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OpenAI Universe openai.com
1010 points by sama  3 days ago   128 comments top 30
llSourcell 3 days ago 6 replies      
Hey guys, it's Siraj. OpenAI asked me to make a promotional video for it on my Youtube channel and I gladly said yes! You can check it out here:


mulcahey 3 days ago 0 replies      
With this platform (and Gym) it seems like a large part of their strategy for "democratizing AI" is to grow the amateur research community. By making it easier for an individual to play around and conduct experiments, they are hoping enable progress to emerge from anywhere instead of just from wealthy companies and elite universities.

It is also a great way to be able to track and organize what is being created rather than having to sort through amateur projects scattered across the web or research publications that often lack accompanying code.


Some key ways they're making it easier for amateurs:

* Starting point for problems to solve

* Way to get noticed (instead of needing a university/company brand)

* Technological infrastructure for building and testing. The diversity of tools they brought together to build this platform is very impressive.

d_burfoot 3 days ago 6 replies      
Disclaimers: I cannot see the future. These are just my opinions. I really appreciate the work and money that SamA, Elon, and others have put into the OpenAI project. The Universe work in particular might help encourage young people, many of whom love video games, to study AI.

But I feel that contrarians, such as myself, have an ethical commitment to young people to voice our doubts and criticisms, so that they can avoid making a long journey down a career/research path that leads to a dead end. That being said, I think this project leads in a very unpromising direction. Here are some reasons:

1. Games aren't a good testbed for studying intelligence. In a game the main challenge is to map an input percept to an output action (am I drifting off the side of the road? Okay swerve right). The real challenge of intelligence is to find hidden abstractions and patterns in large quantities of mostly undifferentiated data (language, vision, and science all share this goal).

2. This platform is not going to help "democratize" AI. To succeed in one of these domains, contestants will need to use VAST amounts of computing power to simulate many games and to train their DL and/or RL algos. DeepMind and others will sufficient CPU/GPU power will almost certainly dominate in all of these settings.

3. Deep Learning, as it is practiced, isn't intellectually deep. With a few exceptions, there is nothing comparable to the great discoveries of physics, not even anything comparable to the big ideas of previous AI work (A*, belief propagation, VC theory, MaxEnt, boosting, etc). Progress in DL mostly comes from architecture hacking: tweak the network setup, run the training algo, and see if we get a better result. The apparent success of DL doesn't depend on any special scientific insight, but on the fact that DL algos can run on the GPU. That, combined with the fact that, except for the GPU, Moore's Law broke down roughly 10 years ago, means that relative to everything else, DL looks amazingly successful - because all other approaches to AI are frozen in time in terms of computing power.

flaviojuvenal 3 days ago 4 replies      
Related but slightly off-topic, there is a great sci-fi story by Ted Chiang (the same author who made the story behind Arrival film) about humans raising AIs in an artificial world. The premise is that if we want AIs to act like humans, we must teach them like we teach humans: http://subterraneanpress.com/magazine/fall_2010/fiction_the_...
state_less 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'd love to see AI, using games, master the art of determining a depth for objects in the scene. If you ask a person, "about how far away is that car?", they often give you an okay answer that is at least in the same magnitude as the actual distance 1 m, 10 m, 100 m, 1000 m. If AI could do that, you could then navigate an environment in the real world better using only a camera or two. So you start with a virtual world that looks real, train up the bot, then use it to navigate in the real world. Has this already been accomplished?
Cybiote 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is astounding!

If requests are being taken, it would be useful to be able to search through the listed environments. And a poker environ for the internet section would be a good balance of fun, widely appreciable and a straight forward but very non-trivial environment.

NhanH 3 days ago 4 replies      
This is a bit out there, but it would be fun if OpenAI can get one of the mega popular multiplayer games under this (WoW, League of Legends, DOTA etc.).

Imagine an AI team in League of Legends world championship!

poppingtonic 3 days ago 2 replies      
This is amazing! I was thinking of this problem when I saw a friend making a stop-motion video. The steps are super repetitive and I asked him, "maybe an DeepMind Atari-style RL agent can learn how to do this?" But I didn't want to do what DeepMind did to emulate Atari games with an Adobe editing tool. This is an experiment that I can now run.
jclay 3 days ago 1 reply      
I noticed the OpenAI team wrote their own VNC driver in Go for performance reasons[0].

I would love to hear more about how they were able to achieve increased performance over other VNC drivers.


shykes 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is perhaps my favorite use of Docker ever.
soared 2 days ago 0 replies      
http://reddit.com/r/WatchMachinesLearn is about to get a lot more popular. I can't wait. Also from the linked blog post, you can play with (against?) your agent in realtime:

>You can keep your own VNC connection open, and watch the agent play, or even use the keyboard and mouse alongside the agent in a human/agent co-op mode.

minimaxir 3 days ago 1 reply      
Interesting announcement timing at 10:30 PM PST on a Sunday. :P

The list of third-party gaming partners is extremely impressive, and a Docker config helps resolve the dependency hell that some of the AI packages require.

Hydraulix989 3 days ago 2 replies      
What is state of the art in reinforcement learning right now?


Is there a way to deal with "sparse" training data (state, action, reward) triples -- sparse in "state"?

CodinM 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'll just go on a limb and consider this to be fucking awesome.
grondilu 3 days ago 0 replies      
All the listed PC games environments are tagged as "coming-soon"


cing 3 days ago 2 replies      
End game; I'd really like an AI agent for "in real life" tabletop games (like boardgames).
noobermin 3 days ago 1 reply      
>other applications

Any applications with a keyboard and mouse? Can I use emacs and have it start learning to code?

thallukrish 1 day ago 0 replies      
Being able to "Infer" from what it learns and "Apply" it to new scenarios in a general way is all about intelligence. I do not see how making it to win one game or one million will move it towards achieving general intelligence of this sort.
jakozaur 3 days ago 3 replies      
Browser tasks seems to be a greenfield field with amazing potential.

What if AI can do anything what can human do you with a browser over the phone?

Also love "bring your own Docker container format".

aratno 3 days ago 2 replies      
I just hope no self-driving vehicle is applying anything learned in GTA.
swah 3 days ago 1 reply      
Layman question: isn't adjusting "hyperparameters" similar to writing a algorithm for playing a game, using human intelligence?

Related to the blog post: https://openai.com/blog/universe/

BaronSamedi 3 days ago 4 replies      
Unless I missed something it looks like the AI has to learn from screen pixels instead of getting game state data. I don't like that approach at all. I understand that it's easy to implement for OpenAI but I think having the game developers provide a real bot-capable API is much better. I hope the latter is what Blizzard will provide for their DeepMind collaboration.
iotb 2 days ago 1 reply      
Does OpenAI Universe communicate in any way with OpenAI remotely regarding activity in OpenAI Universe? Essentially, are there any call-home aspects to the code base? Or, is it possible to run this locally without any outside communication?

If there is remote communication, can you detail why and where it exists in code?

mariusz79 2 days ago 1 reply      
I might be wrong but I think this was created mainly to monitor progress in AI research. If someone uses OpenAI Universe and can get better results than virtually everyone else, they will be able to get to them first.
NamTaf 3 days ago 3 replies      
From my initial reading, the end user can't create environments? Is that a feature that I can expect will eventually come?
mrfusion 3 days ago 0 replies      
Is the users ai responsible for parsing the screen pixels that come back or does each game give you relevant events?
naveen99 3 days ago 0 replies      
Too bad Iphone doesn't support a vnc server.Would be nice to add some android apps if they could get permission.
dcslack 2 days ago 0 replies      
Some designers from Stripe absolutely helped with the design of this page.
daveloyall 2 days ago 0 replies      
Didn't we all agree to NOT let the AGI out of its box?

...That being said...

Instead of presenting the agent with a 2d plane of pixels, they should be presented with a sphere of pixels, with their POV inside.

TPCrow 3 days ago 6 replies      
Tell HN: Political Detox Week No politics on HN for one week
1611 points by dang  2 days ago   1205 comments top 329
nneonneo 2 days ago 14 replies      
Many of the top-level comments here are against this move. I, on the other hand, would like to express my strong support for this move.

Hacker News has never been an anything-goes site. Tight moderation, considerate rules, and low tolerance for bullshit have made this a great site to talk about interesting technical topics and ideas. Remember that we all abide by the rules of the site, and that this isn't a magic free speech zone. If you want to talk political topics, the Internet has more than enough outlets.

Political discourse is antithetical to rational, intelligent discussion. This is not an opinion; look only to sites that allow political discourse (Slashdot?), or even our own comments to see how quickly rational discussion can devolve into flaming. One of the major selling points when I introduce HN to other people is the _absence_ of political topics or discussion: leaving the politics out just produces better technical content.

Also, please consider the idea that politics are regional and differ between countries. In Canada, where I'm from, many of the US political topics would never come up; many European countries might feel even more strongly. As a Canadian, I find American political musings and arguments even less relevant and noisy. By contrast, technological topics are always interesting to me - I can appreciate these, and I love that there's this corner of the Internet where I can participate in a reasoned, interesting technical community. Please don't ruin it with politics, especially the polarizing American variant.

I appreciate that the site is willing to take this step, and I sincerely hope it can keep this site useful, interesting and level-headed for the future.

idlewords 2 days ago 14 replies      
This is a terrible decision. The tech industry has built powerful tools of social control, and runs vast databases of private data on pretty much everyone in the country. We have a golden period of forty-some days before a new administration comes to power that has shown every intent of using that information to deport people and create a national Muslim registry.

We need to be talking about the political implications of what we've built, and figuring out how to fix our mess. This is like the period before the hurricane: everyone should be busy boarding up windows, and you can't do that if you decide you're just not going to talk about the coming storm because it makes you feel bad.

minimuffins 2 days ago 2 replies      
The idea that we can carve out a space that exists outside of politics and ideology is delusional.

Ideology is present everywhere. It's built in to the ways we relate to each other, to our employers, to the public and private institutions and technologies we interact with all the time, and especially the way we work and conceive of work. Ideology is often tacit, baked into our assumptions even in "non-political" areas.

Squelching political discussion won't cause us all to transcend ideology, it'll just make it impossible to discuss or critique a dominant ideology whenever one shows up in someone's unstated assumptions.

This is a bad idea and a little dystopian (the world is upside down, but think happy thoughts, folks! Here's a TED talk!)

Not to mention I didn't really see a huge problem on the site, so in a time when politics and ideology are on everyone's minds for good reason, it seems you've chosen to solve a non-problem with censorship.

tarikjn 2 days ago 33 replies      
I find this experiment a bit strange/disturbing, avoiding political subjects is a way of putting the head in the sand. HN is a community of hackers and entrepreneurs and politics affects these subjects one way or another wether we want to avoid it or not, and are an important component of entrepreneurial and technical subjects. It might be fine if HN was a scientific community, but it is not the case, and even then politics do interact with science, as one can conduct scientific experiments on government decisions, or politics can attack scientific community positions (e.g. climate change).

The way this sounds is that you are more concerned about politics as in people who take party positions and may feel excluded as a group when the majority of the community takes a different position. This is a slightly different issue i.e. party politics, and I think it is fine/a good thing, but it is also important to distinguish the two. This should essentially be under the same umbrella as personal attacks, as they are essentially the same thing.

rustyfe 2 days ago 8 replies      
One question that interests/concerns me is making judgement calls about what is/is not a political story.

Some links will be cut and dry, some will not. Some comments will be immediately identified as political, some will just be politics adjacent.

For instance, on a story about self driving cars, will it be appropriate to talk about UBI? On a story about cryptography, will it be acceptable to talk about how it applies to political dissidents?

Still, I have always found HN moderation to be reasonable, and I expect this to be the same. This is also something I think is desperately needed, we could all use a cooling off period, and it'll be nice not to be bombarded with US politics from yet another angle.

Hoping for the best, thanks dang + crew!

lsy 2 days ago 1 reply      
The idea that you can somehow separate "political" from "non-political" stories seems poorly-thought-out and censorious. Who will make these decisions? It seems clear that many posts that are nominally "about tech and only tech" are pushing some political viewpoint, whether it be the benefits of mass computerization, workaholic tips and tricks, or protection from civil rights violations using encryption.

HN pretends to be largely apolitical, but the quick disappearance of certain threads or topics seems to show that it has a heavy slant towards a sort of techno-utopian quasi-libertarianism that wants to work its way out of challenges to its ideas by sort of putting its fingers in its ears. Instead of attempting to "depoliticize" itself, maybe HN should spend time developing a better understanding and clarification of the extremely political stance it takes every day?

kristianc 2 days ago 2 replies      
It's not possible for HN to have "no political position" on issues such as tech.

As the Amazon Go thread, and this comment from PG demonstrate, the default position - where there is no discussion of race / gender / class / diversity - is for the protections that minority groups enjoy to disappear.

Either because no-one thinks to protect them (as white working classes feel has happened to them) or because SV bigwigs see those protections as an inconvenient fact that should be swept away by technological disruption.

pg: "Any industry that still has unions has potential energy that could be released by startups."


It's a fallacy to think that HN and hackers can somehow obsolve themselves from that responsibility any more than it thinks it can obsolve itself from responsibility toward homeless in SF.

By all means take the decision you feel you need to to maintain your community - but don't under any circumstances pretend it's a politically neutral one because it just cannot be.

bargl 2 days ago 2 replies      
I'm seeing a lot of people say this is a bad idea. I completely disagree. TL;DR; If HN is your only news source, you have bigger issues than this experiment, go subscribe to another source of political news.

Hacker news is a news aggregation medium for "Hacker News." The purpose of this site is to get your fix of tech news that you can't get other places. It isn't burying your head in the sand to ONLY have "Hacker" news on your Hacker News site. It's sticking your head in the sand not to read any other news sources. That is on the individual. It is not the job of Hacker News to educate you on politics. The responsibility of getting good news is on the user not the medium. HN doesn't claim to be a one stop shop for all of your news.

More importantly, this is an experiment, on a site that is very interested in Science and Programming. It completely makes sense to have an experiment like this to see if it affects the quality of the comments. Being against this experiment is like my dad trying to tell me that God Created the earth 5000 years ago from parts of other planets (complete hyperbole). WTH? It doesn't matter it's one week and then it's over.

I'm assuming a good experiment will THEN make assertions and consult with the community to see if this worked, was bad/good/etc. At that point voice your concerns, but not yet, there is no evidence it's all conjecture.

reflexive 2 days ago 1 reply      
Based on Agnolia, these are the most popular stories from the past week on HN that might be construed as "political":

#17 Tell HN: Political Detox Week No politics on HN for a week https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13108404

#23 Canadian journalist's detention at US border raises press freedom alarms https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13092330

#29 Help Us Keep the Archive Free, Accessible, and Private https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13065599

#37 Facebooks Walled Wonderland Is Inherently Incompatible with News https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13103611

#49 War Is a Racket by General Smedley D. Butler (1933) https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13068641

#59 FBI to gain expanded hacking powers as Senate effort to block fails https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13074285

haukilup 2 days ago 0 replies      
As an experiment, I love the idea!

Personally, I've found it hard to escape US politics on many of the sites I frequent. The comments/discussion often end up relating the topic to the last US election in some manner - and an unproductive conversation follows.

Just my experience, but again - love the idea of running an experiment here.

threatofrain 2 days ago 2 replies      
If anything, Hacker News should be more political, and it ought to get its political act together. People here are always talking about moral issues, implications of technology on the working class, climate issues, accessibility, etc.

Well, talking about those issues is just moral posturing without <power>, and politics is the negotiation of power.

These are all political issues. If you care about your fellow person, you already have the seeds of a <political> motivation. You want to change the way the world works -- but that takes power, power like the AMA or AARP has.

People who duck their heads in the sand and scorn politics and power as something dirty are counterproductive to this highly disorganized technical community with almost zero union potential.

japhyr 2 days ago 1 reply      
I understand the sentiment here, but it sounds a little...wishful.

Our political climate is affecting all of us in many ways, and we need to process what's happening. We need to do that carefully and constructively. I want to know the subtle political aspects of many of the stories I read on HN.

That said, I'll play along for the week. I hope what comes out of this is a push to encourage critical thinking about the political aspects of important stories, not to push political conversation off of HN entirely.

Arcsech 2 days ago 3 replies      
Who decides what's "political"? Are discussions of regulations surrounding Uber political? The ongoing Tesla/dealership feuds? Using machine learning to detect fake news? New immigration policy that impacts H1B tech workers? The impact of Brexit on tech companies? Restrictions on cryptography?

I'm split on this: On one hand, firm moderation and keeping things on-topic makes for a good forum for discussion. On the other, this could easily be used by YC as a tool to say, silence criticism of YC for not disavowing Peter Thiel. Either way, there need to be clearer guidelines around what's allowed and what's not.

TrevorJ 2 days ago 1 reply      
Given that ycombinator does specifically involve themselves in issues of policy such as universal basic income and others, I find this move to be at odds with what ycombinator actually is.

Once some ideas are too 'dangerous' or too contentions to be discussed, there is little hope of ever moving forward in solving the very real problems we have in this world.

Characterizing values as fragile things which cannot withstand the rigors of robust debate is also a troubling viewpoint.

edit: typo.

tunesmith 2 days ago 4 replies      
I'm not really a fan of this move. I don't see it as an addiction that reduces its power over us by abstaining for a period of time. I also don't agree with applying system effects to individuals - while political discussion can appear to create a dulling or muting effect overall it doesn't mean that individual people aren't being positively influenced, in ways that might have even larger positive effects on the system over time. Similarly, preventing short term conflict might have negative longer term system effects over time.

The detox/immune-system metaphor seems really suspect in other words. You could just as easily argue that there is a "virus" (the changing political realities, new realities dawning on us), and that ignoring the "virus" or "symptoms" will make the adjustment that much more traumatic, the later we accept that it's happening. Or to switch the connotation, perhaps instead of a "virus", look at it as a "disruptive innovation" - where if we act as an entrenched incumbent, we will be disrupted as our competitors rewrite the rules, and we will be too far behind to pivot successfully.

Letting the community process the new inputs vigorously might seem more traumatic in the short term but it could also make us stronger overall.

This just seems counter to the principles that I appreciate at HN.

woodhull 2 days ago 1 reply      
Do you really think that the techno-capitalist libertarian utopia that many in silicon valley seem to be trying to build is a-political, immune from regulation or popular backlash?

Anything political or critical of YC already gets disappeared from this site quite quickly. I had assumed that this policy (which always seemed misguided to me) was already in effect.

I think the historical moment we find ourselves in is a time to make ourselves more uncomfortable rather than retreat and pretend that the only things that matter are software and how we might make more money on the internet.

Politics is about coming together to find common solutions to problems and make sure that no one gets left behind. Isn't it the job of a responsible community (even a VC sponsored one dedicated to making money with tech as HN is) to lean in when things start to feel hard rather than tune out and ignore our responsibilities as citizens and fellow humans?

sean_patel 2 days ago 2 replies      
I really welcome this move. I couldn't get out of bed on Nov 9th and a few hours of introspection later, I realized I have no control over any of the Political changes and that I shouldn't be causing myself so much stress.

So I stopped watching the news -- both online and on TV -- since Nov 9th. It's been an incredible month for me since then.

I've made significant progress on my languishing side-projects ( a Show HN coming soon in Jan 2017!!!) and am generally less stressed and more mindful and happy.

I made a conscious effort to stop watching news and ride out the next 8 years (I expect Trump, like Dubya, will get Re-elected in 2020). I still need my "tech" fix, and visit only HN since I gave up the news. Yet I found a few Trump stories on HN recently, so this is a great move.

Thanks mods!

aburan28 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Why? Political conflicts cause harm here. The values of Hacker News are intellectual curiosity and thoughtful conversation. Those things are lost when political emotions seize control. Our values are fragilethey're like plants that get forgotten, then trampled and scorched in combat. HN is a garden, politics is war by other means, and war and gardening don't mix."

This is so misguided and absurd. What is the definition of politics here? Trump stories? Or are fake news stories also political? Alot of the HN community came to value intellectual curiosity and thoughtful conversation from political ends

opsiprogram 2 days ago 1 reply      
While I see the point, and I can agree with the points made that HN shouldn't be a "battlefield" for person opinion, I cannot accept that we will concede politics to be a topic to be too difficult for discussion, difficult conversations are the most important ones to have.

In the view you've put forward, you say that politics is the problem, a topic that when discussed causes fights and it can damage the culture of HN. I disagree. If we don't know how to talk about politics with strangers, we stop trying to persuade each other, and we bottle up our disagreement, and we go online and yell at someone else, or we vote for the candidate who screams our view... because we don't know how else to express it, to find the nuance in it, and ask ourselves hard questions. We'd rather have an opinion than not stand for something. All of the flaming is a way of expressing it...

We can suppress the conversations on HN to focus only on specific science or technology, but on a technology website in this age, and right now that seems like we'd be the website equivalent of a child covering their ears when they don't want to hear something. Blockchain tech, cryto, AI, mesh networking, job loss from automation, cyberwar, Quantum C. Seems incorrect to suggest that technology and politics can be separated easily (especially at a big picture).

Of course this is the internet, people come here to troll and fight. But we as individuals can always walk away. We can douse the flames by not engaging in it ourselves. We can always handle a conversation with care, it's not the topic that is emotional, it's us. It isn't up to the community to stop people from talking about touchy subjects, so that we all get along, it's up to us to learn how to talk about these things better. On the net, just like in the world.

The experiment shouldn't be to stop political discourse, but encourage it. See where we go, go forth and be critical thinkers and talk about the hardest topics facing human civ right now. Lets see what happens. Maybe that is naive, but we gotta start somewhere. Discouraging the conversation isn't a start, its an end.

AndrewKemendo 2 days ago 0 replies      
As a frequent commenter I think this is a good experiment, but I think it's worth considering what kind of platform HN considers itself.

Technology and politics are intimately linked, even if it's not always obvious. Technology's impact on politics is only going to grow in my opinion so I think the "political" discussions - as they relate to technology - are vital for the community at large.

If we as a community are going to be "disrupters" whether intentionally or not, we need to understand and discuss the social and political landscape and impacts of our work better, so that we can implement our technology in a way that doesn't spurn backlash from the communities and thus their political leaders.

Talk about political scandals and the like don't do service to this community, so I think those topics should be sequestered. However discussions on encryption, automation etc... are perfect topics for this community in my opinion.

pmoriarty 2 days ago 2 replies      
I am concerned that in the long run political stories about HN and Y Combinator, and about the tech scene will be excluded.

Where better to talk about the politics of HN and Y Combinator than on HN? As far as political stories go, these are the most relevant ones to HN readers. Political stories about the tech scene, and related topics (such as political reactions to tech employees grabbing up all the real estate in certain tech-heavy cities like SF) are also very relevant.

I would be more ok with the banning of non-tech-related political stories/threads. But, I think a better solution than censorship would be tagging. Tagging would allow every reader to do their own filtering, and include/exclude what they felt was appropriate, rather than have those decisions dictated top-down.

On the other hand, I also understand the desire of the site owners/admins to guide the site to be what they want it to be, rather than what its users want it to be. That's definitely their prerogative, and much of it I agree with - particularly the censorship of hate speech, flaming, and trolling.

The guiding of this site towards more tech and less politics is also a desire I understand and commiserate with. There definitely are plenty of other political sites out there, where you can argue this stuff 'till the cows come home. But personally, I don't visit those sites, and would like to be able to discuss at least some of those topics -- the ones relevant to tech and to HN/YC, on HN itself.

pshc 2 days ago 4 replies      
Tribalism is so toxic. I'm all for this. But for flagging purposes what's the boundary between a political/non-political story?

EDIT: @dang in another comment: Let me clarify. The main concern here is pure politics: the conflicts around party, ideology, nation, race, and religion that get people hot and turn into flamewars on the internet. We're not so concerned about stories on other things that happen to have political aspectslike, say, software patents.

lossolo 2 days ago 0 replies      
I am running tech site with 10k users on which i made surveys about politics with possibility to comment by users. I've stopped because there were so many conflicts, such bad emotions, then users moved their personal conflicts to other discussions on forum. After stopping the political surveys everything is a lot more stable and people are nicer to each other, without any biases, they discuss about software, hardware etc. This was very good decision, will it work for HN? Probably yes, it worked for us.
rcavezza 2 days ago 1 reply      
I disagree. I think if there was ever a time in the history of the world where more political discourse needs to occur, it should be now. I think this is especially true with such a smart group of individuals trying to change the world in many different arenas.
guildwriter 2 days ago 1 reply      
This feels a lot like closing the barn doors after the horses have already gotten loose. This kind of action was sorely needed weeks ago, especially when political articles turned into flame wars populated by 140 char political emotional screeds. It was really disheartening to see HN turn towards the same kind of political discussion I have to endure on other sites. Especially when commentators who tended to post thoughtfully completely devolved.

These days it feels rarer to see the same kind of inflammatory articles gain traction. The same kind of discussion is there but the flaming feels less rampant than it once was. With passions cooled I feel that the community is slowly returning to normal. Though it's likely with such a contentious president, especially to the de facto SV culture, it's not going to be smooth waters.

More brush fires might just be the new normal for now. I think that controlling the burning in this case is more advantageous to the community than trying to stamp it out entirely. Giving the silent treatment to unpopular views is partially how we ended up where we are.

I'm always up for a short term experiment though.

brilliantcode 2 days ago 2 replies      
This is a slippery slope, I read it as "lets censor ourselves for this week and everybody should do their part".

Tech is like any other industry, it's rife with politics. I don't agree with trolling but obviously this place isn't reddit, lot of political debates are valuable and offer insights for those less politically inclined.

If we agree to this policy what guarantee is there in the future that other topics that HN leadership doesn't like will be censored?

This is censorship pure and simple. Shame on you Dang for even suggesting it, my question is:

Is HN an America based community that reflects the core beliefs in freedom of speech & expression?

If yes, we shouldn't even have this kind of thread. Let trolls be flagged but everyone else having meaningful discussion should not be collectively punished.

minimaxir 2 days ago 2 replies      
It's worth noting that in order to flag a comment, you must click the permalink first.

I've seen political stories flagged pretty quickly during normal HN usage, but rarely comment threads.

gjkood 2 days ago 3 replies      
To tell you the truth, I put myself into a politics news vacuum the day after the elections and the results were announced.

I no longer frequent the politics sites (left and right) that I used to visit being a politics addict. I now no longer want to listen to any politics for the next 4 or 8 years (whichever the term may end up being).

I have stuck my fingers in my ears and am spouting "la la la la...." loudly whenever I go near a political discussion.

No more politics for me (at least till I am ready to come out of my self imposed exile).

rick_perez 2 days ago 0 replies      
I find this part of the main problem with the recent US election. You only want political discussions when you agree with it. No matter how civil a person is, it's considered 'uncivil' when it's against San Francisco politics.

When this happens, many people are forced to get their news from the sites deemed 'fake'. The mass banning of opposing viewpoints (which has been happening for a couple of years now) has pushed more people towards these sites and may have actually won Trump the election. If you want to change it, stop silencing all opposing views.

The problem is that politics is in every part of our lives. If you ban politics and religion, people still get political and religious about other things. It's part of human nature (GNU VS BSD), (VI VS Emacs).

aikah 2 days ago 1 reply      
> Why? Political conflicts cause harm here

Unfortunately this a consequence of people trying to shove politics everywhere, including in unrelated communities. I don't want to point fingers but a specific camp has mastered the art of forcing their political beliefs upon others in the name of "the right side of history". The result is now, you can't be just a developer, or a techie. You have to be a techie + or a developer + qnd also support a specific political agenda, or "you're not a decent human being". Maybe people should stop doing that at first place. The same thing happened in atheist communities or gaming and it permanently ruined these communities, because it forced everybody to take sides. HN is no different. The dev community will suffer the same fate if people don't come to their senses before it's too late.

Maybe political subjects that are totally unrelated to tech should be banned from HN. I don't like censorship, but if the goal is to keep a community united and focused well, I'm open for alternative suggestions...

4rtemis 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think this is a bad idea, even as an experiment. Treating groups of ideas as off-limits, immutable or in need of protection from other groups does more harm than good. Your analogy of "politics [being] war by other means" is exactly why we should foster political discussion just as any other intellectual pursuit. Arbitrary isolation between the political or religious self and our intellectual self is, I believe, why politics is so violent and difficult to talk about. You don't need homogeneity for a good discussion and you shouldn't assume chaos when heterogenous people start talking.

We talk about important things here and should do so in a way that is conducive to engaging conversation. Topics shouldn't be off the table.

Also, what is 'political'?

Edit: typo

andrewljohnson 2 days ago 1 reply      
Thank you, I'll happily flag down politics on HN.

Politics has caused me to start using new software so I can filter Twitter, change my subreddits, and aggressively unfollow people on Facebook (even family at this point).

And still I can't avoid it... though perhaps for the best, since social media by-and-large is just a distraction from real work and real life. I'm far better off coding, reading books, and playing go than reading garbage political news nd opinions from shrill internet denizens.

PravlageTiem 2 days ago 0 replies      
When most people talk about "politics" what they really mean is they want to recite talking points told to them from their favorite dying old media echo chamber.

Reddit went full political and I left.The chans went full political and I left.Facebook went full political and I left.Twitter went full political and I left.

I go on the internet to escape being repeatedly told I'm not doing enough to live up to the moral supremacist standards set by the Baby Boomers in the 1960s.

Nearly every single massive social network on the internet exists and have for a decade to cater to your daily fill of Silicon Valley bicoastal "look down the nose of the flyover plebs" equality porn. Go there for your schadenfreude. Don't bring it here.

Spirituality means having an imaginary friend. Politics means having imaginary enemies.

ProAm 2 days ago 6 replies      
I'm a little skeptical of this.... What's the ulterior motive here? We all know SamA was very anti-trump, is this an alternative method to keep the new US political regime from affecting YC? It's almost a weird form of discussion censorship. Whose idea was this?
danso 2 days ago 0 replies      
I respect that HN wants to stay away from the burning dumpsters that have been online political discussions lately. I probably post more than my fair share of political discussion here, but i try to do so only when I see it being relevant to the general aims of HN, even if you're here only for the tech and entrepreneurship. A lot of tech and business is influenced by political machinations, and I value the HN quality commentary on it.

But yeah, partisanship, not so much. Maybe a week of non-politics will help level the conversations here, though it's still a relative oasis compared to just about anywhere else online.

mindcrime 2 days ago 1 reply      
I say make this permanent. A couple of years ago, politics was mostly verboten here, at least unofficially. It's been a slow, steady transition to the current state where political stories have become so prominent.

None of that is to say that politics isn't important, or that I don't enjoy discussing the subject. It just isn't mainly why I come to HN, and I honestly feel a little dirty every time I get drawn into a political discussion here.

notadoc 2 days ago 0 replies      

My 2 cents: unless it's directly related to tech (net neutrality, SOPA, surveillance, security, etc), it shouldn't be on here.

abathur 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's your prerogative to enforce HN's own rules about political posts, but I think identifying "politics" as a "topic" is a misguided (political) gesture.

It's one thing to say pogo sticks are off-topic in a unicycling forum, and quite another to say basic human drives (thought, sex, hunger, curiosity, creation, expression, socializing, prediction, story-telling, bonding, power, respect, exploration...) that pervade everything we do are "off-topic".

On the road to pathologizing and demonizing people who don't agree with us, this kind of compartmentalization is itself a mechanism we use to flatten and stereotype away the human needs, desires, and drives that animate others.

You may benefit HN (and society) more by acknowledging these entanglements and focusing instead on how to model, shape, and cultivate responsible civic discourse.

jrnichols 2 days ago 0 replies      
I have no complaints. This is where I come more and more often because I am so fed up with endless political bickering on Facebook, Twitter, and, well, pretty much every other place I go that has some sort of comment section or forum. It's frustrating. For me, this is the last bastion of rational discussion.
nerfhammer 2 days ago 1 reply      
Politics stories seem to get flagkilled 95% of the time already, and despite the difficulty of discussing it politics affects our daily lives a lot more than the latest release of some javascript framework.
komali2 2 days ago 0 replies      
I like the idea of it being a detox and nothing more. I understand that political discussions can drag a site down, just look at reddit, but in the long term ignoring everything political can only hurt us. When it comes to topics like net neutrality, environment, and security/encryption, we can be doing the job of the government itself by crippling our grassroots/discussion efforts.

Being aware of the government stepping in our gardens is important, and if the side effect is sometimes we get mad at eachother, well, at least we're aware.

Futurebot 2 days ago 0 replies      
No objection whatsoever to a pause period, but it's important for people to realize there's no separation between politics and anything else, including technology. "Everything is political" is a cliche, but it happens to be true.

"Geeks like to think that they can ignore politics, you can leave politics alone, but politics won't leave you alone." -RMS

BinaryIdiot 2 days ago 0 replies      
I feel some irony was lost with the posting of this topic. The relationship the actions HN moderation takes against HN users is, by definition, political. So, by definition, this post should be removed.

Yes the moderation team is going to be handling this on a case by case basis and a thread like this isn't actually going to be shut down but I think it illustrates my point: politics is woven through society at virtually every level. There are very few stories that lack at least some form of politics.

So why not let the community decide what they feel it a topic worth discussion and what is not by flagging posts (like what they do today)? Why must there be interference to steer the community in a specific, editorialized direction?

rokosbasilisk 2 days ago 0 replies      
I support this even permanently. Not everything is political as some people believe.

Hackernews articles and comments about flask, django, and mongo helped me get my first job. Ask hn helped me learn about consulting. I love reading the comments about the em drive to help me understand when the mainstream media doesnt explain or misrepresents.

Even today I still learn so much about js frameworks, and cool plugins or tips and tricks, seeing all this swamped by politics sucks.

freddyc 2 days ago 1 reply      
The beauty (in my eyes at least) of Hacker News has always been that the most interesting/relevant stories and discussions find their way to the top of the feed. I've discovered topics and perspectives (including those I disagree with) that I otherwise wouldn't have been exposed to if it weren't for HN. I've always felt there is something of a built-in filter present, so this move feels a little forced and unnecessary to me.
bootload 2 days ago 0 replies      
While I agree with the idea, HN as a whole cannot totally avoid these kinds of issues: "Tech Companies Delay Diversity Reports to Rethink Goals". I haven't posted the link because it's not in the spirit of the detox and it's only one week. Do we avoid these types of discussions because they are ambiguous and hard?

 "Fashion is mistaken for good design; moral fashion is mistaken for good."
I understand the re-calibration of HN here. The choice of topics drift over periods of time and a reminder of the rationale is good hygiene.

 "Moral fashions more often seem to be created deliberately. When there's something we can't say, it's often because some group doesn't want us to."
I'm also reminded of a great essay [0] that for today should be mandatory reading.

[0] "What you can't Say" ~ http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html

Jeaye 2 days ago 0 replies      
I come here to talk and learn about tech and science, not banter about politics. I'm all for a politic-free HN.

Find just about any article on the hacker mindset and politics, aside from the desire for freedom, won't be anywhere near the top of the list. Nothing about Republicans, Democrats, race, etc.

Some examples:


estsauver 2 days ago 3 replies      
This doesn't feel nonpartisan, it feels like it's actively quashing what little political traction can be gained here.

And frankly, a 'detox' is absolutely the wrong word for it. The emotions for me at least come from feeling scared. I have several family members who will lose coverage if the ACA is repealed and I have muslim friends who are looking at the prospect of being sent to interment camps.

This is anger and fear that should be cultivated, not extinguished.

 sudo bash -c 'echo " news.ycombinator.com" >> /etc/hosts'

stevethyc 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me, I wish none of this had happened.

Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times but that is not for them to decide, All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you."

Information/Internet technology is inseparable from politics now. I never asked for that and neither did any of us, but that's the inescapable reality.Our inventions are being used to both enhance and disrupt democracy, and they are causing real people real pain along with the huge benefits to millions of others.Like many, my own productivity has taken a huge hit in the last year because of all of the political news. I resent this in the same way I'd resent a hurricane hitting my house, but pretending it isn't happening won't help.HN being a blend of pure tech stories along with political+tech stories is absolutely the right blend because IT REFLECTS THE REALITY OF TODAY'S WORLD.Trump's election is the biggest change in politics in the last 50 years, and IT was at the heart of that election, in terms of the forces that have caused the desire for change (e.g. worker displacement, cultural upheaval), and the mechanics of the election itself (e.g. Twitter, news feeds, fake news, media manipulation, big data, etc.).We, the IT workers of the world, are the new weapons-makers. That we never meant our work to be used that way is immaterial. Everybody in tech should now be politically informed. We should be tuned in. We should know details. We should learn the facts. I'd love to spend 100% of my time learning about new frameworks and hardware, and that's what I enjoy doing.We have the ring now, even if we never wanted it. Now it's our job to keep it out of hands of evil.

P.S. I started writing this response with, "Good! I am so sick of reading about politics everywhere. Great move, HN!". Then I changed my response to the one above.

proactivesvcs 2 days ago 0 replies      
If the result of political articles is a break down in polite, thoughtful discourse, such so that the site operators feel the need to take such drastic action, then we as users should also consider how we are voting comments.

I've recently realised I was upvoting comments (across various sites) that I agreed with and sometimes vice-versa, and I have started making a concrete effort to ensure that I upvote views I disagree with, if they add to the discussion.

I agree with the proposal of a one-week political moratorium here because I think that experiments can make good science. Let's also try to change the way we vote (and comment) for a week, by trying to ensure quality discourse is promoted, not just our views.

It's sometimes good for the soul to respect what you disagree with.

smoyer 2 days ago 1 reply      
That will give us all more time to discuss religion (the other topic my parents always said was verboten between casual acquaintances).

More seriously, I'm not going to rock the boat (and won't miss the discussions about politics) but I always figured those stories would disappear from the front page when the community at large didn't want to discuss them. It's a dangerous slope since you can also make the argument that other topics are also too dominant. I personally would like to see fewer articles on Angular but I wouldn't have suggested that they be off-topic for a week. I guess I assumed the up-voters wanted them.

OFF-TOPIC: Any chance we can down-vote articles with enough karma?

EDIT: I guess I should also note that I rarely flag articles since that seems like it should be reserved for some sort of abuse. My thought about down-votes is that it's the opposite of an up-vote ("I'm not interested in this" versus "this is interesting").

pizza 2 days ago 0 replies      
We all share a responsibility to behave like adults. Is this really the way to deal with some people being quick to anger? What's the difference between people debating over the best political theory vs, say, unproven quantum theory, or lay speculation on economics, or on history, or on aesthetics, or on evolutionary post hoc rationalization, or on predictions of the future?

And as per the US-centrism aspect, personally, I can't see how muting political debate will shift the average discussion away from US-centric politics, in general..

bradleyjg 2 days ago 2 replies      
I've been hesitant to go into new and just start flagging all the terrible stories because I've read about people that lost the ability to flag. So I only flag on relatively rare occasion. Does such an overuse mechanism actually exist?
jonahrd 2 days ago 0 replies      
Some of the most politically important events and eras were defined and made possible by the technology and engineering that came out of these periods. In the past, engineering has been taught as a separate entity, focusing on monetary and technological risks/rewards. This leads to impressive engineering projects that sometimes devastate communities, wildlife, marginalized groups, etc.

But the truth is that engineering is intrinsically linked to the impacts it has on the environment, its social impacts, its political impacts, and everything else that it affects in this complex web that is reality. When engineering is taught in schools now, these impacts are a major focus. In civil engineering this means that projects are planned that at least take into account the people and communities they are displacing. In industrial engineering, it means sourcing materials from the right places, focusing on environmental impact, etc.

It's absolutely no different in software engineering, or high tech in general. By enforcing an 'apolitical' atmosphere in a tech discussion, you're consciously shifting the intelligence and nuance of the discussion back to a period before we started to consider the impact that technology has on society. This is a dangerous shift, and dumbs down the level of discussion that's achievable by muting voices that connect the discussion with its impacts in other areas. In effect, this actively enforces the status quo, and doesn't allow our discussion here to progress the industry as a whole.

I come to HN because it's a great resource to find interesting tech articles. It's also a great way to stay informed with the latest tech related news. But equally, I find discussion so engaging here because it seems to be so deeply ingrained the heart of the tech community, and because of that, can affect the way the tech world operates as a whole (even just slightly). Stripping down the discussion to a frankly old-fashioned apolitical "tech doesn't affect anything except tech" would be a sad thing for me to witness happen to HN.

jressey 2 days ago 0 replies      
I disagree with this idea, the point where I consider it cowardly. This is a forum for a community, so let us talk about what we want to, and upvote it if it's good content. If this is actually a concern about a problem happening like on Reddit with upvote bots, then let's talk about that.

C'mon, hearing people talk positively about working with JS lights a fire inside me and my veins pop, so I just don't upvote their comments. Pretty simple.

whybroke 2 days ago 0 replies      
Very true, high emotions preclude clear thinking and this week will be a worthwhile experiment. But unfortunately web technologies are at the core of recent political events making this a very hard problem. For example will discussion on the following topics be disallowed for the week?

-Discussions of intrusions into US infrastructure by Russia which, curiously, always engender enormous political controversy.

-Manipulation of social media for political ends both manual and automated.

-Policy changes on net neutrality proposed by the president elect or others.

-Governmental surveillance as is and as likely to evolve.

-Trolling as a political tool to disrupt opposing communities.

One level up, there is also the possibility that calm well informed discussion is the exact thing that is targeted for destruction. But perhaps this week's experiment will take some steps towards thinking about that.

alistproducer2 2 days ago 0 replies      
Politics was definitely a problem right after the election, but it seems to have calmed down a lot and nakedly political stories don't seem to make it to the front page anymore.

I would hope this purge would not include stories related to privacy legislation, as I think the topic is very relevant to the community.

dkural 2 days ago 1 reply      
How do you draw boundaries of what's political? Everything is political - rules for how and where Cars can drive, rules for who can host whom in their house, gender equality and the job market, drones, and accountability abroad, encryption and government surveillance. It's impossible to have a conversation about Uber, AirBnB, Apple, Microsoft, Google, Twitter without talking about whom it affects and how.
tyingq 2 days ago 1 reply      
How broadly are we defining "politics" here? Some topics I see here frequently...are these flaggable for the week?

Uber Contractor vs Employee, AirBnb vs Zoning Laws, Universal Basic Income, Privacy Issues

mesto 2 days ago 0 replies      
I just wanted to say that I'm incredibly disappointed in this decision and even more so by its rationale.

