Persona, and that's true, but those flaws could be fixed. Making a few mistakes on an attempt doesn't mean you should kill it off if the basic product works well. It means you fix them. Starting a new Persona is silly, Persona itself works.

28
slacka 10 days ago 0 replies      
It's nearly 2016 and Firefox can still only using 1 of my 8 CPU cores, and I can still bog down the UI with heavy web apps. My favorite email client is no longer supported, and now a potentially great privacy tool is being dropped. Meanwhile, after wasting countless man hours on a Mobile OS, they're now "pivoting" to IoT.

Why can't they just focus on what people value them for, web browsers and privacy?

29
JoachimSchipper 10 days ago 0 replies      
> Even if your email provider does end up getting breached, you only need to change one password to be perfectly secure everywhere again.

I liked the article, but this is not true - if a service gives out password reset tokens or log-in-via-emailed-link tokens, a breach of your e-mail will still require a reset on that service. Even in a fully Persona'ified world, such tokens are likely to exist for at least some services.

30
natrius 10 days ago 0 replies      
Persona seemed like the right identity product for its time, but technology has moved on in the years since. We now have blockchains: shared, publicly-writable databases that are perfect for hosting identities that users fully control. Figuring out decentralized identity is part of my day job, and if it's something you're interested in building or talking about, email me: niran@niran.org.
31
JohnDeHope 10 days ago 0 replies      
You're right. I sent Mozilla $5 this year just for doing what they already do. Kickstart this and they'd get millions, I'd guess.
32
Lethalman 4 days ago 1 reply      
Sorry, where is it said they will stop development of Persona? The homepage and the service seem to be in full health, there's no warning anywhere for users of Persona.

Is there any official statement that Persona will shut down?

33
Perixoog 10 days ago 1 reply      
>Tell the email provider you want to give a site permission to know your email address, without telling the provider which site it is.

Then the site emails you anyway. (If you didn't want them to, you shouldn't have given them your email address).

34
Twisell 10 days ago 0 replies      
If someone at Apple is reading this... please fork it (or built up from scratch) a solid open source SSO system and become an official (but optional) identity provider for your millions customers.

This would be a win-win as this could help AppleID and TouchID becoming even more central for your users while demonstrating at the same time that you care about privacy and are willing to develop an open standard to support strong and distributed identity management system as an alternative to Google and Facebook centralized and privacy unfriendly solution.

35
floatboth 10 days ago 0 replies      
https://indieauth.com

Of course domains aren't as popular as email addresses, but OpenID used domains This is like OpenID done right.

36
sergiotapia 10 days ago 0 replies      
I backed persona with a well written example back when it first 'came out' into the mainstream: https://github.com/sergiotapia/ASP.Net-MVC3-Persona-Demo

It was super easy to integrate, better UX in my eyes, but Mozilla just shut it down for some reason. It died down.

I hope they assign more resources to it. I hate having Facebook sign ins on my website.

37
foxbarrington 10 days ago 0 replies      
As a dev, it was really nice to use Persona and not have to build an authentication system for each project.

Now we use Authentic (https://github.com/davidguttman/authentic). In some ways it's better (e.g. get to control your own UI/UX flows), but it would have been nice to just have Mozilla run/host everything.

38
sova 10 days ago 1 reply      
Persona is a most promising idea because it will eventually lead to secure passwordless login everywhere. Keep the pedal to the metal guys!
39
um_ya 10 days ago 0 replies      
Don't know why persona never caught on, it was probably the best developer/user logon experience I've ever used. When I created my last site, I was very excited about persona, until I realized nobody was developing it anymore, which made me decide against using it. I wish Mozilla would have completed persona before abandoning it.
40
goatic 10 days ago 0 replies      
Persona sounds like what I've always dreamed of for authentication. Why is this not happening anywhere yet?
41
grayrest 10 days ago 0 replies      
The message I got from Persona was "hey we're developing this thing, it'll be part of Firefox." Sounded like a pretty good idea to me and the signal for it being ready so I could reasonably push for adoption. Then it got shut down for no apparent reason.
42
stevetjoa 10 days ago 0 replies      
My first experience with Persona was through my mobile phone provider, Ting. They still use Persona: https://ting.com/account/login. I loved it then, and I love it now.
43
hexis 10 days ago 2 replies      
I haven't looked into Persona since they shut it down, but is it a protocol or a service? If it was actively developed again, would one be able to use Persona without integrating with any Mozilla service at all or would there always be a Mozilla layer involved?
44
lukeh 9 days ago 0 replies      
I really liked Persona and put a bunch of work into extending it (adding support for things like selective attribute disclosure). One real design limitation was that it didn't support delegation (the original use case for OAuth).
45
greggman 9 days ago 0 replies      
Just an idea but could they work with the wordpress guys to make it the default system for wordpress? They're both open source companies and apparently wordpress runs a large percentage of the web.
46
shmerl 10 days ago 0 replies      
I didn't even realize Persona was shut down. It was a good idea.
47
akerro 10 days ago 0 replies      
AND TAKE POCKET AWAY!
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anonbanker 9 days ago 0 replies      
Mitch Baker should be commended on her hard work turning Mozilla back into Netscape.
49
ivanb 9 days ago 0 replies      
My only gripe with Persona is that it is not easy to use in mobile apps, if at all possible.
50
transfire 10 days ago 1 reply      
You know what poverty is? Always starting over. Mozilla is getting good at that.
51
muppetman 10 days ago 0 replies      
People who write open letters need to fall in a hole. They're so lame.
The Refragmentation paulgraham.com
820 points by urs2102   ago   424 comments top 99
1
gotchange 1 day ago 12 replies      
A very fascinating article that I have truly enjoyed reading minus the last 10 or so paragraphs where Paul expressed it unequivocally that he's a status-quo warrior and that nothing can be done to remedy the problem of the ever widening gap of income inequality in the global economy and more specifically in the US and that it's a "natural" product of the state of affairs in our world. A classical example of the naturalistic fallacy [0].

Also, it's also worrying the degree of infatuation or affection for the early 20th century years with central planning of the economy, crony capitalism, robber barons, an all-powerful big government, centralization and concentration of power at the hands of a few, regimented and uniformed society ...etc.

No leftie is arguing or longing for any of these policies. What we're looking for is just more equality in economic opportunities and esp capital and that distribution of capital to be more fair across all the classes and not to be a privilege only for rich and highly connected people.

That's how we envision the solution to fix this problem of "fragmentation" as he put when it exactly is more like a "segregation" problem but not based on racial or cultural factors but on economic one into two completely separate societies between the haves and have-nots, between the 1% and the 99% of the population and it's getting worse and uglier by the day.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalistic_fallacy

2
rsync 1 day ago 7 replies      
"Obviously the spread of computing power was a precondition for the rise of startups."

If you live in San Francisco (or are visiting) you can visit the USS Pampanito - a retired WWII submarine.[1]

One thing I think you will notice is the manufacturers plaques attached to every little piece of equipment in the submarine ... every one of them the plaque of some tiny little supplier that you have never heard of. Some little Detroit Turbine Supply Company or American Radio Corporation of Maryland ...

Seriously - every single component has a label on it from a firm you have never, ever heard of.

I guess I don't have a deep knowledge of military procurement and supply circa 1942 (or whenever) but it sure looks like startups to me ...

[1] http://www.maritime.org/tour/index.php

3
MichaelMoser123 20 minutes ago 0 replies      
>Not everyone who gets rich now does it by creating wealth, certainly. But a significant number do, and the Baumol Effect means all their peers get dragged along too. [23] And as long as it's possible to get rich by creating wealth, the default tendency will be for economic inequality to increase

My question is: significantly more wealth seems to be generated by big corporations by means of financial 'instruments' rather than by value creation; is that correct?

Also this lecture [1] says that scientific and technological breatkhroughs are much harder to achieve these days - because all the shallow fruit is already taken and it costs more to digg deep. Now doesn't that make value creation harder for the coming decades? (for example the PC revolution was based on breakthroughs in physics/semiconductors/electronics - these will be harder and harder to achieve)

So it is hard to tell which one will dominate for the near future: value extraction by means of financial trickery (my guess is that this makes society more hierarchical, and the top of the hierarchy will try to enforce equal standing for the lower ranks) or the possibility of real value creation (this one would create a chance for a wider audience) ?

[1] Collapse of Complex Societies by Dr. Joseph Tainter https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0R09YzyuCI

4
jusben1369 1 day ago 5 replies      
The thing to me is Silicon Valley is the place in the US that still looks like that post WWII America. Large monopolies like Google, Apple and FB utilizing fantastic profits and paying amazing perks to employees. Everyone working in and on the same mission acting as a social fabric tying people together. Glass Door and the Internet in general replacing trade unions by helping balance a knowledge imbalance so that workers can maximize their benefits.

The irony of regularly lecturing the rest of the country and world about what the future holds from the position as a final bastion on unassailable US hegemony of last century (2nd only to Hollywood?) perplexes me.

5
pcmaffey 1 day ago 4 replies      
"And as long as it's possible to get rich by creating wealth, the default tendency will be for economic inequality to increase."

This seems to be the ontological point of his essay, which reads as a loosey historical narrative manufactured to defend his belief that the fight against "economic inequality" will undermine innovation by disincentivizing the next Zuckerberg.

But it misses the underlying point of wealth creation: if more people create more wealth, then naturally, there should be less poverty. Adding value to the world makes the pie bigger. The real issue is distribution. Our current economic model distributes wealth as a factor of capital, which is hoarded at the top and systematically protected. It would be silly to say that the top 1% of the population, which owns more than the rest of the 99% combined, creates more wealth or is more productive than everyone else on the planet. They just have a monopoly on capital.

6
msvan 1 day ago 2 replies      
I think this is one of the most interesting essays he's written in a while, and it echoes many of my own thoughts better than I could express them.

PG seems to argue that the fragmentation of society is a question of efficiency. A natural effect of this is that the world will become more cut-throat. Efficient systems turn hyper-competitive, as seen in university admissions, startups, financial markets. It seems to me that too much "liquidity" mostly causes burnout, depression, dumb risk-taking, and a few really successful winners. Tech is really guilty of this phenomenon by tending to produce one winner for every thousand losers.

In many ways the 20th century was an anomaly -- the wars were more violent, the rate of growth was faster, the cultural shifts were huge and multifaceted -- but we still use tend to see it as a normal state of things. A hundred years into the future we'll be looking at an entirely different world and consider it normal.

7
bitwize 12 hours ago 2 replies      
Graham leaves out one crucial thing:

A more equal society is a better society. Always. This was borne out in the work of Wilkinson and Pickett for their book The Spirit Level.

You may have less technology. You may have less innovation. Tough. Creating more of what Earl Dunovant called "cute and useful monkey tricks with energy and matter" at the expense of your fellow man and the planet does not put you ahead, and societies should not seek to optimize for monkey tricks over the betterment of their fellow man.

Inequality (along with the environment) may be the defining issue of the twenty-first century, and once recognition of inequality and its consequences goes mainstream, laissez-faire capitalism will join royalism in the dustbin of discredited political philosophies.

8
wbl 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think this essay ignores the impact of the Civil Rights Movement and feminism in undermining the 1950s. The world of the 1950's wasn't one where women could work, despite that having been the case since the 1920's. It was also the world in which Brown v. Board of Ed. lead to federal troops being deployed in the south to safeguard the rights of citizens, and ultimately lead to the Freedom Summer which radicalized a lot of New Leftists. So perhaps the 1950's was a world based on certain kinds of exclusions, that once removed, broke down.
9
rmason 1 day ago 0 replies      
PG you may want to rethink the idea of networks of cooperating companies work better than a single big company. Just finished reading Ashlee Vance's biography of Elon Musk.

Real revelation for this Michigan boy was that at both Tesla and SpaceX Musk had failures trying to use existing supplier networks. By doing a lot of manufacturing in house Musk not only realized cost and time savings but gained an agility and nimbleness that blew away his competitors. Granted Musk didn't need to manufacture his own raw materials. But in doing his own manufacturing he was able to gain a further competitive edge by making his products better. For example the Big 3's supplier networks add to their sloth and look-alike products.

10
lsc 18 hours ago 1 reply      
>The ultimate way to get market price is to work for yourself, by starting your own company.

see... this (and the implication that people working at large companies get less than market rate) doesn't ring true for me. The real "free markets" of labor, like craigslist and the rent-a-coder marketplaces pay about 20% of what you get if you go through a recruiter who has "a relationship" with a large company... for doing essentially the same thing, and from what I've seen, contractor pay (after the middleman takes his cut) is about the same as base pay (for the same work) at a large company.

Now, when I started contracting in the early aughts, base pay was basically the same as total comp, and so I subtracted the payroll taxes and health insurance and could pretty much directly compare contract vs salary wages. In the early aughts, it was pretty unusual for individual contributors to get big bonuses or even stock refreshes (or that was my perception; I was considerably less senor at the time.)

But, from what I've seen, if you are full-time at a big company here, you get a pretty significant bump now, in terms of bonuses and stock.

My point here is just that my experience has been that when I'm selling my labor, the further I move away from "the free market for labor" and the closer I get to a system of rank and privilege as pg describes 20th century corporations, the more I get paid.

11
dkural 20 hours ago 1 reply      
A counter-example, and a different framework to think about equality: Most of Scandinavia has fragmentation, freedom of expression, and genuine diversity of choice, diversity of lifestyle, of opinion, but it also has more equality. One can have a more equal society without raising taxes or massive wealth distribution. This is possible if a society ensures that its children receive adequate and equal access to healthcare and education in their earliest years, in other words, an equal start. This is where the US fails the most compared to Europe. Property taxes are the levers through the poor are priced out of good school districts. It acts as the algorithm through which self-segregation is made possible, often resulting in racial segregation as well. Education being a local affair ensures the wealthy and the educated have no incentive to fight for the rights of the poor and the ignorant, since they can get their fix via simply moving to a better neighborhood, leaving the others behind. Not so in Europe. The leaders of the community put pressure on officials and the system, and as the one system improves, so does the lot of all.A similar dynamic is true in healthcare as well, in Europe: A single-payer system ensures all get the same healthcare, and suddenly fixing it becomes a problem of upper-classes as well, but the entire society benefits from the improved system.

PG's post is self-justifying and self-interested.

Here's an alternative explanation of fragmentation: It is the sign of a new industry. It'll consolidate once it matures. Look at semiconductor & hardware consolidation. Google, Amazon, Apple, MSFT, Intel, Oracle etc. absorb a lot of software biz over time. There used to be hundreds of car companies, dozens of aircraft manufacturers.

12
Alex3917 1 day ago 2 replies      
Great essay. I would quibble with the following though:

> [Technology] means the variation in the amount of wealth people can create has not only been increasing, but accelerating.

The problem with this is that success = ability * motivation * opportunity. There's no question that technology is increasing ability. But it's less clear what's happening with opportunity.

Networks tend to be winner-take-all, which means that technology actually depletes opportunity at the same time as it increase ability. Which I think means that we're actually going toward integration, not fragmentation. Only this time we don't need another WWII to integrate society because it's already happening, it's just less visible.

E.g. the vast majority of the traditional media is controlled by the same six corporations. And to quote Fred Wilson's 2015 wrap up, "10 of the top 12 mobile apps are owned by Apple, Facebook, and Google."

There's no question that individuals are way more free than they were in 1950 or whatever. But I think it's more analogous to free-as-in-beer, as opposed to free-as-in-speech.

13
three14 1 day ago 4 replies      
One taboo on HN is pointing out that even though software is a huge lever, there's no sign of the end of raw human labor. In every industry you can point to jobs being lost to automation, yet you still need many, many people in health care, or construction, or manufacturing, or police, or teaching, or mining, or working for utilities, etc. It's complete speculation to suggest that jobs are disappearing faster than they could be replaced. It's not surprising that people who used to work for big auto manufacturers can't continue to work for those same manufacturers, and that says nothing about whether those same people could find low-skill jobs in other industries, nor whether investment in sectors other than GM or Ford could create more unskilled jobs.

If there was a larger market for unskilled labor, the competition for workers would tend to drive up wages and lower inequality.

14
jakozaur 1 day ago 1 reply      
Great article, but it misses two triggers:

1. Globalization. A lot of manual labour was tied to USA, not so ago to local labour. In last 20-30 years a lot of things get imported from China or outsourced to India.

2. Software (briefly mentioned in original article). Previous technology advancement can give someone leverage, but software got probably the largest leverage in humankind history. Single program can automate what used to do an army of employees. Natural monopolies are common thanks to network effect, economy of scale or technological advances.

Winner takes all market (e.g. Apple has almost all profits in smartphone market, Android got some market share, alternatives are niches).

15
Wissmania 10 hours ago 0 replies      
I don't see how someone can credibly argue that raising income tax rates discourages innovation. As if Zuck or Gates wouldn't have started their companies if they only would have made $25 billion instead of $50 billion.

He even argues in earlier writing that most of the innovation comes from genuine passion for solving a problem, rather than profit motive.

People who have worked a lot to increase their wealth understandably don't want a portion of it taken away, even if it probably won't make them less happy, or motivate people less in the future.

16
chrispeel 1 day ago 1 reply      
It seems to me that much of the fragmentation that the post discusses is just economic specialization, which we should encourage (see Adam Smith). I do think it is reasonable that one limits the 'fragmentation', i.e. that one puts negative feedback in the economic loop in the form of a progressive tax. Negative feedback is used everywhere in electronics and even sometimes by the Fed to control interest rates. Even so, many economists [1] throw up their hand and say macro economics is too tough and we just can't predict how it will work. This seems like nonsense to my engineer brain; I think that a sharply progressive tax with an accompanying universal basic income is the right way to encourage economic diversity.

[1] I get my impression of economists from EconTalk by Russ Roberts.

17
AstroChimpHam 1 day ago 4 replies      
PG started off talking about the fragmentation in politics, and I wish he would have wrapped that back in at the end. It feels to me like the two party system in the US is dying now as the oligopolistic system of just a few big companies began dying in the 90s.

The two party political system is more unnatural than the few-big-companies system. Libertarians and Evangelicals agree on very little yet they've been voting for the same party for years. Proponents of extreme reform on the other side don't want to vote for a moderate candidate. A Trump vs Clinton election is going to leave too many people without a candidate and force the beginning of the end of the two party system.

18
sce 1 day ago 4 replies      
Regarding income inequality, I recommend listening to some of the speeches/debates with Bernie Sanders.

E.g. he argues that the greatest receiver of welfare in the US is the wal-Mart family, because they get even richer paying their workers so little that the workers have to live on welfare. (In other words the welfare is "paying" the workers so that Wal-Mart don't have to.) He proposes to rise the minimum wage.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYFueqv0iIQ

19
r2dnb 1 day ago 0 replies      
Interesting article, the insight of PG is much valuable but I find his attempt to depict a fragmentation model unconvincing. While this model captures the dynamics at play, it fails to explain them and to introduce an easier way to act on them while this is the point of a model. This sums up an extensive feeling about this article.

I'd like to react to three of my picks. First of all PG conveys with its fragmentation model that long careers in the same company are a thing of the past. I explain an opposite view and support that new companies will have people work longer for them (10 to 20 years) by hiring them much earlier, for much cheaper. This challenges the dynamics presented by PG.

http://read.reddy.today/read/7/hire-high-school-graduates-in...

The second thing is that I found intriguing that PG write "Your prestige was the prestige of the institution you belonged to" talking about college graduates, as if it was a thing of the past and thus presenting himself as a hacker of this system while YC overly represents Stanford alumnis. But this is a paradox that I found with YC in general. They position themselves as a hacker of the system while they really are a cornerstone of this system in many regards.

Therefore - third thing - it wasn't a surprise for me to find in the last paragraph that PG envisages centralization as a better alternative and with a certain nostalgy thinks that the effects of this "defragmentation" need to be contained. Overall, PG thinks like a wealthy man who made his fortune in the late 90s and who has the graduate syndrom - about which I will write momentarily. His insight is certainly valuable but his proposition isn't disruptive.

20
coldtea 1 day ago 0 replies      
Amazing how he can describe the post-war era (an era, including the 50s and 60s remembered as a period of ever increasing prosperity, integration, intellectual achievements, scientific and technical progress, powerful movements of social change, job security, every generation having it better than before, etc.) as some kind of "equality disaster".

Yeah, we're moving past it now, but towards something that resembles the pre-war years of robber barons, crony capitalism, and maybe even share-cropping (in modern form) more than some glorious future.

21
h2077545 15 hours ago 0 replies      
> The effects of World War II were both economic and social. Economically, it decreased variation in income. Like all modern armed forces, America's were socialist economically. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. More or less. Higher ranking members of the military got more (as higher ranking members of socialist societies always do), but what they got was fixed according to their rank. And the flattening effect wasn't limited to those under arms, because the US economy was conscripted too. Between 1942 and 1945 all wages were set by the National War Labor Board. Like the military, they defaulted to flatness. And this national standardization of wages was so pervasive that its effects could still be seen years after the war ended. [1]

Just another article by a hypocrite capitalist talking about "socialism" without a clue.

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cronjobber 1 day ago 6 replies      
He takes the easy way out on the war theory: It would be awful, of course, so let's not think about it.

But think about it. Would historical WWII be possible in today's United States? Introduce the draft and send current US population off to die in Europe? I think you'd see intense levels of political resistance, draft dodging and desertion in the field. Fragmentation means you probably can't unite the whole country to die for... whatever anymore.

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bawana 1 day ago 2 replies      
Refragmentation is the result of the fungibility of money. When we wanted to make things (stuff people could use to make war or make a better life) money was spent to make those things. Like the water cycle, money would be transformed from one phase into another so that work could be accomplished that directly impacted humanity. But we have short circuited that cycle. Now money is being used directly to make more money through financial instruments. People and the stuff that people want are excluded from this new cycle. (Most people anyway) Money goes directly from its production right back into wagers on the production of more money. For example, the currency markets dwarf the actual gdp of the planet.

To restore balance to the ecology of our civilization, we need to make money a tool for humans. By requiring the use of money only for investment in real stuff, we will deflate the artificial valuations that dwarf the real value of human labor. We will necessarily find ways to restore value to human endeavors and new ways to measure the value of human efforts. More people will thus have value to our civilization on this planet. Otherwise, the refragmentation will continue until it reaches its logical conclusion - a scary picture for humanity.

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markbnj 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm older than Mr. Graham, and grew up in the heart of the period he focuses on. I think this is one of the smartest essays about the economic and cultural after-effects of the great wars of the 20th century, and all the accompanying and related social phenomena, that I have ever read.
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harryh 1 day ago 1 reply      
This essay is excellent, but I wonder a bit about the fact that it focused on the US only. On a global scale I think that experiences are continuing to compress and will continue to do so for at least a few generations.

If this is true, does it invalidate pg's overall thesis? I'm not sure. Interesting to think about though.

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Animats 1 day ago 1 reply      
He quotes Rockefeller in 1989: "The day of combination is here to stay."

The amusing thing is that he writes this just as the era of fragmentation in the US is coming to a close. We have one winner in search - Google. We have one winner in social - Facebook. We're down to a few retail Internet providers, a few big banks, a few big airlines, a few telecom companies, and a few commercial real estate owners per city. There would be more concentration in those sectors without regulatory pushback.

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csense 1 day ago 1 reply      
Interesting to see that PG agrees with something I've been saying here for a long time, about the role of globalization in economic inequality [1] [2] [3].

Of course I grew up in the Rust Belt, where the average person used to be able to make a good living with a high school education in the steel or automotive industry, but now most of the factories are idle, rusting eye-sores, most of the ambitious, talented kids want to go somewhere else -- anywhere else -- and the closest thing to a growth industry is health care for the folks who earned a good retirement during the glory days and are starting to get old.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9868017

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9560872

[3] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7152378

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CloudYeller 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think Paul missed an opportunity to identify economies of scope, not scale, as a major lever in advancement.

He says:

> Incumbents faced new competitors as (a) markets went global and (b) technical innovation started to trump economies of scale, turning size from an asset into a liability

It's true that innovation trumps economy of scale, but that's because economy of scale doesn't really apply to software; all software is instantly scalable to 100% of humans at virtually 0 cost, more or less.

But the software giants have something up their sleeve that no startups have: economies of scope. Look at Shazam/SoundHound. Google has released Play SoundSearch which leverages all of their internal AI research + advanced computational and human resources that aren't available to the public. In effect, a megacorp can replace an entire company by saying "Let's throw 15 engineers on it for a year and see what happens." And if a startup pops up that seems promising? They buy it out, adding it to their trophy wall of innovations they can leverage. And megacorp employees can easily stand on the shoulders of giants; instead of stackoverflow, megacorp employees can search through massive archives of top-notch, fully-working code that was designed by some of the best engineers on Earth.

More and more, it takes something truly amazing for a startup to grow enough to compete with a megacorp. Not only does your technology have to be profound, but you need to withstand aggressive buyout deals from several megacorps.

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basicplus2 1 day ago 1 reply      
Imagine a society of four people, one grows rice for four, one grows chickens for four one grows vegetables for four, one builds and maintains houses for four there is no profit and there is equality.

If one person is profiting... or in our world a person is profiting more than the others it is inequality in action.

Progressive tax rates are the simplest solution.

The thinking that one persons work is more important than another's is a dangerous and slippery slope.

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Mindphreaker 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Very interesting article. I mostly agree with the idea of social fragmentation. I think it is no coincidence that we like to call ourselves "individuals". Maybe the thought reflects our current zeitgeist but it seems almost natural (nowadays) for humans to emphasize our differences / our individualism. However, it seems very interesting, that as much as we like to differentiate ourselves we also tend to some kind of collectivism (e.g. trending sports, technology (iPhone/Android), etc.), even working for the same corporations (Google/Facebook/Apple...) which also appears contrary to the article. It may be true that the speed of change is accelerating but I can't agree with the idea that we already reached a fully fragmented society (yet) which is here to stay.

Another interesting part was the analogy to Ford's vertical integration. The trend definitely went from fully integrated mega corps to fragmented networks of corporations. The car industry is a perfect example. It would be exciting to know if PG thought about Tesla/SpaceX and it's current move towards a higher level of integration (producing more and more parts by themselves) in order to control the quality of their products. It may be sign that we are on the edge or maximum of fragmentation and there are trends emerging which pull us back into consolidation (maybe in another form than it used to).

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skybrian 1 day ago 0 replies      
This history is pretty well-written as far as it goes, but it's centered on the white American male worker's experience, and particularly on the sort of person who had a chance at being a manager.

It barely mentions women and doesn't mention the civil rights movement at all. A majority of Americans living at the time had no chance at being an executive at a large corporation.

There has never been a time when all workers were treated equally.

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vasilipupkin 1 day ago 0 replies      
I enjoyed the essay, but I completely disagree that the 1945-2000 represented years when America was most cohesive. That seems like a perfunctory reading of history. American history of mid 20th century is that of strife, disagreement, political battles, fights for race and gender equality, etc. America today seems much more cohesive to me than ever before. Does a New Yorker today have more or less in common with someone from Texas or Alabama than 50 years ago ? I think way more. So, I think the rest of the esay falls down like a colossus with feet of clay, once you demolish the central thesis of cohesion
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leot 1 day ago 1 reply      
"A physicist who chose physics over Wall Street in 1990 was making a sacrifice that a physicist in 1960 wasn't."

The trouble is the proportion of those who have the highest technological leverage and are engaged in rent-seeking rather than wealth creation. The 1960s physicist was creating wealth they couldn't capture, while the 1990s physicist was capturing wealth they didn't create. If physicists (and other Ivey grads) all only chose wealth-creation, we'd see far less inequality (at least outside the Bay Area). The trouble is the pull of the largely zero-sum (or negative-sum) world of finance, which more than startups has increased the pressure to "make your fortune". Inequality begets more inequality, because when half my cohort is suddenly making 10x more than me, there are real consequences to my own social, personal, and civic life.

This is all on top of the relatively novel wealth imperative introduced by the progress of biotech. It used to be that, beyond a certain point, money only really conferred social status (and even then, only within a certain peer group): if I don't care about status within that particular group, then why should I care about making more than (say) $200k/year? Except now, with the rapid development of fancy unaffordable therapies and med-tech devices, having an extra 10 million $ lying around can have a much larger impact on quality of life than it did even a couple decades ago. And then there's the significant (if small) possibility that, if Kurzweil + co. end up being right, a bit more wealth might mean being able to "live long enough to live forever".

Current tax policy is heavily skewed in favor of the already wealthy, and wealth inequality is currently orders of magnitude worse than income inequality. So rather than just asking everyone to get comfortable with it, why not do something to actually address it? We need to make significant adjustments to (a) strongly discourage rent-seeking, (b) encourage those with the highest technological leverage to make the most of their talents, knowledge, and access, and (c) greatly increase everyone's ability to create, capture, and save wealth.

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mbrock 1 day ago 0 replies      
David Chapman wrote an interesting set of posts about fragmentation from the perspective of culture, counterculture, and subcultures.

http://meaningness.com/meaningness-history

That's the intro for a series of posts listed at the bottom.

Here's a "gigantic chart that explains everything": http://meaningness.com/modes-chart

Here's "systems of meaning all in flames": http://meaningness.com/systems-crisis-breakdown

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WoodenChair 1 day ago 2 replies      
> It would be insane to go to war just to induce more national unity.

It's probably out of the scope of this essay, but we have in fact been at war for 14 years. It's not at the scale of WW2, but it's war none the less. I think it has not induced national unity due to precisely what Graham describes - fragmentation in society.

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wtbob 1 day ago 1 reply      
Very interesting, particularly the idea that the rise in inequality is a ntural consequence of fairness. I wonder, then, if those opposing the rise in inequality aren't like King Canute ordering the tide to recede.
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twelvechairs 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is a great article which raises many important issues, but I'd like to offer a couple of criticisms.

I'm not convinced 'fragmentation' is the best way to summarise these trends. Small businesses are in fact still losing ground and importance to larger businesses (see for example http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/running_small_business/...). What definitely is happening compared to the mid 20th C is that the economy is more complex and thus there are more diverse industries represented in government, and also the lifespan of large companies is reduced, particularly as technology advances faster now than ever before. Jobs are also becoming ever more centralised in cities due to their increased need for direct communication which hasn't been countered by technology yet (despite a minor trend for remote work). These are the major trends for me.

I'd also add that while networks of smaller companies may have some innovation advantage over large companies (depending on the industry and innovation), many are focussed on industries where they can reduce labour rights, safety standards, avoid tax and lower wages e.g. in construction industry subcontracting, clothing manufacturing, hardware manufacturing, etc.)

Whats also glossed over here is the advances to society made through mechanisms which aren't people trying to get rich, or seek a 'market price' for their 'wealth creation'. Lets not forget that most of the true computer pioneers were people in the corner of some university or military institution somewhere. Similarly in medicine and most sciences, research which is not profit-driven has been core to much of the 'wealth' of the 20th century across the world.

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roeme 1 day ago 2 replies      
If this piqued your interest; or left you wondering, I'd recommend reading Piketty's "Capital in the twenty-first Century".

As Graham's piece concludes; if we don't do something, we'll get into trouble.

- Terrific work causes us to think of additional questions.

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riffraff 1 day ago 0 replies      
I am unconvinced that fragmentation actually happened.

Sure, maybe there are more airlines, but are there more airplane-making companies or car companies now then in the '60s?

Or consider this:

> Kids who went to private schools or wished they did started to dress "preppy," and kids who wanted to seem rebellious made a conscious effort to look disreputable

How didn't this happen in the 50s too? "Greasers" are _the epitome_ of rebellious kids.

Or consider politics: I have no idea what politicians said in the US at the time, but back in western europe we had a political spectrum that went from "fascism is okaish" to "praise lenin". At least, didn't the US had basically everyone on the same side regarding abortion and divorce, compared to now?

Looks to me the essay suffers from sampling bias, even if most likely unintentional. Sure a few things are examples of increased "refragmentation" but I am unconvinced this is a general, uniform, and strong trend.

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tlogan 1 day ago 0 replies      
> A lot of the change I've seen is fragmentation. US politics is much more polarized

> than it used to be.

I really do not want to be jerk here but this is 'white guy point of view'. The US politics is more polarized than it used to be because black, latinos, women, gays, socialists, etc. have some voice in politics now. Before they had absolutely no voice or very little.

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tdaltonc 1 day ago 0 replies      
> Globally the trend has been in the other direction.

I think that this is misleading. Every global culture is fragmenting, but the biggest fragments within countries tend to get along much better then they used to. There is a "global culture" now that contains a bigger share of humanity then ever before, but inside each nation it still looks like fragmentation.

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anoncoder 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's tax policy, plain and simple. Stop paying taxes and you'll get richer, relative to those paying taxes. All the communication and technology changes have made it much easier to evade taxes. That and government complicity.

For the last 40 years, we were promised a better living standard in exchange for lower taxes. It backfired. We forgot about the vice that has no bounds - greed. That's why we have to set limits. Paul alludes to the correct and only solution - make tax rates so high to discourage accumulating wealth beyond a certain point.

It's a wave, but the wave has crested. Tax rates will rise, the loopholes will be removed, and the existing tax laws will start to get enforced. Too bad, it could have been different.

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netcan 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Great essay. Though obviously, such a big hypothesis is very speculative.

I think the use of the "market price" concept so heavily here might be taking away a little. It sort of assumes some objective (if unknowable) value to human contribution or achievement. I think in the labour market in general, and specifically the components that he's talking about in the lang term, are hard to describe well this way. Between the difficulty to evaluating labour quality, the variability in "quality" depending on specific circumstances, the bargaining/liquidity issues and other problems, I think we enter a (Ronald) Coase-esqu problem where markets do not play out efficiently enough to reveal an information rich market price.

I wonder if this essay would be much different without market price.

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kmonsen 21 hours ago 0 replies      
"The ultimate way to get market price is to work for yourself, by starting your own company." This seems to be one of his main points here, and for me it is not true at all.

There are many people that bring real value, even if they would not be good founders (and maybe not even good as first 1-10 employees). That is just one specific set of skills (in addition to common skills), a person can bring a lot of value without being a good founder.

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mwcampbell 1 day ago 0 replies      
> The creative class flocks to a handful of happy cities, abandoning the rest

At least this trend is one that individual programmers can choose to resist, assuming we don't have to move to Silicon Valley or Seattle to get good jobs. I, for one, don't have any desire to leave my home town of Wichita, Kansas.

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jcfrei 1 day ago 0 replies      
While the article is rather long and touches on many subjects, I believe I agree with the underlying sentiment. Namely, that income inequality is rising and social cohesion is eroding (whereby the former is largely responsible for the latter in my opinion). Looking at historical income inequality in the US, we see that it's just returning to pre 20th century levels. This is not surprising, since the 20th appears to be at odds in many ways with other centuries. Especially the rise of the middle-class (which quickly was understood as a society's default state) seems like a purely 20th century phenomenon. The real question is whether societies in developed countries will accept a return back to more divisive wealth distributions (where people are either clearly upper or clearly lower class).

Furthermore I think it's very important to differentiate between total wealth and wealth distribution. Some (probably rather right-wing politicians) advocate total wealth creation and others (rather left-wing politicians) promote (equal) wealth distribution. Economically speaking the former is clearly preferable, while for social cohesion the later is clearly preferable. Which way we go is (hopefully) up to the democratic electorate (ie. you). And should that not be the case, then at the very least we can all agree that fixing the democratic (legislative) process must be our very first priority - no matter if you seek more or less taxation.

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Pyxl101 1 day ago 0 replies      
Other recent Paul Graham writings on inequality that I thought were interesting reads:

http://paulgraham.com/inequality.html Inequality and Risk, 2005) - economic inequality goes hand-in-hand with risk. If you remove the payoff rewards of risky bets like founding companies, then you remove the incentive to do those things in the first place.

http://paulgraham.com/ineq.html more on Economic Inequality)

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paulpauper 1 day ago 0 replies      
In the early 20th century, big companies were synonymous with efficiency. In the late 20th century they were synonymous with inefficiency. To some extent this was because the companies themselves had become sclerotic. But it was also because our standards were higher.

------------------------------------

Huh? His memory must have stopped in 2000 at the peak of the dotcom bubble. Everything has become much more efficient (both in the stock market and in corporate america) and competitive, with droves of college graduates applying for jobs that can be completed by a high-school dropout.

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orthoganol 1 day ago 2 replies      
If people enjoy reading history like this, I highly recommend Jeffrey Frieden's "Global Capitalism: It's Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century."

Overall, I think a dimension perhaps lacking in PG's otherwise fantastic writeup is that this 'fragmentation' opens up a space of freedom. I mean, our society basically interpolates individuals (younger generations at least) as existential subjects - no set path on what we should do with our lives, no God, no religion, we have to make our own meaning. Painful and difficult, but a source of freedom either way. Today I can travel as a digital nomad, found a startup, work for a rocketship, work for a stable, high paying company, freelance, or switch careers altogether. I get to choose who I associate with and date and marry (and it's even acceptable to not marry), while choosing from a much larger, more open pool, and for the most part, I get to choose who I am. Not everyone has access to this freedom, but it's still the point in human history when the largest number of people have ever had access to this freedom.

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Tycho 1 day ago 1 reply      
Terrific essay. It's really impressive how much of the world it explained and tied in with history.

One thing I would like to discuss though is this line:

The creative class flocks to a handful of happy cities, abandoning the rest.

This suggests that there are entire cities, even states, lacking in creative people. Now I'm sure PG was consciously generalizing, or else referring to the extraordinarily creative entrepreneurs like Musk, Dorsey etc. (creative in the business sense), so I don't want to nitpick.

But what do people think about this? Everywhere I've gone in life I've found creative, dynamic people somewhere in my midst. I know a frequent complaint from the Left is the slightly galling idea that if the capitalists abandoned us, society wouldn't be able to fill the ranks of the managerial positions and keep things going. What do other people think? Have you lived in (developed world) cities which felt entirely stultified and lacking the human capital to make things better?

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justinhj 20 hours ago 3 replies      
Consider one ycombinator company,Uber. Do they generate wealth? From the point of view of a NYC taxi driver they are directly taking both the customers and the value of the drivers medallions. In return,uber drivers work giving 1/3 of their earnings to a company because that company built the software and lobbied the governments (presumably eventually) to allow this new form of public transport. It doesn't seem any different to the past. Those with the connections, capital and technology take a large share of the wealth being generated by the actual workers.
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caf 21 hours ago 0 replies      
And the second reason is that if you want to solve a problem using a network of cooperating companies, you have to be able to coordinate their efforts, and you can do that much better with computers. Computers reduce the transaction costs that Coase argued are the raison d'etre of corporations. That is a fundamental change.

I wonder if the same is true of coordinating efforts in a centrally planned economy - would computers be the same kind of fundamental change there?

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bhuga 1 day ago 2 replies      
Interesting piece. It will take some time to digest.

I wonder about the arrow of causation for conformity back in the 40's. This essay describes WWII as a spark of a generation of conformity (preceded by the New Deal for some). But it's really hard to imagine modern society signing on to a world war. What's to stop parents afraid of vaccinations from taking their draft-age children to New Zealand?

Was there something else that was already more conformist? Or was there another proximate cause, maybe even one as simple as a perceived global threat (communism, fascism) combined with a lack of individual physical mobility?

The essay is good and makes a strong point in and of itself, but I wonder if there's other variables it (and I) are missing.

If pg is reading, one piece of concrete feedback:

> the LBO wave?

LBO wasn't defined in the text previously and I had to google it (it's leveraged buy-out).

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golergka 1 day ago 0 replies      
> Version 1 of the national economy consisted of a few big blocks whose relationships were negotiated in back rooms by a handful of executives, politicians, regulators, and labor leaders. Version 2 was higher resolution: there were more companies, of more different sizes, making more different things, and their relationships changed faster. In this world there were still plenty of back room negotiations, but more was left to market forces. Which further accelerated the fragmentation.

I find this curiously close to a description given by a late-soviet economist who was working on economic reforms in the 80s: he described soviet economy as a bunch of heavy hard rocks, incredibly powerful, but without any flexibility and connection to each other, and small new cooperative movement as a sand that should've taken all the space in between.

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ivoras 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Simply as a reference to how biology supports the human society and how biological signals can be gamed for short term benefit, this lecture was an eye opener for me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReRcHdeUG9Y
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auferstehung 1 day ago 0 replies      
And the cycle continues swinging back and forth. "Let them eat cake" is not sustainable either. It usually ends in violence despite the rationalizations of the elite.
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ThomPete 1 day ago 0 replies      
I have one word. Technology.

Think about technology as outsourcing and you realize what the problem is because you are realizing the trend;

Technology will compete with higher and higher levels of abstraction and so you either have to be really skilled in an increasingly competitive space or you need to accept taking jobs at wages that are as low as they are because of the increased competition from technology.

And until economist stop treating technology as an externality they wont understand whats going on and we will keep debating this as if its a political problem. In my opinion its not.

And so because technology ends up favoring the one winner paradigm it pushes wealth into the hands of very few.

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djyaz1200 1 day ago 0 replies      
The book "Coming Apart" by Charles Murray is a thoughtful read on this topic.
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huuu 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Imho it's much simpler than PG explains. If we feel more or if we feel less than someone else we create separation.

Ofcourse there are forces that stimulate this separation (like PG says) but in the end it's just us.

The solution it to listen to yourself. Am I feeling less than this person? Am I feeling more than this person? If so: stop that thought.

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api 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think there's a fascinating flip side to what PG calls the refragmentation: the decline of counterculture both materially and in terms of relevance.

PG talks about his yearning for something outside the mainstream bubble. For decades the major source for that was the various mostly youth oriented subcultures that made up what we called the counterculture. Hippies, punks, goths, 80s rockers, hip hop, ravers, geek fandom, and a dozen smaller variants provided something that... well... wasn't "red delicious."

Those things still exist but today they feel more like just another culture in the marketplace. They no longer seem to have such potency or power. Maybe I'm just old but I get the strong sense this is true for young people too. Today young people might visit these little subcultures as tourists, but when I grew up they were a much bigger deal. They became your identity. They were almost religious, like modern mystery cults.

Rave was probably the last great youth counterculture. I haven't noticed another one unless you count the "hipster" artisan living thing and that seems more like a lifestyle brand than a true counterculture of the postwar music+fashion+drugs+ideas mold.

In retrospect those subcultures were more like alternative conformity molds. They didn't really alter the underlying zeitgeist of conformity but just provided another channel on the cultural TV dial. Still I do mourn them a bit. Their greatest legacy was as artistic and musical crucibles and nothing has really replaced them. I don't think it's a coincidence that there has been no major musical innovation since the 90s. There has been good music but it all follows stylistic currents set down before 2000. Rave gave us techno and all its various sub-forms and... that's apparently the end of history music-wise.

Edit: would be curious to hear a counterpoint on the last item. Show me a musical style that is as much of a step change today as hip hop and electro in the 80s or drum and bass in the 90s or acid rock in the 60s.

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drewm1980 20 hours ago 1 reply      
His distinction between "wealth generating" and "rent seeking" behavior isn't obvious to me. Is investing in a start-up (so that you hopefully get a cut of the wealth generated by thousands of people and machines) a form of rent seeking?
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unusximmortalis 15 hours ago 0 replies      
This is a great sign, to see so many comments on the topics this article is reaching. It shows a lot to me at least. Thank you all for giving your honest and insightful opinions.
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bsder 23 hours ago 0 replies      
What people forget is that what the big, old, sclerotic, 20th century companies did well was provide a functional wage for the 50% of people who were below average.

It's lovely that the 1% are paid what they are worth. It's not so lovely that 50% are now paid minimum wage or, worse, zero.

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stevefolta 1 day ago 0 replies      
> But once it became possible to make one's fortune, the ambitious had to decide whether or not to. A physicist who chose physics over Wall Street in 1990 was making a sacrifice that a physicist in 1960 wasn't.

This is perhaps not the best example, as a physicist in 1960 might've faced a choice between academia and Fairchild Semiconductor.

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paulpauper 1 day ago 3 replies      
Small observation: why title the file re.html? Why not just spell fragmentation? Is there a reason to do it this way? Why .html? Doesn't that make it hard to update all the pages at once such as menus and footers? The design is very minimalist, but it's effective.

We're definitely in a winner-take-all economy, whether it's real estate, stocks, the dominance of companies like Google, amazon, and amazon, or web 2.0 valuations.

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marshray 1 day ago 0 replies      
Seems I was born around the same time and this is how I remember it too.

Another major economic factor he seems to have left out is government policies encouraging (sometimes actively) the US manufacturing base to leave to other countries. This utterly destroyed the formerly thriving US manufacturing-based small businesses, eliminating a huge percentage of semi-skilled jobs in the process.

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Typhon 1 day ago 2 replies      
I remember when Paul Graham pointed out that, internally, most companies are run like communist states (in http://paulgraham.com/opensource.html )

The picture he paints here of postwar-America as a bland, uniform country dominated by a few mega-institutions reminds me of the USSR.

How ironic.

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SeaDude 1 day ago 0 replies      
We are at war remember...with terror.

And winner-still-takes-all... some extremely large corporations were made in the last 15 years.

Sorry, don't see the difference between then and now.

I appreciate you attempting to identify the cause of our current crisis, but alas, I believe you may be too entrenched to find it.

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Gravityloss 1 day ago 0 replies      
Well, we have things like access to education and access to capital, in contrast to a nebulous "ability to create wealth". I think the former two are more fruitful ways of thinking towards fixing the worst aspects of income inequality.
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tammer 1 day ago 0 replies      
Some interesting theories - at first appears quite reductionist but I think succeeds in highlighting something very symbolic.

Odd, though, that pg can write an entire essay about identity politics without naming it.

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echochar 1 day ago 0 replies      
A phrase used repeatedly throughout is "creating wealth". This is contrasted with "zero-sum game" to get rich. Does anyone have a precise definition of "creating wealth"?
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Simorgh 1 day ago 0 replies      
PG writes that the 20th Century was "a world in which it was socially acceptable to work for Henry Ford, but not to be Henry Ford".

I feel that this viewpoint is still common today. Success is often glamourised, far more than hard work.

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dreamdu5t 1 day ago 2 replies      
Unlike Paul's other essays, this one did not offer me any insight. WWII bringing the country together, America becoming less culturally conformative since WWII, etc... these are obvious trends that most everyone is aware of, and which people talk about quite often.
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ams6110 1 day ago 0 replies      
I like PGs essays normally, but he didn't address two huge societal changes since WWII, that is the rise in welfare and single-parent families. More people than ever are being paid to be non-productive and to procreate without any means or even real chance of supporting their offspring (a single parent poor household has significantly less opportunity to move up in income compared to a two-parent poor household).

This can't not have an impact on the social order. Perhaps he implies or assumes that this is an effect rather than a cause but to leave it unmentioned seems like a big omission.

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rdiddly 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm old too, and I think the issue is quite a bit simpler than this rather sprawling essay makes out. The "two forces" (WWII and large corporations) that are now receding in memory, that supposedly used to push us all together, were actually both manifestations of a single force, which is the "growth phase" of fossil-fuel energy production. This has been a boon to economies the world over for the past 100, 150 years or so.

When the world is a place where an ever-increasing amount of energy is available to drive an economy, the best way to exploit resources (energy, labor, materials) is by doing it "at scale" i.e. big corporations. And the best way for Hitler to create Lebensraum and accomplish all his other now-familiar goals is by using that selfsame large-scale industrial infrastructure. And the best way for the Allies to fight against it, was more of the same. It's all the same thing.

But economic activity grows and shrinks hand-in-hand with energy availability. And when your energy source goes through a growth phase, hits a peak and stops growing, the "large-scale" strategy slowly starts to become unviable. So a given corporation, suddenly finds itself resource-constrained, and has to find some way to reorganize itself and reconcile itself to the new paradigm, or face becoming less and less profitable.

PG correctly pegs the timing of when the "disintegration" and "fragmentation" starts to make itself evident in the US - the 1970s. By no coincidence that is also the time when America reached and passed its domestic petroeum-production peak. Then came all the economic stagnation, hyperinflation, factories closing (offshoring), etc. And on the social side there was pervasive unease... the "ennui" of the like-named Carter speech. Many subcultures came out of the woodwork then, because it becomes less desirable to fit into and conform to a system that seems to be faltering and becoming unstable, no longer gives you any upward mobility, and might even be rigged against you.

In fact, for the people against whom it truly is rigged, why not outwardly display symbols proudly showing just how thoroughly "outside the system" one is? Hence the baggy pants of the prison parolee (who upon release gets back the same pants he was arrested in, but finds he's lost 30 lbs eating prison food) that became the stylistic signature of gangsters. Hence all the tattoos, formerly the symbol of exotic and unseemly characters, now sort of the neutered and ubiquitous symbol of wannabe unseemly characters.

Anyway it took a great pretender to hide the obvious, and that guy's name was Reagan. Luckily for him, people were all-too-willing to get on-board and believe a pleasant lie, rather than face a bunch of hard work.

Computers were a great invention but it's no coincidence that anything that "gets done" and any wealth that gets created in the US today is by doing "more with less" in the digital realm, and not by doing "more with more" in the physical. All the physical stuff has been offshored to take advantage of labor arbitrage and, ironically enough, cheaper energy. (Because of course there are still countries that export energy.)

Anyone looking for why "we once were cohesive and now we're not" should be looking at this, as the transition is a crisis-level problem. But PG seems to have a persistent blind spot about it. The same blind spot is common among optimistic tech-minded people because they're used to thinking "anything is possible," and I imagine "startup people" all the more so.

I hope that can-do spirit is able to make renewables replace the orgy, the buffet, the glut of energy we use and deploy today. An honest look at the problem might be a prerequisite to tackling it though. Look at the numbers (something measured in joules or watts) and it may give you pause. And given that the initiative depends so heavily on the continued existence of the current interconnected and fossil-fuel-powered industrial infrastructure, I would say, better get a move on.

Tangent/epilogue: And obviously, fucking autonomous cars are not going to fix anything, nor is any kind of car. Who fantasizes about autonomous cars when ordinary passenger rail has so much room for improvement? Californians, that's who. Hyperloop is closer to the mark, but suffers from Musk's attention-whoring narcissism and is likely to be egregiously energy-inefficient. (Since speed, not efficiency, seems to be the main design criterion.) That's enough for you to think about, I know I'm not making any friends but that's not what challenging ideas (an endangered species) are for.

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abalashov 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's an insightful perspective and, along with PG's stance on the essence of economic inequality per se, a welcome antidote to the populist outrage machine, which does indeed the frame issue largely in zero-sum terms.

However, there are some counterpoints that don't receive adequate representation in this account, in my opinion:

One is the size and scale to which rent-seeking behaviour dominate the American economy. PG does acknowledge here and elsewhere that rent-seeking behaviour accounts for the wealth of many, but dismisses it relatively quickly as a seemingly self-evident byproduct of the expected variance in a society that permits economic opportunity. I think the situation is a lot worse than that; the amount of such parasitism, in the form of regulatory capture, lobbyist influence, outright Gilded Age-style purchase of legislation, revolving-door career paths, etc. account for an extremely significant percentage of US economic output and the unequal concentration of wealth. Consider for example how our healthcare system works (even post-ACA), Big Pharma, the military-industrial complex, intellectual property law and software patents, etc. A great deal of our government is for sale, and the sole purpose of a lot of our legislative projects is to route money into private hands, with the support of the government's monopoly on force, while socialising risks and losses onto the taxpayer. In my specialisation of telecom, I have seen this at work with the hundreds of billions in effective subsidies given to the AT&Ts and Verizons of the world, ostensibly to support the build-out of competitive next-generation broadband infrastructure but in fact to line their own pockets. All in all, the total dimensions of corruption at the top of the economic food chain are in the trillions of dollars, and I feel this insight is not given a fair shake with the same diligence as other aspects of corporate-industrial history of which PG treats.

The second issue relates to the optimal amount of economic inequality we can sustain while maintaining social order and an environment conducive to ongoing innovation. Many revolutions and upheaveals in modern history attest to the fact that when a sufficiently large class of poor and disefranchised people arises and is left to twist in the wind, at some point "radical discontinuities" will occur. Pervasive, festering social ills don't serve the self-interest of the wealthy and the middle class, either; they ultimately impact the security of their lives and their property, requiring them to resort to increasingly drastic measures to keep what's theirs. The market for mass-market and/or consumer products--on which a lot of startup business models depend--is inevitably limited or shrinks when large segments of society see eroding disposable incomes. Instability also negatively impacts the transaction of business by making the outer world less predictable and dependable; lopsided opportunity in savage inequality leads to lopsided and inconsistent educational outcomes and, ultimately, a more heterogenous and troublesome work force.

As other countries around the world periodically assert, there may be a formula for state economic involvement, taxation and social programmes that better maximises more desirable social outcomes, even if it comes at the expense of bridling notional economic opportunity and the smoothing out of some peaks. Is it not true, for example, that much of the significant innovation in computing and networking from which we benefit today came out of Bell Labs, a quasi-governmental institution whose decidedly mid-20th century model of economic existence created the right incentives for long-tail R&D?

The work done in such places, as in the pharmaceutical industry for example, is now fiercely subordinated to narrow, short-horizon commercialisation objectives, and while that may be a better way for some actors to get rich faster, is it really where we want to go? It seems to me one can raise the same kind of objection about the incentives set up by unicorn-seeking VC funding and California startup capitalism.

All this leads me to say that perhaps these issues need to be considered in a more global, integrated, and holistic way, rather than narrowly construed as problems of economics. If we want to evolve toward a better future, we may need to take up more thinking from the "normative" sphere, which economists hate.

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return0 1 day ago 0 replies      
This was very insightful. One thing he doesn't tackle though, is how this re-fragmentation affects the idea of the national state itself.
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Zigurd 1 day ago 1 reply      
It's a very American take on fragmentation and cohesion. The idea of wars creating cohesion is only valid in big, powerful, victorious nations. In Germany, defeat resulted in the rejection of nationalism. If you don't live in a great and powerful nation, or if you don't think your nation is as great as advertised, you might not miss cohesion on national lines.

Good thing PG is a realist: "we'd be better off thinking about how to mitigate its consequences."

But even that point of view is reactionary. What mitigation is good? The kind that preserves mass-market politics as practiced in America? The kind that can take us to war with some distant threat that is not even a blip in terms of national survival? The kind that tells us cops and doctors and uniformly good and competent? Surely not the kind that says "What's good for GM (or Disney, or Goldman Sachs) is good for America."

Skeptical, questioning, objective people with loyalty only to those we can personally qualify will be people less likely to be taken for a ride by the kinds of cynical mass-market charlatans it takes to harness national cohesion.

The weakest part of this article is about taxation and the wealth gap: If taxes rates are weakly related to wealth creation, the spectre of wealth-destroying taxation remains a boogie man, if a popular one these days.

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hoodoof 1 day ago 0 replies      
>> With the centripetal forces of total war and 20th century oligopoly mostly gone, what will happen next?

Or I could just read The Atlantic.....

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frik 1 day ago 0 replies      
On the one side we have very huge corporations that have a (near) monopoly on a sector (big, small or niche). On the other side we have many small players "fighting" [not the best word] for the remaining niches ...the rest. And they dream to be the next big player by betting on a raising sector (new technology) and sometimes disrupt old players that are too slow to adapt. Or they fix it with cash. Absolute monopoly is often bad (for everyone except a few (shareholders)), so anything else (fragmention) is better.
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MBCook 1 day ago 0 replies      
Click the link (I'm on an iPhone), see a few lines as a 'read more' link.

All apparently so I can see the 'sidebar' menu below the content?

When I follow a link to an article why should I have to press a button to read the article?

I'm getting so tired of this crap on so many sites. I'm really disappointed to see it here.

2nd big story in two days that I found unreadable due to poor web design on someone's relatively simple site (i.e. not crammed with junk like Bloomberg).

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unimpressive 1 day ago 0 replies      
>If total war was the big political story of the 20th century, the big economic story was the rise of new kind of company.

Typo.

83
jzd 21 hours ago 0 replies      
The inequality gap is the direct result of an education gap
84
Thomas_Lord 1 day ago 1 reply      
A lot of this essay seems pretty fast and loose with history to me. I hope nobody passively accepts this as an accurate account of social, economic, or governmental history from the Great Depression, through WWII, the mid-20th century, through to today.

Perhaps a ycombinator readership can appreciate a telling example of the problems is in Graham's account of IBM's decision not to exclusively license PC-DOS. Per Graham, this "must have seemed a safe move at the time. No other computer manufacturer had ever been able to outsell them. What difference did it make if other manufacturers could offer DOS too? The result of that miscalculation was an explosion of inexpensive PC clones. Microsoft now owned the PC standard, and the customer. And the microcomputer business ended up being Apple vs Microsoft."

OK, first, every indication is that IBM sought to deliberately create an explosion of inexpensive PC clones -- and that they were better off for it.

Briefly, IBM made a strategic decision that their position would be better if personal computers were a commodity with competitive suppliers rather than an artificial monopoly like Apple products. IBM achieved this aim. Competition meant that PC hardware margins were low, therefore IBM was ultimately better off letting other people make sell them. For years, this was a harsh blow to Apple which thrashed badly after the PC took off.

Second, it is misleading to say that "Microsoft now owned the PC standard, and the customer."

Microsoft has heavyweight influence but does not quite own "the PC standard". More to the point, figurative "ownership" of that standard is not a particularly valuable asset. The "standard" is the definition of a competitive commodity. Competition is hot. Therefore nobody "owns" the standard enough to exclude competing manufacturers in any significant way. Nobody "owns" the standard enough to extract significant rent on it.

Microsoft did gain a monopoly on DOS (then Windows) rents in the deal but (a) There does not seem to be any way IBM itself could have kept those rents while still making the PC a commodity; (b) Microsoft's rents on DOS and its control of what is in DOS have never once hurt IBM. (c) Microsoft's creation of a vast market of developers targeting DOS then Windows platforms has only helped IBM.

In short, Graham's snapshot of that bit of history is just plain counter-factual. I hope careful readers will look pretty skeptically on his accounts of "socialism", economic management during WWII (which was widely understood at the time to be fascist, not socialist), the typical experience of 20th century employment (not nearly as described), his armchair sociology....

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tmaly 1 day ago 0 replies      
something not touched upon,

1 the huge pension liabilities that have been accumulated by states

2 the excess credit/currency devaluation and excesses risk taking created by central banks.

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pravda 1 day ago 1 reply      
What does "Duplo" mean?

"the Duplo economy" "Duplo world"

87
thadd 1 day ago 0 replies      
Good read. Not sure if I agree with everything, but fascinating.
88
marincounty 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Wow!

He's seems a little self-aware of his own wealth, and what exactly he's given society?

Sorry--I read this bloated, post holiday, thesis, and was not impressed. Why take so long to say a few thoughts? The're just thoughts?

Yes, we rebelled, or "fragmented".

Yes, unions are not perfect. (Good luck getting rid of certain unions, like any Union San Franciso. I have seen entire buildings go dim when the painter's Union went on strike.)

If I were a psychologist looking for a theme to his writing it would be basically two thing; He is one percenter--trying to rationalize his own wealth? He trying to look for flaws in society that makes it o.k. to be very wealthy?

Paul--take a basic writing class. You need to funnel your thoughts. You could take out 3/4 of your sentences, and your readers would have a better grasp of what you are trying to convey.

Paul--certain unions will never go away.

Paul--this is the downside to being very wealthy. You are living the "dream"?

I wasen't going to read that essay another time. I think we are about to see a lot of tech billionaries wondering if they ultimately ruined the party, or helped it?

Let's get real. In the U.S.--a lot of us didn't have to worry about missing out on the party. All we had to do was try. Now--it's not as easy.

Do I fear the future. Yes--I do. Do I think tech will make things better. No--I don't. That is unless we get serious about overpopulation.

I have a question to any developer here. We are constantly trying to make tech easier. We all know, and like DRY. What's going to happen in a few years when our skills are no longer needed? Even local politians are writing our obituaries. Willie Brown said, 'I'm wondering what we are going to do with all the future homeless tech people.'It's not an exact quote, but it was said in retort to a complaint about all the homeless we step over every day.

My hope is we don't turn into Mexico. A country where someone like Paul couldn't take a leisurely walk in the park?

89
matchagaucho 1 day ago 0 replies      
Finally, a PG essay returning to true form.
90
clamprecht 1 day ago 0 replies      
I love that The Refragmentation references Economic Inequality, and Economic Inequality references The Refragmentation.
91
jgalt212 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Paul Graham used to be one of my heroes, now I just see him as just another fat cat apologist in the vein of Ken Langone.
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jgalt212 16 hours ago 0 replies      
His arguments on taxes simply don't hold water. Income inequality is expanding because those at the very top either pay taxes much lower than all others (HF, PE, VC) or just don't pay taxes at all (AAPL).

The other problem with income inequality is simply interest rate related. If you look at all asset classes over the last 30 years, real estate gains have far outpaces every other asset class. Real estate prices are very sensitive to interest rates.

If the Fed keeps raising rates, the value of these real estate holdings will go down and well inequality will reverse itself somewhat. To do that significantly, I think we need Fed Funds at 5-6%. I don't see that happening for a long time, though.

Another longer term trend which may help wealth inequality reverse itself is global warming. The global elite own a disproportionate portion of coastal real estate. With rising ocean levels these assets will be wiped out.

93
be21 14 hours ago 0 replies      
not even wrong :
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graycat 1 day ago 1 reply      
Very nicely done. Awash in insight about the past and likely also about the future.

Should connect with the role of social media.

In particular, explains much of why the heck I, first, got a technical Ph.D. and then became an entrepreneur.

Did I mention very nicely done and full of good insight.

Gee, all that time people spent in courses in history, economics, political science, B-school, and STEM field education, and the really good stuff is right there in PG's essay!

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ZenoArrow 1 day ago 0 replies      
I enjoyed the article, and found it an interesting point of view for the most part. However, I don't agree with this...

> "The form of fragmentation people worry most about lately is economic inequality, and if you want to eliminate that you're up against a truly formidable headwindone that has been in operation since the stone age: technology. Technology is a lever. It magnifies work. And the lever not only grows increasingly long, but the rate at which it grows is itself increasing."

Tackling inequality has nothing to do with technology. Let's put it like this, we have a minimum wage already, the balancing force with regards to economic inequality would be a maximum wage. There are no technological issues blocking a maximum wage, it's just a matter of political will.

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lifeisstillgood 1 day ago 0 replies      
weirdly this is the most useful insight to me of a insightful article

[6] I wonder how much of the decline in families eating together was due to the decline in families watching TV together afterward

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venomsnake 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think that the field in US in urgent need of refragmentation is the political systems. The two parties are oligopol that don't care about their customers and they don't deliver enough political product to the people. We need more smaller parties that could represent the increasing diversity of opinions.
98
kenjackson 1 day ago 8 replies      
A tldr on this one would actually be appreciated. :-
99
jonathanwallace 1 day ago 2 replies      
Shallow comment with no provided insight.

vs.

I read the comments on HN looking for the dissenting view as that's where I often appreciate the most value. I'd love to see you expand upon your reason for both disappointment and then provide some concrete counter examples that highlight Paul's lack of historical rigor.

Which of my comments do you prefer? (Note: I prefer the latter. Since you're the only dissenting view I've seen so far, I'm asking you to expound if you would, please.)

NSA Cheerleaders Discover Value of Privacy Only When Their Own Is Violated theintercept.com
585 points by bainsfather   ago   119 comments top 27
1
nickpsecurity 3 days ago 4 replies      
The thing that bothers me is that they should've already made this connection. That's due to the same precedent the media should be all over: J Edgar Hoover. Hoover pushed for greater power for FBI, including surveillance, to combat the communist threat. They encouraged people everywhere to tip them off with innocent people often being harassed. Sound familiar post-9/11?

Anyway, Hoover decided surveillance power had a better use: digging up dirt on politicians, media people, judges, whoever. This was back when FBI agents had to physically tap phone wires or sit outside your house. Nonetheless, with very little capabilities, he got enough dirt to blackmail Congress into increasing his power and reign for decades. So, one person already took control of Congress via unlawful use of surveillance.

Now, we have an agency that can spy on everyone and everything simultaneously with algorithms looking for juiciest tidbits? And Congress doesn't see how this could be bad for them? Even one rogue group with unlogged access to the collection tech could get enough dirt on key committees probably in weeks to months. Whole NSA could be honest except them and still a huge threat to democracy.

This is why I argue that we need to push Congress and business elites to roll back government surveillance while constantly reminding them of J Edgar Hoover precedent. I was sure they'd be spying on at least some of Congress. Articles like this only make our claims stronger. Keep asking them if they want to be working for NSA employees with copies of incriminating messages, photos, or meetups? Or do they want to keep their power over their own fiefdoms?

Gotta be in their self-interest and risks they understand. Like blackmail and how dots can be connected between them and lobbyists financiers.

2
mwsherman 3 days ago 4 replies      
This is not hard to understand. Govt officials believe that the work they do is different in kind. This is a philosophical belief. The desire to be in government requires this belief to a greater or lesser degree.

So the idea that citizens should be monitored, but not govt officials, is intuitive from this point of view. A variation on diplomatic immunity, if you will.

Its not irrational or uncommon. I happen to disagree with it as much as a human possibly can. But one can understand the position.

3
csandreasen 3 days ago 0 replies      
To put this into perspective, it's worth noting that this was an issue of almost unprecedented contention between the US and Israel over whether or not to lift sanctions against Iran in exchange for nuclear disarmament. What Israel does to advance its foreign policy objectives is definitely within the purview of a foreign intelligence agency, and in this case the Israeli government was very actively lobbying congress. It seems pretty clear to me that the goal was to find out what Israel was doing, not spy on Congress.

The folks over at Lawfare had a much different breakdown of the issue: https://www.lawfareblog.com/why-do-conservatives-suddenly-so...

Relevant quote:

Was the activity properly disclosed to the intelligence committees? Actually, NSAs behavior with respect to Israel appears to have been briefed to Congress, as one would hope. Convinced Mr. Netanyahu would attack Iran without warning the White House, U.S. spy agencies ramped up their surveillance, with the assent of Democratic and Republican lawmakers serving on congressional intelligence committees (emphasis added).

4
HillRat 3 days ago 2 replies      
Ah, schadenfreude at work:

Pete Hoekstra: Obama Stopping Key Surveillance ProgramsDec 11, 2015

Pete Hoekstra: New Spying Scandal Biggest of Obama's Presidency13 hours ago

Not that Hoekstra is going to change his tune on surveillance; he just believes in the national security state for thee, not me. I've always felt that one of the more corrupt aspects of the UK security state was the exemption granted to Parliament from the kinds of intrusions other citizens lack protections against; now I expect Hoekstra and the other surveillance cheerleaders to try and carve out the same privileges for Congress.

5
HashThis 3 days ago 2 replies      
People should really understand how revolting what is happening. Watch the congressman indignant about spying on Israel. What is happening here is that they are putting the privacy of a foreign country higher than US citizens. Politicians and the establishment actively force privileges for a PRIVILEGED CLASS.

They treat foreign countries and corporations as being more important that US citizens. People need to see that there are fundamental problems with the establishments. This congressman never worries when the constitutional right of privacy is stripped from US citizens, but not from the privilege classes.

6
awakeasleep 3 days ago 2 replies      
A better article could have been written about how an unwritten rule is broken when the state uses its security apparatus to investigate and discredit its own elected officials.

Crossing that line destroys the plausible deniability surveillance enjoys. You can't make the 'necessary for terrorism' argument when the surveillance directly subverts the domestic government. And of course thats what we were all worried about, and it's the most arresting sort of example for everyone. And how did that 'unwritten rule' become a thing in the first place?

A lot of the wide appeal and scary implications that could be written about gets lost when gloating about how lemmings 'flip-flopped' after they walked into that machine that rips off their heads.

7
steven2012 3 days ago 2 replies      
Is it really surprising that our politicians believe they are above the laws that they create? They believe the laws are for us sheep and not for the wolves. Look at the insider trading laws for Congress as an example.
8
junto 3 days ago 1 reply      
Correct me if I'm wrong, but the underlying concept of a democracy is to vote for one person to represent you in congress. So why is it that these people only stand up for the rest of us when they themselves are directly and personally affected?

Somewhere along the line the word representative has lost its meaning. They forget that they represent every single person in their state, not just the ones that voted for them. They are a single voice echoing the voices of everyone they represent. They are sadly tied conceptually to their political peers, rather than those they represent. They should be fighting for us, not against us.

9
typon 3 days ago 2 replies      
As an outsider, watching this happen in the US is like watching a really slow car accident. This country is being destroyed slowly by its own leaders. As long as the leaders and others in power are not held accountable by law, there can be no sustainable social progress.
10
legel 3 days ago 2 replies      
Equal justice before the law is essential for any true democracy to function. And whatever laws we implement, it is their fair and equal implementation that will be in the best interest of everyone. So if it's really best to have more or less surveillance, either way we should have members of government under the same surveillance, just the same as the citizens being governed.

This is probably welcomed news from the average citizen, who already feels (and fears) the end of privacy and the endless gaze of our panopticon surveillance systems.

11
guelo 3 days ago 1 reply      
My conclusion is that Israel is not our "friend", whatever the hell that means. It is an aggressive powerful state willing to use that power without regard to any international norms. And it has irreparably corrupted our political systems to serve its own needs.

If the surveillance state has any purpose, keeping an eye on Israel should be a top priority.

12
oskarth 3 days ago 0 replies      
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
13
pjc50 3 days ago 1 reply      
Well, yes. This is a common problem in politics but particularly bad in the US: factional morality.

People decide who's a "good guy" and a "bad guy" first, then say you should investigate the bad guys and leave the good guys alone. Rather than having an impartial process.

14
peteretep 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is what gives me hope. All politicians have skeletons in their cupboards, none trust their opponents to use their power fairly.
15
ck2 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's not that they discovery the value of privacy.

They really believed nsa (and law enforcement otherwise) will only use their powers against the "bad guys" and that they would never be subjected to invasions of privacy.

They don't care if NSA violates everyone else's privacy as long as theirs isn't violated.

Just like congress gets a special pass through TSA checkpoints, they don't care as long they aren't hassled and subjugated to violations of rights.

16
vinceguidry 3 days ago 0 replies      
Hypocrisy is an inevitable consequence of politics. A politicians job in a democratic society is to be an instrument of public will. Well, the public is made up of countless mindsets and ideals, some of which are going to conflict with others. Politicians talk out of both sides of their mouth because the only alternative is silence, and silence is career death.

You judge a politician by which bloc they vote most consistently for, not by what they say.

17
barkingcat 3 days ago 0 replies      
This type of behaviour is common in the United States.

Weren't there some elected officials in the US who were adamantly anti-gay rights until their own daughters and sons came out as gay? And then they had a change of heart in order to not destroy their kids with the same legislation that they voted for themselves for years and years on end.

As flawed humans it's not hard to understand. It never seems to hit home until you experience it yourself. This is a call for getting a more diverse group in positions where they can change legislation and actually make things better for people.

I'd welcome the day when the US elects into governing position a convicted criminal who's served their time and is interested in changing the legal system for the better.

18
banku_brougham 3 days ago 0 replies      
I imagine the NSA having dirt on numerous Congressional representatives, and I imagine the leverage obtained via threat of judicious release of such info in a politically damaging way. Not in a way that reveals the wiretap of course; think 'parallel construction.'

Now imagine the congresswoman or man who attempts to reduce the funding or curtail the powers of the NSA, and how convincing they could be in dissuading any action that slows the increase of powers, privileges or funding for the security agencies.

As with entropy I can only see the arrow moving in one direction, heedless of the concerns of the population or their representatives.

19
cronjobber 3 days ago 1 reply      
Same with journalists. They're at most lukewarm on privacy, maybe a little less now but certainly before Snowden, until someone wants to touch their privilege as members of the press to have untapped phone lines etc.
20
shmerl 3 days ago 0 replies      
Some learn only when they taste their own medicine. The worst part - such hypocrites aren't fit to be politicians.
21
JackFr 3 days ago 4 replies      
I think Greenwald misses Hoekstra's point entirely.

Consider an analogous situation. Republicans are up in arms because [they believe] right-wing groups were targeted by the IRS for political purposes. No one is proposing that the IRS be dismantled, or that its purpose is illegitimate, but rather its improper use as a political tool of the executive branch is wrong and possibly criminal.

Similarly, I'm sure Hoekstra has not changed his tune a bit regarding NSA surveillance in general. The scandal is using the intelligence apparatus as a political tool.

22
dawnbreez 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've got some popcorn, if anyone wants some.

In all seriousness, the chances are that this guy took a strong-spying position because that falls in line with his party and opposes his opponent's posititon. He most likely began opposing it as a PR move, as well. The US selects its politicians for PR skills.

23
kordless 3 days ago 0 replies      
It shouldn't be surprising that a congressperson's actions switch polarity at times. They have to try to toe the line of general concensus until there are clear "winners" to an argument.
24
mightybyte 3 days ago 0 replies      
Now we just need to get personal dirt on all of congress as well as the Supreme Court justices leaked...
25
Animats 3 days ago 1 reply      
The intelligence community was doing its job. They were monitoring the actions of foreign agents trying to secretly influence Government policy. The intel community is supposed to be doing that. That's basic counterintelligence - it's how you catch spies.
26
kmfrk 3 days ago 0 replies      
A nice little coda to CISA being passed in the omnibus bill.
27
Shivetya 3 days ago 1 reply      
we busted Nixon for less, you do not spy on Congress just because you don't like the head of state they are talking too
How Completely Messed Up Practices Become Normal danluu.com
622 points by Tenoke   ago   248 comments top 34
1
danso 4 days ago 4 replies      
I immediately thought of the "5 monkeys and a ladder" psychology study, in which the first monkey attempts to climb the ladder to get a banana and all of the monkeys are sprayed with water. Then one of the monkeys is replaced with a newcomer, who then tries to climb the ladder, but this time, the remaining original monkeys attack it. And so the replacing of the monkeys continues, until none of the monkeys knows what the deal with the ladder is and yet none attempt to climb it.

This is a popular story in dev/product culture but after a little more Googling, apparently it's apocryphal: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/games-primates-play/201...

2
vinceguidry 4 days ago 13 replies      
Most of what the author is complaining about boils down to business needs being more important than the needs of the engineering team. To be blunt, they're paying you to do a job, not to make the organization better. That's what they pay the leadership for. You want to be part of the leadership, work your way through the ranks or start your own business.

My life got much, much easier once I learned to stop straining so hard to fix things that are bigger than me. If you don't like your managers, or the culture, or the business, find another place to work, it's that simple. If you can't do that, you're simply going to have to learn how to compromise.

3
kbenson 4 days ago 1 reply      
> Its sort of funny that this ends up being a problem about incentives. As an industry, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to incentivize consumers into doing what we want. But then we set up incentive systems that are generally agreed upon as incentivizing us to do the wrong things

The longer I live, the more I realize that everything is a market, and incentives control it all. The reason you follow company policy most the time? You're incentivized to follow the rules so you get the raise, or at lease don't get fired. When there are competing incentives for different responses to the same subject, that's when you need to take extra care to realign the incentives. Trying to institute new behavior? You have to fight momentum, familiarity, and sometimes easiness. That often requires more than a few dictates.

4
dfc 4 days ago 2 replies      
This post's style and "quality" of writing is really aggravating. I felt like I was banging my head against the wall after reading so many run on sentences or paragraphs that start with the same contraction. Other times the writing is so poorly executed I cannot tell what the author is trying to convey. For example what is going on in this paragraph:

"Theres the company with a reputation for having great engineering practices that had 2 9s of reliability last time I checked, for reasons that are entirely predictable from their engineering practices. This is the second thing in a row thats basically anonymous because multiple companies find it to be normal. Multiple companies find practices that lead to 2 9s of reliability to be completely and totally normal."

5
devonkim 4 days ago 1 reply      
There seems to be a bit of a false dichotomy underpinning this article that companies value feature growth above all else and this directly results in poor operational performance. However, you can get terrible availability without delivering any features whatsoever for months and months.

Two 9s of availability? Half the customers I've had would be ecstatic to have even ONE 9 of availability. And those guys hardly ever ship any code due to how encumbered developers typically are in those places and release maybe once every 6 months to a year perhaps. In fact, this is basically my typical experience with most enterprise customers I've worked with as a consultant - they're unable to execute almost anything materially important and customers put up with them because nobody else is in that niche enterprise market that's keeping people employed by lack of choice / market consolidation (healthcare.gov is just a visible example - plenty more projects are even worse with perhaps even larger budgets with zero media attention).

6
karlkatzke 4 days ago 2 replies      
The author detailed precisely why I left a former Y-Combinator company, Return Path.

"As far as I can tell, what happens at these companies is that they started by concentrating almost totally on product growth. Thats completely and totally reasonable, because companies are worth approximately zero when theyre founded; they dont bother with things that protect them from losses, like good ops practices or actually having security, because theres nothing to lose.

The result is a culture where people are hyper-focused on growth and ignore risk. That culture tends to stick even after company has grown to be worth well over a billion dollars, and the companies have something to lose. Anyone who comes into one of these companies from Google, Amazon, or another place with solid ops practices is shocked. Often, they try to fix things, and then leave when they cant make a dent."

7
michaelfeathers 4 days ago 1 reply      
normal - adjective 1. conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected. "it's quite normal for puppies to bolt their food"

All the things that he writes about are normal - they happen. People (myself included) with an engineering background are surprised when things don't "make sense" or people don't do things the "right way." The trick is to get to the point where these things are not surprising, where you see them as part of the systems you are trying to understand and consequences of forces that aren't mysterious, they are just part of human social dynamics. From that vantage point you can get a better sense of what you can change to influence outcomes and whether you can or can't in a particular context.

8
draw_down 4 days ago 4 replies      
This post seems so good and so self-evidently true that I'm surprised at the amount of pushback it's getting here. Not sure what else to say about it.

Well, I'll say this- the "@flaky" thing is pretty mind-blowing. In my own company I have noticed many engineers have a disturbing level of comfort with deciding something is a "mystery". There are no mysteries in what we do. The test fails because something is fucked up. Flappy tests are annoying, but the right thing to do is to address the situation.

9
jwmerrill 4 days ago 4 replies      
The paper on "normalization of deviance" that this post links to is also really good. It's written from a medicine perspective, but its observations and conclusions are pretty generalizable.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2821100/

10
scrollaway 4 days ago 2 replies      
I went in agreeing with the headline, and the article just didn't follow through on it (also, thank god for readability view. 2560 pixels wide lines with no margin are not any more readable than blogs full of ads).

So it posits that there's messed up practices considered normal, then it talks about companies that are clearly abnormal? Even in one of the very first paragraphs, "the company whose culture is so odd that ...". And since when is marking flaky tests is "completely messed up practice"?

Ok so a lot of this is about coding practices and such but... like the guy said, those problems sort themselves out. Bad security gets broken into, the companies eventually get hit and either die out or fix themselves. Etc...

There's a lot of completely messed up practices in tech. Oh lord, especially as a european looking in to the SV world. Some of those messed up practices I can't even mention on HN because people think they are so normal, I get mass downvoted and have to engage 5 people telling me how normal this is (in fact I might even have to engage in it by just mentioning this).

1. The issues highlighted tend to be problems specific to people. Programmers that don't know how to do some aspect of security properly, that's a problem specific to those guys. You put me next to them, I'll do that bit properly but will be clueless about a different bit. It's all fixable.

2. The actual programming & design is the least problematic, mostly because it's the one that's most easily changed. Trying to change culture gets you fired. Fixing a pipeline with noticeable improvements gets you promoted. The one bit I did agree with was that it is hard to show improvement when you prevent a fire. I also think that's fixable and I also think that's a people problem, except at the manager level.

You want messed up practices? Look at the game dev industry and its mandated crunched and burnouts. "Everybody's crunching for the next 6 months because we really want to see the game released on time".

11
johngalt 4 days ago 1 reply      
Sometimes a new person comes in saying "WTF WTF WTF Wtf wtf..." because you don't have the messed up practices that they expect.
12
dman 4 days ago 1 reply      
An anecdotal observation is that the worst offenders in terms of institutionalized bad practices also have a culture of failing upwards. ie incentive structures are setup in a way where you create your mess so fast that you get promoted and someone else has to deal with the aftermath of what you did. In such an environment slowing down to do the right thing invariably means that you are setting yourself up to inherit a mess created by someone else.
13
pklausler 4 days ago 1 reply      
"Theres the office where I asked one day about the fact that I almost never saw two particular people in the same room together. I was told that they had a feud going back a decade, and that things had actually improved for years, they literally couldnt be in the same room because one of the two would get too angry and do something regrettable, but things had now cooled to the point where the two could, occasionally, be found in the same wing of the office or even the same room. These werent just random people, either. They were the two managers of the only two teams in the office. Normal!"

I'm 99% certain that I know about whom the author refers here, having worked at an office with somebody of the same name where a drama matching this description took place. It was one profoundly weird situation that should never have been allowed to fester.

14
TazeTSchnitzel 4 days ago 5 replies      
This reminds me that I've acclimatised to one specific test in the PHP interpreter test suite always failing on OS X. I should go and make it either not run on OS X, or modify it so it will actually pass.

That way, when someone eventually actually breaks that function, they'll notice.

15
SCAQTony 4 days ago 1 reply      
This line perplexed and disturbed me: "...This is the same company where someone recently explained to me how great it is that, instead of using data to make decisions, we use political connections, and that the idea of making decisions based on data is a myth anyway; no one does that...."

One, that is depressing and implies the company seems to have a corrupting influence on society at large.

Two. The girl is right and it is called insider information. Another corrupting aspect of our society.

In other words, corruption is a new viable normal and workers have no problem with it because most workers are all desperate and happy to have a passport to middle or upper middle class.

16
MarkPNeyer 4 days ago 3 replies      
so many of these problems have the same root cause:

we don't have an effective data driven reputation system. we use gameable heuristics to track social capial.

when metrics for evaluation are flawed, people behave in ways that exploit the flaws even if they increase the likelihood of failure.

"we are not rewarded for necessary grunt work as much as shiny advances", for example. That's a failure of the reputation system to account for the value of that work.

My solution to this problem is a mathematical reputation system based on the same concept as page rank. The system is available here:

github.com/neyer/respect

I'd love your feedback.

17
cptskippy 4 days ago 2 replies      
Speaking of completely messaged up...

I had to add max-width, margin, and font-size styles before I could even attempt to read that page. For all that markup, there sure wasn't any attention payed to readability.

18
gherkin0 4 days ago 0 replies      
> This is a problem even when cultures discourage meanness and encourage feedback: cultures of niceness seem to have as many issues around speaking up as cultures of meanness, if not more. In some places, people are afraid to speak up because theyll get attacked by someone mean. In others, theyre afraid because theyll be branded as mean. Its a hard problem.

That's a really good insight, and it's something to keep in mind with all the recent controversy about development cultures.

19
teddyh 4 days ago 1 reply      
Getting Things Done When Youre Only a Grunt, Joel Spolsky, 2001:

http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000332.html

20
turnip1979 4 days ago 0 replies      
Good article. I could think of reasons why people kept leaving in their first year at the company where they had freedom. The author says the company had the beat parts of Netflix and valve. What is the author referring to?
21
flatline 4 days ago 3 replies      
> well, we have some tweaks that didnt make it into the paper.

Every single time I've tried to implement a newish, reasonably complicated algorithm from a paper and contacted the authors when I've run into trouble, this is the reply I've gotten. How is it not normal? It's research after all, and if you've worked in research you should have a good idea how the paper mill works.

22
mwcampbell 4 days ago 1 reply      
> Theres the company with a reputation for having great engineering practices that had 2 9s of reliability last time I checked, for reasons that are entirely predictable from their engineering practices. This is the second thing in a row thats basically anonymous because multiple companies find it to be normal. Multiple companies find practices that lead to 2 9s of reliability to be completely and totally normal.

I'd like to know more about these practices that lead to 2 9s of reliability. Can you give specific examples of such practices, albeit not the companies themselves?

23
ianamartin 4 days ago 0 replies      
I want to speak to one aspect of the wonderful article:

Listening to weak signals.

I'm about to do a shameless promotion for a book I have nothing to do with, but a book that has been a guiding light for me: Michael Lopp's Managing Humans

When I was reading the article I couldn't help but think of Lopp's advice about regular one-on-one meetings with each of the people on your team.

I think this is one of the points that Lopp intends for managers to be listening to during those meetings.

They aren't so much for feedback from the manager (as they are often treated), but more as opportunities for the manager to listen.

If I understand the book correctly, those one-on-one meetings are exactly the place where the managers are supposed to be listening for the "weak signals."

I am not an expert in every area of development, and yet I have somehow been inserted into a management role.

As Lopp explains very clearly, this happens often, and the single biggest thing you can do when that happens is care about being a manager. It's a different skill set than being an IC.

Recognize that, but don't get totally caught up in that. I don't think Lopp would disagree with anything in this article. I think, in fact, that following Lopp's ideas would lead to far fewer cases of WTF than what we see in the wild.

24
ThomPete 4 days ago 0 replies      
Somehow tangential

"These hidden problems are the true gold standard of entrepreneurism and its amazing how little discussion there actually is about how to find them. Its hardly a surprise though since they; as we can see, can be hard to find and I think there are a couple of reasons why.

Hidden problems arent obvious even to those who experience them every single day.

Most people have enough human problems. They are often hired to do a specific job and dont necessarily think about these problems as something that could be solved. Many just see them as part of the actual process. So to even understand they are problems, require a certain kind of attention, most people simply dont have. (I have later learned that this is called functional fixedness and is a cognitive bias. Which explain why people sometimes say Why didnt anyone think of this before?most people simply dont think like that.)

Hidden problems often only reveal themselves over time.

Not all problems are even instantly recognizable. Instead they only reveal themselves over time or through years of experience. This also means that many of these problems require a certain age and experience to even notice let alone understand. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the average age of a founder is 38 and with 16 years of working experience behind him."

http://000fff.org/the-problem-with-problems

25
insanity55 4 days ago 0 replies      
I read the title and immediately thought of circumcision. The article was not about that, and I enjoyed the insight. Same concept though. Normalization of deviance.
26
calinet6 4 days ago 0 replies      
The funny part about the recent obsession with "normalization of deviance" is that it's just one of hundreds of psychological biases that people exhibit and that directly impact work.

This is why it's important to learn about psychology if you intend to work with humansor even just with yourself.

27
PaulHoule 4 days ago 0 replies      
Way back in WWII soldiers coined the acronym (SNAFU), "Situation Normal All Fucked Up".
28
protonfish 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think there is another thing to take away from some of the case studies - if you design and implement operating procedures and alarms, do so in a way that is simple, effective, and does not draw an undue amount of time and attention to itself. I have dealt with too many systems that sound the "everything's OK alarm" constantly and procedures that have good intentions but no effort to streamline the gratuitous amount of time and effort needed to be followed.

It is not constructive to blame employees for failure to heed poor alerts and protocols.

29
acconsta 4 days ago 2 replies      
> And I can think of more than one well-regarded unicorn where everyone still has access to basically everything, even after their first or second bad security breach.

Which companies? That's pretty scary.

30
pbreit 4 days ago 0 replies      
Key point: "The simplest option is to just do the right thing yourself and ignore whats going on around you."

This is so, so, so easy to do and generally has no negative repurcussions.

31
mgrennan 4 days ago 0 replies      
Then There is the story of the Emperor's new clothes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Emperor%27s_New_Clothes

Sometime older works or those in exit interview, just don't GAF and call "group think" what it is.

You want to fix these problems. Don't hose your monkeys and hire some old deep thinkers and empower them.

32
auganov 4 days ago 0 replies      
The most unsettling thing is how much I love reading anecdotes like that - they make you feel so much better about "messed up" things you do yourself.
33
cubano 4 days ago 1 reply      
My personal hottake is that, as Einstein proved, everything really is relative.

What may seem dysfunctional and WTF from your vantage point may be perfectly logical from someone elses.

If you are going thru your work-life with the idea that social relationships and business practices are always going to follow the same strict rules as your software or hardware does, well good luck with that.

Normal is as normal does.

34
umanwizard 4 days ago 3 replies      
I can't read this because my ISP's (I assume) scheme of MITMing all http traffic is buggy, and now I can only load things over https.

Start using encryption, people. There's no reason not to.

Stop Patent Trolls: Support the Innovation Act of 2015 eff.org
500 points by Ologn   ago   96 comments top 13
1
WildUtah 7 days ago 4 replies      
This law would take the most effective tool against trolls and weaken it without providing any real relief for innovative small companies targeted by trolls.

The post-grant review process is the only way patents get a serious review of their validity. The PTO actually takes printed references found by accused infringers that pay a five-digit fee as reviews the patent. It's essential because the original pre-grant review only allows a few hours of research and examiners are rewarded only for issuing patents so it's hard for one to be bad enough to be rejected.

This bill would make it much harder to revoke patent claims by prohibiting the reasonable interpretation standard. It would also entitle trolls to demand new claims by making trivial adjustments in wording without any serious review so that winners who get bad patents revoked have to immediately face new bad patents.