The idea that Hacker News or tech in general is a 'garden' which should exist separately from politics is simply naive and very privileged. Taking no position, or worse suppressing opposition is itself a position. This is a critical time of political organization and resistance in the days before the Trump administration takes control.

Even 7 days lost in this process, allowing the readers of this site to ignore the reality outside their doorstep is a concrete injury to the disadvantaged communities which will be targeted in the first weeks of the Trump administration.

pmiller2 2 days ago 0 replies      
What counts as political? My only real concern is that this is pretty vaguely specified. E.g can we discuss net neutrality? The economy? Economics in general? Professional licensing requirements? Arbitration agreements? All of these have produced interesting discussions in the past, and, while I could stand to go a week without, I'd hate to ding someone's account for posting them.
pjlegato 2 days ago 1 reply      
This supposes that legimitately intellectual and civil political discourse is simply not possible, that some sort of "primitive brain" must always take over in any political discussion. This is empirically false. Hacker News generates much more calm and rational political discourse than otherwise.

Of course people sometimes get angry and flame each other in political threads. That should be flagged. For that matter, people flame each other on "Technology A versus Technology B" threads all the time, too, and many other topics.

The way to promote more civil political discourse is to promote more civil political discourse, not to ban political discourse as a dirty, taboo topic altogether.

therealgimli 2 days ago 0 replies      
I am disappointed by this decision, but I don't love HN any less for it.

Many comments have pointed out that there are plenty of places on the web to have discussions about political topics, so let's keep the HN about tech.

I see the merit in this sentiment, but for me reading the political discussions within this community is something I value greatly. For one thing, there are a great many non-US based people here. In my experience I have been exposed to a relatively balanced set of perspectives, and generally commenters are thoughtful and un-troll-like.

In short, I learn many things from other folks in this community, and that includes political topics.

taurath 2 days ago 0 replies      
Discussing politics is truly a bit of a black hole - we have unlimited ability to argue for our principles but the truth is that if the sides are relatively secure in their positions and have data they trust to back it up there is no point in discussing further.

I applaud the admins for attempting something like this - communities need to develop strong opinions to survive, or else they will be torn apart by infighting when it becomes big enough that people no longer assume goodwill. This creates an ever-more toxic environment and poisons the well. At least then people are making a conscious choice to agree or disagree with the purpose/opinions of the community.

rubicon33 2 days ago 0 replies      
While I don't general like censorship... I think this is great. I don't come to this forum for political discussions. I come here to here interesting stories from like minded scientists and inquisitive people. Politics is incredibly divisive and very rarely results in intriguing conversations, more usually name calling and flaming. Nice bold move from HN Mods.
celticninja 2 days ago 0 replies      
I approve, politics tends to be US centric on HN and whilst I like to keep informed there are plenty of other dedicate sources for that sort of information. Also as this isn't a politics site inevitably the debate is a bit of an echo chamber.
ixtli 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Geeks like to think that they can ignore politics, you can leave politics alone, but politics won't leave you alone."

-- RMS, "O'Reilly Open Source Conference: Day 3" by Paul Weinstein, in Apache Week (26 July 2002)

abtinf 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is a great idea. I assumed that political discussion would die down a bit after the election, but it only seems to have escalated. Detox is the right word for what is needed.
pavlov 2 days ago 1 reply      
... war and gardening don't mix.

Well, victory gardens were a thing not very long ago: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victory_garden

gopher2 2 days ago 0 replies      
What exactly defines a story as political?

Some recent topics I can think of... Facebook + fake news is about technology and user behavior, and also very political. Government use of surveillance technology is both technological and political in nature. Role of social media in elections has technological, sociological, politic aspects to it that can be discussed.

To me, being "political" is both what you're talking about, and how you're talking about it.

I enjoy reading what the HN audience has to say about the above examples. I'd be disappointed if they're considered too political and off limits going forward.

Interested to see how this experiment goes.

russelluresti 2 days ago 1 reply      
> Those things are lost when political emotions seize control

> but it's insufficient to stop people from flaming each other when political conflicts activate the primitive brain.

Wait, is the entire premise behind this the idea that political differences can't be discussed in a respectful manner? History would disagree with you on this statement. People are capable of having political discussion without having a flame war, it happens all the time. You're taking the actions of a minority group and saying that because a few people are disrespectful we all have to bury our heads in the sand and avoid politics completely.

This is ridiculous.

aroberge 2 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you very much for attempting this experiment.

Notwithstanding the enormous influence the U.S. has on the world, as someone living in another country, I welcome this very much. In my opinion, HN shines when it comes to discussions of technology, it does an ok job when it comes to discussing scientific topics, but it tends to break out into parochial cliques (with full cultural blinders on) when discussing topics like politics. This is worst (again, imo) when this happens in comments on other topics; when it is the main topic, at least one can easily avoid it.

anon987 2 days ago 1 reply      
Why are they allowed, period?

Is the community OK with turning HN into Reddit-lite - because that's clearly what's happening based on the topics that get upvoted.

feral 2 days ago 0 replies      
Technologists have above average wealth, and have influence on the future of technology and society. There are many here. At some point the size and power of a news site increases beyond the point where its just a toy - like it or not (see Facebook).

And with power comes responsibility.

I can understand adjusting the amount of political discussion, but banning it seems like a derogation of responsibility - certainly if the ban were to persist.

Alternatively, if another leak like Snowden's comes out this week, would discussion be prohibited? What if a big tech company was found to be building a Muslim registry? Could you please clarify whether stories that are both technology and political will remain?

> What Hacker News is: a place for stories that gratify intellectual curiosity and civil, substantive comments.

If that's the clear extent of the mission, that's a pity.

I'd argue there was always a subtext on HN, whereby hackers giving prominence to their intellectual curiosity is justified because this path also eventually produces Good Stuff, technology which solves real problems, and eventually creates wealth and makes people's lives better. I would thus recommend against drawing a bright line around 'gratify intellectual curiosity'.

If we're just clicking stories purely because it gratifies us, how's it different to just eating candy? It'd be a pity if that was all the community is intended to be.

rileyriley 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is the time for making ourselves uncomfortable and leaving room for others to speak.

It's dangerous to avoid short-term pain by stifling conflict. HN is about technology news and I don't think we should separate the "oh cool" part from the "how will this affect our neighbors" part.

inimino 2 days ago 0 replies      
I am all for experiments, and I think this is a good thing to do for a week.

Long term, politics is inseperable from many other issues, so I suspect this isn't a viable long-term rule. However, insisting on thoughtful discussion may be easier after some "detox".

I for one certainly miss the functional programming articles that used to be so much more common on the front page. Here's hoping for a week of new and non-political food for thought!

drallison 12 hours ago 0 replies      
I think a political detox week is a bad idea. What some see as gratification for their intellectual curiosity and civil, substantive commentaries and seen by others as political rants and flames. I much prefer a larger world view and a thoughtful "fire department" to quell flames when they get out of hand.
bluetwo 2 days ago 0 replies      
Dear lord yes.

I've been off Facebook for most of the year, and have noticed how many people have dropped Facebook like a rock after the election.

I have to wonder if their stats are going to suffer as a result.

aaachilless 2 days ago 1 reply      
To toe the line between censorship and curation is an incredibly difficult task and I think, as a civilization, it's a fundamental problem. The thought and care and effort that's going into this problem right now is deeply important and I'm grateful towards those who take it seriously, and it's clear that dang (and other HN moderators) are of this class of people.

So my only piece of (hopefully) constructive criticism is that I think there's a prima facie less biased stance to take with an announcement like this. It might go like:

Dear HN,

HN, as a public discussion forum, is a dynamical system that's always "attempting" to spiral out of control. Hence, we have moderators. Our moderators can only inject so much stabilizing energy into HN, and we've noticed that many or most political discussions are more energized than we can handle. So, we're going to see what HN looks like from a moderator's POV when we disable political discussions.

I guess this too sounds a little alarming, but my point is that I think there could be a way to talk about the issue at hand in terms of pure magnitudes instead of using language that says anything qualitative about different types of discussions. Something about the idea that "we have certain values, these discussions aren't aligned with our values, these discussions don't belong here" is a little off-putting.

All that said, it's not at all ridiculous to test whether or not banning political debate may in fact make HN a more robust and effective knowledge hub. Hopefully this experiment will yield interesting results.

Mz 2 days ago 1 reply      
I have almost zero interest in politics. I can think of one politically-framed piece I posted recently because of the GIS content and it was flagged to death promptly. I wish I could have found a non political write up of the project, which I believe predated the political situation that the article spun it around. Perhaps I shall look a little harder today to see if such a thing exists.

I am totally cool with this experiment. It is hard enough to foster good discussion online even without politics.


pelario 2 days ago 0 replies      
What is the limit that defines "politics" from everything else ? I personally believe that (more or less) "everything is politics", therefore it is quite difficult to follow this directive.

Actually, the OP is very politic, as it is about how HN is governed, should we flag this post and should you kill the story?

This may sound pedantic, but the example shows the importance of defining what you consider is the limit between "politics" and "everything else"

jc_811 2 days ago 1 reply      
A submission on climate change was flagged and removed due to these political guidelines. Is this really considered political? Wouldn't it be more justified to call it 'scientific'?

How is anyone supposed to realistically draw the line between what is political and what is not? Couldn't any topic in the world be related back to politics one way or another?

This seems like a blatant plot to censor 'unwanted' topics and articles. A huge downvote from me.

kanzure 2 days ago 0 replies      
fdgdasfadsf 2 days ago 1 reply      
I get what you are doing - HN has been in eternal September mode for a while now. I'm not sure it will work but I hope it does I don't want to have to find a new message board.

My question is what counts as political? HN has been an important place for me to get news about censorship, surveillance and copyright issues that are just not covered by my country's press (UK). I would be sad to lose this news source.

mmaunder 2 days ago 2 replies      
I wasn't aware there is a problem.
spinchange 2 days ago 0 replies      
I appreciate this effort and get the gist of the experiment. At the risk of being too philosophical, I'd just say, everything is inherently political, so drawing a line may prove to be tough in some cases. "Politics" can expressed in subtle ways and not necessarily as the central topic at hand, but imbued into it.

I'm reminded of Ted Nelson's notion that politics, loosely defined, is "clash and reconciliation of agendas" and, "If software is successful, it steers the path that many users take, and selects among many possibilities to further the creator's agenda...Suppressing the other possibilities may also be part of the agenda."


In any case, I get & appreciate the practical goal here and what you're looking to accomplish. I know I specifically need a Trump-related detox, in general (although not because of anything I've seen on HN).

stcredzero 2 days ago 0 replies      
In recent threads, I've made some factual observations, only to have people imagine a slant or motivation, then argue with that commenter of their imagination. I think HN is succumbing to the "Arguments as Soliders" antipattern:


knowtheory 2 days ago 0 replies      
Hey Dan,

This seems like a dramatically misguided attempt to rectify conversational tone.

You can't de-program or disregard people's politics, it's shot throughout everything. Politics frame the foundational approach to recommending policy, how we make decisions and the stories and topics we care about.

It's important to find common ground and ways to discuss topics in spite of politics, not deny the fact that politics pervades everything.

throw2016 2 days ago 0 replies      
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. This camel in the sand approach clamors to roll back to a time when tech was not political.

But now tech is political, surveillance and the surveillance economy being built by SV companies is political, techologists working for the government building invasive surveillance systems is political, the betrayal of people by a technical elite is political, the censorship advocated by social media based out of sv is political, AI is political.

Ignoring this is like an arms supplier turning a blind eye to his weapons used to kill innocents choosing to focus on specifications. ie a world without morality. That's not protecting values or intellectual curiosity, its killing it.

The kind of forum HN has morphed into for lack of an alternative cannot be run by an organization with commercial interests. Then you get knee jerk arbitary decisions like this that begets a culture of passivity accepting what ever is handed down to you. I think the technical voice needs more robust expression and to speak as one with the rest of the population rather than seek isolation and alienation.

stenl 2 days ago 0 replies      
Why isn't this exactly like playing "Nearer My God to Thee" on the deck of the Titanic? The ship is sinking and we're going to talk not about the water rushing in through the hole in the hull, but about ...gardening?

By all means let's have a civilized conversation but we're in a political crisis and "we" as "hackers" need to help fix it, not wish it wasn't so.

justinzollars 2 days ago 0 replies      
Please god. Great idea. Also I'm sick of reading about "Fake News". Please stop it. Please.
narrator 2 days ago 1 reply      
I know an engineer from Iran. He's a great guy, not particularly religious at all. Pretty much a totally normal guy. I asked him about politics in Iran. He said when he was going to school for engineering in Iran where he grew up, his friends all made a pact to completely ignore and stay out of politics. He said it with a smile on his face and absolutely no regret.
criley2 2 days ago 1 reply      
It's a half measure and it won't help much.

Hackernews is like reddit before subreddits.

It's too big now, too many people, too disparate of subjects, too much noise and not enough signal.

Over the past couple years, definitely in the past 2, hackernews has gone from say a reddit SV subreddit, to a generalized, worldnews/politics/general news generic reddit.

That's not what this is. And when hackernews becomes what reddit.com/r/reddit.com used to be, it dilutes the userbase and invites/attracts people who have nothing to do with the hackernews ideology and culture.

This is a positive first step, but far too little and maybe too late.

This site is becoming a generic catch-all subreddit for all news, and with that change the userbase is reflecting the lack of focus on SV/technology/hacker culture.

Without dramatic intervention, the tides will turn and hackernews will not be an attractive place for real hackers, real innovators. Won't be worth their time anymore. They'll find greener pastures. Many already are.

pfooti 2 days ago 0 replies      
Here's a couple of problems.

1) Many things are political on some level. Consider encryption, the future of technology, automation, global trade. What counts as political?

2) Not discussing things that are deemed "political" is itself a political act - you're basically saying, "we don't need to talk about these things that are actively causing harm." Often times, this is a show of support for the status quo - it's the privileged who get to say what conversations can and cannot be had, and they rarely say, 'let us stop talking about this subject that deeply affects us'. They say that about things that don't matter to them, because they're worried about civility.

3) Some people are actually actively fighting for their very right to exist, politically and in the physical world. Consider the current administration's (especially the VP) stance toward LGBTQIA people, or toward abortion, or consider the active physical harm perpetrated on the bodies of non-white people by institutions and corporations. If you're upset because people are getting their feelings hurt, consider the people whose actual bodies are being hurt, whom you are now potentially silencing.

Sure, maybe hackernews should be a place where people post stuff like "Show HN: Version 1.2 of my parsing state machine" and nothing else. Maybe we yearn for the yester-days of freshmeat or whatever.

I don't operate under the assumption that HN is a free space or a space for me in particular or demand the right to say anything I want on its platform. I did appreciate its relative openness and the general quality of its commentariat. But this experiment has radically altered my opinion of HN as an online space. I'm going to re-evaluate that, I guess.

This really does feel like someone grumpily saying, "keep it down, kids, we're trying to eat dinner here!"

jprzybyl 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think this is a good idea. I realize that, you know, freedom of speech and all, but this is called HACKER NEWS.

I would personally like it best if the political news just lessened overall, rather than stopping entirely for a week, but what can you do. Can't just tell people "actually, the political thermometer is at 25C, gotta let it cool down to 21C."

jimjimjim 2 days ago 0 replies      
Yay, I fully endorse this policy and hope that it gets extended forever.

Would you always try to car discussions in a baseball forum?

They are both valid topics. But there is a reason why forums specialize on particular topics.

mschuster91 2 days ago 0 replies      

my personal POV is that a lot of issues affecting the tech community at large resolve to politics in the end - be it the fight of cities and entire countries against AirBnB and Uber for example, the infamous Flint water disaster, the "fake news" battle, internet censorship, snoopers' overreach, the role of Big Data in elections, voting machine fraud...

Nearly every story (even those about new startups "disrupting" a specific market - markets ripe for disruption are usually created by political decisions, be it Republicans or Democrats!) has its base in politics, and I believe it is our duty as citizens and educated people to call politicians and their parties out when they mess stuff up.

Therefore, I believe that prohibiting political discussions outright is a dangerous move - I'm all fine with penalties or flagging if a discussion devolves into outright fight, but not for simply bringing up the topic.

cryoshon 2 days ago 0 replies      
Just passing by this thread to register intense negativity against this plan. HN shouldn't be a "safe space".

Shutting down discussion of "politics"-- the methodology of distribution of resources within a society-- is the complete opposite of gratifying intellectual curiosity and having substantive comments. How is it possible to gratify curiosity, when you're not allowed to start the discussion? How can the substance of your comments be displayed when the topic is verboten? Perhaps what dang is upset about is the tone with which these comments are conducted. Sure, they're shrill, sometimes. But isn't it natural to be shrill when discussing issues of morality and heavy consequence?

As far as HN not being intended for use as a political or ideological battlefield: that dream is dead. Technology touches every aspect of humankind, and yes, that means it's political.

ebbv 2 days ago 0 replies      
I understand the motives behind this decision but after deliberating for the last two hours I have to say I think it's a bad decision.

HN should stand up for values it believes in, not just tech as if it exists in a vacuum. If HN believes in diversity and LGBT rights, it should stand up for it. If HN believes in corporate deregulation and dismantling of the EPA, it should stand up for it.

The idea that HN is neutral on all these issues is just false. HN is the people who run it. They have views and a vision for the site. What kind of site do they want it to be? Stand up for that vision. People who don't like it can go elsewhere.

Reddit and Twitter and other sites have made a huge mistake in the past allowing racism and hate to fester in their midst. They should have thrown those people off years ago. They have other sites to go to.

Anyway, that's my view. It's time for people to stand up for what they believe in.

giardini 2 days ago 1 reply      
Not a gripe but an idea: rather than ban persons from HN for bad behavior, would it possibly be better to "emprison" them, that is, disallow them from posting for awhile and then, after a few days or weeks, permit them to resume posting?

Reason I ask this is that I recently encountered an HN situation where someone who appeared to be a productive member of the HN community was banned from posting because of (truly) poor etiquette, if not outright bad behavior. However, seeing that he had for over a year been a contributing member, I felt that a total ban was heavy-handed and that simply being punished temporarily for a transgression might have served better.

Is anyone familiar with an online forum that merely temporarily punishes transgressors w/o permanently banning them? Does anyone else think banning is sometimes a bit too much punishment?

twalling 2 days ago 1 reply      
I think its a sad day that we can't attempt to be intellectually curious just because its politically related. This last election has prompted me to start reading more on both sides and has lead me to some other readings such as the constitution, economic theory, history, etc.

It is possible to talk about these topics from an academic perspective and it feels like banning it for a week is equivalent to putting your head in the sand and ignoring it because its too hard to have a conversation about it. This is exactly the behavior I was motivated to try and change in myself (stick to tech only, ignore other issues).

Yes, its very difficult to talk about some politics in thoughtful ways but I would hope a community like HN has the people needed to try and address some of the issues coming up. Be it technical (detecting fake news, biases, etc) or intellectual commentary.

elcapitan 2 days ago 0 replies      
Can we have a Javascript framework detox week the week after?
peterkelly 2 days ago 0 replies      
> Political Detox Week

I don't understand how so many people have missed the word "week" in this sentence.

This is an experiment, and it's going to last a very short period of time; I support it. I oppose banning political articles & discussion on HN in the long-term, but that's not what this is. It seems the distinction has been missed in most of the comments.

One option I would like to suggest is an option whereby people can enable or disable a filter for political stories. This way if you just want to come and geek out about tech, you can do so, or if you want to follow political issues you have that option as well. I'd use both modes at different times depending on my mood.

27182818284 2 days ago 0 replies      
I welcome this experiment. There are so many other places for discussion and news about politics, but less so about startups and technology-hacker-related stories.
Alex3917 2 days ago 0 replies      
> Political conflicts cause harm here.

If not the ideal scenario, this certainly isn't the worst possible outcome. To paraphrase Martin Niemller, if you don't speak up for other people then who's going to be left to speak up for you?

Although it may appear the politics and gardening are unrelated or in opposition, there is actually an important link. PG always lists Kenneth Clark as one of his biggest influences. And if you actually watch Civilisation, in the first episode he says that it's a misconception that art arises whenever people have the resources to do things other than working or whatever. Rather, making art (loosely defined) always entails an enormous personal sacrifice, one which people only undertake when they have faith in the longterm stability of society.

psook 23 hours ago 0 replies      
While it is fine that you have decided to no longer be news or for hackers, that means I don't care to continue reading this. Hackers are supposed to question the systems they're presented with, and news is supposed to deal with the issues of the day--political news and computer news are linked inextricably these days. The idea of removing one is asinine, this is not the proper community for it. Lobsters is good.
epaga 2 days ago 0 replies      
Though I do not consider this a wise move, it is limited to a week so I don't think the "harm" will be that great (however, nor do I think the benefit will be at all worth the effort of explaining the flags to people who didn't see this Tell HN).

The reason I don't consider it wise is that I think the current political situation is completely unique at least in my lifetime (<40 years) and is not the typical political camps bickering with each other over simply "politics".

Rather, this time around there are Real Issues that are Important. The current trend of populism will have global ramifications for many decades to come. Not allowing discussion on these topics seems counter-productive to me.

freshflowers 2 days ago 0 replies      
Politics isn't some isolated thing. Politics is about everything we do and say. A techie elite deciding what they do isn't political, or worse, beyond politics, is part of what got us to this point in the first place.

> HN is a garden, politics is war by other means

Denial, denial, denial. This is like the arms dealers selling to both sides in third world conflict and claiming they are ethically above the killing.

You claim intellectual curiosity, but you peddle intellectual dishonesty.

Thank you, btw. I left HN months ago, and today come back to see exactly the pathetic hypocrisy that turned me off in the first place. Shit like this makes me be ashamed to be part of the tech community.

Sure, let's hide from the real world and pretend it isn't happening.

phreakout 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Preaching to the choir here, but I would like to voice my strong dissent towards this move.

Trump and his cabinet directly effect everything HN stands for: the planet, space exploration, online surveillance. These are not "off-topic" at all. In fact, I'd go as far to argue that even this week-long ban should not touch anything to do with climate change. Climate change is science, not politics, and what Trump does now (see: EPA pick) affects this like nothing else.

Please let this be an experiment and nothing more. I come to HN to have a discussion on a wide range of topics, including politics.


ada1981 2 days ago 0 replies      
This seems like yet another symptom of a culture that doesn't see the value of emotional states and thus tries to prevent triggers to such states. I think perhaps a system of encouraging rational thought and healing the underlying issues would be more effective. Also, politics is about how resources are allocated in society -- that means everything has a political implication for the most part. Politics doesn't have to be war. If hacker news is a garden, then politics is how we decide who gets to enjoy the fruits of the garden and who doesn't.

I see a need for an upgrade in political discourse, yet I'm not convinced eliminating conversations entirely is the answer.

madgar 2 days ago 0 replies      
And to think, HN is already where I go to get away from politics. The site already only barely tracks the daily/weekly news cycle.
alphonsegaston 2 days ago 0 replies      
I fail to see how encouraging this kind of mentality, even in this small of a dose, doesn't further the historically disastrous mentality that engineering is separate from a social and historical context. There are scenarios now where the digital infrastructure of Google, Facebook, et al are seized upon (even more so) for widely destructive ends that have spiked in their probability. Apple is already showing signs of caving. And given the examples of companies like IBM, I'm not terribly optimistic that there's gonna be some kind of ground swell rebellion against the worse possible outcomes.
jrubinovitz 2 days ago 1 reply      
"Why don't we have some politics but discuss it in thoughtful ways? Well, that's exactly what the HN guidelines call for, but it's insufficient to stop people from flaming each other when political conflicts activate the primitive brain. Under such conditions, we become tribal creatures, not intellectually curious ones. We can't be both at the same time."

I think this calls for more moderation so users that can speak civilly and intellectually about politics can do so, not banning speaking of politics entirely. "Conflict activat[ing] the primitive brain" is rather infantilizing, gaslighting, and not true.

int_19h 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's interesting that comments seem to be either strongly in favor, or strongly against. I'll buck the trend and say that I personally don't actually care all that much.

I do like talking about politics, especially when it's polite and level-headed discussion (which seems to be the norm here in NH), and a lot of my comments are on that subject. So yes, it would be somewhat sad to see that go.

But the bulk of HN's value lies mostly elsewhere, and not being able to talk about politics here would still keep it a valuable platform and an interesting community to participate in.

So it's really not a big deal one way or the other.

matheweis 2 days ago 0 replies      
Politics are deeply engrained in the fabric of HN. Just a few examples that come immediately to mind:

* Peter Thiel's support of Trump.* Mass Surveillance Laws.* Net Neutrality.

Are we going to simply avoid any and all potentially controversial subjects?

ideonexus 2 days ago 0 replies      
HN isn't a constructive forum for arguing politics anyway. I don't know that such a forum even exists.

If you want to influence people, take Confucius' advice and live a model public life that inspires (or shames) others into behaving ethically. Don't waste time dragging yourself down into arguments with base people, live a life that contrasts yourself with base people in the eyes of others. Let you successes, your intelligence and your quality of life, sell your politics. I make sure all my friends, especially my politically- and religiously-extreme ones, know how great my life is. Every time I post a picture of my smiling happy family and our successes, I am advertising my moderately-liberal politics and my Humanist philosophy. And when my conservative Christian friends do the same, they are successfully influencing me to have a more positive outlook of their politics and religion. Be a friendly, caring representative of your side of the aisle and you will constructively influence others.

mch82 2 days ago 0 replies      
You've used the word experiment to describe this ban, so I'm interested to know:- What hypothesis is being tested?- What are the metrics that will be used to conduct the test?

My gut reaction is one of disappointment. I've enjoyed and appreciated the political discussion on HN, which has stood out from other political discussion on the web. My experience has been that the HN community respects facts and evidence-based discourse and that's been refreshing in an environment swirling with fake news.

Further, as a community interested in startups that often seeks "disruption" we need to think more about the social impact and ramifications of technology on society and on those who are disrupted.

Edit: I agree with the idea of holding the HN community to a high standard of civil dialog for political discussion or any topic like tabs vs spaces or language vs language. A tech-infused alternative to this thread might be, "Ask HN: Chat bot for managing / extinguishing flame wars?"

politician 2 days ago 2 replies      
Hi dang. About 45m ago, I added a comment [1] in the Amazon GO mega-thread that mentions the concept of religion. Is this comment acceptable per new policy?

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13108455

(Aside: I believe that this detox experiment is treading on dangerous ground, that it will be a struggle to contain the amount of censorship that will happen as a result of encouraging people to flag each other in this way, and that the effects will linger beyond the 1 week time limit.)

godmodus 2 days ago 0 replies      
a welcomed move really.

i come here to read tech news and be part of one of the least toxic communities that's not my old irc channels.

as to politics, there's futurology and discussing sociology, and there's left vs right, "make mericuh gr8 agin" vs "gief all monies to poor" politics, which would put HN on some political brigade's list.

i don't have anything against future speculation and theorizing about conservative\liberal angles to automation and rise of AI or voting machine tech.

it'll be interesting to see what results the detox week will bear!

bendmorris 2 days ago 0 replies      
>...it's insufficient to stop people from flaming each other when political conflicts activate the primitive brain. Under such conditions, we become tribal creatures, not intellectually curious ones. We can't be both at the same time.

I 100% agree with this analysis, but is the answer really to avoid discussion of politics altogether? I don't agree, and I think of the forums I visit, this one has the best chance of maintaining a high percentage of rational discussion to tribal noise.

derefr 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is an interesting experiment. I personally think decreasing the political "tone" of HN is a sensible goal, but I don't expect that this approach will do well for meeting that goal. Specifically, I don't think the people who most want HN to be political will respond well to this.

There is a reason the shadow-ban was invented: when loudmouthed/trollish users are allowed to realize they are unwelcome, they get angry, and express that anger by defacing, defaming, DDoSing, etc. the community that has rejected them.

My personal belief is that the best thing to do is to not disallow this content altogether, but rather to ghettoize it.

Two examples of this:

How Metafilter treats posts about Metafilter: they're allowed, but they have to go into a special "meta" ghetto, separate from regular content, where only people who want to see that kind of thing will have to see it.

4chan frequently makes new boardsnew "homes" for certain content typesjust to quarantine content it doesn't like. For example, /soc/ was not created because the 4chan moderators think 4chan should have a meetups+dating board, but rather because such threads were incessant on /b/.


Now, HN already has something quite like these approaches, but IMHO better: the "showdead" system for negative-scored posts, which ghettoizes posts but also individual comment subthreads of posts, in a very granular way.

Here's the experiment I'd like to see done, re-using the "showdead" code:

Split downvotes into an "irrelevant/Obviously Did Not Read The Article" button and a separate "is political" button (where you can press either or both on any given post.) Track the totals separately.

If a post's (upvotes - irrelevant) is negative, then it's "dead" as happens now, and you have to have "showdead" on to see it.

If a post's (upvotes - is_political) is negative, then it's "politics", and you have to have "showpolitics" on to see it.

If both scores are negative, then you have to have both filters on to see the post.

Posts would sort/rank according to (upvotes - sqrt(irrelevant^2 + is_political^2)).

I think this alternative would ensure that the people who most want to get into tribal flamewars would "go quietly into the night" (from everyone else's perspective), rather than becoming the sworn nemesis of the community.

tzs 2 days ago 2 replies      
It's not clear to me what is politics.

For instance, I just came across this interesting article from The Brookings Institution: "Another Clinton-Trump divide: High-output America vs low-output America" [1].

It's a look at how the election broke down by county. Clinton won 472 counties, Trump won 2584. The counties Clinton won produce 64% of the country's GDP, with Trump's counties producing 36%. With the exceptions of the Phoenix, Fort Worth, and a big chunk of Long Island, Clinton won all the counties that have large economies.

They have a neat visualization of all the counties by size of contribution to GDP and who won them.

The discuss how this big a divide is "unprecedented in the era of modern economic statistics".

The article itself is not taking any political position. It is just providing a way to perhaps get some insight into how the election came out the way it did.

Would this article count as politics and so be subject to this week's ban? Or is it an interesting look at data that happens to be data about a political event?

[1] https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2016/11/29/another...

tn13 2 days ago 0 replies      
> Why? Political conflicts cause harm here. The values of Hacker News are intellectual curiosity and thoughtful conversation. Those things are lost when political emotions seize control.

Decides and all wise and smart moderator. People on HN somehow are capable of perfectly logical and intellectually enlightening arguments when discussing Javascript frameworks, best practices of team management, recruiting processes and if women are less paid in tech industry and their love and devotion for Elon Musk.

> Worse, these harsher patterns can spread through the rest of the culture, threatening the community as a whole. A detox week seems like a good way to strengthen the immune system and to see how HN functions under altered conditions.

How a detox week helps compared to outright banning it ? Isnt that better ?

This is how I read above comment:

Some HN users might be feeling triggered to hear opinions that go against their own political opinions. Such people might be in large numbers. Censoring political opinions might help HN to keep these users. But HN moderators are not sure if this hurts HN very badly. This detox week is basically an A/B test to see if HN does indeed lose by censoring political opinions.

This must be renamed to "Political Safe Space Week to figure out if we can outright ban political speech on HN".

headcanon 2 days ago 0 replies      
A lot of people seem to be reacting to the idea that all political discussion will always be banned forever on HN. Politics is important and affects everything in its own way, but this is just a post-election cooldown from all the super-polarizing Trump bullshit that has been preoccupying America for the past eighteen months. We're going to have plenty more to talk about starting January; I for one, welcome the break.
grandalf 2 days ago 0 replies      
> Have at this in the thread and if you have concerns we'll try to allay them. This really is an experiment; we don't have an opinion yet about longer-term changes. Our hope is that we can learn together by watching what happens when we try something new.

What are the criteria you've established for evaluating whether the experiment was a success? Do you have evidence of HN being used to seed political clickbait stories? Voting rings? Etc.?

jlebar 2 days ago 0 replies      
> Why don't we have some politics but discuss it in thoughtful ways? Well, that's exactly what the HN guidelines call for, but it's insufficient to stop people from flaming each other when political conflicts activate the primitive brain

The unfortunate fact is that political discourse in America (and, I understand, in many places elsewhere), has been reduced to lizard-brain questions.

In particular, but certainly not as the only example, the US president-elect ran on a platform that many of us would characterize as playing off machismo and fight-or-flight, rather than actual policy proposals.

HN is a good thing not because it's a way to waste time at work, but because discussing technology ultimately helps us create better technology. But the assumption in this decision seems to be that discussing politics doesn't help us make better political decisions.

I think it's clear to most of us that tech's recent success is due in large part to communities -- open source, StackOverflow, and yes, HN. We learn from each other, and this makes us all better.

If we think this model doesn't apply to politics, that each of us is better left to make up our minds independently, and that we cannot learn from each other, I fear for the future of democracy.

mesozoic 2 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you this is fantastic. I try to keep political discussions separate from technology and being unable to read hacker news without facing political discussions is taxing.
RA_Fisher 2 days ago 0 replies      
Politics is about the distribution of power, in that way it's much broader than government. It goes all the way from UN, WHO through nation-states down to the community, home and even bedroom. The personal is indeed political as they say [0].

Speech is a form of power. Decisions about which speech is allowed affect the distributions of power and it's easy to see how the decision to ban politics is itself political.

In this sense it's not possible to ban politics from HN, only to change the distribution of politics.

We should examine the ways that a ban like this might change the distributions of politics and power among the HN community. I suspect we'd find it reduces the power among marginalized communities. Even if you're not from one of those communities you can really benefit by reading their writings. In that case to cut off those voices is a shame. It's a loss.

Who's deciding what counts as political and not? Moderators. We should examine that. "Banning politics" essentially becomes "Moderators politics."

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

dragonwriter 2 days ago 0 replies      
Is this some special narrow definition of "political", or is the expectation really that everything touching in any way upon government or public affairs of any country will be deemed off-topic and killed?

Because a very large share of HN stories and comments have political content in the dictionary definition (it's hard to address the societal impact of anything even in a descriptive way, much less to discuss views of the merits of such impacts, without such content.)

legostormtroopr 2 days ago 0 replies      
Everyone on the left is calling this oppression and suppression.

Everyone on the right is calling this an affront to free speech.

When you piss off everyone, you are probably doing the right thing.

sixstringtheory 2 days ago 0 replies      
Was this decision made top-down or in response to the desire of the community?

As someone who values the contributors to HN and appreciates the diverse set of opinions, perspectives and critical thinking I find here, which are all handled 99% of the time with decent respectfulness as far as I can tell, I find this effort kind of sad.

Hopefully we learn something good from this, but not sure what that could be, how to decide if it's good, or if it will be worth the effort.

bjourne 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think not talking about politics is counter-productive. I think if more people would talk to each other about political topics, then liars like Donald Trump wouldn't get elected.

Btw, if there are any Trump supporters on HN, it would be interesting to hear their views. Likely, due to how the community works they can't be heard due to downvoting and/or flagging which I think is a shame. I prefer more debate over less.

rjdevereux 2 days ago 0 replies      
I understand the sentiment, and promoting civil discourse is a wonderful goal. But the way forward is figuring out how to promote the good, and discourage the bad, not disengagement.

I don't think I can say why it is important to engage better than Charles Krauthammer, so I'll just put his words here.

"While science, medicine, art, poetry, architecture, chess, space, sports, number theory and all things hard and beautiful promise purity, elegance and sometimes even transcendence, they are fundamentally subordinate. In the end, they must bow to the sovereignty of politics.

Politics, the crooked timber of our communal lives, dominates everything because, in the end, everything high and low and, most especially, high lives or dies by politics. You can have the most advanced and efflorescent of cultures. Get your politics wrong, however, and everything stands to be swept away. This is not ancient history. This is Germany 1933 Politics is the moat, the walls, beyond which lie the barbarians. Fail to keep them at bay, and everything burns."

delegate 2 days ago 0 replies      
All censorship is done with good intentions. Things are censored because they are somehow against a certain set of values or they threaten the well-being of the establishment.

So this move is on thin ice.

But I also think that politics and politicians in particular are getting a lot more media exposure than they deserve or need.

Politicians are the new rock stars... but they shouldn't be. They should be spending time working on actual societal problems - the things they've been elected for.

All the rest of us, too, should give them a lot less attention and focus our attention on issues rather than people.

Political affiliation is a very subjective thing, similar to tastes in music or art or sex. There's no perfect solution to all the problems we're facing and that's why we disagree on things.

So often political discussion is a futile attempt to convince the other side that the worst (their point of view) is the best (our point of view). Which is a waste of energy and time and should be avoided.

Considering all of these factors, with a shade of worry I think this is the right thing to do.

thegrandwizard 2 days ago 0 replies      
The values of Hacker News are intellectual curiosity and thoughtful conversation.

Thank you for reminding us here about that. Let's make it a month? A year? :-)

irickt 2 days ago 0 replies      
I have had the feeling that HN has been surreptiously invaded by a troll army, specifically tasked with corrupting the ongoing discovery of consensus.
netcraft 2 days ago 0 replies      
What is the experiment? What is the hypothesis and what are the metrics we will be using to measure success or failure? I cannot understand how this is healthy or beneficial. If there are disrespectful comments, moderate them. But saying "some people cannot talk about these things constructively so lets not talk about these things at all" is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
mgalka 2 days ago 1 reply      
I think it's a great idea. Will this be posted publicly somewhere so people who did not see this post will know not to submit political stories?
mrbill 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is welcome and refreshing.
jgord 2 days ago 0 replies      
Disagree, not because it isn't a good idea right now, but :

a) we should not abandon the general rules, unless under the most exceptional circumstances [ ie. unless these posts threaten to kill the HN site or render it unusable in the main, we should not adopt a special rule ]

b) its un-needed, in the sense we can choose to self impose this by not upvoting overly political stories/comments

c) HN is already practicing too much self-censorship - we need to tolerate some extremes / ugly points of view, in order to keep a healthy community where free speech is highly valued and where any subject can be discussed

d) imo HN is equally susceptible to hostile takeover by ugly "trumpism"'s as it is by political-correctness / overly tolerant relativism. It is for each of us to upvote/downvote/comment in order to fight against memes that might enslave this community and its freedoms.

nunez 2 days ago 0 replies      
Yes! This is awesome. All of the politics is tiring.
julian_1 2 days ago 0 replies      
Excellent decision. You only need to look at what happened on reddit in /r/politics or /r/the_donald. The polarization is poison for creating a shared culture for intelligent discussion of topical issues. To be sure - these debates are important - but it's not like there's a shortage of forums that do cater to this stuff.
imafish 2 days ago 0 replies      
> What Hacker News is: a place for stories that gratify intellectual curiosity and civil, substantive comments. What it is not: a political, ideological, national, racial, or religious battlefield.

What Hacker News really is: a community of smart, mostly rational, tech-interested people of the world, impacted by world politics, who share stories and ideas.

Nobody asks for it to be an ideological or political battlefield - common sense and moderation should be able prevent this. But if this somewhat like-minded community can have a political impact in any way (anywhere in the world) by sharing and discussing political ideas, I cannot see why you would stand in the way of that.

drivingmenuts 2 days ago 0 replies      
I already did my detox. Deleted my bookmarks to political news sites, unfriended some IMHO toxic people on FB and have generally refrained from commenting on politics, of any kind, since the election.

Kind of plan on staying that course.

Keep the political links, discussions, etc. It's not like I have to read them or comment on them if they appear.

And neither do you.

erelde 2 days ago 0 replies      
I first came to HN because I wanted someplace to escape the political news cycle. Not because I because I wanted to avoid politics altogether.

This seems like the right move for now. But we should be able to discuss political matters when they intersect with the topic at hand.

ForrestN 2 days ago 0 replies      
I am a hacker and a part of this community and have been for many years. My little family is gay and mixed race, and because I work for a non-profit relies on the government for health insurance. My in-laws are brown people living in a hostile part of the United States where vicious hate crimes are spiking.

Why don't I qualify as part of the community? Politics is now more and more bearing down on my family, oppressing us, threatening us. We are afraid and depressed every day, even while probably cowering from fully facing the gravity of the threat this administration poses. It is hard to code when you are terrified.

Why doesn't HN care about me? Why aren't its powerful, its brilliant, its wealthy, abandoning all other projects to protect me? Why? I need you to save my family. Please.

schoen 2 days ago 0 replies      
This item immediately came up with the really great news that the California drought is ending:


So, that immediately prompted follow-up comments about rivalries between northern and southern Californians over water use (edit: including whether the choice of this metric is southern-Californian political propaganda!), about whether Californians can manage to reduce the amount of water that we need, about whether the west has too much human settlement, etc. While those may not align very well with political ideologies that have been the most controversial here, they could be seen as political questions (and they could potentially lead to flamewarring over different aspects of environmentalism).

How does this kind of topic fit in with this plan, dang?

KirinDave 2 days ago 0 replies      
Given the profound affect tech has had on the last US election cycle, it is difficult not to read this ban as the execution of a political agenda.

The idea that the two can be extricated from one another is absurd on its face.

But what's also notable is the boldness of saying it out loud. It has always been the policy of HN to flag out the majority of "politics" before it resides in the new queue for more than an hour or two.

This "experiment" will surely quash conflict, but by banning anyone who has any reason to express contention. The burden of social censure has always been placed firmly on the head of the aggrieved on HN, but it's been an unofficial policy until now. People like me are rate limited for being "too contentious" on political subjects already. Now we're outright forbidden from talking about it.

ocdtrekkie 2 days ago 0 replies      
This sounds awesome. Politics has weighed heavily on here at times, even on topics that... just aren't relevant to the tech industry.

It'll be interesting to see where this line falls on tech politics stories this week. Is a post about like... the FCC transition team in or out this week? It's definitely political, but also very tech.

johngalt 2 days ago 0 replies      
There are dozens of comments saying in effect "but politics are important!!!!"

That could certainly be true, but does that mean that they are important and appropriate in all circumstances? Are no areas allowed to have a politics free discussion?

I applaud this change. The only criticism I have is that it's limited to a week.

mnx 2 days ago 0 replies      
To all the people saying there are lot's of other places to discuss politics - what good quality ones (with reasonable moderation, not total echo chambers, accessible to normal people) would you recommend? I'm genuinely asking, I feel like they are not that easy to be found. For my part, I like slatestarcodex.
kup0 2 days ago 0 replies      
I see all the re-assurances about this being "only for one week", but what's the point of a one-week experiment if you're not at least remotely considering making it long-term?

You even say yourself that "we don't have an opinion yet about longer-term changes" and I assume you're hoping the experiment maybe helps you form that opinion?

While I understand the intent behind this decision I don't see it accomplishing anything worthwhile. It may reduce flamewars temporarily, but people get flamey on tech topics too.

It's a hell of a privilege to think that technology and business discussion can be separated from political discussion. Politics will constantly intersect with technology and business.

You're using a battering ram to hammer a nail.

oxide 2 days ago 1 reply      
I fully support this and think it's been a long time coming.

Civil discussion and political discussion are fully incompatible.

nico_h 2 days ago 0 replies      
A big part of today's media environment is mediated through tech's most popular and/or biggest companies (Facebook and Google, Reddit, probably to a smaller degree Apple), with the internal choices of tech's last big success (Facebook) having likely strongly influenced the last election.

I disagree strongly with suppression. You break it, you own it. the point of view of most younger and not so young people is nowadays mediated through tech via social media. Here is the place where it is most important to have a debate about that.

If you want to moderate it differently from other subjects, add a different set of tags or karma reservoir so that it doesn't spill over from it. I think it's important to keep the political stories on the front page, especially as this election's outcome will create incredible changes.

Karunamon 2 days ago 0 replies      
One concern I immediately have is that what is politics to one person might not be politics to another, and given that too many flags that are judged to be inaccurate result in the removal of the user's ability to flag...

You see where I'm going with this. It may be worth rescinding that policy during the testing period.

vic-traill 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not sure how I feel about the idea. [Rumination Required]

However, I definitely like that you're trying it out.

shrikrishna 2 days ago 0 replies      
I am curious; does this apply to all of world's political sphere? Or only the United States'? If this applies to only US politics, then it becomes that much harder to qualify this as a political detox. If this is a detox from _all_ politics, then it is fundamentally unfair, as no recent political event in any other country has been controversial enough to warrant a censoring from HN. You cannot (you _can_, but you shouldn't) be biased towards any one section of HN userbase to the detriment of _all_ of the users.
Findeton 2 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you, I'd also prefer HN is only tangentially political. I don't want it to become reddit.
srpablo 2 days ago 1 reply      
Many of us were skeptical when visible HN leadership expressed sentiments over and over like this:


And we, in turn, were criticized for daring to express our thoughts that, if Trump were elected, YC would play the typical role of the moneyed, comfortable, and powerful, and not use any of its significant power to work towards a better end.

Anyways, cool to put a moratorium on political discussion < 15 days before the electors vote and 45 days before Inauguration. I feel relieved, and not proven right at all.

binarysolo 2 days ago 0 replies      
I get it, the spate of political discussion on HN is stressful as politics is people and the recent change in political climate means a musical chair of winners and losers of the process.

But I disagree about the approach -- what is politics anyways? Most polarizing these days: probably gender, race, and socioeconomic status, and the various parties cater to those human categories. We all inherently have these things that form the basis of our thoughts and how we see the world -- so I honestly don't think it's easy to separate.

If the cost of thoughtful conversations on politics is dealing with flame, then many of us are glad to pay the cost of doing business -- and I hope you'd find a majority of people here would behave similarly.

tomwrenn 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm worried about how this will effect civictech, edtech, govtech story coverage which has been great in recent years on HN and are important for helping the community to be informed of how it's contributing and how individuals can contribute to addressing societal issues.
wyldfire 2 days ago 0 replies      
shrug, I haven't seen any submissions or threads I'd consider political for over a week.
masterponomo 2 days ago 0 replies      
I understand, and I know HN has the right to control speech in the forum it owns. So I will only write this in the thread where I have been invited to write it (and will note that I am a Libertarian so I of course did not vote for Trump): The major theme of the media and in many comment threads on many sites has been to decry the totalitarian, authoritarian nature of the coming Trump regime. I find it ironic that the response of HN is to implement thought control by suppressing an entire genre of thought. After all, once you rise above the level of bits and bytes, you are going to get into political speech.But go ahead.It's a free country.Just not a free forum (here, that is).
ozten 2 days ago 0 replies      
Politics are against the guidelines of HN. That is why I created Commit https://commit.ws/ after the election.

Everyone wanting to continue these conversations, please join us there.

protomyth 2 days ago 0 replies      
It might be a very boring week for stories, and I do share drzaiusapelord's concern this is happening when a new cabinet is being announced. Plus some troubling laws out of Australia and the UK.

Science without philosophy is dangerous, and philosophy without science has no use. The political implications of technology are a big part of the discussion.

I guess I don't believe this step would have been taken if someone else won, and that belief, justified or unjustified, troubles me.

But, I guess anything that gets the damn pipeline news off HN is fine. I'm getting a little sick of the distortion field and do gooders that are going to leave people high-and-dry on that one.

[I voted 3rd party for the top spot in ND if it matters]

grey-area 2 days ago 0 replies      
I do think you should clarify what you mean by politics.

Clearly you don't mean stories touched by politics like uber tracking users or everything tech would be offtopic. Clearly you do mean stories about Trump. Somewhere in the middle a line has to be drawn.

DougN7 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm laughing at how pedant this group is. Viewed under a microscope, sliced and diced a thousand ways and all possible repercussions and views are debated. It's just a week! We'll survive :)
pessimizer 2 days ago 0 replies      
Anything even vaguely political gets flagged to hell within minutes anyway, even if they're directly applicable to technology such as labor issues, electronic surveillance, antitrust, FCC news, the editorial control of news in walled gardens, electronic voting, domestic organized commenting squads (as opposed to Russian and Chinese, which are always fair game.) The idea that it's somehow clogging up HN more than the endless glut of random light WaPo, NYT and Nautilus science articles is weird.

I'd be interested in examples of what a political story or a political thread are, because none were given.

ehh314156 2 days ago 0 replies      
> Political conflicts cause harm here.

Preventing political discussions causes far more harm than it prevents. I understand the intent. I understand the problem. Flame wars are not productive. But I think this is a poor response to a valid problem.

chillingeffect 2 days ago 0 replies      
If this is an experiment, what is the hypothesis? And how will we know if it was successful or not?

"Our hope is that we can learn together by watching what happens when we try something new." is very vague.

This sounds more like an exercise of power.

zacharycohn 2 days ago 0 replies      
"It is better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war."
hooande 2 days ago 0 replies      
It seems like you're doing a dry run of your ability to censor the community. By asking members to flag posts pertaining to politics, you're going to drastically offer what people see by default.

And when are you going to use this newfound ability again? When you arbitrarily get tired of some other topic? And even if you use this responsibly, what about the person who has your job next?

I've been active on this site for over eight years now. We've managed to govern ourselves just fine. I really hope this isn't a moment we all point back to in the future.

spoiledtechie 2 days ago 0 replies      
If you need political discourse in your week with something just like HN, feel free to go http://swintonreport.com

Sister site to HN the way it looks.

SloughFeg 2 days ago 0 replies      
Politics (outside of those that affect tech) should have never been allowed in the first place. Any place where politics isn't specifically forbidden always degenerates into this sort of situation.
KingOfMyRoom 2 days ago 0 replies      
Why not look at Wikipedia and see how they are tackling controversial topics? Here it sounds like a disappointing ostrich experiment. Let's bury our head in sand, let the storm pass away and see what happens.

I think it's a good think that people are indignant on both side. Let's organise ourself. We have the tools, the concepts, the technology. I am sure it's possible to find some common ground and have some data-driven debates/discussions and form some more balance opinions/belief.

lettergram 2 days ago 0 replies      
Most of the politics on HN has been significantly less than previous years. Previously, I could go to HN and get knowledge about various topics related to election results, polling bias, etc. Now, it's pretty limited, literally I saw/see zero items related to politics most days. Honestly, I think politics has as much to do about "hacking" as just about everything else.

Also, who decides what's political. I'm sick of hearing about socialist ideology, and I consider it politics, but I'm guessing that's not what you mean...

SixSigma 2 days ago 0 replies      
Life is politics here's 2 from the current front page :

8 - Silicon Valleys Culture, Not Its Companies, Dominates in China (nytimes.com)

21 - Russian deaths from malnutrition rate 5x lower than in the US (worldlifeexpectancy.com)

debergalis 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is a most unfortunate framing. Politics is not toxic. It is the means by which our society discusses and makes big decisions. Perhaps s/Detox/Vacation/ could have worked?

Certain types of political discussion most certainly can be toxic. I'd support any effort to keep HN free of that. I'd also respect a choice to keep HN completely free of politics if you chose to go in that direction, though I'd rather see a more positive attempt to get the HN community more engaged with the serious political issues of our time.

armenarmen 2 days ago 0 replies      
Are we talking just us election controversy stuff? If so, this sounds like a welcomed reprieve.

However if this blackout includes government level censorship and attacks on internet freedom it seems like a bad move

calibraxis 2 days ago 0 replies      
> What Hacker News is: a place for stories that gratify intellectual curiosity and civil, substantive comments.

It's "startup news": computing for capitalism. We work on social media without knowing anything about sociology. We work on advertising, which is corporate propaganda. We have no vision of the future, unlike technologists in a sane world, so we build a dystopian bureaucratic nightmare where I'm literally filling out a form right now.

Anyway, politics is for billionaires.

pklausler 2 days ago 0 replies      
What I really fear is that simple statements of fact, e.g. "average global temperatures are increasing", will be flagged as being (scare quotes) political (end scare quotes).
ben_jones 2 days ago 0 replies      
I read HN multiple times a day and I feel like I'd have to go out of my way to find a post that was political, or even a comment that was political. Yes people will go off about anything NIMBYism, housing markets, javascript saturation etc, but what are the numbers? How much politics is really going on here?

Admittedly I'm probably at the point where I don't even see it when it's right in front of me, but it would be interesting to here from the mods of people who frequent /new.

prewett 2 days ago 0 replies      
As a one-off thing, this sounds good. Implemented longer, term, though, I think it would be trying to solve a problem by treating the symptoms. Politics isn't the problem, since politics is simply the process of making group decisions. The problem is not the topic but the behavior.

So what does good, relevant, political discussion on HN look like? What does bad (but relevant) political discussion look like? Then update the guidelines accordingly. Maybe the guidelines could even have examples.

unclesaamm 2 days ago 2 replies      
Can we migrate to an open-source alternative to Hacker News already?
tomkat0789 2 days ago 0 replies      
Even if they don't totally ban politics on HN forever, what if we keep a week/a few days a month where no politics are allowed - just as an occasional reminder that this is isn't supposed to be a political website. Maybe we can make Fridays politics free or something to remind people to chill.

I support the experiment! This is the sort of creativity and character that brings me to this site! I'm OK with topics with too much political overtone being a little stigmatized.

zeveb 2 days ago 0 replies      
My biggest concern is the question of what is politics? Surely partisan political issues are politics, but is the position of women in tech also politics? Is climate science? I can see good arguments in either direction. The problem, then, is that it places too much power in the hands of those who answer the question of whether something is politics or not.

HN is already pretty bad at silencing opinions outside the groupthink common wisdom; I think this would just make it worse.

js8 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is slightly off topic, but I think what would be interesting if someone would build a website with news that are actually _actionable_ by readers. So no politicians saying this or that, no crimes or disasters, no gossip. On the other hand, they would carry things like events that you can attend, petitions you can sign, rallies that you can participate in, items/services you can actually buy (as opposed to things you can buy next week), and so on.
slater 2 days ago 2 replies      
Can we have an Amazon/AWS "news" detox week, too? :D
SFJulie 2 days ago 0 replies      
So I love Condorcet's works .... on voting. Nothing politics ... just maths.

So I love Plato's work on SiFi hypothesis : what it means to be invsible and the implication on moralilty (cf privacy) ... just philosophy.

So I love Jeremy Bentham nerdy works of architecture on how to build perfect jails where the one in power can watch everything the others do without being watched ... just architecture.

Finally, I love Gary Gigax (D&D) quote : evil (or politic) is in the eye of the beholder!

datashovel 2 days ago 0 replies      
After seeing this, I just had to post this (btw I think it's probably a good idea). This clip is kind of a funny metaphor for what I tend to see in comment threads about many topics, but politics especially:


csdreamer7 2 days ago 0 replies      
I disagree. As other have said, there is a great deal of anxiety over Trump's victory and what it means for our industry.

Arbitrarily banning relevant political topics could take away alot of the value I get from Hacker News. I expect news on Trump banning net neutrality to be on Hacker News. I expect news on fully automated McDonalds to be on Hacker News or Amazon suffering a bot revolt.

I can understand a need to flag unrelated political comments on non-political topics.

grandalf 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is all well and good unless this happens to be the week our government passes a law to require muslims to register, etc.

Considering the low quality of political discussion in general (and especially on the internet), HN is one of the few places where there are generally reasonable, well-thought-out views.

Obviously YC doesn't want HN to discuss politics because it could create a divisive atmosphere and alienate people, resulting in lower levels of engagement and harm to the YC brand.

Uhhrrr 2 days ago 0 replies      
I like this experiment, so long as we can have exceptions for obviously relevant new material, i.e. "Trump advocates backdoor for Linux kernel" or some such.
clamprecht 2 days ago 0 replies      
I wish we could do this on the Internet for a week (or more).
ronnier 2 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks. I stop reading facebook because I've grown so tired of the political posts and comments. As for reddit, thankfully I can filter out political reddits now.
d3k 2 days ago 0 replies      
I had always seen HN as a place where people curious about technology, culture and society share article links and comment about them. The moderation is what makes it work. I really do not see why censorship (or detox if you prefer) on political matters should be necessary. if HN really needs this, it might even mean that its audience needs to be educated. And if that is the case it might mean the level you get in here is deemed to decline.
thehooplehead 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'll never understand why people act like a forum is a TV channel. Can't people just hide threads, or avoid topics that don't interest them? It's not like HN only has one discussion at a time and that politics has crowded out other topics.
stefek99 1 day ago 0 replies      
For me Hacker News is the only source of news. I know that major events are surfacing anyway - I want them to keep surfacing.
vacri 2 days ago 0 replies      
Good show, I say. Should have gone for a month though, not a week (can't please everyone, eh?)

About 15 years ago I was part of a general forum run by a kiwi, who was frustrated at US politics overtaking his site (which was the bulk of political talk there). He implemented a month-long ban on US politics... and the site got more peaceful and more interesting. The effect lasted afterwards, too, though the userbase was < 100.

binarymax 2 days ago 0 replies      
Can you please give specific examples of what "politics" entails, aside from the obvious (so we know where to draw the line)?

For example, as of writing, the #3 post is "Silicon Valleys Culture, Not Its Companies, Dominates in China (nytimes.com)". I would classify this as political, but others might not.

--EDIT-- I would also classify this front page post as (internally) political: "Dear JavaScript (medium.com)"

tdutreui 2 days ago 0 replies      
Experimenting it just 1 week cannot hurt.That said, defining the scope of what should be banned is tricky.Exemple on recent Amazon Go article and the so famous "Is massive automation implying jobs removing a good thing" :This question is not about politics but will led to "tribal behaviour" as you call it.Will you also ban such debates? If so where is your censor power limit?
6stringmerc 2 days ago 1 reply      
Considering the consistent nature of at least one very prominent YCombinator staff member (leader) inserting themselves into political and/or low-rent gossipy slap-fights, I can both appreciate the "sentiment" or "rationale" behind a Detox Week on HN, and concurrently derisively laugh at the ignorant hypocrisy deploying such an edict reflects in practice.

I mean, yeah I get it's probably a lot of work to moderate all the political related discourse and keep the lanes wide enough for a lot of different voices, but it's the catch that comes with having a "community" in the first place.

If this is the first of a series of "experiments" I wonder which other "conflicts" might "cause harm here" - Identity Discussions? Health care in the US? As cheap as it might sound to pull out a slippery-slope card here, it seems rather apropos.

I get a lot of flack for it here, but if you don't think Politics and Tech are coiled together in significant ways - eg. DMCA and Copyright - then you're just ignorant, childish, and a fool. SV and tech culture is actively using the "Political System" just like every other special interest. Pretending there's some kind of effin' halo over the Hacker News community where such conversations are "below" or "too conflict loaded" then just shut down the forum altogether.

Man discovers fire. Man burns self. Man puts out fire. The end.

tmnvix 2 days ago 0 replies      
Politics is not discrete.

While I agree that posts about election results or political leadership changes are mostly unrelated to topics I come to HN to read about, I think that there are many ostensibly political posts that are very relevant (e.g. Snowden or Wikileaks related posts). I would hope that they will not be subject to exclusion.

CN7R 2 days ago 0 replies      
I disagree.

Detox will not strengthen the immune system of HN.

Immunity is conferred when the 'garden' is threatened and unifies to counter a problem.

That problem? Inflammatory, unsubstantiated comments that cause people to upvote and downvote not based on the validity of the comment but whether it's favorable to their ideological values.

I believe people can have civilized discussions about politics in HN -- I've seen it before.

jmcgough 2 days ago 0 replies      
Does this include local bay area news (housing discussion etc)? A lot of that can be borderline political but still very relevant to startuppers.
justathought123 2 days ago 0 replies      
If you think political conflicts cause harm, maybe you should change how you approach conflict rather than pretending it doesn't exist?
crucini 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's probably a good move. Of course I wish we could have intelligent, calm discussions - if not of political ideals per se, then of the peripheral issues like polling, voting machines, etc. But political rage and snark always get injected. And more subtly, individual biases are smuggled in under reasonable sounding language.
jowiar 2 days ago 5 replies      
When "politics" is treated as "things that affect other people that we opine about", this decision makes sense.

But this decision is the epitome of privilege. To enter a space thinking "I'm not going to think about politics" is to be someone whose sheer existence in that space isn't a political statement in and of itself. And for many, such a space is "The United States", "The Tech Community", "HN", or whatnot.

Saying "We're going to forget y'all for a week" is... just... fucking... terrible. And whoever conceived of it should be fired on the spot.

shaunol 2 days ago 0 replies      
Not sure what to think about this in the context of HN. I've seen other such stances in other communities where it just ends up being a way to enforce/preserve a political bias. Where some stories get a pass for special reasons "oh, this is noteworthy, and from a credible source!", it's just laughable. I hope this doesn't happen here.
kafkaesq 2 days ago 1 reply      
Sounds like a worthwhile enough experiment. And at the risk of sounding political: what better time than now?

Either way, we'll see how it goes.

feedjoelpie 2 days ago 0 replies      
Are you trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist except for the most hardcore HN users?

Because I haven't lately noticed much of the phenomenon you're talking about. And in the first 3 pages I just skimmed over, I didn't see anything that was so political as to be flamewar fodder.

Are you sure you're not trying to solve a problem that your average user doesn't even have?

karmacondon 2 days ago 1 reply      
I don't know why we couldn't have voted on this. Whether it's a good idea or not, trying to impose something so broad on a community of hackers is an exercise in masochism.

I agree with everyone who has said that we're capable of making up our own minds about what to talk about. I don't think political discussions were ever a problem

Isamu 2 days ago 0 replies      
We could, I dunno, talk about tech, I suppose ...
jljljl 2 days ago 1 reply      
Here's an article that was on the front page when I clicked into this discussion:


Is this political?

wu-ikkyu 2 days ago 0 replies      
No force is affecting the sociopolitical landscape more than technology. Ignoring this weakens the community.

Carl Sagan, Buckminster Fuller, Thoreau, MLK and many others all spoke about how our technological development is far outpacing our sociopolitical development, to our own demise.

Arbitrarily attempting to censor and separate the two is grossly negligent.

davidw 2 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you!
markkhazanov 2 days ago 0 replies      
Statements like this are exactly the reason why I have always been hesitant about having a relationship with Y Combinator. Reminders to be courteous are welcome, but a ban of political "stories" is completely inappropriate especially at a time when minority voices are already consistently silenced.
unimpressive 2 days ago 0 replies      
I don't have a lot to say, except that I support this measure and wanted to comment so that's in the record.
geuis 2 days ago 0 replies      
I disagree with this. Trying to divorce issues related to the tech industry from HN is irresponsible. We can't bury our heads in the sand and hope for the best.

Purely political posts rarely make it to the front page anyway. And having those discussions in comments is what comments are there for.

The only thing I'm going to flag is this post.

keepper 2 days ago 0 replies      
Who says you get to ask why? No, really!

If hacker news is getting political, that is a function of it's users ( and the social climate ). A community is built by its members. For better or worse.

Work on addressing the issues that make the discourse toxic. What does covering the sun with the censorship finger actually accomplish?

shawndumas 2 days ago 0 replies      
Can we have an objective criteria with which to judge which comments/stories are political?

Examples would be helpful as well...

lez 2 days ago 0 replies      
I was planning to delay the point when I get to know who the winner was on the elections... (I live in Europe) In work nobody speaks about politics. I don't read traditional news sites. I was just curious who will tell me first. Then I opened Hacker News...
qguv 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is a mistake. The sort of problems we have in the US can't be solved with censorship and earplugs. If anything, we need more conversation, not less.

Ditto to the many commenters who point out that nothing is apolitical and that such censorship would be subjective anyway.

Don't do this.

robinduckett 2 days ago 1 reply      
I would argue that any startup or financial news is political, in that politics shapes the capitalist foundation of our society. HN is Politics, and to try and separate and moderate this type of news is exactly the kind of thing that makes people leave your site in droves.
a3n 2 days ago 0 replies      
And when the experiment is over, please remember ... If you don't like political posts, they're usually obvious and you don't have to read (or upvote) them. The front page goes by slowly enough that the news you like won't get crowded out.
sebastianconcpt 2 days ago 0 replies      
The metaphor is good and the approach and description is actually great. The challenge is that this issue doesn't only happen in the political domain, it can happen in the philosophical and intellectual domains too via the cultural competition (AKA cultural war)
scblock 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is a bad idea. I don't know how you managed to convince yourself that it's not.
redthrowaway 2 days ago 0 replies      
Given the political issues that are of extreme interest to people here that aren't toxic (crypto backdoors, h1b, etc), why not modify the rule to be "no election discussion, broadly defined" rather than "no politics"?
whack 2 days ago 0 replies      
I like this idea as a short-term experiment. Here's another in the same vein: stories with voting enabled but comments disabled. Kind of like a focus group where you just listen to others, without jumping in to assert your own viewpoints.
peterashford 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think this is paternalistic. Individual readers can avoid political topics if they don't want to engage.
rudolf0 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'd rather there be some kind of isolation of political discussion rather than an outright ban for a week.

Maybe just have a permanent/rotating "politics/culture/society" thread for people to share whatever?

fillskills 2 days ago 0 replies      
As an experiment and a temporary detox, I am all for it. Totally worth testing. But something to keep in mind is that politics is something that needs the help HN community can provide with a thoughtful discussion
fractalwrench 2 days ago 0 replies      
What happens if something incredibly important happens during this week in politics, is it simply not up for discussion at all? For example, what happens if a world leader is assassinated or a conflict breaks out?
drewrv 2 days ago 0 replies      
What's considered political and what's considered non-political?

Can we discuss ethics? Is saying "racism is bad" political?

What about facts? "Torture is ineffective" or "carbon emissions harm the planet"?

arca_vorago 2 days ago 0 replies      
Technology is inherently political, you cannot separate hackers from politics, and to try is a fools errand.

That being said, I think I understand where this is coming from, so I have empathy with dang and the hn team about it, but I disagree with this move on principle, especially now, at a time when some very important techno-political moves are being made.

For example, the FBI now claims to have the ability to use 0-days to hack thousands of computers on a single search warrant! It's completely unconstitutional, and that is a huge deal, technologically, and politically, that I haven't seen addressed by any crowd very well, and it's the kind of discussion HN needs to have, not to avoid. To suddenly have a non-political week when some of the most important things, time sensitive things, are happening right now is not good at all.

The timing of this also feels suspicious, and there is something else that feels suspicious to me as well, and that's the algorithm that controls what is on the front page. I've seen repeatedly, enough to no longer call it just coincidence, that stories of techno-political important, like the FBI one, get ~250/500+ points and have ~100/300 comments, that are completely off the front page long before is normal for more mundane stuff. I think the hn userbase deserve more transparency on this front.

HN is an American based forum, so while I understand the want to lean towards a type of globalistic technocratic neutrality, I think that is a mistake and fails to take into account the primary user-base, and I think the hackers and geeks of the world, but in particular America, have a duty to participate in the political discussion that is going to be needed to steer policy of our American system, because the revolutionary nature of technology is quickly getting out of control for ordinary citizens and politicians, and our system impacts the rest of the world.

We need more politics, not less, but we need it in the unique HN style where people can have good manners on the discourse, which is much more conducive to intellectual conversation than just about any other internet forum I can think of other than slashdot in it's heyday.

With the increasing totalitarian surveillance society that we as hackers have handed to the politicians through technology, I think we have a duty to also protect the citizen-victims of our technology run amok in the hands of others. We can't, and shouldn't, hand a technological nuclear weapon to nation states and just walk away and say, but we just want to talk about the technology of the thing. It's a naive and fundamentally flawed process of thinking. I also think it's time for the HN team and it's users to have a more serious discussion about how they want to participate in the future of the internet, and the dystopian society it is enabling, piece by piece.

I also have a single question for the HN team:

Have you been pressured by the US government in any way shape or form on this subject?

In protest of this move, I will not be participating on HN until the week is up.

eli_gottlieb 2 days ago 0 replies      
Aye-aye sir. I'll be following the new rule with enthusiasm, actually. It'll be nice to have fewer discussions of $POLITICAL_THING_RUINING_THE_WORLD and more about interesting stuff like OpenAI.
denom 2 days ago 0 replies      
We live in a political world. Any attempt for the HN community to bisect the set of stories that make up our everyday experience will only illustrate the political bias of the aggregate opinion.
someguydave 2 days ago 0 replies      
I have a permanent solution to the "politics problem": require all comments be cryptographically signed, and give users the tools to rate the signing keys.
clackanon 2 days ago 0 replies      
Hacker News: the place were conservative viewpoints are not welcome.

It's not discourse here. It's we shoot the messenger if they don't agree with us on everything.

I welcome the detox.

JoeAltmaier 2 days ago 0 replies      
No need; the new 'hide' feature lets me ignore all that for days at a time. The flamers are burning somewhere, but I don't see it and I don't get singed.
fatdog 2 days ago 0 replies      
Can we train up a sentiment analyzer on the delta between the stories and comments this week vs. all others, and then apply it to discovering "political discussion?"
mmanfrin 2 days ago 0 replies      
What is the line? Does Net Neutrality count as 'politics'? It is a very political topic, but also one that is important to this community. How are you drawing the line?
Gargoyle 2 days ago 0 replies      
I 100% support this and would like to see it made permanent.
ryancnelson 2 days ago 0 replies      
This'll be interesting. What defines "political topics"?

Is climate change news political? Edward Snowden news? Wikileaks? A new build of the Signal app? Hyperloop news?

dannyr 2 days ago 0 replies      
It is such a great privilege that to some people, politics is just noise that you can turn off.

To some people, their livelihood and survival are on line based on what our politicians do.

Jach 2 days ago 0 replies      
Yay, my five year old request for a moratorium (though it was for 2 months, not just a week...) is being honored. :) But really thanks for trying it, I hope it does good.
yk 2 days ago 0 replies      
I like the experiment, even if I am not too fond of the idea. However it is 2016, so is there a procedure when politics becomes very clearly relevant in the coming week?
ClassyJacket 2 days ago 0 replies      
That's a shame. I don't want to see Hacker News become reddit, with anything that has the slightest chance of upsetting someone being banned.
Dowwie 2 days ago 0 replies      
Uh oh! Now you've really thrown down the gauntlet! If the message forum has an immune system, you're one tough white blood cell.
Lagged2Death 2 days ago 0 replies      
Making an "is politics / is not politics" judgement is itself a political act. The goal itself is sort of impossible-in-principle.
maxxxxx 2 days ago 0 replies      
How about not using the words liberal/conservative/Democrat/ Republican/socialist/racist and discuss issues instead?
adamfeldman 2 days ago 0 replies      
Much needed
johnhess 2 days ago 0 replies      
Is there data (say a drastically increased flag rate, number of flame wars, etc.) that show that today is different than 2 months ago?
jcoffland 2 days ago 1 reply      
I thought this was already every week on HN. There are very few politics related articles. Pushing the point is a bit much IMO.
adzicg 2 days ago 0 replies      
being outside US, I strongly support this. I couldn't care less about who leads team america world police, it's all the same anyway. HN is my tech news site, and politics is just a distraction. I understand that US citizens feel strongly about their government, but it's not really tech news.
fredgrott 2 days ago 0 replies      
avoiding what is coming is no way to critically think..its like say oh holding technology to this loft position without acknowledging jobs due to technology progress and government's lack of solutions..

The flames,etc are symptoms..and this is just as bad..

We need a somewhat deeper solution and the discussion of one...

sosuke 2 days ago 0 replies      
What metrics are you planning on using to measure the results of this experiment?

I'm all for it, yay experiments!

Chris2048 2 days ago 0 replies      
Could we have a banner that makes this well-know?

This isn't top of HN right now.

ccarter84 2 days ago 0 replies      
Wish you'd wait til voting machine tapering allegations were cleared, but hey, go nuts.
metaphorm 2 days ago 0 replies      
I appreciate the sentiment but I fear a slippery slope. What counts as "politics"?
walshemj 2 days ago 0 replies      
Good luck with that :-) everything is political with a small p
nemof 2 days ago 0 replies      
when one of the most significant figures in politics right now uses twitter as their platform for communicating with their support base, for better or worse, the idea of being politics agnostic just seems silly.
outforgotpsswd 2 days ago 0 replies      
Question: does that include startup relevant law changes?
hackuser 2 days ago 1 reply      
> Why don't we have some politics but discuss it in thoughtful ways? Well, that's exactly what the HN guidelines call for, but it's insufficient ...

Agreed. I've been thinking about how communities can handle this problem for awhile. A solution to it would be revolutionary, in a very good way for the entire Internet, and what better place to experiment with and develop a solution than HN. Here's my over-ambitious shot at a solution, based only on experience in online communities:


I propose that we have different rules, much higher standards for commenting, for hot button issues. When these situations come up, our moderators could post something like,

 ** Hot button rules apply **
(Or make up a different name: 'Cool head rules' 'Ice down rules' 'Rationality'?) For those issues, the guidelines would add the following and be strictly enforced:


1) Be precise: Who? Did? What?

Who should be a proper noun; only individuals (and in some cases, specific organizations like 'Acmesoft') actually have thoughts, motives, and perform actions; groups do none of those things - we are not hive minds. This eliminates lazily broad statements with huge implications that provoke anger and fear, stereotype large groups, and don't make us any better informed. 'Tennesseans hate Kentuckyians' doesn't inform anyone - there is nothing all Tennesseans agree on, and nobody can possibly read all their minds, and we know nothing more after reading it than we did before - but '60% of Tennesseans who responded to this survey say they have stopped visiting Kentucky' is fine.

Did: HN readers mostly grasp empirical science and should be able to understand: Only actions are observable, not other people's thoughts and feelings - though you can observe what they say about their thoughts.

What, used precisely, eliminates sloppy characterizations. 'Tennessee Governor Jane Jones despises Kentucky BBQ.' No, what actually happened? 'Tennessee Governor Jane Jones said, "I despise seeing Kentucky BBQ taking jobs from hardworking Tennessee chefs."'

Finally, Be precise also means: No hyperbole.


2) Context is required: Where and when

Where and when are essential context. Think of your high school writing guidelines: Who, what, where, when, etc. 'Tennessee Governor Jane Jones said, "I despise seeing Kentucky BBQ taking jobs from hardworking Tennessee chefs."': It is essential to know when she said that (1985? 2010? Before the Kentucky-Tennessee trade war began or after?) and where (On a campaign stop in a TN BBQ restaurant? The title of a book? A tweet? A warm-up joke for a speech?); otherwise, we have no idea what really happened.


3) Back it up:

The burden of proof is much higher, and on the commenter: Respected scholarly research (not someone's self-published book) or highly respected news media, and not in a column or editorial. Wikipedia's Reliable Source rules may help here, but with higher standards for sources (and also actually applied here; Wikipedia articles often ignore the standards).



4) Be 100% respectful, as if talking to someone important to you whom you respect. No exceptions; no grey areas; stay well away from this line.


5) The only idea we don't tolerate is intolerance itself. See Karl Popper's Paradox of Intolerance if you want to go deeper on this. Or a simpler way to approach it: Tolerance is a social contract - you tolerate me and I'll tolerate you.


6) These rules apply to anyone you quote, also. You can't say 'Kentuckians suck', and you can't quote someone else saying it (except to talk about the quoted person's habit of broad stereotypes).


Comments violating these guidelines are immediately, mercilessly killed dead. Busy moderators may not have time to explain why, but in most cases you can find the reason(s) here pretty easily. Feel free to rewrite according to the guidelines and try again.


By now you may be thinking: 'With those standards, I won't have much to say on inflammatory topic X!' or 'Those will be much shorter threads!' or 'I'd really need some good information and think it through in order to comment!' Good; you understand. Imagine if we restricted those discussions to only valuable, informative content. The contents of the threads could actually advance our knowledge about inflammatory, often very important, issues. It's almost hard conceive of. We could actually, in the heat of an issue, advance rational public discussion - a goal that has seemed so intractable that it's almost forgotten; it seems almost fanciful. The perfect challenge.

It also eliminates the prominent problem of people making endless wild allegations for others to refute (see rule #3 - they must back up what they post). So instead of endlessly repeating the same low-value information back and forth, we'd actually gain real knowledge from each other. And if some threads are very short, then what have we lost? A bunch of low-value comments from uniformed commenters? Ideological rants? Things we've heard a thousand times before? It even will save some disk space and bandwidth, and reduce page load times.

Finally, if it works - which not at all a sure thing and will require fine-tuning at the very least - the concept could be used by other online communities. What we develop here - not software, but guidelines for community interaction - it could change the world, in a way that it badly needs and longs for.

fixxer 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think I'll just take a break from HN for one week instead.
swehner 2 days ago 0 replies      
I guess that covers posting articles from the economist too?
kakarot 2 days ago 0 replies      
Yeah, and we can have safer sex too if we just don't have sex.
losteverything 2 days ago 0 replies      
Growing up


All "no nos"

Still Good Advice!!

Now I add

Money, abortion, Hitler, the holocaust, child care, and elder care.

AlexCoventry 2 days ago 0 replies      
Overall, I think this is a good idea, but it probably needs to be made more precise for it to work. What is a political topic, exactly? Are IETF politics off-topic this week? What about advice for NSA employees trying to pull a Snowden?
neom 2 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you! I hope we can still talk about Leonard Cohen though.
kaeluka 2 days ago 0 replies      
I love this experiment!
user5994461 2 days ago 0 replies      
The title could have been: Let's make HN great again!
donohoe 2 days ago 0 replies      
I want to register my disgust at this suggestion.
ohstopitu 2 days ago 0 replies      
if this is happening, could we have a weekly political thread?

(kind of like how we have monthly who's hiring thread)

That way we can have the cake and eat it too.

baq 2 days ago 1 reply      
might as well declare 'emotion detox week' and bury everything not written by robots.

this decision is actively contributing to erosion of the free world, as if not talking about politics makes them go away. hint: it's not and technology and hackers are changing the world so much politics necessarily enters the debate and it just can't be worked around.

ps. is uber breaking labor laws around the world politics or not?

smpetrey 2 days ago 0 replies      
Not a bad idea.
guelo 2 days ago 0 replies      
A "safe space" if you will.
geff82 2 days ago 0 replies      
Nice idea in the current climate. If we now also stopped talking about religion, we'd have a freemason-like room for open conversation.
Fiahil 2 days ago 0 replies      
What about non-American politics?
CalChris 2 days ago 1 reply      
I disagree but those are the rules.
MrZongle2 2 days ago 1 reply      
God, where was this two weeks ago?
pfarnsworth 2 days ago 2 replies      
dang, doing things like this is turning HN more into reddit with heavy-handing modding, than just letting the community dictate for itself what it wants to see. The community has existed and guided itself a lot longer than the time you've been around, I think you should trust us.
banach 2 days ago 0 replies      
Good idea.
LordFrith 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm glad you didn't announce this last week. Then it would have been AWS articles only!
Jd 2 days ago 0 replies      
Next up, Rilke week? ;)
livestyle 2 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if this policy would be coming down the pipe of Madame President were elected..
facepalm 2 days ago 0 replies      
I hope that includes stories about alleged racism and sexism in the tech industry...
smkellat 2 days ago 0 replies      
Politics? Are we referring to Clinton versus Trump or vi versus emacs? :-)
llamataboot 2 days ago 0 replies      
There's no such thing as a "non-political" story.
anotheryou 2 days ago 0 replies      
only if we do a no tech week after that :)
dvh 2 days ago 0 replies      
s_q_b 2 days ago 0 replies      
This will be my final comment on HN.

As my parting words from this site, I would ask that you please pay close attention to what is happening politically with regard to the laws which shape technology: the First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Criminal Rule of Procedure 41, PATRIOT Act 215, FISA 702, and Executive Order 12333, but just as importantly, the individuals in the NSC, DNI, DCIA, DNSA and DIA/DCS leadership positions.

Community members, remember it is crucial for engineers, scientists, and entrepreneurs to have a voice in the forthcoming discussions of digital privacy, the extent of state power, and the policies that will be chosen. If you wish to conduct this experiment, perhaps a different time period would be better, as these officials are being chosen now, and the policies will be decided very soon.

Moderators, I ask you to use your power judiciously, and allow the maximum free discourse that you feel appropriate. Remember that you yourselves are not immune to the cognitive defects inherent in human nature. If you do adopt a more narrow curation policy, please guard against those passions carefully. Protect well this place you have built. It is more special than you realize.

Founders, design your technologies with an eye to how they shape public discourse, promote fact, and expose deception. Be better than my generation. Pursue ideals more noble than mere monetary profit. Don't just make something people want. Make something that matters.

Build the change you wish to see in the world. You did not risk everything to sell digital sugar water.

Others of greater tact than I will shape these discussions as they evolve here. But I myself will not abet censorship without objection, particularly at this moment in time. The time has come to vote with my feet. It has been a pleasure to know you all.

I wish you well in the days to come.

boneheadmed 2 days ago 0 replies      
Hear, hear!
CmdrSprinkles 2 days ago 0 replies      
So I assume this means that yc is now concerned over alienating a certain political party/faction that tends to have a lot of money but not a lot of support among college grads.

And as many others have said, this is a horrible idea. ESPECIALLY for a site oriented toward start-ups (or, at least, people who like to talk about start-ups). Guess who is going to be signing off on the regulations that determine what is and isn't allowed? Guess who is going to determine where research money goes and what gets subsidies or tax breaks?

Oh yeah, that thing which you don't want anyone to discuss.

A few years old and more geared toward HPC and scientific computing, but Michio Kaku gave a great talk at SC about how politics and lobbying are very important and are actually vital and that if technology wants to advance it needs to not plug its ears and hide but actually be involved and fight for our interests.


Rather than sit around, gazing at our navels, and talking about how amazingly smart and above it all we all are maybe, just maybe, people should actually consider "disrupting" the world into an "agile" state that can actually result in a government and laws that aren't a hindrance. And you sure as sugar don't get that by talking about how nobody else knows how to communicate with anyone because they aren't "hackers".

But hey, gotta make sure you don't alienate anyone who might be a good business partner.


Maybe, just maybe, enforce rules about not making emotional and unfounded posts. Because that is largely independent of politics and is the kind of thing that makes it hard to take this place seriously as a "meeting of the minds" and mostly causes it to feel like "A marginally less meme filled reddit".

abvdasker 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think this moment officially marks the point at which the American tech industry disappeared up its own asshole.
s_q_b 2 days ago 4 replies      
I live in Northwest Washington, D.C. I am a technologist, a government contractor, and an HN member for many years under various accounts since 2008.

I respectfully disagree.

Yesterday someone motivated by the "Pizzagate" story, spread and enabled by the social media systems we designed, fired multiple shots from a semi-automatic weapon into a crowded restaurant near my home.

My partner and I passed the crime scene shortly thereafter on our way back to our apartment.

The new National Security Advisor, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, endorsed the totally false rumors that led to this shooting. He will soon be empowered by the full force of the nation's intelligence agencies.

I want you to very carefully consider the implications of what he could do with access to that power, and the potential result of blocking discussion of such issues, particularly at this moment in time.

t1mg 2 days ago 1 reply      
HN has long gone from being dedicated just to programming and tech news. Why is it just now that you want it to be so "on-topic"?

In turbulent times like these, with hate speech, racism and sexism out of the shadows and in it's highest, it is crucial to be having conversations.

Being silent, burying head in the sand - not much different than siding on the side of the oppressor.

Whatever news are posted here - is a reflection of a community. If politics are posted, that is what people read. Instead, concentrate your efforts to battle those who game your algorithms for rankings.

bambax 2 days ago 0 replies      
> HN is a garden

and Attila is going to trample all over it.

kushti 2 days ago 1 reply      
jrcii 2 days ago 1 reply      
eevilspock 2 days ago 0 replies      
So HN is yet another filter bubble?

> We become tribal creatures, not intellectually curious ones.

HN is designed to be a tribe. The HN tribe and the Silicon Valley ethos it espouses are by their nature very political, having profound effects on the direction of our economy, our society, and our world. By censoring challenges to this ethos, you are reinforcing the tribal boundaries, and members of the tribe continue on without the constant challenge and testing that is the very nature of truth finding and even science.

This Tell HN is itself a political act.

tristanb 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is ridiculous. Becoming an Ostrich is never a solution. Shame on you.
kevinthew 2 days ago 0 replies      
The pedantic bullshit in these comments is why America is in the shitter.
vinchuco 2 days ago 0 replies      
Let me get this right. Are they saying politics is to be hated actively for a recurring period of time?


kingkawn 2 days ago 0 replies      
Lol the primitive brain, the entire premise of this worldview is wack peace
btbuildem 2 days ago 0 replies      
Sure, bury your heads in the sand. Your country is taking a shortcut to Mad Max land, and there's not much to be done at this point anyway.
balloons 2 days ago 0 replies      
It just goes to show how white and privileged Silicon Valley as a whole is. Be glad that you only have to think about politics when it's time to elect your next president, that it won't affect whether you have a place to sleep or money in your pocket.