Meanwhile the loser pays provision is so weak that it provides no hope to small businesses and little to large ones. East Texas judges have already shown it won't apply in their courts.

The pleading requirements have already been enacted by the Supreme Court this month.

This bill has been so watered down that it's worse than the status quo. EFF should oppose it.

2
askmelater 7 days ago 2 replies      
My two cents.

A lot of these problems come from two clear areas, software and business methods implemented in software. It was not until recently that patents were allowed in these areas. I have never felt that there was any justification for that change, and I would not mind if all patents in those areas are thrown out.

I do not support HR 9 it weakens protection for invention in all areas, tipping the balance to the big boys, since they repeatedly attack a small entities patents, without risking being found in infringement.

I think if you exclude the software and business method patents, you might find that a lot of the so called "non practicing entities" are not trolls, but are small businesses that actually are developing technology.

3
Animats 7 days ago 2 replies      
Stop the EFF before they kill innovation. HR 9 is overreaching. There are only a few real "patent trolls". The EFF has a list.[1] Only one law firm, Farney Daniels, has sent more than three demand letters.

What HR 9 does is to make it possible to sue patent holders over and over until they're worn down and broke. It empowers rich infringing companies and lets them infringe patents at low risk. Worst case, they end up paying royalties, not being shut down.

Background: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/technology/238973-hr-...

Activism:http://www.savetheinventor.com/take-action-now

[1] https://trollingeffects.org/lawfirms

4
sesutton 7 days ago 1 reply      
The summary of the bill for those interested in what it actually does.

https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/9/su...

5
Ologn 7 days ago 2 replies      
I am starting to see ads against this bill from patent trolls. It's on the Congressional calendar right now. It has 27 cosponsors. Hopefully it will pass! The EFF link has a box where you can e-mail your congressional representative, if you live in the USA of course.
6
noobermin 7 days ago 2 replies      
To be very honest, whenever I see any political group supporting this or that bill, I have to roll my eyes. The thought that change could be wrought by this congress voting on anything when it is the congress that has enacted the least number of laws of any US congress in recent history[0] is one that is rooted in futility. It seems like those votes against obamacare, just political showmanship without the serious hope of getting anything really accomplished. The last major changes to law/goverment in this country have been either by the courts(gay marriage, citizens united) or executive action(draw down of the war on drugs). Has anything been done through congress in the last few years where it is supposed to originate? None I can think of other than a couple of standouts.

We need to fix the election finance system. That is the first problem before we can think that anything can really be effected through congress, as it is supposed to be.

[0] http://www.politico.com/story/2014/12/congress-numbers-11365...

7
ebbv 7 days ago 0 replies      
Dear EFF, I have been a big fan and even donated in the past but this bill is terrible, and you guys are making a habit of supporting the wrong bills.
8
masonicb00m 6 days ago 0 replies      
"Patent trolls buy up patents and use them offensively against unsuspecting businesseswithout creating or selling anything themselves."

This sounds suspiciously like something software companies would argue, to retain the right to protect their turf with patents, while reducing their exposure to professional patent enforcers.

9
m1sta_ 6 days ago 0 replies      
The problem they are trying to solve will only really budge when we get an improved crowdsourced-based approach.
10
Eleutheria 7 days ago 0 replies      
Stop Patents. Period.

That would definitely be a cause to support.

11
Zklsalue8 6 days ago 1 reply      
Calling people who try to enforce the patents they own trolls is a disgrace.
12
nitin_flanker 6 days ago 0 replies      
People really are confused about patent trolls ans NPEs. An NPE is not a troll.
13
incepted 7 days ago 2 replies      
How about maintaining software patents (which have merits) but making it so the only way to acquire a patent is to acquire the company that owns it?

This would completely kill the patent troll business while adding value to startups that file innovative patents.

Facebook is misleading Indians with its full-page ads about Free Basics linkedin.com
800 points by temp   ago   245 comments top 33
1
puranjay 9 days ago 4 replies      
Indian here. The manipulation has been incredibly blatant and scummy. It's not even funny anymore. Friends who categorically denied having sent a mail to the Indian telecom regulatory authority on Facebook's behalf (conveniently supplied by Facebook) show up on my feed as having signed the mail.

It's an all-out blitzkrieg. I've seen full page ads in newspapers, banners at bus stops, even ads on local Indian websites.

It's one of the scummiest things I've seen from a major company.

2
addicted 9 days ago 2 replies      
From my Indian friends on Facebook, it appears Facebook is showing messages that certain friends of yours are supporting, or signed up for Facebook basics, even if they never did anything of the sort.

It's creepy, and messed up.

Edit: (Leaving the original post untouched), it appears Facebook will show you as having supported Free Basics if you clicked polls which seemed completely unrelated (as the original article points out, polls about "Connected India" for example. Still quite a distance from having supported Free basics, which is what Facebook appears to show.

3
ghughes 9 days ago 1 reply      
Even if this is entirely well-intentioned, which is certainly up for debate, it sets a precedent that will eventually see the world's most powerful media corporations become gatekeepers of the internet.

The web has been so successful because of any one of us can fire up a text editor and create the next phenomenon without spending a single dollar or seeking anyone's permission.

This is not charity, it is a coup d'tat.

4
anilgulecha 8 days ago 3 replies      
On the ethics of this,

I'd like to know of the engineers/team in the chain of command who is responsible for the "Something went wrong" flag set on savetheinternet.in : http://i.imgur.com/K3JUack.png

Clearly this flag was not set on the grounds of pornography/violent matter/malicious link. This flag was instead set on a what is political speech, representing activists from a large swath of a democratic nation.

Consider how big of an attack this is on speech. Consider if a prominent website of any other political thought were thus flagged, and warned users away from.

To any folks from facebook reading this: please point out the team/engineers and the whole chain of command responsible for this flag -- this suppression is not a tiny thing.

5
jeevand 9 days ago 1 reply      
Coming from a rural farming community in India i think this is a very bad deal. I speak with my folks when i visit India about how they use technology. The use cases are very practical such as turning off/on the pumpset, since the fields are far and the power comes and goes at different times, this kind of app is amazing. I can think of similar use cases once IoT takes off. ex: Checking the water levels in paddy fields (The crabs make holes and if you are out of luck all the water is gone, resulting in midnight trips to fields to make sure everything is fine). The startups which might provide these kind of services will do well only if the internet is free, else FB will build its own apps to do this. FB will have a monopoly over the future use cases. The last thing my folks back home need is to play farmville or poke at each other or put booty shots in instagram :)
6
firasd 9 days ago 1 reply      
I dont have much to add after the last couple threads on this (my concerns boil down to the importance of net neutrality, and the obscuring way free Facebook plus a few dozen apps is presented as philanthropy) but its interesting that after 36 countries, as they say, embraced internet.org, India may finally be where Mark Zuckerbergs ambitions run aground.

We have a specific mix of an established tech ecosystem, educated middle class, and active (though imperfect) democracy, all of which combined to spark a grassroots movement for net neutrality. I hope we can resist Facebooks lobbying, whether visible marketing like this or backroom deals with telecom networks and governments.

P.S. Not to mention the aspect Ive seen many people bring up: a Western corporation trying to aggressively meddle in India has an unhappy precedent.

7
cmurf 9 days ago 0 replies      
If I understand this right, it means poor people don't actually get the Internet. They get Facebook. Ergo it's a regression back to pre-Internet "Prodigy" and "Compuserve" and "AOL" only days, for poor people. And then they get piles of ads in their face. It's not really the Internet. So is that better than nothing? I think that's up to the users to decide rather than people who have the real Internet.

But I also think it's misleading to refer to this as "digital equality" or that Facebook and friends constitutes "essential internet services." The only essential Internet service is the fucking connection to the unabridged Internet. So call it what it actually is. Don't exaggerate (lie).

EDIT: I don't use Facebook, at all. I have tons of friends who don't use it, at all. So how "essential" is it? I'm completely OK with them giving free Facebook + only whatever else they want, but it's b.s. to call this essential or basic. It's not even really free if people are getting ad bombed to pay for it.. So yeah, let people have whatever this is, it's fine, but don't lie/mislead about what it is.

8
chdir 9 days ago 2 replies      
http://www.savetheinternet.in - A template for contacting the authorities to show support for net neutrality (speak up against "Free Basics").

Last time, they received over a million e-mails [0], and that did have a positive effect. Let's 10x that.

[0] http://bit.ly/1YCxhlv

9
littletimmy 9 days ago 0 replies      
This evokes memories of colonialism. Most Indians I know are like "gtfo we don't need your help" and Zuckerberg is going like "well I'm going to help you whether you like it or not."

It is SO obvious he's doing it to make sure Facebook has a permanent hold on the huge and growing Indian market. But to disguise it as a charity, that's scummy as anything I've seen a major company do.

10
vinay_ys 8 days ago 1 reply      
First let's keep affordability aside and think about this.

Internet is built on principles of neutrality. It is built on public property (airways, land) that government leases to companies on our behalf.Internet is what it is today because of this neutrality principle. It has given rise to so many companies out of nothingness and created so much opportunity for disruption and growth. So any

We do not want to turn Internet into something useless and backwards (like cable/tv networks). That is what Facebook is trying to do here by lobbying the government to change policy. This has to be stopped no question.

Now let's talk about affordability.Government should look into programs that will lower the overall cost of Internet by reforming how they license spectrum.

They can also provide free access to Internet in public places - like public schools, public libraries, train/bus stations, agri markets etc where most information hungry people who cannot afford are already there. They can also encourage large city/town center operators to provide free wifi.

All said, most poor people in India who don't have Internet are in tier-2/3 cities and villages where there is no connectivity at all today. So, it is not a question of affordability but connectivity.

Facebook is being irresponsible and evil in this case and exploiting the situation and not doing anything to help. In contrast, google recently launched a program to provide high-speed Internet free wifi in 400 train stations in India. This is the largest public wifi program in the world.

11
pranayairan 9 days ago 0 replies      
Indian here, they even started Television ads showing zuke. It is getting out of hand. There VP of Internet org will be doing an AMA on reddit today !!
12
gamekathu 9 days ago 1 reply      
finally more people are speaking about it. its sad to see facebook revert to cheap publicity stunt tactics to get their way around. I always had a good impression of FB specially for their open source tools which I use a lot, and I really hope they can put this murky event behind them and go back to the way they were.

n.b : link to the full page ads : http://imgur.com/a/hb3nt

13
ZoF 9 days ago 0 replies      
For those of us without a linkedin/facebook:

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:https:/...

14
manash 9 days ago 2 replies      
Why not let "our less fortunate brothers" decided what they want. If they don't want free internet, then its their choice. How insane is it to let the TRAI regulate the internet! Do you not see the internet is the only real means of liberating people? And you want a group of elite people to control this! What happens to the "these airwaves belong to us" argument when the government bans anti-govt web sites or porn websites or any other websites that the current elite don't agree with? Down with intelligentsia!
15
dunkelheit 9 days ago 1 reply      
Today I learned that Indians have a word for ten million (crore).

On a more serious note this facebook campaign is an embodiment of principles elucidated Zero to One. Competition sucks, argues Mr. Thiel, try to create a monopoly. And monopoly is great if you are a business but for customers it is other way round. I hope India will preserve open and competitive internet for its citizens.

The article states that the chief aim of this campaign is to prevent Indians from using google. Are there any signs of them taking countermeasures?

16
mtgx 9 days ago 2 replies      
Over the next few years, someone should also look into how much of that "philanthropy" money is going into Internet.org from Zuckerberg - mainly because I'd hate for him to get away with most people believing he's giving away his fortune for the good of mankind, when in fact he'd just be propping up Facebook, but with fewer taxes on his money.
17
watmough 8 days ago 0 replies      
Facebook needs to stop a homegrown Facebook alternative arising in India.

They need to stop it now, by smothering it in the crib, redirecting its potential future users into a Facebook-curated walled-garden.

Growth is required for Facebook, and India is a clear growth area, China having been largely ruled off-limits by the Chinese government.

A toehold in one of the most populous countries on the planet. Has to have the Facebook board salivating.

18
jacquesm 8 days ago 0 replies      
The dissonance between Mark Zuckerberg's letter to his daughter and stuff like this is hard to bridge.
19
stcredzero 9 days ago 1 reply      
Okay, if an activist can contemplate a program giving everyone in India who wants it 500MB a month mobile bandwidth, then I have to call out western web app developers for committing a heinous crimes against global Internet access equality.

It used to be that I could get by with a 500MB plan on my iPhone, and so long as I avoided video streaming, I'd usually use 300MB. Now I see that my Maps apps alone use that in a month, and I run out of 6GB bandwidth every month.

It's a truism that bandwidth is like highway lanes: If it's there, it will be used. But really, am I getting more functionality for the increased bandwidth? I think not.

20
TazeTSchnitzel 9 days ago 1 reply      
Interestingly, Wikimedia also engages in zero-rating, through their Wikipedia Zero program. But their motivations are genuinely altruistic. (After all, it brings them no direct benefit and costs them money.)
21
txtsd 9 days ago 0 replies      
I'm still mad that facebook hasn't unblocked the I Fucking Love Science page yet here in India. Why would anyone block a page about science while letting the religious bullshit/reposts runs rampant?
22
tr33fiddy 8 days ago 0 replies      
This album shows the kind of things Facebook is doing to push Free Basics.

http://m.imgur.com/gallery/dnAFg

23
la6470 9 days ago 0 replies      
The Indian poor people may be poor but they are not fools. A substandard service will not take off just like Tata Nano car for the poor failed miserably so will this Facebook initiative.
24
vankap 9 days ago 0 replies      
This is deception. Pure and simple. There are many different and ethical ways of providing connectivity to the poor but not at the cost of losing net neutrality.
25
rsync 9 days ago 1 reply      
The real question is, will facebook lobby against, and attempt to disallow, free community / coop network access ?

It's one thing to trick a bunch of poor people into thinking you're giving them free Internet access ... it's still free.

It's quite another to then shackle them by manipulating their legal system into disallowing any other free options.

I have a lot on my plate right now, but it sure would be interesting to do a very small scale proof of concept free wifi mesh anywhere in India ... just to see who that pisses off ... I see my favorite bulk IP provider (he.net) has zero presence in India, so that doesn't make things quick and simple ... we'll see ...

26
mirimir 9 days ago 0 replies      
With neither Linkedin nor Facebook accounts, I can't read this article. But maybe this one is just as useful: http://www.hindustantimes.com/tech/facebook-campaign-gets-mo...
27
salgernon 8 days ago 0 replies      
I think this could all be resolved by letting Facebook pay the cost, but if they're going to restrict where you can go, require that they are restricting it to a competitor. Twitter maybe? lesswrong? And first level outgoing links from those sources.
28
TheSpiceIsLife 8 days ago 1 reply      
Free Facebook means free Facebook Messenger.

Give a billion people free Facebook Messenger and I'm sure someone will develop an IoFM 'Internet over Facebook Messenger' protocol.

On another note, AOL was a walled-garden and look where that ended up.

29
rexpop 9 days ago 1 reply      
While I'm curious about the pros and cons of a gratis walled garden, was the greater offense the way Facebook used their presence to affect political change? Would it have been offensive to do so in an attempt to counteract pollution?
30
shkesar 8 days ago 1 reply      
> for every new user that comes on the internet, Facebook makes Rs. 8, while Google makes aroumd Rs. 48

Where are these figures from? Who pays facebook for signups?Just looking for an insight into this.

31
Sven7 8 days ago 0 replies      
At the end of the story a few people in Silicon Valley will get disproportionately richer than everyone else.
32
marcoperaza 9 days ago 0 replies      
If there are alternative ways to bring internet access to the billion unconnected Indians, then why does the Indian government need to ban Free Basics? Those alternatives can be set up in parallel. No one will use Free Basics if the alternative is free "real" internet access.
33
mahranch 9 days ago 3 replies      
If I was facebook, I'd tread lightly.

India has a long history of reneging on deals. Once a deal is struck with most nations, that's it. Done deal. With India, they don't care - they'll do whatever is convenient for them.

They did just that on a huge WTO deal years in the making (source: http://www.npr.org/2014/08/10/339292735/why-indias-modi-defi...). The also reneged on a solar energy trade agreement with the U.S (source: http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Industry/2013/02/07/...).

Hell, even Russia and China won't back out of deals once struck. They'll piss and moan if it turns out they got the short end of the stick, but they'll still honor the deal.

I tell my clients to steer clear of India for this very reason - it's nearly impossible to know when a deal is "solid". There's very little recourse if a business or person reneges on a business deal, or rips you off.

I almost hope facebook wins this little battle; India benefits from facebook pumping a bunch of money into India's infrastructure to build it up, supplying internet to the poor, then India says "Nope, sorry facebook, you gotta go. It was nice having you!". Facebook would get what it deserves. I actually wouldn't be surprised if that happens.

Iran's blogfather: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are killing the web theguardian.com
554 points by plg   ago   182 comments top 34
1
aaron-lebo 2 days ago 9 replies      
But hyperlinks arent just the skeleton of the web: they are its eyes, a path to its soul. And a blind webpage, one without hyperlinks, cant look or gaze at another webpage and this has serious consequences for the dynamics of power on the web.

More or less all theorists have thought of gaze in relation to power, and mostly in a negative sense: the gazer strips the gazed and turns her into a powerless object, devoid of intelligence or agency. But in the world of webpages, gaze functions differently: it is more empowering. When a powerful website say Google or Facebook gazes at, or links to, another webpage, it doesnt just connect it , it brings it into existence; gives it life. Without this empowering gaze, your web page doesnt breathe. No matter how many links you have placed in a webpage, unless somebody is looking at it, it is actually both dead and blind, and therefore incapable of transferring power to any outside web page.

Apps like Instagram are blind, or almost blind. Their gaze goes inwards, reluctant to transfer any of their vast powers to others, leading them into quiet deaths. The consequence is that web pages outside social media are dying.

Best part of the piece, imo.

2
SmallBets 2 days ago 1 reply      
It seems the real shift is from the web's nodes being ideas/text, to being people/personas. Guided and organized not by what is said and the relationship of ideas, but by who said it, their relationship to me, and what liking it says about me. From ideas to identities. From the message to the messenger.

The author nailed it when talking about "two of the most dominant, and most overrated, values of our times: newness and popularity" and the shift from a book to tv mentality. The newness/TV aspect is another way to look at FOMO...these things are exploiting deep fears about group status and exclusion.

I don't think this means the death of ideas, but they are secondary now and spread when tied to a story/hero's journey involving a strong persona. Ironically, the author has a great one in being imprisoned for his ideas then freed.

3
jseliger 2 days ago 3 replies      
I'm sympathetic to this point of viewI write one blog and contribute to another!but at the same time, it's not really FB, Instagram, and Twitter that're killing the webit's us, every day, with every choice we make. Every time we fire up Facebook we choose to enable the proprietary web instead of the open web.

It's fun pointing at corporate villains. I've done it. But it's more true and less satisfying to say that we enable the online world that has come to be.

4
amirmansour 2 days ago 2 replies      
The author also published a related article on the Matter publication on Medium titled. "The Web We Have to Save": https://medium.com/matter/the-web-we-have-to-save-2eb1fe15a4...

His writing can be found on his personal site: http://hoder.ir/en

5
TazeTSchnitzel 1 day ago 1 reply      
Forgive me for lacking the time or energy to read this article. I've read a previously posted on HN piece by the same author on the same subject, though.

Those three services are quite different. Instagram is a stream of photos, nothing more, nothing less. It's not a site that links outward, it's not even a site you really link to. It is simply pretty pictures. There's nothing wrong with that, really. Instagram doesn't want to and doesn't need to be a communication tool.

Facebook is website for keeping in touch with friends and relatives, organising your social life, viewing advertising videos, viewing plagiarised YouTube videos, and viewing sponsored BuzzFeed videos. It doesn't link outward much because that's not really what it's useful for. Facebook wants to deliver you a stream of mostly garbage, addictive and not-entirely-unpleasant content. It's almost useless as a platform for real communication, and nobody should expect it to be one, they'll be disappointed.

Twitter is a website for following people who interest you, and sharing things with people interested in you. Twitter, unlike Facebook or Instagram, is actually very outward-looking: Twitter is a huge source of links to other websites. People use Twitter to share pieces they find interesting, to share content they have created, to comment on pieces they have seen. People use Twitter and end up finding new and wonderful websites.

None of these are killing the web in the end.

6
codecamper 2 days ago 3 replies      
I wonder if there is really a smaller blog audience now than before.

Or is it that a massive number of people have arrived to the Internet knowing only the FB, IG, and WA apps. Those people don't quite get it yet. Some of them are new because of finances. Computers and routing equipment too expensive 10 years ago. The smartphone has brought massive numbers of new arrivals.

I think the problem could be app stores. Could be paid search results.

But these are short term problems. I think eventually all these new people will discover blogs. And podcasts.

Just like people these days are discovering grunge rock, and mullet hair. Or at least they were 8 years ago - last time I had a look.

7
pizza 2 days ago 0 replies      
Evgeny Morozov [0] has talked [1] and written extensively [2] about the capacity for social media to entrap those the regime deems social undesirables, and also about the naiveti of those in Silicon Valley who don't realize this capacity of their technology (insert Oppenheimer world-eater quote here...)

From what I understand of my own family's experience, it is safe to say that far fewer butchers would have discovered safe havens in Rwanda (such as my grandmothers' -- my muzungu father calls it the Anne Frank house of Kigali. I never noticed the bullet holes littered throughout the bricks in her compound until my latest visit...) through their own self-determination, if the locations had not been broadcast on government radio channels... sigh

[0] http://www.evgenymorozov.com

[1] https://www.ted.com/talks/evgeny_morozov_is_the_internet_wha...

[2] See "To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism" by Evgeny Morozov

8
muddi900 2 days ago 0 replies      
When Hossein Darekshan went to jail, the Internet was for the pioneers, an uncharted territory. It was a place for the brave, required arcane knowledge (computer literacy), and basic understanding of the underlying systems. When he came out it was settled.

Was it the availability of easy to use technology (smartphones) that created the market for populist interfaces or the simplification of interaction that made the demand for simplified devices? That's a debate. However as more and more people came online, they didn't want to explore the frontier. They wanted their patch of land. They didn't want diverse ideas, but affirmations for their beliefs, as News media has trained us all to expect from the world.

It was this way before. Most people's idea of music was limited to whatever was on the radio or MTV. Political discourse was limited to what was the news. The reason early Internet was the bastion of outsiders, freaks, geeks and degenerates because these people wanted to break new ground, wanted new ideas. Those people are still here, but they are minority.

I do think Derakshan overestimates the value of the blogospheres. My primary interaction was message boards, which were closed-off, and in many cases private spaces. That is whete I discovered new music, new movies and new ideas. They too still exist, but they are also minority, as far as reach and influence are concerned.

9
cubano 2 days ago 1 reply      
He seems like a gifted writer, so I am sure, over time, he will make these platforms work for him, perhaps in greater ways then he could have ever imagined just using blogs.

People I know use the "big-3" because it allows them to easily connect to their real-world friends and share tidbits with them, not because they are looking for a publishing platform to reach the entire world.

10
AdeptusAquinas 2 days ago 1 reply      
I know that a big concern is the centralisation of power (something that might be mitigated by legislation, albeit problematically if the legislators are the ones to worry about) but aside from that, are aggregation sites like FB and such really that bad?

His argument that they only show you what you like, keeping you in a little bubble, feels plausible, but is it true in practice? Those who are interested in new ideas will find them regardless of FB, and may even be shown them by FB if it works out that is what they will like. And those that are more passive get the benefit of the net without effort. Seems like a good arrangement, at least for now.

11
hudell 1 day ago 0 replies      
Other than social networks, I really miss the internet before youtube got so popular. These days, people put a video on youtube for everything. Things that used to be written, parsed and easily searchable, now are locked inside lengthy videos.
12
bronz 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think this is an interesting problem. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr et al dominate the internet. They are mostly used for garbage. There are more people on the web now than ever and they use these platforms like they use a permanent marker and a bathroom stall. At the same time, as has been mentioned elsewhere in these comments, it hasn't gotten much easier to run a blog. There are hosting costs to consider and the technical barrier is still there, although it is lower than it used to be. Also, perhaps most importantly, it is not immediately clear whether one can or cannot gain traction with a blog. People don't seem to read them as much as they used to and they don't have a fancy interface to subscribe and follow (at least not one that most people are familiar with today). Maybe someone could make a platform for people who want to make a blog but are dealing with these issues. Some kind of intellectual Tumlr? A place where making a blog is simple and you are sure to make traction because of the large readership of the platform. A place like Hacker News but with blog posts perhaps.
13
kevindeasis 2 days ago 1 reply      
The author seems to fail to understand the new social dynamic present in the web. Just because the author fails to find his target audience does not mean these platforms are killing the web. I was a fan but not any more of the mentioned social media, but some of his statements are not insightful.

These platforms are the gateway to a better web not born yet, which is just about to emerge. High-quality content is becoming more relevant.

These social media websites are not killing the web. I'd argue it is doing something that is opposite to killing the web. People can find people who share the same ideologies in the social media platforms described. A decade ago, would you consider the web more prosperous without the presence of these social media platforms? I'd like to think that these platforms are gateway to a better web.

Bloggers are still rock stars in contemporary time. Hossein Derakhshan is just looking at the wrong place.

There is also more competition in the blogging space. What does he think happens when there is an inflow of supply?

People are smarter now. In fact, they are getting really smart with the availability of knowledge, wisdom, skills, and ideas. If you want more people to read your blog? Better start finding ways to influence new people and affect their lives, while offering meaningful. Furthermore, I hope he finds a way to get the numbers he wants by out-competing other bloggers in his niche.

14
arthurcolle 2 days ago 2 replies      
I feel like users don't really want to get switched out of apps as they scroll through a feed. I've noticed Facebook has many links that point outside of facebook.com/, but the constant new tab context switch is a pretty big distraction.
15
xdinomode 1 day ago 0 replies      
I disagree and here's why. The web platforms he mentions are for following the lives of people you like. Links get in the way on these specific apps. Especially on mobile where clicking links by accident is a dread. If you want to share your web links then post it on your blog. Make a link from Twitter to your blog. But DONT expect apps to allow you to spam your garbage links to others. That's what Reddit is for.
16
systems 2 days ago 2 replies      
i have to strongly disagreei am egyptian, and the revolution that started in egypt in 25th Jan 2011, was more or less organized on facebookon a facebook page that started few years earlier to condemnthe torture and killing of a young man "khaled Said"

it was even kinda a surprise to the twitter crowdwhere most of the activists hanged out

in the two following years, twitter played a major rolein sharing information on whats happening in the streets vs what the controlled media show

twitter and facebook did kill the webthey revolutionised the world, literally

17
marincounty 2 days ago 0 replies      
I was watching Solyent Green last night. I have seen the movie so many tines, but last night it reminded me of my own eventual mortality.

There's a scene when Charleton Heston shows his, I believe, father some refrence books that he stole from the rich guy.

On the books, I saw report for 2016 to 2025.

I thought to myself, I'm glad we are not living in a Solent Green world--yet. I thought about just how difficult it is to predict the future.

That said, I don't like the direction of this internet. I loath FB. I loath it for various reasons. I'm trying to be objective. "Do I dislike it because I don't have a lot of friends?" I don't know? I just loath the site. Always have, but I'm a odd person. I'll cop to that.

Somebody above me asked for solutions. I think we should share anything we have. Yes, there are poachers, with deep pockets, that will steal ideas, but we're talking something that was very special. I liked the Internet in 2008. I don't like it as much now. So, please offer solutions?

(To the Downvoters, give people a chance to offer their ideas without your petty boos. It's not all about you, and your precious, fragile mood?)

18
adventured 2 days ago 2 replies      
This is at least the third or fourth generation of whining I've been through about XYZ is going to kill the Web, in the last 20 years.

AOL was going to kill the Web in its infancy, ensuring a walled off garden.

Microsoft was going to kill the Web and dominate cyberspace by inserting various points of control. Magazine cover after magazine cover predicted and warned on this for years in the mid to late 1990s.

Apps were going to kill the Web.

Facebook, Twitter et al. are going to kill the Web.

Four or five years from now: new thing is going to kill the Web. Rinse & repeat for an eternity. Absolutely nothing has changed in the argument, they just keep replacing one boogieman with another. I'm pretty sure after watching it for two decades that it's just an excuse to whine, forecast doom, and be overly dramatic. As it turns out, the Web is extraordinarily resilient + adaptive and will be just fine.

19
enraged_camel 2 days ago 0 replies      
He wrote something similar earlier this year that was discussed on HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9994653

There's definitely more to be said on this topic, though.

20
bikamonki 2 days ago 0 replies      
This too is an endless stream of 'newness'. I log to HN as much as I do to FB. One pays with karma, the other with likes. Both are mostly garbage yet sometimes gems are found. I guess some of us are ready for curatedcontent.com
21
xkarga00 2 days ago 0 replies      
Great article that sums up the reasons why I am not using any of these social networks anymore. I am going to point this to anyone who asks me why I don't have a Facebook account, thanks.
22
tim333 2 days ago 1 reply      
Meh. Hypertexted linked blogs and web pages are still there. Facebook et al aren't killing them any more than radio killed books, TV killed radio or the internet killed TV. I doubt he would have lost his blog audience if he had not been imprisoned. It wasn't social media that did that.
23
kevin_thibedeau 2 days ago 0 replies      
> On his release, he found the internet stripped of its power to change the world and instead serving up a stream of pointless social trivia.

The web works just fine for me. I just route around the damage. It's not like anyone has a gun to your head forcing you to have an Instatwitbook account.

24
sehr 2 days ago 0 replies      
Is there any way to, or rather, is it even worth fighting centralization?

Has anything similar to this happened?

25
wahsd 2 days ago 0 replies      
Well, Zuckerberg has said that he wants Facebook to replace the internet, at least in people's minds and actions; hence why he is ever expanding the walled garden.
26
djKianoosh 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is why it saddened me to see Prismatic News shut down. It was a really great way to find new and interesting things outside that filter bubble of fb and twitter.
27
MichaelMoser123 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think livejournal would be one of last remnants of the old web. In some quarters it is still quite popular
28
MichaelMoser123 1 day ago 0 replies      
i think that hyperlinks and decentralized blogs will make it back if the concept can generate value for advertisers.

So if all blog hosts hand out the same sticky cookies and then exchange the tracking info to collectively spy on its users - that will be the killer app (or killing app) for hyperlinks and decentralized blogs ;-)

29
thrw00 1 day ago 0 replies      
Throwaway account for obvious reasons.

At the time of Iranian disputed elections of 2009, I worked as an engineer for one of the biggest Iranian websites with millions of audience looking for reliable source of news, in the strict absence of any news, when people were getting killed on the streets of Tehran.

I see the need to clarify who this self-titled 'blogfather' of Iran is. I see this need as things get out of control quickly on hn due to hype and links like this jump to get 1k votes, where most of the voters simply vote because others voted.

For those who do not know, since just before the Iranian disputed elections of 2009, Hossein Derakhshan has been living in Iran. He was 'supposedly' in jail, but there were rumors about his collaboration with the Iranian government to build their cyber presence, which almost did not exist at the time. Shortly after his arrest, many anti government bloggers inside Iran were arrested too, there are speculations that he revealed their identities.

Years before entering Iran, Derakhshan was busy with 'blogfathering' Iranian web space for a few years, explicitly being anti Iranian government, which always bring visitors. This way, at the rise of the weblog era, he was doing good. He had a big number of visitors which could make him enough money to not look for another job.

During post golden era of weblogs, specially when the Iranian Digg copy websites appeared, his monopoly weblog business was going south. At that point, he started publishing more unconventional content in Iranian web space to gain attention. Mostly, they were of sexual nature. A good example is a video he published where he asks an Israeli girl to repeat graphic sexual words in Farsi (Persian) after him. The girl did not speak a word of that language. Another example is his dedicated website to naked pictures of Monica Bellucci.

I am not writing this to reveal that Hossein Derakhshan is a successful web attention seeker. I am writing this to let you know that in summer of 2009, when our tiny team was trying to protect huge DDoS attacks on a handful of low budget EC2 instances funded by donations, we were convinced that on the other side of the line, Mr Derakhshan had made a deal to conduct the operations by hiring Russians. This was by tracing his old account on our website to multiple new accounts claiming how they enjoy taking down the website, and let me tell you this, if you write thousands of lines on the web with your identity, it is not easy to escape your writing style when you pretend to be someone else.

Another elections is coming in a couple of months in Iran, where the government allows high profile media to report from inside Iran, hence this article pop up out of no where. This is a known pattern.

I had to get this off my chest after so many year. It is disturbing to see links like this on the front page of hn, where people claim to be pro democracy and freedom. This hurts.

30
andrepd 2 days ago 0 replies      
This was surprisingly insightful, both at the human and the technical level (especially the thoughts on hyperlinks). Amazing read.
31
zkhalique 1 day ago 0 replies      
Well, looks like he's back :)

So many people reposting his article!

32
ZenoArrow 2 days ago 1 reply      
Eternal September was different, in that it was the personalities of the collective that shifted, rather than how information was shared.
33
onewaystreet 2 days ago 6 replies      
Most of this is just a guy complaining becuse he can't adapt to the new world.
34
gotchange 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Theres a story in the Quran that I thought about a lot during my first eight months in solitary confinement. In it, a group of persecuted Christians find refuge in a cave. They, and a dog they have with them, fall into a deep sleep and wake up under the impression that they have taken a nap: in fact, its 300 years later. One version of the story tells of how one of them goes out to buy food and I can only imagine how hungry they must have been after 300 years and discovers that his money is obsolete now, a museum item. Thats when he realises how long they have been absent."

Slightly off-topic, does he realize that this was a fable and not a true story as human beings can't live for 300 years much less without food, water and a way to expel waste?

Introducing Guesstimate, a Spreadsheet for Things That Arent Certain medium.com
546 points by freefrancisco   ago   93 comments top 27
1
aj7 2 days ago 4 replies      
I would be much more interested if this product were "choose probability density function centric." Then, the Monte Carlo engine would gain much more interest. Being able to choose or specify arbitrary distributions, and then run simulations, would be valuable.

Of special interest are non-continuous distributions. How often have normal distribution reasoning failed in finance?Put another way, a user should be able to model a distribution himself.

2
ozgooen 3 days ago 8 replies      
I wasn't expecting this to go on hnews yet, but happy to take any questions!
3
hardmath123 3 days ago 0 replies      
RelevantUncertain<T>: A First-Order Type for Uncertain Data (Microsoft Research)

http://research.microsoft.com/pubs/208236/asplos077-bornholt...

4
imh 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm convinced that an excel sort of lay-person's computing platform is where probabilistic programming will really take off. This seems really cool!
5
sundarurfriend 2 days ago 0 replies      
'Fuzzy logic' seems to be an ex-buzzphrase nowadays, but this seems pretty close to that territory. A variable/cell/logical-unit containing not a single value, but a distribution (often between bounds), and getting combined with other similar variables/cells/logical-units in ways that understand and respect the probability distributions.

Perhaps that field can provide a potential source of new names, when you decide to market this as a company.

6
kadder 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is very similar to the paperhttp://www.isi.edu/~szekely/contents/papers/2012/szekely2012...

As per the paper , you can choose arbitrary distributions , construct a fluent graph , run Monte Carlo simulation and get the result - |via http://bit.ly/hnbuzz01 |

7
krmmalik 3 days ago 1 reply      
I like it. I had to do a strategy session with a client a couple of weeks ago and we needed to estimate how much the strategy was likely to cost over the next few months the. We had quite a few variables to work with though. This would have been handy in such a scenario I presume? We knew what are components and the ranges were.
8
p4bl0 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's not really related but it made me think of a friend's PhD thesis on uncertain data. If the subject interests you, be sure to checkout the summary of his (impressive) work: http://a3nm.net/blog/phd_summary.html.
9
jkaptur 3 days ago 1 reply      
Very much like Crystal Ball - an Excel add-on that's popular in the finance and energy fields.
10
evanb 3 days ago 1 reply      
I was watching "Total time spent watching this video" video, and had a basic question.

How does one tell guesstimate that there's a hard lower bound on a quantity. ie. Video Length is at least 0, because negative watch times are unphysical? I know the specified distribution in this case is very narrow (the video lasting between -1 and 0 minutes has probability ~0.000032). But the answer does come out to be 2632, which includes a substantial unphysical region.

And, if I give a hard lower bound on Video Length, can it propagate that knowledge into an asymmetric error on Total time?

11
brudgers 3 days ago 1 reply      
12
jakespencer 3 days ago 1 reply      
Awesome!I use Crystal Ball (http://www.oracle.com/us/products/applications/crystalball/o...) with triangular distributions and Monte Carlo for software project cost estimation. Crystal Ball costs thousands of dollars so I will be following this with interest.
13
jasonshen 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think this is super cool! We're so bad at estimating probabilities (think Han Solo's "never tell me the odds") that this helps visualize the distribution of outcomes
14
jeffehobbs 3 days ago 2 replies      
This is really cool. Can anyone recommend any particularly good/cogent Simple Caveman explanations of how Bayesoan theory/Monte Carlo simulation work?
15
Mauricio_ 3 days ago 1 reply      
It seems that using montecarlo in excel is apparently pretty commonm, but I'm not sure if it can be done without addons.
16
marcusgarvey 3 days ago 1 reply      
17
miguelrochefort 2 days ago 2 replies      
Isn't how all software should be written? Expressions that represent a set of all possible values, effectively replacing the need for types.

Surely, such a platform would make building an app 100 times easier. Not that building apps is a good use of our resources.

18
tunesmith 3 days ago 1 reply      
What fun - I did a monte carlo estimate a few years back when trying to determine what purchases price of house my girlfriend and I could afford. It depended on probable interest rate, how much my old house would sell for, etc. It'd be interesting to see how simply it could be modeled in this.
19
ashish161 2 days ago 1 reply      
heynice toolon a side note what tool did u use to create the animated tutorials on your git page:https://github.com/getguesstimate/guesstimate-app

image linkhttps://camo.githubusercontent.com/8fd97a97fa656a1eb92294f0f...

20
conservajerk 3 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting idea - but you could certainly do this in any spreadsheet application with multiple cells to represent ranges etc.. I think the of estimating probabilities issue can be considered to be more of a practices issue than a tools issue.
21
netghost 3 days ago 2 replies      
This is a really great interface, and cool idea.

You might consider upping the run count, or maybe narrowing your bins for the visualization. Either way, it's great to see more tools embracing probability and uncertainty like this.

22
desireco42 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is awesome. I am aware of the math behind, but this really made it much simpler to use. And also to make complex models.
23
evanb 3 days ago 0 replies      
It'd be nice to be able to show / enter n-dimensional histograms too, so that one can get an idea of / control the correlation between two outputs / inputs.
24
Beltiras 3 days ago 1 reply      
Cool idea but doesn't render into anything useful on my S5....
25
retube 3 days ago 1 reply      
How are correlations between variables accounted for?
26
rbanffy 3 days ago 0 replies      
Finally!
27
Chris2048 3 days ago 2 replies      
Nice, but I can't help thinking of spreadsheets as something of a crutch.

Also check out:

http://probcomp.csail.mit.edu/bayesdb/

https://github.com/taschini/pyintervalhttp://mavrinac.com/index.cgi?page=fuzzpy

Bank of America trying to load up on patents for the technology behind Bitcoin qz.com
364 points by hackuser   ago   191 comments top 22
1
aburan28 5 days ago 14 replies      
Fuck Bank of America. $12.00 maintenance fee every month for holding my money? $35.00 overdraft fees? </rant>

I don't understand why they are patenting this stuff, It will never hold up and they will never sue anyone

2
firasd 5 days ago 1 reply      
Looking forward to reading these patents to learn their cutting-edge blockchain implementation for making a $1 overdraft accrue $35 in fees.
3
mabbo 5 days ago 4 replies      
Someone smarter than me, please explain: are they seriously just trying to patent bitcoin, which already exists? Or are they inventing new ideas that can be done with blockchain technology?
4
thegayngler 5 days ago 2 replies      
How someone is allowed to patent something that already exists is beyond me? What is the patent office doing over there? I don't think they are doing their jobs properly if Bank of America was allowed to patent technology they didn't create.
5
lordnacho 4 days ago 4 replies      
Don't get me wrong, I think Bitcoin is an amazing technical (and economic) wonder.

But after starting (and quitting) a BTC business with a guy, and getting a BTC-related patent with another guy, I've come to the conclusion that blockchain technologies are a solution looking for a problem, and the only current problem being solved is how to illegally move money.

This is of course a standard thing to say for someone who's just come across BTC (like a savvy old businessman friend of mine) but I've actually looked at the code, talked to people who wanted BTC (a couple of nerds and an army of drug dealers / drug customers), and so on for a long while.

All the blockchain uses I've come across have seemed to be bolt-on hype motivated rather than genuine uses of the technology. I'm even doing a standard web project for a guy who thinks it will be useful to keep track of stuff in containers. I come from the finance industry, so I think I also know a bit about the requirements there, and they don't need it.

So let's look at what blockchain technology lets you do:

1) You get an indelible wall that grows every 10 minutes. You can write whatever you like on it. Well, that's great but you can do that with a normal database. It's well known how to do it, there's backup processes, security, various consistency measures, scaling, and so on that are established.

2) You don't need to run your own database. This is great if you don't want the network to be closed due to malfunction or police intervention. But banks already know how to run a database, they have hordes of people doing that. And they have to comply with information requests from the authorities. And someone, somewhere needs to have all the records, which they will want compensation for. I suggest AWS and the likes (in house), running an old fashioned DB would require orders of magnitude less compensation for similar amounts of traffic.

3) The network automates the ledger system so we don't need as many back office staff. Well, there's no magic here. If you write a blockchain for securities operations, the logic still needs to be written by someone. There's existing protocols for this kind of stuff, and there's existing automation at the banks for processing this stuff. Even if you decide to go blockchain, you will have to meet with the other banks to make sure everyone agrees so they'll want to be on the same chain. You're still going to need back office staff to make sure the inputs and outputs make sense.

Anyway, I've yet to see a blockchain use that both requires and is improved by using the blockchain.

6
rubyfan 5 days ago 3 replies      
Many big companies file patents for defensive reasons and do not pursue offensive activities. If BoA thought they might use a block chain in the future for example, having a patent can neutralize the threat of a competitor limiting their ability to use that method to support business activities. It's sort of a mutually assured distruction approach.
7
barrkel 5 days ago 0 replies      
I expect this is an insurance move: iterate through the cross-product of bitcoin concepts and current banking tech, eliminate the nonsensical pairings, and make plausible applications for the remainder. That way they cover their bases in case there's something game-changing lurking within.
8
race2tb 4 days ago 0 replies      
It is going to be hard to monitize blockchain just like torrents.I think it is best developed by a non for profit that is funded by some major players to keep it unbias and trustworthy to the benifit of market participants.
9
pwm 4 days ago 1 reply      
Interesting tangential thought experiment: what happens when, in the near future, some AI created software violates a patent? For example a hypothetical UI optimiser algo creates a slider which happens to be patented? :)
10
tuyguntn 4 days ago 1 reply      
I think people should be able to vote for patent acceptance, if more than 60% of voters consider that idea is great, let company own this patent. Patent office should do research before publishing to vote. Otherwise people can patent everything.

- Technology the Sun uses to shine, technology and methods for light which creates light space in dark space.

- Internal structure of fingers to click mouse/keyboard

- State of the mind before buying something...

11
ChristianGeek 5 days ago 0 replies      
Bank of America is the Comcast of banking.
12
Dowwie 4 days ago 1 reply      
Following is my unsubstantiated theory about recent bank involvement in bitcoin:The banks won't go down without a fight. They're setting up a legal minefield for bitcoin entrepreneurs. I doubt they'll use these patents other than to protect the status quo. If the patent minefield doesn't work, they'll capture the market by investing in their own ringfenced version of the blockchain (see "the open ledger project") and PR the hell out of it to ensure that it gets adopted rather than someone else's.

Granted, their strategy won't work if they can't influence adoption or sue the pants off of startup competitors.