This is the same attitude YC showed the world when it kept Thiel on board. If Silicon Valley as a whole really cared about diversity (and it's becoming clear in many cases that it's only for PR), then you should find ways to facilitate constructive discourse (as HN has done with many other topics) and not ignore politics outright.

jamez1 2 days ago 0 replies      
Is this because the HN preferred candidate lost? HN staff are upset and censor things in response?

I'm disappointed, if you can't handle politics how are you meant to disrupt an industry? Everything about our industry is political.. how are we meant to navigate our world if we can't debate one of the most defining aspects of it.

If you can't stand the heat stay out of the kitchen. Don't censor important relevant discussions because of your emotions! You are failing your community

johanneskanybal 2 days ago 0 replies      
paulddraper 2 days ago 0 replies      
> It's over. After 20 months it's finally over...I'm free.


hooph00p 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is cowardly.
newobj 2 days ago 0 replies      
Hacker News is OVER
staticelf 2 days ago 0 replies      
This fucking sucks.
ForrestN 2 days ago 1 reply      
I flagged this post because supressing political speech systematically, and even ignoring it, is actually active political discourse. Politics is not and never will be a separated topic, it is inextricable from everything we care about. This Tell HN is arguing for a specific political position about the nature of public discourse (that it is best stewarded from the top down by extremely rich people who overwhelmingly skew white, straight and male), and is arguing that intellectual curiosity and conflict are generally exclusive. This post is one tribe within the broader community of HN exerting its dominance over other tribes while pretending to be high-minded in resistance to tribalism.

Don't confuse yourselves: your tribe doesn't feel in immanent danger, doesn't think this community is in a unique position to help the world in a dangerous moment, and wants to stop being bothered by the imposition of reality on the dominant tribe that seems able to weather the storm and continue peacefully enriching itself. That is the tribe that owns HN, that seems to be the tribe that is in control of Silicon Valley's immense resources which are, to the profound shame of the entire industry, not being used to try to save its country.

The president is deeply unstable, lies constantly and has hired a team of bigoted, addled, corrupt old white men to serve him. Autocracy is incredibly dangerous. But it won't affect the leaders of the tribe who wrote this shameful post. Rich straight white people will almost certainly be safe from suffering. My family won't be and already isn't in vast swaths of the country.

This post and others in the last month have taught me that HN is not a community of smart people interested in technology. It is an apparatus of a few privileged people and their businesses that serves mostly one narrow community (engineers who are focused on earning money and/or luxuriating in their own preoccupations) that the owners want things from (talent and money). We can't learn together by hiding from this moment.

When talking politics means talking about the internment of muslims, talking about a conspiracy of Jews puppeteering the global economy, talking about refusing to enforce any civil rights laws that happen to mostly protect black people, when politics means the destabilization of the global economy and the global military equilibrium established since Workd War II, well then enforcing the state of not talking about politics is itself an act of violence.

BuuQu9hu 2 days ago 0 replies      
We should flag this thread instead.
camperman 2 days ago 0 replies      
Top kek.
jksmith 2 days ago 0 replies      
Far more interesting is to post your favorite SNL political clips. We need a levity injection attack around here.
thesimpsons1022 2 days ago 0 replies      
perfect week for trump to trample digital rights and we have to stay quiet about it because crybaby racists who voted him in don't want their feelings hurt.
awesomerobot 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm done. If I could delete my account I would.
johnchristopher 2 days ago 0 replies      
Well. Let me just flag this post since its a political one.
shitgoose 2 days ago 1 reply      
so HN users admit that they are incapable of carrying out a civilized discussion on political issues? sad.

banning all political topics just because current state of affairs upsets someone is ridiculous. country is split in the middle, so what, when liberals win we will ban political topics again just because now the other side feels offended? how about you stop feeling offended and start listening to each other?

ajamesm 2 days ago 0 replies      
> For one week, political stories are off-topic. Please flag them. Please also flag political threads on non-political stories. For our part, we'll kill such stories and threads when we see them. Then we'll watch together to see what happens.

Okay, I've flagged this one thread titled "Tell HN: Political Detox Week No politics on HN for one week". It was this strange and laborious screed about how political speech is harmful or something?

Privileging "non-political" speech is an implicit endorsement of the status-quo, and thereby, an incredibly political action.

honkhonkpants 2 days ago 0 replies      
I for one think the imminent demise of human civilization is of interest to the intellectually curious and thoughtful readers of HN. I also believe that hurting the feelings of willful climate change deniers and suchlike people is a really good idea.
koolba 2 days ago 0 replies      
This sounds like a cop out and I question whether this post would have been made had Trump lost and Clinton won.
polymotivated 2 days ago 1 reply      
Here's an idea. If a story is clearly political, then just turn off comment moderation except for flagging.

Objectively, HN has a huge problem with leftists and socialists downvoting conservative/libertarian comments.

Dang knows this. I haven't read all the comments, but if he denies that simple fact, then HN has bigger problems.

You can't have legitimate conversations if the other side is openly hostile to the very idea of even displaying contrarian to their beliefs opinions.

There was a big bubble that many on HN lived in until election day, when they must've realized that there's another half of the country that doesn't think like them.

Here's a perfect example of living in the bubble. Look at all the car hatred on HN, where people are almost giddy over ideas to ban them, limit them, etc...

The vast majority of the people in the world don't think that way.

HN is just a bubble and why it's a parody.

anonbanker 2 days ago 1 reply      
I need to preface this by saying I voted for Jill Stein.

You're right that HN should be a place for intellectual curiosity and substantive comments. But here's what I've seen in the past year:

* Flagrantly allow anti-prop-8 posts and submissions to assist in the smearing of Brendan Eich.

* Flagrantly allow pro-clinton posts and link submissions to thrive on HN.

* Never step-in to stop downvoting brigades on pro-conservative/libertarian/tea party posts.

* After unpopular (with silicon valley) president is elected, ban political conversations on the site.

I won't call you biased, because you've been a damn good mod, but this is probably your worst decision, because it looks like sour-grapes-in-retrospect.

Perhaps you're doing it because the pro-clinton camp is actually becoming too toxic to tolerate. Perhaps you're doing it to avoid the 4chan brigade from promoting Trump. Either way, this is a site full of people skilled at reading between the lines, and, correct or not, this action doesn't look like a way of promoting reasonable discussion.

Amazon Go amazon.com
1241 points by mangoman  3 days ago   978 comments top 120
elicash 3 days ago 24 replies      
I worked at a grocery store for several years, and one thing I recall is customers CONSTANTLY putting items back in a random aisle, rather than where they found it.

I wonder how this tech deals with that? Maybe they figured that out, too. But I was amused in the video when I saw the customer putting it back where it belonged, because that's not how I remember that going...

All that said, this is fantastic and exciting.

Edit: I also hope they're already thinking about EBT cards and WIC.

Merad 3 days ago 11 replies      
I hate it when companies offer a "how this works" section that doesn't actually tell you a damned thing about how it works.

* How does my Amazon account get associated with the items I take?

* How are items detected when leaving the store? If my friend and I walk out side by side, how does it know (if it does) which items are mine and which are hers?

* What happens when someone picks up an item and leaves without first doing whatever check-in/registration/setup is necessary?

Someone1234 3 days ago 15 replies      
Companies have been discussing "checkout-less" stores since forever, but nobody has been brave enough to do it due to the perceived threat of shoplifting.

And while shoplifting is a legitimate threat, are non-shoplifters going to be turned into shoplifters without a checkout? Are normal shoplifters stopped by checkouts? These are the core questions, and until it is tested nobody will know for sure.

Target is getting awfully close to this. With their Cartwheel app you're meant to scan all your items as you shop (so it auto-applies coupons and discounts); but they haven't taken it to the next logical step and allowed you to provide your Cartwheel output at the checkout for checking out.

I will say that the way Target has implemented smartphone barcode scanning makes me think that there might be a future in all this. It is extremely painless, they just need to stop kicking you out of the scan screen when it finds a discount (i.e. it doesn't kick you out if no discount is found, but does when a discount IS found, that's problematic for efficiency reasons).

delegate 2 days ago 70 replies      
Look, I know this might not be a popular view here on HN, but I think this is useless. And bad.

I'm not talking about the technology behind it (I think it's an amazing achievement)..

I live in Barcelona and I have at least 5 medium-sized supermarkets within 5 minutes walking distance from my home. Plus there are several smaller shops that sell fruits and vegetables.

I know all the people who work in these supermarkets. The cashier in the supermarket downstairs always sings a quiet song while she scans my products, she knows my daughter and she's always nice and friendly.

The cashier in the other store talks to the customers. She stops scanning and starts talking while the line waits. Some customers might join the conversation. I know she has an old cat that eats an unlimited amount of food if allowed to do so...

There are similar stories about other shops in the neighbourhood - they come to work, they serve the people in the neighbourhood, they go home. They do this until they retire.

These people like their jobs because we respect them for what they do, so they feel useful and they work hard.

I don't mind waiting in line for 3 minutes. Or 5. It's never longer than that, even if the cashier discusses the latest news with the old lady.

The humanity of it has value for us here and that value is greater than the time we'd save by removing the people from the shops.

vyrotek 3 days ago 7 replies      
They will most certainly be tracking a lot more than just you picking up your item. The data they collect about shopping behavior will be interesting.

Like, how long I hesitated before I picked up something, what I had already in my "cart" at the time, what deals I looked at but passed on, etc.

nihonde 2 days ago 1 reply      
This strikes me as yet another over-engineered workaround for a problem with society. In Japan, I rarely wait in line at a grocery store or convenience store. If I do, it's a short wait, and my interactions with the staff often brighten my day a little bit.

Why is Japan different? For one thing, they use a checkout system that is designed to move lines quickly. Two employees can work concurrently, one ringing up a customer and the other handling money exchange with another customer. Customers do their own bagging in a seperate area. The POS system takes cash in and spits out the correct change, and also handles IC cards, credit cards, Apple Pay, etc seamlessly and usually without requiring anything more than a PIN at most. And of course, customers can prepare exact change or get their cards out and place it on the tray while the cashier is still ringing them up. And the final, most important element is the people--polite, attentive, careful, and professional. Cashiers are trained to call out every item and price, and offer extras such as ice packs for cold items, dry ice for ice cream, utensils for ready to eat items, and so on. A quick, efficient, pleasant interaction that ends with a bow and a gracious thank you goes a long way toward encouraging everyone to treat each other well. And, by the way, the money that would be sunk into Amazon's infrastructure and inevitable support services goes to keeping people in jobs.

helipad 3 days ago 7 replies      
Technology aside, shoppers are going to feel so weird doing this at the beginning.

There's already social anxiety when people pay for things and walk past a security guard, or a security barrier. Whether it's an airport, or a clothes store, or a ticket barrier, there's always a nervousness about being called out.

It's bad enough in the Apple Store where you can pay and walk out, this will take some real getting used to.

blackaspen 3 days ago 6 replies      
Here's an ad from IBM circa 2006 predicting(?) this:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eob532iEpqk

Crazy to think we're actually here now. And even sans-RFID.

spyckie2 2 days ago 1 reply      
Here's my speculation on the technology behind it:

Tracking. A lot of tracking.

You don't need deep learning and car sensor technology to do simple rfid tag pick up/drop offs to detect what you have in your cart.

No, this technology probably fully tracking your every movement in the store. It may use rfid tags to detect what you have, but that is not the main tech.

When you walk in and scan your phone, a camera array will scan you to create a footprint on who you are and link it to your ID. Then your every movement will be tracked by various cameras throughout the store.

You walked 3 steps, took a step back and looked at the advertising on the right? We recorded it.

You went to the cereal aisle first? Picked up a box of cereal and then put it back in favor of another one? Yup, we recorded it too.

If this is indeed the case, then the correctness of what is in your shopping cart is going to be very, very high and there will be no need for an honor system, randomized checks, or other mechanisms to prevent inaccuracies.

Shoplifters will probably get away with the first shoplifting but will probably get profiled immediately and unable to do it multiple times.

patrickg 2 days ago 3 replies      
Not many comments about privacy. This is how I see it: You are identified when you enter the shop and amazon knows exactly the products you buy.

If you have the choice to buy or not to buy at the shop, that's fine, it is your decision. But let's imagine that in the not so far future, all shops in your neighborhood are like this. No way to go shopping whithout given exact trace of you, your location, the stuff you buy, the time you buy, the amount of food etc.

We all know that too much data is not good for us (yes, I am looking at you, my government).

While I like the idea of not standing in a line and wait, I really wish that these shops offer a prepaid anonymous card for those who don't want to be totally tracked.

bennettfeely 2 days ago 4 replies      
What happens when my phone battery runs out while shopping in the store?

What happens if I don't replace an item in the exact same place I picked it up? I'm charged for it I assume.

How do you purchase produce or vegetables, all these thing need to be packaged individually I assume. So much for concern for the environment...

Is the occasional line in a store really worth having your every movement tracked by Amazon and your image taken throughout your time at this store? Sounds like a store straight out of 1984.

Are you poor or without "a supported smartphone"? Forget about it.

Amazon is a company that tries new things and that's good, but here we have yet another example of tech nerds "solving" a problem that doesn't exist.

owenversteeg 2 days ago 4 replies      
How has nobody mentioned the worry that you'll get overcharged? I'm sure computer vision isn't perfect, however close it may be, and once you've left the store (presumably when you'd check your receipt) there's no way to prove you didn't take whatever you were charged for. I'd be pretty worried about accidentally "buying" something I didn't actually take, even if that's statistically unlikely. (Yeah, I know, it doesn't make sense to worry about a 1 in 10,000 event, but people aren't rational.)

Or, if they decide to side with the consumer and give you your money back, then that opens them up to theft - go in, buy stuff, "oh I didn't buy $expensive_item!", get money.

tom_pei 2 days ago 0 replies      
So it seems that most people assume that this kind of shop is a replacement to major grocery stores. I dont think that this is what their initial customer base is going to be. I see this more inline with "Fresh & Easy" kind of markets where on the go customers can just stop by for a quick bite or a quick pick up of resources like a 7/11 or something similar. I can see that they may want to expand to supermarkets but I think this is more addressing the quick easy supermarket market and focusing on easy pickups rather then full fledged supermarkets for all grocery needs. I may have missed something but that would be the most logical and successful way for Amazon to introduce this technology.
jtcond13 3 days ago 5 replies      
Your periodic reminder that 'retail salesperson' is the most common job in America (~4.5 million).


excalibur 3 days ago 5 replies      
What happens when you don't have enough money available to Amazon to cover all the things you grabbed? Do they give you a window to return items before banning you from the store and/or notifying police?
JackFr 3 days ago 1 reply      
What do you do with your children? What about your non-Amazon co workers who came out with you to get lunch? Do they stand on the sidewalk while you shop? Do you swipe them in? Do they get swiped in as guests (who then shoplift cupcakes?)

Don't get me wrong -- this is exciting and impressive -- but needing to swipe in to enter a store is, I think, a very significant change to how we think of stores as public places.

MatekCopatek 3 days ago 2 replies      
When I started reading the description, I thought: "someone finally delivered on that RFID pitch of just walking out of the store". Was surprised that it's actually computer vision.
ChaseT 2 days ago 0 replies      
NPR's Planet Money podcast did a story two months ago with the inventor of the self checkout machine, Howard Schneider.

At the end of the end of the episode he was asked what his "dream" supermarket would be, and he said one where people don't have to check items out. They walk in, grab something, walk out, and are automatically charged.

This seems to be exactly what Amazon has done. Pretty amazing to see the realization of his dream be announced only two months after his interview.

halotrope 3 days ago 1 reply      
So technically they built something to automatically detect shoplifting (but charge to customer in the process).

If this worked in generic stores they could make a killing with theft detection services.

MertsA 2 days ago 2 replies      
So what happens when someone asks a good samaritan to help them get some expensive item off of a high shelf? How does this deal with things like a couple shopping together, one with an Amazon account and one without where both of them are getting items off of the shelves?

Even if all of the video was monitored by a human I can still envision several pitfalls to this where it's hard to know who to bill for what without interacting with the customer.

tristanho 3 days ago 1 reply      
"Our checkout-free shopping experience is made possible by the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning."

Very interesting choice of comparison ha... I suppose this is Amazon trying to attract the tech crowd? It almost sounds satirical.

Not to downplay the tech -- this looks incredible.

syphilis2 2 days ago 0 replies      
This has been in the eye of retailers for a long time (such as the bar code scanner guns some stores let shoppers use) in part because it makes it very easy for shoppers to (over)spend. Retailers are always looking to eliminate barriers to customers purchasing things. Amazon has a few convenient innovations that make shopping faster: one click purchases, subscription services, the dash button, and possibly one day a grab-n-go grocery. This post doesn't intend to demonize Amazon, these are all innovations that make shopping easier, but I think it's good financially for customers to be cognizant of how this convenience impacts behavior.
tdaltonc 3 days ago 2 replies      
Is the basic idea that there are cameras everywhere and they watch and record everything you touch?

Now I can't stop thinking about the behavioral analytics. Can they get rough pupil dilation data? I'm sure they can get facial expressions and maybe gaze tracking.

Next step is using kiva bots to rearrange/restock the isles when no one is looking.

20tibbygt06 3 days ago 0 replies      
What happens when parents walk in with kids? Does little Bobby need his own account for everything he's going to touch and pickup?

What if I walk in with a friend on our way to somewhere else and they don't have an account and I'm just getting something quick, do they not get in and wait outside? Everybody in the video was just one person or all had an account/phone.

Overall, I hope this works and expands. Checkout lines can be a hassle at times.

iainmerrick 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's amazing how this combines just about every cutting-edge trend and hot topic in technology, both good and bad:

- Elimination of low-level jobs

- Elimination of cash

- Deep surveillance (cameras everywhere, online tracking)

- Assuming it works, it will seem pretty magical!

(edit: formatting)

kennystone 2 days ago 0 replies      
The queues at stores have always been the worst part of the experience. You put stuff in a bag, which is effectively a queue, then you wait in a line - a human queue, then you de-queue your cart on a belt, which is another queue, it gets scanned item by item and then placed right back into a similar bag to where it started. Good job Amazon for finally working to eliminate the queues.
sytse 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is amazing, I admire Amazon for their boldness. It seems very practical for users. I assume that you can dispute charges with the app and that they store the footage of you to resolve disputes. I'm sure they'll need some times to tune the algorithms. But disputing a charge via an app is better than to wait in line. Kudos to Amazon for innovating.
teaearlgraycold 3 days ago 4 replies      
Am I normally unaware of Amazon's new products, or have they been releasing an abnormally high amount of new offerings recently?
makecheck 2 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder how much extra revenue a typical store can expect from the impulse buy sections at checkout counters? Unless the entire exit to the store is littered with impulse-buy displays, they might be losing that chunk of revenue and have to make up for it somehow.

Also, it already seemed more convenient to not go to the store in the first place (ordering online), especially for the kinds of items in packages that would work well at this type of store. The missing convenience was one that store employees could give you: let you pick out the fresh things you want (like produce and baked goods) and have someone box those up for you and even ship them to your house.

rewrew 2 days ago 0 replies      
A bunch of grocery stores here on the West Coast are replacing their self checkout lines and going back to checkers. They're saying that it's to "improve the customer experience" but people in the industry know (due to tests done by other retailers who bypassed the technology once they tested it, like Costco), its because of product loss/shoplifting. I know it's not apples and oranges but I do think that the loss margin is going to be so high on this that only Amazon will be able to eat this -- and I think they know this.
mrcabada 2 days ago 0 replies      
This seems easy to outsmart or confuse.

What if I go with someone that doesn't have an Amazon Go account grabs some stuff for me and throw it to me?

Or how about I go with someone that has an Amazon Go account too and we divide in two, he goes for the milks I go for the cereals. We meet just before the "check-out" and he gives me my milk I give him his cereal.

I'd need to know more about the technical stuff to know how it could be confused, or to know if it's even possible to.

SCHiM 3 days ago 2 replies      
Haha yes, hackers are going to have a field day with this!! I'm sure it's good enough for users which don't actively try to game the system through technical means, but I suspect it won't stand a chance against someone who's taken the time to understand and undermine the system.

On another more on-topic note, what an awesome time to be alive! :) When I was younger concepts like this were usually paired with flying cars and space travel in cartoons, but now it's real.

jakozaur 3 days ago 3 replies      
Wow. So groceries without checkout.

I thought that at some point RFID would replace barcodes providing similar experience. However, this system claim to be based on cameras and image recognition.

jedberg 2 days ago 1 reply      
I suspect during the beta they've asked their employees to try and steal things amd move things to the wrong place -- really push the software.

At least I hope they did. I assume they are going into this expecting a loss while they work out the kinks.

masthead 3 days ago 0 replies      
If there's an Amazon employee who has visited the store, please tell us the experience.
CodeSheikh 2 days ago 7 replies      
Guys this is not good. As much as I love the convenience of pick-and-go, this eventually will prove out to be drastic for a variety of bad socioeconomic reasons, that most of us are already aware of. Small businesses were already suffering at the hands of Amazon Prime. Now Amazon Go wants to not only kick out those businesses out of the block but it also wants to take away jobs of small retail salesperson. Unacceptable. This can perhaps work at Amazon headquarters but I hope, I really hope it does not make its way to major metro cities like NYC and if it does then Amazon should promise to create certain number of jobs and revenue that it intends to displace. Just because an average reader of HN does not do such jobs or had held such jobs for only a brief period in his/her life, this does not mean that lot of people don't rely on such small time jobs for their livelihood.

Places I can see this working are with low footprints such as cafes at hospitals etc.

Amazon Go, please Go away.

Updated: Grammar correction.

oaktowner 2 days ago 2 replies      
Interesting that they say "Amazon Go is currently open to Amazon employees in our Beta program, and will open to the public in early 2017."

Generally "beta" implies that non-employees are using it. This is more of a dogfooding program (though maybe they wanted to avoid that term since they're selling human food this way!).

microDude 2 days ago 2 replies      
Ok Amazon, why not do this?

Skip the whole stocked shelf thing entirely. Have a website setup that customers can build a shopping cart, then just show up and pickup their "pre-bagged" groceries. The benefits to this are obvious.

1) No shop lifting.2) Car friendly (you could have multiple drive-thru pickup lines)3) Convenience for the shopper (saved lists, common items, don't have to walk around the store)4) The store, could just effectively be a warehouse.5) Possible to automate almost all of the work.

And before you say "what about produce?". Well, you could have a automated "imaging" station upon goods receipt that customers could use when building their cart. Or, offer really good return policies. Either way, the convenience would far outweigh the produce problem.

jonlucc 3 days ago 1 reply      
It already feels very weird to me to walk into an Apple store, check out on my own phone, and just walk out with product. This will take some getting used to.
lsiebert 2 days ago 1 reply      
I think this potentially ignores the needs of disabled shoppers who rely on supermarket workers.

What if you have mobility issues and need someone to grab items for you? What if you have vision issues and need someone to read an ingredient list?

SonicSoul 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think this could work if cart or your app confirms your selection before checkout. Otherwise people would be too stressed out / unsure about discounted items to roll the dice.
dmvaldman 2 days ago 1 reply      
Why is this a machine learning problem? Why not use some low-power tag for items, and scan all items on customer exit?

Personal opinion: Amazon is not interested in creating supermarkets/wal-marts. Instead it wants to sell an ML solution to other brick & mortar stores, and this current effort is to prove plausibility. Selling an ML solution, with cameras and software, is harder to compete with than a tagging solution (especially if based on open and accessible hardware).

kowdermeister 2 days ago 0 replies      
RFID alone is not enough. It must have some kind of video tracking component to it, otherwise I could easily fabricate a Faraday cage inside my bag and just leave with the goods.
Keverw 2 days ago 0 replies      
I love this idea! I hate how stores only have like 1 or 2 registers opened.

I wonder how it would react to a family shopping, is it tracking people or the bag? Hopefully it'd bill who ever has the bag in case your kid puts in a bunch of junk food. Supporting carts for larger purchases seems like somthing is missing.

But yeah I love this. I hope we move towards the future when repetitive jobs are all automated and we have some sort of basic income. So the human race can be more innovative and everyone can unlock their true potential instead of being a corporate drones for a job they never liked and can't figure out how to get out of it.

Edit: Wanted to add real quick - as things do get more automated. I do hope there's a easy way to get ahold of human in case of things acting up or if you just need some help. I know tons of sites seem to not even provide support or make it super hard to even find a contact. Amazon itself seems to have good support from what I've heard, never really had to use it but in general companies should focus on support also, with or without automation. Just seems like somthing generally lacking to me in the tech industry.

jaypaulynice 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'm guessing it's not as simple as they make it look in the video...unless the food tags have some kind of RFID/Bluetooth to communicate with the phone in your pocket...maybe the grocery bags? Even with cashiers sometimes they don't know what the price is...also some things are sold by the pounds...where is the scale? What if you pay then walk back in again? You get double charged?
Sir_Cmpwn 2 days ago 0 replies      
I only run open source software on my phone. I can't wait for the day when I can't even buy groceries without a proprietary app.
superuser2 2 days ago 0 replies      
The futuristic supermarket I imagined as a kid was a warehouse-scale vending machine. Robotic carts roll down the aisles on tracks, and the shelves push the requested items out onto them. You show up after that's done and collect your cart.

Probably need some human labor for the produce section.

This is interesting but the checkout line is nothing compared to the time in the aisles.

vit05 2 days ago 1 reply      
What I do not understand is: Why do they need to know that it was me who got something off the shelf?They need to know when something has left the shelf, so they can refuel, and they need to know when something leaves the store, so they can charge.

But do they really need to know when you pull out an item and then give up buying it?

edkennedy 2 days ago 0 replies      
What I like about this is it encourages the European style of grocery shopping. That is, visiting a grocery store daily to make dinner with fresher foods. The longer the lines, wait, and commute, the larger grocery orders will get and the further people are pushed towards Costco style grocery purchasing.
Blue3Wheeler 2 days ago 1 reply      
I think this technology is something our society doesn't need in this moment. Reducing jobs only because people can't wait in the line is not a big step to humanity. We need to see what are the consequences for future generations instead of trying to look "futuristic".
ocdtrekkie 3 days ago 3 replies      
My first thought is: I don't have a supported smartphone.

The current checkout process entails the acceptance of common legal tender, but this process will require I have their app, and presumably allow it quite a bit of tracking permission.

A cool demo, sure, but I think I'll stick to shopping like the normal folks.

Roritharr 3 days ago 1 reply      
Interesting, i've read about these Store Concepts for years as Test Projects from Rewe in Germany, but they never rolled them out widely. Probably sticking RFID on everything was too expensive. This camera based solution might be better suited for a wide rollout.
highprofit 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is impressive. How did it know which products were inside the woman's shopping bag? As customer grabs items how does it associate the items to that customer's virtual cart instantly? Aren't customers supposed to scan the products?
pjc50 3 days ago 0 replies      
So it's a surveillance scheme good enough to track every product on every shelf?
throw7 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is bad. I can't really support this because it requires a smartphone. And it literally looks like you must have the Amazon Go app to enter the store. No.
rad_gruchalski 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Four years ago we asked ourselves: what if we could create a shopping experience with no lines and no checkout?"

And yet they're not first doing this: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3465767/Now-s...

hourislate 2 days ago 0 replies      
I like to take my time shopping. Look around read labels, check what are people are buying.

The part that kills me is checking out. I have always wondered why the cart can't scan your items and when you push it through a reader at checkout it just has everything totaled and charges you. The cashier can now bag your groceries. You could even have the cart recheck your purchase amount when the items are removed to be packed.

Someone out there hurry up and figure out the details :)

xaduha 2 days ago 0 replies      
Supermarket retail has razor thin margins, last I heard. If it's going to save money in the long run, then it's the future.
bluelu 3 days ago 5 replies      
Maybe they also weight you when enter and leave the store. They can then cross check your weight with the weight of the items you have bought.
glup 2 days ago 0 replies      
If the justification for merging the produce stand, bakery, fishmonger, butcher, etc. into one is the efficiency of a shared POS and delivery system, this could provide the justification for splitting them back out, at least in upscale markets. Rather than cashiers, you would have "consultants." And you get richer data for supply chain decisions.
sndean 3 days ago 1 reply      
Other interesting possible implications of this:

1) The inability to pay with cash (or debit, or check, etc..).2) No need to carry any form of money in the store.

Taken to an extreme where every store runs this way, will people have a need for cash, credit cards, or anything else? Why not just have your bank account attached to your Amazon (and every other account) and have money taken out directly?

agentgt 3 days ago 1 reply      
I know this is fairly impossible in urban areas but I find myself shopping much more frequently in what I call grocery farms. If you live in affluent suburbias I'm sure you have seen them. They are basically high end grocery stores that sells the produce they grow along with other things they buy from other local farms. Some of the produce is grown inside and seasonal things are grown outside.

Yeah some of them are just for show and an excuse to sell high end stonewall kitchen stuff but others actually grow their own stuff or sell other farms stuff.

The problem with local food (produce and meat) is that they are often not in plastic containers (which I prefer). It looks like Amazon Go requires very prepackaged stuff.

I really would love to see someway to have more farm+grocery stores (that is grow right in the store or very near by). Figuring out a way (even if it requires some GMO) to grow food right in the store would be an amazing thing for the environment, health, and food quality.

The other things is I know people are in a rush with everything but over the last few years I find grocery shopping rather cathartic and I think people used to enjoy grocery shopping (you know go to the butcher and then to the baker kind of european lifestyle). It is shame we have to make something even more "on the go" that I'm not sure needs to be.

shaydoc 2 days ago 0 replies      
Seriously, this will basically make lots of low skill workers redundant. Yes it fabulous innovation, but surely automation along these lines is dangerous for the fabric of society.When I say this, I mean, whats the plan for dealing with all the lay offs caused by tech automation ?
mrfusion 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is really exciting. I've always wanted to see this.

It makes me wonder someday if money will be completely invisible.

koolba 3 days ago 0 replies      
How do they know you're you? Do you scan your phone on the way in / out and get tracked via RFID or do they do facial recognition?

If it's the latter there's no way I'd use something like this. I love Amazon (as a retail customer) and AWS, but no way I'm self registering my face with them.

8draco8 2 days ago 0 replies      
Looks cool but one major question:

Who can go in to the store? If only people that have phone + app then technically I can't go in with my wife, allow her to pick and choose her yogurt while I'm looking for a coffee, put our groceries in to one bag and pay for it from my account.

zouhair 2 days ago 0 replies      
Nice and all but I don't want a store to get my personal info just so I can shop at their place.
31reasons 2 days ago 0 replies      
Amazon "All Store Jobs" Go! Not sure how new administration going to respond to this.
xs 2 days ago 0 replies      
If I bring the whole family shopping with me, does everyone need a phone app and stuff?
tmnvix 2 days ago 0 replies      
If I enter the store with a product I purchased elsewhere or even earlier in the same store (say some bottled water), will I be charged for it when I leave?
learned 3 days ago 0 replies      
I got excited when I thought this would be about Go usage on AWS, but this is way cooler.
yalogin 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is what people expected when RFID technology came up. They somehow thought its going to be this panacea but quickly realized its not. Amazon might have the solution but I can't say unless I see the implementation.
mholmes680 3 days ago 0 replies      
I would have liked to be in the scrum meeting, and proposed the David Blaine use-case.
deusofnull 2 days ago 1 reply      
What happens if someone sneaks into the store without an amazon account and walks right the hell out with whatever they want? Not a criticism, just curious what we speculate the theft prevention systems used here might be.
carrja99 2 days ago 0 replies      
Oh lame I was expecting this to be an announcement of Go support on AWS Lambda.
kristofferR 2 days ago 1 reply      
It's really weird that the prices are printed on paper labels. Why aren't they digital?

I guess it's not that big of an issue though, since this is a single store and not a chain. The employees need stuff to do.

sytelus 2 days ago 0 replies      
Amazon app currently already has barcode scanning. My guess is that they are replacing POS with app. If you think about it no one needs those arcane point of sell machines because smartphones can do scanning as well as payment processing. The only thing left is detecting unscanned items which is fairly well solved problem using RFIDs. May be later can be combined as well with measuring weight of person identified when entering.

This is brilliant as-in how no one else thought about it. Lot of small shops have limit on their open schedule because of staffing issues. I am assuming Amazon will set up few experimental shops and then sell technology to other stores. This can certainly revolutionize retail if they persist on executing right.

richartruddie 2 days ago 0 replies      
I embrace and trust all that Amazon does. As Jeff Bezos is proud of saying (not direct quote): you're not failing you're not trying enough difficult things.
nether 2 days ago 0 replies      
samstave 2 days ago 0 replies      

What if I have a large shopping run, like for Thanksgiving? I have a ~$400 cart worth of loot. Where will I sort and bag my goods?

They should make Amazon Go like a 7-11 rather than a Whole Foods.

Are the item prices any less?

warrenmiller 2 days ago 0 replies      
The future is now! This advert 10 years ago:https://youtu.be/pmAr23yZP9Y
bhewes 2 days ago 0 replies      
I can see this being useful by freeing up staff to provide value added services instead of being stuck at the register. I can see stores having category experts.
celticninja 2 days ago 0 replies      
im not sure this is a problem that needed to be solved. The issue of ordering groceries has been solved by existing supermarkets, in my case i can order everything I need on a weekly basis from Tesco for a small delivery fee. The last thing i want to do is go back to shopping in store, there are smaller local shops for little items but i cant see me using Amazon go in lieu of my existing grocery store that delivers.
clifanatic 3 days ago 0 replies      
So, you drive around trying to catch Amazons on your phone?
ISNIT 2 days ago 0 replies      
"No lines"I'm just imagining a huge group of people standing by the door waiting to download the app so they can buy eggs.
estrabd 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Alert, alert you are too poor to be in here."
richartruddie 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is the future of the world. Great innovation that we're excited to see. Whats not to love about this?
losteverything 3 days ago 0 replies      
The packaging or company that creates products conducive to "go" (cashierless) will be required for chains like walmart.
mooveprince 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is cool. Interested to know how customers can return their product once they come out of the store. Just place it back ?
malditojavi 2 days ago 0 replies      
Now the question is: would Bezos keep this tech for himself or give access to it to other big retailers?
rmurthy 2 days ago 0 replies      
What happens if my smartphone is switched off after I enter the retail warehouse?
jefe_ 2 days ago 0 replies      
amazon go skydive - just hop on the plane!

amazon go swim - just dive right in!

amazon go kennels - just drop and drive!

amazon go restoration hardware - good luck!

amazon go lite - just grab and checkout and go!

amazon go guns - just grab and go!

i assume they will eventually open this up to other retailers / service providers?

hellbanner 2 days ago 0 replies      
Does it use a phone app & GPS/NFC for knowing when to charge the customer?
dingdongding 2 days ago 0 replies      
How does this scale. Would camera be able to follow 100 people at the same time?
acomar 3 days ago 3 replies      
I wonder how they plan to deal with fraud... some kind of check-in process instead?
smcg 2 days ago 0 replies      
So how long before someone starts claiming this is the mark of the beast?
throwaway77127 2 days ago 0 replies      
If the merchandise is as bad as the books they ship (faded pages, water damage, ..), no thanks.

I don't need Deep Learning[tm] when I go to a supermarket. Also, they should really have integrated The Blockchain[tm] in the buzzwords.

Nevertheless, this is good for Bitcoin.

junke 2 days ago 0 replies      
A lot safer than the "Just Run Out" low-tech approach.
anacleto 2 days ago 0 replies      
Software is eating the world and Amazon is eating software.
josephby 2 days ago 0 replies      
Why announce this 3 months ahead of the scheduled opening?
Blue3Wheeler 3 days ago 1 reply      
This encourages consumerism. It will be hard to take a count of what you're spending. While I wait in the line I always rethink about what I'm buying, sometimes I realize I'm buying something I don't need.
sevmardi 2 days ago 1 reply      
Someone cares to explain the technology behind this?
alvil 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm going to be depressed. Stamped Sheeps.
retube 2 days ago 2 replies      
why is "deep learning" and "computer vision" required here? Surely a RFID tag on each item would suffice?
ta11ey 2 days ago 0 replies      
1 million Merits.
lexap 3 days ago 0 replies      
Selfycart's valuation just skyrocketed.
edward 2 days ago 0 replies      
How does Amazon Go handle alcohol sales?
kreisel93 2 days ago 3 replies      
communism is on the way and everyone is happy :)
HillaryBriss 3 days ago 1 reply      
I like the video. But I wonder where they put all the middle aged and elderly customers. Probably in the food.
thesimpsons1022 2 days ago 0 replies      
this is great! since the election my one purpose in life has been to automate every job of the "white working class" because of what they've decided to do to us. With this and Otto and Uber it won't be long.
estrabd 2 days ago 0 replies      
What Would Glenda Do?
cwkoss 2 days ago 0 replies      
Can I wear a Jeff Bezos mask into the store to get free groceries?
kesor 2 days ago 0 replies      
About time.
vlunkr 2 days ago 1 reply      
As someone who regularly takes kids to the grocery store, this would be a nightmare. You'd get charged for every random thing your kid decided to pull off a shelf and stuff somewhere else. Unless their AI ignores kids or something.
slaveofallah93 2 days ago 3 replies      
anonbanker 2 days ago 2 replies      
TurboHaskal 3 days ago 1 reply      
anonbanker 2 days ago 5 replies      
pierre_d528 2 days ago 1 reply      

 1984 anyone?

colept 3 days ago 1 reply      
Shut up and take my money.
Google says it will run entirely on renewable energy in 2017 nytimes.com
851 points by danvoell  2 days ago   247 comments top 35
ChuckMcM 1 day ago 6 replies      
This is pretty awesome, Google is definitely leading the industry here.

One of the more interesting things I learned while working for Google was the intricate way in which the "grid" is managed by a separate but co-operating set of entities. Google disrupted that happy bunch by creating a wholly owned subsidiary that was a licensed power company[1]. That gave it standing to buy from and sell energy to the grid and it completely short circuited a lot of crazy negotiations that were going on between Google and various regional power companies. Now instead of having the substation outside the data center owned by the local power company it could be owned by "Google Energy Inc." And Google Energy could buy energy from any vendor connected to that grid.

Most people are familiar with the 'last mile' problem where the connection to the Internet from your house has to go through the local monopoly utility. The same is true when buying power, and this move on Google's part completely side stepped it.

[1] https://www.cnet.com/news/google-energy-subsidiary-considers...

tylercubell 1 day ago 4 replies      
> In my mind its a P.R. gimmick, said Chris Warren, vice president of communications at the Institute for Energy Research, a think tank in Washington supported largely by donations from individuals and companies in the fossil fuel industry. If they think they can actually support themselves with wind and solar panels, they should connect them directly to their data centers.

I love how the author throws in a disclaimed quotation from a big oil Luddite to help reinforce the message of the article. It's a two-fold sales tactic.

1. Discredit the opposition.

2. Tell the buyer what the opposition will say, after already convincing them of the benefits, so they're prepared to defend what they're buying thereby reinforcing their beliefs.

I'm not implying that the article is wrong, but it's something we should be aware of.

metaphorm 1 day ago 2 replies      
they're doing this financially, not through infrastructure building. the plan is to purchase equivalent dollar value of credits from renewable electricity suppliers. this highlights a significant issue: grid power is fungible and power sources are indistinct from the end-user's point of view.

is there some kind of auditing authority that can actually guarantee that the money spent is actually going towards electrical generation and isn't just slush-fund cash that financial holding companies play around with while nominally saying "green energy"?

mbloom1915 1 day ago 0 replies      
This article is far more accurate and helpful: https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/google-will-ach...
jobu 2 days ago 7 replies      
Unlike carbon-based power, Mr. Kava said, wind supply prices do not fluctuate, enabling Google to plan better.

Can someone explain this? It seems like wind energy prices should fluctuate based on weather patterns (more wind == lower prices).

deegles 1 day ago 5 replies      
Google is ahead of the game here. Other tech companies also are moving to renewables but they're not at 100% yet (IIRC). The key point is that as cloud computing becomes commoditized and people build tools to quickly transfer from one cloud provider to another, the profit margin will become smaller and smaller until energy costs dominate the cost to provide a service. It is already the case that a machine will use more in energy costs than its capital cost over its lifetime.

So, whoever has the cheapest power will be able to provide cheapest services, or charge more for capacity located in more energy-expensive regions (for latency).

rimher 2 days ago 5 replies      
I was simply shocked to read that Google as a whole consumes as much as a whole metropolis. The fact that they're going green, is awesome on their part..!
barney54 1 day ago 3 replies      
For Google to say that it will run entirely on renewable energy is not accurate. Thank goodness only the headline of the article says that, but the article explains that Google gets electricity from the grid--which is not 100% renewable.
Symmetry 1 day ago 1 reply      
I wonder to what extent Google can shift calculations around in time to take advantage of fluctuations in power generation. Serving cat videos might be something you do all the time but indexing the web and training Go AIs doesn't have to be a continuous process.
downandout 1 day ago 10 replies      
>"Its good for the economy, good for business and good for our shareholders".

Let's be honest...it is not good for their shareholders. They are buying power at a significant premium and costing their shareholders money. It is a direct hit to the bottom line. This might be good for the environment - at the very least they are helping renewable energy companies get bank financing through purchase guarantees, which will advance the technologies being used and perhaps one day make them economically viable. But to say it's good for shareholders is disingenuous.

>"In some places, like Chile, Google said, renewables have at times become cheaper than fossil fuels."

I love all of the hedging that comes with any article that tries to paint renewables as economical. This sentence has holes a truck could drive through. It could literally mean that at one point, years ago, Chile had extremely high gas prices for a week and Google was amazed that their bill for that week was lower than it would have been with conventional power sources.

marcoperaza 1 day ago 2 replies      
The title is misleading. They will not run entirely on renewable energy. Instead, they are buying at least as much renewable energy as they are consuming in total. So Google might pay for 1 megawatt of solar power going into the grid, but actually pull 1 megawatt of fossil fuel power.

This is more than a nitpicking point. The reason why renewable energy isn't a totally viable energy source is because of problems with reliability, predictability, geographic concentration of production, etc. It is highly misleading to give people the impression that an operation like Google can actually operate directly off exclusively renewable energy.