Again, this is just a theory. Maybe they really do all of a sudden want to spend millions on something that does basically what their existing services do except they can't control. /sarcasm

13
awgneo 4 days ago 0 replies      
It brings me great joy to watch as the world's banking institutions become the atavisms of our time. What is so innovative or patentable about a distributed database? Bitcoin is the only real innovation and it needs not said institutions.
14
civild 5 days ago 0 replies      
It's not surprising that banks are interested in blockchain technology, if not necessarily Bitcoin itself. Patenting technology is very common by these companies and it is almost always a protection measure against them being sued for using it.
15
nickpsecurity 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is exactly why I posted in a previous thread that OSS projects and even public domain stuff need to patent their ass off. They should collect it into nonprofits that defend OSS institutions. Aside from self-defense, the main reason to patent all this stuff is so the big companies can't. This example shows they will do it any opportunity they can for anti-competitive purposes.
16
joshfraser 5 days ago 1 reply      
Great ammo for suing future competitors in the financial space.
17
acd 4 days ago 1 reply      
But Bank of America did not invent Bitcoin so there has to be prior art. I think the banks realise that with bitcoin tech consumers do not need banks anymore. You do not need a bank to trade stocks, to change currency.

Basically how can you get patents for someone else invention?

18
return0 4 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe they want to win time against competitors with "patent pending" products (regardless if they ll be granted the patent). Does that mean they are working on bitcoin products? Have they announced anything?
19
nvader 4 days ago 1 reply      
Is there a way for the public to challenge a patent application during the process? If there isn't, what would be the most expedient way of getting such a step added to the application process?
20
shmerl 4 days ago 0 replies      
That's sick. They clearly abuse the patent system to ban competition threat here. It's another clear demonstration that software patents shouldn't exist.
21
hackaflocka 5 days ago 3 replies      
Doesn't Warren Buffett own a large percentage of BOA? This is the Buffett strategy, use the public sphere to allow private entities to acquire monopoly power. He did this with his opposition to the Keystone Pipeline so that his trains would benefit from the need to move oil in that corridor.
22
golergka 4 days ago 4 replies      
Article text: patents are RELATED to blockchain

Headline: patents for TECHNOLOGY BEHIND bitcoin

Comments on HN: OMG THEY ARE PATENTING SOMETHING ALREADY INVENTED, EVIL STUPID BANKS, EVIL STUPID PATENTS, EVIL STUPID LAWS

Yes, their patents include descriptions of already known tech, but at first glance, these two actually look like new and interesting stuff:

http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=H...

http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=H...

AWS mistakes to avoid cloudonaut.io
534 points by hellomichibye   ago   260 comments top 31
1
Sir_Cmpwn 8 days ago 21 replies      
Full disclosure: I work for Linode and I am super biased. This is my own opinion etc etc

Perhaps the first AWS mistake you might make is... using AWS? Even before I started at Linode, I thought it was terrible. It's extremely, unreasonably pricey. The UI is terrible. Their offerings are availble elsewhere. I started MediaCrush, a now-defunct media hosting website, on AWS. After a while, we switched to dedicated hosting (really sexy servers). We were looking at $250 a month and scaled up to millions of visitors per day! I ran our bandwidth and CPU usage and such numbers through the AWS price calculator a while ago - over $20,000 per month. AWS is a racket. It seems to me like the easiest way to burn through your new startup's seed money real fast.

Edit: not trying to sell you on Linode, just disclosing that I work there. There are lots of options, just do the research before you reach for AWS.

2
kevindeasis 8 days ago 11 replies      
You know what I've realized that's really important. More AWS tutorials is really needed. There's numerous of new programmers who want to learn AWS, but can't finish building anything because they get buried in documentation.

I find there are a lot of high-level abstracted tutorials, but for the new services, there aren't a lot of detailed tutorials.

For instance, an implemented cognito->gateway->lambda->dynamodb is really hard for a newbie to do.

3
narsil 8 days ago 1 reply      
> There is no reason - beside manually managed infrastructure - to not decrease the instance size (number of machines or c3.xlarge to c3.large) if you realize that your EC2 instances are underutilized.

CPU/Memory aren't the only measures of underutilization. If you require high instantaneous bandwidth throughput, then the networking capacity available to your instance roughly increases with the size of your instance. This includes both EBS as well as other Network traffic.

Table with Low/Medium/High: https://aws.amazon.com/ec2/instance-types/#instance-type-mat...

Example benchmark with c3 instances: http://blog.flux7.com/blogs/benchmarks/benchmarking-network-...

If you're more concerned with just EBS network throughput, check out the table on this page instead: https://docs.aws.amazon.com/AWSEC2/latest/UserGuide/ebs-ec2-...

4
elwell 8 days ago 2 replies      
I'd like to add, if using Elastic Beanstalk, don't directly attach an RDS instance when creating the environment. If you do, you won't be able to destroy your environment without also deleting the RDS instance. Instead, create the RDS instance separately, and just add the proper security group for the environment to be able to access the host. Then you can easily create a new eb environment with any config changes (there are some config changes you can't make to an eb environment without creating a new one from scratch) and then connect to your existing db.
5
vacri 8 days ago 1 reply      
> There is no reason why you should manage your infrastructure manually. It's unprofessional! It's a mess!

Nonsense. Cloudformation has it's issues. It takes time to learn and implement. The templates can break, requiring the stack to be destroyed and remade. In the sample in the article, the database is in the same template as everything else - what fun that will be when an update breaks the template and you have to reapply the stack (which destroys the existing database).

Cloudformation is good, but it comes with caveats, and the idea that you should only manage an AWS stack with CF is utter tripe. As with everything, it depends on your use case.

Also weird is the article's demand of using autoscaling groups to monitor single instances. Why not just monitor them directly with cloudwatch?

> There is no reason - beside manually managed infrastructure - to not decrease the instance size (number of machines or c3.xlarge to c3.large) if you realize that your EC2 instances are underutilized.

This is wrong, too. Autoscaling takes time to scale up, and it scales up in stages. If you get sudden traffic, autoscaling can take too long. Again, it's about knowing your use case. Unfortunately for us, we can get sudden traffic when one of our clients does a media release and they don't tell us ahead of time, The five or so minutes it takes for instances to trigger the warning, start up a new set, and then attach these to a load balancer is too long for this particular use case, so we just have to run with a certain amount of excess capacity.

Autoscaling is awesome, but this article is way too didactic in it's No True Scotsman approach.

6
misiti3780 8 days ago 2 replies      
Another, somewhat obvious one:

Be extremely careful when using public customized AMIs, a lot of times ~/.ssh/authorized_hosts contains public keys and this is obviously a huge security problem

7
peterwaller 8 days ago 11 replies      
I like CloudFormation. Unfortunately it is very unwieldy to write CloudFormation templates directly, and we're not about to start using the AWS CFN GUI editor!

It seems like the assembly of the AWS ecosystem.

Does anyone else have a favourite hammer for this particular nail? I'd love to have something better than our home-baked solution, but I'm yet to find anything which doesn't introduce other flaws, such as an incomplete implementation (missing parameters or resource types) or ultimately making a leaky abstraction on top of CloudFormation somehow.

I ended up brewing a reasonably straightforward solution using Python as a (minimal) DSL which emits JSON. Its primary purpose is to support the whole of the CFN ecosystem (not just implement some small part of EC2, for instance) while also not trying to be too clever.

It has about 50-100 lines of python which implements helper functions such as ref(), join() and load_user_data(), and not many other things. There is an almost 1-to-1 correspondence between the generated CFN configuration and the python source. As a bonus it checks for a few common mistakes like broken refs or parameters which aren't used.

I have heard that similar solutions have been reinvented in a few places, including the BBC. But I'm yet to see a good public solution!

8
alttab 8 days ago 6 replies      
Also, dont use Dynamo unless you have a really good reason. "It scales better than MySQL" is not a good reason.

Have fun migrating data and re-indexing constantly!

9
nodesocket 8 days ago 3 replies      
My huge recommendation is to put production instances in a completely seperate region than development and staging instances. I actually just discovered that you can limit IAM API keys to a specific region, you just need to create a custom policy. The following policy is an example:

 { "Version": "2012-10-17", "Statement": [ { "Sid": "SOME-ID-HERE", "Effect": "Allow", "Action": [ "ec2:*" ], "Condition": { "StringEquals": { "ec2:Region": "us-west-2" } }, "Resource": [ "*" ] } ] }

10
dantiberian 8 days ago 0 replies      
The biggest mistake I've seen with AWS (and committed myself), is not reading the manuals for the services you're using. While some people complain about the AWS manuals not being complete, there is still a lot of good information in there that you might miss if you're just clicking through the console.
11
tomglindmeier 8 days ago 4 replies      
I wonder if AWS is a good location to run a VoIP server. VoIP is a real time application that is very prone to jitter, latency and packet loss. I'm concerned about "noisy neighbors" and decreased network performance at AWS.

Does anybody have experience with running a VoIP (e. g. Asterisk) on AWS?

12
andrioni 8 days ago 1 reply      
I second the recommendation to use CloudFormation + packer + ELBs + auto scaling groups for web applications whenever possible, it just makes everything so easy and automatic. Of course, there's a learning curve and you pay a premium for all that automation, but in my experience it has been usually worth it so far.
13
sergiotapia 8 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder when Amazon is going to invest their ungodly earnings into UX. Their UI is absolutely terrible and I shudder every time I have to log into it. Is it purposely built that way to confuse people who don't belong in there?
14
buremba 8 days ago 1 reply      
Use OpsWorks if possible. It's free and provides a simple interface that allows you to deploy/upgrade your apps automatically and monitors your instances automatically using CloudWatch.
15
rgawdzik 8 days ago 1 reply      
Check out http://convox.com/ YC S15) for an alternative to avoiding manual infrastructure.
16
hellomichibye 8 days ago 1 reply      
+1 I concentrated on non security related mistakes. security will follow next week... :
17
cachemiss 8 days ago 2 replies      
So I'd modify these a bit. We run a very large AWS infrastructure as a engineering team (no dedicated ops).

1. Use CloudFormation only for infrastructure that largely doesn't change. Like VPC's, subnets/ internet gateways etc. Do not use it for your instances / databases etc, I can't recommend that enough, you'll get into a place where updating them is risky. We have a regional migration (like database migrations) that runs in each region we deploy to that sets up ASG, RDS etc. It allows us control over how things change. If we need to change a launch conf etc.

2. Use auto-scaling groups in your stateless front ends that don't have really bursty loads, it isn't responsive enough for really sharp spikes (though not much is). Otherwise do your own cluster management if you can (though you should probably default to autoscaling if you can't make a strong case not to use it).

3. Use different accounts for dev / qa / prod etc. Not just different regions. Force yourself to put in the correct automation to bootstrap yourself into a new account / region (we run in 5 regions in prod, and 3 in qa, and having automation is a lifesaver).

4. Don't use ip addresses for things if you can help it, just create a private hosted zone in Route53 and map it that way.

5. Use instance roles, and in dev force devs to put their credentials in a place where they get picked up by the provider chain, don't get into a place where you are copying creds everywhere, assume they'll get picked up from the environment.

6. Don't use DynamoDB (or any non-relational store) until oyu have to (even though it is great), RDS is a great service and you should stick with it as long as you can (you can make it scale a long way with the correct architecture and bumping instance sizes is easy). IMO a relational store is more flexible than others since you (at least with postgres) get transactional guarantees on DDL operations, so it makes it easier to build in correct migration logic.

6. If you are using cloudformation, use troposphere: https://github.com/cloudtools/troposphere

7. Understand what instances need internet access and which ones don't, so you can either give them public ips, or put in a NAT. Sometimes security teams get grumpy (for good reason) when you open up machines that don't need to be to the internet, even if its just outbound.

8. Set up ELB logging, and pay attention to CloudTrail.

9. We use Cloudwatch Logs, it has its warts (and its a bit expensive), but it's better than a lot of the infrastructure you see out there (we don't generally index our logs, we just need them to be able to be viewed in a browser and exported for grep). It's also easy to get started with, just make sure your date formats are correct.

10. By default, stripe yourself across AZs if possible (and its almost always possible). Don't leave it for later, take the pain up front, you'll be happy about it later.

11. Don't try and be multi-region if you can at first, just replicate your infrastructure into different regions (other than users / accounts etc.). People get hung up on being able to flip back and forth between regions, and its usually not necessary.

edit: Track everything in cloudwatch, everything.

18
fibo 6 days ago 0 replies      
Nice article, I am working in a small company (Beintoo) dice september 2015 and we use AWS here. I think is a very interesting set if products and you can build any kind of business. For sure the advices given in the article are really useful, in fact I will apply them at my job place.

About comparison with other services, I was working in Deloitte Analytics before, managing the cloud services provided by IBM Softlayer. You cannot compare them, AWS offers many more and I was not really satisfied with SoftLayer, for example I had a problem with a network upgrade they did on January 2014 and I have lost a lot of data, with poor support to restore it. Also the starting price of 25$ per month is really expensive. AWS is far more mature and interesting.

Then for my own servers I use CloudAtCost cause is cheaper but if I run a business for sure I would go with AWS. If you gain money, is not that expensive and if you stick with Amazon advices and philosophy is very reliable.

19
tedmiston 8 days ago 1 reply      
I'll add one that was especially common for people coming off the year of free tier a couple years ago. I'm not sure that AWS has changed it yet.

6. Not starting a box/instance/database and forgetting it's running until you receive the bill after your free tier expires.

20
overgard 7 days ago 0 replies      
This might be the wrong place to ask, but I'm curious how people feel Azure stacks up to AWS? The services seem comparable (maybe even nicer), but I'm unclear how it compares on cost.
21
kennu 8 days ago 0 replies      
I warmly recommend the Serverless framework for building basic web applications on AWS. It handles CloudFormation details for you, but lets you customize them if needed. Not suitable for every possible app though.
22
ap22213 6 days ago 0 replies      
I don't get all the complaints about AWS prices. I just spun up a 60 node Spark cluster with over 5TB of memory, processed 100B data records, and spent $5.50!
23
llamas02 6 days ago 0 replies      
Thinking the wrong thing and feelings getting hurt. Picking the person who doesn't pick you. Forgetting someone and making them feel unimportant. Not choosing your kids firstly and when they don't choose you and your next choice is your biggest mistake. Getting lost in love that doesn't exist.letting media control you. Listening to rumors. Bad communication, and discernment. Letting anyone control you or take your rights away. Running away. Illegally being blocked by someone using our services and it effecting my pursuit of happiness. Letting go of discrimination against me, and not pursuing Justice for myself and family and friends. Not checking and fixing paperwork and getting involved in govt. Fraud. From banks, public agencies and law. Not fighting for my rights as a human being and continuing to let these assholes invade my privacy. Letting others steal my ideas and my life. Letting the law say I'm guilty before innocent. Having instincts and not reacting fast enough. Letting others talk bad to me without hitting them.Not tracking my money. Writing my brother. Not getting a career as a secret shopper and shutting down all bad utility companies for fraud and bad businesses. Letting others control my thoughts. Ever admitting I was an addict. Getting excited over nothing. Being too humble that it weakens you. Not accepting I'm crazy. Feeling sorry for everyone but myself. Helping everyone over ME. Letting my son leave. Not cleaning the other room so there's more room. Waiting on someone to save you when all you have is yourself. Believing in dreams come true.
24
matdrewin 7 days ago 0 replies      
Personally never quite got the appeal for EC2. You're basically replicating what you would be doing on physical servers anyway. The real productivity gains come from using a fully managed PaaS (Heroku, Azure Web Apps, Google App Engine, OpenShift etc.) where there is no maintenance and scaling and redundancy is taken care for you. Granted those are even more expensive but they are the only ones that provide any kind of value.
25
ommunist 8 days ago 0 replies      
I attended aws workshop, several years ago, there I realized, that this vast ecosystem of infrastructure services require a popularisation effort of similar scale. And not just in plain English. IAM that days was not very clearly understandable, search supported only ascii and was not really documented, now that ecosystem is in order of magnitude larger and more complex. And efforts like cloudonaut's should be greatly appreciated. For the greater public good. Thank you, man!
26
nikolay 8 days ago 0 replies      
As there's too much push to Terraform, which I personally dislike due to many opinionated features and the marketing push to cover as many services as possible and not do one thing and do it great (AWS), you can look at Bazaarvoice's CloudFormation Ruby DSL [0].

[0]: https://github.com/bazaarvoice/cloudformation-ruby-dsl

27
voltagex_ 8 days ago 2 replies      
I find IAM particularly difficult to use - I feel like there should be a button to create a user/group that can do only X, Y, Z. I realise policy templates get most of the way there but I still had to go and read the syntax for them because DescribeRegions wasn't in the list I needed.

I'm also not sure how to make the jump from exporting AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID and having my instances automatically request the permissions they need - STS?

28
ninjay 8 days ago 1 reply      
What are the current ways to make creating CloudFormation templates not so painful?
29
benmanns 8 days ago 1 reply      
Has anyone tried the Trusted Advisor feature out? Have you found it worth the 3-10% on top of existing monthly usage?
30
diziet 8 days ago 1 reply      
Something major is missing:

Running Demand instances instead of Reserved

31
siddharth_mal 8 days ago 3 replies      
I'd like to add two more:

 1) Not giving out your access and secret keys in scripts/buckets. 2) Always using IAM roles with your EC2

Do the math on your stock options jvns.ca
439 points by jackgavigan   ago   242 comments top 46
1
jvns 4 days ago 5 replies      
I'm really interested in other people's experiences with understanding how their stock options work.

It seems really easy to misunderstand something serious, even if you know quite a lot about equity.

2
AndrewKemendo 3 days ago 9 replies      
Options are for suckers.

Do you want to be an investor? No? then why would you pay for stock out of your own money?

At our startup everyone gets the same stock, not options, through our Equity Incentive Plan. Here's how it works.

1. We lend new employees the amount of money it would take to buy common stock on a non-recourse promissory note the collateral in this case is the stock itself.

2. The employee then buys the shares from the company with the loan.

3. The employee then files an 83b election so that when it comes time to cash out, they only pay taxes at the strike price of when the shares were bought.

4. At a liquidity event, the promissory note goes away and they own the shares outright

5. They only pay taxes when they sell their shares not when they buy them

Now there are other provisions like if they want to sell prior to a liquidity event, we get rights to buy them back first if we choose to - in which case we just write off whatever the unvested portion from the note and take those shares back.

In the end it gives the employee actual rights to the same class of stock as the founders, so we can't fudge our employees out of stock benefits without hurting our own shares. This also prevents them for having to lay out any money until there is an actual no kidding liquidity event, so they take no risk of paying taxes on something which might be worthless. Even then they will only ever have to pay taxes on the shares, the promissory note goes away, so in effect looks like a equity grant at the time of sale.

3
JumpCrisscross 3 days ago 5 replies      
Always ask for:

1. TRANSFERABILITY. If you are given options to buy privately-held common stock in lieu of compensation, you must demand transferability. Rights of first refusal (ROFRs) are fine. "Board approval" is not. "Board approval" means "you may not sell your shares until we go public, except to us, if and when we feel like it, and at a price we get to unilaterally decide".

2. CASHLESS EXERCISABILITY. Always ask for cashless exercisability. In the public market, if you ask your broker to "cashlessly exercise" in-the-money options, here is what happens. First, your broker lends you the money to exercise the options. Then, the broker sells some of the resulting stock. Finally, the broker pays herself back, plus a pre-disclosed fee, and returns the rest to you.

This also works with private stock. (Unless you forgot Rule No. 1; if your shares aren't transferable you've already been screwed.) But you may not require a broker. Some companies allow for direct cashless exercise. Suppose you hold options for 100 shares struck at $100 per share. You need $10,000 to exercise. The company figures its stock's "fair market value" is $110. You check with outside sources, e.g. a private-stock broker, and conclude this is not much less than what you could sell your stock for in the market. Your stock is worth $11,000 to the company; it is $1,000 in the money. After cashlessly exercising with the company you would get $1,000 of stock, i.e. 9 shares. (Fractions of shares are usually lopped off in these calculations.)

Plus: you got shares without putting up capital. Minus: you lost the upside (and downside) on ninety-one shares. That said, 9 shares is better than 0 because you had no capital to exercise upon termination.

4
encoderer 3 days ago 1 reply      
Stories of equity working out well are rare in these comments. I think in part this is because contentment is silent, so I'll share a bit. I joined a private company with over $100M in revenue about 3 months before IPO. They couldn't say they were in the process when I took the job, but it was hinted at strongly. I got an options grant with normal 4 year vest that amounted to an actual face value of about $50k. Being successful, I imagined they could be worth $100k, or a $25k/year bonus on top of my salary. All of my actual negotiation was of the salary component, and I was very happy with the outcome.

The company went public, and the following year there were a couple events -- a nice earnings beat, some positive news, etc -- that pushed the stock up. Around that time I hit my 1 year cliff so I had 25% of my grant vested. I sold every vested share and used that as a down payment on a house in the bay area. I had a very large tax bill the following year that I paid by selling a bit more equity. But, I have a house that has appreciated since I purchased it, not to mention a nice place to live.

In year 2 I started receiving add'l RSU grants, and I usually sell them as they vest. Here's the test: If they gave you a cash bonus would you BUY stock? If not, sell it.

In the end, my initial option grant will end up worth $300-400k, adding almost an entire extra salary to our household income.

We've been fortunate, have given back a lot to charity and especially to family. Oh, and I've truly enjoyed working there.

What I've learned is that there is a probability curve. I chose an offer that had a high liklihood of buying me a down payment on a house but zero chance of buying me a whole house. In the end, this is a pattern I would repeat and I think if you can do go work for Uber, Pinterest, Airbnb, etc, where an IPO is very likely, go do it.

5
geertj 3 days ago 0 replies      
In my experience and understanding, investors (almost) always get preferred shares with a liquidation preference. So unless you know what the preferences are, any such calculations are completely bogus. But even if you know them (and note that full cap tables are not commonly shared with employees in my experience) such calculations are still mostly bogus, because:

* You don't know what the preferences of future rounds will be. Your founders may say that they will never go above 1x or whatever, but the company may enter difficult waters and be forced to accept less beneficial terms.

* If you hold common shares in the presence of preferred shares with a liquidation preference, the payout function at acquisition/IPO will depend non-linearly on the selling price. There are steps and there will be a price below you will be 100% wiped out. So the incentives are not aligned. Preferred normally has all the voting rights, and for them 5% more or less on the acquisition price might not be a deal breaker. For for the common, 5% may be the difference between a nice down payment on a home or a 100% wipe out.

Based on this I would always negotiate a market rate salary at a startup company and value the options at $0, with 4 exceptions:

* You're offered to be a co-founder or one of the very first employee (< 3), with significant (~5%) equity. This is a risk that I personally might take.

* You're joining a late stage company and based on your industry knowledge you expect the company will do a successful IPO within 12 months. In essence you become a late stage investor in this scenario and your investment is your time.

* You're not in it for the money but instead want to change the world (and you don't mind someone else will make money based on your work if successful). For me personally a company like SpaceX could be in this category.

* You "trust" the founders to have your back and make sure your efforts will be rewarded whatever happens. This is a thin justification, but I could imagine doing it if you have been in business with the same team of founders for multiple times already.

6
corford 3 days ago 0 replies      
If you're being offered options in an early stage startup you need to ask at a minimum (and any half decent founder should answer):

1. How many shares of the same class are in circulation

2. What is the price per share at current company valuation

3. How many shares of other classes are in circulation and whether these come with liquidation preferences

4. If you will be required to exercise your options in the event of leaving the company and, if yes, how long you have to do it

5. If you have the right to transfer your options (and later shares) to a third party. Unusual to have this right (unless you're transferring to immediate family) but good to know if you do have it.

6. Ask to see a copy of the company's articles and/or shareholder agreement (to check how voting rights work, tag along & drag along rights, entitlement to quarterly management accounts, right to first refusal, what power the board has on deciding sales/transfers etc.)

That's in addition to being very clear on what the vesting terms are (assuming you are not being given all your options in one go).

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fiachamp 3 days ago 1 reply      
There actually IS a way to exercise after you leave without laying out cash + tax dollars today. Consider esofund.com, its a fund that will pay your exercise price and tax liability for a proportion of your upside in a good financial outcome. If it doesn't work out, well at least you didn't throw away your own cash. They're basically a vc that takes common stock in companies by getting rights to employee shares.
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inthewoods 3 days ago 1 reply      
Great thread here and the original article has some excellent points.

I recently left a company and explored executing my options via a vehicle called ESO Fund (www.esofund.com). In the end I did not use them for different reasons, but their offer was reasonable.

Two general comments on stock options:- Remember that bad things happen in companies in raising money. Your company could raise another round after you've executed your shares, and in addition to the dilution, you could also have an onerous term in that round - like a 2 or 3x liquidation preference - that will mean you are very, very unlikely to see any money.

- Remember that companies don't have to have a liquidation event. I executed shares in a company I worked for in 2006. That tied up money in the company - and then nothing happened with the company for the last 9 years until this year I got a buy out offer on my shares at about 50% higher than I paid. Sounds great, except if you consider time. 50% return over a period of 9 years is certainly not a fail, but it also isn't a big win over putting that money into the general stock market.

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chubot 3 days ago 0 replies      
It definitely seems like a bug that it's so difficult to realize any benefit until the company goes public, and when that happens -- if it happens at all -- is under the sole discretion of management. I guess there is a reason they're called golden handcuffs.

This problem was described well here:

http://blog.samaltman.com/employee-equity

and there are some interesting solutions. I wonder if any companies have taken this advice in the 20 months since it was given.

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drglitch 3 days ago 7 replies      
I am considering an offer from an early stage startup. Salary is being dragged down ~40% under market due to stock options. The role is being a 'first key engineer' hire after the three co-founders. What kind of common-stock equity offer is 'average' in this case? 1%? 2%? 5%?
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Teodolfo 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm surprised people don't take the time to figure out what the options actually mean and negotiate some of the terms. When I have negotiated with startups I have paid for legal advice to help me figure out what language I needed in the option agreement (for example, a pinterest-style clause that prevents me from having to exercise within 3 months of leaving) and negotiated for the terms I felt were important. Just because the agreement is written to give you ISOs doesn't mean they will qualify for ISO tax treatment when you eventually exercise, so it is better to let you give up ISO treatment and convert to NSOs in order to avoid having to effectively forfeit vested options upon departure from the firm or face massive tax consequences. The pinterest-style structure should be standard.
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Anderkent 3 days ago 1 reply      
You don't have to hold the stock until IPO. If the company is doing good, finding a private buyer through a stock broker shouldn't be that hard. Sure, you won't get the best deal, but it lets you cash out.

Also, if a private company grants you options and never gives you any options for liquidity (like buying the stock back when taking new investment etc) you should be really careful about overvaluing the options. Clearly the company wants to chain you down, not reward you.

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DanielShir 3 days ago 4 replies      
As a founder who's been through a liquidation event, I have to say that stock options are a terrible way to reward employees. The tax issues alone (not to mention all the other stuff mentioned in this thread) are a huge pain for most ordinary people. The only reason companies use this is that there's no better alternative... Anyone ever encounter some other financial instrument that's possible to use in this situation?
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jakozaur 3 days ago 1 reply      
It would be so much easier for everyone, if companies would IPO earlier. Evaluation of your option value would be straightforward, there is liquid market, no need to worry about investors preferences, ratchets, etc. Also the whole market gains a lot of efficiency if basic financials are public.

Not so long ago, companies used to IPO way earlier... Microsoft, Apple, Amazon...

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krschultz 3 days ago 0 replies      
Math is good. Philosophy is better.

Your salary is what you live on. Everything else is a bonus. As a salaried engineer I have received basically every 'extra' there is. Cash bonus. Equity bonus. Options. Restricted Stock Units. Overtime pay by the hour (seriously!)

In all cases I do not plan to get that money. I don't use it to pay rent or a mortgage. I don't use it to buy clothes or food. You might argue that is a luxury, but honestly if you can't afford your lifestyle without the bonus, then what happens when there are bad times and you don't get the bonus?

I set this up so explicitly that I have a separate bank account for that money and when a bonus comes in it gets transferred away from the day to day account. This years vacation is paid for with last years bonus.

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crabasa 3 days ago 0 replies      
One mistake I see people make quite often is failing to adequately research the reputation of a prospective employer and their executives. I've seen people accept offers because the option grant was marginally better at company A than company B.

There are so many things that can effect the outcome of an employee with options (subsequent funding rounds, liquidation preference, if and how the exit happens) that it often boils down to whether or not you believe you will be treated fairly.

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amichal 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've been through this before (15 years ago). As a "first engineer" as well. I was fully-vested in a fair deal. The start-up had been acquired outright by a large private co which gave a nice real world known valuation for the company and the new owners were entering a pre-IPO quiet period (we were told it would happen with few months). Exercising my options would net a 7 figure stake for at a cost of about six-months salary. I hadn't understood all the options complexities at the start but learned fast about this time thinking of selling some. Engineer #2 got a loan in order to exercise their similar options and got totally screwed as things slowly imploded. I never did exercise them thankfully. In another case my options as a early engineer (again fair enough terms) ended up actually worth actual money after a few rounds of dilution and conversions and sales ultimately to a public company. However it was a few K worth after 5 years of work on paper it had been variously valued up to high six figures. I know now that options are, as someone said elsewhere in the comments, "a variable odds lottery ticket".
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shubhamjain 3 days ago 0 replies      
One thing I wish to know is whether it is possible to negotiate the terms so you have preference of liquidating some of your shares when company raises a round. Surely, the possibility of an IPO or an acquisition might be uncertain but another funding round seems a very plausible event.

One company, Atlassian, did raise one round solely to allow employees to vest their shares but I am not sure how common this is in Silicon Valley's Tech Culture.

19
xiaoma 3 days ago 0 replies      
Another variable I once saw was options (subject to board approval) in the offer letter and then several months later an approval of the options grant that had to be signed. In this second document, there was a clause saying they could fire the employee and take back the options la Zynga, Skype, etc.

In that case, immediately discounting the value of my options by a quarter is reasonable since those kinds of terms being used for clawbacks is getting more common.

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slyall 3 days ago 1 reply      
I've currently got around 60 days to exercise some options with a company. But I have not been told how many shares there are out there or anything about the company finances so I have no way to judge how much they might be worth even in the best case.

In the end though the amount that I can buy is so low that even if they are worth 10x what I'm paying for them it is not worth the paperwork and trouble.

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diziet 3 days ago 0 replies      
This covers a lot of the more important things -- certainly to the individual. But one thing that you need to keep in mind in terms of predicting the actual value of the options, which is outlined in the "More ambitious questions" section is things like overhanging liquidation preferences, participation rights, downside protection for investors, etc. Ask these questions.
22
jlas 3 days ago 2 replies      
> which pays me a SF salary despite me living in Montreal

I'm not sure what cost of living in Montreal is, but I'd be surprised that jvns is making less than 100k in SF. If Stripe were smart they'd increase her salary stat. Just based on her excellent blog posts and her insatiable curiosity, this is not an employee you want to lose.

23
bankim 3 days ago 1 reply      
Elaborating on early exercise. Employee can choose to pre-exercise ISOs soon after starting job (before vesting) and file 83b. In this case, the difference between strike price and FMV is $0 and hence tax realized is also $0. This also starts ticker for capital gains sooner and if the company gets sold/IPO after 1 year from date of exercise and 2 year from date of grant then long term capital gains will apply and not short-term capital gains which is taxed as ordinary income.

This obviously depends on the strike price on joining the company and how much money employee is okay to lose in case company goes bust. If not all, some ISOs can be early exercised.

In my case, I early exercised around 25% of ISOs soon after joining. In hind-sight I should have early exercised more as the company did go IPO around 2 years after I started...

24
zurn 3 days ago 1 reply      
Why is it so hard to convert these to cash the same instant you exercise them? If there are some special terms attached to your share of the company that prevent you selling the shares directly, you could just make a (transferrable) derivatives contract with interested investor(s) where you pay them the dividends from the stock?
25
jason_s 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'd rather have the RSUs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restricted_stock) that my company gives us, than stock options. A chunk of them vests each quarter, they allocate an appropriate fraction of that chunk to cover taxes, and the resulting shares are ours to hold or sell. No dilemma of when to exercise or whatever, no risk of being underwater.

My father once got stock options from Nortel Networks right before the dot-com bubble bust (sometime between 2000 and 2002). He exercised them, sold some to buy a car, but held onto the rest, had to pay a hefty tax bill, and then when the price nose-dived, they were worth less than what it had cost him in taxes.

26
peteretep 3 days ago 1 reply      
Even when the maths is simple, few people seem to do the maths. The number of reasonably bright friends I have who say "I've got some equity, so if it goes big I'll make great money", but haven't actually sat down and calculated that "great money" is a one-off 50k astounds me.
27
jfountain2015 3 days ago 1 reply      
If you are considering a job that offers options/stock I think this is the most important thing to consider.

1. Do the founders have a history of successful exits?2. If so, did all employees with stock get paid?

If either is no, you should consider options/stock worth $0

28
steven2012 3 days ago 0 replies      
There are some funds that some of my former coworkers talked to that will front all of the money to exercise your options, plus pay the taxes, in return for paying the money back for the above, plus 30% of the profits. You're basically borrowing the money to exercise and pay your taxes and then giving up 30% of the upside. It's seems like a good deal to me since you take on zero risk, especially if you're in that situation described in the blog post.

I won't advertise their name, but they seem legit and know several people that took them up on their offer.

29
discordianfish 3 days ago 1 reply      
Is it really that hard to find a buyer for private shares in a "good looking" startup? It almost sounds impossible, yet I talked to some people who said it's not that hard. I guess I have to find out..
30
Smaug123 3 days ago 2 replies      
I have a single peeve with this otherwise excellent article: "My after-tax salary is less than $100,000 USD/year, so by definition it is impossible for me to exercise my options without borrowing money."

This fact isn't true "by definition". It's true "by arithmetic". We say a fact is true "by definition" if it isn't true for any other reason. [1]

[1]: http://lesswrong.com/lw/nz/arguing_by_definition/

31
pmorici 3 days ago 0 replies      
Every offer I've ever gotten that included an equity/options component omitted key information that I would have needed to have even a fuzzy understanding of the offers value. When I asked for details it was like pulling teeth to get the information if they would disclose it at all and often they would only do so verbally and not in writing. I turned them all down because that sort of thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
32
primemod3 3 days ago 0 replies      
Evaluating the value of stock options can also be done using the Black-Scholes model. Here's a blog post that explains more as it applies to startups: http://cdixon.org/2009/08/18/options-on-early-stage-companie... .
33
swingbridge 3 days ago 0 replies      
Most people don't have a clue how options really work, but are thrilled to get them... until they try to excise them.

Truth is companies give options to low level employees because it's cheaper than paying cash. Most employees don't do their homework to realize that in the vast majority of cases they'd probably be better off demanding cash.

34
superuser2 3 days ago 1 reply      
My first equity experience is going to be RSUs. They seem better in every way: you don't owe taxes in cash (they're withheld), you can't go upside down (zero strike price), and you don't need capital to begin with so your compensation does not depend on how wealthy you already are.

Why would anyone take options if they could get RSUs?

35
dghughes 2 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder what your company would do if you chose a short position with your options.

But I guess what you're given pretty much assume a long position.

The little I know of options (and how no human can never ever guess the strike price!).

36
takeda 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is a bit ridiculous.

Why do you need to pay taxes when exercising the options? At that point one did not made any profit and in fact you made an investment (you spent money and there's still high chance you might lose to that investment).

It would make much sense to be taxed when you sell the stock (and use the original option price you paid for the shares).

37
lifeisstillgood 3 days ago 2 replies      
Is this a sensible approach:

You have offered me X ordinary shares which is y % of total outstanding.

I want a contract that guarantees me the same % of this class of shares, and the same % of any other more privileged class of shares, and I am given an opportunity to participate in every liquidation event pre public offering

Seems to cover many of the horrors people have hit?

38
stats_lly 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is very useful! I accepted an offer with few options and low salary at a start up after I graduated from my masters, and only realised what I have missed out on a couple of years later. I left with fewer options than people who joined years after me. Wish I knew a bit more about startups and their options earlier.
39
sytelus 2 days ago 0 replies      
Silly question: Why startups insist on stock options? Why not just give out stock themselves in same quantities? I think doing that might make them more attractive if they are competing for talent.
40
nbevans 3 days ago 4 replies      
What protects the stock from being diluted since presumably it has no or insufficient voting rights?
41
calcsam 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is an excellent article. Thank you.

The thing that is missing from all of these articles is, unfortunately, a tool to actually do these calculations. I am building such a tool. Happy to share (privately!) an early version. If you're interested, email is in my profile.

42
Denzel 3 days ago 0 replies      
What prevents a company from issuing vested stock options with an anti-dilution clause to early employees? Has any company set the precedent? Would it scare investors away?

I'm very curious.

43
retube 3 days ago 3 replies      
Why do firms offer options as opposed to actual equity?

The way these options are structured plus US tax law basically means a lose - lose scenario for the employee.

44
tylercubell 3 days ago 1 reply      
What's are the pros and cons of setting the strike price as $1? Is it intentional to inhibit employees from exercising their options?
45
webo 3 days ago 1 reply      
I have always just asked this one simple question:

- What is the price per share at current valuation?

I don't think it's has to be that complicated...

46
jroseattle 3 days ago 0 replies      
As I compete to hire engineers, I've found myself in the role of providing counsel to many younger candidates we see about alternative opportunities they're considering. Outside the large tech-cos, they're usually considering joining a startup with a lower salary and some number of options for equity.

Our company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of a private holding company and does not offer equity ownership. As an alternative to equity options, we have bonus plans based on performance, both annual as well as long-term. We make estimations about overall company performance on a few metrics in order to provide what amounts to a range of values for how those plans apply to a specific candidate's role with us.

But I get a lot of questions about how to compare an offer from us to an offer from a startup that includes equity options as part of compensation. It's simple to compare salary, benefits, etc. But invariably, we get into conversations where candidates ask me how to value equity options they've received from another company.

First, I'm totally upfront about the fact that I'm: 1) not an expert, and 2) biased. But I am always honest with a candidate, and do everything I can to put myself in the shoes of an advisor.

Without looking at any offer details they have, I point them to the equation inputs: # of outstanding shares, preferred percentages, any liquidation preferences in play (need the multiple too), and the valuation. I'm sure there are other data points that could apply, but this information seems like table stakes. Nonetheless, if they have this information, they could at least gauge the value of their own equity options with exit scenarios at different levels.

But converting those scenarios to present-day value? This is the part where I always check myself, but I express that those equity options are almost certainly zero value. The outcome of a significant positive exit is always an outlier on the distribution curve, so appropriate discounting applies. That's the math part, which is as good as your assumptions and estimates allow.

The hardest part of those conversations is understanding how to justify assumptions in those calculations, such as how high profile a startup may be (and how that affects those assumptions.) I've been around long enough to have friends who were employees with numbers less than 30 at some very high-profile startups who had significant public exits, yet those employees made little to nothing. And to say nothing of those companies that simply didn't make it.

As creatives, our natural instincts drive us to believe we can create the value necessary for us to derive positive outcomes and ultimately benefit in these situations. The historical numbers simply don't represent that fact, and indeed show that outcome to be a rare occurrence. Good on you if that happens, but the odds are simply not in your favor.

As I conclude with most candidates, I tell them their mileage may vary and that they should absolutely seek the advice of someone entirely independent. Maybe as luck would have it, we have had a few candidates join us that were strongly leaning to accepting their startup offer. Several told me their reasoning -- they trusted my honesty with them. Who knows, maybe that's the real value in equity options. :-)

Economic Inequality paulgraham.com
378 points by urs2102   ago   521 comments top 88
1
jacobolus 1 day ago 20 replies      
Graham is arguing against an enormous straw man. Nobody is suggesting that we prevent people from getting rich or end all economic inequality. The most extreme proposals Ive seen in America are ones like, institute an unconditional basic income as an alternative to means-tested welfare programs, or allow every citizen/resident into a single-payer healthcare system, or go back to the tax structure of the 1950s70s, with higher capital gains taxes, higher inheritance taxes, and higher top marginal income tax rates, etc., plus a lot of proposals that seem to be pure common sense in a democracy such as limit anonymous spending on political campaigns, but nothing like a reprise of the French Revolution or early Maoist China or whatever Graham is on about.
2
foldr 1 day ago 3 replies      
It's hard to take this seriously when pg asks us to believe, on the basis of a single out of context quote, that Stiglitz is a simple-minded victim of the "pie fallacy". Stiglitz explicitly anticipates and addresses this criticism:

> One can think of whats been happening in terms of slices of a pie. If the pie were equally divided, everyone would get a slice of the same size, so the top 1 percent would get 1 percent of the pie. In fact, they get a very big slice, about a fifth of the entire pie. But that means everyone else gets a smaller slice. Now, those who believe in trickle-down economics call this the politics of envy. One should look not at the relative size of the slices but at the absolute size. Giving more to the rich leads to a largerpie, so though the poor and middle get a smaller share of the pie, the piece of pie they get is enlarged. I wish that were so, but its not. In fact, its the opposite: as we noted, in the period of increasing inequality, growth has been slowerand the size of the slice given to most Americans has beendiminishing. [my emphasis]

More generally, it's unclear what pg is attempting to do here. None of the arguments presented is at all original, and they are not presented in enough detail to be properly evaluated. So what are we meant to take away from this? That a rich dude is ok with income inequality? Quelle surprise.

3
loteck 1 day ago 3 replies      
> So when I hear people saying that economic inequality is bad and should be eliminated, I feel rather like a wild animal overhearing a conversation between hunters. But the thing that strikes me most about the conversations I overhear is how confused they are. They don't even seem clear whether they want to kill me or not.

Straw man aside, I continue to be deeply concerned about individuals who spend their time believing they are being hunted, literally or figuratively, to the end that they or some aspect of them is to be "killed". This is the kind of paranoid rhetoric that you can often find emanating, frequently unchallenged, from people who are often people of means, with some degree of privilege.

It's a significant concern, I believe, because the claimant, despite being a privileged and often powerful person, is admitting they have formulated their outlook based on a feeling they are a victim, or soon will be.

The reality is that their station in life means they are able to protect themselves from nearly all meaningful victimization. But either they do not understand this fact, or they are deliberately ignoring it. Either way, the positions they formulate based on this fear of nearly impossible victimization are often extremely flawed.

You can turn on a news station covering presidential politics if you'd like to see a consistent example of this being demonstrated.

I'd urge PG to be a little more self-aware, and I'm disappointed at the list of editors and helpers he credits who are unable to help question him into a more thoroughly developed narrative.

4
jrlocke 1 day ago 2 replies      
Pg, in effect: "if there was no economic inequality there would be no startups (and all the good they bring). The real problem is the number of super poor, not the number of super rich".

But this is a straw man: no one is arguing for total economic equality, just a reduction in inequality. Further, pg asserts that startups are wealth creators, and they thus create rich founders without having influence on poverty in this country. This is patently false: the best startups make money eating other people's lunch, and they concentrate this money in the hands of the founders. Jeff bezos holds money that would have found its way to book store owners, Netflix money from video rental services, Uber money from taxis service owners, etc. The startups are often the better solution, you will not see me hailing a yellow cab, but the economic inequalities they are introducing must still be addressed.

5
rst 1 day ago 5 replies      
Central thesis (hidden a bit): "ending economic inequality would mean ending startups". So, who is the straw man who advocates completely ending economic inequality? Even left wingers in Europe (far to the left of anyone mainstream in the US) talk mainly of reducing it.

So, if economic inequality were substantially reduced, would there still be startups? I believe another piece of common advice in this field is that you should only do a startup if you want to change the world, not just to get rich...

6
braythwayt 1 day ago 1 reply      
I dont think income inequality has much to do with the rich getting richer, especially startups.

I think the concern has to do with whether those same startups make the poor, poorer. Some do, some dont.

I believe that Github, for example, makes it easier for the worlds poor to become richer. Amazon or Walmart, on the other hand... Some of these disruptive industries make a lot of people poorer by driving businesses into bankruptcy.

Same with the sharing economy claptrap, that turns jobs into piece-work subcontractor relationships. All this stuff may be perfectly defensible, of course, but but I dont think anybody will complain if GitHubs founders get stinking rich. I think the complaints are about those industries that take huge amounts of investment funds, run at a loss to drive existing businesses bankrupt and drive people out of work.

To the anti-capitalist, that behaviour is not about creating value, its about taking existing wealth and using it to make a lot of people poorer.

7
hobs 1 day ago 2 replies      
The problem with income inequality is not related to a startup founder getting rich, its about the deck being stacked against people before they are even born, and then the super rich continually stacking the deck against anyone coming up and challenging their supremacy.
8
karlheinz 1 day ago 2 replies      
The wealth that PG and his friends accumulate through app startups does not come from nowhere. The millions of dollars that make a handful of men rich depends on extracting value out of:

1) Government funding. GPS, the Internet, touch screens and the CPU. All funded by government research where the tax dollars contributed by each and every citizen is the investment capital.

2) Global cheap labour. Miners in Africa (mining litium for batteries for example) and factory workers in china provides the infrastructrue for YC startups to make enormous profits.

3) Open source software. Unpaid labour provides the free tools that a startup need to "grow fast" without much investments.

Most people involved in 1-3 don't see any return on their investments. Something to think about.

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11thEarlOfMar 1 day ago 3 replies      
To me, income inequality means: The rich get richer, the poor get poorer.

But that is not the situation. In reality, the situation is: A rising tide raises all boats.

The global pie is getting bigger because GDP is growing faster than the population:

- GDP Growth since 1999 ~2.5% annually [0]

- Population growth since 1999 ~1.3% annually [1]

- % of world population living in extreme poverty has more than halved since 1999, 29% to 10%. [2]

Meanwhile, the wealth of the top 10 wealthiest in the world has grown at a rate of ~4.5% since 2000 (not adjusted for inflation) [3]

So perhaps a more accurate depiction would be: A rising tide raises all boats. But it raises some faster than others.

[0] http://www.indexmundi.com/g/g.aspx?c=xx&v=66

[1] https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/13/World_po...

[2] http://ourworldindata.org/data/growth-and-distribution-of-pr...

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_World%27s_Billionaires#200...

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Mikeb85 1 day ago 2 replies      
So much material, so little time (today, for me at least).

A few of his key points that I noticed:

> In the real world you can create wealth as well as taking it from others. A woodworker creates wealth. He makes a chair, and you willingly give him money in return for it. A high-frequency trader does not. He makes a dollar only when someone on the other end of a trade loses a dollar.

Not surprising that he uses this example, it's popular. As a retail trader however, the amount of money I lose to a HFT is basically the HFT's commission for making my trade happen. In the old days I would have paid a broker, today I pay much less to my (electronic) broker and an HFT takes a few cents as well. It may seem to be zero-sum, but they are providing a service (liquidity).

But then again, everyone will defend their own interests, as PG is doing, and as finance people do.

> I've seen this myself: you don't have to grow up rich or even upper middle class to get rich as a startup founder, but few successful founders grew up desperately poor.

This really should be the whole article. PG argues for economic inequality the whole time, but this is the real reason why economic inequality is bad.

Economic inequality reduces social mobility, and reduces the pool of potential entrepreneurs.

Also, PG should realize that what he does is basically what finance people do. He's increasing valuations of certain startups, not creating wealth. It's the same game played in the markets.

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rustynails 1 day ago 2 replies      
The article is reasonable in the scope it addresses. It's ok for some to be richer than others. We get it.Where it's not fair is that the system is rigged (as other commenters have said). I'm very surprised it's missing from the article.

Maybe, the author should talk about inequality of taxation and the good old Dutch Sandwich. No, the top 1% don't play fair or even remotely pay fair taxes. Pick the top 100 on NASDAQ. I'll almost guarantee they pay less than 10% tax.

If you addressed taxation, you'd eliminate almost all valid criticisms. There'd still be outsourcing, legal system bias (eg. White collar crime such as the GFC where there was little or no accountability) and monopolistic issues, but tax was meant to be the great liberator.

I'm curious why the author skipped the Dutch Sandwich and tax rate paid by the top 1%.

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ranprieur 1 day ago 1 reply      
Economic inequality is harmful when it results in centralization of power, where decisions are increasingly top-down and made by a smaller number of people who are more out of touch because they're more insulated by wealth. This leads to bad decisions, and unhappiness among the increasing number of people who sense that they have no meaningful participation in society.

"Can you have a healthy society with great variation in wealth?" Only if there is no great variation in power, and this would require redefining wealth as something disconnected from power, like consumption of luxuries.

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mpweiher 1 day ago 0 replies      
> The problem is not economic inequality

Yes, actually it is. There are other problems that are negative consequences of inequality, such as the US having turned into a plutocracy etc., but inequality just by itself is a problem.

To quote: "The average well-being of our societies is not dependent any longer on national income and economic growth. That's very important in poorer countries, but not in the rich developed world. But the differences between us and where we are in relation to each other now matter very much."[1]

Let me repeat this: in our fairly rich developed world, inequality is the problem, it is more important than overall wealth of the society. So the "rising tide raises all boats" meme is a nice metaphor but empirically just pure nonsense.

Furthermore, even the very rich in the more unequal societies are, in many aspects that matter, worse off than average people in more equal societies, even though they are much weather individually. This surprised me. A lot.

[1] https://www.ted.com/talks/richard_wilkinson?language=en

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pekk 1 day ago 1 reply      
"They don't even seem clear whether they want to kill me or not."

When someone very influential broadcasts the idea that people who don't like economic inequality (let's arbitrarily call them "liberals") are waiting around to kill the rich for being rich, on the surface that is deniably close to expression of a fear. But it is also preparing a public case for supposedly "pre-emptive" suppression. Which would logically come in the form of violence, given how violent these people supposedly are.

Notice how no evidence was ever presented that those who differ with pg's politics actually are presenting a violent threat, yet we are somehow discussing it as a truth anyway. This is skilled manipulation.

I never had any axe to grind with pg's work encouraging certain startups, but when he suggests that I must be deciding whether to murder rich people merely because I am not happy with the degree of economic inequality in my country, I can't help remembering the blood libel.

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supercanuck 1 day ago 1 reply      
Lots of window dressing to serve up PG'a core thought:

>So let's be clear about that. Ending economic inequality would mean ending startups.

PG also called those who questioned Mark Zuckerberg's altruistic intentions "losers." In reference to Altman's bewilderment at the criticism of Zuckerberg's donation to his LLC.

I have tremendous respect for PG on startup related manners, but in terms of making a better society, I prefer those that study this sort of thing for a living.

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lucidbee 1 day ago 0 replies      
This seemed like a blurb for start ups rather than an analysis. One thing that is missing is a quantitative analysis in the factors underlying inequality, and whether / how they relate to startups at all. Also missing is an analysis of the role of rent seeking in increasing inequality. Basically there is a fundamental division in factors of inequality: which are related to the self serving manipulations of the political and economic system by rich people to sustain their position and which are related to innovation by the best entrepreneurs? Then we must also analyze which of these factors are dominant in our environment. He avoids these essential questions so this essay is just opinion. There are some aspects of our situation that make it seem rent seeking is dominant: low productivity growth, stock buy back games by companies rather than investment, a slowing down of new business formation (which can be caused by monopolies). I am sometimes critical of economics as a discipline because there is no scientific method but he could use some immersion in economic data, studies, and theory, to force him to come up with a useful analysis.
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bambax 1 day ago 0 replies      
> economic inequality is really about poverty (...) startups aren't the problem (...) The problem is not economic inequality...

Really, no. The problem is really economic inequality.

Poverty is a problem; a different problem, that has always existed and that is (slowly) improving.

Economic inequality is a new problem (or, the recent incarnation of an old problem) and it's undesirable in and of itself.

Also, poverty is a symptom that the system isn't working. It's always been assumed that "a rising tide lifts all boats"; but after the emergence of the super-rich and their continued prosperity, the facts that not only the poor are still poor, but the middle class sees its income stagnate, absolutely disproves this assumption.

A rising tide lifts yachts; but for those living in a hut on the shore, a rising tide destroys their home and has a good chance of drowning them.

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jwesleyharding 1 day ago 0 replies      
Did he read Piketty? It doesn't seem like he's even read it somehow: an awkward oversight if you're looking to contribute to high-level discourse about inequality.

He seems to assume that Ycombinator is a microcosm for the American economy, but this is a burdensome assumption for most who have even a casual interest in the subject.

For those who missed it: Capital, the recent intellectual best-seller on this topic, spent about 500 pages attempting to demonstrate that inherited wealth (NOT human capital) is the dominant force in the economy and that this tendency is only worsening, for fundamental structural reasons (r > g). In other words, we are entering a new gilded age.

Think Trump, not Zuckerburg.

So, I can't understand why Graham doesn't address this. If Piketty is correct, it renders meaningless almost every thing he writes in this piece.

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vgoh1 1 day ago 0 replies      
Yes, startup founders will become rich if they are successful, but what good does a startup founder having $10 billion in wealth vs $100 million? I don't think anyone outside of soviet russia is suggesting the hyperbole that is being discussed in this article, but let's be real - the reason for people working hard is to make more money, yes, that we know that is what keeps us from becoming an economic hell-hole, but there needs to be some limits here. At some point, the the cost of keeping so much wealth at the top is not being paid back by encouraging more and better entrepreneurs.

Also, let's not kid ourselves. It's not a zero sum game, but it's not the opposite either. He is discussing carpenters making a chair or whatever, and then comparing that to something completely different - the founders of facebook, sorry, they did not code every line of facebook themselves, they have thousands of employees that actually GENERATE the wealth. And, to be hyperbolic myself, if a wealthy founder gives away all his money to his employees, yes, that seems a little zero-sum if you look at it that way.

It get the article, he is trying to keep his founders from getting lynched, saying that they aren't a part of the problem, it's the rent seekers. But he is again trying to paint a black and white picture, saying "no, those guys are all bad, my guys are all good"

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laurencerowe 1 day ago 0 replies      
> The most common mistake people make about economic inequality is to treat it as a single phenomenon. The most naive version of which is the one based on the pie fallacy: that the rich get rich by taking money from the poor.

For most of us, our largest single expense is housing, whether that be rent or mortgage repayments. Supply of housing is quite inelastic, something that should be clear to all of us who live in California, New York, or London.

By driving up the costs of homes, those of us who have more to spend are driving those who have less further out from the urban centres where the jobs are found, reducing their leisure by forcing them to spend more time commuting instead of with their families.

While the cost of manufactures has been falling as the economy grows, food - the other major expense for the poor and middle class, has also seen much higher inflation than the headline figures.

Entrepreneurial progress is a great thing. But we need to recognise that for many, the 'pie fallacy' really isn't a fallacy. For someone on the median income, a reduced share of total earnings is materially increasing deprivation.

The biggest thing we could do to increase entrepreneurialism would be to redistribute more and make more people feel secure. It's much easier to take risks when you have the security of parental wealth.

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Plough_Jogger 1 day ago 0 replies      
Empirically, the transition of American workers from large corporations to smaller ones described both here and in PG's 'Refragmentation' has not taken place.

If one considers a firm employing > 500 workers to be large (as per the Government's definition), the percentage of employed individuals working for large companies has remained nearly flat (actually increasing slightly). The same holds true if your definition of large is employing more than 1000, 5000, 10000 etc [0].

A dead giveaway that this observation was anecdotal rather than empirical was Paul's statement: > you find what most would have done back in 1960... was to join big companies or become professors.

The percentage of individuals working as professors has historically been such a small percentage of the overall workforce that their inclusion in a statement about national employment trends highlights the author's dependence on the availability heuristic rather than data.

[0] https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/files/bds_firmsize.x...

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japhyr 1 day ago 0 replies      
> For example, let's attack poverty, and if necessary damage wealth in the process. That's much more likely to work than attacking wealth in the hope that you will thereby fix poverty.

This seems like a pretty healthy mindset to me.

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ElSif 1 day ago 0 replies      
Am I the only one that is totally fine with startup culture disappearing? All it has ever really meant is the rich deciding through funding rounds which technology deserves to survive (often with stupid results). Paul Graham is just a blind startup optimist, there is no real substance to his argument.
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vadym909 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Usually love PG's essays but this one is pretty shallow in how it tackles the subject. Smart as he is I'm sure PG understands what people are talking about- the problem is the 90% that don't work in overhyped and overvalued software startups, but the regular worker- the factory worker at Tesla, the checkout clerk at Walmart, the teacher in the Public School. Unfortunately for them, no one told them software would be it 20 years ago. They can't just go start making chairs or open a private school. Its not that they are lazy or stupid. They just got unlucky because they thought they would get by doing these jobs- based on what they knew- and then the world changed. Is it any surprise they are pissed? and to add insult to injury- they see the rich bend systems unfairly to their favor to enrich themselves even more.
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clouddrover 1 day ago 0 replies      
> If the rich people in a society got that way by taking wealth from the poor, then you have the degenerate case of economic inequality where the cause of poverty is the same as the cause of wealth.

Yes, that is the problem and is what's happening. Prior to the 1970s increases in productivity led to increases in household income. Since the 1970s productivity has increased but household income has stagnated. Workers are no longer seeing their return match their productivity.

http://stateofworkingamerica.org/charts/productivity-and-rea...

http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_3...

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malandrew 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Polyamory and open/alternative relationships gaining acceptance is yet another example of this fragmentation. The expectation up until now is that you need a single "vertically integrated" partner that satisfies most of the partner roles in your life. More and more people are starting to realize that this is a compromise between time and satisfaction. With a single partner, you get a lot more of their time, but the likelihood that they will be satisfactory for all of the roles partners typically assume is less likely. There are two reasons for this that I can see.

The first is that we are less and less likely to share extremely similar upbringing with others such that it is easy to find someone who is largely on the same page. When people were born, lived and died in a small town or city and the internet didn't exists, two people from the same place likely have a LOT in common. Now, everyone is shaped by the information they encounter and experiences they have, and at no time in history has there been as much variation between people than now.

The second is that our sexual and romantic tastes are fragmenting and we demanding greater satisfaction in both breadth of tastes and depth of tastes. People want to have the same level of satisfaction from the romance and sex parts of their lives well beyond the honeymoon period, and when a single partner doesn't or can't meet the variety of needs you start looking elsewhere to satisfy them. The difference is now that there is acknowledgement of this greater fragmentation in sexual and romantic needs, giving people the position to be more transparent with dialogue surrounding it. There is also a greater acknowledgement of enthusiastic consent between all partners involved in an act as being important. This focus on consent means that you don't try to make someone participate in something they don't desire to participate, thus you need to find other partners that reciprocate for those sexual or romantic needs.

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crabasa 1 day ago 1 reply      
The most interesting question pg asks is one he doesn't really answer:

>> Can you have a healthy society with great variation in wealth? What would it look like?

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W09h 1 day ago 0 replies      
I don't think anyone will argue with the idea that working hard should and by nature results in good rewards. but what about the idea that one person putting in 500lbs of innovation generates less than a tenth of another's same force?

what if the outcry against inequality refers to the capacity to join the upper echelon and the requirement of other 1%'ers to groom and select future 1%'ers, not it's elimination?

not to mention the people who affect the largest change are folks in the 1% club

One culture or group thought should not keep other cultures from affecting the world.

IE the rich white guy you hear about that has it so easy when compared to someone of lesser means.They aren't referring to the color of their skin.They are referring to the family ties, the unfair education, the modeling of the 1% clubs culture, which opens an incredible amount of doors by itself.

It is not that we are upset with some people having more money than others, it's that some people have unfair tools and advantages to get wealth, and that wealth directly translates into influence and power. Thus, where you are born, what culture you grew up with, where you went to school, have profound affects on how others treat you, the influence you have on this world, and your ability to create true change.

I'm not saying this is something new, but just as civil rights have been huge issues in the past, the current issue, an new issue to tackle, to advance our society and understanding is inequality of ability to amass power/money/influence.

IE at one pole we might find that incumbents to money are no more likely to generate additional money than those without money, at the other, the only way to generate wealth is to have wealth.

It's a fascinating issue, you know where I am if you want to nerd out about it.

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coldtea 1 day ago 0 replies      
Rich person finds nothing wrong with inequality. News at 11.
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RobertoG 1 day ago 0 replies      
"The evolution of technology is one of the most powerful forces in history."

I find this part funny. It seems that one of the most powerful forces in history can be stopped just raising taxes.

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paulpauper 1 day ago 1 reply      
The trend is that wealth inequality will become almost the same as IQ inequality. IQ is more much important today than a generation ago in influencing individual economic outcomes. 100 years ago in an economy dominated by manual labor, the difference between a 90 IQ and 120 IQ wasn't that important, but now it is.
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jpmattia 1 day ago 1 reply      
Great essay. I was struck by this though:

> A woodworker creates wealth.

There's an odd can of worms in that simple statement, which is roughly reduced to: How do you measure wealth?

Part of the controversy is that wealth is often a summation of net worth in [dollars | yen | euro | yap stones]. However, if you look at the simple act of the woodworker selling a chair, the total dollars in circulation before and after the woodworker sells his chair is constant. Therefore, the woodworker is now in possession of a greater percentage of the total dollars, and consequently "inequality" has now increased, due to the (mostly) zero-sum definition of the money supply.

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Balgair 1 day ago 0 replies      
If you were looking for a high water mark of this bubble, I think we may have a winner. Though I will wait to see what the next 3 months also bring in.
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wes-k 1 day ago 0 replies      
As Paul Graham states, the metric we measure is the metric we improve. What metric do VCs care about? Profit or societal good?

The current construct has the public and employees in battle against these capilitistic profit seeking businesses.

Sure some generate wealth but they also capitalize as much of that wealth as possible. When Uber and the like create incredible wealth with self driving cars, who will benefit? Society? Maybe with cheaper rides but at the cost of many jobs.

The new rise of B corps leaves me hopeful as a possible transition between the profit game and the helping the world game.

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BobTheCoder 1 day ago 0 replies      
I don't think many people are saying that income inequality itself is the problem. It is the level of inequality and rate with which it is increasing that is the problem.

Also you can't say poverty is the only possible issue related to wealth distribution. Due to technology and globalization there is a tremendous amount of wealth. Exceedingly disproportionate distribution of it, far beyond effort/brilliance/whatever is unfair for the majority and IS a problem.

36
staunch 1 day ago 1 reply      
"Economic Inequality is a Red Herring" might've been a better title.

He's probably right that economic inequality itself is not a huge problem. But he could be wrong. Maybe it should be illegal for any person to amass more than $1 billion or some reasonable limit. Individuals with massive fortunes might always threaten democracy.

The Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson are examples of how corrupting they can be. Zuckerberg could start buying elections the same way with his new $45 billion LLC. Michael Bloomberg bought himself high political office. Mitt Romney tried. Donald Trump is trying again.

Supposedly 200 families have funded 50% of the 2016 election. One solution is to close every possible loophole they use to exert their influence over politicians. Another solution is to cap wealth at some high number, limiting the potential damage.

Heck, the unprecedented wealth of Crassus was the proximate cause of the fall of the Roman Republic. Crassus used his massive fortune to finance Caesar's very expensive political career, including bribing politicians left and right.

Didn't Hitler also rely on the backing of a few wealthy industrialists in his rise to power?

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dnautics 1 day ago 0 replies      
PG is wrong that he is a creator of economic inequality. Technology development usually brings prices down. This is deflationary; the 'big picture' way that deflation happens: that prices are discovered more efficiently, or resources are used more efficiently, or that idle labor capacity is recruited to fulfill a want or need that was not known before (esp: think uber/lyft).

Deflationary processes are inherently anti-inequality. Think of it this way. If we never changed the minimum wage, then people's incomes, especially at the bottom segment of society would make their net economic potential greater over time.

It is not the investment in technology that makes "tech drive inequality". It is the political structure around it. We have a structure where monetary policy shoves free or cheap money into the faces of banks and the investment classes in efforts to 'stimulate' the economy, where the secular (over decades, not over years) inflation drives low- and middle- class citizens into risky investment activity just to be able to sustain themselves in their later years (effectively a subsidy for the rich).

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collyw 1 day ago 1 reply      
Exactly. As someone working in Spain, I can live a comfortable life on my salary, but I don't feel rich. I would certainly struggle to give up working for a year and try and bootstrap a startup from what I can save (it's possible but it would be tough).
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cognivore 1 day ago 1 reply      
That article, and really, almost every post here, don't make a damned bit of difference once the tipping point is reached and the 99% get fed up enough to do something about their situation. They're not going to try and create start-ups, either.

We let the inequality keep growing and someday you are going to see people lined up against walls and shot. Don't think history won't repeat itself.

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bsbechtel 1 day ago 2 replies      
I've always thought a good question to ask on this subject is "If you could do something to make the wealthiest 50% wealthier, with 100% certainty that it would not negatively affect the bottom 50%, would you do it?"
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quadrangle 1 day ago 0 replies      
Great to see so much discussion about this really controversial article.

If startups create wealth so much, then why is the overwhelmingly used (and accurate!) term about "capturing" value? Most startups do a MIX of adding some value while otherwise benefiting from network effects so that they get to be the ones that capture existing value. Go evaluate any example. Very few are unambiguously creating wealth. The whole concept of disruption is about moving wealth from one place to another.

The BIG issue is about POWER. Wealth inequity corresponds to POWER inequity. This isn't about whether a startup founder gets to have a huge house that dwarfs the poorer folks' homes. The problem is that money is power and the wealthy get to set the rules, and that undermines the democratic structures of our society (to whatever extent they existed at all or could potentially exist).

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ignasl 17 hours ago 0 replies      
I feel that this discussion about income inequality doesn't do us any good mostly because both sides are kinda right but they fail to realize that and just try to promote their own agenda. Economy seems simple but in reality there are millions of variables. Is the income inequality a real problem depends on a lot of those variables and possible solution depends on them too. Education of population, infrastructure built, society culture, human nature, society homogeneity, corruption, political system, dominant industries, social mobility, tax rates, efficiency in using tax revenue, various incentives etc. Everything matters and if you want to implement some policy you need to take into account as much as you can before deciding what is the best policy. Like a chess player calculates multiple steps in the future so should economists. For example in some dirt poor country with bad education and huge corruption the higher income inequality will result in even lower total pie while in silicon valley (where Graham comes from) increased income inequality just makes pie bigger to everyone (and that's why Graham argument is what it is). The problem is that everyone choose to see what they want to see and then argue about different thing than the other side.I understand that some John "The programmer and self labeled savior of the poor" thinks he is very smart economist and argues that if someone has too much and then someone has too little lets just take from rich and give it to the poor. But real world is much more complex. And before we even start discussing what we should do about income inequality we should first agree on what exactly we are arguing about. What is income? What is inequality? What is fair share of taxes? What is wealth? What is capital? Even what is the economy and how it works! How one or another policy will affect various economic activities? Analysis must be much broader than simply stating your opinion that being rich are bad (or good).
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js8 1 day ago 0 replies      
There is a common argument that by increasing taxes or redistribution, economic activity of entrepreneurs would go down. But I think this argument is false and can be empirically falsified.

If you think about taxation, ultimately it reduces the pie of money that the entrepreneurs compete over. For instance, 50% taxes reduce the pie to half. The pie is roughly given by the size of the economy (market for the thing). However, in the real world, we don't see economic activity depend too much on the market size. In particular, we don't see small countries to have less economic activity (per capita) than big countries.

That means size of the pie doesn't actually matter very much as an incentive for entrepreneurship. So you can have almost any level of taxation and people will still do it.

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protomyth 1 day ago 0 replies      
The change in Federal government power started long before WWII. Its origins came with President Lincoln and the Civil War and its aftermath. The strong Federal power picked up quite a bit of steam in the 1900's with several Supreme Court rulings allowing the commerce clause to intrude into state's business. The Presidency's of Wilson, both Roosevelt's, Hoover, and Truman[1] continued the rise in Federal power that setup later Presidents. Nixon[2] had a wages and price controls board too.

1) Truman was stopped from continuing to fund the government at a wartime budget by the House. The time period from 1945 through 1950 makes for some fascinating reading.

2) I am today ordering a freeze on all prices and wages throughout the United States. President Nixon Aug. 15, 1971

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yalogin 1 day ago 0 replies      
That is a pretty bad extrapolation on his part.

I don't think anyone here (or for the most part) would say the rich getting richer is the problem. The concern is that the poor and the middle class are stagnated. I was really hoping he would talk about those issues.

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jondubois 1 day ago 1 reply      
I don't agree with the point about the pie and the idea that startups 'create value'. I say this because I've been a 'victim' of YCombinator (and VCs in general) on two occasions. I don't mean to say that it's all VC's fault - I just want to make a point about how VCs can make a poor person's life difficult.

About 6 years ago, before Weebly came out, I was working on an open source drag-and-drop (user-friendly) content management system - I had spent 2 years on it (all my spare time) - I intended to offer it as a service eventually. Then I found out about Weebly (who got funded by YCombinator) - They had a huge well-funded team and so they were able to quickly develop a great product and they got massive traction. To be fair there were other competitors in the space, but they also had lots of funding - I decided that without funding, I could not compete with these products (in that space) and I so ended up just giving up my 2 year project.

Then I started working on a new open source project (3 years ago); in the area of realtime data; my plan was to build a tool which would improve how data is transferred between the database and the frontend client.Unlike my last attempt, this time, my open source project got a lot of traction; I later found out about Meteor (YC), then later Firebase (YC)...I'm still working on this new open source project though; I have decided to keep working on it forever (or until it becomes completely outdated) I intend to turn it into a service - I feel that no matter what I do, some great company will come out of YC to make all my work economically meaningless so I might as well keep going.

Basically YC is just churning out competition and putting huge amounts of money behind them. It's taking opportunities away from the poor, hard working engineers and giving them to the few lucky ones who happen to be selected by YC.

It's not just YC though, it's VC in general; the huge amount of funding that they give out creates an artificial barrier of entry for newcomers.

Basically the idea is that if you don't have a good social network, you cannot raise funding and if you cannot raise funding, you cannot succeed. If VC funding didn't exist, the system would be a lot fairer.

I think YC does select good founders, but they miss a lot of really good ones too and these suffer greatly.

If you're an investor, you should be mindful that for every investment you make, you're probably hurting someone else somewhere in the world - So make sure you're investing in the best of people (not just your friends).

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gedy 1 day ago 0 replies      
Apologies as I'm not an economist, but one thing that seems wrong/misleading about using the phrase "income inequality" in the media is that it usually follows a populist, single variable: "they have more money, so of course they took it from everyone else!!"

Which implies modern money is a finite closed-system ala the gold standard. It's not, and money is basically created via the Fed, debt, QE, etc.

Seems the real problem is not feel-good bashing and taxing of "high-pay" (which usually just means middle class), but instead the people and organizations that are beyond income such as bankers, banks, politicians, etc. who control that creation and distribution.

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ThomPete 1 day ago 0 replies      
The problem with any discussion about inequality is that it ends up discussing the rich rather than wealth. This turns the discussion into a moral one which destroy any possibility of discussing this rationally.

First. It often creates two groups. The 1% and the rest and then go on to discuss trickle down effect. While it's in fact true that trickle down proportionally does not work with the 1% it does work with a lot of other people who create wealth and invest them into other things which then in return creates jobs much more proportional to their wealth (but still of course not in any 1 to 1 relationship)

Second. A lot of time discussions about the rich ends up being about their moral compass and their intentions to avoid paying taxes rather than about how they became rich and then look for any weakness in the system which allow for extreme richness (if any)

Third. In any discussion about how to tax the uber rich, tax avoidance and lobbying often ends up being the focal point. What I would like to suggest is instead we look at extreme wealth as a function primarily fueled by technology and globalization and then further down the list politics, network etc.

I.e. many of the people who are extremely rich today are so because they benefitted from technology and globalization happening at the right time for them not because they somehow worked the system fraudently to become rich (some of course did use it more than others but often also end up being rich much shorter time)

Extreme wealth is a function of the system not just the choice and skills of individuals. Someone will become the richest and their richness will be highly influenced by the system they operate in. Since this system is primarily technological and technology moves faster than legislation the job isn't to figure what rules to implement/remove/adjust but rather how to do it fast enough and still without killing the ability for growth.

But this wont happen until the economist who advice governments acknowledging technology as part of the equation instead of treating it as an externality as they do now.

And so why I have nothing against people getting rich (heck I hope to be so one day myself) trying to defend it like PG does here strikes me as extremely limited in how to understand the issues with inequality.

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kzhahou 1 day ago 1 reply      
> Almost by definition, if a startup succeeds its founders become rich. And while getting rich is not the only goal of most startup founders, few would do it if one couldn't.

As usual, the investors and founders are teamed up, with employees in the background. In contrast with founders, there is no certainty that employees will get any life-changing financial gain from working at a successful startup. The only certainty is that whatever the founders make, the employees will make several orders of magnitude less. In fact, all employee wealth put together won't usually add up to the founders' share.

I understand why founders are OK with this and have a long list of justifications including "personal risk" and vision. But why do non-founders continually sell themselves short?

I find it ironic that's there such a blatant economic inequality even among those who create the wealth.

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dominotw 1 day ago 1 reply      
> pie fallacy: that the rich get rich by taking money from the poor.

I've read this in other pg essays. But I've always wondered if there is some truth to that 'fallacy' and if shouldn't be simply dismissed with an absurd and simplistic example of generating wealth by fixing an old car.

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tdaltonc 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think that his critique of academic economics is spot on. Economists do not have a good way for thinking about where Mark Zuckerberg's money came from. In macro they would call it return on capital because he bought some stock from Facebook on day 0 and held it until it was worth billions. Great return. But that doesn't seem to be a useful way to model it. Economics needs a better way to think about what entrepreneurs do as neither capital nor labor.
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DrNuke 1 day ago 0 replies      
Good old Karl Marx from Germany had more history to ponder and got it right: rich and poor are regulated enemies, more or less depending on where you do live. The rich can buy resources and people, the poor need to act together to survive. PAul Graham in 2016 teaches both moneymaking (for the rich and the poor, that's also why HN exists) and new pies creation (for the rich to become richer thanks to their competitive advantage). The basic outcome for the poor as a whole is that they will never make more money than the rich but can still make enough to live better.
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JDDunn9 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've never heard anyone begrudge innovators for getting wealthy. It's about crony capitalism and CEOs who enter a company, and siphon off wealth for themselves before getting "fired" with a golden parachute.
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skybrian 1 day ago 0 replies      
"A high-frequency trader does not. He makes a dollar only when someone on the other end of a trade loses a dollar."

This assumes that (a) there's only one other party, and (b) they got nothing in return.

But trading is often about buying at one place and time and selling at another place and time that's more convenient for the buyer and/or seller. So it's quite possible that traders are earning their fees. Today, these fees are often very small (compared to previous market makers), so it doesn't take very much to earn them.

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xchaotic 1 day ago 0 replies      
The article seems to overlook the fact that most of the 'value added' is created out of thin air and people can only tolerate so much bs. So while something like the value of Facebook likes is not immediately stealing money from ikea furniture it is taking the attention away, there is still a finite pool of brains and eyeballs and people only have so much attention span. It's not like you can create value ad infinitum without adding eyeballs or resources. Hence Facebook 'Internet Basics' attempts and such
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adamzerner 1 day ago 0 replies      
There seems to be an assumption that if you tax the rich, they won't be motivated to grow the pie. I don't think that that's true. I don't think people would say, "Tax rates doubled. Now I only expect to make $100M instead of $200M. It's not worth it any more; I'm quitting."

Here's how I see it:

A: Double taxes; 10% smaller pie.

B: Keep taxes; inequality grows.

C: Increase taxes such that innovation stops.

Graham seems to be arguing that B is better than C. I agree, but he doesn't seem to address A.

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DominikPeters 1 day ago 2 replies      
Whenever he says "polynomial", he actually means "exponential", right? Economic growth over the last couple of centuries looks pretty exponential, at least.
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fineoldcannibal 23 hours ago 1 reply      
This was a bizarre article. I assume PG is a very smart guy so it baffles me when he writes something which so obviously has blinders on. Did he not stop to think what are the consequences of economic inequality and then quickly realize why people worry about it? No its not about poverty, it really is about inequality. Wealth is power, and in any society where power is distributed so unevenly, people will take actions, very often unknowingly, and without malicious intent, that still result in hardship for others. To use an analogy - if the world were just elephants and ants, when the elephants came out to play, there would be a lot of dead ants even though this was not the intent of the elephants
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ctlaltdefeat 1 day ago 0 replies      
> Graham writes another article on a subject about which he knows little, and in doing so quotes Stiglitz as advocating a silly "fallacy".
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jeffdavis 1 day ago 0 replies      
I really wish nobody would pay attention to quintiles. They cause more confusion than anything, because they don't follow people.

Even high earners spend maybe 25% of their life as high-earners and the rest of their life as low-income. That does not mean poor, just low-income. They might be college students, PhDs, doctors in residency, or just building up their careers still.

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cs702 1 day ago 1 reply      
For me, the issue with economic inequality in the US is that somehow it has lead to INEQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY, which makes our economic system unfair.

Sample evidence:

* US children of wealthier parents grow up to be wealthier than US children of poorer parents, regardless of whether the child was adopted or not.[1]

* US children whose families are in the bottom income quartile are eight times less likely (!) than children from the top quartile to get a college degree by age 24.[2]

* According to test scores of US children in public school, those from low-income families are far less proficient in math and reading than their better-off peers.[3]

* Poorer US children eat a poorer diet, with negative consequences for brain and body development.[4]

* Poorer US children are more exposed to lead, with negative consequences for IQ and behavior.[5]

I gathered this evidence through a quick Google search, but there are lot of other data points out there suggesting we have a real problem: if you are born poor in the US, the odds are stacked against you -- you get worse healthcare, a worse diet, worse parenting, worse teachers, a poorer education, less support of all kinds... the list goes on.

WHY should wealthier children, who simply got lucky and won the "ovarian lottery," have more and better opportunities than poorer children?

Wouldn't we able to create EVEN MORE WEALTH if our economic system offered the same degree of opportunity and support to every child, regardless of parental status?

--

[1] http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/07/rich-peo...

[2] http://www.forbes.com/sites/eriksherman/2015/02/05/wealthy-c... / http://www.pellinstitute.org/downloads/publications-Indicato...

[3] http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/09/140901-ameri...

[4] http://money.cnn.com/2015/01/29/news/economy/poverty-schools...

[5] http://www.environment.ucla.edu/reportcard/article3772.html

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qaq 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think people tend to overlook a very important factor risk. Majority of people are quick to want to share in the profits of risk takers few would want to share the risks they take. For every Zuckerberg there are hundreds of thousands of people who tried and failed. Unless you are ready to backstop failures what right do you have share in the profits?
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thruflo 1 day ago 0 replies      
Wealth inequality may be seeded by value creation but it's perpetuated by (compound) interest. At the end of any time period, those who start with more money end with even more money.

Investing in startups creates wealth equality in so far that it increases the return on investment (interest) that investors (those who start with the money) achieve.

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calibraxis 1 day ago 0 replies      
The usual bizarre thought processes:

> So when I hear people saying that economic inequality is bad and should be eliminated, I feel rather like a wild animal overhearing a conversation between hunters. [...] They don't even seem clear whether they want to kill me or not.

Doesn't consider the obvious conclusion: they want to improve society to be more egalitarian. The opposite of killing/hurting anyone: no longer needing police/military to maintain a world based on radical inequality. (Police to ensure wage-slaves obey bosses for food/shelter tokens; military to ensure other countries don't build more successful societies which cause everyone to question the status quo.)

His sentiment apparently is sincere. Despite having government protecting the wealthy [1], with police and military, privileged people often fear that the dominated will beat them up. But in reality, it is the dominated who must fear armed men daily.

> You can't end economic inequality without preventing people from getting rich, and you can't do that without preventing them from starting startups.

Startup startup startup. Half the time, "startup" is the small-business boss's pet magic word to justify low wages.

An improved world can obviously have "startups"; if that means a team of people supported to automate away drudge work, research immortality drugs, etc. Note that our current system doesn't do this: nowadays, technology means we work more hours, not less. [2]

> Variation in productivity is far from the only source of economic inequality

Many highly productive people would happily work with compensation equal to everyone else. Was Einstein or Chomsky driven by the profit motive, for their greatest accomplishments? Many enormously "productive" people find it insulting to be considered animals doing it for material rewards.

To do well in a market, you must get money from those with money. Such a system predictably caters to those with more power. In contrast, many highly productive people rather focus their energy on those with no money nor power to compensate them. (Though there are startups which find ways to siphon money from government/funders for it, in return for surveillance or ensuring those in poverty remain in a handout-system...)

No, when you're successful, you need to defend it from higher-productive competition by building a "moat" [3]. This isn't new; 19th century economist Friedrich List called it "kicking away the ladder". The wealthy obviously try to do this.

[1] Adam Smith: "Till there be property there can be no government, the very end of which is to secure wealth, and to defend the rich from the poor.")

[2] Anyway, real tech advances come from the government sector: taxpayers. Then it's handed to private power to reap the profit. http://marianamazzucato.com/the-entrepreneurial-state/

[3] YC's leadership literally look for a "moat". https://www.quora.com/How-does-YCombinator-affect-the-succes...

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cryoshon 1 day ago 1 reply      
Swing and a miss with this article. I wrote a full response at http://cryoshon.co/2016/01/02/a-response-to-paul-grahams-art....

I've abridged some of my comments/quotations for this comment.

Let's break it down bit by bit:

FTA:

"I'm interested in the topic because I am a manufacturer of economic inequality."

Well, not quite. The throughput of successful startup folks is never going to be enough to make a dent in the economy's general state of inequality. If anything, YC offers social mobility insurance; the potential for social mobility from the middle classes to the lower-upper class without the potential for a slip from the middle classes to the lower classes in the event of failure.

"The most common mistake people make about economic inequality is to treat it as a single phenomenon. The most naive version of which is the one based on the pie fallacy: that the rich get rich by taking money from the poor."

Well, "taking" is a bit biased, but broadly speaking, it's true that the poor must buy or rent what the rich are offering in order to survive. This means that the poor are at the whim of the rich unless they choose to grow their own food and live pastorally, which isn't desirable. People pay rent if they're poor, and collect rent if they're rich. The poor sell their labor, whereas the rich buy labor in order to utilize their capital, which the poor have none of. These are traits of capitalism rather than anything to get upset about. People get upset when the rich use their oversized political influence to get laws passed to their benefit; over time, the rich make more money due to their ability to manipulate the political system.

"...those at the top are grabbing an increasing fraction of the nation's incomeso much of a larger share that what's left over for the rest is diminished...."

http://www.epi.org/publication/charting-wage-stagnation/ Check out these charts... the data is much-discussed because they are unimpeachable.

"In the real world you can create wealth as well as taking it from others. A woodworker creates wealth. He makes a chair, and you willingly give him money in return for it. A high-frequency trader does not. He makes a dollar only when someone on the other end of a trade loses a dollar.

If the rich people in a society got that way by taking wealth from the poor, then you have the degenerate case of economic inequality where the cause of poverty is the same as the cause of wealth. But instances of inequality don't have to be instances of the degenerate case. If one woodworker makes 5 chairs and another makes none, the second woodworker will have less money, but not because anyone took anything from him."

The woodworker works in a wood shop, not alone. The owner of the wood shop has decided that if 5 chairs are sold, it takes 2 chairs worth of money to recoup the costs of making the chair. With three chairs worth of money remaining, he takes two and three fourths chairs for himself and distributes the remaining amount to the worker who created the chair. The woodworker created the wealth by using the owner's capital, and so the owner of the capital gets the vast majority of the wealth generated, even though he didn't actually make the chairs himself. Is the owner "taking" from his employee? No, the employee has merely realized that one fourth of one chair's income is the standard amount that a woodworker can get from working in a shop owned by someone else, and happened to choose this particular shop to work in. "Taking" is the wrong word; "greed" is the proper word. The proportion of revenue derived from capital that is returned to workers selling their labor is far too low. The woodworkers can't simultaneously pay off their woodworking school loans, apartment rent, and care for their children on the wages they're offered.

"If you want to understand change in economic inequality, you should ask what those people would have done when it was different. This is one way I know the rich aren't all getting richer simply from some sinister new system for transferring wealth to them from everyone else. When you use the would-have method with startup founders, you find what most would have done back in 1960, when economic inequality was lower, was to join big companies or become professors."

Not even close. The richest hundred people have gotten wildly richer as a result of crony capitalism in which the richest are able to bend the political system to their will via overt bribery, creating unfair advantages for their ventures and endless loopholes for their personal wealth to avoid taxation. The ventures of the very rich are given unearned integration into political life, again making them a shoe in for special treatment. Remember how the failing banks in the financial crisis were considered too big to fail, and were accommodated at the public's expense? This kind of behavior insures the rich's safety with the money culled from the poor. Information technology is a gold rush, and creates rich people by forging new vehicles of capital-- generating wealth. The economics of a gold rush are quite clear, but PG forgets that the vast, vast majority of the workers in the economy are not participating in the gold rush, nor could they.

"And that group presents two problems for the hunter of economic inequality. One is that variation in productivity is accelerating. The rate at which individuals can create wealth depends on the technology available to them, and that grows polynomially. The other problem with creating wealth, as a source of inequality, is that it can expand to accommodate a lot of people."

Productivity has been increasing for decades, and at one point in time, wages tracked productivity. The relationship between wages and productivity fell apart. This means that the business owners were benefiting from increased worker productivity, but the workers were not benefiting... another cause of economic inequality that can be attributed directly to the owners not allowing enough money to go to their workers. If productivity is accelerating, wages should be too. Rather than understanding workers as slaves that require a dole as they are presently, they must be considered as close partners in economic production.

"Most people who get rich tend to be fairly driven. Whatever their other flaws, laziness is usually not one of them. Suppose new policies make it hard to make a fortune in finance. Does it seem plausible that the people who currently go into finance to make their fortunes will continue to do so but be content to work for ordinary salaries? The reason they go into finance is not because they love finance but because they want to get rich. If the only way left to get rich is to start startups, they'll start startups."

Once again: the current flap about economic inequality is not about people wanting to become rich, it is about people wanting to get by. Most people are not driven. Everyone wants to at least get by. You will not stop people from being driven to become rich by making it possible for everyone else to get by.

"So let's be clear about that. Ending economic inequality would mean ending startups. Are you sure, hunters, that you want to shoot this particular animal? It would only mean you eliminated startups in your own country. Ambitious people already move halfway around the world to further their careers, and startups can operate from anywhere nowadays. So if you made it impossible to get rich by creating wealth in your country, the ambitious people in your country would just leave and do it somewhere else. Which would certainly get you a lower Gini coefficient, along with a lesson in being careful what you ask for. "

No, it wouldn't. There is lower and higher economic inequality in many places in the world, and many of those places have startups. There is nothing special about startups, and startups persist whether or not the society is extremely unequal. There are startups in Sweden. There are startups in China. There are startups in Nigeria. There are startups in Denmark. There is absolutely no reason to be prideful in the American startup phenomenon if it requires people living in poverty-- I do not believe that it does require this, though.

"Notice how novel it feels to think about that. The public conversation so far has been exclusively about the need to decrease economic inequality. We've barely given a thought to how to live with it."

Living with economic inequality is precarious and uncomfortable for the majority of the population, but it is comfortable for the rich.

Is this what PG thinks is okay?

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kevindeasis 1 day ago 0 replies      
What I do know is that there will always be income inequality. There will always be poverty, but we can significantly raise the quality of life for everyone. In fact, I feel it is more important that we raise the quality of life than to fix income inequality.

Thoughts?

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thanatropism 1 day ago 1 reply      
Ctrl-F on the comments "Baumol" - not found.

197 comments and no one actually read the article?

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known 1 day ago 1 reply      
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r2dnb 1 day ago 0 replies      
As reserved as I've been with the "Refragmentation" essay, I have to say that this one is the kind of PG's essay I like.

I'd add that with governments printing billions of dollars a year, it's intriguing to even think that the only way to be rich is to take from the poor. One needs to understand how money flows and stop trying to work more to earn more but start working smart to deliver more and attract more.

"The reason they go into finance is not because they love finance but because they want to get rich. If the only way left to get rich is to start startups, they'll start startups. They'll do well at it too, because determination is the main factor in the success of a startup."

Nicely put.

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fivedogit 1 day ago 6 replies      
Usually pg's essays are spot-on. But this one, I feel, is based on a false premise: People aren't upset about startup founders getting rich -- in fact, society loudly applauds it. What people are upset about is legacy capital growing and growing and growing while the poor and middle class stagnate or even contract.

On this subject, I always think about farms.

Back in the day, it took ~100 people to work a large farm. Now it takes one (or a few) guy(s) with some machinery. All those farm workers aren't now out on the beach somewhere -- they've migrated to the city to drive cabs, etc. The wealth generated by this astounding leap of productivity went entirely to the shareholders of the John Deere corporation. (edit: Yes, cheaper food benefits everyone. I meant the share of the revenue generated by the farm going to its workers, vendors and shareholders. And the farm owners obviously benefited, too. Farmhands? Not so much.)

And that was great! Good for those speculators and innovators!

What I think most have a problem with is 7 generations later, the John Deere family (<-- edit:metaphor) still controls all that capital and pays taxes at 15% on capital gains while losing count of how many homes they own.

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danharaj 1 day ago 2 replies      
We don't need startups. The only reason why we "need" startups is because you can't get anything done in this society unless the property owners and capital holders get the majority of the profit.

I bet a lot of people prefer the version of history where great men do all the great work and drag the rest of humanity along with them: peerless, fearless leaders who need to be rewarded with wealth and power because otherwise they would not contribute their might and talent to the betterment of the world and we would all be living in shit-thatched straw huts because only the great men who own property can save us from our inferior nature.