What Google is doing will eventually hit a cap and become zero sum. You still need fossil fuels (or nuclear) to support a reliable and dispersed grid, and can therefore only have a a certain percent of the grid powered by renewables. So if you want your company to "run entirely on renewable energy", you'll end up in a bidding war with other companies that want the same thing, to be the technical purchaser (not consumer!) of the renewable energy going into the grid.

raisedbyninjas 1 day ago 0 replies      
Another energy feather in Google's (and Dell's) cap was evangelizing on server room temperature. Recommending allowing air temps to climb up to 95F cuts a lot of the air cooling energy use. It also makes it more comfortable for those of use doomed to work in a chilled server room.
ctdonath 1 day ago 2 replies      
Is anyone discussing _reliability_? as in Google/Apple/etc are making this move not just "to be green" but to ensure that they do have power without being subjected to the whims & issues of providers when they're just one of many customers? When you have literally hundreds of millions (billions?) of customers, you want to ensure your own resources are absolutely reliable (within your, not someone else's, requirements).

It's like me wanting to put solar panels on my roof: I'm not so much interested in cost savings, but want to ensure a massive grid failure doesn't take my household with it.

mathattack 1 day ago 0 replies      
Several years ago, I was very perplexed by Google investing in renewable energy. It was only later that I realized they use so much energy that this would have to be the wave of the future for tech companies like them. If they don't use renewables, they'll be subjects to the whims of energy markets similar to airlines. (Yes you can hedge, but even that is a bet)

Very forward looking of them!

wicksell 1 day ago 1 reply      
It's certainly a good thing they're doing, but really all they're doing is bidding higher than other companies on renewable energy, and since we don't have unlimited renewable energy (only as much as we have wind turbines and solar panel arrays &c), all they're really doing is shifting renewable energy usage from smaller companies to themselves. It's not like they're creating renewable energy or anything, they're just changing where it goes.

But at least they're going to create a greater demand to hopefully create a greater supply sometime soon, plus they're paying into the renewable energy economic machine.

Chuckalucky89 1 day ago 0 replies      
"means other companies of a similar scale will feel pressure to move" - Not sure if that pressure is real, especially with a new president not really committed to renewable and sustainable energy adoption.
nradov 1 day ago 6 replies      
This is great progress and congratulations to Google. But Google and every other tech company is effectively still running on non-renewable energy by virtue of importing most of their hardware from places where manufacturing is done mostly with fossil fuels. All of us are outsourcing our pollution and CO2 production.
em3rgent0rdr 1 day ago 0 replies      
I don't have to feel guilty when using google services anymore!
zitterbewegung 2 days ago 2 replies      
So if they increase the energy supply by investing/purchasing in renewable energy that would increase supply which would bring their energy costs down hypothetically?
problems 1 day ago 6 replies      
Wondering if any residential provider in the world is offering a service where you can say "sell me only renewables". There'd probably be a cost associated with this, but I think I'd have to consider it if it were available locally.
edpichler 1 day ago 1 reply      
> Next year, it said, all of that energy will come from wind farms and solar panels.

When I read 'Renewable' on the title, I thought they would use hydroelectric energy too. Nice to know I was wrong.

cheeseprocedure 1 day ago 1 reply      
Are there public-facing data on the total energy footprint of an Amazon/Google/etc datacenter, including the lifecycle of the hardware hosted there?
exabrial 1 day ago 1 reply      
Part of me hopes this will help drive a nuclear renaissance too: we can power an aircraft carrier, why not a submarine?
firmbeliever 1 day ago 1 reply      
So if they are still getting their power from the grid, who uses the renewable energy that they purchase?
EGreg 1 day ago 0 replies      
You know my whole thing is about sustainability and looking to technology in the near future to shatter the conventional wisdom and assumptions of capitalism (and other systems) from the last several decades?

It's not as simple as saying you support companies doing this voluntarily. I also support that, very much so. But the governments have put up legal hurdles because in the past they "protected capitalism" and now just stand in the way.

State courts are used by telcos to sue cities to prevent Google Fiber from coming into the city, to protect the profits of the "private" interstate corporation from the "public" city.

Drug discovery and many other things are hampered by patents to protect the "intellectual property" of pharma corporations from the "freerider" researchers and public funding that would discover new cures.

And so forth and so on. The legal departments and regulations of the old capitalist system (set in place to protect innovation at a different time) is in the way of open source and open innovation of the 21st century.

And the biggest lie of course is jobs, that demand for human labor will never go down and that enough money will always trickle down to the plebes via wages.

ziikutv 1 day ago 0 replies      
Is it Google US only or all offices
dafrankenstein2 1 day ago 0 replies      
Green Earth, Our Earth :)
at-fates-hands 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm actually surprised that Google hasn't been more involved in micro-grid technology. One company here in town basically runs on its own grid with a combination of renewable energies and electricity they generate on their own:


The main difference between the OATI Microgrid Technology Center and other commercial office buildings is that OATI will generate its own electricity as the primary source of power. The building is powered by:

- Natural Gas turbines: 600kW Capstone C600 natural gas burning microturbine. Paired with absorption chiller and heat exchanger for CCHP

- Solar: 150kw rooftop solar array, with additional expansion array planned

- Wind: 24kW of vertical axis wind turbines

- Electricity storage: 231kWh, at 125kW Ensync battery rated power and energy

- Generator: 1500kW of diesel backup generator

- Utility connection: Connected to local utility Xcel Energy

tn13 1 day ago 0 replies      
After energy they might focus on more landfills because of electronic waste.
EGreg 1 day ago 0 replies      
Google is definitely leading the way! Now if only we can get our municipal fiber and self driving cars sooner..
perseusprime11 1 day ago 0 replies      
Is this Google U.S or Google worldwide that will run entirely on renewable energy? Google has offices and data computing centers worldwide so I am reading this as everywhere.
sabujp 1 day ago 0 replies      
umm, so do I! I only buy green power from PG&E!
rgzn 1 day ago 1 reply      
1_2__3 1 day ago 0 replies      
So it's going to spend money to make it look like renewables make economic sense? My reading of it is that this is a PR move more than anything else.
kumarski 1 day ago 4 replies      
There's a considerable amount of embodied energy and embodied pollution in Solar Panel and Wind Turbine construction.

I think this is lost on most people in Silicon Valley.

Crypto 101 Introductory course on cryptography crypto101.io
916 points by zerognowl  6 days ago   140 comments top 27
eponeponepon 5 days ago 4 replies      
This is about to eat my weekend, I think! :)

Quite seriously, this is exactly what the tech world needs - personally, I know that in terms of understanding of crypto I'm streets ahead of the average Joe, but orders of magnitude behind people who actually know the field. I'm certain I'm far from alone in that set, but the way the world's going means that we with the generalised technical know-how have a moral impetus to bring the rest of the world up to speed with the whys and wherefores.

PeterisP 5 days ago 1 reply      
The old Cryptopals challenges (http://cryptopals.com/) seem to cover the same material in a pedagogically very different way - they don't feed you the information as this book does, but give you a practical task which can be easily done with e.g. reading the specification of an algorithm from wikipedia, but figuring out the implementation of the attack yourself gives a much better understanding than simply reading about it.

Although this book claims a "Learn by doing" approach, I didn't find any specific assignments or data samples to facilitate that.

stcredzero 5 days ago 8 replies      
When I was taking Aikido, there was a day when the sensei was going through all of our techniques and showed how the uke (initiator of the attack, receiver of the technique) could turn things around on the tori. (receiver of the attack, initiator of the technique) It seemed like there were a half dozen ways each that a technique could go seriously wrong, and that many of them didn't require much skill, only determination and the opportunity provided by a mistake. That day made me question the validity of the entire notion of self defense.

I wonder if there shouldn't be a software engineering class where people try to set up a secure web app, with their own homegrown algorithms and protocols, which is then attacked by a tiger team which includes a conspirator on the inside? Perhaps there are such classes now.

TrinaryWorksToo 5 days ago 5 replies      
With everything in Crypto I have to wonder: Is the information correct? I really have no way of verifying if I'm learning the correct DHE, and I know that it's easy to get wrong. Perhaps I can do some testing in code, but I may test it incorrectly too, and those small errors can be exploited.
kanzure 5 days ago 1 reply      
Also here is is a Dan Boneh cryptography playlist https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9oqNDMzcMClAPkwrn5dm...
steamer25 5 days ago 0 replies      
Applied Cryptography is also one of the free advanced courses on Udacity:


theschwa 5 days ago 0 replies      
There seems to be a lot of comments asking about the quality of this piece. I read through this the last time it was posted to HN, and I just have to say that this is the perfect balance of having enough detail to understand how things work, but not so much that it's overwhelming. That's a really difficult balance when it comes to crypto, so major props to the author. Fantastic work.
lhnz 5 days ago 1 reply      
Whenever I have taken the small amount of cryptography knowledge I already have and tried to use it in a project, I've often been shutdown with "the system already does that" when it doesn't, or "this will be too complicated for the user, instead lets just roll our own [ad-hoc cryptography method]".

For those reading:

How do you convince people that it's worth using best practices?

Is there a good heuristic to measure the value of something, when deciding how much time and money to spend on securing it?

What are good library/SaaS solutions to help build secure applications with less chance of shooting yourself in the foot, better UX and lower cost? (Keybase, etc.)

sambe 5 days ago 0 replies      
The video claims that the Python standard library doesn't check certificates by default. In fact, it has done for at least a couple of years ([0] quotes the documentation as saying that it changed two years ago - in 2.7.9 and 3.4.3).

Although the video is marked 2015, the overlay at the start shows it's from PyCon 2013.

[0]: http://stackoverflow.com/a/28325763/2492

Raed667 5 days ago 1 reply      
I'm really disappointed that (9.4) Elliptic curve cryptography is still under TODO.

If anyone is interested in ECC, ars has a pretty good introduction [0].

[0] : http://arstechnica.com/security/2013/10/a-relatively-easy-to...

gespadas 5 days ago 1 reply      
Suggestion: Add some notification medium for when the book is ready.
LaurensBER 5 days ago 1 reply      
I checked the PDF and this looks very interesting and comprehensive, any change you could give an eta for the final release and more specific the epub release?


CameronBanga 5 days ago 2 replies      
Quick question, I had apparently Pinboarded this in March 2014. I see the PDF is still pre-release. Has anything changed with this, or is it kinda just coming up again because of recent political climate.

I'm fine either way, just curious if this has changed drastically from what I had looked at previously.

zappo2938 5 days ago 0 replies      
For idiots like myself, I found this video, Public key cryptography - Diffie-Hellman Key Exchange (full version), to be completely enlightening using mixed colors to explain the most basic features of a cryptography algorithm.[0]

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEBfamv-_do

bogomipz 5 days ago 0 replies      
For anyone interested I found this to be a good book on working through some cryto implementations in Go:


Its free to read online but its also very reasonably priced. Its written by an engineer over at Cloudflare.

bogomipz 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is great! Kudos to the author and thanks Rackspace for sponsoring this as well.

It's really encouraging to see this increased democratization of crypto not necessarily in the engineering of it per se but rather the awareness and understanding of it.

chetanahuja 5 days ago 0 replies      
I put this pdf on my phone and read through interesting sections over a vacation involving long flights. It's a very nicely written text that you can read over a few days with some basic computer-science/mathematical background.
southphillyman 5 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks for this my guy! Maybe I'm telling on myself here, but I get the impression that your average developer doesn't know much about security outside of the basic (sql injection/cross site scripting)
qwertyuiop924 5 days ago 4 replies      
Can any crypto people here on HN verify that this gets it right?
mrcactu5 5 days ago 0 replies      
cryptography textbooks get very difficult. I get lost in a sea of hashes and the prime number theorem
cponeill 5 days ago 1 reply      
I downloaded this about a year ago and loved it. Incredibly informative. Is this an updated version?
truth_sentinell 5 days ago 1 reply      
Why is the url a hash? Also I'm getting privacy error on chrome mobile.

Thanks for this, seems pretty useful.

paulddraper 5 days ago 0 replies      
Looks interesting, but I can't open it with Adobe Reader on my Android.
Dowwie 5 days ago 0 replies      
good work, lvh
markild 5 days ago 3 replies      
zimmerfrei 5 days ago 4 replies      
Maybe I am being too harsh, but it is clear the author does not have a formal education in the subject [0] nor any track in breaking non-toy crypto implementations [1]. This alone makes me a bit wary of any recommendation one may read in the material.

There seems to be more attention to listing all the beasts in the cryptographic zoo than to the few fundamental tools required to really understand the mechanics (e.g. birthday paradox, PRFs, some prime number theory).

Sure, I can't spot anything fundamentally wrong and it all reads pretty smoothly, but calling this a "course" is highly misleading. If the intention is to guide people in selecting good crypto primitives, then maybe "guide" is a more honest word?

For those interested, I would strongly recommend to bite the bullet and dedicate time to Boneh's course on Coursera.

[0] I don't have any either[1] Ditto

seycombi 5 days ago 2 replies      
This is currently on edx. Its more advanced that the courses mentioned here. I do not know what edx will do after the course ends, but if you want it you can get it while it ss still available.


Quantum Cryptographyby Thomas Vidick (Caltech) and Stephanie Wehner (Delft University)

I'm giving up on PGP filippo.io
730 points by FiloSottile  2 days ago   336 comments top 45
psiconaut 2 days ago 9 replies      
I find very interesting the point about the split between what WoT was supposed to be, in theory, and what little it represents, in practice, in terms of practices about key verification.

It has been said many times that the lack of adoption of pgp in mail was due to the average user not being able to grasp the concepts behind the proper operation for key management, but the article points to common practices among "power users" that will drop the theoretical best practices and switch to fallback, unsecure modes, given the effort needed to properly verify a key binding. If the community that cares about encryption and privacy is not able to routinely verify keys, the whole system definitely has a weak link.

I wonder if pgp is fundamentally flawed, or we have a deep conceptual usability issue here.

And to me, assuming that the most usable thing we can use instead is something that relies on mobile phone identifiers, more often than not tied to a phisical world identity, is really something to worry about.

Arathorn 1 day ago 4 replies      
The conclusions here (avoiding long-lived per-identity keys and having the option to easily rotate and re-validate per-device keys) are very much what we've aimed for in the end-to-end crypto for Matrix.org (https://matrix.org/blog/2016/11/21/matrixs-olm-end-to-end-en...).

Rather than using a silo like Signal or WhatsApp, it is possible to get the flexibility of an open federated network built on an open standard, whilst still having the lighter weight approach of trust common to E2E messaging apps like WhatsApp. Or at least that's the hope :)

lmm 1 day ago 2 replies      
> Yeah, about that. I never ever ever successfully used the WoT to validate a public key.

If you ever installed a Debian package then you did. A long-term identity as "Bob Jones" might not be terribly useful - but that's not the kind of long-term identity we care about a lot in real life either. A long-term identity as "Debian release manager" or "Signatory on bank account xyz" or even "Wikileaks committee member" is a lot more important, and for those cases PGP becomes very useful.

> Then, there's the UX problem. Easy crippling mistakes. Messy keyserver listings from years ago. "I can't read this email on my phone". "Or on the laptop, I left the keys I never use on the other machine".

These are real problems. We should fix them. But we don't need a new crypto standard to do so! It never fails to amaze me how many people/organizations are like "I don't have the time/money/patience to write a high-quality OpenPGP libary (or a high-quality GPG frontend), but I'm perfectly placed to create a new cryptosystem from scratch."

> Your average adversary probably can't MitM Twitter DMs (which means you can use them to exchange fingerprints opportunistically, while still protecting your privacy). The Mossad will do Mossad things to your machine, whatever key you use.

This is pets vs cattle in the opposite direction. Can Mossad Mossad you personally? Yes, if you're a big enough target, but they can't Mossad everyone. Whereas the NSA can MitM key fingerprints exchanged via Twitter on an industrial scale.

> Mostly I'll use Signal or WhatsApp, which offer vastly better endpoint security on iOS, ephemerality, and smoother key rotation.

If you're using iOS you've already given up against state-level attackers. Anything actually encrypted (e.g. IRC with SSL) is more than adequate in that case. Most people don't need the jump up to PGP, sure. But it's important that the option is there for people that really do need it. It bears repeating that we know, from their complaints in leaked emails, that the NSA can't break PGP when used correctly. That's an extremely strong seal of approval for the most critical use cases for encryption.

eriknstr 2 days ago 4 replies      
Good points, but also I would like to point out that https://www.usenix.org/system/files/1401_08-12_mickens.pdf linked from the blog post was an entertaining read so for anyone that didn't read said PDF, do.
module0000 1 day ago 4 replies      
PGP may have broken down for the author, but it's still used in a lot of places. For example, to communicate with our bankers at work, every email has to be properly encrypted and signed - or it goes into a blackhole. The only way to exchange public keys(initially) is in person. Once that is done, new keys are provided from that person, and the WoT expands.

tldr; it doesn't work for the author, but it does work for lots of individuals and even more companies with secrets to protect.

joveian 1 day ago 1 reply      
Summary: The author decided that being connected to long term keys does more harm than good, partly due to the pressure to stay with potentially compromised keys due to the difficulty of starting over. The author will instead focus on secure IM using short term keys bootstrapped by social media accounts.

1) As others have pointed out, I really think the author is overestimating the effort required to compromise a twitter or other social media account. There are many accounts of this happening, including to people like Brian Krebs who knows he is a target and does everything possible to avoid the attacks.

2) Encrypted IM as the primary higher security communication channel seems to be a popular option these days, mostly leaving those of us who don't like IM to look at alternatives.

3) Briar (briarproject.org) is a promising alternative for messaging, although not ready yet and currently only targeting android, which has its own major security issues. Due to the focus on enabling offline, forward secure messaging, it can be used to defeat mass (network) survailance. It can also be used online and addresses some of the specific concerns raised.

4) General purpose computers are both handy and necessarily have security issues. Special purpose devices for more limited secure communication would help with many issues.

5) Secure communication isn't much of a goal; it is more helpful to consider specific threats. If you do something non-trivial towards a vague goal, it is easy to find a way it doesn't meet that goal when you feel like not doing it any more. I'm not sure what the author was trying to achieve with PGP in the first place.

parennoob 2 days ago 4 replies      
To me, Keybase (https://keybase.io) seems to solve the "PGP has a bad user experience" problem correctly for like 90% of the population. You post proofs of your public key to known media (Twitter, Github, your website, etc.) which you control. These can be checked by anyone.

Even if the remote person doesn't know they are talking to you (as a human entity), they know they are talking to the combined online persona of all those accounts, which is all that matters for the vast majority of them. Yes, it is possible for all these services to collude and post false proofs, but that would be relatively easily detectable, and realistically not a concern for the majority of people out there, whose alternative is to not use any encryption. People who are really concerned can always fall back to standard PGP.

[Edit: Looks like I didn't read the article carefully enough, the author himself says he actually does use Keybase too.]

devilsavocado 1 day ago 11 replies      
People who use PGP keys, can you give examples of your use? I'm genuinely curious. Who are you contacting, or who is contacting you? The author says he only receives 2 encrypted emails a year. Not only do I not have a PGP key, I don't think I've ever found myself in a situation where it was even an option to use one.
runn1ng 1 day ago 0 replies      
I will add what I wrote on a different thread

PGP is used very heavily on online drug marketplaces. You really can't use Signal or WhatsApp there - leaking too much metadata - and even OTR is leaking too much data.

PGP is quite good for this, and people use it for encoding their communication.

simias 1 day ago 0 replies      
I have given up on the "web of trust" a long time ago for most of the reasons the author states. I think in order to work PGP would need to reach a critical mass of users that seems totally out of reach at the moment. Maybe if Google or Facebook starts issuing mandatory PGP keys linked with each account or something like that. Not sure why they'd want to do that though.

That being said there's still a lot of good and useful in PGP even if you ignore the WoT completely. I use it to secure my passwords, log into remote servers securely with SSH and I sign all of my emails with it, which is probably useless 99.9% of the time but at least it can be used in retrospect to prove that I did write those messages. I can also use it to sign git tags so that my code can still be trusted even if there's a breach in, say, github. I have a rather vast choice of GnuPG tokens I can purchase if I want an added layer of convenience and (hopefully) security.

Sure, WoT is simply unusable currently unless you're communicating mostly with hardcore PGP enthusiasts. That won't be enough to make me give up on PGP.

milge 2 days ago 3 replies      
I've been thinking a lot about PGP and other encrypted messengers lately. It's incredibly hard to get a lot of people to agree on one messaging app besides default SMS. I wish there was an open source suite of tools for mobile/desktop that easily layered PGP on top of SMS/email experience and would fall back in the absence of keys. Perhaps bluetooth for swapping keys with friends. It's something that needs to be seamless enough that the end user can't tell the difference. I don't think messaging encryption will achieve mass adoption until something like that is built or built into mobile OS's.
danielweber 1 day ago 1 reply      
Years ago I worked with a guy who literally wrote a book about how to use PGP. I asked him if he could help me set it up and he said "I don't use it, it's too hard."
upofadown 1 day ago 0 replies      
One perfectly valid way so solve the web of trust issue with PGP is to simply ignore the web of trust issue with PGP. Just stick your pubkey on your website and you are done. You just understand that there is a very low chance that any encrypted email from an unknown entity is actually from a composite entity. If you think that you are of interest to entities that have the ability to MITM your pubkey, you might want to mention the problem to potential unknown email senders as a disclaimer on your web page. In practice an entity with the power to MITM pubkeys is not going to use the facility unless they are really really sure as they are eventually going to get caught at it.

Things like Signal and Whatapp don't solve the web of trust issue either so you are not any worse off by using the head in the sand approach.

makecheck 1 day ago 0 replies      
I use MacGPG to sign commits on GitHub but I have to admit that the E-mail portion has fallen by the wayside. (The last time I really used it was to E-mail a professor of a cryptography course for an assignment!)

While I also dont know many people that use this for E-mail, it doesnt help that virtually every OS update in the last 5 years has consistently broken it, taking sometimes months for a fix.

For those reasons, this needs to be baked into the OS to be viable. Only when somebody like Apple can install it by default, and make sure it works between updates, will it have the reliability and widespread availability that is necessary for success.

keeganjw 2 days ago 4 replies      
After all that, he was only getting two encrypted emails a year! Damn. That's crazy.
rbcgerard 2 days ago 1 reply      
Usability is the "key" - it's hard enough to get people to use signal ("why do I need another messaging app?")
orblivion 1 day ago 2 replies      
How is the author so seriously involved in PGP and only receive two encrypted emails a year? I'm basically just a dude who uses PGP because it's cool and I get tens of them. You just need one friend who also thinks it's cool.
mixedCase 2 days ago 7 replies      
Dark Mail seems to be dead. Are there any efforts to make e-mail secure by default and e2e encrypted?.
andrey_utkin 1 day ago 0 replies      
> I never ever ever successfully used the WoT to validate a public key.

TOFU, anyone?

From: Werner Koch wk at gnupg.org

Date: Fri Dec 4 14:06:49 CET 2015

Subject: [Announce] GnuPG 2.1.10 released


The GnuPG team is pleased to announce the availability of a new releaseof GnuPG modern: Version 2.1.10. The main features of this release aresupport for TOFU (Trust-On-First-Use) and anonymous key retrieval viaTor.


koevet 1 day ago 1 reply      
"Yubikeys would get exposed to hotel rooms."

Can someone please elaborate on this?

CalChris 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think his security threat model was nation state when he really needed APT, annoyingly persistent teenager. There are elements of what he did that I'd do if they were automated. But if the NSA, Mossad, Hacking Team want to get me, they're going to get me. And it would only be vanity to say they are even thinking of me.

So this is the perfect being the enemy of the good. I need good privacy and good security. I'm not going to torture myself for perfect privacy and perfect security. Cut to the last scene of The Conversation where Gene Hackman's character tears apart his office ripping down the walls to find the bug and the eavesdropper taunts him. Who is torturing whom?

Drdrdrq 1 day ago 0 replies      
Yeah. A friend of mine said it best: "if there is a conflict between convenience and security/privacy/anything else, convenience always wins." PGP didn't stand a chance.
fbis251 1 day ago 1 reply      
Who here is using keybase to manage your public key being distributed? It seems like a great idea since your key is tied to your online identity
blunte 1 day ago 0 replies      
The #1 problem, beyond the usability issues, is that most users still just do not care. They are willfully ignorant (a mentality which is actively celebrated these days in some influential countries), and cannot be convinced in the value of privacy or security.

I have tried without much success to get people to move to ProtonMail. I have tried without much success to get people to move to Wire messenger. (And incidentally, the author mentions Signal and WhatsApp... I wonder why he doesn't use Wire?)

So without consumers who care, the only audience for PGP and other security focused tools are the geeks who too easily tolerate bad interfaces.

kzrdude 2 days ago 1 reply      
gpg is promoted as a kind of swiss army knife of privacy, but its interface always puts email first. If you use it for something else, you must paranoidly guard every command so that it doesn't by mistake publish information about your privately used keys, for example.
stefek99 1 day ago 0 replies      
I gave up 3 years ago: http://blog.mostlydoing.com/2014/03/how-to-securely-store-pr... (I don't trust myself to securely store my private keys)
khana 1 day ago 0 replies      
The 'deficiency' of PGP lay in the leaky nature of the computer itself. How do you maintain your all important private keys? On disk? In memory? USB? All are leaky from the get go. And this, I posit, is the problem gents.
torrent-of-ions 1 day ago 0 replies      
Why is WhatsApp trusted? Isn't it proprietary and controlled by Zuckerberg? What am I missing here?
ergot 1 day ago 0 replies      
"One click encryption is one click too many" - Bruce Schneier
zitterbewegung 2 days ago 0 replies      
Me too. The reason I gave up on PGP is I couldn't find anyone that would willingly use the service through email. With Signal I can find people that use it.
esseti 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've been using PGP for mostly 1 year and yes, I agree. I still send around signed email, but never received one encrypted so far. Generating keys and backing them up is tricky and I have probably made mistake in generating or storing them at some point in time. Is there a step-by-step good-practice on how to use PGP?
technion 1 day ago 0 replies      
My ongoing concern is around where reasonable alternatives fit in.

- Securedrop, where users upload messages and they are automatically encrypted

- Darknet services

- Businesses where users communicate via desktops.

Signal/ etc works in a different space and doesn't provide an alternative to these.

mtgx 1 day ago 1 reply      
I guess this is a good opportunity to review Matthew Green and Moxie's posts on PGP, too:



theszak 1 day ago 0 replies      
?What experiences have folks with ZixMail https://www.zixcorp.com/why-zix/email-encryption
nickik 1 day ago 0 replies      
I feel the pain as well. I'm not ready to make the same jump however.

I really do support Keybase, there I see the potential to solve many of the issues. I would love some better integration into the E-Mail ecosystem, but sadly its not there jet, and its not there focus.

qrbLPHiKpiux 2 days ago 2 replies      
9/10 end users just don't understand that security and convenience are inversely related.
m3ta 2 days ago 2 replies      
There isn't a lot to unpack in this article. Most is set-up; explaining how connected he is to a community that is enthusiastic about PGP yet doesn't apply secure operations in practice.

Then there is the main complaint:

> I haven't done a formal study, but I'm almost positive that everyone that used PGP to contact me has or would have done (if asked) one of the following:

> - pulled the best-looking key from a keyserver, most likely not even over TLS

> - used a different key if replied with "this is my new key"

> - resent the email unencrypted if provided an excuse like "I'm traveling"

I haven't done a formal study either, but no one I know that uses PGP would do any of these things under any circumstances. PGP works fine for myself and the group of people I know that use it, because we adhere to security protocols that are just as important -- if not more -- than using PGP itself.

ritonlajoie 1 day ago 3 replies      
On a related thought, using a 'secure' (or so they say ?) email provider l protonmail is just secure if you send your email to another protonmail user.

Problem with services like that is they omit to tell their users that email is not E2E, and sending from protonmail to gmail will just disable the benefits of using protonmail.

So yes, if you are trying to send encrypted email to a GMAIL user, your only way is to use GPG. Or to get them onboard of protonmail and the likes. It's... impossible.

a3_nm 1 day ago 0 replies      
The proposed solution is to use Twitter to use Signal or Whatsapp. This forces your correspondents to use one of these centralized services, and also to run proprietary software to be able to use them.

I'm also irritated by GPG and OpenPGP's shortcomings, but it still gives people a way to contact you with reasonable security and without having to use specific proprietary services.

cdevs 1 day ago 0 replies      
Never heard of yubikeys, pretty cool. Thanks.
cestith 1 day ago 0 replies      
There was not a single mention of CA-signed S/MIME certificates. That seems quite an oversight.
pfooti 1 day ago 0 replies      
So, to distinguish, there's web-of-trust things and general pgp/gpg encryption (and signing) UX. Both of these are pretty abysmal for non-technical users.

I don't think "muggle" users would be interested in the web of trust at all, and I doubt they can really handle it all that well. But I'm a pretty technical person (MS in Computer Science, PhD in a different field), and well:


I don't think the web of trust really matters- would you look at that and say, "hey, this Eric fellow has a 2004 key for his gmail, and an unrelated 2016 one, I'd better not trust him." Doubtful.

Honestly, in today's internet (I know, dangerously political...) I think there should be a stronger move toward broad-spectrum encryption of all emails. I actually generate trust with most of my email correspondents independently, but I sure would like to encrypt my communication. Signal is good for shorter messages, but email is still email.

It isn't like I have state secrets in my email, but I do have stuff I don't want random government snoops reading, especially if they're bulk-collecting. Furthermore, I think it's important for more people (even people who don't need it) to encrypt their correspondence, so we can provide cover for people who really do need it. Journalists and dissidents won't stand out as much if everybody is encrypting.

To that end, I think pgp / gpg is still pretty cruddy for UX. There are decent solutions for each platform, but nothing really good, and my friends / family aren't likely to use a mail client or webmail that's not at least almost as good as gmail/inbox just because I am worried about privacy.

I've recently moved to protonmail for most mail, since it has a very slick user experience and I want to know it well enough to be able to recommend it to other people. However, protonmail doesn't let me have my private key (or its analogue - I'm not 100% sure how things really work, but I have a public key that I can give to other people, and those other people can send me encrypted stuff from off-platform. I just can't reply in the same fashion). That means if I lose my protonmail account, woops, I can't read the emails you sent me encrypted to my @protonmail.com account, even if I get the emails. This is more of A Thing now that you can set up protonmail as your MX, and therefore get emails addressed to domains you control on the platform - if I ever swapped my personal domain around, I'd like to have the key.

So, for end-to-end encrypted simple messages, signal is great. I just wish protonmail did interop, and then I'd really recommend it to other people.

dpiz 1 day ago 0 replies      
Good read.
zobzu 1 day ago 0 replies      
it is mainly the tools that are blamed even in this post.

nobody wants to make a better sks keyserver or gpg cli. why? because you dont get no fame or money from it.

filippo show me your gpg commits.

gkya 1 day ago 1 reply      
What's this? But seriously what is this? I use GnuPG and am quite fond of it. I've a pubkey.asc up my website, and I use gpg to encrypt some files and my backup tarballs. PGP is not a mail tool, it's for encrypting strings. Yhis guy does not know what it is and cries for having done much ado for nothing. Key signing parties? I certainly have better things to do. Just generate a key and put it on mit key server, call it done.

And he complains he don't get encrypted mail. So what, I'd rather be happy. It'll be useful when it'll be w/ email, and has many other uses otherwise.

Dark Patterns User Interfaces Designed to Trick People [video] darkpatterns.org
628 points by alexpoulsen  1 day ago   310 comments top 41
saberworks 1 day ago 8 replies      
Does it count if there's no user interface? Amazon has my email address, I've been a customer since the late-nineties. They keep inventing new email lists and signing me up for them. Each time I get a new "newsletter" it says something like, "You got this message because you're subscribed to the 'Tablet News' newsletter." I click the unsubscribe link to remove myself from it. Along with the unsubscribe link there's a link to my subscriptions. When I go there, it only shows the ones I want (the specific authors I'm following). I want to unsubscribe not only from this latest list you just signed me up for, but also from all future lists you may want to sign me up for. I really don't want to get any unsolicited marketing email from you. Really. I don't want it. Please let me out.

Also stop letting marketplace sellers email me begging for feedback after every marketplace item I accidentally order. I try my best to not order marketplace seller items anymore but when I accidentally do (or buy a gift for someone that is only offered this way) I always end up getting emails from these guys. Are you sharing my email address with them? Does unsubscribing or responding to them share my email address with them? I have no idea. There is never anything useful and it's impossible to unsubscribe from all past and future marketplace emails which is really annoying. Come on, amazon, I really want to love you and continue shopping there but it's getting to the point that I'd rather go to wal-mart! (ok not really)

cle 1 day ago 15 replies      
One pattern that I consider "dark", but don't see in this list, is using loaded options on a dialog box. One that I often see in apps is like:

 Rate our app! <OK> <Not Yet> 
Those really get under my skin because the developer is clearly trying to play a psychological trick on me, but it's so brazen and obvious that it just pisses me off. And bigger companies do it too (e.g. Google).

cs702 1 day ago 7 replies      
Great video and great website.

My only nitpick: the author wants the industry to agree on a "code of ethics."

Unfortunately, such exhortations strike me as naive. They are unlikely to work, because the truly bad actors will continue to use dark patterns regardless, putting pressure on all other actors to follow suit. The key challenge is not in getting the good actors to do the right thing, but in preventing the bad actors from doing the wrong thing.

Meanwhile, even sophisticated consumers like HN members pay a cognitive or financial cost to deal with dark patterns every day, which are prevalent throughout the web. Everyone I know is sick and tired of this crap.

The only viable solution I can think of is regulation in the form of a consumer-protection agency, working with the industry, that can fine bad actors up the wazoo.

Does anyone here have a better suggestion?

serg_chernata 1 day ago 4 replies      
There's no search but I'm curious if LinkedIn is included. I never took screenshots, unfortunately, but I feel like they've had close to 5 in my own experience alone.
chrisdone 1 day ago 2 replies      
Buying tickets with RyanAir is stressful due to these kind of practices. They're less aggressive than in the past, when I wouldn't even continue because I just had zero trust in the company, but they're still sly.

A sneaky one I saw recently is something like:

[ ] Subscribe to newsletter about our services by unchecking this box.

(It doesn't matter whether the box is initially checked or not, the user will be tricked into the desired behavior.)

I don't remember the exact phrasing, and it was much more shrewd than my own, but it relied on a boolean flipping of the value of the checkbox towards the end of the field label. Any user seeding the start of the sentence will leave it in its current state.

mangeletti 1 day ago 1 reply      
Another dark pattern (used to gain more positive ratings in apps) is:

 Do you love our app? Yes No | | | | ______ ______ Opens Does AppStore Nothing
It's a bit like saying, "Do you love candidate X?", and then giving instructions for voting only to those who answer "yes".

covercash 1 day ago 1 reply      
Would gofundme's entire brand and business model be considered a dark pattern? They go out of their way to make it feel like a nonprofit, promote campaigns for issues that already have actual nonprofit status/direct donation pages, and do their best to hide their fees (which, last I checked, were actually higher for legitimate nonprofits than for regular campaigns).
aamederen 1 day ago 2 replies      
This kind of "hall of shame" websites are interesting to me. However, most of the regular users do not know nor care about this stuff.

Well, in a semi-ideal world, there would be a comprehensive "hall of shame" database containing the information about the tricks, problems, dark patterns, etc. for all websites. Then, some helper apps or browser extensions could warn us about these issues while a regular user is browsing.

One of the problems with this idea is that it gives a huge authority to the owner of that database and there would be lots of questions about its neutrality.

shostack 1 day ago 1 reply      
Is there a category for grouping notifications such that spammy notifications are lumped in with other important ones you might want to receive?

Google Photos is a big culprit unfortunately with their photo backup. They keep pinging a notification to get me to remove local versions that are backed up in the cloud. I don't want to do that. The only way to remove the notification seems to be disabling all app notifications.

Worse, when you go into settings, they have a variety of settings that all take you into a deeper level of settings when you click them.

Except "Free up device storage."

Clicking that does not take you to a deeper level as expected (despite looking like a nav tree item), but instead actually does the one thing I didn't want to do, with no confirmation dialogue.

gnicholas 1 day ago 0 replies      
An oft-overlooked aspect of dark patterns is the impact on accessibility.

Ever received a spam email, hunted for the unsubscribe link, and found it in light grey, against a white background? Imagine how much worse that is for someone with low vision. Ditto for pop-up ads with a tiny grey X in the corner.

Many of the dark patterns described in the video rely on hiding/obfuscating opt-outs and these have an even bigger impact on people with visual/processing disabilities.

jcomis 1 day ago 0 replies      
How about this one in the new uber app: If you disable location services (which recently switched to either "always" or "never", no longer offering "only when open") you can't use your history or saved favorite places to set a location, you have to manually type it out. Couldn't believe they would be so shady just to get location services activated.
Animats 1 day ago 1 reply      
After the first time this appeared on HN, I quit LinkedIn and deleted my profile. They still sent me "xxx wants to connect with you".

I'm really getting tired of turning down Amazon Prime on Amazon. I use Amazon less because of this. There are about three extra pages of Amazon Prime ads to click through for every purchase.

johansch 1 day ago 5 replies      
My pet peeve: If you add a credit card to the Uber app there is no way to remove it without replacing it with another valid payment method. If you google solutions to this you get third party recommendations to plead with their customer service to have it removed. Seriously?

This customer-hostile approach really needs to be killed.

oferzelig 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm not sure why this appears here on HN and received so many votes.

Despite being a good site, it has been last updated in 2013: http://darkpatterns.org/whats-new/

I sent them 2 dark patterns in the past which they didn't put; in an email I received long time after inquiring about it one of the developers said they're under the pump and will get to it sometime. And they don't.

Tempest1981 1 day ago 2 replies      
Here is another unsubscribe dark pattern: http://imgur.com/a/lLZAE

* Do I check the item if I want to unsubscribe from it?

* Or do I uncheck the items I don't wish to receive?

50-50 chance -- which I'm sure they love. Clicking "Update" gives no feedback either, just reloads the page.

BatFastard 1 day ago 3 replies      
Spirit airlines is a user of dark patterns. But its almost like a game on their site trying to avoid all of the up-sells!

I may stay away from LA Fitness just because of this article.

zpallin 1 day ago 1 reply      
This presentation is great. I think a good next step on the path toward ending unethical UX could be in creating an international ethics review board for it.

I know it sounds silly, but this is how a lot of decisions are agreed upon by many large organizations, and help encourage involvement and following the rules. See W3, ICANN, ESRB, IETF, etc.

The "BUXE", or Board for User eXperience Ethics (just my name idea) could be founded by a group of consenting UX designers, companies, and organizations. Together they would vote on and establish UX design principles that would be up for review every year or so.

The BUXE will accept fees for reviewing a website's adherence to their ethics and would give ratings to them based on how well they follow the guidelines. The resulting site can then publish their BUXE rating on their site.

Individual developers could be given honor status if they are particularly vocal or involved in ensuring the development of ethical UX that could be accolades for them to brag about (something important to developers). It's a good resume booster, anyway.

Plenty of other ideas.

superacid 1 day ago 1 reply      
Found this gem while looking through the comments on YT.How is this even legal?http://imgur.com/a/m66DA
module0000 1 day ago 1 reply      
There is no "works for everyone" method to stop this. You can vote with your wallet, and support vendors that act ethically, or act in whatever way you are OK with.

When this type of UI disappears from the internet, then you will know that the majority of consumers agree with your viewpoint. Until then, people keep buying those insurance upgrades, and not caring(if they cared, we wouldn't be in this situation).

If it all seems glib, that's because it is glib. People are taking advantage of other people, just below the threshold where those victims care enough to do something about it. This is the world we live in. I'm not sure how to end this on a positive note.

shostack 1 day ago 1 reply      
While I'm familiar with the site already, I'd love to have an RSS feed of newly added submissions. Unfortunately, when I click on Recently Added I get a list with pattern definition links that all 404, and no link to the actual submission.
a_c 1 day ago 1 reply      
Does darkpatterns.org support api query? There ought to be one available so that various tools can be built. For instance, a browser plugin to warn users upon visiting dark pattern websites
whoisjuan 1 day ago 0 replies      
I wrote an article about this. Basically explaining the difference between designed inconveniences and deceptive patterns: https://medium.com/art-marketing/designed-inconveniences-ux-...
b1daly 1 day ago 2 replies      
I've been pondering the recent trend in pop up ads where if you try and dismiss it by clicking the tiny, hard to find, checkbox, and you miss, it will cause it to move. This forces you to actually pay attention, to a degree, to the ad, rather than habitually dismiss it.

These are usually found in ads, or notices like the New York Times puts up notifying you there are only so many free articles left.

I think of this as a gray pattern usually, as it is designed to keep the source of revenue going to fund the sight you are currently reading. It's a surprisingly effective innovation.

nodesocket 1 day ago 0 replies      
Pricing pages are another type of U/I that could be label black hat. Personally, I think the typical pricing "tricks" like anchoring, bundling, freemium are fine and part of running a business.
xbryanx 1 day ago 0 replies      
Where do we draw the line between "dark patterns" and "smart design?" I feel like the Hacker News community could be advocating for a persuasive pricing page design one day and decrying its dark design pattern the next. The obviously evil patterns are easy to avoid, but it's difficult to distinguish between appropriately persuasive and inappropriately manipulative in the grey-middle.
EduardoBautista 1 day ago 0 replies      
This definitely reminds me of the process of deactivating your Facebook account. You really have to read what's on the screen in order to choose the right options.
solaarphunk 1 day ago 0 replies      
Quora does a ton of this in their email newsletters to try and reactivate you! Want to unsubscribe? Okay! We'll just make up a new "round up" newsletter and re-subscribe you. So desperate to stay alive I guess...
lectrice 1 day ago 0 replies      
Isn't part of the problem that "conversion rates" and "engagement" now trump just about every other metric? Anyone know good ways to quantify annoyance rate and off-puttedness?
ozgung 1 day ago 0 replies      
Maybe it's not an issue about the designers. Maybe the problem is that most marketing people are "black hat" by design.
angry-hacker 1 day ago 3 replies      
My question is how well these dark patterns work? People who have or must have implemented them, do you have any data?

For an example join newsletter pop ups you get on websites. I assume everyone pisses off and closes them, or do they?

gene-h 1 day ago 0 replies      
I am surprised there is nothing about comcast on there.
Graham24 1 day ago 0 replies      
and at the top of the list of Bait and Switch is "Microsoft: Windows 10 Upgrade".

That's what got me, after the hundredth time it had appeared I clicked the X instead of . It the tactics of criminals.

spennant 1 day ago 3 replies      
Has anyone tried to ignore iOS updates recently?
Theodores 1 day ago 1 reply      
> they are not mistakes, they are carefully crafted with a solid understanding of human psychology, and they do not have the users interests in mind

I dispute this. I work with someone who is a marketing person and very much drawn to dark pattern rubbish. Most recent incident is a good example - a sales promotion where something is added to the cart if the customer buys a certain product. I pointed out that this was a 'dark pattern' and made sure my boss knew that such an idea is illegal in the E.U.

For me the illegality is not something that scares me, I doubt I will go to jail for writing the code, however, using a 'dark pattern' is a problem for me.

I like to think that I am a customer focused person, my marketing clown certainly is not. In fact he cares not one iota about any of the customers, his world view is selfish.

So, I point out the illegal aspect, next thing is that he wants the items given away. I don't see how that makes our products look good and I have no idea how to make money out of making a product and then shipping it to them for free. So again I am not sold on the priority of the project.

Returning to the 'selfish' aspect, my marketing clown does not code or appreciate the effort involved in making the auto-add work. I can do the code for that and think I could get the MVP of it done in a day, with some testing after that. Then there is the thinking through of the unintended consequences - I imagine that we would get plenty of customer service emails if there was a problem with the offer. The UX is also not thought out. I am sure that I could spend all day getting the message to the customer sorted on the website and emails, but if I didn't do that then the whole thing would certainly be 'dark pattern'.

There is nothing clever about my selfish marketing clown and his naive ways. However, he gets a performance bonus based on 'customer acquisition' metrics that the rest of us don't get. He has an interest to not care about anything other than his Google Analytics nonsense, customers, rest of the team, the company making money matters not.

Although anecdotal, this is how 'dark patterns' happen - marketing clowns, their selfish ways, their inability to understand the problem space (because they don't do code or customers) and workplace bullying make these things persist.

mgalka 1 day ago 0 replies      
That Ryanair example is outrageous, and not at all surprising
z3t4 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think labor unions would be the best option. Put their employers into strike, DOS their website, and contact the press. No one will feel bad about the scammers.
api 1 day ago 0 replies      
Is the use of a tech shift or form factor change as an opportunity to redefine the product so as to reduce customer freedom or introduce surveillance a dark pattern?

I've thought of this with the mobile revolution. You could never have introduced total device lock down and ubiquitous telemetry so easily in the PC era. There would have been an outcry. But change the form factor...

Hydraulix989 1 day ago 0 replies      
I submitted quite a few of these.
BillinghamJ 1 day ago 1 reply      
An awful lot of the content on this website shows naivety/lack of understanding of the website, and in a few cases, displays information which is simply untrue.
campuscodi 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is the 45th time I see this site in HN... How do people not know about it until now?
Launchaco Instantly generate a responsive, free, website launchaco.com
848 points by marclave  19 hours ago   155 comments top 58
ndarilek 18 hours ago 10 replies      
This is interesting. I'm blind, and while I can think of ideas for products/side projects, designing a nice-looking website is such a huge momentum-killer. I mean, I know that I could just focus on features, keep the site design simple, and build a good design later. Then I visit <insert random Show HN here>, and half the comments are about how some UI element or other breaks on some combination of browser or other, and the last thing I want is to have my idea dismissed because it's ugly. I thought Bootstrap would help with this, but when my sighted GF takes one look at my attempts at site design, her first comments revolve around lack of color, and I don't even know where to begin with that. And yes, I know about themes, but sometimes that feels like I'd have to make my idea fit the theme, whereas this seems to let me pick and choose what elements I want.

Unfortunately, when asked to select a hero block, I'm greeted with a series of images. Would you consider adding alt attributes to these? If I knew roughly what they looked like, I could probably pick and choose something semi-appropriate for a given project. I don't know what other issues I'm likely to hit, but I'd be interested in providing additional feedback if this at all seems like a viable direction.

Also, just noticed I can't select a hero block via the keyboard. Items aren't tab-focusable and keyboard-selectable. Maybe this won't work at all for me, but I'd really like something between "Here's a fully-formed theme" and "Here's a completely inaccessible website builder that gives you a blank canvas and assumes you don't want to touch the final HTML." :) If anyone knows of anything like that, please do share.

prawn 17 hours ago 3 replies      
Brilliant execution and so refreshing to just be given everything needed at the end rather than a download link via email. Throw in an optional donation button (so people can tip you $20, $50, $100, $150, etc) and careful hosting upsells to make it painless and this will become a solid earner. Well done and good luck - you're on the right track.
shostack 17 hours ago 1 reply      
Really fantastic UI. And I LOVE party parrot at the end. Made me smile.

Depending on your target audience, I'd love to see some tooling to help with a signup form. Maybe offer some integration options (and an affiliate link) for Mailchimp or something else?

I'd also love the ability to easily create multiple pages linked to each other within the app. Sure I can create separate pages, but would be nice to have that done for me and add some basic organization.

Overall this is really awesome. Would love to know more about what technology you used to build this, why you built it, and what your future product/monetization plans are.

codingdave 16 hours ago 2 replies      
Once I figured out what was going on, I liked it. But at first, I thought you were really trying to sell me domains the whole time. I thought it was a big marketing page for a hosting/domain service, and did not realize it was actually all editable. You really need to make it clear what is going on if you want to open this to a larger audience.
jwcrux 18 hours ago 4 replies      
This is fantastic. One argument people will make (just like they did with Bootstrap) is that if every product used something like this, all the webpages would look the same.

To be honest, if all product webpages looked like this, I'd be quite alright with it, because this look great.

Well done!

gschier 18 hours ago 1 reply      
The builder works very well once you realize what you're supposed to do. After designing the first block, I didn't realize I had to keep going. Maybe a more apparent CTA would be appropriate?

I'm curious, will you be adding a hosting option for these? Right now they provide a good starting point, but I would love a one-click hosting option so that I can quickly made a page and push it live. The ability to plug in things like Google Analytics token would also be awesome.

mxuribe 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Holy smokes, this is such a useful tool! For any little updates that could certainly be applied in the future (e.g. adding more accessibility aspects, other color palettes, etc.), the sheer ease and speed with which I was able to create a website was absolutely astonishing, and overshadows any shortfall. I seldom share my email but submitted it in this case, because I believe this is a solid product, and I have this feeling the authors behind this tool really know what they're doing (as far as product dev.). Kudos to the creators! Great job!
dested 17 hours ago 2 replies      
This is the most simple and intuitive template builder I have ever played with.
soneca 18 hours ago 2 replies      
Asking for my email after letting me download my template??

I'm not sure if it is the most effective way to collect emails, but it sure is a good UX. As a reward, I included my email :)

annnnd 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Now THIS is how it should be done! Congrats to author! Where can we pay you? :)

This hits a sweet spot for me because I am in full control of HTML if I want it, but I can still put together a responsive page in literally a minute.

About missing colors and stuff - yeah, it would be nice if we could select background images, set more colors and similar, but that's secondary. Building a responsive skeleton is what this tool does for me, and first impression is great. Kudos!

wzy 18 hours ago 1 reply      
I was pleasantly surprised this worked as well as it did, without the need for me signing up or providing an email.
moh_maya 2 hours ago 0 replies      
This is just what I was looking for! I needed a simple landing page for our startup, and the layouts / design are perfect.

Quick noob question though: Do you have / are you planning to include templates where I can add video (hosted on Vimeo / Youtube) instead of the computer / browser images?

I know I can edit the HTML / CSS files, but my background is statistics / R, and I am wary of mucking up the code and spoiling the layout.

I signed up with my email. Looking forward to seeing where this goes, and would gladly pay for the service as & when you start accepting payments.

Thank you! :)

the_wheel 13 hours ago 0 replies      
I noticed you posted Launchaco a few months ago. Why do you think this post succeeded in generating traction while the previous failed? Love the product!
navs 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I absolutely love this and thats coming from a "professional" web developer.

I gave this to a client of mine to try for one of her personal projects and she was somewhat confused. After I pointed out the steps vs previews, she got the hang of it. But by that time she'd made a bit of a mess with a lot of extra feature blocks/steps.

She wanted a clean slate but it looks like you're storing progress in a cookie. Can we have a reset all?

While I'd love an arbitrary HTML block, the ability to add meta tags, custom fonts, blah blah...don't. If people want that kind of power there's a lot of alternative static site tools/CMS' out there.

aaronpk 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I was pleasantly surprised to receive a .zip file with the site after I made it to the bottom, rather than a call-to-action pushing me to sign up for some hosting plan! Well done.
drew-y 18 hours ago 1 reply      
Nice! Really easy to use and the templates look great. One question though:

> Launchaco website builder is licensed under CC0

Does that mean both the website builder itself and the website you build with it are CC0? And is the source to the builder available anywhere?

0vermorrow 15 hours ago 1 reply      
I love this. Also a super fan of the UI. Seamlessly led me to a download button with the source. They've coupled it with an awesome hosting setup process. I can promise you I will use this service for the very next project of mine.

Commoditisation of design cannot come soon enough! ( at least the web design part :) )

tomschlick 13 hours ago 0 replies      
nitpick: please enable HTTPS

I just had some issues on airline wifi because they man-in-the-middle the connection to inject their crappy "flight tracker" menubar and it covered some of the builder controls. That wouldn't happen with SSL and your visitors would be more secure.

blunte 8 hours ago 1 reply      
I'm pretty used to being different from most people, but I'm not used to being so utterly different from the hackernews crowd as I feel right now.

Am I seeing a different website than everyone is talking about? All I see is a bunch of different boxes with links, where most links just shove me to some external service (GoDaddy, Twitter, Google Fonts, etc.)

Where's the "website builder"?

minhajuddin 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Shameless plug, I made something related which makes testing out public static sites pretty easy. You can check it out at https://slugex.com/ It also allows you to deploy via the terminal. All you need is bash and curl :)
nodesocket 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Awesome job! It would be great if you added a pricing feature block.
pbrumm 17 hours ago 2 replies      
Very interesting. I did loose track of the 4 steps and was confused on how to finish the project.
marclave 18 hours ago 1 reply      
Fun fact: Every device is in pure css, this means adding your own app images is dead simple.
uberstuber 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Love the builder! Wish I had seen this a week ago.
beardog 12 hours ago 1 reply      
Doesn't load at all without JavaScript :)
huula 16 hours ago 1 reply      
Nice work! Really like the way you provide color palette instead wild crazy color selector for your user, that simplifies things so much! However, A common problem with this product and a lot of other template based website builders like Squarespace, Weebly, Wix is, you will end up creating so many sites that looks just the same. If you just want a clone, then I have nothing to say. But more customization and more unique intelligent generation certainly needs advanced models other than naive templates.
emrahayanoglu 8 hours ago 0 replies      
That's one of the brilliant service as I have ever tried.

Actually, I'll also consider to pay something to this wonderful service. I think producer should consider about adding premium staff for small prices.

ayh 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Nice UI. Bad idea to do domain lookups on a site without SSL.
aaronm14 18 hours ago 2 replies      
Really awesome. Surprised by how much time I spent on there. I noticed when I tried to download it in Safari, it didn't work because I don't think fetch is supported. Would have been good to get a notice about that earlier on. Would also be nice to see what exactly the download button is going to provide (just a zip of HTML/css/JS files I assume?)

Thanks for sharing, will probably come back to this. Happy to sign up for email updates

arikrak 15 hours ago 0 replies      
This looks great but was a little confusing at first. Maybe make it clearer to the user what's going on so they know they're just building their own site.

I think it's nice not to have to enter an email at the end, but you'll miss out on a lot of emails. Maybe provide the prompt to enter an email first, but let them skip it.

reacharavindh 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Very efficiently done!

Love that you didn't force me with any annoying pop-ups or interfering spaces to ask for email. I gave you anyway, with my 100% will.

Looking forward to your finished product. My girlfriend wants to build a Yoga website to put in all her stuff and promote her private lessons. I was going to build it myself, but your product is so intuitive that I might give her this and ask her to build it herself!

voycey 13 hours ago 0 replies      
This is great - I am literally just finishing a site that looks exactly like this (single product site). I would 100% use this for future things!

I agree about the donation buttons as well - even keep it to micro-donating - you would be surprised at how many people would use it!

keyle 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Definitely put that "download" file as "template.zip" or something.

I was baffled getting a file without extension, and Windows 10 didn't see it as a zip, but just a binary blob.

transposed 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Very cool - I've had ideas for a few sites, but when the time came to create the site and get a half decent design going, I found myself running out of time to work on the actual content. Best of luck to your idea/service
Procrastes 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Great idea. This could save me all sorts of wasteful dithering. Looks like it's broken right now. When I try to download, I get a file called "download.txt" which contains the text "Internal Server Error"
colbyh 14 hours ago 0 replies      
would like to point out that the author has not only built a tool that is making a bunch of people happy, but is also responding brilliantly to all comments with a super helpful tone. very cool all around.
ekevjn 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Find some excited site which you like and fit your business. Right click and there your template done!
gilstroem 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Super cool idea - Though one of my first interactions was to search for an emoji, which failed completely as it deleted my query when I typed more than one letter. (MacOS Sierra, Safari.) Other than that, thumbs up on the delicious UX.
pqdbr 16 hours ago 1 reply      
Could you please make it possible to add more than one social template and more than one footer template, just like you do with the feature blocks?
nedwin 18 hours ago 1 reply      
Looks awesome. Have reviewed a ton of website builders and this is one of the easier ones.

Only problem is when I hit the download button the .txt file is blank.

Warp__ 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Very Cool. Thank you. Will sign up :)
dbg31415 17 hours ago 1 reply      
Really well done. Few quick questions...

Why not use an off-the-shelf grid system like Bootstrap or Foundation? Would probably make this easier to edit / extend for people already familiar with those layout frameworks.

For SEO... things like Page Title, Meta Description, OG/Sharing Meta Data... those would be good to add somehow. "Click here to add your fav icon / bookmark icon / social share icon / etc." At least adding them as empty fields so people know to add them in manually...

Could you add in semantic elements? Wouldn't take long to add those to the base template... http://www.w3schools.com/html/html5_semantic_elements.asp

Really nice tool, can see a lot of people getting use out of this.

telekid 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Holy hell this is well done. Congrats.
vishyav 18 hours ago 0 replies      
whoa this is the fastest product website process ever.
demircancelebi 15 hours ago 1 reply      
Great work. Do you have any plans to make it open source?
0x1d 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Really good job! It turned out better than most templates.
gavi 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Very nice. For creating a quick app site, this is perfect!
Mgardepe 16 hours ago 2 replies      
Reason I'm not getting into web development.
ffef 17 hours ago 0 replies      
When dark theme is activated you cannot see the headings "Name Your Business" or "Build Your Website" on the homepage.
black2night 2 hours ago 0 replies      
great work
bgnm2000 18 hours ago 0 replies      
This is fantastic.
SimianLogic2 18 hours ago 0 replies      
looks great! could definitely see myself using this as a starter
izzydoesizzy 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Holy shit this is incredible!
drivingmenuts 15 hours ago 0 replies      
How do we make money?


Seriously, though. This is an interesting idea, but what's the endgame?

btcboss 13 hours ago 0 replies      
T H I S I S E P I C !!!!!
kmeade 15 hours ago 1 reply      
Sorry to be negative, but I'm honestly mystified by the complimentary comments.

First, attempting to set up a domain name sends me to some site named shareasale.com. The site is blocked on my system because I'm using the winhelp2002.mvps.org HOSTS file to block shady web sites.

Next, I follow the 4 steps to select the Hero, Feature, Social and Footer templates. How I'm supposed to make an intelligent choice based on the shadowy outlines is beyond me.

Finally, I'm apparently supposed to click the Download... link. This gets me a little "success" message - but the end result is a file called "download" with no extension. Renaming the download to download.zip gives me something to extract which is... a single HTML file plus css and image folders. Clicking on the HTML gives me a local copy of the launchaco main page with no sort of customizations or anything.


forgetsusername 16 hours ago 0 replies      
I haven't even checked the site out (yet, hear me out), but this is one of the most positive reactions I've seen on HN. So congrats on that already.
necrodawg 17 hours ago 0 replies      
dude this is hella crazy nice yo. gonna use this for my next landing page
This AI Boom Will Also Bust overcomingbias.com
656 points by KKKKkkkk1  4 days ago   302 comments top 55
ma2rten 4 days ago 5 replies      
I think this field is suffering from some confusion of terminology. In my mind there are three subfields that are crystallizing that each have different goals and thus different methods.

The first one is Data Science. More and more businesses store their data electronically. Data Scientists aim to analyze this data to derive insights from it. Machine Learning is one of the tools in their tool belt, however often they prefer models that are understandable and not a black box. Sometimes they prefer statistics because it tells you if your insights are significant.

The second one is Machine Learning Engineering. ML Engineers are Software Engineers that use Machine Learning to build products. They might work on spam detection, recommendation engines or news feeds. They care about building products that scale and are reliable. They will run A/B tests to see how metrics are impacted. They might use Deep Learning, but they will weight the pros and cons against other methods.

Then there are AI Researchers. Their goal is to push the boundaries of what computers can do. They might work on letting computers recognize images, understand speech and translate languages. Their method of choice is often Deep Learning because it has unlocked a lot of new applications.

I feel like this post is essentially someone from the first group criticizing the last group, saying their methods are not applicable to him. That is expected.

Phait 4 days ago 5 replies      
I understand that most people working with deep learning wouldn't want this type of thinking to spread amongst the public, and I surely don't want it either.But you have to be totally unaware of reality to think that DL is the definitive tool for AI. Most impressive results in DL in the past 2 years happended like this:

>deepmind steals people from the top ML research teams in univerisites around the world

>these people are given an incredible amount of money to solve an incredibly complex task

>a 6000 layers deep network is run for 6 months on a GPU cluster the size of Texas

>Google drops in their marketing team

>media says Google solved the AI problem

>repeat every 6 months to keep the company hot and keep the people flow constant

>get accepted at every conference on earth because you're deepmind (seriously, have you seen the crap that they get to present at NIPS and ICML? The ddqn paper is literally a single line modification to another paper's algorithm, while we plebeians have to struggle like hell to get the originality points)

I'll be impressed when they solve Pacman on a Raspberry Pi, otherwise they are simply grownups playing with very expensive toys.

Deep learning is cool, I truly believe that, and I love working with neural networks, but anyone with a base knowledge of ML knows better than to praise it as the saviour of AI research.

Rant over, I'm gonna go check how my autoencoder is learning now ;)

pesenti 4 days ago 2 replies      
When I was at Watson this is the first thing I told every customer: before you start with AI are you already doing the more mundane data science on your structured data? If not, you shouldn't go right away for the shiny object.

This said I still believe the article is mistaken in its evaluation of potential impact (and its fuzzy metaphore of pipes). Unstructured or semi-structured or dirty data is much more prevalent than cleaned structured data on which you can do simple regression to get insight.

Ultimately the class of problems solved by more advanced AI will be incommensurably bigger than the class of problems solved by simple machine learning. I could make a big laundry list but just start thinking of anything that involves images, sound, or text (ie most form of human communication).

brudgers 4 days ago 1 reply      
Most firms that think they want advanced AI/ML really just need linear regression

That's how AI always looks in the rearview mirror. Like a trivial part of today's furniture. Pointing a phone at a random person on the street and getting their identity is already in the realm of "just machine learning" and my phone recognizing faces is simply "that's how phones work, duh" ordinary. When I first started reading Hacker News a handful of years ago, one of the hot topics was computer vision at the level of industrial applications like assembly lines. Today, my face unlocks the phone in my pocket...and, statistically, yours does not. AI is just what we call the cutting edge.

Open the first edition of Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach and there's a fair bit of effort to apply linear regression selectively in order to be computationally feasible. That just linear regression is just linear regression these days because my laptop only has 1.6 teraflops of GPU and that's measley compared to what $20k would buy.

The way in which AI booms go bust is that after a few years everybody accepts that computers can beat humans at checkers. The next boom ends and everybody accepts that computers can beat humans at chess. After this one, it will be Go and when that happens computers will still be better at checkers and chess too.

vonnik 4 days ago 4 replies      
[Disclosure: I work for a deep-learning company.]

Robin's post reveals a couple fundamental misunderstandings. While he may be correct that, for now, many small firms should apply linear regression rather than deep learning to their limited datasets, he is wrong in his prediction of an AI bust. If it happens, it will not be for the reasons he cites.

He is skeptical that deep learning and other forms of advanced AI 1) will be applicable to smaller and smaller datasets, and that 2) they will become easier to use.

And yet some great research is being done that will prove him wrong on his first point.


One-shot learning, or learning from a few examples, is a field where we're making rapid progress, which means that in the near future, we'll obtain much higher accuracy on smaller datasets. So the immense performance gains we've seen by applying deep learning to big data will someday extend to smaller data as well.

Secondly, Robin is skeptical that deep learning will be a tool most firms can adopt, given the lack of specialists. For now, that talent is scarce and salaries are high. But this is a problem that job markets know how to fix. The data science academies popping up in San Francisco exist for a reason: to satisfy that demand.

And to go one step further, the history of technology suggests that we find ways to wrap powerful technology in usable packages for less technical people. AI is going to be just one component that fits into a larger data stack, infusing products invisibly until we don't even think about it.

And fwiw, his phrase "deep machine learning" isn't a thing. Nobody says that, because it's redundant. All deep learning is a subset of machine learning.

jeyoor 4 days ago 1 reply      
This article matches what I've been seeing anecdotally (especially at smaller tech firms and universities in the Midwest US).

I've been hearing more folks in research and industry express the importance of applying simpler techniques (like linear regression and decision trees) before reaching for the latest state-of-the-art approach.

See also this response to the author's tweet on the subject: https://twitter.com/anderssandberg/status/803311515717738496

WhitneyLand 4 days ago 2 replies      
This article is tries to be right about something big, by arguing about things that are small and that do not necessarily prove the thesis.

Notice now you can cogently disagree with the main idea while agreeing with most of the sub points (paraphrasing below):

1) Most impactful point: The economic impact innovations in AI/machine learning will have over the next ~2 decades are being overestimated.


2) Subpoint : Overhyped (fashion-induced) tech causes companies to waste time and money.

AGREE (well, yes, but does anyone not know this?)

3) Subpoint: Most firms that want AI/ML really just need linear regression on cleaned-up data.

PROBABLY (but this doesn't prove or even support (1))

4) Subpoint: Obstacles limit applications (though incompetence)

AGREE (but it's irrelevant to (1), and also a pretty old conjecture.)

5) Subpoint: It's not true that 47 percent of total US employment is at risk .. to computerisation .. perhaps over the next decade or two.

PROBABLY (that this number/timeframe is optimistic means very little. one decade after the Internet many people said it hadn't upended industry as predicted. whether it took 10, 20, or 30 years, the important fact is that the revolution happened.)

It would be interesting to know if those who are agree in the comments agree with the sensational headline or point 1, or the more obvious and less consequential points 2-5.

randcraw 4 days ago 0 replies      
After a good look behind the curtain of Deep Learning, I've come to agree with Robin. No, Deep Learning will not fail. But it will fail to live up to its promise to revolutionize AI, and it won't replace statistics or GOFAI in many tasks that require intelligence.

Yes, DL has proven itself to perform (most?) gradient-based tasks better than any other algorithm. It maximizes the value in large data, minimizing error brilliantly. But ask it to address a single feature not present in the zillion images in ImageNet, and it's lost. (E.g. Where is the person in the image looking? To the left? The right? No DN using labels from ImageNet could say.) This is classic AI brittleness.

With all the hoolpa surrounding DL's successes at single task challenges (mostly on images), we've failed to notice that nothing has really changed in AI. The info available from raw data remains as thin as ever. I think soon we'll all see that even ginormous quantities of thinly labeled supervised data can take your AI agent only so far -- a truly useful AI agent will need info that isn't present in all the labeled images on the planet. In the end the agent still needs a rich internal model of the world that it can further enrich with curated data (teaching) to master each new task or transfer the skill to a related domain. And to do that, it needs the ability to infer cause and effect, and explore possible worlds. Without that, any big-data-trained AI will always remain a one trick pony.

Alas, Deep Learning (alone) can't fill that void. The relevant information and inferential capability needed to apply it to solve new problems and variations on them -- these skills just aren't present in the nets or the big data available to train them to high levels of broad competence. To create a mind capable of performing multiple diverse tasks, like the kinds a robot needs in order to repair a broken toaster, I think we'll all soon realize that DL has not replaced GOFAI at all. A truly useful intelligent agent still must learn hierarchies of concepts and use logic, if it's to do more than play board games.

chime 4 days ago 9 replies      
> Good CS expert says: Most firms that think they want advanced AI/ML really just need linear regression on cleaned-up data.

Cleaning up data is very expensive. And without that, the analysis is good for nothing. AI helps provide good analysis without having to cleaning up data manually. I don't see how that is going away.

felippee 4 days ago 1 reply      
There is a never ending confusion caused by the term "AI" to begin with. Term coined by John McCarthy to raise money in the 60's is really good at driving imagination, yet at the same time causes hype and over-expecations.

This field is notorious for its hype-bust cycles and I don't see any reason why this time would be different. There are obviously applications and advancements no doubt about it, but the question is do those justify the level of excitement, and the answer is probably "no".

When people hear AI they inevitably think "sentient robots". This will likely not happen within the next 2-3 hype cycles and certainly not in this one.

Check out this blog for a hype-free, reasonable evaluation of the current AI:


rampage101 4 days ago 2 replies      
The more I get into machine learning and deep learning it seems like there is an incredible amount of configuration to get some decent results. Cleaning and storing the data takes a long time. And then you need to figure out exactly what you want to predict. If you predict some feature with any sort of error in your process the entire results will be flawed.

There are a few very nice applications of the AI techniques, however most data sets don't fit well with machine learning. What you see is that in tutorials use the Iris data set so much because it breaks into categories very easily. In the real world, most things are in a maybe state rather than yes/no.

shmageggy 4 days ago 6 replies      
Here's why the pipes metaphor is a bad one: we already are doing everything we can and ever will do with pipes. Pipes have been around for a really long time, we know what they are capable of, we've explored all of their uses.

OTOH, the current progress in AI has enabled us to do things we couldn't do before and is pointing towards totally new applications. It's not about making existing functionality cheaper, or incrementally improving results in existing areas, it's about doing things that have been heretofore impossible.

I agree that deep nets are overkill for lots of data analysis problems, but the AI boom is not about existing data analysis problems.

tim333 4 days ago 1 reply      
It seems a little odd that the author is focusing on machine learning not being terribly good for prediction from data to counter the "this time is different" argument. The reason this time is different is we are in a period when AI is surpassing human intelligence field by field and that only happens once in the history of the planet. AI is better at chess and go for example, is slowly getting there in driving and will probably surpass general thinking at some point in the future though there's a big question mark as to when.
jondubois 4 days ago 1 reply      
Journalists and investors only seem to get excited about buzzwords - Maybe that's because they don't actually understand technology.

To say that technology is like an iceberg is a major understatement.

The buzzwords which tech journalists, tech investors and even tech recruiters use to make decisions are shallow and meaningless.

I spoke to a tech recruiter before and he told me that the way recruiters qualify resumes is just by looking for keywords, buzzwords and company names; they don't actually understand what most of the terms mean. This approach is probably good enough for a lot of cases, but it means that you're probably going to miss out on really awesome candidates (who don't use these buzzwords to describe themselves).

The same rule applies to investors. By only evaluating things based on buzzwords; you might miss out on great contenders.

AndrewKemendo 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm sorry but I'm not buying it.

ML companies are already tackling tasks which have major cost implications:



Those are just the two I had off the top of my head. We apply ML tasks for object/scene classification and they blow away humans. Not only that we're already structuring a GAN for "procedural" 3D model generation - in theory this will decimate the manual 3D reconstruction process.

RushAndAPush 4 days ago 4 replies      
I've read every comment in this thread and its filled mostly with peoples self congratulatory intellectual views. Nobody, not even Robin Hansen himself has given a good, detailed argument as to why the current progress in Machine learning will stop.
yegle 4 days ago 1 reply      
I started question the credibility of the article when the author mentioned "deep machine learning". Not an expert in ML, but it should be "deep learning" referring to a type of neural network based machine learning technique with deep hidden layers.
euske 4 days ago 2 replies      
I have a hard time understanding why even technical people use the term "AI" today. Its use should be limited to sensational media and cheesy sci-fi. It's roughly equivalent to saying "computery thingamabob". I would call a pocket calculator an AI too. Why not? It carries out certain mental tasks better than our brains do.
h43k3r 4 days ago 5 replies      
A little off topic but I think the VR boom will bust much more sooner than AI.

I can't think of normal people wearing those heavy gears in their normal life. There will be its use cases in specialized applications like education, industry, games but I don't think it will get popular like an iPhone.

AR is still OK since it augments real life but there is a long way before it will become mainstream.

zamalek 4 days ago 2 replies      
One of two eventualities exist:

* The article is correct and the current singularity (as described by Kurzweil) will hit a plateau. No further progress will be made and we'll have machines that are forever dumber than humans.

* The singularity will continue up until SAI. So help them human race if we shackle it with human ideologies and ignorance.

There is no way to tell. AlphaGo immensely surprised me - from my perspective the singularity is happening, but there is no telling just how far it can go. AlphaGo changed my perspective of Kurzweil from a lunatic to someone who might actually have a point.

Where the line is drawn is "goal-less AI," possibly the most important step toward SAI. Currently, all AI is governed by a goal (be it a goal or a fitness function). The recent development regarding Starcraft and ML is ripe for the picking, either the AI wins or not - a fantastic fitness function. The question is, how would we apply it to something like Skyrim: where mere continuation of existence and prosperity are equally as viable goals (as-per the human race). "Getting food" may become a local minimum that obscures any further progress - resulting in monkey agents in the game (assuming the AI optimizes for the food minimum). In a word, what we are really questioning is: sapience.

I'm a big critic of Bitcoin, yet so far I am still wrong. The same principle might apply here. It's simply too early to tell.

lowglow 4 days ago 0 replies      
We're building an applied AI business by creating an experience through both hardware and software. You don't set out to create something with as big a breadth of vision by worrying about booms and busts. You continue your journey unwavering because the potential impact and fruitfulness of development is worth it.

This is why you should work on something you're passionate about. Your time on earth is limited, so strive to leave good work and contribute to the progress of humanity on a larger scale.

kpwagner 4 days ago 1 reply      
AI is overhyped... sure that's probably true.

But data science is here to stay in the same way that computer science is here to stay.

Houshalter 4 days ago 0 replies      
Robotics and automation have been improving for a long time, and especially recently. Look at the rise in consumer drones, enabled by improvements in batteries, sensors, and computers.

But the main thing holding them back is a lack of AI. Robots can do a rote action over and over again, but they have a hard time identifying where objects are, planning, and reacting to their environment. Just solving machine vision would be a massive step forward and enable a ton of applications.

And that has sort of already happened. The best nets are already exceeding humans at vision tasks. They are learning to play video games at expert level, which is not conceptually distant from robot control. Its taking time to move this research out of the lab and into real applications, but it is happening.

And so I totally believe that at least 50% of current jobs could be automated in 10 to 15 years. How many people are employed doing relatively simple, repetitive tasks, over and over again? Me and most people I know have jobs like that.

iwritestuff 4 days ago 6 replies      
I plan to enter a PhD program in 1-2 years to specialize in ML/Deep Learning. Assuming it'll take 5-6 years to complete my degree how applicable should my skill sets be in industry at that point?
skywhopper 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think what we're seeing is an explosion of new approaches to computerized problem solving made possible by huge amounts of data and enormous computing resources. A lot of what has become possible in the last couple of decades is indeed new, but the apparent rapid advance is really just a matter of applying the brute force of a massively upgraded ability to process huge quantities of data in parallel, and this has led us to make erroneous assumptions about future progress in these areas.

Basically, these are new solutions to new problems, and we're rapidly seeing the easy 80% of this new generation of "AI" happen and it seems magical. But soon enough we'll hit the wall where further progress becomes harder and harder and brute force approaches are no longer sufficient to achieve interesting results.

unignorant 4 days ago 1 reply      
Along similar lines, we did some work investigating public perception of AI over the past thirty years: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1609.04904.pdf

From Figure 1, it's clear we are now in a boom.

siliconc0w 4 days ago 0 replies      
Pretty much every large firm has multiple problems ML can solve better than linear/logistic regression. Smaller firms may still have one or two. In some industries the core competency will be how good your ML model is as everything else becomes a commodity. There are new advents that make ML better for small data-sets as well as opportunities for data-brokerage to increase access to data. And these are just current applications, new applications are still nascent (i.e self driving cars). Treating ML as a software problem instead of a science project - with a pipeline of adding/creating data, cleaning, modeling, analyzing, learning, and iterating is also incredibly important but it's not like most companies are doing this particularly well either.
rsimons 4 days ago 1 reply      
I recently made an appointment through an AI secretary to set up a meeting with them; it worked surprisingly well.. They are not hiring a secretary any time soon. Real effect. Also: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/01/stephe...
mwfunk 4 days ago 2 replies      
I'm very curious to what degree there even is an AI boom right now, vs. AI and machine learning going through a phase as the buzzwords du jour used in corporate PR. People have doing all sorts of fascinating things with machine learning for decades, and (for example) Google has been arguably an AI-focused company from day one.

In the tech press recently, I keep hearing how every huge tech company needs to have some sort of AI strategy going forward, so they don't miss out on an industrywide windfall, or even become irrelevant because they didn't hop on the AI bandwagon.

I suspect that there are a few more people working in AI nowadays than we're doing so 10 years ago, but that quite a bit of the narrative surrounding AI in the press is some combination of corporate marketing and journalists eager to have something to write about.

I'm not saying AI isn't important, rather that it's an important field that's only a little more important than it already was 10 years ago. The difference seems to be how often it pops up in PR and tech journalism vs. 10 years ago. Just a theory of course; I would love to know what the reality is.

januscap 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think the article and the discussions are focusing on the wrong semantic definition of AI.

Unsupervised learning is where the revolution is. Learning has nothing to do with boom or bust.

eva1984 4 days ago 0 replies      
>> Good CS expert says: Most firms that think they want advanced AI/ML really just need linear regression on cleaned-up data

Not nearly true. The simple counter-argument is that prior to DL, we don't have good approach to really 'clean' data like images.

The author states this fact as if cleaning data is a piece of cake. No, it is surely not. In fact, part of the DL's magic trick is the ability to automatically learn to generalize useful features from data. From another perspective, the whole DL frontend, prior the very last layer, can be viewed as a data cleaning pipeline, which is learnt during the training process, optimized to pick the useful signals.

The author clearly isn't an expert on the matters he trying to put claims on. Yet his statement comes with such big confidence or ignorance. This shows why this revolution will be a truly impactful one, for even some of the claimed intellectuals cannot understand its importance and divergence of its predecessors. They will be caught off-guard then left behind. It would be very enjoyable to watch what their reaction would be once it happens.

willsher 4 days ago 0 replies      
It seems the nature of this and VR that they come to boom for a while and then bust, having stagnated. They then wait for the next alignment of underpinning technology, knowledge and culture to emerge again. Last last one I'm aware of was mid-late 1990s, where VRML was gaining traction and new ways of thinking about AI were emerging.

IBM Watson or similar (if I recall IBM was still calling their business AI system Watson back then) seems to be promenant in these two booms and both times the results it gives haven't matches it's marketing hype.

The technology, having been significantly furthered fades into the day to day of computing somewhat until the next boom that drives more short burst innovation and awareness.

Conscious AI and realistic VR is some way off, if we ever see it. Culturally and ethically we are not ready to answer the questions it poses and the cyclical nature gives us more time to digest the latest raft of questions in light of the progress.

mark_l_watson 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think the boom in AI jobs will go bust, when tools for data cleaning and injection, and for automatically building models will get so good that experts will no longer be required to use them. I have so frequently set up customers with procedures and code for ML, that I have seriously thought of writing a system to replace people like myself.

Until there is real AGI however, there will be jobs for high end AI researchers and developers.

muyuu 4 days ago 0 replies      
The immense availability of financial instruments and VC makes investment in any mildly promising technology overshoot. There's nothing really mysterious about this, especially after the dot com bubble. Is the web useless? no, but there's a limit to the number of players doing the same things the same way successfully - because that's what hype does, make people focus in not just a technology but a particular way.

3d-printing, mobile apps, tablet devices, VR, cryptocurrency, 3D TV, Neural Networks (in the 70s, then again in the mid 80s, then in the late 90s, and now), you name it.

These are perfectly applicable technologies that may or may not warrant the swings in investment they attract, but they are valid and defensible nonetheless. They may also be monetisable - not always useful stuff brings proportional profit in the market. And of course, there's also timing. The exact same idea may work years later in a different environment. But the only way to find out is to try, and maybe try too much at some point.

ig1 4 days ago 0 replies      
While the article is right that in many situations a linear regression or tree based approach will be more effective, it downplays the real value add of deep learning which has been clearly demonstrated with image data and is likely to have significant impact in other areas (audio, biodata, etc.) where traditional statistical methods have failed.
Entangled 4 days ago 1 reply      
It won't. It will get better.

In a couple of years you will be able to take a picture of a rash in your arm and get exact diagnosis with treatment instructions. You will be able to take a pic of a flower, a leaf or any tree and get accurate info about its species, plagues and best techniques for growing them. You will be able to take a pic of any insect, spider, snake, animal, or anything that moves, any mineral, element or anything at all and get accurate info about that.

AI is not only about robots thinking, it is about collecting information and making it available on demand. Agriculture and health will be the first beneficiaries, finances in a close second.

Data mining is where the first stage of AI is, and Google is moving ahead of everybody else with their search engine, maps, translation, and all the information collecting tools. Once you have enough data, knowledge is just a couple of programs away.

srinikoganti 4 days ago 0 replies      
What is "new this time" is that computers/machines can see and hear and even speak, whether we call it AI or "Deep Learning" or "Machine learning". So there is going to be more impact from Vision/Voice based applications rather than data analytics/predictions. Eg. Self Driving Cars, Medical Diagnosis, Video Analytics, Autonomous machines/Robotics, Voiced based interactions. All of these combined could be as disruptive as Internet itself.
kodisha 4 days ago 0 replies      
So, imagine that in 2011, 5 years ago, you approach some VC and say:

"Hey, we are building this VR hardware and games for it, we would need ~1M to finish it".

I think that there is high chance that you would get some weird looks, and possibly few remarks how that is a "dead technology, tried once, and obviously failed".

And then, fast forward couple of years there is whole industry around VR, jobs, hardware, software, the whole eco system.

You only need one strong player in a field, and suddenly everyone and your neighbour kid is doing it.

itissid 4 days ago 0 replies      
Thomson Reuter's ET&O and Risk division laid off 2000 people recently to fund a new center near university of Waterloo to provide "answers"(Its their mission statement) by recruiting people to provide deep learning solutions. NY suffered deep cuts. The sad part is it seems the leadership just want to use deep learning as a way to justify doing what they are doing, which is "starting from scratch"
DelTaco 4 days ago 0 replies      
I would argue that it would often be easier to implement a ML solution on regular data than try and clean the data and then use linear regression
spsgtn 4 days ago 2 replies      
This reminds me of the stem cell research boom and bust of the late 90s and 00s. It turns out that the new and shiny toy doesn't work for everything. However, it's not really a bust, as AI, similar to stem cells applications, will continue to do wonders where it is the best tool for the job.
Animats 4 days ago 0 replies      
Hard to say. I'm seeing too many billboards near SF for "big data" and "machine learning". AI-type grinding on your stored business data is sometimes useful, but not always profitable. Everybody big already has good ad targeting technology, after all.
intrasight 4 days ago 1 reply      
First, there is no "AI boom" because there is no AI - there is machine learning.

Second, booms that produce real, tangible results don't normally go bust.

Finally, we've only just scratched the surface of what machine learning is capable of delivering, so no bust is to be expected.

marcoperaza 4 days ago 2 replies      
Until the taboo on talking about consciousness is broken and we seek to understand what role this incredible phenomenon plays in human cognition, there will be no progress towards the holy grail: true general purpose AI. That is my falsifiable prediction.
erikj 4 days ago 0 replies      
We already had the AI winter before. The worst thing about it is the death of Symbolics. The latest AI resurgence, unfortunately, created nothing comparable to the legendary Lisp machines.
pmrd 4 days ago 1 reply      
Also - must remember that AI is a programmer on the sidelines letting data do the logic. It required a fairly different frame of mind than traditional programming
tootie 4 days ago 0 replies      
My company has hitched itself to the AI hype train, but they're talking about NLP and conversational UIs not data analysis.
antirez 4 days ago 0 replies      
Recent AI progresses are a clear technological advancement. To meter them in terms of bay area biZZness meters is lame.
sjg007 4 days ago 0 replies      
No. Image and audio recognition in many specific cases are now solved problems. This is substantial progress.
blazespin 4 days ago 0 replies      
Ml comes in big in cleaning up the data and making recommendations on what to look at.
danielrm26 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think a key differentiation between ML and more common statistics is that ML is designed to improve itself based on data. Statistical methods don't do that.

So maybe they're trying to do very similar things in a lot of cases, but self improvement is a major differentiator.

RandyRanderson 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm old enough to have seen a lot of these boom/hype/bust cycles. I'm convinced that this time is, in fact, different.

To temper this I believe most decent user-visible changes will take ~5 years (as most actually useful software does) but the changes will be huge:

* The author cites computer driven cars. I think this will take place mostly on long-haul highway trucking instead of in cities first. Even so, this could mean a massive swath of truckers without work in a short 5yr epoch.

* We've already seem the effects of heavy astro-turfing/disingenuous information/etc in the last US election. This certainly changed the "national psyche" and may have changed the election outcome. There is heavy ML research going into making the agglomeration of ads and content almost compulsively watchable. Our monkey brains can likely only handle a few simple dimensions and only boolean or maybe linear relations and they certainly get trapped in local maxima/minima. Even trivial ML techniques can bring this compulsion from say 50% effectiveness to 95%+ (by some reasonable measure). Imagine a web that is so completely tailored to the user such that search results, ads and content is completely tailored to you. Verbs, adjectives entire copy all written to get you to that next click. This is different.

* Bots that seem like real ppl will be rampant. Are those 100 followers/likes/retweets actual ppl? Even years ago reddit (to gain popularity) faked users. Certainly this has only accelerated and will continue to as commercial and state actors see value to moving public opinion with these virtual actors. (ironically maybe only bots will have read this far?)