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MisterBastahrd 1 day ago 2 replies      
People still got rich when the top tax percentage was 90%. I personally don't care what people make, but I care when they use their massive wealth to influence policies which affect me. If you have more access to my representative than I do and you don't even live in my congressional district, then I want that to stop, one way or another.
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arximboldi 1 day ago 1 reply      
Interesting rhetoric: first, PG ridicules people that fight inequality by using a straw man, to then call then infantile (ad hominem) and call for an us vs them, wolves and hunters, Silicon Valley against the world, in the most Goebbelian style.

But most infantile is his metaphor of the chair maker. Yes, we know in fact that economy is not zero sum game. But economic inequality is not generated by chair makers that gain an advantage over those who don't make chairs. Economic inequality happens because the owners of chair factories (who, are not, the chair makers) get to own both the factory and the chairs that chair makers make. Hence, while the chair makers get a salary to support themselves, the owners accumulate the surplus value of the chair producing business allowing them to expand their business, acquire more assets and, too, influence politics to turn the game in favour of capital instead of labour. This is too a simplistic metaphor, but hey, it's at least a bit closer to reality than PG's view of the world.

Of course, he is a venture capitalist, not a chair maker. His way of living is extracting surplus of founders that in turn extract surplus of engineers and other workers and contractors that support their businesses. He is in the business of selling ever increasing inequality.

This PG article is pure ideology. Ideological class war. It's a hoot--a network of fallacies building some sort of implausible moral self-justification. PG, you are not a wild animal in a room of hunters. It's more like you are the hunter, and this is a bait that we won't bite.

I'm sure he would argue that my chair makers are exploited only because they are not smart enough to start their own chair making business. His utopia is one in which everyone is an entrepreneur--a CEO or a VC. I wonder who makes chairs in that world (if it's machines, someone has to keep the machines running). See, not everyone can be a winner. It's not about killing the rich. It's about making sure that those that lose in the game--who are in fact, too, valuable and indispensable to society--have a chance to a decent and realized life in dignity.

But even in a legal and political system that are very much (and increasingly) biased towards capital, I've seen coops, foundations, institutions and other forms of sustainable and non-exploitative businesses that succeed and provide real value pushing the game out of the zero sum. We can also see this in the libre and open source world--it's an outcry from software makers to collaborate on producing value in a way that they still own (instead of the proprietary firms that they work for). It provides collectively a leverage to our society that very few SV startups can claim to. In a way, in this other utopia, everyone is as well a business owner. A business owner and a maker, organized in the democratic networks of both competition and cooperation. No VC's needed though. Sorry Paul.

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analtaccount 1 day ago 0 replies      
I have two points against this piece. The first in substance and the second in style.

> The real problem is poverty, not economic inequality.

This was in the footnote, and I will consider it, hopefully without creating a strawman, to be the boiled-down thesis.

Economic inequality and poverty are different problems, as PG noted, and both will never truly be solved barring dramatic and horrific solutions. But, the people I know, aren't talking about poverty. My friends, all of whom grew up in middle class life styles, aren't thinking about falling into poverty, which they consider to be the idea of barely making ends meet. They're thinking about why they can't afford to buy a house at age 30 like their parents did. Or why they have to put off having a kid until they're much older. Or why wages don't seem to give as much disposable income as they once did. Or why they're so in debt right after college, without a good job to speak for.

They're talking about the end of the middle class. And, while poverty swells from the middle class's withering, we can't just focus on its growth. It's like if you had three buildings. The first is tiny and barebones. The second is nicer and much larger. And the third is super glitzy but the smallest of all. Now imagine that neglect by the building owners has lit aflame the second building. Most people from the second building are now forced to overcrowd into the dilapidated first building.

People in the first building exclaim that we need more room. People in the third building close their blinds. The people in the second building are too proud to admit they have to stay in the first building.

Meanwhile, the second building turns to ash. And then the first and third buildings right next to the second start to catch on fire...

Metaphor aside, I believe the real problem is the withering of the middle class, i.e. where opportunity is most equal. It is the engine of our society and, in the economic view, probably what has made the West great.

While I do not know what set of specifics solution will work, I do know that, paraphrasing PG, the most important thing is to focus on the right problem.

Style:> So when I hear people saying that economic inequality is bad and should be eliminated, I feel rather like a wild animal overhearing a conversation between hunters. But the thing that strikes me most about the conversations I overhear is how confused they are. They don't even seem clear whether they want to kill me or not.

This paragraph set a dubious tone, and made me seriously question the objectivity of this piece.

I completely believe that PG has heard of these conversations: as a high-net-worth person, he must have been accused of exploitation and other capitalist ills a thousand times over.

But by including this paragraph, the spectrum stretches from "reducing income inequality" to "ending income equality", which portends violence. Not metaphorical violence. Real violence. PG is studied in history, so his words about death strike me as not apart of a metaphor but a real, sincere worry.

There's fear here; fear seems to be slightly and subtly tinging the rest of the essay. I appreciate PG's methodical, calm, purposeful writing. But the tone of this one clouds the message of "treat the disease, not the symptom".

I agree with a lot of what is said later on, but I had to do outside research first, and then coming back once I was sure I wouldn't be learning a distorted point or view.

Normally PG's editors are great at refining his words: but out of all them, only one seems to be studied in Income Equality (Max Roser). The others are either apart of the same class or social cohort: which may very well be why the general consensus from his editors was that this piece should go out as we see it now.

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pinaceae 1 day ago 1 reply      
fits nicely with the stuff @pmarca has been tweeting and retweeting recently. taking absolutely asinine stuff from the likes the national review (everything the left ever did was wrong, starting with the french revolution) to grover norquist (government employees get more money from the government than they pay in taxes, this is disgraceful).

there is some massive headfuck going on, don't know if its because of the upcoming presidential election or what. the ghost of ayn rand is wandering the halls of rich white guys again.

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crimsonalucard 9 hours ago 0 replies      
> To kids, wealth is a fixed pie that's shared out, and if one person gets more it's at the expense of another. It takes a conscious effort to remind oneself that the real world doesn't work that way.

I think paul has a distorted view of wealth. Wealth is NOT a fixed pie. But it is NOT an infinite resource either. To see what wealth is let's follow where it comes from.

All wealth is extracted from nature or produced by man.

What one man is capable of producing/extracting is limited by his hands, feet, physical strength and mental abilities. Since physical strength, mental ability and natural resources are limited... wealth must also be limited.

Billionaires exist in this world. Does one billion dollars represent the wealth that one man can produce? By common sense and intuition... No. For example, Let's say a 747 airplane is worth one billion dollars. In short, one billion dollars in cash symbolically represents a 747. It is impossible for one man to build a 747 yet it is possible for one man to accumulate a billion dollars. Both one billion dollars of cash and a 747 symbolically represent the same value but it is possible for a single human to generate one billion dollars of cash but not possible to generate a plane. How is this possible?

By logic, since wealth comes from people and one person is incapable of producing a billion dollars then for the billionaire to even exist he must've taken wealth from other people.

The question is... how was the wealth taken? The answer is not obvious.

No single man has the physical or mental ability to run a company just like how no single man has the ability to produce a billion dollars in wealth. Thus to create 1 billion dollars in wealth (or a 747) many people MUST work together. A lot of people working together are often called Corporations (Sound familiar?). Corporations are essentially massive groups of people producing massive amounts of wealth.

We can also agree that by logic that the wealth produced by a corporation or a startup is bounded by the sum of the TOTAL WEALTH that the employees of the startup are capable of producing. But what does this have to do with wealth inequality?

Where wealth inequality comes into play is the DISTRIBUTION of the wealth produced by the corporation. The startup owner, the CEO, the C-level executives get an exaggerated portion of this wealth. It's basically a million dollar salary for a CEO who has the work output a single human being. A million dollars pays for 10 human engineers!

But it gets worse then this. At the most extreme case comes the Corporate owner (aka shareholder). Here we have a human that can contribute ZERO work. The owner contributes nothing to the corporation yet by virtue of being the owner he can extract an extreme amount of wealth. As a stock owner you do ZERO work in increasing the value of the company yet you as a stock owner benefited directly from it.

This is where wealth inequality comes from. It does not come from one person working harder than another. If this was the case then people would be relatively more or less equal in terms of wealth as one person can't really produce much more than another person no matter how hard he works, how strong he is, or how intelligent he is. The problem I describe here is a FEATURE of capitalism. Capitalism is the foundation of human civilization.

I'm not making this stuff up. This phenomenon was first noticed by a person called Karl Marx. Karl Marx developed this thing called Communism to combat the above problem. While communism didn't work out in practice, what Karl Marx noticed about it: that wealth inequality is an inevitable consequence of capitalism, was very true. Karl Marx is still considered a genius among many academics today because he was able to identify this critical flaw.

>So when I hear people saying that economic inequality is bad and should be eliminated, I feel rather like a wild animal overhearing a conversation between hunters. But the thing that strikes me most about the conversations I overhear is how confused they are. They don't even seem clear whether they want to kill me or not.

That's because no clear answer exists. Why forcefully make up an answer?

The benefits of wealth inequality are numerous. Capitalism is an anthropological phenomenon. The dawn of civilization started because hunter and gatherers developed the ability to accumulate wealth. Once wealth exists, you get wealth inequality. With wealth inequality you get poor people and rich people. Rich people can pay poor people to build amazing things like boeing 747s and the great pyramids. Rich people will also by virtue of having other people work for them, have a bunch of leisure time to play with subjects unrelated to survival like science, math, and art leading indirectly to the technological civilization we have today.

There is no doubt, that capitalism (aka wealth inequality) has lead to the advanced technological society that exists in the world today. The question of whether or not it is justified is more of a moral question. The thousands of workers who were paid pennies to build the Great Wall of China or the Great Pyramids... Did they get their fair share of the wealth? Do the workers/engineers who made the 747, did they get a fair share of the wealth? There is no question, that from a moral standpoint, the answer is unequivocally: NO. But from a infrastructure and economic standpoint, for the advanced technological civilization that live in today to exist, it was probably necessary.

Looking towards the future I would ask, is there a better way? Is there a way to make a society that is both efficient and moral? Communism was one possible answer, is there a better answer?

77
jgalt212 1 day ago 0 replies      
PG, and his ilk, are increasing inequality in this country largely because they are exploiting the carried interest tax loophole whereby they are able to re-classify regular income as long term capital gains which is taxed at a much lower rate (now approx 23.9%, but used to be 15%). In any case, both are lower than the top federal rate of 39.6%.

Even worse than the VC's are the HF mangers like Dan Loeb and Einhorn who set up re-insurers in Bermuda and push all their earnings here (except the are not declared as earnings (and taxed) but as reserves against future claims (and not taxed)).

Carried interest isn't the only bogeyman, but it's by far the largest one at the individual level. There are tons at the corporate level (which is then monenitzed by Tim Cook, et al, by paying themselves in stock which goes up in price as their burgeoning untaxed corporate cash hoards accumulate).

I am free marketeer, but all these crony capitalism set asides are anything but the free market in action.

78
johnchristopher 1 day ago 0 replies      
How can the pie fallacy be true and false at the same time (and from one paragraph to the next) ?
79
ap22213 1 day ago 0 replies      
Why not just have one tax, a death tax? Set the barrier high enough so that people may will their children and grandchildren enough money to do nothing.
80
PSJ707 1 day ago 0 replies      
Strawman Paul Graham's Conversation with the Poor

Man: I am worried about my next meal and seeing my children move up in the world past my station.

Graham: Well I can't relate to that I live in one of the best school districts in the world with some of the country's highest housing prices. My primary concern is what I will choose to eat at Sweetgrass or Chipotle.

Man: The school's in my district can't afford enough desks for students and are using Textbooks from the 90's. If the government was better funded by the taxes of the wealthy it could help to alleviate poverty.

Graham: Are you anti-startup? We have brought you Snapchat: the foremost service to allow upper-middle class teenagers to share pictures of their genitals, and Uber: a taxi substitute that makes it easier to get home after drinking yourself silly at the local gastropub. We created wealth, don't blame us for fighting tooth and nail to keep from paying our fair share into the government while we benefit from it's protection and services.

Man: I don't use any of those services, in fact I don't even have a phone or Internet services.

Graham: Well that's okay provided you fit into a model I have chosen to explain away the guilt I feel at becoming the thing I vowed to disrupt and change for the better as a young man, let me tell you about The Polynomial Curve. That should make you feel better for not being able to send your daughter to college.

81
stefantalpalaru 1 day ago 0 replies      
> If one woodworker makes 5 chairs and another makes none, the second woodworker will have less money, but not because anyone took anything from him.

Are you sure? What about that limited supply of high quality wood required to "create wealth" by shaping it into chairs?

82
hammerandtongs 1 day ago 2 replies      
I LOVE that Paul Graham posted this just a day after posting Mark Twain's "corn-pone opinions" with no sense of irony or self awareness.

""""You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I'll tell you what his 'pinions is."...

The black philosopher's idea was that a man is not independent, and cannot afford views which might interfere with his bread and butter. If he would prosper, he must train with the majority; in matters of large moment, like politics and religion, he must think and feel with the bulk of his neighbors, or suffer damage in his social standing and in his business prosperities."""

This billionaire's opinion of wealth inequality, his own part in it, and the straw men he battles are the very essence of corn-pone based thinking that Twain is speaking to.

Graham's (toxic and highly biased) opinion about wealth inequality is a condition of how he gets his corn-pone every day. To him, however, this corn-pone opinion becomes the very essence of rational thinking amongst himself and his peers (like Marc Andreesen and his periodic twitterisms).

83
api 1 day ago 0 replies      
The hole in the positive sum view of capitalism is the effect that savings have on asset and commodity prices.

Savings equals debt equals savings. Money has to be put somewhere. When the savings of the top 10% or so exceed a certain threshold then they tend to be dumped into things like property or "safe" forms of debt like student loans and mortgages.

Thus the wealth of the rich does steal from the poor, not directly but by making housing, college, and commodities more expensive. Your savings is why I can't afford a house.

Keynes called this "savings beyond planned investment" and on that count at least history seems to be proving him right.

To make capitalism truly positive sum we must find a way to deal with this problem. Perhaps the answer is to make things like equity investment and startup founding even easier-- to increase the efficiency and availability of productive growth investment markets so they can compete for idle dollars against destructive rentier investments.

So while I no longer believe in naive Randianism on these issues, I do still prefer non coercive solutions if such can be found. I wonder if the sort of work YC is doing is really the "problem" or whether PG is actually a bit wrong about that. Every startup represents some investment capital going somewhere other than to jack up the rent.

Sarbanes Oxley seems like precisely the wrong thing. I wonder if the present day housing silliness would exist if IPOs hadn't been made borderline illegal. The housing bubble, which made housing unaffordable to at least two generations, immediately followed the partial closure of the IPO market. Did all the capital that should have gone into post-series-A-D financing go into inflating real estate instead?

84
michaelsbradley 1 day ago 0 replies      
I find it's good to re-read Rerum Novarum[1] (1891) and Centesimus Annus[2] (1991), now and again:

[1] http://w2.vatican.va/content/leo-xiii/en/encyclicals/documen...

[2] http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/doc...

85
dang 9 hours ago 0 replies      
> Graham's selfishness and greed is disgusting.

Personal attacks are not allowed here. Regardless of one's views of economics, toxic comments like this one poison Hacker News. Please don't.

86
throwaway2048 1 day ago 0 replies      
This post uses some inflammatory language, but people should really think about what its saying before they flag it. Being rich and connected is extremely likely to be why PG never ended up in jail and went on to create YC and this website.

Consider what other people that get written off by society for being poor or lacking connections or being criminals could have contributed.

A world where nearly everyone is relegated to these groups is increasingly becoming our world. That's why income inequality matters.

87
marcoperaza 1 day ago 0 replies      
I love this short clip of Margaret Thatcher being confronted about rising income inequality. She makes the argument against that kind of thinking as well as anyone ever has. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okHGCz6xxiw
88
wtvanhest 1 day ago 1 reply      
PG is an amazing writer and the wood worker analogy is very smart, but I am just amazed at how biased he is against finance.

I do not know a single person who gets in to finance because 'they want to be rich'. Most people go in to finance because it is viewed as a meritocracy where all your coworkers are really smart. I'm disappointed that someone as smart and experienced as PG has not taken the time to understand such a large a diverse industry.

Perl 6 Released perl6advent.wordpress.com
431 points by e15ctr0n   ago   184 comments top 29
1
SwellJoe 8 days ago 3 replies      
Perl 6 sort of set itself up for a tremendous uphill battle. By taking so long to "firm up", in terms of specification (or the test suite, in this case), while Perl 5 had a period of neglect, it lost a whole bunch of its early momentum to other languages. Sometimes, former Perl programmers have passed through two or three other languages as their "primary" language since they last called Perl home (I know there are several formerly reasonably well-known Perl folks who are more known now for their involvement in JavaScript, Go, or Haskell, or Rust, etc.).

It would take a ridiculously advanced language to counter that turning of the tides. Luckily (or, I guess, not due to luck but because Perl 6 developers realized they had to deliver something amazing to justify the time lost in the wilderness), Perl 6 is a ridiculously advanced language.

I haven't started a new project in Perl in several years (though my primary projects, which have existed for 9-17 years, are in Perl), but I'm strongly considering making my next project a Perl 6 project. It looks like a really fun language. All the stuff I like about Perl, with almost none of the stuff I don't, plus some advanced stuff that I don't even know enough to know why I might want it. But, I know that Higher Order Perl for Perl 5 (which I actually read while I was mostly working in Python) was a lot of fun and made me a better programmer, so I assume Perl 6 and its new paradigms will be similarly eye-opening.

2
bane 8 days ago 2 replies      
This is impossibly exciting. Most people don't realize it yet, but it's like a programming language hand grenade just went off in the world...little bits of the new paradigms in Perl 6 are going to start winding their way into languages of the future.

I first remember learning about rumors around the development of Perl 6 about the time I picked up Perl 5 for the first time. I had been doing a bunch of C and C++ code (and a smattering of Java) up to that point, but coding in Perl was like hitting the idea accelerator. At the time (programming resources on the Internet were few and far between) I didn't even know where to look to find resources to do things in C++ that were quick one-off scripts in Perl. Need CGI? No problem. Mucking around with a database, here ya go.

I jettisoned C++ and dove heavily into Perl for years after that. I'm pretty sure that Perl made me a much worse programmer (it turns laziness into a kind of opiate), but a better conceptual developer -- I now had a much better idea of what computers could do, and didn't have to reinvent an entire civilization every time I wanted to do something (not a joke, where and when I worked, I was partially responsible for working on a pre-STL String library for C++, that's where we were in the world). Perl was really the first time I had encountered the productivity benefits a true high-level language could bring.

I've since abandoned Perl and have moved onto Python for day-to-day. There's lots of electrons spilled by many former Perlers who've made similar transitions. I've never really liked Python in the same way I liked writing Perl. With Python I've always felt like I'm assembling Tinker Toys or an erector set into a thing. It's quick to build and it works in the end but there's not much passion in it. With Perl I always felt like I was writing poetry -- code just sort of fell out of me.

I thought about checking out Go, but there's something about the sort of terse opinion the language designers have about the language that's made me feel like the entire language is a premature optimization that's going to go stale quick.

Perl 6 feels like we've just entered a new evolutionary period, where we've been given all new tools, where the opinion is careful inclusionism. It's like being stuck writing couplets and haiku in Perl 5 and now we can write anything.

Congratulations Larry et. al. This has been a long time coming, and I hope this is an amazing start!

3
doodpants 8 days ago 2 replies      
> We will continue to ship monthly releases, which will continue to improve performance and our users experience.

Is that a Freudian slip? Do they really only have one user? :-)

4
cies 8 days ago 0 replies      
I'm really excited about Perl6, it is so jam packed with interesting novel features, that it serves as an amazing testbed for stretching the limits of what programming languages are capable of. I always feel that Ruby was a language that came out of Perl; a subset of it's features, carefully selected and implemented with the knowledge of what did not go too well with Perl. This might just happen again with Perl 6, judging from the exotic features it brings together.

Thanks Larry and co! So this Christmas it did happen :)

5
danso 8 days ago 1 reply      
Congrats! The new regex features sound exciting ("Dramatically reforms and sets a new standard in regex syntax, which scales up to full grammars powerful enough to parse Perl 6 itself")

I really liked the post that precedes the submitted one, in which Perl 6 is described as a teenager being adopted into a family, "An Unexpectedly Long-expected Party" https://perl6advent.wordpress.com/2015/12/24/an-unexpectedly...

6
unixhero 8 days ago 2 replies      
Learn X in Y Minutes[0] is a fresh and quick intro to Perl6. It looks jolly good, readable(!) and quite fun!I hope I get to work on a project in Perl6.

[0] https://learnxinyminutes.com/docs/perl6/

7
kriro 8 days ago 2 replies      
Perl was probably the first language I did interesting stuff in (yay IRC-bots, who didn't write one in Perl) but I gradually moved on to other languages. I didn't keep up with it at all, only knew that Perl6 took forever. Then I read up on Perl6 and now I'm really excited about the language. One of the projects I want to work on involves building a DSL, most likely an external one. I was pretty set on using ANTLR4 for it but now I'm seriously thinking about Perl6 as that seems to be one of the strength of the language.
8
godzillabrennus 8 days ago 5 replies      
Duke Nukem Forever and Perl 6 in my lifetime? Next thing you'll know we will have cold fusion.
9
julianpye 8 days ago 3 replies      
My first thought for Perl 6 killerapp: a html5/js build replacement for grunt, gulp and other such monstrosities.
10
marshray 8 days ago 1 reply      
On behalf of a long time onlooker: Congratulations, Perl 6!
11
nstart 7 days ago 0 replies      
On a side note, I love how welcoming all the language is around getting people to join the community. Off to the irc we go :)
12
BuckRogers 8 days ago 0 replies      
I can't say I'll be using Perl6 for my next project, but I'm glad it's here because it should push other languages forward in meaningful ways. I think the PL landscape has been missing something and Perl6 was it.
13
meesterdude 8 days ago 4 replies      
Perl was the very first language I learned. I was using it to parse incoming emails to insert records into a timetracking database, so i could log my time via email. loved it.

But ya know, 15 years is a long time. in fact i was around 16 at the time, and am 30 now, and remember talk about perl 6.

I'm a ruby guy now, and I don't see how I could ever go back to perl. Is perl 7 going to take another 15? or 30?

Despite whatever features came about; i should not need to wait half my life to get them. That I think reflects poorly on the perl culture, or its momentum. And it's not that perl 5 was without issues (though they were rare for me)

Maybe a revival will come about from this, and maybe a change of pace and approach; but as it stands the 15 years it took to release feels closer to failure than to a success, and to tie my code to such neglected foundations does not jive with me. Or maybe I just really like ruby now.

Honestly, I hope something good comes of it. Even if its just new features that other languages go on to adopt or take cues from.

14
scriptdevil 8 days ago 1 reply      
I installed rakudo and played with it a little. However, the repl was horrible. Is there a repl that accepts multiline subroutines and if possible readline support?
15
3dfan 8 days ago 7 replies      
Variable names can contain dashes?

Then how do you know what this means:

 users=users-churn-rate*time
oh, i see ... they are prefixed with $. so it's:

 $users=$users-$churn-rate*$time
Hm... still a bit confusing. But ok. It can be avoided by avoiding dashes in variable names.

16
rsiqueira 7 days ago 0 replies      
Perl6 example:

sub (@array_to_sum) { return [+] @array_to_sum; }

say (1,2,3,4); # It will display 10

17
Sniffnoy 7 days ago 0 replies      
18
stesch 7 days ago 1 reply      
Some of the operators use non ASCII characters. Here is how you enter them: http://doc.perl6.org/language/unicode_entry

No risk, no fun.

19
bshimmin 7 days ago 0 replies      
I have a lot of fond memories of Perl from a decade or so ago, and would love to do something more than just installing and tinkering with Perl 6 and then forgetting all about it. I also conveniently have a little "weekend project" coming up where I can probably just choose whatever language seems most fun (and then rewrite it in something sensible later if it grows beyond "weekend" status).

If I chose Perl 6, what's a nice Sinatra-esque thing, and is there an ORM? And how do I deploy it and run it in production (copy it into cgi-bin?!)?

20
bad_user 7 days ago 2 replies      
The thing that excited me about Perl6 was Parrot (http://parrot.org), which is supposed to be this very ambitious VM targeting dynamic languages.

But unfortunately it seems that Perl6 is Rakudo and they've developed a Rakudo specific VM. Maybe that's best for Perl6 the language, but it also makes it less interesting for me.

21
Thiz 8 days ago 1 reply      
I like what I see. Now make it available at Godaddy, Namecheap and all hosting providers for it to dethrone PHP as the king of the web.
22
sofaofthedamned 8 days ago 6 replies      
How many times is it going to be posted on HN that Perl 6 is released?!
23
frik 7 days ago 0 replies      
It's impressive how different the languages Perl (5 -> 6), PHP (5 -> 7; no 6) and Python (2 -> 3) developed in the last 10 years. And how their community reacted and their transition to newer releases.
24
mintplant 8 days ago 1 reply      
Are there any good tutorials/introductions/blog posts/etc. on using Perl6 for language parsing/implementation?
25
rubyfan 7 days ago 1 reply      
Anyone have an idea of how perl6 performs? All the performance articles I've read are really old.
26
nedludd 7 days ago 0 replies      
As if to confirm Perl's descent into obscurity they give the release a name that 95% of the people of the world can't read.

The cherry on top of the public relations disaster that the introduction of Perl6 has been...

27
gabesullice 8 days ago 1 reply      
Didn't quite make it by Christmas
28
bitmadness 8 days ago 4 replies      
Too little, too late, IMO. The world has moved to Ruby and Go for the web/cloud and Python for data analysis/scientific computing.
29
Kabacaru 7 days ago 3 replies      
I'm fairly disappointed with this release. My read through of a tutorial in it went something like this:

* Oh you're sticking with that confusing % for hashes, @ for arrays then $ for everything else... maybe maybe classes have been sorted out though.

* Hmm, why is the syntax for defining a class totally different to defining functions and variables everywhere else

* Well they can't have made anything WORSE. Oh fields can have minuses in them?? Packages exist and you can define them but you're not supposed to anymore?

* Well at least you can't totally rewrite the language in some arcane way which means every bit of perl you come across is totally different and unreadable for 45min while you work out what the custom DSL does. looks at phasers, Meta operators, fix'es sigh

Great that this has finally been released, but it really doesn't solve the problems that Perl always had that it is TOO expressive and too customisable, meaning it'll always be vastly different project to project. On top of that it doesn't have the things that people are really excited about now, which is channels, selects and other things that make async easy. I think that this would have been an amazing release when Ruby was getting popular, but I think it's a few years too late.

A Requiem for Ian Murdock ebb.org
408 points by hepha1979   ago   122 comments top 14
1
hpaavola 3 days ago 1 reply      
Just one day ago I had no idea who Ian Murdock was. He's name was not known to me even though I used to develop commercial software that shipped his creation inside. Had used his creation as my operating system for years.

So thank you Ian Murdock for helping me professionally, economically and just making my life better. And here's to all those great minds that do wonderful things to help us all out, even though most do not know you at all.

2
walterbell 3 days ago 2 replies      
> ArsTechnica investigation: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10817913

A point of analysis for the inquiry: can Twitter make a full dump of tweets available to journalists and investigators? Historical data is available to organizations who pay for Twitter's full data feed subscription. Many people who write/tweet from a mobile phone will use auto-correct. There were unusual spelling errors in the recent batch of tweets. Were these spelling errors consistent with his past spelling errors? Did his past tweets have spelling errors, or did they include words which are typical of auto-correct (i.e. correctly spelled but wrong within tweet context)? Did the tweets originate from a mobile phone? Any clues from gait analysis of the phone's accelerometer?

If observers are going to use a few tweets as a proxy indicator of evidence for mental state, those tweets should be evaluated within the context of all prior pubic tweets, including a history (or not) of tweeting under the influence. Furthermore, did Ian reach out to other members of his large technology community on channels other than Twitter? Those communications could also be proxy indicators of his perceptions, wishes and intentions. He must have reached out in person and 1:1 for support.

The highest priority is to understand what Ian would want at this point, using all available recent/historical data from all available online and offline channels. This does not mean that all data must be public, only that Ian's trusted confidantes be the ones to review both private and public data, at an appropriate time. But all public data should be consolidated by capable journalists.

A carefully structured public/private analysis can inform our individual and collective response to future incidents. Such tragedies have happened enough times [1] that we need proactive and preventive cultural and data-driven guidance within the technology community, the same way that opsec has become critical to journalists.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Programmers_who_commi...

3
jackbravo 3 days ago 0 replies      
And it is remarkably true that the Debian project is like a unicorn. Very few projects are truly a community effort, and at the same time truly democratic. Linux has a BDFL (Benevolent Dictator for Life) as Drupal, Wordpress and many other projects.
4
jonathaneunice 3 days ago 0 replies      
I didn't always agree with Ian, but he was one of those people for whom that would be a clue to revisit and reevaluate my own point of view. No nonsense, and the the wheels were always turning. Five levels deep and six steps ahead. Deep respect. RIP.
5
keithpeter 3 days ago 0 replies      
https://bits.debian.org/2015/12/mourning-ian-murdock.html

Debian page for Mr Murdock. Note the modified logo.

6
puppetmaster3 3 days ago 2 replies      
Here are his last tweets before being deleted:http://archive.is/4a138
7
transfire 3 days ago 3 replies      
This reminds of a case a few months back, give or take, but I can't quite remember. Similar circumstance of altercations with police and then sudden suicide. Does anyone else recall?
8
mmsmatt 3 days ago 0 replies      
My first distro was Corel Desktop Linux, based on Debian circa 2001. That started me on a path of exploration I've never left.

Now I wait for the rest of the story...

9
lifeisstillgood 3 days ago 0 replies      
I have spent too long building software that is bent or rippled because I feel the need to deliver it for today.

It's a selfish decision, and is not a valid memoriam, but I intend to take a leaf out of Ian's book, and build software and communities for the long haul - how will this look in 12 months or 12 years, when today's pressures have vanished in the wind.

It's not much for someone who built so much, but it's all I have.

10
guinez 2 days ago 0 replies      
My Condolences. I just lear about Ian. Debian has been an essential tool for my research.
11
aphrax 3 days ago 0 replies      
I never knew the origin of the ne Debian. RIP Ian and condolences to the family
12
patrickaljord 3 days ago 6 replies      
Kind of disappointed that HN isn't putting a black top banner to show respect to Ian like they did with Steve Jobs and others. I've been using Debian for more than 15 years and it runs half of the web today, the International Space Station, Tesla motor vehicles and more. Ian's impact on the world and our community is simply incalculable. It also looks like he wanted to use his suicide to grab people's attention on the issues of police brutality, serving humanity even through his death. Thank you Ian.
13
transfire 3 days ago 6 replies      
Why do we keep losing all these good men at such young ages?

* Ian Murdock (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Murdock)

* Michael Hastings (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Hastings_%28journalist...)

* Aaron Swartz (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_Swartz)

14
scrollaway 3 days ago 1 reply      
> with someone who has gone as far as low to kill themselves

Far lower yet is he who would criticize the dead. You won't be forced to sympathize, but nobody asked you to give commentary on how superior you feel to suicide victims.

No, it doesn't make it right. But it's especially not right to do what you're doing now.

Best things and stuff of 2015 fogus.me
442 points by platz   ago   85 comments top 18
1
kbenson 5 days ago 6 replies      
Crap, I still have a tab open in my browser at home for the best things and stuff of 2013[1] that I haven't made it though, and I first opened it when it was posted in late 2013! I really need to devote some time to that, since I've bothered to make sure that tab survived for two years.

1: http://blog.fogus.me/2013/12/27/the-best-things-and-stuff-of...

2
wcarss 5 days ago 1 reply      
This has become one of the few end-of-year wrap-ups that I actively look forward to seeing, both as inspiration to read more and as a source for interesting ideas.

As usual, this is an amazing trove of interesting links and top notch personal accounting. Thank you, fogus!

3
sotojuan 5 days ago 2 replies      
For discovering music I recommend Rate Your Music. You don't need an account, just go to the "charts" page and you can search by any genre (really, any!), country of artist or reviewers, by top rating or "esoteric" rating, etc.

The site is also getting an overhaul with a new name in April which will have even more powerful searches.

4
awjr 5 days ago 0 replies      
There was one blog post that had the most profound impact on my development approach for Single Page Apps. http://www.pocketjavascript.com/blog/2015/11/23/introducing-...

Discussed herehttps://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10619933

I find it to be the one article I can link to people that has a profound impact on the way they think about web app development.

5
twoquestions 5 days ago 3 replies      
Wow, how does somebody get all that reading/working done in a year?
6
bostonpete 5 days ago 2 replies      
He's done all that reading and still hasn't read Snow Crash? What the what...?

Edit: It's been on his "Still Haven't Read" list since 2010. Maybe it's some sort of inside joke at this point...

7
sandGorgon 5 days ago 4 replies      
Deja vu. I wonder how he came across one of the really old works of Zakir Hussain. One of the greatest percussionists of Indian classical music of all time.
8
aresant 5 days ago 2 replies      
Just discovered "Kiwi Crates" via this post. As parent to a 4 and 3 year old = incredible find. Love the blend of simplicity (delivered w/everything) and still meaningful construction. Anything else like this parents of HN can share?
9
Animats 5 days ago 0 replies      
His choice of a social analysis of Thomas the Tank Engine is disappointing. Slate covered this in 2011, and was far better.[1] Sodor has the morals and ethics of Imperial Britain. It's all about duty. Duty to one's social superiors. There are even posters, "Sir Topham Hatt says Have you Been Really Useful Today?" Think of this as you stare at your cube walls.

[1] http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2011/07/thomas...

10
SeanDav 5 days ago 0 replies      
Good to see LoseThos there. An interesting story about an interesting guy - and also a great programmer.
11
Idontagree 5 days ago 1 reply      
I really gotta ask what's w/ snow crash this year? Did it get mentioned somewhere, I've just seen it a bunch from my family, now here; but I read it like 15 years ago. Is it because of Seveneves?
12
pjbriggs 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is a pleasure to see I had read the last two years but i think this is the one that will make me actively remember it in coming years.
13
agumonkey 5 days ago 0 replies      
The 2014 and 2015 paragraphs are the most intersting to me.

The effort toward productivity, the 100:10:1 rule.

Pretty good stuff.

14
zeeshanm 5 days ago 6 replies      
According to this post - the author's read at least two books per week in 2015. How does one do that? Serious question.
15
tamana 5 days ago 0 replies      
I guess web caching is not one of the best things of 2015. Site is down.
16
polskibus 5 days ago 0 replies      
Hi fh
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elliotec 5 days ago 0 replies      
Fogus is the man.
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melted 5 days ago 4 replies      
There's no way anyone can actually work and read 2 books per week. I call bullshit on this one.
} // good to go scottmeyers.blogspot.com
489 points by ingve   ago   71 comments top 13
1
hendzen 3 days ago 0 replies      
I work at a C++ shop, and out of all the hardcopy programming references we have floating around, the most common, by far, are copies of all of Scott Meyer's books.

When 'Effective Modern C++' was released, we formed a reading group to convene bi-weekly to discuss an item from the book. His works have been an invaluable resource to us.

While I am sad to hear that he will no longer be involved in the C++ community, I look forward to seeing what he does next.

2
hollerith 3 days ago 7 replies      
A good example of why I am opposed to HN's "original title" policy. (Namely, the title of this submission is no help for deciding whether you might want to click on it.)
3
TeMPOraL 3 days ago 0 replies      
Wow. Best wishes to Scott in his new endeavors and a huge thank you. His books transitioned me from someone just playing around with C++ to an actual programmer. The breadth of topics covered, as well as detailed rationale behind every advice given, has profoundly impacted all my programming, regardless of language, and dare I say, even the more abstract engineering-thinking skills.

I still have paper copies of those books and lend them to people who are learning C++.

4
shahbazac 3 days ago 10 replies      
In the post he says that the C++ training market is bustling.

I'm an experienced java guy looking to get in person C++ training. Hopefully something which moves quickly through the basics and addresses advanced concepts in memory management, concurrency and other low level topics.

Anyone have recommendations? The web is full of listings for HOTT, Learning Tree, GlobalKnowledge style mega training companies. Are they actually worth the $3k-$5k they charge? I'm afraid it will be a mediocre programmer droning on for 5 days in front of a power point.

5
mabbo 3 days ago 1 reply      
An astounding career. One wonders where the language itself might have gone but for the efforts of this one man.

I'm absolutely thrilled to get to see what he does next.

6
WalterBright 3 days ago 1 reply      
There's a good reason Scott is at the top of the C++ world. He's the hardest working C++ person I know, and the most committed to perfection and delivering the best value to his clients and customers.All of us in the C++ world owe him a large debt of gratitude.
7
SwellJoe 3 days ago 1 reply      
I don't enjoy working in C++ much, and haven't spent significant time working with it, but found Effective C++ really good and helpful back when I was working on a codebase that was being converted from C to C++.

I wonder if he'll move onto another language, or do something else entirely different. He doesn't say...

8
braythwayt 3 days ago 0 replies      
Scotts writing about C++ profoundly affected the way I approached C++ and every programming language Ive approached since.

Thank you, Scott.

9
sjm 3 days ago 0 replies      
Effective C++ was one of the most purely useful programming books I've come across. I no longer actively use C++ but it stays with me. Thank you Scott.

P.S. Is the cartoon character referred a defender of the secrets of Castle Greyskull? I must know...

Edit/P.P.S: For others interested: http://scottmeyers.blogspot.fr/2014/09/cppcon-hair-poll.html

10
bcoates 3 days ago 1 reply      
Scott Meyers' C++ books weren't just a great guide to the language, they were my first exposure to the idea of programming as a craft.

Before that there was just appeasing the angry demon in the compiler or having the right result; after there was a bigger picture of doing things the right way that would have good results beyond the next trial execution.

11
vinceyuan 3 days ago 2 replies      
Title: } // good to go

The last paragraph: "What's next?," you may wonder. ... The topmost entry? Stop trying to monitor everything in the world of C++ :-)

Sounds like he will dig into Golang.

I learnt a lot from Effective C++. Thank you, Scott Meyers.

12
sridharpoduri 3 days ago 0 replies      
thanks for sharing your expertise and the great memories Scott. Your books were clearly influential on a generation of developers on writing good, concise C++ code. Cannot wait to see what you do next.
13
alva 3 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you Scott.

You were a great help whilst I was starting to learn C++

Why Age of Empires 2 is still growing rockpapershotgun.com
424 points by cpeterso   ago   107 comments top 30
1
thejj 1 day ago 3 replies      
I'd like to remind you that there's openage, a free engine for Age of Empires 2.

https://github.com/SFTtech/openage

It will be the future if you wanna accomplish things the original engine is incapable of doing, especially a sane mod API.

Help us make it more awesome :)

2
brownbat 14 hours ago 1 reply      
Each entry in that series tells you something about the history of gaming at the time. AOE1 made some great innovations in order to handle "1500 archers at 28.8kbps."[0] Conquerers was the dawn of expansions and ultimately DLC.

AoE Online had a bunch of interesting ideas, letting players customize their civilizations ala MMORPGs or MOBAs. Interesting quests too, and good coop for the story mode, something I've always wanted RTS games to pull off better.

They did not need to make it an actual MMO with central servers though, and because it never attracted a playerbase / they couldn't monetize it, it was killed off (meaning completely unplayable) in a pretty short time frame. This seems pretty typical for games of today though, tying them to a central server for an unnecessary social or data tracking layer, dooming them to die in a few years when the income slows down a bit.

AOE2 was privileged to come from a time where installing a game meant you owned it, and you could probably play it with your kids. Maybe you could even take it apart and rebuild it better. We're living in a world now where a lot of games are ephemeral, the world may have no idea what it's like to play them after a few years, once the servers are shut down to run something newer.

[0] http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/131503/1500_archers_on...

3
pm90 1 day ago 2 replies      
AoE 2 in likely the most engaging strategy game I've ever played. I got rather involved in it in college, but was surprised that there were certain "basic strategies" that one had to follow to hope to even survive (e.g. getting to castle age within a certain time for a certain civilization). With the voobly client, its possible to challenge aoe players across the world for a game, and its kinda awesome to cooperate and deal with the mess that comes from playing an RTS game at that level.

Probably true for most strategy games, but aoe seems light enough (requirements wise) and has a great enough balance (and the fact that the game is almost freely available worldwide) enables anyone with a computer with a decent internet connection to play.

4
JoshGlazebrook 1 day ago 5 replies      
Age of Mythology is still one of my favorite games ever. What made it fun is not the real time strategy, but the custom scenario maps that people could create. This wasn't just the terrain, but the mechanics of the maps themselves. It was part "programming" as well as part design.

The multiplayer servers are still online, but the certificate expired years ago. You can force AOM to connect to them with fiddler2, but you have to have an existing account.

But now there is the steam re-release, and of course Voobly/GameRanger for the original release, but the steam version is full of bugs that have not been fixed in over a year.

5
johnloeber 1 day ago 1 reply      
I've played a great deal of AoE2. Here are some comments:

* The two new expansions are nice. The developers have done an excellent job at maintaining the balance of the game and not pushing any outlandish changes. (After all, the game thrives on a nostalgia factor.) However, it's apparent that it comes from a tiny dev studio. Releases are usually littered with bugs and playability issues. This is a great shame, because they manage to garner significant hype and excitement, only for the release day to be somewhat frustrating for most players.

* In fact, due to the small size of the dev team, there usually is a long turnaround period on fixing smaller gameplay issues. This means that most of the more invested players, who are more easily irritated than the casual players, use other, older, more established clients to play the game, where the new expansions are not available. Indeed, the new expansions, while very similar in spirit to the 13-year-old expansions, change the metagame so significantly that at the competitive level, only the 13-year old expansion is played. This deeply fragments the player base. The new expansions, and AoE2 on Steam in general, are mostly played by newcomers.

* It's very difficult to get the advanced players to take the expansions seriously because the competitive scene has been basically unchanged for about fifteen years. As such, the theoretical metagame has been nearly perfected, and the random components in game generation do not make a difference to the point of needing true improvisational play. Competitive players have spent months, if not years, carefully practicing minutely differing iterations of the same game scenarios. I've seen professional players end games over early-game mistakes that an intermediate player might not even notice. I consider it a little similar to chess, in the sense that the metagame/opening theory is so well explored that the game can rarely be considered improvisational, but is more like a ballet performance: an extremely well-studied routine that has to be executed as perfectly as possible (which, by the way, means above 400 actions per minute for a top player). Considering the immense amount of study that has gone into the game, and the even larger amount of practice required to become truly good, it is clear that most competitive players would rather keep spending their time on the old game, as opposed to on the new expansions -- the latter would necessitate a great amount of exploration of new strategies, and a similarly enormous amount of practice.

6
fouadf 1 day ago 4 replies      
If you're a fan of age of empires 2, you should definitely try 0ad http://play0ad.com it's open source and multiplatform
7
necessity 15 hours ago 2 replies      
As an active player since forever, Steam has ruined this game. It's full of bugs from 1999 and a whole lot new ones -- currently the lobby won't list games, you have to use a third party website. There is a pinned thread on Steam's support forums for a variety of bugs that are common to a lot of players (and the solutions don't always work), there are horrendous net issues ("Waiting for players", "Out of sync"), etc. I just don't play on Steam anymore.

Voobly, an unofficial platform similar to Gameranger, + mod community and tournament organizer, has a very active player base, including most of the top players in the game. It has it's own HD patch and several improvements not present in Steam. It's impressive how an unofficial, unsupported, free plataform can be light years ahead of the billionaires at the Valve/Microsoft partnership.

8
snydly 1 day ago 4 replies      
One of the greatest breakthroughs of my life was realizing that you only had to type "cheese steak jimmy's" once, then ctrl-c, then ctrl-v as much as you want. It was a great day.
9
ndesaulniers 1 day ago 2 replies      
I still play a ton of Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds, which is just a Star Wars re-skin of AoE2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Wars:_Galactic_Battlegrou...
10
xerography 16 hours ago 0 replies      
AoE II HD [1] and AoE II HD: The Forgotten [2] are currently on 80% discount holiday sale on Steam.

Offer ends in 29 hours and 15 minutes as of this writing.