* Financial Product innovation - Few ppl actually understand this market (even within the banks) however the deals are usually in the 100+ million range. The products take advantage of tax incentives, fx, swaps, interest rates, etc in an ever increasing complexity. These divisions are still some of the most profitable parts of banks. It's likely that on deals where profits are measured in tens of millions on a single deal (several are made per quarter, per major bank). It's likely that ML algos will be put to use here as well not only optimizing current products but in current prod elaborations. I beleive these products to be a major source of inflation. Whereas the official numbers are ~2% I believe the actual inflation (tm) felt by most is more in the 7%+ range.

* State Surveillance and Actions - I hear ppl saying that mass surveillance hasn't been effective in stopping "terrorism", as if it would be ok if it did. Well, it will be effective and it will get very, very good at it. Of course terrorism is not defined anywhere so ...

* Customer Support - this, like transportation, is a major employer of unqualified workers. I believe in 10 years there will be maybe 1% of the current workforce in CSR work. The technology is here the software just has to be written.

It's not just the number of jobs displaced it's the velocity. If we look to the effective Predator-prey modeling:


We see that the generally the solution takes 2 modes:

* stability - wolf/rabbit populations wax and wane together* crash - the wolves kill enough rabbits to make the remaining pop crash

Now I don't believe there will be a 'crash' but likely there will be a new normal (equilibrium) and getting there will not be pleasant.

Disclaimer: Yes, I do work in ML.

master_yoda_1 4 days ago 1 reply      
mmkx 4 days ago 0 replies      
The technological singularity arrived November 15th. Plenty of AI/robots to come.
Why does calloc exist? vorpus.org
549 points by wyldfire  2 days ago   129 comments top 26
_RPM 2 days ago 2 replies      

 buf = calloc(huge, huge); if (errno) perror("calloc failed"); printf("calloc(huge, huge) returned: %p\n", buf); free(buf);
This has a flaw. errno doesn't magically get reset to zero. You should check the return value of calloc, then use errno. Checking if(errno) is not the right way to determine if there was an error.

bluefox 2 days ago 3 replies      
That's a nice alternative history fiction.

Here's an early implementation: https://github.com/dspinellis/unix-history-repo/blob/Researc...

wyldfire 2 days ago 2 replies      
> So basically, calloc exists because it lets the memory allocator and kernel engage in a sneaky conspiracy to make your code faster and use less memory. You should let it! Don't use malloc+memset!

On the flip side, if your critical metric is latency then these tricks of calloc's and the OS's are exactly what you try to avoid. memset() the buffer, and if you have the privileges you should mlock() it to prevent it from being paged out. Of course, this all presumes that it's not an ephemeral buffer to begin with. Best to change your design to leverage a long-lived resource if possible.

jblow 2 days ago 4 replies      
Sorry, but this is just goofy and bad.

If you depend on copy-on-write functionality, then you need to use an API that is specced to guarantee copy-on-write functionality. If that means you use an #ifdef per platform and do OS-specific stuff, then that is what you do.

Anything else is amateur hour.

If copy-on-write is a desirable feature, then as the API creator, your job is to expose this functionality in the clearest and simplest way possible, not to hack it in obscurely via the implementation details of some random routine. (And then surprise people who didn't expect copy-on-write with the associated performance penalties.)

This is why we can't have nice things.

Animats 2 days ago 2 replies      
The real reason "calloc" exists was that it was really easy to hit 16-bit overflow back in the PDP-11 days.
ben_bai 2 days ago 1 reply      
> Plus, if we wanted to, we could certainly write our own wrapper for malloc that took two arguments and multiplied them together with overflow checking. And in fact if we want an overflow-safe version of realloc, or if we don't want the memory to be zero-initialized, then... we still have to do that.

Like reallocarray(3) does?

 buf = malloc(x * y); // becomes buf = reallocarray(NULL, x, y); newbuf = realloc(buf, (x * y)); // becomes newbuf = reallocarray(buf, x, y);

nicolast 2 days ago 0 replies      
And then there's of course when calloc returns non-zeroed memory once in a while, which causes... 'interesting' bugs.


AceJohnny2 2 days ago 0 replies      
> And at least we aren't trashing the cache hierarchy up front if we delay the zero'ing until we were going to write to the pages anyway, then that means both writes happen at the same time, so we only have to pay one set of TLB / L2 cache / etc. misses.

Ooh, nice one. My first impression was that calloc was just lazy-allocating, which is fine in most cases but when you want precise control over timing, maybe you want to be sure that memory is zero'd at allocating time rather than pay the cost unexpectedly at use time.

But the cache-awareness makes that a moot point. You'd be paying double cache-eviction costs if you were clearing that memory up front: once at clearing time, and once at actual-writing time. This implementation of calloc avoids that.

Waterluvian 2 days ago 1 reply      
Not sure how I feel about, "oh everyone's looking this way! Let me get political"
Manishearth 2 days ago 2 replies      
I've always been surprised that memset is usually just a nonmagical for loop. I used to expect that the OS does things to magically make it faster (running lazily, etc).
Const-me 2 days ago 3 replies      
Lets see what happens after the allocation.

With malloc + memset, the OS will likely allocate that memory in huge pages, on PC that would be 2-4MB / page depending on the architecture, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Page_(computer_memory)#Huge_pa...

If I calloc then write, the OS cant give me huge pages because of that copy on write thing. Instead, the OS will gradually give me the memory in tiny 4kb pages. For large buffers you should expect TLB cache misses, therefore slowing down all operations with that memory.

drfuchs 2 days ago 0 replies      
Originally, calloc was the function Unix programmers were expected to use by default, since it avoids any sort of intermittent bugs due to your forgetting to initialize some field in the data structure you're allocating. But clearing the memory to all zeros took precious time, so if you were an advanced programmer, and knew for a fact that you were going to fill it all in yourself, you could optimize by calling malloc.
kamouth 2 days ago 1 reply      
"(I mean, let's be honest: if we really cared about security we wouldn't be writing in C.) "

Why so ?

MaulingMonkey 2 days ago 1 reply      
It's harder to forget to multiply by sizeof(T) when calloc-ing as well.
IgorPartola 2 days ago 2 replies      
I don't get it. The two behaviors are completely orthogonal. Why can't I have a malloc() that does lazy copy-on-write for large arrays and why can't I have an error checking malloc() and why can't I have a calloc() that allocates the memory up front and doesn't zero it out? I get the "it's historic" argument, but this seems like a silly distinction. Sounds like what you want to do practically is basically just make your malloc() wrap a calloc() with size 1, and stop explicitly memset()ing. Or just introduce your own functions:

 moarmem(n) // malloc(n) moarmemslower(n) // p = malloc(n); memset(p, 0); moarmemfaster(n) // calloc(n, 1) evenmoarmem(p, n); // realloc() fuggetaboutit(p) // free()

duaneb 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is a great example of why _alloc is an abstraction over virtual memory.

What this doesn't express is that dealing with page allocation directly can be quite annoying to get correct cross platform. You generally don't want to do that unless a) you're optimizing past the "knuth level" and know you need to for performance (e.g. mapping files to memory), b) you're writing something where you run dynamic code (JIT or dynamic recompilation) or c) you're writing your own allocator and/or using page faults to get some functionality, ala Go's stop-the-world hack.

Basically, don't bypass _alloc unless you have a reason.

notacoward 2 days ago 4 replies      
I always thought it was because of padding. An array of M structures each N bytes long could require more than M*N bytes (certainly has on some architectures I've worked with). But I guess that's not it after all.
rcthompson 2 days ago 4 replies      
I you calloc some memory and then the first thing you do is write to it, can the compiler optimize away the initial write of zeros since they will just be overwritten?
jedisct1 2 days ago 1 reply      
Good operating systems also provide `reallocarray()`.
wfunction 2 days ago 0 replies      
No, the 2 GB array should still take a quota of 2 GB. It just wouldn't take 2 GB's worth of time to initialize. The overcommit "feature" in Linux is a bug that crashes C programs in places that violate the language's guarantees (such as when a write occurs to a location in memory that was allocated correctly).
dimman 2 days ago 0 replies      
There are some unfortunate statements in there (if taken out of context) that requires you to read the whole thing for it to make sense. Like "...but most of the array is still zeros, so it isn't actually taking up any memory..." which is a bit ambigious if not read in the complete context, then it makes sense.
smegel 2 days ago 1 reply      
> But calloc lives inside the memory allocator, so it knows whether the memory it's returning is fresh from the operating system, and if it is then it skips calling memset. And this is why calloc has to be built into the standard library, and you can't fake it yourself.


ericfrederich 2 days ago 1 reply      
Somebody needs to go update all the StackOverflow answers saying that malloc is faster. According to this, calloc seem to always be faster with several other benefits as well.
MichaelBurge 2 days ago 0 replies      
I suppose another alternative would be for memset() to check if the page is already mapped to the zero page, and to do nothing if it is. There are some bitset-related data structures that should make that pretty efficient.
angusp 2 days ago 0 replies      
> I mean, let's be honest: if we really cared about security we wouldn't be writing in C.

How so? C is low level, so to be secure you must be fully aware of the behaviours and side effects of what you're doing. In another, perhaps higher level language, sure, there may be less of these gotchas but to be properly secure you need a similar amount of knowledge about background behaviour.

edblarney 2 days ago 0 replies      
Why do so many people disagree on something that should be nearly empirical?
Announcing TypeScript 2.1 microsoft.com
487 points by DanRosenwasser  23 hours ago   203 comments top 43
timruffles 22 hours ago 5 replies      
If you still haven't given TypeScript a go as a Javascripter, now is a great time to do so.

Whether you end up adopting it or not, it's interesting to get the types out of your mind and into the code. The first time you feel the speed/confidence of refactoring with accurate 'Find usages', you'll decide if the undeniable overhead of types is worth it.

edblarney 20 hours ago 2 replies      
After trying TS, I basically never want to write JS again.

I know that 'OO' and 'typing' is not the solution to everything ... but aside from all the nice things you can do in TS ... the 'enforced architecture' of OO-ish paradigms, combined with typing, and essential obfuscation of the prototype paradigm ... has cut the time to development in half.

I can hardly think of a reason to use JS now that TS exists.

Of course - there are some reasons, in some specific situations, but by and large, TS is the future.

zdragnar 22 hours ago 7 replies      
It's interesting to me that all of the initial reactions I've seen to this announcement have been around the introduction of async and object spread, which are available with babel, but the typescript specific features such as mapped types are completely ignored.

I don't really have any particular meaning behind that observation, only that it tickled my funny bone a little bit.

jensvdh 22 hours ago 1 reply      
Typescript is a game changer for any serious project. Never going back to plain JS.
Noseshine 21 hours ago 4 replies      

Is it possible to have a setup with TypeScript where it is guaranteed that no code changes occur other than removal of the type information?

I started using Flow, found what it can and can't do and would like to try TypeScript. But only if I can have "types-only", I don't want my code "translated" in any way. I'm writing for the latest node.js version and not for x different browsers, I want to use exactly what that version supports and have no code-changing steps.

With Flow I use flow-remove-types (https://github.com/leebyron/flow-remove-types) to remove the types. It leaves spaces where there was type-related code and doesn't touch the code itself.

msoad 22 hours ago 0 replies      
We are using async await with 2.1 rc and it works flawlessly. I also love the keyof, with that we can remove tons of "any" types from our code base.

Amazing work TypeScript team! This release has been a lot of work!

tjbarbour 22 hours ago 1 reply      
"We spread ourselves thin, but this is the moment youve been awaiting TypeScript 2.1 is here!"
ken47 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I've been using Typescript for over a year, and the amount of improvement in that relatively short time span has been incredible. With 2.1, Typescript shows no signs of slowing down.
ggregoire 21 hours ago 0 replies      
> Object Rest & Spread

Great news! That will finally fix the syntax errors in VSCode. :)



n0us 22 hours ago 1 reply      
I have been waiting for object rest and spread for ages. Thank you to the maintainers for working hard on this feature.
ohstopitu 22 hours ago 0 replies      
I recently started using TS instead of JS and I've been loving it. I find errors much earlier and while the tooling could be a bit better, I honestly find it less exhausting than keeping up with Babel.
lacampbell 19 hours ago 3 replies      
How does the development cycle work? With plain JS I load up my html page in browser (chrome) and head to the console to check for errors in the JS. Then I do user testing.

Can type-script be debugged by a browser on a source code level - ie not on a transpiled level? If not, I am not sure if it's worth it. And I say that as someone who is a huge fan of explicit optional typing.

garysieling 21 hours ago 1 reply      
TypeScript is great. I built https://www.findlectures.com over a year, starting in plain Javascript. Once the codebase was large enough that got stuck I added TypeScript, and it's been great for isolating defects.

It's nice paired with React (vs PropTypes) because the checking happens a lot earlier and is much richer.

ng12 22 hours ago 1 reply      
Hurrah for object spreads! Time to go grepping for calls to _.default and _.extend.
euroclydon 21 hours ago 3 replies      
One thing I never understood with Babel is which features are shimmed in the output JS and which features are re-implemented?

What I means is: I didn't know how to tell Babel which browsers I was targeting, and I'm pretty sure that some of their feature implementations do not feature test the platform before activating, since they were so compiled in. Is that the case?

Also, do you have to tell TypeScript your target runtime for it to it to use it's ES3 async/await logic vs. it's ES2015 (which uses generators), or does it automatically figure it out?

jasonallen 22 hours ago 6 replies      
Feels like Typescript is building (or has built up?) more momentum than Flow.
jtmarmon 20 hours ago 4 replies      
Can someone comment on the difference in reliability between using typescript and a natively statically typed language like haskell or scala? Is there any? Or is the type safety really as good when you use ts
ihsw 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Async/await support for most browsers and node-0.12+ is definitely a welcome feature, callback hell and tripping over promise chains is definitely one of the most painful experience in TS development IMO.
boubiyeah 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Congratulation to the TS team. We are happily using it at work, it's such a tremendous upgrade over javascript, while keeping the entire ecosystem at hand.
smrtinsert 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Incredible release. Was definitely waiting for the spread/rest improvements as well as being curious about the async stuff.

TypeScript continues to be for me the clear winner of the alt.js languages.

voltagex_ 13 hours ago 0 replies      
What's the future of TypeScript in Visual Studio (not Code)?

I've got a project that just silently fails to build in VS - no errors, no warnings, build successful - but no output.

It seems like the Typescript tools inside VS2015 (even with the latest update) just aren't ready.

seattle_spring 22 hours ago 3 replies      
Seems like all of the new features have been available in Flow for quite a while now.
edblarney 20 hours ago 2 replies      
Dear TS authors:

Thank you (!) for your amazing contributions. TS is the best new thing in tech.

That said:

Your linguistic genius is way ahead of the tooling.

I feel as though some of these 'new and cool' 2.1 things are a little bit intellectual, maybe useful in some cases ...

But getting TS to work in the real world, the various build configurations, tool-chains etc. - it's still clumsy.

It was difficult to grasp the difference between AMD and other paradigms. I still have problems with circular dependencies, or rather, things happening before modules are loaded.

Here's one pain point:

Creating a static attribute on a class and initializing it right there, as in:

class A { static b:B = new B();}

Means that 'new B()' will get executed right when that module is loaded, possibly before the module containing B is loaded.

It's ugly, mechanical - but it's not a 'fine point'. I think these are the kinds of issues which are more likely to hold people back, as opposed to the lack of some rather fancy new paradigms such as 'Mapped Types'.

Anyhow, keep up the good work. Lovin't it.

koolba 22 hours ago 3 replies      
So can I finally banish babel from my build steps?
thewhitetulip 10 hours ago 1 reply      
I recently started learning JS, and now I am confused between TS and babel. Can anyone give me a reason why I should use either of the two and when I should use either of the two?
euroclydon 19 hours ago 0 replies      
The proposal for async/await is education, to say the least. The specs for modern and older browser/js-engines are in there.

Turns out they implement two case statements, and handle every possible control structure.


hashhar 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Really happy with the development pace. I started using it by contributing to VSCode and was very pleased with the great tooling and sane language and syntactic sugar.
mwcampbell 21 hours ago 2 replies      
Any plans to add C#-like extension methods to TypeScript? Or is there a way to achieve the same thing already? I know that a previous suggestion to add extension methods was closed as out of scope. But maybe it's time to revisit that, since TypeScript is now doing significant code transformations for downlevel await support.
nojvek 22 hours ago 2 replies      
Would be so cool if the js engines ignored types like python3.

Then I could just write Typescript and run it on node/browser

k__ 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Are there any plans to catch something like this:

 function f(x: any): T { return x }

aj0strow 21 hours ago 1 reply      
The easier imports solves my biggest issue with migrating an existing project over. I'd say TypeScript is "ready" now.

The last feature I'd want is an easy way to map nested json into classes rather than interfaces. Anyone know how?

crudbug 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Coming from Java land, TS is a life saver for front-end development.

Any plans for .NET Core / CLR backend ?

I think, this will be the silver bullet. TS types should be able to generate statically compiled bytecode => native binary ?

libria 22 hours ago 3 replies      
I like the functionality of

 let merged = { ...foo, ...bar, ...baz };
But I've come to understand ... as variadic parameters in C++, Java and Go. Wish they'd used another token.

time4tea 18 hours ago 1 reply      
The noImplicitAny flag just doesn't make sense. You changed the new default behaviour to be the thing you don't recommend?
yulaow 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Anyone knows any good resources to learn typescript? The tutorials on the official site are really... bad. Like I would not even call them tutorials.
netcraft 21 hours ago 0 replies      
another anecdote - ive been using TS2.1 for the last month on three interconnected projects - a rest api, an express app and also for client side code in that express app - it has been a great experience. async/await is a godsend and @types/ makes what used to be a terrible process much more streamlined and easy. If you have to write JS, typescript is the best way ive ever found.
polskibus 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Still no VS 2013 support? We're stuck on 1.8 for a while. It would be great if they supported VS 2013 at least until they release 2017.
haapanen 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Awesome! Been waiting for this for a long time!It's pretty interesting how much code gets generated for just async function() {} :)
avitzurel 21 hours ago 1 reply      
I'm getting a 404 on this. Anyone else?
daxfohl 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Seems like a great foundation to build something like F# type providers on top of.
tkubacki 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Dart 1.21 is out today too - with generic methods supportnews.dartlang.org
co_dh 21 hours ago 0 replies      
I feel that the lookup types and mapped types are dependent types, am I right?
ausjke 21 hours ago 3 replies      
Been a Linux developer for ages C# was never my taste, I'm still a bit Microsoft-hatred as of now(Visual Studio Code is the only item I adopted for JS development, the rest languages I still use vi/Geany). How tightly TS is related to C#? That has been the main reason I had not tried TS seriously so far. Don't want to have anything to do with C#. I know...
Apple to Start Publishing AI Research bloomberg.com
426 points by rayuela  1 day ago   102 comments top 17
amelius 1 day ago 8 replies      
Of course! What researcher would want to work for a company that prohibits scientific publications?

I've always been amazed by their attitude.

Look at Microsoft Research, and their enormous scientific output over the years. IBM and Google look bleak by comparison, and Apple is not even on the chart.

zackkatz 1 day ago 1 reply      
First paper: "Snarky Reply and Joke Generation by a Virtual Assistant Using Deep Learning"
hota_mazi 1 day ago 4 replies      
> Researchers say among the reasons Apple has failed to keep pace is its unwillingness to allow its AI engineers to publish scientific papers, stymieing its ability to feed off wider advances in the field.

I don't follow. How would preventing employees from writing papers would stop them from reading papers?

maciejgryka 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm just at NIPS and Apple does indeed have a decent presence, which is a good sign (even if there are no actual publications yet). Super interesting to see how this will play out compared to their past. There's lots of criticism that we can throw at big tech companies, but the fact they many of them are so open about their research and thus are forcing others to do the same is pretty cool.
iverjo 1 day ago 0 replies      
Jokingly, this was the first apple AI research I saw online, about a month ago: https://arxiv.org/abs/1610.08120v1
deepnotderp 1 day ago 1 reply      
Just goes to show you the market power of ml researchers, even apple has to bend the knee.
home_boi 1 day ago 1 reply      
The free market wins.

All the AI/ML engineers were going to FB/Google/etc. (and on some rare occasions M$)

k_lander 1 day ago 0 replies      
So glad that this is happening. It is really inspiring to see the knowledge sharing spirit become the expected default in the community. This is only going to be great for progress in the field!
dovdovdov 1 day ago 0 replies      
Based on my Siri experience, I imagine a chimp pulling strings in a control room. :)
Animats 1 day ago 1 reply      
Has Apple published anything yet?
mtgx 1 day ago 2 replies      
My hope is that Apple will continue research on privacy-protecting and privacy-enhancing machine learning, because out of all the big tech companies using machine learning, they may just be the only ones to do that. Some random research for privacy technologies may come out of Google, too, but they are much less likely to actually use them at scale, especially if they conflict with ad revenue.
serge2k 1 day ago 2 replies      
> Amazon.com Inc.s Alexa

So Alexa is really the biggest thing in the market so far right? How many papers does Amazon publish?

deepnotderp 1 day ago 0 replies      
Yay! I never thought I'd ever see this though.
turingbook 1 day ago 0 replies      
Actually, Apple is one of sponsors of this year's NIPS conference: https://nips.cc/Conferences/2016/Sponsors
naels 1 day ago 0 replies      
This will be interesting
melling 1 day ago 1 reply      
Story broke 6 hours ago:


Mac site picks it up 5 hours ago and it gets reported on HN:https://9to5mac.com/2016/12/06/apple-ai-researchers-can-publ...

Bloomberg writes the same story an hour ago and it finally gets huge traction on HN. My guess is that many people ignore the "new" page and it's all a matter of luck that 3 or 4 people get it to the front page where a story takes off.

ktamiola 1 day ago 2 replies      
and what would it be? ... What have Apple developed that goes beyond currently available peer-reviewed work, done by Deep Mind?
My Favorite Books of 2016 gatesnotes.com
539 points by taylorwc  2 days ago   138 comments top 20
knz 2 days ago 5 replies      
"Honorable mention: The Grid, by Gretchen Bakke. This book, about our aging electrical grid, fits in one of my favorite genres: Books About Mundane Stuff That Are Actually Fascinating. "

The author of this book was on NPR/Fresh Air in August. It was a great listen/read if you are interested in the subject.


I heard it a couple of days after a weather related power cut and ended up in the rabbit hole of the risk from cyber warfare/terrorism and solar flares. I'm not sure I would recommend that rabbit hole if you have any concerns about the reliance of society on technology and just in time shipping!

roymurdock 2 days ago 4 replies      
I really like the way he limits his list to 4 books. Most other thought leaders/influencers/CEOs do lists of 10, 20 "hot topic" books that you know they probably haven't read. I find the volume also diminishes the individual importance of each book on the list.

I'll have to pick up String Theory (I love that Bill Gates reads DFW) and The Grid per his recommendations.

raintrees 2 days ago 6 replies      
A humorous observation: Ever look at an HTML page created by Microsoft Word? Quite a bit of code goes into what should have been a simple HTML document.

Now try viewing source of Mr. Gates' web page here: 6873 lines, the HTML <p> content starts at 5816 and goes for 9 lines to describe the 4 books plus the bonus, for a whopping total of 9 lines of content, 6864 lines of behavior and presentation... Wow.

reubenswartz 2 days ago 1 reply      
I thought Shoe Dog was a great book, although my favorite book of the year was a Gates Notes recommendation for summer reading-- The Vital Question, by Nick Lane. If you're interested in biology and the origins of life, it makes some provocative claims, and backs them up. If this doesn't change how you think about life on earth (and elsewhere), I don't know what will...



bduerst 2 days ago 8 replies      
Side topic: Does anyone know any good podcasts that fit his genre of Podcasts About Mundane Stuff That Are Actually Fascinating"?
40acres 2 days ago 1 reply      
Shoe Dog might have been my favorite read of the year, its a very inspiring and highly entertaining story. Regardless of what you think of Nike you can learn a lot about determination and grit from this book. I would recommend it to anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit.
jackfrodo 2 days ago 1 reply      
Awesome to see DFW on HN. Infinite Jest's tennis scenes helped shape the way I view the world. There's one particularly great one where a father is giving some life lessons to his son via tennis. And it is excellent Here's a link to (most of) the scene: https://books.google.com/books?id=Nhe2yvx6hP8C&pg=PT200&lpg=...
ericzawo 2 days ago 0 replies      
I can confirm Shoe Dog is an incredible book. Bill's summation is right - a how-to on building a company this is not, but it's still very much worth reading.
kirk211 2 days ago 3 replies      
Here is my list:

- Endurance: The story about an expedition to Antartica... gone wrong (http://amzn.to/2g26L5i)

- Crucial conversations: Learn how to argue with people without starting fights. Allowed me to look at the situation more objectively (http://amzn.to/2h8w4yN)

- Making of the atomic bomb (http://amzn.to/2gJF6VU)

- Relentless: the personal coach of Michael Jordan talks about how you can become a cleaner. Great if you want to understand how great athletes think (http://amzn.to/2gJCerW)

- Make: rockets. Some cool stuff to do with the kids (http://amzn.to/2gZyQaQ)

- How to make a spaceship: The history of the Ansari XPRIZE. Interesting read about how hard it was to build this spaceship. (http://amzn.to/2h8xMzY)

qwertyuiop924 2 days ago 1 reply      
While these all do look like excellent books, none of them really seem to be of particular interest to me.

Except maybe "The Grid". Technical infrastructure is always fascinating and awe-inspiring.

...Which brings me to one of the two books that I reccomend on HN every time the subject comes up, because they're just that good.

Exploding the Phone, a fascinating dive into the world of phone phreaking that really needs more attention. It not only discusses the people and culture of the phreaking scene, but also the technology that drew them to the phone. It really manages to capture a bit of the magic that entranced people of the time: If you're not a little bit in awe of the A4 crossbar switch by the end of it... You should be.

tebuevd 2 days ago 0 replies      
Shoe Dog is absolutely incredible. When you hear the back stories about the name Nike, the swoosh, Phil's original business plan... Fascinating.

I do recommend that people are generally careful with blindly taking everything as a straight truth, especially when an author seems "trustworthy". It is a known tactic to sneak in lies or exaggerations among the truths.

billconan 2 days ago 3 replies      
sigh, as an engineer, I don't seem to have time to read books.

Did he read this many books before retirement?

rubicon33 2 days ago 6 replies      
I wonder, did he read this much when he was founding Microsoft? I ask because, as someone who would love to read, I feel like I never have the time. And strangely, I feel morally guilty for prioritizing other things like career growth etc.
perseusprime11 2 days ago 0 replies      
Not saying this is true but what if Gates's favorite books are the only books he may have read in 2016. It would be nice to see a full run down of his list including the ones he did not like.
a_c 2 days ago 1 reply      
It would be great if a similar list be curated from HN, if not every month, every quarter. The community here has a much diverse interests and we get to glimpse into different genres.
wowsig 2 days ago 0 replies      
So many book recommendations. Really suggest people to create the list of books they read in 2016 over at http://shelfjoy.com so that others can bookmark them and this thread is kept alive.
lintiness 2 days ago 0 replies      
bill, and most people, should read and recommend more fiction (there's a little bit of fiction in every one of his recommended books i'm sure).
ForrestN 2 days ago 1 reply      
ggregoire 2 days ago 4 replies      
The content of the blog seems blocked by uBlock Origin. (More precisely: the scripts from gatesnotes.com, and the content is loaded in JS)
anonbanker 2 days ago 3 replies      
The Distribution of Users Computer Skills: Worse Than You Think nngroup.com
505 points by hug  2 days ago   323 comments top 39
dajohnson89 2 days ago 11 replies      
I think we underestimate how much time is required to be really good with computers. I'm very knowledgeable about computers, but I've been using them heavily for 22 years.

We have this innate comfort and familiarity with using computers, but as hackers it's a huge part of our lives. People have other ways of life than us, and have other expertise. We shouldn't dismiss their computer illiteracy as stupidity; it's just as bad as them writing us off as "computer nerds".

There's also this tendency for non-computer-literate people to be overly self-deprecating. I noticed this with mathematics, when I tutored people @ uni, but with computers it's the same shit. I constantly hear "yeah, I'm awful with computers, it's all black magic to me". But the person saying that is often not even trying, which is frustrating. It's like a helpless excuse to be lazy and let someone else do the work, which is often not that complicated.

jonmc12 2 days ago 3 replies      
I analyzed technology proficiency level vs adult literacy level. Listing the equivalent literacy level with relatively equal % of population. ie, level 3 proficiency is 5% of population; above a college reading level is 5% of adult population:

 Cant use computers ~ Under 4th Grade level including illiterate Below level 1 ~ 4-6th grade reading level Level 1 ~ 6-10th grade reading level Level 2 ~ 10th-college reading level Level 3 ~ College+ reading level
Literacy %'s from https://contently.com/strategist/2015/01/28/this-surprising-...

morecoffee 2 days ago 7 replies      
Even most programmers are distributed like this. My team recently was doing usability tests of a networking library that I work on. We screen recorded a few random programmers try to install it and then make a simple app with it, giving them access to our tutorial and Hello World demo.

It was painful to watch them stumble about, trying to debug installation errors that seem obvious to us. Just like trying to watch a lay person try to use a computer, watching these other people made me want to blurt out the answer.

Any of the lessons that you take away from designing simpler UI for lay people applies just as much to professionals. Write a better API, a better library, and better documentation.

Throwaway23412 2 days ago 3 replies      
Links like this illustrate what a distorted bubble the typical HNer lives in.

I've lost track of how many times I've seen a product or company posted here and HNers will say "I can already do that myself." For instance, I still chuckle at the "you can already build such a system yourself quite trivially" comment in the Dropbox HN post nearly a decade ago.

threatofrain 2 days ago 4 replies      
I would like to think about the set of skills that don't revolve entirely around coincidental interfaces made by a few mega corporations.

Are there computer skills more general than the ability to use iMessage or Windows Live Mail? Because if using iMessage means you now know how to chat, then what happens when NewChat(tm) comes out with a new brand experience?

What happens when Microsoft goes Metro or Windows 10?

As a society, should we be paying for user training for specific familiarity with proprietary interfaces? Shouldn't Microsoft or Apple be paying for this stuff? This is why I'm generally very suspicious of what people mean by "computer skills" in schools. They generally mean user training for Apple, Microsoft, or Google.

roel_v 2 days ago 2 replies      
They should have included a category 'below 0': "User attempts to complete task by using the interface provided to him. Gives up in disgust after 15 minutes. Spends next 8 hours to (in this order) use common automation tools to reach his goals, write small scripts, reverse engineer the data and network formats, and disassemble the executable to inject his own hooks. After still failing to accomplish task, user tries to gradually replace parts of the provided software with his own versions; first using quick glue languages, eventually having to resort to rewrote large core parts in C just to have enough control of all components to make them interoperate. After 4 weeks of caffeine-fueled 16 hour days, user declares war on the vendor and starts writing his own version of the software and ecosystem to free humanity of the plague that is this god-forsaken piece of crapware. After 8 months of battling 30 years of legacy interoperability, data exchange formats and interfaces and the 8th question from Suzy in Admin about where the button that made the one thing with the blue border go away and then made the green other thing go bleep bleep has gone, user flees to off-grid cabin in the mountains with a beard below his collarbone and a crazed look in his eyes, while muttering 'they drew first blood. They drew first blood.' The end."

(bonus upvote for the first person to recognize the movie reference)

jmiserez 2 days ago 1 reply      
I would have liked to see screenshots of the UIs they used, but they seem to be absent from the OECD report.

A lot of the standard tasks we do with office/business software are unintuitive, but easily learned once someone shows you or you Google it. Even as a designer or developer, it's not always clear what each button does.

>participants were asked to perform 14 computer-based tasks. Instead of using live websites, the participants attempted the tasks on simulated software on the test facilitators computer. This allowed the researchers to make sure that all participants were confronted with the same level of difficulty across the years and enabled controlled translations of the user interfaces into each countrys local language.

Same with the language used in software: Sometimes tranlating UI buttons actually makes usability worse, because now you have to learn the shared language all over again. The descriptions on UI elements are often useless, unless you already know what the buttons do.

calebsurfs 2 days ago 7 replies      
You can take the technology part of the test here:


I have to admit I found it somewhat difficult, it's not surprising that most people performed poorly on it.

nokya 2 days ago 2 replies      
I see the argument of "not enough hours of practice" in some comments. I disagree. That would be true if there was a direct correlation between moderate proficiency in computers (e.g.: ability to independently reinstall your machine completely and diagnose which hardware component to replace after a failure).

The unmentioned problem here is that people are actively reluctant (this is tested, too) to learn the skills that would let them be more independent. I doubt this is entirely related to the total amount of hours spent at a computer.

In some way, computer literacy seems to be a similar scenario than cars: the homo simplex doesn't want to understand how it works, he/she just wants it to work while enjoying the luxury of not needing to understand it while posting duck faces on Instagram.

Let's face it, computer illiterates understand less, pay more and end up having lower purchasing power. Considering that this is entirely under their control, I find this quite fair (I have different opinions about Seniors, but that's another discussion).

To be honest, I can find only one valid reason for this to be an issue: civil liberties and human rights.

I'm intimately and increasingly concerned by how much civil liberties have been taken from citizens in "developed" countries in the recent years, and I am under the impression that this is the direct effect of computer illiteracy spread across all levels of the population.

Citizens are being asked to vote on laws relying on technological concepts they don't understand, and which end up in striping them from their rights.

That's what computer illiteracy is about and that's what (I think) the article should talk about... :(

djb_hackernews 2 days ago 0 replies      
This would have been surprising until a week ago when a friend of mine sent me this image of course offerings for those signing up for unemployment: https://imgur.com/gallery/tCG6J

Side note: If anyone is looking for an experienced technical sales person in Boston let me know! They have experience with startups, IPOs, large corporations, channel sales, and has the sales gift in a non sleazy way.

laurieg 2 days ago 2 replies      
This reminds me of a UX lecture I attended in undergrad in the UK.

The lecturer flashes up a picture and says "who is this?". There is a sea of blank faces as a reply. The picture was of Roy Chubby Brown [1] who by some measures was the most popular comedian in Britain at the time. Out of nearly 100 people no one had any idea.

You are not average. Not even close.

auganov 2 days ago 3 replies      
I'd like to see the data for people below 25. It's unclear how much of that distribution is due to adoption lag.
Walkman 2 days ago 0 replies      
There is a scene in Silicon Valley (the series) where Richard thinks the interface of the platform is really simple and intuitive, but turns out he only asked Level 3 people and above and it was not easy to use at the Level 1 people.
schoen 2 days ago 2 replies      
The clear message of the article is about increasing awareness of users' limitations, but I'm also wondering what can be done to increase people's computer literacy. When we see statistics about functional illiteracy in the traditional print sense, we might think about ways of minimizing demands for people to read things, but we might also wonder how we can help improve literacy.

So, believing in the analogy between print literacy and computer literacy, I want to ask that question here too. What helps or doesn't help, and what can change? How early would different interventions have to start to be helpful?

aamederen 2 days ago 0 replies      
Well, in Turkey, because of frequent bans on websites, a good amount of younger people know what DNS is, what a VPN is, how do they work, which one is better than the other, etc. I can say that people on Level-1 use these tools to solve "problems" and people on level-2 can set these stuff up for them.
libeclipse 2 days ago 1 reply      
>26% of adults were unable to use a computer

What? This is really surprising. I expected some people to be really poor at using computers, but not being able to use them at all? Wow. TIL

nokya 2 days ago 0 replies      
Good news for politicians. Only 5% of the population actually understand how dangerous they are for civil liberties.
jrapdx3 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is a great topic and an informative article. As a probable exception to the rule, I'm an "older" individual with decent computer skills. No doubt it's attributable to managing and programming computers out of necessity since the IBM PC days. Having to learn everything the hard way has its merits.

Related to the article I created and maintain a database application for an non-profit arts organization. It involves membership, artwork inventory and exhibitions. It's a fairly complex task, almost all the work goes into the web-based UI, while the PostgresQL backend/server is pretty straightforward.

The challenging part is getting the artists and volunteers to actually use the DB program. The UI is as simple and unambiguous as I can make it. There's only so much to do to make a record with two dozen fields to fill in "simple".

One method is using dropdown options to select from where that fits. Also avoiding hidden "tricks" the user would have to know, giving on-screen examples of proper field format (like date or time entries) and providing concise, specific, instructive error messages.

Even with all that effort, convincing users to try it out has proven the biggest hurdle to success. I've come to realize a key to the tool's utility is constant encouragement. Live demos are often a useful way to help people "get over the hump" of fear and resistance.

Ironically, the "power users" often show the greatest resistance to trying out the web app. While it's made to work as directly as possible, power users fear they will look "dumb" if they don't instantly grasp the operation of every feature.

What I've learned (again) is it requires empathy for users' fears and sense of intimidation, and assuring the app is designed with "foolproof" safeguards preventing accidental disasters. Above all it takes enormous patience training users, listening to user feedback, answering questions and never, ever criticizing when people make mistakes.

bkgunby 2 days ago 1 reply      
I admit I still catch myself accidentally hitting the browser's back button on a multi-page Ajax form without its own back button. Or having to fill out a form again because, instead of opening a modal or a new tab, the current page changes (e.g., TOS). I've come across countless UX developers who don't consider these subtle details.

And this is only a small part of nuances that a typical user faces. I don't care how beautiful or fancy your UX is. Familiarity is king in design, and if you stray too much away from the current experience, I won't hesitate to say that my toilet has better UX.

faitswulff 2 days ago 0 replies      
I wish they had breakdowns by age. I think it would be marginally better for younger people, but probably not as good as one would hope.
yoz-y 1 day ago 1 reply      
What is with the needlessly complex description of tasks?

> Tasks are based on well-defined problems involving the use of only one function within a generic interface to meet one explicit criterion without any categorical or inferential reasoning, or transforming of information. Few steps are required and no sub-goal has to be generated.

It reminds me of times when I was writing articles for journals and had to find filler to reach the required arbitrary page count.

lacampbell 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is fantastic news. I am glad to hear I am in the upper echelons and computing literacy - let alone programming literacy - has not caught on. My skillset would be useless if everyone could do it.
foota 2 days ago 2 replies      
Interesting that Japan has both the highest level 3 percentage and the highest can't use computer percentage.
jdosnhss 2 days ago 2 replies      
I found it funny that the researchers refrained from assigning a computer skills "level zero" to avoid the negative connotation. To experienced computer users zero is just the first number
AdamSC1 2 days ago 0 replies      
The report covers roughly 1 billion people if you take the working population of the 33 countries involved.

At a sample of 215942 the margin of error is fractions of a percent.

But, what this doesn't account for is that in the original report (http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/skills-matter_9789264...) you do see a significant variance in the distribution of skills based on:





In Japan, only 4.3% of adults are at a "Level 1" where as in Indonesia it is 37.2% which is to be expected when Indonesia is the bottom of the ladder in GDP Per Capita (http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/educati...) and in literacy scores (http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/educati...).

While this report says it takes the 'average cross the OECD countries' it's not clear on which factors were weighted or adjusted.

The information isn't wrong - it's just worth taking it with a grain of salt depending on how you are using the information. That said the US market for example lines up very close to the average, which is still staggering.

mvindahl 2 days ago 1 reply      
Level 7: Rewrites browser software in Emacs LISP before proceeding
flukus 2 days ago 4 replies      
I'm not surprised. Typically "computer skills" are taught as "click here, here and here to edit a word document". I think going back to basics and teaching people how to do things from the command line would improve literacy dramatically, especially with the younger generation who have been shielded from the concepts of "files" and "programs".
njharman 2 days ago 0 replies      
Some if this has nothing to do with computers or interfaces. A lot of people couldn't do the find info across emails and schedule meeting whether the inputs and ouputs were paper, people, whatever. The problem is they lack ability, in shirt, to problem solve. Something we excel at we can't imagine being hard for others. Being able to discern what the problem is, wgat are the assets, what's the done condition, how to divide up and order problem, what steps to take, what order to take them. How to focus. Curiosity, ability to explore, trial and error. Just being able to formulate a test, determine result of test, and fathom whether the result is applicable to your task.

Just so hard.

anotheryou 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think the labels are quite harsh. Level 1 can be quite functioning for certain applications:

 - below level 1: can receive and reply to electronic communication (once told how) - level 1: can retrieve information from knowledge archives of all sorts. Can google alright. - level 2: can organize archives/folders/mail, can organize communications in a group, can find information in less obvious places and google quite well - level 3: has skills that go beyond what is currently needed in 90% of non IT-related jobs.
Stunning though is the ~20% that can't do the simplest task. I wonder if they are capable of using an ATM.

Stratoscope 2 days ago 1 reply      
I think each of us computer experts should at least once in a while face a technical situation that completely befuddles us. Maybe this way we can get a sense of what it's like to be a normal "non-computer" person.

I'm not talking about the challenge of learning a new programming language or framework. We know that will have its difficult spots. I don't even mean chasing down the trickiest bug. That's what we were born and trained to do!

I mean something that you would think should be simple and obvious, but you're stuck, have no clue what to try next, and think the whole world must just be broken.

This just happened to me. Night before last, my car's ESC (Electronic Stability Control) light came on. I thought I must have bumped the ESC disable button, but tapping it a few times did nothing.

A little while later, the Check Engine light came on to keep the ESC light company. Uh-oh. I explained to my friend that it didn't mean we had to stop right now, unless that light started blinking. It didn't blink, and the engine sounded fine.

Isn't it funny how a car has this one all-purpose light that could mean just about anything, and the car knows which of those many things it actually is, but it won't tell you?

Unless you're a mechanic. Or unless you're smart, like me, and had an OBD-II device that comes with an app for your phone. Now I can just read the code myself!

So I opened the app, tapped Connect, and there it was: Motorola Roadster 2. Um, that's my speakerphone. No OBD-II?

I went to the website and read the manual for my OBD-II device and found my mistake: I needed to push the Bluetooth pairing button on the device before I could connect. So I pushed it, saw the blue light blinking, went back to the app and tapped Connect once more. No sign of the OBD-II device, just the speakerphone again!

Something was really messed up and I had no idea what it was. I'd connected to the device before without any problem, but I'd also done a factory reset on the phone since then, so whatever it was wasn't working any more. Rebooting the phone didn't help, and turning the car ignition off and on a few times didn't either. I gave up for the night (and the next day).