[1]: http://store.steampowered.com/app/221380

[2]: http://store.steampowered.com/app/239550

11
andygrunwald 1 day ago 2 replies      
AoE is great. I was so happy after they released the HD release. The bad part is that there is no native MacOSX version available :(
12
cwbrandsma 1 day ago 0 replies      
As I'm reading this my 14 year old daughter and my 12 year old son are playing a game while discussing strategies and having a blast.
13
OSButler 1 day ago 0 replies      
The thing I like so much about it are the different civilizations, which come with their own unique language and music.It's a minor detail and helps a bit with the immersion, compared to just a simple paint job to differentiate between them.
14
tomphoolery 1 day ago 0 replies      
TIL people sitll play AoE 2! I used to play this game all the time at the all-night LAN parties my friends hosted. It was great because the graphics weren't so crazy that literally anyone could play it, so it always commanded the largest amounts of players, other than Counter-Strike: Source.
15
mrsuprawsm 1 day ago 0 replies      
I loved the original Age of Empires (+ Rise of Rome), I remember asking a friend who was lucky enough to have a CD writer at the time to copy it for me; probably the first game I ever pirated.

AOE2 HD on Steam is great fun, I've really enjoyed playing it over LAN with friends (and online, although the competition is much harder).

Unfortunately a reasonable percentage of games run into unrecoverable issues with the netcode - clients lagging out and going out of sync. It's a real shame and I hope the devs get some time to focus on this, especially now that 2 expansions are out.

16
rmm 1 day ago 1 reply      
Played a LOT of AOE2 back in the day.

However, I was always more of a fan of AoE1 RoR expansion. Anyone else? Something about the brutal simplicity of it, made it much more fun for me and my friends?

Would love to see that "HD'ified"!

17
Merem 1 day ago 0 replies      
As someone who plays AoE2 from time to time on Voobly, I consider this and the HD versions to be complete separate games, simply for the fact that said expansions are for the HD release but not the original one (original mod aside). So people like me are by these releases completely unaffected.
18
verelo 15 hours ago 2 replies      
I've wanted to play this on iOS for so long! Very frustrating to see it Windows only still :-( If anyone from MS is here, please please please consider compiling this for iOS, I know a lot of people who would buy it.

I believe OpenAge is cross platform, but sadly most friends all use the version they purchased on Steam.

19
TulliusCicero 1 day ago 1 reply      
Neat. Man, I'd love to see this happen to Starcraft 1.
20
mgr86 1 day ago 0 replies      
I played a lot of aoe I and some 2 as a kid. Nearly 30 now and have not so much time for gaming. But the online streaming community is impressive and the skill level is high. Also there was a 120k tournament last year for a 15 year old game. It's very impressive.
21
arjn 1 day ago 0 replies      
Have been playing AoE on and off for a while now. Still like the game. Wish I had more time to play it.It has certain playing qualities that hold one's interest over time. Even when compared to other more modern games.
22
praetorian84 23 hours ago 1 reply      
Can we get an AoE 4 already?
23
Aqwis 1 day ago 2 replies      
One thing I'd like to see improved is the unit AI, which is frustratingly poor. This would probably annoy some serious multiplayers, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
24
Houshalter 1 day ago 5 replies      
I have just started playing AoE2 again. I have some complaints.

The units are so stupid and frustrating. They will casually walk into the range of enemy castles and towers. They will chase units across the map if you don't put them into defensive mode. If you do put them into defensive mode, they can easily be take out by archers without fighting back. They will open gates and let hordes of enemies into your town. They will stand there and continue cutting wood while an enemy army approaches them and kills their coworkers. The monks won't attack units unless you specifically order them to. Etc, etc. It makes parts of the game very tedious and unenjoyable.

The campaigns are similarly tedious. At first it's really fun and challenging, if you have the difficulty right. It's a challenge to figure out how to repel the big attacks and build up very quickly.

But after building up, it's no longer a challenge. And to win, you just need to spend an hour clicking through the enemies base destroying their structures. Even though you basically won an hour ago.

The multiplayer is terrifying. I tried it once and within like 10 minutes my opponent had surrounded my base with cannon towers and trebuchets. I haven't played it since.

The AI scripting is really cool. It's super simple to learn, very easy to modify other people's scripts, and very powerful. You can do a lot with just a few lines of their domain specific language. And you don't need any programming knowledge at all. And it's very extensive. There are tons of variables and functions available that let you do all kinds of things, and it's well documented.

But it's also extremely restricted. You can't do basic things like store variables, compare numbers, etc. There are arbitrary limits on how many conditions you can have in a conditional, how many lines you can have total, etc. They are workable, but I have no idea why they are even there. The only people modifying AI scripts in the first place are probably willing to accept if the game runs a bit slower because of all the extra code they put in it.

There's also no way to speed up the game. You only get "slow", "normal", or "fast". You need to use Cheat Engine to make the game run a hundred times faster. This is necessary for testing those AI scripts, or getting through those tedious offensive parts I mentioned above. They should have just let it be an option in the game.

Same with other variables like population limit, that's restricted to 200 for no reason. If I want a higher limit, I'll accept that the game runs slower. Just let it be an option, even in a hidden menu with a big warning or something. TBF, the new HD edition does let you go up to 500 IIRC.

25
mhuangw 1 day ago 0 replies      
One of my favorite strategy games growing up. It also encouraged a healthy interest in history that persists today.
26
baldfat 1 day ago 0 replies      
I use to play AoE 2 as UConnBBall and wrote for MrFixItOnline. Sadly the website just came down a few years ago. It was an awesome run with that game for me.
27
rietta 1 day ago 0 replies      
Oh! I loved that game as a teenager. Actually, the first one even more so.
28
wnevets 1 day ago 0 replies      
I could never get into aoe2 after playing aoe rise of rome for so long.
29
bronz 1 day ago 0 replies      
Check out Feudal Wars. It's really cool.

http://www.feudalwars.net

30
anfroid555 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Number one choice for Erlang ide
Dear Architects: Sound Matters nytimes.com
362 points by tysone   ago   138 comments top 25
1
Cshelton 5 days ago 16 replies      
It doesn't talk about it much but...Apartment noise from neighbors. Oh. My. Gosh.

I live in an area where many expensive, luxury apartments have been built in the last few years and every single one of them have complaints from "hearing the person above me set the toilet seat down" for example.

I now base what apartment I live in by the thickness and sound isolation of the walls and ceilings/floors.

I lived in a complex built in the 80's. It's dead silent. I can jump up and down on my floor and the neighbor below me will never hear. Now in a newer complex, I can't walk across my hardwood floored kitchen without knowing my neighbor will hear every footstep. I have to take the people above me a bottle of wine and ask them kindly to try and not make as much noise as it sounds like they are moving furniture ALL THE TIME. Even though it's not their fault...and they really aren't moving furniture every evening...They are just walking around...

Architects, engineers, whoever...please, please, please, stop skimping out on noise insulation in new construction. You are creating a whole generation of buildings that are awful to live in. My next apartment, I have no idea what I'm going to do...the tour ends right away for me when I hear thumps from above the second I walk into the room.

I seriously shouldn't and don't want to know every time the couple next to me has sex or the guys on the other side of me are watching a loud action movie.

I would pay so much more in rent per month for a place that had more sound insulation. Take note building developers. I WILL PAY MORE.

2
Anechoic 5 days ago 4 replies      
A friend forwarded this article to me about a half-hour ago. After reading the article a few times, my feelings are a little mixed.

Yes, sound matters. Sound can help to characterize an environment. But I read some of the quotes in the article ("We need reverberation", "The beauty of the high ceilings and big windows was amplified, and humanized, by the scratching of chairs and the clomp-clomp of boots on hardwood floors", "There can be privacy in a crowd" etc) and I hope that architects don't come away with the message "background noise is good, silence is bad" because that's not the case.

Look at the Grand Central terminal example - yes, the high ceilings and reverberant background helps to create an atmosphere of a "great metropolis." But it also hurts the intelligibility of conversations and the PA system. You're trading acoustic comfort for atmosphere. The non-native English speaker or hearing-impared patron is not going to appreciate the atmosphere when they miss their train because they couldn't understand the PA announcement that departure platform has changed.

Similarly, yes a room sounds very different when a window is open. Sometimes you need that background noise. I remember being in a bedroom that was so quiet I could hear the blood flowing through my ears. I had to open a window to let in the natural sound to I didn't go crazy. On the other hand, you may not want that sound of sirens coming in at 3am when you, or your newborn, is trying to get some sleep.

I guess my recommendation hasn't changed - hire an acoustician! :)

3
ianamartin 5 days ago 2 replies      
Notice: a slight rant ahead.

I moved from a Dallas, TX suburb to a pretty "nice" place in Brooklyn, NY last June.

Holy shit, the things that people think of as normal and okay here are totally nuts.

I never heard a damn sound from anything in Dallas. Nothing. I could play my classical music pretty much as loud as I wanted whenever I wanted, and neighbors would never hear it.

Here in Brooklyn, I swear to god we live like animals, and people are okay with it.

I got a noise complaint with cops and everything the other day just having reasonably quiet sex with my girlfriend. Neither of us is noisy.

I can hear everything above and below and next to me. It's stupid. There's no central heat/ac. The building just turns on the heat when they feel like it, which is nuts. It's more than 80 degrees in my apt right now. I don't even like that temp ever. I have to open windows to let it cold air to bring the temp down to something reasonable.

There are no reasonable grocery store. If you want to cook a reasonable meal at home with your own cooking skills, you have to go to at least 5 different places, and there's nothing about a store that tells you what you can and can't get there. It's insane. And they don't tell you with a sign on the the door if they are or are not cash only.

I love the opportunities I've found in NYC, and am truly loving my job, but the tradeoffs are fucking terrible. Aside from public transportation, this is the worst, most idiotic city in the world.

Seriously, it's like living as an animal here.

And I live in one of the best parts of Brooklyn. This is just stupid, and I kind of hate it.

4
m52go 5 days ago 3 replies      
I just want to say: that was the most beautiful article-reading experience I've ever had on a publisher's website.

No sidebars, suggestions, social buttons or anything...just quality content presented cleanly with just enough branding and functionality. The moving images with the sound was an excellent touch, and although it's specific to the purpose of this article, I love the idea of looping moving images that aren't obnoxious and add to the content.

I don't read the NYT very much, so I apologize if this is something that's been around for a while.

EDIT: I had loaded the site with Ad Block turned on...so I didn't see the social buttons. Frankly even those are done very elegantly, and if I were a user of those social networks, perhaps I'd even appreciate them.

5
JumpCrisscross 5 days ago 0 replies      
The New York Times recently ran an article detailing the attention, expertise and cost it takes to properly sound-proof an apartment:

"The engineer tested the penthouse to find the problematic noise frequencies, then used accelerometers to measure the shaking. She determined which noises were airborne and which were from vibration. With that information she was able to specify materials and construction methods that would hush the rattle and hum.

Throughout the 3,500-square-foot apartment, pipes and ducts were wrapped in acoustic barrier insulation, walls and ceilings were hung on vibration-absorbing rails and floating floors were installed, at a total cost of about $200,000.

...

The solution is seldom as simple as adding insulation. Noise is insidious. No two room hums are exactly alike, and what silences one might make another worse. 'What a contractor did across town that worked 99 percent of the time might not work for you,' said Alan Fierstein, an acoustical consultant who owns a 39-year-old New York firm called Acoustilog."

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/13/realestate/soundproofing-f...

6
TheAceOfHearts 5 days ago 2 replies      
I wish people spoke more about noise insulation in apartments.

If I don't have a baby, I don't want to be woken up in the middle of the night by crying babies. If I don't have any children, I don't want to hear them yelling all day long.

7
Htsthbjig 5 days ago 0 replies      
I believe New York, or any other crowded big city, like Shanghai or Beijing is hardly the model of how things should sound.

After having lived in those cities I enjoy a lot living in places like Switzerland or Spain where there is silence or people in a much more natural way, like small buildings with pedestrian only streets.

All this background noises in big cities are just cars thermal engine vibration. I hate it. You go to savanna and you see 6 ton elephants that sound very weak because nature is efficient.

8
erentz 5 days ago 2 replies      
Having been dealing with some sound problems lately: I have to observe that American cities are loud compared to most overseas cities in my experience. Everything about them is louder, and I'm not sure why or how it got that way, and why it isn't seen as something to remedy. Particularly when we want to encourage increased density and inner city living. While attacking the problem through better design and insulation is one way I also think we need to look at the amount of noise produced outside too.
9
chiph 5 days ago 2 replies      
A townhouse I used to live in had a two-story open area with a loft for working. It looked terrific, but sounded like a bus station, with awful echoes. Adding curtains helped some, but nothing could be done about all the flat drywall surfaces. I'm thinking that the houses of the 30's-50's, with all the built-ins, were better for this because they broke up the flat surfaces, and thus the echos.
10
triggercut 5 days ago 0 replies      
Not just Architecture, but Town Planning:

When I was studying Architecture I did a group research project around this very idea, but limited it to public space in cities (particularly the one I was in at the time).

We took many recordings in Parks, Retail heavy streets, Business centers (on the weekend), tourist areas etc... We asked people to listen to the recordings and rate things like "Does this space feel Cold or Warm"? As well as asking them to draw a diagram of what they imagined (which is a whole other area of interesting research that I can't remember the name of off the top of my head).

Going through the literature, and more scientific studies, the short history is it's thought we evolved to associate loud, bass sounds, (which are less directional and imply larger masses) with danger (eg, thunder, large earth movements), which can lead to an increased amount of cortisol expression in children. It's less pronounced in adults suggesting that we get used to it when we realise it's not a real threat (CBT).

One paper looked at school children near Heathrow Airport vs. in a similar urban area with no air-traffic. The former had much higher cortisol levels generally and performed worse academically after adjusting for other environmental factors. Another looked at offices and the effect of HVAC systems droning away 9-5 (ever noticed when the HVAC goes off at work?)

What we found in our limited study was what you would expect; Places with live background music rated much more favorably. The stand out was Circular Quay (this was Sydney), where there were a lot of buskers and performers interspersed with happy sounding chatter from passes by.

Outdoor areas that reverberate (Martin Place on the weekend with skateboarders) as you can imagine didn't rate too well.

Not really groundbreaking by any means, but designing space means designing for everything we experience; light, sound, tactility, temporality.

p.sOne of the problems with traditional Architectural education is that it's hard to convey sound design through a visual-centric presentation style, so not many bother. Movement, whether implied or explicit, was always important to me in my designs and relatively easy to visually communicate (animation etc). If I ever go back to finish and become a real Architect, sound will probably be just as important, luckily VR is now at a stage with entry price and skill level where faithfully constructing the sonic profile of a space should be possible and easily communicable.

11
turaw 5 days ago 2 replies      
Relating to background noise, in case anyone else finds these useful, my pair of Etymotic earphones [1] have been doing an excellent job of cutting out basically everything. The kids version is pretty cheap (for a mid-range earphone), and apparently differs only in that it's slightly smaller and has a higher impedance (so you may require an amplifier).

[1]: http://www.etymotic.com/consumer/earphones.html

12
such_a_casual 5 days ago 2 replies      
I have never seen a webpage use "hover for sound". That is an amazing technique.
13
draw_down 5 days ago 0 replies      
I can't stand the noise situation in my office building. It's full of glass walls and granite floors, so if there is a slight squeak in your shoe, the sound bounces around and amplifies to a comical degree. For some godawful reason the bathrooms are the quietest place in the whole building, the one place where you really really want background noise.
14
jwatte 5 days ago 0 replies      
The problem is not architects. They know. The problem is buyers, who don't want to pay for good sound management.

And when public services in the US (NY subway, say) buy from the cheapest bidder, guess what's been compromised to lower cost?

The US is a hundred years behind the state of the art in sound management, just like most other public goods.

15
ladon86 5 days ago 0 replies      
I'm reminded of newer Apple Store in Palo Alto, before they did some work to fix it: http://fortune.com/2012/11/12/apples-new-palo-alto-store-is-...

The level of amplification that space created was really quite impressive!

16
dman 5 days ago 0 replies      
Is it possible in browsers to turn off mouse events during scroll? This article uses it to good effect but in general the effect is very annoying. For instance on many websites when using the mousewheel to scroll you land up with the cursor over an element (lets say a map) and now suddenly you are scrolling the map instead without intending to.
17
mmmBacon 5 days ago 0 replies      
The architects of the Hong Kong airport paid a lot of attention to sound I think. The ceiling is very high but there are panels that are at various angles that help reduce reflections. The first time I visited I noticed it right away. As a result I've found the airport to be a very peaceful space. It's calming and relaxing.
18
skyhatch1 4 days ago 0 replies      
Reminds me of when I used to live in SF.moved into a building that was built in 2005;thought they'd factor in the 120+ dB measured on streets.I was wrong. Didn't really sleep for the first 2 months. Choppers grunting past, hobos fighting with chains. Fun.
19
jdc0589 5 days ago 0 replies      
cool article and all, but in all honesty I was more excited just to hear some more binaural (3d) audio. It doesn't pop up too often.
20
TrevorJ 5 days ago 4 replies      
My dad is an architect, he once challenged me to find some area of study that architect's don't potentially need to know something about. I still haven't come up with one.
21
cballard 5 days ago 0 replies      
This should also be targeted at the people that run technology companies:

- You're playing music? Huh?

- You have a dog in the office? What? Yip yip yip yip.

22
lamby 5 days ago 0 replies      
Here's an interesting interview with Julian Treasure from a week or so ago about sound design:

https://youtu.be/_MORUgvdWTs?t=504

23
CurtMonash 4 days ago 0 replies      
After 15 years in Manhattan, I never want to live in a busy city again. Noise is a big part of why. Moving to the Boston suburbs was a revelation or me.
24
jsudhams 4 days ago 0 replies      
In India it is always a concrete slab but still get above the floor furniture moves
25
blehblahbloop 5 days ago 0 replies      
Beautiful writing
32C3 Chaos Communication Congress Streams Online ccc.de
410 points by axx   ago   69 comments top 12
1
palcu 7 days ago 5 replies      
I'm always mindblowned by the sheer number of networking equipment deployed and maintained during the conference. They now have[0] 5000 WiFi clients connected, downloading with 2.70 Gbps and uploading with 8.93 Gbps. It's like, once a year, a big part of the internet traffic is routed through Hamburg.

[0]: http://dashboard.congress.ccc.de/

2
zymhan 7 days ago 2 replies      
They did a presentation about Red Star OS [1] using Red Star OS. Brilliant.

EDIT: http://streaming.media.ccc.de/32c3/hall6

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

3
axx 7 days ago 1 reply      
As a side node, you can join the discussion on IRC (hackint):

#32c3-hall-1

#32c3-hall-2

#32c3-hall-G

#32c3-hall-6

#32c3-everywhere

- http://32c3-wiki.top/congress/2015/wiki/Congress_Everywhere

- https://hackint.eu/

4
lispm 7 days ago 0 replies      
http://ccc.de/en/updates/2015/fatuma

Fatuma Musa Afrah gave the keynote speech at the annual hacker conference, the 32nd Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg/Germany.

She is from Somalia and lives currently in Berlin/Germany as a refugee/newcomer.

5
lumberjack 7 days ago 0 replies      
Where can I find a list of the scheduled talks? I found this link but I get a 503 and the cached version is not navigable.

http://events.ccc.de/

EDIT: https://events.ccc.de/congress/2015/Fahrplan/

This link works

6
ufo 7 days ago 2 replies      
Simon Menner's "What does Big Brother see, while he is watching?" talk is a really interesting look at the Cold War. Does anyone know where the VODs will be available so others can watch it later?
7
yexponential 7 days ago 5 replies      
"Use a desktop player!Browsers and video doesn't go together well, even in 2015 and especially when it's live. So for your best viewing experience please use a desktop player like VLC or mplayer."

Am I the only one to be bothered by this comment.

8
r3bl 7 days ago 2 replies      
Is there a place where recordings get saved once they're finished or will I have to wait until the end of the conference? My internet connection is too unstable to watch them live.
10
dimdimdim 7 days ago 2 replies      
45% Insecure WiFi traffic? at a Hacker Conference? :)
11
Too 5 days ago 0 replies      
The list of presentations is looong. Any recommendations?
12
rdl 7 days ago 0 replies      
Audio is fixed now.
Brazil declares emergency after 2,400 babies are born with brain damage washingtonpost.com
321 points by igonvalue   ago   137 comments top 15
1
danieltillett 11 days ago 12 replies      
The sooner we get serious and start to deal with mosquitos the better. We already know what needs to be done [1], now all we need to do is get on with. How many millions of people have to die before we solve the problem of mosquito borne disease once and for all. Are we really going to sit around for decades debating if we should use this technology or not?

Edit. For those who want to understand more about this gene driver approach (it is pretty complex and amazing genetics) this review is the best I have been able to find [2].

1. http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nbt.343...

2. http://longnow.org/revive/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Alphey-...

2
Cieplak 11 days ago 2 replies      
Maybe it's time to deploy some DDT...

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/201...

Rachel Carson never called for the banning of pesticides. She made this clear in every public pronouncement, repeated it in an hourlong television documentary about Silent Spring, and even testified to that effect before the U.S. Senate. Carson never denied that there were beneficial uses of pesticides, notably in combatting human diseases transmitted by insects, where she said they had not only been proven effective but were morally necessary.

3
fiatjaf 11 days ago 3 replies      
Brazil is fighting the dengue fever for 20 years now. More than a million people get the disease each year. Every year the public policy is the same: send agents to enter the houses and search for still water. When the same measure fails for 20 years, shouldn't they be thinking of an alternative?
4
rafael92 10 days ago 2 replies      
Brazilian here. Our country is broken, unemployment has never been greater and we have a corrupt government that steals all taxes we pay. Hospitals of Rio de Janeiro and other cities are closed for lack of gloves and masks for the doctors. The situation is really bad here. Our country is great and our people work harder, if the government stop stealing we would not have those problems. The largest company in the country lost R$ 161 billions because of government Dilma Rousseff, government has disapproval of more than 80% of the population and won the election inventing a war between the rich and the poor. I do not know what will happen to children who are with dengue or zika because we dont have hospitals running. The people who were working combating mosquitoes in homes are on strike because they did not received their salaries. Worst of all is that the media does not want to show what is happening here. Excuse my bad english.
5
akiselev 11 days ago 1 reply      
Are there other examples of nations declaring a sudden state of emergency over infectious diseases that pop up like this? There's obviously Ebola, SARS, and MERS but those were all highly infectious and had effects that were nowhere near as subtle as birth and developmental complications (which isn't saying much considering how long tobacco and alcohol's effects were missed/ignored). The CDC, WHO, and many other organizations do a great job of watching out for public health and are shining examples of what societies can achieve, up there with our space programs, but how many such incidents are happening in poorer parts of the world without such infrastructuree? How many are a hop, skip, and an airline ticket away from jumping to the developed world?

Until a few years ago, human infections with the virus were almost unheard of. Then, for reasons scientists can't explain but think may have to do with the complicated effects of climate change, it began to pop up in far-flung parts of the world.

Ugh, what? This offhand cmoment seems like nonsense meant to make the article more interesting and relevant. I have no doubt that, through some complicated and convoluted path, climate change can tip the scales jn favor of some virus or even an infectious variant, but this is too interesting and sensationalist a statement to leave unqualified.

6
verroq 11 days ago 2 replies      
According to every reply to that comment, it was reduced to match the WHO standard.

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/worldnews/comments/3xz6hu/brazil_de...

[2] https://www.reddit.com/r/worldnews/comments/3xz6hu/brazil_de...

7
mixmastamyk 11 days ago 3 replies      
This isn't the first dangerous disease spread by mosquitos, and may not be the last. Not to mention how incredibly annoying they are in general.

I've been to Brazil a number of times, and the thing I could never understand is why, in a tropical country knee-deep in hungry disease causing mosquitos, is there not a single screen on any of the windows there? Big mistake, they're not expensive. They are cheaper and safer than rubbing chemicals into your skin every day.

Here we have screens even in the desert where there are few mosquitos, they still keep out flies and moths, etc.

8
fgp 11 days ago 2 replies      
I'm yet to see good major news about Brazil this year. So far it's been microcephaly, the economy flirting with depression, corruption scandals and a political crisis. I wonder how are we going to cope with hosting the olympics amid all that
9
dovereconomics 11 days ago 0 replies      
Until last week, there was a popular conspirancy linking these increasing cases of brain damage to vaccines.
10
Grazester 10 days ago 0 replies      
This is worrisome living a stone throw away from South America.Last year was the summer of Chikungunya for us. It would only be a matter of time before this disease moves further north to us.
11
darksim905 9 days ago 0 replies      
Why does the United States not have issues like these? Or rather, just mosquitoes in some areas in general?
12
rdl 10 days ago 0 replies      
I hope we can find a better solution, but if not: sorry birds, DDT works.
13
jiggaboo 10 days ago 0 replies      
How are blacks affected?
14
cromwellian 10 days ago 1 reply      
Tit-for-tat?

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn27844-modified-mosqui...

We release GM mosquitoes that sabotage development of mosquito newborn, and they transmit virus which sabotages ours?

15
tosseraccount 11 days ago 2 replies      
"may be the cause"

"may want to hold off"

"may have to do with the complicated effects ..."

They need some definitive answers.

The incidence of microcephaly is 1.02 per 10,000 births in the UK 2002 for microcephaly (University of Ulster, 2003).[ source : http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/m/microcephaly/prevalence.htm ]

Birth rate in Brazil is 14.5 per 1000 births.(https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/...)

Population of Brazil is 190,000,000.They're claiming 2400 cases in this emergency.

Do the math. (as child threader indicates, it is high)

Finding Zika virus a small number of cases is not a clear answer.

Stupid Patent of the Month: Microsofts Design Patent on a Slider eff.org
317 points by sinak   ago   211 comments top 34
1
ayi 5 days ago 11 replies      
I don't think nitpicking, saying "this is just a slider, you can't patent it" or "ms copied all concepts from xerox and apple lisa" is rational in this situation. Because this patent is not about these subjects. Just look at the bigger picture: Corel copied Office suite apps almost pixel by pixel. I would be pretty angry after seeing this to screenshots:

This is Office Excel: http://weborb.gcflearnfree.org/weborbassets/uploads/ID_82/wo...

This is Corel Calc: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/G/01/software...

Even the shade of blue is the same.

2
tim333 5 days ago 3 replies      
I had though the suit was stupid but I had a look at the Corel Office pics on Amazon and they do look kind of like a near identical copy:

Corel Calculate for instance Corel Calculate https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/G/01/software...

( from http://www.amazon.com/Corel-Office-5-3-Installs/dp/B006N1Q0W... )

vs Excel https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/9/91/Microsoft_Off...

3
cperciva 6 days ago 2 replies      
This seems like an entirely reasonable design patent to me. There are lots of ways of drawing such a slider; the patent does not cover any function, merely the ornamental design.

Now, the idea that this should entitle Microsoft to all of Corel's profits for the entire product is clearly absurd; as the article points out, that's the current legal precedent but is being appealed. Lawyers are hardly going to not take advantage of precedents which favour them; nor would it even be good if they did -- the fastest way to overturn bad law is to apply it strictly and make obvious its failings.

4
frik 5 days ago 2 replies      
"If Corel is found to infringe even one of Microsofts design patents through even the smallest part of Corel Home Office, current Federal Circuit law entitles Microsoft to all of Corels profits for the entire product. Not the profits that can be attributed to the design. Not the value that the design adds to a product. All of the profit from Corel Home Office."

With such a crap "design patent" on a generic slider, Microsoft tries to extinguish another Office competitor?

5
DGAP 6 days ago 5 replies      
Why didn't we get "Stupid Patent of the Month" HN posts when Apple patented "electronic devices with rounded corners?"
6
josaka 6 days ago 0 replies      
This suit is probably in retaliation for an earlier Corel suit against Microsoft this summer. http://www.fosspatents.com/2015/07/corel-software-sues-micro....

This one reason companies keep a war-chest of patents, so they can fight back when targeted with a dying company's portfolio.

7
enjo 6 days ago 3 replies      
" For example, Samsung explains that under the Federal Circuits ruling, profits on an entire caror even an eighteen-wheel tractor trailermust be awarded based on an undetachable infringing cup-holder. "

At some point companies are just going to stop doing business in the United States. I get that it's the worlds largest economy, but little by little this nonsense will fix that.

8
FussyZeus 6 days ago 1 reply      
Honestly as stupid as this (and many others) are, it's the fault of the patent system, not the companies. The companies are reacting rationally to the system as it's been created, i.e. patent everything possible so you have more patents covering more things than your competitors. The only reason patent troll companies exist is because some smart investors realized you didn't need to do the risky bit, make products, to hold and enforce patents.

The system needs to be fixed, and then shit like this will go away naturally.

9
kyberias 5 days ago 1 reply      
This is not a good article. The relevant context is missing: Corel has implemented a "Word mode" in it's product that mimics the look and feel of Microsoft Word. Mimics too well, Microsoft thinks.
10
javajosh 6 days ago 4 replies      
I get how we all intuitively want the PTO to not issue "stupid patents" but is there an objective, mechanical way to determine what is stupid? Do we care more about false positives (as in this case) or false negatives (a hypothetical alternative universe where too few, rather than too many, patents are awarded).

Now, before you start arguing against patents entirely, what I really want to know is: without patents, how are individual supposed to profit from their inventiveness when a larger entity could trivially copy the idea and profit based on their superior connections and capitalization? And yes, I'm talking about software. Are software inventors just supposed to give away their inventions as open source and feed themselves by working for someone else who a) got the ask, and b) defended their IP?

11
throwawaykf05 5 days ago 1 reply      
As josaka points out, this may be in retaliation to Corel's patent lawsuit:

http://www.law360.com/articles/684098/microsoft-word-copy-pa...

All the patents in this lawsuit, of which the EFF picked just the one in TFA:

8,255,828 - https://patents.google.com/patent/US8255828

7,703,036 - https://patents.google.com/patent/US7703036

7,047,501 - https://patents.google.com/patent/US7047501

5,715,415 - https://patents.google.com/patent/US5715415

5,510,980 - https://patents.google.com/patent/US5510980

D550,237 - https://patents.google.com/patent/USD550237

D554,140 - https://patents.google.com/patent/USD554140

D564,532 - https://patents.google.com/patent/USD564532

D570,865 - https://patents.google.com/patent/USD570865

The ones beginning with "D" are the design patents. The rest are utility patents.

12
iamcreasy 5 days ago 0 replies      
The purpose of A Patent is to allow the inventor to openly share their idea without the fear of stealing. The inventors are also allowed/encouraged to financially profit from their idea so they can continue invention.

But these type of patents are hurting everybody except one person.

Shame.

13
lostinpoetics 6 days ago 0 replies      
a silly patent (even by design patent stds), but the complaint illustrates that this patent is a pretty small part of a [smallish] thicket of patents on the ribbon concept, as well corel pretty brazenly trying to capitalize on the Office UI (whether that is a legit claim or not is up for debate) back when MS was pushing it (and of course MS allegedly meeting with Corel to "resolve" it after finding out). personal opinion is that it may have been a compelling claim in 2007/2008, but now just gives you that slimy feeling again. another good fact (probably irrelevant) is that microsoft is now (and has been) encouraging people to use the ribbon metaphor (as far as i can tell).
14
ams6110 6 days ago 2 replies      
Putting aside whether Microsofts design was actually new and not obvious in 2006 (when Microsoft filed its application)

UI sliders were certainly not novel in 2006. And I'd be surprised if Corel did anything other than use the stock slider in Microsoft's UI library. Maybe they implemented their own and it looks too much like Microsoft's?

15
ikeboy 6 days ago 0 replies      
>Putting aside whether Microsofts design was actually new and not obvious in 2006 (when Microsoft filed its application), whether Microsoft needed the patent incentive in order to come up with this design

Abrupt shift from legal argument to meta-legal argument. Seems stylistically wrong.

16
wstrange 5 days ago 0 replies      
What is interesting to me is that industry has conditioned us to view copying as a bad thing.

Is there any invention that did not benefit from copying ideas that came before it? We all stand on the shoulders of giants.

We need more copying, not less.

17
ianamartin 5 days ago 0 replies      
Stuff like this makes me really excited about the Samsung appeal to the Supreme Court here in the U.S. regarding their ongoing suit and countersuit with Apple.

I'm an unapologetic Mac user at times, but I find myself intellectually on the side of Samsung in that case.

If Samsung gets cert and a positive outcome from SCOTUS, the patent system here will be forced to reform.

Stuff like this will simply go away. As it should.

18
ommunist 5 days ago 1 reply      
Ehm... this design resembles the design of rheostat slider like that http://olx.ua/i2/obyavlenie/reostat-provolochnyy-maksimalnoe... and is not original.
19
habitue 6 days ago 4 replies      
This is the Microsoft we know. Welcome back!
20
brazzledazzle 5 days ago 0 replies      
It kind of bugs me that an OS maker is suing a software developer and utilizing a UI/UX design patent to do it.
21
nitin_flanker 5 days ago 1 reply      
I don't think it is that stupid. There's a whole lot of designs available for a slider. It is just a design patent so it won't hurt any other company's/product design, they can easily swap it by making little changes or designing an entirely new design for such a small thing.

As many people already linked the Corel Calc user interface design, which is exactly same as Microsoft's Excel. I don't think Microsoft is doing wrong by patenting their design elements.

22
zekevermillion 5 days ago 0 replies      
A design patent protects purely ornamental features, thus it is not fair to criticize a design patent on the basis of it not being useful. Inherently, if it were useful, it would not be eligible for protection as a patented design. It may be fair to criticize the entire legal regime that affords patent protection to ornamental designs (e.g., the famous rectangle with rounded corners that caused a jury to find for Apple vs. Samsung).
23
EGreg 6 days ago 0 replies      
I thought that was always a possibility - the punitive damages could even MORE than eat up any profits. Sort of a "crime doesn't pay" attitude. Isn't that so for utility patents?

Otherwise people would "go ahead and execute" their idea, and sell a lot before getting sued, then simply pay a "fair and reasonable price" for a patent license. Which is it?

24
talles 5 days ago 0 replies      
That's not much of a surprise considering that's from the same company that once patented the double click.

https://newscientist.com/article/dn5072-microsoft-gains-doub...

25
alanh 4 days ago 0 replies      
A popular article on Ars Technica is entitled: "2015: The Year Microsoft started to get the benefit of the doubt."

"Started." Indeed. But old habits die hard.

26
kyriakos 5 days ago 0 replies      
If Microsoft was to buy Corel would it be anti competitive behaviour?

Microsoft stands to gain more than just getting corel's office package out of the market, they will gain ownership to Coreldraw and paint which are one of the few Adobe competitors.

27
tracker1 6 days ago 1 reply      
Doesn't QT's QSlider predate this patent by a few years?
28
gruez 6 days ago 0 replies      
The complaint is from 2015. Who the hell uses Corel Office?
29
yuhong 6 days ago 0 replies      
The patents involved in the suit mostly looks like MS's patents on parts of Office 2007 UI that was filed in 2006 or so, including parts of the Ribbon.
30
ahmedfromtunis 6 days ago 1 reply      
What happens if I put the (+) and (-) in squares ([+] and [-])?
31
shmerl 6 days ago 1 reply      
It's indeed a stupid patent. Such thing shouldn't be patentable because it's trivial.
32
lolc 6 days ago 0 replies      
To think that some body must have written this monstrosity of a patent.
33
ZoeZoeBee 6 days ago 1 reply      
Can't say I'll miss the lawyers about to be put out by AI
34
bitmapbrother 6 days ago 1 reply      
I'm anxious to see what angle the Microsoft supporters use to justify this truly stupid patent. They proclaimed Microsoft had changed LOL - Microsoft is still the same old Microsoft. They're still using old prior art ridden patents to shake down companies and either make them sign ridiculous patent licensing terms or take them to court in a battle of attrition.
Fai0verflow: Linux on the PS4 [video] youtube.com
340 points by slacka   ago   86 comments top 16
1
atom_enger 4 days ago 3 replies      
Hackers gonna hack. Every generation of these consoles is a new challenge to all the hackers out there. You've got to think that the engineers who designed these systems eventually get "engineering syndrome" from staring at these systems for years and eventually start to be blind about tiny problems. Corporations put millions and millions of dollars behind the design of these systems and a ragtag group of folks comes in here and owns everything you worked to protect. I guess the only thing these hackers have over Sony is time. More time than money..and a fresh pair of eyes.

Is there a future with an open gaming platform like the Steam Machine? Why do developers choose a closed platform like PS4 vs the Steam Machine? What's there to protect that they work so hard to guard it?

Beautiful work here. Keep on hacking.

2
xaduha 4 days ago 2 replies      
I don't have any idea what I'm talking about, but it is mostly PC-like architecture with mostly FreeBSD running on it, right? Nothing really interesting, unlike it was with Cell processor.

They are not even subsidizing the hardware anymore, as I understand it, they sell it for about the same it costs to produce.

3
m00dy 4 days ago 1 reply      
Actually, I was expecting more technical stuff relating to how they jailbreak the system. PoC is also good though.
4
mmastrac 4 days ago 1 reply      
There doesn't appear to be much info about this other than it's a Linux 'kexec-like' from a webkit bug that apparently triggers a kernel exploit.

Awesome job!

5
hitekker 4 days ago 1 reply      
Excellent demo. Furthermore, this scene in particular (at the 3 min 45 second mark) really brings home the achievement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2A7V3GLWF6U&t=225
6
webkike 4 days ago 3 replies      
Wait wait wait, HDD support through USB? Are you serious? Any hardware manufacturers care to explain why this might be the case?
7
vive-la-liberte 4 days ago 1 reply      
Typo in title (also present on YouTube).

Their name is fail0verflow.

8
jaimehrubiks 4 days ago 3 replies      
Would it be possible to achieve the opposite in some way?, I mean, dump the kernel and build it on a pc on top of a compatible hardware? Let me know what you think
9
landr0id 4 days ago 0 replies      
"Hint: the NOP thing has nothing to do with exploits and everything to do with https://github.com/torvalds/linux/commit/0e16e4cfde70e1cf00f... "

https://twitter.com/fail0verflow/status/682283793831587840

So maybe the GPU firmware doesn't support the new packet?

10
nothis 4 days ago 2 replies      
I have no idea about this stuff, how far towards a jailbreak/softmod is this? Could this exploit be locked out on quasi-everyone's PS4 via a simple PSN Update?
11
shmerl 4 days ago 1 reply      
3D acceleration - WIP :)

So will PS4 users who complain that they can't play Witcher 1 & 2, be able to play them on Linux there?-)

12
anthk 4 days ago 0 replies      
Also , I forgot to say once USB support is completted , a huge array of HW could be attached to the PS4, because these drivers on Linux are cross-platform.
13
kevinaloys 4 days ago 2 replies      
Can someone tell me why it is technically challenging to run Linux on PS4 when PS4 already runs Orbis OS which is a fork from FreeBSD?
14
hnnew 4 days ago 0 replies      
15
joshschreuder 3 days ago 0 replies      
Is this using the previous firmware Webkit exploit or is it running on the latest firmware? Either way, awesome work!
16
anthk 4 days ago 1 reply      
Framebuffer and KMS working. I wonder if the radeon driver could be patched among the Xorg one to get some 3D acceleration support.
TLDR pages tldr-pages.github.io
393 points by tkfx   ago   111 comments top 28
1
teddyh 6 days ago 1 reply      
That project is a symptom of manual pages not having good EXAMPLES sections. The examples on that web page should be contributed upstream to the manuals pages of the software that they are for.

If you want a fast way to read the EXAMPLES section only for a command, here is a shell function which creates an eg command which only displays the EXAMPLES section of manual pages:

 eg(){ MAN_KEEP_FORMATTING=1 man "$@" 2>/dev/null \ | sed --quiet --expression='/^E\(\x08.\)X\(\x08.\)\?A\(\x08.\)\?M\(\x08.\)\?P\(\x08.\)\?L\(\x08.\)\?E/{:a;p;n;/^[^ ]/q;ba}' \ | ${MANPAGER:-${PAGER:-pager -s}} }
Usage:

 $ eg tar EXAMPLES Create archive.tar from files foo and bar. tar -cf archive.tar foo bar List all files in archive.tar verbosely. tar -tvf archive.tar Extract all files from archive.tar. tar -xf archive.tar $
(Previously: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10025216, https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7123328)

2
coldtea 6 days ago 3 replies      
I do find TLDR useful, but is there anything preventing adding it as a standard section of the actual manpages we all use?

Perhaps with a switch (man --tldr) or something?

Wouldn't a project to add those short examples to manpages be good?

3
ravicious 6 days ago 2 replies      
Maybe instead of creating something entirely new we could improve the existing thing, that is prepend man pages with some examples?
4
niuzeta 6 days ago 0 replies      
I find it rather redundant to bropages: http://bropages.org/

Still, a readable manpage alternative is always welcome!

5
sergiotapia 6 days ago 1 reply      
Also see bropages! http://bropages.org/

Very interesting tools. I still don't know how to navigate man pages to find what I need.

6
masukomi 6 days ago 1 reply      
To everyone suggesting people send patches in to the original repos instead of using this, or anything like it:

Have you ever tried hunting down the canonical source repo for any of those ancient commands? It's nigh-impossible for many (most?). Seriously, give it a try for one of the small ones that haven't been touched in a few years.

7
peteretep 6 days ago 0 replies      
One thing I love about Perl, which has seemed sorely lacking in many other languages, is the habit of documenting all modules with a "Synopsis" section, which is essentially short examples of use. A good 50% of modules I use I don't need to read further!
8
no_gravity 6 days ago 3 replies      
Instead of installing one of the clients, it might be easier to just put this line into your bash.rc:

 function tldr { curl https://raw.githubusercontent.com/tldr-pages/tldr/master/pages/common/$1.md; }

9
Buetol 6 days ago 2 replies      
As a side note, `dtrx` is a sane alternative to `tar` that do the right thing by default. http://brettcsmith.org/2007/dtrx/

Just `dtrx yourarchive.tar.xz`.

10
awalGarg 6 days ago 0 replies      
I think man pages aren't always verbose or unreadable. In fact, most of the time, they are pretty easy on eyes for me.

But generally, it is not a "tl;dr" that I am looking for in man pages, it is that one thing I need not very often, but can't remember, like "what switch does `git pull` take to rebase" (ok, not very good of an example, but since these are things I "can't remember", I can't pull one out of my head right now). And for these cases, `less`, my default pager, has excellent searching capabilities.

For instance, I needed to check how to tell OpenVPN CLI client to take username and password from a file instead of stdin. I knew I had done it before, but didn't know which flag it was... just the third instance of "username" on the openvpn manpage called it out (--auth-user-pass). Such things, are IMO, more often needed, but not something a tl;dr would cover.

Great project anyways :)

11
morenoh149 6 days ago 0 replies      
reminds me of http://bropages.org/
12
brillenfux 6 days ago 6 replies      
Man pages are really already TLDR pages. They suck for introductory documentation (most times) but are really useful if you just can't quite remember the switch or its parameters.

I don't know what niche this is supposed to fill?

13
hk__2 6 days ago 11 replies      
The issue I have with this kind of projects is that people quickly accept that reading manpages is boring and that they should only use `tldr gcc` or a quick stackoverflow lookup instead of actually learning how to use their tools. Its like learning how to fish vs. bying fish at the supermarket. Sure, if you know how to fish you can still buy at the supermarket if youre lazy. But if you dont youre stuck with whats at the supermarket.
14
mch82 6 days ago 2 replies      
What if we put community energy into contributing improvements to existing man pages for open source projects?

As many commenters have noted, it is possible to accomplish the goals of TLDR by improving existing man pages, without establishing a separate documentation system. A man page can be formatted to include any number of sections. All that is needed is an EXAMPLES section that lists examples for typical command usage.

Here are instructions for creating a man page: http://www.schweikhardt.net/man_page_howto.html#q3

Side note... isn't the usage of TL;DR in this project incorrect? TL;DR is a synonym for "abstract", "synopsis", and "executive summary". It is already confusing enough to use TL;DR in place of those words without overloading the term to mean "tasks", "example usage", or "typical use cases".

15
Paul_S 6 days ago 1 reply      
These should be appended to the top of regular man pages.
16
jkire 6 days ago 1 reply      
How does this deal with different versions of a utility having different flags/commands?
17
ap22213 6 days ago 0 replies      
Cool idea - but like others allude, it would be useful if the TRDR content was organized along with the man page content.

Even better: it'd be nice if there was a repository of just content that was structured in some standardized way. Then, some MVC-like system could easily consume all of the content.

18
draw_down 6 days ago 1 reply      
Seems like a good idea, man pages can be almost comically obtuse at times.
19
haenx 6 days ago 1 reply      
20
cheshire137 6 days ago 0 replies      
Yes! Thank you, all I want is an example of how to use the command. Man pages never help me, they give a bunch of non-concrete examples. I always just Google for the command and someone's blog post helps me out.
21
oldmanjay 6 days ago 0 replies      
If there was anything the frozen computer interface of the 70s needed to complete itself, it was silly Internet neologisms. Thanks, author, for bringing the worst of several eras together.
22
skimmas 6 days ago 0 replies      
love the simplicity put in this little tool.Incredibly easy to remember, gives the answer you need 95% of the times, makes it very easy to contribute with new stuff.
23
ajones 6 days ago 0 replies      
TL;DR a collection of TL;DRs for common *nix commands with clients to display the shorter docs
24
geff82 6 days ago 0 replies      
most useful thing ever. All you need in 90% of the time. Hope to see it in Redhat soon :)
25
debaserab2 6 days ago 0 replies      
Seems like most tools basically provide this with a -h or --help switch.
26
reitanqild 6 days ago 2 replies      
Brilliant idea!

Now, did I misunderstand or does this need npm?

27
humility 6 days ago 0 replies      
there's also a ruby gem called bropages!(gem install bropages)

example usage:

bro man

even allows user submission/voting on answers

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dcposch 6 days ago 0 replies      
looks just like bro pages

bropages.org

A Response to Paul Grahams Article on Income Inequality cryoshon.co
397 points by hobs   ago   218 comments top 26
1
jgord 1 day ago 5 replies      
PGs articles aren't wrong - but they are second order, when we need a first order response to a current evil [ before it leads to bloody revolution ]

If you look at income distribution its a hockey stick - you really have to slap yourself on the face and realise there is no middle class - what you thought of as professional-middle-class-contributor is actually college-debt-burdened-lower-class - no matter how many years they work they will never pay off their debt, let alone own their own home.

People aren't asking for "income equality" they are asking for some level of humanity and democracy to be restored to our version of Capitalism, to strengthen that capitalism.

So, just as "All Lives Matter" is not a good response to the "Black Lives Matter" movement, its not useful to discuss "income inequality is not intrinsically a bad thing" when we are in a time when the lower class are basically slaves and the middle class has been in steady decline - your _only_ chance to have security is to win a lottery [ the Startup or the PowerBall variety ]

So, what needs to be talked about is rather : how to take money out of politics, how to get poor people out of the ghetto, how to stop young black people from being shot by police on a weekly basis, how to bring back a reasonable level of tax on the super wealthy, and how to stop large companies from getting subsidies to pollute our environment.

A small amount of Socialism is needed urgently to bring Capitalism back into a survivable form - if not, I really think we are headed for bloody revolution, because most of the populace are angry, and its a rational anger because their survival needs are barely being met, in many cases.

2
ryandamm 1 day ago 5 replies      
I think it's useful to draw a bright line around the 'value creation' that PG is referring to, also. It's not just creating chairs, it's aggregating great wealth by 'disrupting' traditional industries. Those traditional industries have workers and shareholders who lose out.

What makes successful startups so profitable is they displace a large and less-efficient system with a small, efficient one. Efficient in terms of human capital, oftentimes: look how few people AirBNB employs directly, yet have a market cap larger than Marriott. The returns on capital its investors have seen is a result of the substitution of capital for labor (in part).

Of course, to the extent that the creation of a marketplace unlocks value, it can create value de novo, rather than shifting wealth from one sector/company to another. But with 'smart' startup founders seeking monopoly rents (cf. Peter Thiel, writing/speaking virtually anywhere), those returns are also concentrated, and will not trickle down to the larger population.

Furthermore, the wealth inequality cryoshon is writing about is not driven by startups, it's driven by a general breakdown in the implicit social contract between capital and labor. As OP notes, Piketty goes into great detail about the historical causes and likely effects, but the tl;dr (and his book is _very_ tl) break down to: when returns on capital are higher than overall economic growth, wealth will tend to aggregate.

As fans of numbers and algorithms, I hope HN readers can appreciate the simple beauty of that formulation. Piketty's suggested policy response is simple: high taxes on aggregated wealth. Which, after reading (~80%, honestly) of his book, I have to agree with.

3
gremlinsinc 1 day ago 1 reply      
THANKYOU for this, Paul Graham is a genius in many things, but you really hit the nail on the head with this article. -- AS a self-trained developer trying to get my first job and never earning over 40k (yet) between myself AND my wife's income -- it's hard to move up, when you feel so much pressure to stay where you are if not move down. I learned coding to start my own startup, it's the only way I'd ever be able to afford a prototype..

But I think Bernie said it best: "NOBODY working 40 hours per week should be living in poverty" -- there is no reason for this, in fact it makes that person a slave to whoever is paying them sub-par wages, they have to work whether they want to or not, it's not a choice, it's enslavement, they stop and they lose their apartment, and food. If the lowest 40 hour/weekers earned enough to put money away, and not worry about living paycheck to paycheck, then it wouldn't be such a problem. Also the fact is -- the poor spend the most money per dollar - meaning the more money the have to spend, the more money goes directly back into the local economies.

This along with increased tech advances that wipe away the need for some employees and 40% of the workforce(estimated) by 2040, a guaranteed basic income isn't just a good idea - it is crucial to our economy, and if it doesn't happen there WILL come a day when American's demand it, and pick up a gun to fight for it, I'm not sure when or what the tipping point will be, but it's coming someday.

4
PaulHoule 1 day ago 2 replies      
An HFT isn't entirely useless.

You might want to sell 66 shares of Apple stock and somebody else wants to buy 145 and for you both to get a timely fill, there has to be some kind of middleman.

If you think HFTs are bad, just take a look at floor traders -- the kind of people who will front run you if they see you coming and they know what you want, or will take a bathroom break if they don't want to trade with you.

Reg NMS, which set the stage for HFT passed because of a scandal involving the members of the New York Stock Exchange which is as good of a group of rent seekers as you'll find anywhere. Plenty of hanky-panky goes on with HFT, but it is a less corrupt system than what it replaces.

5
datashovel 1 day ago 0 replies      
I get the feeling the air is quite thin up in the ivory tower PG must be living in these days :)
6
Apocryphon 1 day ago 1 reply      
Any hacker working in San Francisco can take a look outside and see the rampant inequality our industry is surrounded by.
7
HiLo 1 day ago 0 replies      
I like how he tries to quote a "Nobel prize winning economist" as an appeal to authority, but then (without naming him) insults Picketty's work, which will probably win a Nobel. PG is a smart guy but he really should stick to his areas of expertise, him and Marc Andreessen both frequently make basic finance and econ theory mistakes. PG's claim that he is in a position to speak with authority on inequality is like an electrician claiming he is in a position to speak with as much authority as the architect concerning the overall progress of the building.
8
guscost 1 day ago 0 replies      
OK, there are a lot of claims here but the one I'm interested in is the idea that productivity has increased while wages have stagnated. I'll have to read more about which of those are adjusted for inflation and how all that measurement actually works, but for now I'd like to make a few points that might be relevant:

- There's not much consideration why productivity has increased. If I had to guess a significant part is because executives hired analysts and planners to increase productivity, not just because better technology had that side effect. The incentive to do this is presumably that more productivity means better margins for the company. I can understand the argument that the workers deserve a bigger share of the rewards than they have gotten, but there is also a share deserved by the executives and analysts who were involved. And legally you can't really say that anyone is entitled to a share, which I guess means that in our society the balance comes down to ethics and morals.

- I think this point is made elsewhere, but there are a lot of things you can do with a "middle-class" income these days that were simply not possible when the wage stagnation started. Could it be the case that even if wage numbers don't track productivity, there is some balancing elsewhere that means actual quality of life does increase with productivity?

I'd like to hear peoples' thoughts, if these ideas are not full of trivial fallacies (which may very well be the case as I am not very knowledgeable about economic stuff).

9
boona 1 day ago 1 reply      
Let's be clear that Thomas Piketty's book has been thoroughly refuted, not in some minor way, but Thomas claimed that all he did was objectively looked at the data, and that the conclusion simply showed itself. Unfortunately he cherry picked data, and fabricated bits of history to make it fit his claim. The following paper does a great job of completely dismantling it.

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2543012

Not to mention that most people haven't even read past the first few pages of the book, and yet they quote it.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/10951407/Has-an...

10
cryoshon 1 day ago 4 replies      
I hope I didn't go too overboard by dissecting PG's essay like this, but I felt it was necessary to correct many of the items that I read.

It may seem spurious now, but economic inequality is relevant for the tech industry, too. The massively increased productivity that information technology provides is very infrequently distributed proportionally to the people who actually forged it-- exactly the same condition as most workers in the US, currently. The principal difference in terms of economics is that the absolute wages of software engineers are currently higher than the median wages, meaning that they don't feel the pressure of not having quite enough-- given enough time, this will change unless we make a decision to alter our course.

The accumulation of economic gains from massively increased productivity will trend toward stagnation at the uppermost levels-- the founders and owners. Our society is currently engineered for this to be the case, and we have much work to do if we want a more equitable society.

If we accept economic inequality, we accept that we are not citizens but instead are largely debt-laden effortful passengers in a world owned by our betters.

11
ricksplat 15 hours ago 0 replies      
I've seen Paul Graham make a few shocking remarks about wealth distribution claiming for instance there'd be no Sergey and Larry (i.e. Google) if they thought some of their wealth was given to the poor. I doubt Sergey and Larry would have been one bit perturbed if they thought they would have amassed 80% of or even less. In their wildest dreams they could probably not have even imagined amassing 20% of that. But I don't want to get bogged down talking about their outlying data point - though Mr Graham chose to present it as exemplar.

My main objection to Mr Graham (apart from his general "let them eat LISP" tone) is that his point is moot in the larger context. Yes it is true that the technology sectors have been phenomenally successful in the last few years but they are such a tiny amount of the actual working economy. They only stand out because they are still in growth while the vast bulk of the economy is not.

Mr Graham quite grandiosely describes himself as a "creator of inequality" as though he is somehow on a par with these captains of industry, the 1% or economic elite as we variously describe them but he is not. He's just another cog in the system - a well remunerated cog certainly but a cog nonetheless.

As a programmer myself I enjoy an elevated income and standard of living. Having worked in a few startups I have rubbed shoulder regularly with a few millionaires (self-made and otherwise) and by and large I would describe these guys as often friendly, often generous, and always fiendishly clever and hard working. I've never envied them their gains and I've never wanted for more - I'm doing a job I love and I have enough money to live in comfort and can buy most things I need without having to struggle.

But we are in a different world my millionaire friends and I. In the various other walks of life I encounter I see people working harder than me, more qualified than I, and enjoying far less job security than me, and all simply because they work in "low growth" sectors of the economy. Sectors that are nonetheless necessary, such as health, with skills that are nonetheless indispensable (nurses, firemen) yet woefully under resourced. All because they aren't growth industries - which can basically be reinterpreted as "there isn't a quick buck to be made".

On the flip side to that Mr Graham talks about how the successful businesses are those that have increased productivity by harnessing technology to increase efficiency and productivity but if that is the general trend, that the economy is nurturing more efficient use of resources then why isn't the cost of living going down?

The truth of it is that Mr Graham and I are enjoying relatively sweet times because we are the darlings of capital. We give better returns on investment than other sectors of the economy. We find new ways to do things so that the cost of running businesses is decreased whilst still charging the same price for the services to the consumer.

We shouldn't be so quick to set ourselves at odds with the egalitarian movement. Certainly I wouldn't rush to pay more tax or earn a lesser wage - but at the same time it does hurt me to see the numbers of homeless increasing, my friends and family struggling, and the quality of medical care in decline. I'd have to weigh these factors up before taking flight with my valuable skillset.

But what I do wonder about, is about these shadowy figures in the background that always seem to be taking a cut. I mean the actors and organisations that fund and manipulate all of this - that nurture "high growth" systems and starve the "low growth" ones - whether it's on purpose, or just an emergent pattern - and what are we going to do about it?

I believe in Capitalism, and I accept that inequality is a natural factor of society. But that shouldn't preclude me from saying that we need more socialism in our society - that doesn't mean I want a centrally planned communist state like the USSR, it just means that I want our valuations to be more nuanced than just "return on investment".

Somebody somewhere else on here wrote that if you increased taxes on the wealthy it would only amount to a few thousand dollars extra per person. Well I can only say that is a lot of money to somebody that doesn't have a thousand dollars and collectively it is a lot of money for an institution such as a hospital.

I believe the phrase these days is that you should "check your privilege".

13
dnautics 1 day ago 1 reply      
As a response to PG's article, I posted this:

>PG is wrong that he is a creator of economic inequality. Technology development usually brings prices down. This is deflationary; the 'big picture' way that deflation happens: that prices are discovered more efficiently, or resources are used more efficiently, or that idle labor capacity is recruited to fulfill a want or need that was not known before (esp: think uber/lyft).

>Deflationary processes are inherently anti-inequality. Think of it this way. If we never changed the minimum wage, then people's incomes, especially at the bottom segment of society would make their net economic potential greater over time.

>It is not the investment in technology that makes "tech drive inequality". It is the political structure around it. We have a structure where monetary policy shoves free or cheap money into the faces of banks and the investment classes in efforts to 'stimulate' the economy, where the secular (over decades, not over years) inflation drives low- and middle- class citizens into risky investment activity just to be able to sustain themselves in their later years (effectively a subsidy for the rich).

"families often consist of two breadwinners (& no children) with a hearty amount of debt, nothing owned, and few savings. The family unit itself may even be weaker because of less shared ownership. Wages havent tracked productivity for decades, so wages havent risen since the previous story was normal."

Is this because of rapacious capitalists taking wages? The nominal wage has increased since the early 70s, but the purchasing power of that nominal wage has gone down faster than the increase. This is policy, not capitalism.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/06/opinion/krugman-not-enough...

Policy wonks like to argue that the fed should "pay more attention to employment". The irony is that if you think that people are consigned to being wage slaves, a national policy of total employment is keeping people there. There is a cost to getting people employed, and that is that those who are employed are going to be paid less, and the way you trick people into that is by making what people earn be less, even for the same or greater nominal amount ("sticky wages argument").

What happened in the early 70s? Prior to the nixon shock we had wage increases leading inflation and a trending toward decreasing of the wage gap that had momentum enough to continue till about the 2000s (if you think about it that momentum makes sense because entrants into the workforce in the 70s started retiring in the 200s) - during the bush/obama era we see income inequality turning the corner.

While we are certainly trending towards getting worse things actually are not that bad:

http://im.ft-static.com/content/images/d823a614-9e82-11e5-b4...

Everyone is worried about the far right side of the graph (which is partially a histogram artifact) but look at the left hand side of the graph and see how the lowest income fraction of society is far less populated than 40 years ago. (yes, between 2008 and 2015 it is getting worse, which is cause to worry)

14
mcguire 1 day ago 2 replies      
Perhaps I've been sensitized by recent reading[1], but I don't think this response addresses the real problems with PG's article.

The problem with inequality is not necessarily the inequality itself. The poor in America are significantly better off than the wealthy were not very long ago, in most material senses, as has been repeatedly pointed out. So what if they don't get as good health care or education or whatever as some of their neighbors; it's still better than they would have had. The problem is that relative wealth, inequality, is power. It always has been, and it always will be.[2] (Admittedly, in other societies, wealth isn't the only power. But with the decline of the church and the significant lack of both feudal aristocracy and totalitarian[3] governments, wealth is really the only power left.)

So, here's a question: is it proper for a vanishingly small segment of society to be able to establish and maintain power over the vast majority? Me, I've got no idea. Don't really care, either. Because a better question is: is it a good idea? And I think the verdict of history there is a pretty solid Nope.

Are you unhappy with the Koch brothers' political views? That's another stupid question; their specific desires are pretty much irrelevant. Much more important is how you feel about how they go about expressing and supporting their views. When reading PG's or this article, remember that Charles' and David's father was very much a start-up entrepreneur. Their grandfather was a Dutch immigrant and printer and Fred was exactly the kind of person PG is talking about in his essay. Now, you can can go on about "limiting corruption in politics", but keep in mind that the Koch brothers are apparently planning on putting something like a trillion dollars into the 2016 election; it's hard to perceive anything but that their views will always matter more than yours.

Inequality in wealth and power is not even a new thing in this country; I'm given to understand that the state now is at or approaching levels from the gilded age, but not exceeding them. What is new, is that for a time in this country we didn't have wild inequality. Here's what Paul has to say about that:

"I think rising economic inequality is the inevitable fate of countries that don't choose something worse. We had a 40 year stretch in the middle of the 20th century that convinced some people otherwise. But as I explained in The Refragmentation, that was an anomalya unique combination of circumstances that compressed American society not just economically but culturally too."

(Personally, I think that the cultural compression that Paul fears so much is somewhat overblown. But then, I grew up in the '70s in Amarillo, TX (not far from the Koch's Quanah, weirdly) and rather fortunately had the library at WTSU about 45 minutes south in Canyon.)

The thing that bothers me most: All of those fancy technologies that PG emphasizes, those that some commentors here are happy to trade 45 years of real wage growth for, had their direct roots in that brief period of weird equality. What happens next? What happens after AirBnB puts all the hotels out of business and we're all staying in each other's spare bedrooms on trips? What happens after Uber has killed off all the taxi companies in the world and replaced them with spare-time drivers? Do things still keep getting better and better? Sure, my nifty new Galaxy Note is better than my old land-line, but exactly how much better is an iPhone6 compared to a 5?

Or, ultimately, do Larry Ellison's sons, Charles and David, decide they don't want to deal with all of this bullshit and start throwing their weight around Silicon Valley?

And when they do, what are you going to do about it?

[1] The Story of Philosophy, by Will Durant, if you're interested. In fact, I'm in the middle of the chapter on Nietzsche; one of the best comments in this very well-written and quite good book is a footnote following a quote from Nietzsche regarding how excesses in the behavior of the bermensch will be restrained by morality: something to the effect of "How did that get back in here?"

In any case, PG's comments like, "Most people who get rich tend to be fairly driven. Whatever their other flaws, laziness is usually not one of them" (Laziness isn't one of the flaws of that single mother working three jobs, either.) or "Louis Brandeis said 'We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.' That sounds plausible. But if I have to choose between ignoring him and ignoring a polynomial curve that has been operating for thousands of years, I'll bet on the curve" strike me with a certain sense of deja vu.

[2] In anything remotely resembling a foreseeable human society.

[3] "Totalitarianism is best understood as any system of political ideas that is both thoroughly dictatorial and utopian." (http://www.iep.utm.edu/totalita/)

15
natural219 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'll give a short explanation as to why I flagged this:

This piece irrationally pisses me off, for purely petty social dynamics reasons.

1) There's a first-mover advantage to thinkpiece responses. Everyone obviously is going to read the first response, many people are probably writing responses of their own. This seems like a quick way to jump into a discussion and say "hey, look at me!" You better have something useful to say.

2) It's just a really poorly thought out response. It rehashes basically the same points everybody knows, adding zero new information or insight, without responding to the meat of what Paul's saying.

3) There was a time when I sincerely believed Hacker News was the one place to go to escape from petty thinkpiece nonsense. It continues to sadden me to see this community in decline. PG should start another website.

16
dang 1 day ago 3 replies      
This article was flagged by users, presumably because it is a dupe of the discussion at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10826838.
17
enraged_camel 1 day ago 4 replies      
This is spot on.

I think it is important to evaluate PG's essay within context. He, like most people in Silicon Valley, is stuck in a bubble and views the rest of the world through a very distorted lens. That's where much of his rhetoric about wealth creation comes from: he's surrounded by people (founders) who create value in the form of software. When a portion of those founders become rich, he looks at himself as a promoter of inequality.

What he doesn't realize is that the vast majority of wealthy people did not become wealthy by creating value, but by playing zero-sum games -- and then by influencing politicians and bending the system to their will so as to guarantee that they will hold on to as much of that wealth as possible.

I think the question PG needs to address is this: what is the justification for non-founder executives getting paid tens of millions of dollars at the expense of other employees? What is the justification for those top-level salaries to exist even when the company is doing badly and regular employees don't see a dime in raises or bonuses that year?

Bottom line is that the type of wealth PG enables founders to create, and the subsequent inequality, is not the type society has a problem with. Sure, some people may balk at the idea of an instant-messaging app being valued in the billions, but those controversies tend to be completely detached from the inequality debate.

Now, if PG ever starts preaching that founder CEOs should pay themselves millions of dollars while keeping salaries as low as possible... that would be a different story. As things stand though, I don't think he's part of the problem and measures to address inequality won't really affect him and his crew.

18
temp 1 day ago 2 replies      
This sure is getting flagged a lot.
19
bad_user 1 day ago 1 reply      
This article is being buried, dropping from second place to tenth in an instant. Interestingly it's being surpassed by articles that are both older and with less points.
20
zuminator 1 day ago 1 reply      
Agreed. PG is in the business of helping people move up the wealth ladder, which is laudable and pretty much the opposite of preventing other people from moving up the income ladder, which is what rent seekers, wage thieves and tax dodgers do. Putting himself under the same umbrella as the oligarch class seems disingenuous and non-productive.
21
dang 10 hours ago 2 replies      
This breaks the HN guidelines. Please comment civilly and substantively or not at all.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10828763 and marked it off-topic.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

22
dang 10 hours ago 3 replies      
This breaks the HN guidelines. Please comment civilly and substantively or not at all.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10828285 and marked it off-topic.

23
Mz 1 day ago 2 replies      
Got this far and stopped reading:

To quote Graham, mafioso of the startup incubators:

I have lots of valid reasons to be really grumpy about lots of things. I am also not a fan per se of PG. But any supposed debate that starts by basically smearing the character of the person you are debating is unlikely to be based on sound, objective reasoning. This piece is almost certainly not motivated by a desire to correct any logic missteps in pg's writing. It is most likely a thinly veiled excuse for trying to trash the man personally.

24
cxromos 1 day ago 0 replies      
this feels like populism. pg's articles are well thought and argumented. i actually learned a lot from them. it does not matter do i agree with everything there or not though i mostly do. if someone can write that good from a different aspect or point of view so that i can learn more on his/hers views that would be great.
25
tie_ 1 day ago 1 reply      
I disagree with most of the post, but here is one point that I'm particularly at odds with:

> We have no obligation to stop someone from becoming rich but we have a strong obligation to stop someone from becoming poor.

I don't see a way to stop people from becoming poor. The most common way of becoming poor is not to produce wealth. How could we fulfill our "strong obligation" and force people to produce wealth?

26
clarkmoody 1 day ago 1 reply      
> Now: none of the above, and families often consist of two breadwinners (& no children) with a hearty amount of debt, nothing owned, and few savings.

All of this is by choice on the part of the families. People choose to seek employment. People choose to go into debt. People choose to spend rather than save.

> The family unit itself may even be weaker because of less shared ownership.

"The death of the family is the life of the state."[1] When the welfare state grows larger, the family itself becomes less important. If you want to restore the family to its former place, then you must reduce the welfare state.

> Wages havent tracked productivity for decades, so wages havent risen since the previous story was normal.

How about total benefits, including those mandated by the State? Your wages haven't increased but your employer is spending more than ever on your benefits.

> Weve lost all of that ground: not just some of it, all of it, and more. Were back to the 1920s wage slaves with few rights and no political ability to change things.

We've lost a lot of ground in the quest for liberty, that's for sure. But each June, the Supreme Court creates more "rights" out of thin air. What about those? We have more "rights" than ever, when you look at the burgeoning list of goodies the government doles out.

Income inequality is the result of a free society. Imagine perfectly egalitarian society, in terms of wealth. One day, a musical artist gives a concert, and people voluntarily choose to pay money to see it. Now you have inequality, and it was all voluntary. Should the State jump in and steal the excess capital from the artist and give it back to the patrons to restore equality?

[1] https://mises.org/library/welfare-states-attack-family

Show HN: GPU text rendering with vector textures wdobbie.com
324 points by wjd   ago   87 comments top 21
1
pcwalton 2 days ago 4 replies      
This is really neat. Though in practice if you are using this kind of thing I'm pretty sure you will want to combine it with atlasing (i.e. construct an atlas of glyphs via render to texture). That's because it's a waste of time to rerasterize glyphs in the FS every frame (which appears to be 200+ lines) instead of caching the results and reducing the per-frame work to a 5-line FS that just blits. In most apps pans are more common than zooms and the same glyphs are used over and over, so this usually ends up being a win. Using atlases also reduces the number of raster operations because the same glyphs tend to appear on the page repeatedly, and by using atlases you rasterize each glyph only once. Even more importantly, though, atlasing gives you the ability to reuse a blitting fragment shader to render other content (images, figures, etc.) as well as glyphs from the atlas in order to reduce state changes.
3
mattdesl 2 days ago 4 replies      
Great work! Is there any WebGL source available?

The demo runs very poorly on my 15" MBP (late 2013, Intel Iris Pro). I'm not sure if it's just the sheer number of glyphs being rendered at once, or whether it's something specific that this GPU is having trouble with.

Some related links for those interested in WebGL text rendering:

1 - https://github.com/Jam3/three-bmfont-text

2 - http://mattdesl.svbtle.com/material-design-on-the-gpu

3 - https://github.com/mattdesl/text-modules

4
jacobolus 1 day ago 0 replies      
This paper from 2014 is the best recent work Ive seen about rendering vector graphics on the GPU:

http://w3.impa.br/~diego/projects/GanEtAl14/

5
sho_hn 2 days ago 1 reply      
Another one: https://github.com/behdad/glyphy SDF, but full vector outlines, not texture sampling
6
orangeduck 1 day ago 0 replies      
I really like this idea, but bezier curves are quite computationally difficult to use. There are many representations of these kind of continuous shapes which are much easier for this kind of processing.

For example I would try converting the bezier representation into an implicit HRBF representation (here is a good explaination in 3D http://rodolphe-vaillant.fr/?e=12). This representation should be much easier to process on the GPU - checking how much the point is inside/outside the glyph should only be one matrix multiplication which would make the computation in the actual shader really really fast.

7
watmough 2 days ago 6 replies      
Exactly what I needed, just as I was about to start screwing with distance fields or the like. THANK-YOU!

Edit: I may have spoken slightly too soon, not since the technique isn't awesome, but because this isn't yet usable without an atlas generation tool that I don't know how to build.

As far as performance goes, this is rendering a 124-page PDF (I know, just the glyphs...) utterly without lag using the GPU, on a 16 Gbyte quad i7 box that can barely render a couple of pages under OS X Preview without significant pauses. Impressive and Incredible.

8
rayiner 2 days ago 2 replies      
See also: http://www.msr-waypoint.net/en-us/um/people/cloop/LoopBlinn0... work done on the subject at Microsoft Research, with more of the math described).
9
a_e_k 1 day ago 0 replies      
Nice work. The subdivision into cells and encoding into GPU textures is strongly reminiscent of the 2008 paper "Random-Access Rendering of General Vector Graphics" by Nehab and Hoppe [1].

Rotating the line samples is a rather interesting idea. Seems like that would converge to the equivalent of a convolution with a radial tent filter.

[1] http://w3.impa.br/~diego/publications/NehHop08.pdf

10
voltagex_ 2 days ago 0 replies      
This looks great, but I don't understand much of the article. As a half-decent dev, what do I need to do to write "Hello World" on the screen?
11
DonHopkins 2 days ago 1 reply      
Signed Distance Field fonts are wonderful! I've been using a Unity extension called TextMesh Pro, which works very efficiently, and renders beautiful text that you can configure and decorate in many ways.

Beyond the obvious benefits of SDF fonts, it also has excellent and extensive layout, formatting and other useful features, like automatically scaling the text to fit in a given area.

The source code for the shaders and formatter and ugui integration is included, but not the atlas generator (although you might ask the developer if you need it -- he's engaged and helpful, and provides good support and quick fixes for Unity updates). It includes desktop shaders with many fancy features (outlines, drop shadows, beveling, glow, bump mapping, a surface shader that reacts to lighting and throws shadows into the world), and simplified optimized shaders for mobile.

I've used it (and read the source code to see how it works), and can testify that it works great on Unity's desktop, iOS, Android and WebGL backends. The code itself and the way it offloads so much work to the GPU is very beautiful and elegant.

TextMesh Pro - Unite 14 Demo:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3ROZmdu65o

Here's a benchmark that compares 5000 crisp TextMesh Pro objects rendering at 70 FPS, versus 5000 fuzzy Unity text objects rendering at 42 FPS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdc8UkxuSZc

Here's the same benchmark compiled with Unity's WebGL backend, with the same number of 2500 static and 2500 dynamic text objects. Nowhere near the 70 FPS of native code of course, but not bad for WebGL and so many objects -- zoom in with the mouse wheel to see the text up close: http://donhopkins.com/home/TextMeshProBenchmark/

TextMesh Pro on the Unity Asset Store:https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/#!/content/17662

Digital Native Studios home page:http://digitalnativestudios.com/

12
pshc 2 days ago 1 reply      
Very clever technique! It seems more true to letterforms than SDF. Seems like it might need more texture bandwidth/dependent reads than SDF, but less texture memory as a whole?

I've been looking at different text rendering methods for a VR engine. I wonder if this technique works in 3D space? If so I'll give it a shot, benchmark it against SDF :)

13
e98cuenc 1 day ago 0 replies      
It doesn't work here, Nexus 5.That's what I see when I zoom in:

https://goo.gl/photos/3EXv2t4YZRxmyNPe8

14
thorp5555 2 days ago 0 replies      
The use of the grid reminds me of Qin 2006's"Real-time texture-mapped vector glyphs":

http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1111433

http://docdro.id/ynU32mg (Paper)

http://docdro.id/t6XiE97 (Slides)

15
jepler 1 day ago 0 replies      
The method seems to assume the geometric complexity of a glyph is relatively small. I wonder if it will work with CJK glyphs. Possibly the number of tiles per glyph would need to be greater; I'm not sure how badly a couple of doublings would impact performance.
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kevingadd 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is a cool technique. The WebGL demonstration is pretty compelling!

It's a little odd to me that they describe distance fields as having an unavoidable problem with sharp corners, though. The Valve paper on signed distance fields for text demonstrates a simple workaround that fixes sharp corners...

17
Apanatshka 1 day ago 0 replies      
Source: MS Paint.

haha, that's clever ^^EDIT: seriously though, those are some Paint skills, I didn't even notice until I saw the "source" text below it.

18
rasz_pl 2 days ago 5 replies      
no subpixel rendering or hinting. Im confused - is there a problem with cpu rendered fonts that needs fixing? I didnt notice anything wrong last time I was reading schematics and datasheets on 4K monitor.
19
monk_e_boy 1 day ago 1 reply      
Why don't GPUs have some hardware in them to make rendering text simpler? It seems like a pretty common function that every game has. Have you ever seen a game without any text in it?
20
_ZeD_ 2 days ago 0 replies      
strange, I only see white rectangles on the demo (using ff 43.0.3
21
dvt 2 days ago 3 replies      
Although cool, this is not a particularly novel idea.

I remember reading a 2007 SIGGRAPH paper about something similar Valve did in HL2 (or maybe it was Orange Box). Either way, it was a similar method of rendering vector textures via distance fields. Here it is: http://www.valvesoftware.com/publications/2007/SIGGRAPH2007_...

How to get rich in tech startupljackson.com
309 points by sirteno   ago   188 comments top 21
1
Futurebot 10 days ago 3 replies      
"And if you go in with this mentality, even when startups fail, you succeed. If you put five years into building a company and team, you will end up with a great network of talented and motivated people, lots of first-hand experience, and often some management experience as well. Worst case, your next step could be going into Google at the VP level it wouldve taken you 15 years to get to joining out of college to inject some startup DNA, and catch up on salary within a few years. Unless this internet thing is a fad, that job will always be there for you."

This advice is quite precise about where it applies. If you're at a startup that is undercapitalized, working you 12-16 hours a day, 7 days a week, with poor management and no opportunities for anything but building and maintenance, you can actually wind up worse off than when you went in: no built-up network and nothing that would make you "VP at Google" material, and in the case of startups doing pay cuts (in an environment of ever-rising rents), even less money than when you started(!) He is referring to working at "decent or better" startups; problem is, you may not know you're not working at one of those until you actually work at another one.

The rest of his advice is probably worth listening to, but the above part should be considered very carefully.

2
code4tee 10 days ago 4 replies      
Most people get 'rich' slow and steady rather than overnight ...and by 'rich' those that are financially the best off typically don't look like it. They drive a modest car, live in a modest home, have nice but not flashy things.

3 main rules to live by:

1. The easiest way to increase your ability to save (other than a windfall inheritance) is to earn more money. Live a balanced life, but make sure that focus includes a strong career track with 1, 5 and 10 year goals. As has been discussed elsewhere at length, popular culture likes to play up the person that worked at a startup and sold their options for millions. This is very rare (most options are worthless or end up being worth less than the cash one gave up in the form of a lower salary to get them). Most 'rich' people are those that work hard and earn above average salaries over long periods of time.

2. As soon as practical, at every stage of your life live below your means. This isn't practical early on when some people are just scraping by, but once you start earning some real $$ learn from times when you had less $$ and live happily well under your means. If you earn $150k, live like you earn $100k. As one earns more it's fine to spend a bit (maybe you have a somewhat expensive hobby). Saving every penny eating beans and rice your whole life is no way to live. However, so long as you live well under your means you'll do very well. One of the biggest mistakes I see high earners make over and over is that they increase their spending as fast or faster than they increase their earnings. I can't tell you the number of "millionaires" I know that have trouble paying the electric bill some months. Don't fall into this trap.

3. Invest, but do so in a diversified and conservative fashion. Slow and steady is the key. Trying to "get rich quick" is also an easy way to "get poor quick." Build a reasonable pool of assets and invest when the market is up or down, just keep investing throughout your life. The math shows time and time again that people are horrible at timing the market. When everyone was in a full blown panic in 2008-09 the smart person just kept investing. Every $ the they invested is now worth 2-3x. Those that panicked and pulled out or stopped investing missed out big time.

3
wsc981 10 days ago 10 replies      

 If you want to get rich, your best bet on a risk-adjusted basis is to join a profitable and growing public company. Google for short. Make $200-500k all-in a year, work hard and move up a level every 3-5 years, sell options as they vest (in case you joined Enron), and retire at 60, rich. This plan works every time.
I don't think this is great advise. Not everyone is able to join a company like Google due to either luck or their capabilities. I also find being rich around 60 years pointless, since you've wasted too much of your life working for "the man" at that point.

I think a better approach would be the following:

1. Become freelancer.

2. Do what you love and do it well. If you're passionate enough about your job you should be able to increase your rate over time.

3. In western european countries: aim for at least 100.000 EUR a year.

4. Live cheap and save up. Invest the cash you don't need at any moment in real estate (house) and index funds.

5. Travel around the world and find a nice cheap country you could enjoy your life in.

6. Emigrate once you have enough money to live comfortably in your country of choice.

---

That's my plan at least. Currently I'm on a 'holiday' (2 months) in Thailand. I figured the following:

- In Thailand one can live (bare minimum) for around 500 EUR a month (some Russians in my co-working space live from that amount).

- Property can be bought for around 50.000 EUR in Pattaya. Not really huge, but decent with shared gym and swimming pool in apartment complex.

- 100.000 EUR invested in indexfunds should net me on average around 6% a year after taxes, i.e. 6000 EUR a year or 500 EUR a month (7% historic average minus ~1% tax).

- With no monthly rent to pay, I'm should be able to live a bit more comfortably compared to my Russian co-workers here :)

- I could fully focus on personal software project and hopefully that will add to my income over time.

---

I won't be financially rich, but I would have financial independence and could do what a love in a country with nice weather, good food and nice people - it's another form of wealth.

4
pla3rhat3r 10 days ago 3 replies      
While I don't agree with all the points, the best advice in here is:

"But for all that is good and holy, dont join a startup for the fucking money."

If you're joining or starting a company because you think you're going to buy a yacht and a small island, stop it! Recently I've seen some Founders tweeting things that make me shake my head every day. You're not going to be rich unless you have that once in a lifetime solution no one else is building. That's why it's called, "winning the startup lottery." It's still a fucking lottery. :)

5
tptacek 10 days ago 1 reply      
Developers at failed startups do not as a rule get offered VP-level jobs at Google.
6
blantonl 10 days ago 1 reply      
One important approach this article is missing is the fact that there are thousands of quiet, successful, single owner companies that have found a niche and don't aspire to change the world, and they still bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit every year.

Getting on with the Google's or the VC backed "change the world" startups aren't the only ways to get rich in tech.

7
lazyjones 10 days ago 4 replies      
If you have the skills to go work for Google and climb up the career ladder there, you probably have the skills to start your own company, work harder and retire at 40 (not 60) with a decent amount of wealth. Just find an interesting niche, develop it for a large market and don't waste your time on worthless features. I retired at 41 this way and don't think I was even Google material when I started (too old and relatively inexperienced). Also, listen to this advice: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10787615
8
msoad 10 days ago 0 replies      
If you worked five years in a startup that failed it's hard to believe that you can get a VPN job at Google. With acquisition maybe. But Google don't hire VPs like that.
9
bcoinbanker 10 days ago 0 replies      
Powerful VC who profited from the kind of situation described in the nytimes piece: "Don't join a startup because you are trying to maximize wealth". Fk yes, just like you, the only reason I joined and you invested in that dating app is to save the singles from this damn evil world.
10
blue11 10 days ago 0 replies      
Google and startups are two extreme ends of the spectrum, and neither is that great in terms of risk-reward balance. Personally, I'd recommend joining an established, but still growing, medium-sized company. That means shortly before, or a year or two after IPO, somewhere between 100-500 employees. That kind of a place still has momentum and is still relatively generous with equity. You won't get as rich as your pre-IPO coworkers, but you'll do OK and with less sacrifice. If the company is still growing, there will be opportunities for promotion and for learning and doing a lot of cool things. Think of joining Google or Facebook when they had 500 employees. In hindsight, it seems obvious that that was a good time to join, but I'm sure that lot's of people passed on the opportunity, thinking that it was too late. So recognizing that a company still has momentum can be a bit tricky. If you are coming out of college, one easy way to test if an established company is still a good place or if it has stagnated is to do an internship there.
11
tabeth 10 days ago 1 reply      
The real question I think is what are the preconditions to "get rich in tech" and how do you get to those preconditions?

Assuming you're not in a position to get the typical pedigree associated with the preconditions, e.g. Stanford/MIT/ C.S, how does a "typical" engineer become amazing. I would love a comprehensive guide on how to do this.

Being great at your job is one thing, meeting the preconditions associated with getting rich in tech, is another.

12
orionblastar 10 days ago 1 reply      
Yeah I followed advice like this. It does not always work. I studied hard in college, I worked hard, and I was a programmer earning good money.

I never learned how to deal with stress and the stress from the job caused a mental illness that forced me to go on disability.

If I had to do it all over again I'd develop stress management skills along with people and social skills. Getting along with people who don't understand how technology works is a big deal.

I don't know how to get back into working again and I'm 47 and barely getting by. Blew through my life savings and filed chapter 13 bankruptcy due to high medical bills. If I never developed that mental illness, I'd most likely still be working.

13
foobarqux 10 days ago 0 replies      
Does anyone have an actual example of someone getting to VP level at Google through a startup faster than you could otherwise?
14
danieltillett 10 days ago 3 replies      
My first piece of advice for startup job seekers is that equity, all things equal, you cant pick em. On a risk-adjusted basis, startups are likely to be about the same. If there is information that a company has significantly de-risked, it will be priced in. Despite the market often being very wrong, you are unlikely to outsmart it.

I dont understand the argument for this. Isnt the whole basis of venture investment being able to identify business that will return above the risk-adjusted return? Given many investors lack the technical understanding to know a good risk from a bad one how could this be priced in?

15
retube 10 days ago 1 reply      
Reading the linked article about how employees of Good paid huge tax bills on stock that ultimately proved worthless - how insane is US tax law?? Surely you should only be taxed on realised gains, i.e when you cash out.
16
TeeWEE 10 days ago 3 replies      
Ok how does this work in Europe. In Amsterdam, high salaeries are around 72000 per year. Of which 50% goes to the tax. So you only have around 3k per month...
17
GoodJokes 9 days ago 0 replies      
Ironically, some of the richest people I know are actually the poorest.
18
GoodJokes 9 days ago 0 replies      
If your goal in life is to get rich than you have already failed as a human. It is a very easy to get rich. Commit to an amoral lifestyle.
19
astazangasta 10 days ago 4 replies      
This is the same horsehit they sell graduate students. "Ah, we're paying you a pittance,but the experience is worth it!" But you can't eat experience, and all of this - grad school, the startup ecosystem, etc. - is just a way for greedy assholes to exploit naive young people when they are at their most energetic.

Don't accept sub-market pay and long hours in exchange for 'experience'. Other people (i.e. investors) are making money off your work. Get paid.

20
dang 10 days ago 2 replies      
(We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10788759 and marked it off-topic.)

This comment breaks the HN guidelines. Personal attacks are not allowed here. Your other comments in the thread aren't civil and substantive either, because they're mostly just venting indignation, and in the signal/noise ratio that we care about, that is noise.

It's worth observing that the indignation was out of place to begin withthe OP not only doesn't advocate what you're railing against, he said the opposite and even put it in bold, presumably to ward off misunderstanding. That mismatch is typical of indignation, which usually pre-exists and is waiting for opportunities to vent. In other words, it's really about something else, which is why such comments always feel off-topic even when they don't appear to be. (This is not a personal critcism; I've made many such comments myself and it took a long time to figure out that doing so is not real conversation.)

21
J_Darnley 10 days ago 1 reply      
Don't bother. Don't even try. It will never happen to you.
Openage Free Age of Empires 2 engine clone openage.sft.mx
341 points by thejj   ago   41 comments top 10
1
mdf 13 hours ago 13 replies      
It's amazing to see so many community powered open source projects dedicated to keeping old games alive (while also preserving the same look & feel these games had back in '90s).

Along with the OpenMW[1], OpenRA[2], OpenTTD[3] and OpenRCT2[4] listed on openage's GitHub page, lots of others exist. To name a few:

* OpenXcom[5] for X-COM: Enemy Unknown and the later Terror From the Deep games.

* Nuvie[6], Exult[7] and Pentagram[8] for Ultima VI-VIII respectively.

* GZDoom[9] (and various others) for running Doom, Doom II etc.

* Freeciv[10] for running Civilization.

[1] https://openmw.org/

[2] http://openra.net/

[3] http://openttd.org/

[4] http://openrct.net/

[5] http://openxcom.org/

[6] http://nuvie.sourceforge.net/

[7] http://exult.sourceforge.net/

[8] http://pentagram.sourceforge.net/

[9] http://forum.drdteam.org/viewforum.php?f=23

[10] http://www.freeciv.org/

2
silveira 13 hours ago 1 reply      
0ad started as a AOE mod then they started their own engine and assets. I've been playing a lot of 0ad lately, I recommend it.
3
sparky_ 12 hours ago 2 replies      
So I'm a big fan of OpenTTD which is a similar premise - but I can't help but feel like the timing is going to hurt them here. OpenTTD, OpenRCT, et al, solve a problem that the original game is a subpar (or unplayable) experience on modern hardware; however Microsoft has just rerelease an HD version of AOE2 on Steam not even a year ago. So my fear is that it's directly competing with a equivalent proprietary executable with a lot of marketing dollars behind it.
4
nodesocket 8 hours ago 1 reply      
Anybody know of a Command And Conquer: Red Alert clone, that supports online play? Really missing that game.
5
k8tte 13 hours ago 2 replies      
Cool project!

But i'm confused. On http://openage.sft.mx/ they say this is a reimplementation in C++14, but seems to be actually implemented in Python [1] ?

1: https://github.com/SFTtech/openage/tree/master/openage

6
KuhlMensch 13 hours ago 2 replies      
Why does the screenshot have one tile have Gabe Newell in it? is it a dig at an ex-microsoftian or something?
7
hayd 3 hours ago 0 replies      
I've successfully: cloned the repo, installed the deps, compile, loaded the assets, and run python run.py... How do I play??

The game generates a map, but there's a very different HUD, with vim-like modes and lots of keyboard shortcuts on the RHS. Is there a tutorial or short introduction in how to get started?

Edit: it's somewhat explained here: https://github.com/SFTtech/openage/blob/master/doc/usage.md

8
skrowl 13 hours ago 0 replies      
OpenAge has only seen one release in 2015, but looks to have quite a few contributors. Also, there are no Windows builds.

Cool looking project though.

10
JupiterMoon 14 hours ago 1 reply      
How legal is this? Just wondering.
       cached 4 January 2016 05:11:01 GMT