Finally today I got the courage to try again. First, of course, I tried all the things I tried before, thinking that maybe this time they would work.

No such luck. Finally I got the idea of going to the Bluetooth menu on the phone to see if I could find the OBD-II device that way.

You can guess the rest of the story: after I pushed the pairing button on the device, it showed up in the Bluetooth menu and I paired the phone with it like I'd done a long time ago before that factory reset. And then the OBD-II app connected and showed me the error:

P0504 Brake Switch "A"/"B" Correlation

I looked that up online and found the good news: indeed this was not an engine problem but a brake switch problem that also disables ESC. And the bad news: I'd been driving around with no brake lights and thought I had an engine problem instead.

It was only sheer luck that I happened to think of checking the Bluetooth menu. When the OBD-II program showed me the list of available devices (only the Motorola speakerphone), it didn't say anything about what to do if my OBD-II device didn't show up in the list. And when I found their manual online it didn't offer any clue either.

I was just supposed to "know" that I should go to the Bluetooth menu before trying to use the app.

I still tend to think of myself as some kind of computer expert (in fact many of you have used code I wrote), but I'm grateful for this experience - it taught me to have a bit more sympathy when people get so frustrated with their computers and devices.

gohrt 2 days ago 1 reply      
Neilsen Norman Group writes articles that convey important technical information in very easy to understand language. Reading their writing makes me feel smarter, and I think it's more than a feeling.
gwbas1c 1 day ago 0 replies      
I sometimes act like a "level 1" user when dealing with applications that I will only use once or twice.

Why spend hours trying to re-learn how to do something very basic and simple? I have better things to do with my time, even though I might be capable of using a complicated application.

Glyptodon 2 days ago 0 replies      
I mildly interested in how the distributions break down by age cohort.
whataretensors 2 days ago 0 replies      
These numbers are actually shocking. I wonder what the statistics are on level 4 and above, assuming level 4 is programming.
swiley 2 days ago 0 replies      
This actually sounds like a measure of reading comprehension and reasoning skills.
kelukelugames 1 day ago 0 replies      
I worked at Redfin building tools for real estate agents and my ex was at Expedia doing tools for call center employees. Most of them don't even know about multiple tabs. We are in our little bubble about tech competency.
zhte415 2 days ago 2 replies      
Salient tl;dr

> The main point I want to make is that you, dear reader, are almost certainly in the top category of computer skills, level 3. In the United States, only 5% of the population has these high computer skills. In Australia and the UK 6% are at this level; in Canada and across Northern Europe the number increases to 7%; Singapore and Japan are even better with a level-3 percentage of 8%.

> Overall, people with strong technology skills make up a 58% sliver of their countrys population, whatever rich country they may be coming from.

> You can do it; 92%95% of the population cant.

A lot of smart people price themselves too low because they're simply being kind. I'm one of these. It is worth remembering that, as a HN reader, self-selected for such content and community, you may also be too kind.

luckydata 2 days ago 2 replies      
Serious question: why does anyone still listens to this hack?

The majority of his results are either questionable or completely obvious, and he's clearly not very good at accounting for his own biases. Some of his work has set back the field of design quite a bit - like the nonsense about users not reading on the internet that has transformed itself into an unkillable monster.

p.s.: if you're coming to say "but dude, users really don't read on the internet" then reflect on the irony of doing that in a discussion forum.

It Takes 6 Days to Change 1 Line of Code (2015) edw519.posthaven.com
550 points by Mz  1 day ago   277 comments top 41
hacker_9 1 day ago 20 replies      
I want to fault this but I can't. Code reviewer who's not afraid to reject code? Check. Proper testing of code changes? Check.

The process probably looks silly in this case because nothing went wrong. But with a hard-coded variable being changed, who is to say it won't break some other system by being changed? And if the variable was then moved to a config file, who's to say again that it might not break in some obscure way? Such as if the config file is not found in the uat/test environment? Additionally after all this, the manager can change the variable in the config file as they please without this process need going through again.

ztratar 1 day ago 8 replies      
This is why startups kill big companies.

Lots of stupid little processes that add up and make the managers feel power, but end up killing the performance of the business.

Brings up the interesting differences between leadership and management. Managing is what gets people into situations like this, whereas leadership (in late stage companies) is what gets people questioning these processes instead of moving like cattle into a slaughter.

I saw this exact type of behavior at General Electric back in 2011. People wanted to argue about acronyms and process design all day, whilst Samsung ate up 20% market share in 1 year. That business of GE no longer exists and was sold to a foreign buyer. Move fast or die -- this rule does not only apply to startups!

valine 1 day ago 2 replies      
Related anecdote: I interned for a medical device company over summer of 2015 and worked on a team that was in charge of maintaining several implantable class 3 medical devices. The devices used a short range proprietary wireless standard to talk with a intermediary device which could be connected to via Bluetooth. One product had a pretty serious usability issue where connecting to the intermediary device could take upwards of several minutes. After the issue was discovered it took roughly an afternoon and several lines of code to fix. However, in order to provide software updates for a class 3 medical device each update needs to be individually approved by the FDA. It took 12 months from the time the fix was implemented to when the FDA allowed it to be pushed out.
cthulhuology 1 day ago 6 replies      
I this had happened at any of the companies I started, I would have fired several people in the aftermath. The problem is the policy is broken by design. Let's look at what is wrong here:

1.) priority is not just high, it is critical, communicating this is lost at each layer (executive, planning, execution, process control, quality control)2.) leadership is lax, the chain of command doesn't designate a clear single responsible individual3.) policy enforcement in this example actually increases the risk of an unsatisfactory outcome, by increasing the complexity of the solution vs. what is in production4.) quality control is adversarial and ass backwards, code review is supposed to be a sanity check "does this code do what the developer thinks it does" aka. "can some other person understand it"5.) test planning should not be the developer's responsibility, quite frankly if QA can't figure out if it is working or not you should fire your QA department.6.) Ultimately, it is a total failure of policy and management as it requires the President of the company to micromanage the situation.

If you think any of this is fine, I'm sorry but your company is doomed to fail (unless it is already so big it is too big to fail).

lucasnemeth 1 day ago 1 reply      
For me the absurd part was this one:

"Philip (President): Our factory is underutilized by 10%. Either we start building more of our backlog or we lay people off. I'd rather keep everyone busy, build inventory, and get ahead of the curve before the busy season. How can we do that?

Lee (Operations Manager): Company policy restricts us from building more than 3 months of backlog. If you just change that to 4 months, we'll have plenty of work."

You can't have one week of 10% less productivity if not you will immediately fire everyone? And you company policies only work if you change a line of code? And this line of code is from some old legacy code that no one touch and your whole process depends on it? No, 6 days of development is the least of the problems here. This company is absurd.

6 days for the line of code wasn't optimal, but wasn't that bad. What this story shows to me how bad management pretend things are IT fault.

kazinator 1 day ago 1 reply      
That can be okay if the same 6 days can be used in parallel to change 999 other lines of code, too.

I.e. "1 line in 6 days" is only a measure of latency, and not of throughput.

makecheck 1 day ago 1 reply      
A risk of allowing too much bureaucracy in commit processes is that engineers try to avoid the slowdown as much as possible. For example, several unrelated changes may bleed together into super commits so as to clear bureaucratic hurdles only once. Next thing you know, its harder than ever to identify the exact cause of any one issue: you have more changes in each commit, fewer comments than ever, and a high probability that no thorough review was really conducted.

Large blobs make the review process completely fall apart. In the past I dug up too many cases of people allowing 50-file steamrollers into a repository when the entire review was literally two words (looks good). While this probably happened due to time constraints, it makes the entire thing pointless. With a simpler commit process, engineers might submit smaller change requests at a time and people asked to review 7 files might do a thorough job instead of balking at requests to review 50 files.

ipsin 1 day ago 1 reply      
In Case of Emergency Break Glass

There really needs to be a procedure for violating procedure, so that when higher-ups say "do this immediately", those same higher-ups can own the consequences of violating procedure, and so that they know the business implications of the rollback plan, etc.

If the bug is "people are getting laid off" or "our customer database is being siphoned by an SQL injection", it probably should not wait.

perilunar 1 day ago 1 reply      
I once waited 6 weeks for a backend team to fix a prematurely closed div tag that was screwing up the layout of a news site. The templates they were given were good; they screwed up the implementation. In desperation I had to hack the layout with JS (which I was able to update at will).
xarope 1 day ago 1 reply      
I don't get this, whatever happened to a hot fix in minutes, and then a proper fix 6 days later? Have we forgotten how to do this? Together with some other reasonable comments, I can't fault the process in the story, but I just can't get why they didn't allow a hot fix?

Then it would be a different title; It takes 5 minutes to approve the change to 1 line of code and rolled into production, and then 6 days to get an official patch - done in accordance with proper IT policy.

nsoldiac 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm surprised no one has raised the problem of senior managers and VPs underestimating and oversimplifying the complexity and LOE of work. It causes unrealistic timelines for others who do have to adhere to a release process (which is never perfect but certainly necessary). "Yes CEO, of course we can get that in by tomorrow, no problem."

When the work misses the impossible deadline the feedback usually points to an underperforming organization and rarely to unrealistic estimation.

dosethree 1 day ago 0 replies      
Agree with some other comments here:

Good:Code review? Great. Boy scout rules enforced in legacy code? awesome. The QE analysis seems great!

Bad:Failure to expedite? Fail. And without that there's no story.

Also at a high level, the fact that it is only 1 line of code is irrelevant. It's not closely correlated to the riskiness of the change.

dsego 1 day ago 0 replies      
HeavyStorm 21 hours ago 0 replies      
I work on a consulting company. We have extremely aggressive deadlines, and work with less than capable people on both sides of the table.

This means sometimes that takes a usual programmer a few minutes to change a line of code and promote it to UAT.

Forget the number of bugs that happens after this. Yeah, the number is VERY high, but is subjective. Think about the overall state of the program. When all that matters is velocity, people takes all forms of shortcuts. OO is out of the window. Hardcode? What about things that should've been parameters and are not only hard-coded, but spread along many files?

TL;DR OP case seems contrived, or at least the other extreme. Processes should be followed. If the factory stopped because of that single line - or any other, someone would ask: all this to save 6 man days?

edblarney 1 day ago 0 replies      
Surely there could be some optimizations, but there are no gross failures here.

At every step there were reasonable policies it seems.

It's not wise to frame this issue as '1 line of code' because '1 line of code' could ruin a company.

It's frustrating ... but it's not that bad.

patmcguire 1 day ago 0 replies      
Favorite line:

"Ed: Fuck that shit."

"Shirley: That may very well be true."

manigandham 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Why did they hard code a variable in the first place? Hundreds of comments about technical debt when it's just shitty engineering.
shakencrew 1 day ago 0 replies      
This has been discussed on Hacker News before (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3989136). The cited article was published in 2012 at a different domain that is no longer alive. Thanks to the Wayback Machine, we have copies. Here's one: https://web.archive.org/web/20120623032243/http://edweissman...
siliconc0w 1 day ago 0 replies      
Change control needs to be structured around risk. I.e how much $ are you losing a second given an outage. Also, not all changes have the same risk. Your change control process should be malleable to these realities. If a change is low risk and the reward is high then it shouldn't need the same controls as a high risk change. Also, there are more ways to mitigate risk other than additional steps in the release process.

TLDR absolutists make poor release engineers.

joeld42 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is why it's important to have a "hotfix" process where you can make a change fast and then still follow up with all the QA and coding standards.
smegel 1 day ago 1 reply      
Become a $$$/hour contractor and learn to love the bureaucracy.

Then wait for those all-too-often moments where a manager's ass is on the line if feature X doesn't ship by tomorrow and watch all the rules and regulations get chucked wholesale out the window. Then chuckle.

suls 1 day ago 0 replies      
To change the frame of reference a bit, how would this story work out at Google?

I just have an outsider perspective on this, but I really think that monorepos & automation that comes with it will have an amplifying effect in the years to come ..

yason 1 day ago 0 replies      
The bad thing with bureaucracy and slow processes is that eventually you'll find yourself in a situation where you either 1) start working on something else while waiting on some process to complete and get your changes merged, and then you gradually forget to play your turns in the process, delaying it even further, or 2) waste days sitting on the important change, pushing it forward, being active and responsive, and basically just avoiding any other non-trivial task because of #1 happens.

So you need to decide whether you want to get real work done or if you want to get the one task done, for which coding took a matter of minutes or hours, but the process eats up days.

mnarayan01 1 day ago 0 replies      
Requiring all your constants to be configurable seems like a great way to bypass (potentially critical) code review and QA. I can totally see changing something like "number of months" causing extremely non-obvious issues (e.g. integer overflow in something 20 stack levels away)...once you make it a configurable constant though, changing it won't be QA'd at all.
keithnz 16 hours ago 0 replies      
there's a saying, "if it hurts, do it more often" ( https://www.martinfowler.com/bliki/FrequencyReducesDifficult... )

these guys should do all their PRs as one line (or a few lines ) changes and put it through the system and improve the system till they can get things deployed within an hour ( or some reasonable time period )

eykanal 1 day ago 0 replies      
The only difference between this and a large modern tech company is that the latter has this process automated. If anything, large tech companies have more respect for the need for process, as they understand how critical it is for everything to run smoothly.
wwarneck 1 day ago 0 replies      
Since this was a critical issue I think "David" should've brought key stakeholders (or leads) together and set expectations for who was doing what parts and when it would be complete.
cdevs 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's hilarious to read but part of the events that lead up to this are compliance , audit trails, security, investors and customers want to know every 5 minutes some dev isn't jumping into vim and saving new code on production and taking things down with a syntax error.
daveheq 1 day ago 0 replies      
This sounds like bureaucratic nonsense waiting for signatures and approvals. Maybe the task flow needs to improve.
patmcguire 1 day ago 1 reply      
It seems like buried in all the other policies in one meta-policy: nothing gets done until someone with sufficient authority overrides all the rules.

How often does the president have to do this? Has anything ever been done the correct way?

sthatipamala 1 day ago 0 replies      
Are there really factories whose policies and parameters are encoded in software vs. under the guidance of humans?

That in itself is amazing to me considering that the tech company I work at, lots of things are just done by fiat.

awqrre 1 day ago 0 replies      
They should also limit the number of lines that are allowed to be changed/added/removed every 6 days... and maybe it should be a law for popular products.
timwaagh 1 day ago 0 replies      
these processes are beyond fixing. if you absorbed into a corporate monolith that values 'best practise' you'll just have to put up with it. however this really would not happen at any shop that is concerned with saving money.
joslin01 1 day ago 0 replies      
I don't think I would eat 24 excedrin over something like this.
manarth 1 day ago 0 replies      
This sounds like perfect is the enemy of good.
bbcbasic 1 day ago 0 replies      
TRWTF is that it is considered a problem that it took 6 days. Sounds like there was no harm done and 6 days was OK.
nickthemagicman 1 day ago 0 replies      
Thats a dream orocess right there right?

The solution imo is to tell the higher ups to fast track it if peoples jobs arecat stake.

Davidbrcz 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is true beauty
Wellshit 1 day ago 2 replies      
Well, I've seen 5 line patch take 6 months (and counting), so...
partycoder 1 day ago 0 replies      
If technical debt accumulates, you slow down until the point you need a lot of time to understand the consequences of changing code.

Pretty much like the end game in Jenga.

One good approach is SOLID: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SOLID_(object-oriented_design)

renownedmedia 1 day ago 0 replies      
Pebble's next step getpebble.com
523 points by david-given  1 day ago   422 comments top 95
captainmuon 1 day ago 17 replies      
I'm quite angry. This sucks so bad. I "ordered" a Time 2 via Kickstarter.

I'm glad they are refunding me, but that makes me think... WTF, did they not produce any Time 2's? Or are they all going to the landfill? How long have they been knowing that they are going to be insolvent? This doesn't happen overnight! Was the last Kickstarter a gamble?

Why does everybody have to aim for total market dominance to be successful? They overreached and now the customers suffer. There should be a place for "small" manufacturer selling a niche product ("small" with a certain understatement like German "Mittelstand" enterprizes - I mean Pebble sold millions of units). If they had to increase the price by 10% to be sustainable, they still would have smashed the Kickstarter.

Sometimes I think there is a secret cabal conspiring so we can't have nice things ;-). The same one that decided that cell phone batteries have to be non-removable, touchscreens glossy, and wearables either mini-smartphones or bluetooth-step-counters.

TeMPOraL 23 hours ago 9 replies      
I'm sad/angry/depressed as any Pebbler right now, so I won't repeat those comments. Instead, since this is HN after all, let me ask - what shall we do?

In a year or two, when my current Pebble Time fails, I'd love an equivalent smartwatch to be available. Since the market doesn't seem to want it, how can we make it happen anyway?

Features I'm looking for are, in order of priority:

 - always-on screen, preferably color (like Pebble Time), but monochromatic will do - open SDK for writing software for the watch - battery life at least the one like Pebble's - 5-7 days - *zero* dependency on cloud for it to work - basic, standard suite of sensors onboard - compass/magnetometer/accelerometer, maybe a mike - elegant form factor
Now I can go the DIY route (I have a friend with experience in making smartwatches from ground-up, though I'd look at some SOCs instead of going the uC + separate sensors route - to save on watch size). Many of us here could do it. But honestly, I have shit ton of other stuff to do, and I'd rather pay for such a watch and enjoy the ecosystem, just like I did with Pebbles. And if everyone goes the DIY route, and there won't be some standardization along the way, there will be no community. Any idea how to coordinate and make this happen? Maybe a community, open-hardware design + crowdfunding for production?

rtpg 1 day ago 6 replies      
I am so sad about this. I had told myself that at least I'd get a Time 2 and a Core, and stave myself off before the sadness hits again that Pebble is gone.

Pebble's products were an excellent example of lateral technology. No need for high DPI on your watch, because they made something that looks good with few pixels. Making battery life a priority in a world of WiFi-enabled pressure cookers.

Even when the battery ran out you still got 24 hours of a watch that would at least tell the time!

I have no idea if it is possible to produce something like Pebbles at low quantities, but I would love to see an open design with similar specs. I think these watches are better than anything else out there, and it's sad the design is going to disappear.

scblock 21 hours ago 2 replies      
Considering that Pebble is stopping product development, cancelling orders, ending warranties, ending support, and essentially completely shutting down I find the positive tone of this post and the Kickstarter update post to be nearly unbelievable.

I know we see plenty of "our incredible journey" posts filled with optimism, but euphemistic language and dozens of photos of watches and happy people and more watches is jarring.

It's not a shame to try hard at something and fail. But it is a shame to fail and pretend you succeeded. We can see through you.

lettergram 1 day ago 6 replies      
You know, Pebble has garnered one of the best group of loyal customers I know of: well-off techies.

Had they came to the community and said, "hey we are losing sales and we need everyone to pitch in $10 / year for software support (maybe a web interface for fitness or something) I guarantee a few hundred thousand people would have done it.

Had they shared a coupon with the community (i.e. email add campaign, or add on watch - "buy one, get one half off" for christmas they would have probably had a large bump in orders. Although I recognize this would be a mild annoyance, I can also guarantee they would have sold plenty of units.

This simply seems like poor management and it's frustrating because it's the best smart watch I can find at the moment. It does exactly what I want, is cheaper than the competition, and is dead simple to use.

WTF pebble, you had the product people loved - you just didn't market it well.

mike-cardwell 23 hours ago 1 reply      
Somebody pointed this out to me the other day:


I've not looked into it yet, but it is described as:

"A free and cloudless replacement for your gadget vendors' closed source Android applications. Pebble and Mi Band supported."

The feature list seems substantial. So hopefully we'll be able to continue to use our pebbles for some time.

hedora 23 hours ago 3 replies      
Tldr: FitBit acquires() bankrupt pebble, lays of 60% of staff, cancels all pebble product lines. FitBit also cancels the warranties on already sold pebbles. FitBit may also have stiffed some holders of $27m of pebble's debt.

() due to legal shenanigans we must not call this an acquisition or an acqui-hire. Also, FitBit didn't do those things, a shell company created by this deal did, which is totally different somehow.

When things like this happen, I always hope that consumers that got screwed over by the deal (and people that hear about it) avoid the acquiring company after the fact. If they treat pebble customers like this, how will they treat their own customers later?

alonsonic 1 day ago 6 replies      
I can't believe this, just got a Pebble 2 a week ago and now they are literally saying it may not work in the future.

If we rely on their cloud services for activity tracking and app downloads then it will be useless if FitBit doesn't maintain the platform.

I have to say I'm really disappointed and this is a huge blow to people that invest in startups offering hardware. If the company fails forget about the smart stuff you bought, it just won't work anymore.

We should look for ways to minimize the impact on backers. Sadly we'll see more of this in a future in which the products depend a lot on the company cloud services to operate.

tedajax 1 day ago 3 replies      
As someone who quite likes their time steel and who was patiently waiting for their time 2 this is incredibly frustrating. No other watches do what I want so I guess my foray into smart watches is over. It's a shame too because I appreciate the convenience it offers but I probably won't miss it much after a couple of weeks
LeanderK 20 hours ago 0 replies      
this blog post is absurd. They are shutting down, not manufacturing/selling stuffy anymore. It's over, the bubble popped, icarus flew too high and crashed.

And yet everybody having fun with their pebbles on the pictures. Also featured: the energetic team, the diverse ecosystem with lots of developers. This is absurd. The only thing missing is the "our incredible journey"-phrase.

The whole blog-post if marketing BS, even the headline is a lie. "Pebble's next step", there is no next step, it's over for pebble! Some might work for fitbit in the future, but pebble is dead. They don't explain why and how, they are just glorifying their past and don't admit any mistakes.

gregmac 1 day ago 2 replies      
> Pebble devices will continue to work as normal. No immediate changes to the Pebble user experience will happen at this time.> Pebble functionality or service quality may be reduced in the future.

That's very unfortunate. How much of Pebble relies on some online service? Is it still possible to install apps/updates without their infrastructure?

For companies that don't open source their stuff by default, it would be so nice if there was some kind of escrow service where upon dissolution of the company (sale, bankruptcy, etc) the required software to keep their hardware going would be released. I suspect the problem is while it's a win for consumers, not enough would care: the mass market is not going to only buy products that have this escrow service, and at the same time, it's handcuffs for the business, likely complicating a sale or liquidation of the company, and possibly turning investors off.

I hope the Pebble doesn't become a complete wristbrick, but it's always a shame to see perfectly good hardware crippled because there's no longer a piece of software running entirely outside the consumer's control.

pbnjay 1 day ago 1 reply      
Wow this is even worse than expected from the previous news articles... If they're winding down all support and warranties, PLEASE release as much of the watch operating system code as possible! I know some of the IP was sold, but if Fitbit won't be continuing support please help those of us who love our current watches keep them going!
fudgy73 1 day ago 1 reply      
I don't usually get upset about this stuff, business is business, but with my outstanding time 2 and core orders, I am definitely feeling bamboozled.

I always thought of pebbles fighting fitbits, the watch for 'us' vs the trackers for everyone. The open platform vs the locked in, the device that got just what you wanted done vs the not-really-a-watch.

It seemed like with pebble health and their relationship with Stanford things were on the up and up. Now ending warranties and such a trying to be nice but not really announcement. I expect nothing from fitbit. This sucks.

dijit 1 day ago 5 replies      
I'd like to know how this happened really. Pebbles were pretty decent and their successful campaigns definitely contributed to the rise of smart watches. But after having two hugely successful crowdfunding campaigns, how did they fail?
denzil_correa 1 day ago 0 replies      
> Pebbles Migicovsky is planning to rejoin startup incubator Y Combinator as a partner advising early-stage companies on hardware development, people with knowledge of the matter said. Y Combinators hardware head recently left, Bloomberg News reported last month.

Pebble CEO seems to be joining YC.


maxerickson 1 day ago 1 reply      
Ducks not quite in a straight line yet.

From text of announcement:

Pebble is no longer promoting, manufacturing, or selling any devices.

From header of getpebble.com:

Buy Now $99

Also, the store promoting Pebble has no prominent announcement that they aren't promoting Pebble anymore (the one watch I checked did say out of stock, so they aren't selling it at the moment).

wenbin 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Just read previous posts on https://blog.getpebble.com/ .

Man, you really can't tell whether a startup is doing well or not from outside. Everything's AWESOME all the time:

* Oct 31, 2016: Get Spooky with Halloween Pebble Faces!

* Oct 18, 2016: Whats New in Pebbles 4.2 Firmware and Apps

* Oct 05, 2016: Pebble 2: Fit & Smart

* Sep 30, 2016: Pebble 2 Kickstarter Rewards Start Shipping

* Sep 14, 2016: Pebble Core = More Awesome with Amazon Alexa Expansion in the UK and Germany

... and then suddenly making big headline: "Dec 7, 2016: Pebble's next step".

sandis 1 day ago 3 replies      
> Warranty support is no longer available for Pebble watches.

That's not very nice.

xs 20 hours ago 0 replies      
I don't consider Pebble to be a startup anymore. I'm not sure why so many comments here use that term. They have found a repeatable, stable, and scalable business model that works and have been successful with it for years. Their watches are sold in Best Buy, Target, Walmart and other retail stores. Once you hit that level of main stream popularity I would say you're no longer a startup.

It was shocking to me to see Kickstarters for Pebble after their initial watch came out. After they had already been for sales in major retail stores. They should have solidified their business model by then and been profitable already. I feel like Kickstarter should be there to get your initial idea launched and if you can't take flight from there, don't do another.

Anyway, huge Pebble fan here, super sad to see them mismanage their assets that resulted in this.

engi_nerd 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Why do these companies always phrase it as "our next step" or "what we're doing next"? As far as the outside world is concerned, Pebble is dead. There is no "next step". Maybe those same people will go on to work with Fitbit to make similar products, but they are abandoning their existing product.

I hate spin for the sake of public relations.

sundvor 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Well I for one am extremely sad about this. I had the Pebble Steel, stolen, then Pebble Time Steel and now also the Pebble 2, with a Pebble Time 2 on order.

I've loved Pebble from the first day I read about their original kickstarter. Gutted to learn I'll never get my Time 2.. was it a manufacturing defect that sunk the company?

At any rate I just found and placed an order for a white Pebble 2 for my wife. I was going to wait a bit, but didn't want to take any chances on getting her one now. Love the contrast of my lime / grey one.

I can't see anything replacing the Pebble now; nothing else offers week long battery life and always on display.

Thanks to all the engineers and programmers for the work you've put in. I feel sad for how it all panned out.

IgorPartola 1 day ago 1 reply      
Would have been better if they had open sourced the OS and the server code. And the designs for that matter. Obviously the IP is worth quite a bit, but since it doesn't look like FitBit will be producing similar hardware, it sucks to essentially lose these designs and it sucks that at any point FitBit can just shutter the services that make the current watches work.

Also, the Core was going to be awesome. Too bad it didn't happen.

diego_moita 1 day ago 1 reply      
Pebbler here.

There is an old Italian anarchist poem[0] that sings: "date fiori ai ribelli caduti", "give flowers to the fallen rebels".

Flowers for you, rebels.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_X0Rsf_7f0U

51Cards 1 day ago 0 replies      
My Pebble Time is brilliant... after an LG G, Moto 360, I settled on my Time being a perfect balance if functionality and usability. I was one of the first Time 2 backers and this really sucks to put it mildly. The Time 2 was going to fix my VERY few issues with the Time. In general they struck the perfect balance in a wearable for me and I was really excited about the future (Time 2, Google Assistant integration, etc). I rarely get truly sad about hardware announcements but this one is really disappointing.
europa 1 day ago 1 reply      
Whenever this kind of things happens. It will make all the more difficult for startups to acquire users because this reiterates "Startups are either going to be acquired and killed or die prematurely".
experimentsin 1 day ago 1 reply      
I note this from Pebble's developer blog, suggesting that a Fitbit-targeting successor to Pebble's app SDK may be a big part of the plan:

"Although this chapter in Pebbles developer story is closing, our team and ethos have found a new, welcoming home at Fitbit. We cant wait to have you alongside us for this next adventure. Third-party Pebble developers have a massive opportunity to drive how a Fitbit developer ecosystem will take shape. We hope youre as excited about seizing this opportunity as we are.

Over the coming months we will be working closely with our new friends at Fitbit, building the foundation for the next great wearable experiences. We want youour fantastic developer communityto keep playing a crucial role in our success. More information will follow soon, so stay tuned!"


ynniv 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'll trade my refund for a postmortem.
dom96 22 hours ago 1 reply      
Many people seem to be calling for the release of Pebble OS source code. Of course that is unlikely to happen. So how about instead we reimplement it under a FOSS license?

Ever since I heard the rumours about this acquisition, I started wondering just how difficult that would be to do. I'm sure there are plenty of you here with experience in these types of things, is this a good idea or a waste of time?

cableshaft 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I'd love to see a P2P style open cloud service created, where companies that use cloud services can use that instead, and then even if their company fails or has to shut down their own support of their services, their products can live on with the P2P cloud.

(Or, even if it's just an auto-graceful downgrade solution, like it hits their servers first, but if that's not available it tries the other).

For example, I once worked on a multiplayer iOS game about collaboratively writing stories based on keywords, and we were going to create a service to do it, but in the end decided to use the built-in asynchronous turn support in iOS GameKit.

Eventually the company folded, and if we had done our own service, the game would be completely unplayable. But because we used Apple's built-in services, it's still playable today, even though the company is gone, and even though the app is no longer on the app store.

That's kind of what I'm thinking, but instead of Apple providing that service, it's an Open Cloud service.

I was even thinking of writing an API to play mobile apps via email, where JSON strings of game turn data being passed back and forth via email, possibly via dedicated email addresses that the apps are given user/passwords to. Since email is a basic protocol that isn't likely to go away anytime soon, it seemed like a good tech to base that on.

twoquestions 1 day ago 2 replies      
So it looks like Fitbit acquihired the team from Pebble. Here's hoping Fitbit releases a product like the Pebbles, as it was much more safe and less attention-consuming to check a text message on my watch while driving than bringing out my phone, or asking a passenger to do this.

Are there any other things like it that we can migrate to, or will the world never see their like again?

pimterry 1 day ago 1 reply      
This is tragic; I was waiting on a Time 2, but looks like no longer.

What else is around in this niche now? Are there other relatively cheap, simple smart watches with good battery life that I should be looking at instead?

aub3bhat 1 day ago 0 replies      
Its really sad to see Pebble going under. I really feel for the founders and employees. Unlike other commenters here I dont think there is obvious way this could have been avoided. Certain markets/companies do require a specific scale of investments/growth/market-penetration to be sustainable. Wearables/Smart-watches have proven to be a very difficult market and I pepole behind Pebble should be commended for risk taking.
sreenadh 1 day ago 2 replies      
Can one please explain in simple english what actually happened? I did read that fitbit was interested in buying pebble. I assumed it will be like apple buying beats, and pebble will continue as usual.

Is fitbit shutting down pebble as pebble is a superior product over the crappy fitbits?

The core strength of Pebble was its simple OS and energy efficient device. I hope they opensource the OS.

mathrawka 23 hours ago 0 replies      
A month before they made this announcement, I ordered a Time Steel. I waited 3 weeks for shipping, and the tracking code they sent me remained in "Waiting for package from shipper" Then one day I got an email from their support saying the package was returned to sender.... sure, they just didn't send it. I requested the order to be cancelled, but was ignored until I said I want the refund or will do a chargeback.

I contacted my friend that worked there and he said he was not surprised, their support team was being disbanded and he and his team received an offer to work elsewhere.

Too bad, Pebble was my favorite smartwatch out there (original one is dead) and now I am stuck watchless because the only decent options are watches that are 1 or 2 years old.

the_qbit 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Right as I jumped on the bandwagon! Hurts.

Hopefully they have some influence over fitbit. I want to be able to make apps and install / test from my OpenBSD box!

CodexArcanum 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I've been generally dissatisfied with the smart watch options in general, even more so than cell phones and the Sophie's choices for cell phones is pretty bad!

What factors prevent open source hardware from being viable? Like if the basic parts of the pebble (e-paper screens, small efficient processors, flat batteries, etc) were open hardware so that any number of manufacturers could just churn out the parts; and if there was a FOSS option for an OS to run that hardware; what prevents a vibrant community from forming around those options? We could have artisans putting together various nice watch options, and lots of little apps to run on them. Why don't we have that?

iamatworknow 1 day ago 1 reply      
I was a Kickstarter backer in 2012 and still have my original Pebble. There was a weird screen issue and I wanted to try other things, so I switched to the Gear 2 Neo which was absolute garbage. Then I moved on to the Moto 360, which also left me very disappointed when somehow the rear glass (the part that rests on your wrist) shattered.

So I went back to Pebble and got the Time Steel about a year ago and it's been flawless. Worked with my Note 4 and later (currently) with my iPhone 6S Plus. It's a shame that they're not going to be around anymore for the next time I get an itch to try something new. When this watch quits I'll probably just go back to my Citizen.

forvelin 1 day ago 0 replies      
their business strategy was terrible. -though, their developer support was awesome-

I still wear my time steel and will get my time 2 refund, but I am surely frustrated by how they screwed all it up. They did not open source any core bits, left with crappy update which drains batteries and openly admitted quality will get worse by time.

note-for-future : don't get into hype trains.

alexholehouse 1 day ago 2 replies      
One thought:

FitBit's customer service with me has been nothing but exceptional from start to finish, and is the reason I have bought several for family members.

I would hope that FitBit would recognize the loyalty they create based on this quality of service could be magnified by grandfathering Pebble's various services and by maintaining them, while helping Pebble users to transition at their convenience. This would allow Pebble users to continue to have functioning Pebble watches, with the likelihood of sticking with FitBit once the watch does finally break.

rahoulb 20 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm genuinely saddened by this.

My Time Round is the only smart watch I've found that looks like a real watch (THIN) - they seemed to be the only ones that understood all the functionality in the world means nothing if you've got an ugly brick strapped to your wrist.

(And as for a screen that only switches on when you raise your wrist - it's like those people have no idea what a watch is for)

cwisecarver 1 day ago 0 replies      
I backed the Time 2 and the Core. I was way more excited about the Core. I have a 1st-gen Apple Watch and am perfectly happy with that. I was going to give the Time 2 to my father-in-law for Christmas. It's really disappointing. I'm really looking forward to someone explaining the what and whys of this. Based on Fitbit's stock price over the last year I can't imagine this acquisition will turn out good for either party, the developers going to Fitbit, or the wearable community in general.
ohyoutravel 1 day ago 0 replies      
I had two Basis (original and the newer one) watches and when they had a recall/shut down operations, they did a buy back of them. So I got a check for the original purchase price of each and mailed them into Basis. Now that I have a couple of presumably soon-to-be-useless Pebble watches sitting around, it would be nice if they did the same thing. I nearly ordered a Time 2, but am liking my Garmin Vivoactive HR, so thank goodness I didn't order one.
amirmansour 1 day ago 1 reply      
If FitBit wants current Pebble users to be their future customers, they should definitely consider not making current Pebble devices useless.

I understand this is not a trivial task, but it looks like FitBit mostly acquired Pebble's software engineers. So it would nice to see a new FitBit flavored OS update for Pebbles. The hardware is there, it just needs the software support. Pebble hardware with FitBit health/fitness services would a be great combo.

kolemcrae 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I got royally screwed. Yesterday my 4 month old Pebble Time Round burned my wrist and killed itself, today they announce they no loner honour the warranty.
lgleason 20 hours ago 0 replies      
The wearables market is trying to find it's sustainable model at the moment and we are at the low point of the hype cycle. Part of the issue has to do with the business model with hardware devices like this. IE: A one time hardware purchase that needs to fund all further software updates etc. and the reliance on continually selling new hardware to stay in business.

Then there was the issue of needing to learn another dev stack to write applications with it vs the Apple or Google offerings that leverage Android and IOS development skills. Right now the largest market in the space is with simple devices such as fitness trackers. The disappointing thing is that Fitbit isn't as open with their bluetooth stack/Gatt profiles, but that's another discussion.

valine 1 day ago 0 replies      
Citizen buying pebble would have been so incredibly awesome. This is about the worst possible ending imaginable for pebble. Sad day.
627467 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm still interested in getting a Time Round and/or Time Steel.

I love my Pebble Time, and the best features I use it for do required any cloud support: alarm, watchfaces, music control (to fast rewind/forward when listening to podcasts while on bike), I mostly switch-off notifications, but even those, I believe, won't require cloud support.

pfooti 22 hours ago 2 replies      
Well, this sucks. I really don't want a fitbit - I like the pebble formfactor and legit use it as a notifier. If I wanted a fitness tracker, I'd get a $15 pedometer.

I backed and received a pebble2 to replace my pebble1. (as a Under some circumstances, I'd be fine just ignoring the acquisition and continuing to use my p2. The real problem is when the pebble integrations stop working. If that happens in a few months, I'm not going to be particularly happy.

I get that kickstarter is a gamble, as is buying products from marginal manufacturers. But the pebble really is a product that doesn't seem to exist anywhere else. Can anyone recommend a wearable that:

1) displays full notifications (email, text, etc)

2) handles navigation turn-by-turn directions

3) controls my music stream

4) lasts for a week+ on one charge

5) works on android (or better, is platform agnostic)

Leszek 1 day ago 1 reply      
Very disappointing for this backer that the Time 2 will never come out. It makes you wonder where the kickstarter money went.
dragonwriter 22 hours ago 1 reply      
"Warranty support is no longer available" -- if items were purchased with a warranty, isn't that straight up breach of contract, for which Pebble (well, Fitbit, which bought Pebble and thus inherits its liabilities) will be liable?
aikah 1 day ago 0 replies      
Still taking orders on kickstarter right now...


takeda 20 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm starting to think that perhaps kickstart (or another kickstart like service should be created) should only back projects that are open source (source code of software, designs of hardware etc.).

Right now, when people are backing projects it essentially comes down to store like behavior, where you essentially purchasing a product and are not even guaranteed to receive it. If kickstarted products would instead be open, community would own them, and many of them could continue to thrive.

Pebble seems like is a product that would be much more successful if it was open sourced.

jtruk 1 day ago 0 replies      
> Active Pebble watches will work normally for now. Functionality or service quality may be reduced down the road. We dont expect to release regular software updates or new Pebble features.

I hope they open source Pebble OS, maybe even the assets that drive the Pebble store.

cableshaft 1 day ago 1 reply      
I have a Pebble 2. I charged it last night. I have the Pebble Android app and I can't seem to get the two connected today. Is that because of this? Is there something on the backend that's required for notifications/sending already downloaded stuff from the app? I figured it did it all via the app on the client side, except the store.

If I can't even connect anymore, that's pretty screwed up, and I'm angry. If it just worked as it had before, just without the Pebble store or something, I can live with that.

Please just be some minor glitch. I'm very happy with the device as it was yesterday.

Anyone else having this problem?

gnicholas 23 hours ago 0 replies      
any idea how long before Fitbit can be expected to come out with a product that integrates some of Pebble's goodies? I have been waiting on a Time Steel 2 since June, but I don't want to wait another 12 months for the teams to integrate and a product to be released (and hope the first effort won't be a frankenwatch).

I guess I'll have to look into the Apple Watch againI didn't love it when I first tried it, but that was with the old OS and slow processor. Hope Fitbit can get something out the door before my Time Steel kicks the bucket!

imode 9 hours ago 0 replies      
in the words of Jason Scott...

"I can summarize this for you... uh...

..."FUCK"... and uh.. "YOU"."

another victim of "our incredible journey."

nepfvkej 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Yet again, open-source to the rescue.

Current pebble users should look into Gadgetbridge[1].

Wrist computer enthusiasts trying to avoid future bricks should seek out and support projects like AsteroidOS[2].



dkroy 1 day ago 0 replies      
Is there an alternative out there right now with comparable battery life and features? It looks like I won't be receiving my next pebble so I am looking for something similar.
headgasket 23 hours ago 2 replies      
I also blame Apple. When you are a 1T$ company, I think it's a social responsibility to not be ruthless in your pricing with small innovating competitors running on the midnight oil. It's a page out of MS playbook. I feel like a traitor for owning an apple watch. But at this rate, with their ipadification (dropped all ports off the mbp) and product lineup explosion, Apple is going where it was in the 90s anyway...
toxican 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm devastated. I remember being so excited when the first kickstarter happened, but I was broke and couldn't buy one. Then finally after years of waiting and following them with interest, my wife bought me a Pebble Time for our anniversary. That was 2 months ago and now the future of this amazing device on my arm is completely up in the air. And what is the alternative? Some over-priced, under-featured piece of garbage fitbit? No thanks.
linsomniac 1 day ago 0 replies      
Love the Pebble, so sad to see it go. I had one of the originals, and now have a Time Steel I love. Feel a little bit like they shot themselves in the foot because I'd have been willing to pay $200 for the watch, but there were tons of refurb ones for under $100 available, so that's the one my Fiance got me. I tried one of the Android watches, but hated it. The Pebble was soooo much better.
mattmaroon 1 day ago 0 replies      
I know how heartbreaking that must be for the founders, but at least they're going out the classy way. I'm sure we'll hear from them again.
afrancis 1 day ago 0 replies      
Love my Pebble. Has almost everything I wanted in a watch. Found it a pity that on the marketing front, Pebble never seemed to get top of mind (or anything near there). My current's watch's display is starting to shred. Debating buying a second watch while they are still available. Downloaded the SDK and will grab the tutorials. Hopefully Fitbit will keep this information around.
joshstrange 1 day ago 0 replies      
I have a first gen Apple Watch after having the Pebble Steel and I was very much considering going back to Pebble, this is very sad news.
dudisbrie 23 hours ago 0 replies      
What a great story from Kickstarter's most valuable player to a debt monster that make every of its loyal customer angry
jotjotzzz8 1 day ago 3 replies      
I'm curious why they didn't take the Citizen offer for $700+ million. And then that Intel offer, which is now a better deal than what Fitbit offered. There must be more to the story. I feel that the CEO bears the blame for letting this company down, could it be hubris? Can't wait to read more when this story comes out.
headgasket 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is so sad. I had the new time2 with the core on kickstarter. This would have been a truly innovative product, why oh why? I see on crunchbase they had only raised 15M-- so theres G$ available for a nth round of evernote or dropbox and not a few M$ to help these guys see it to market? This is a terrible day for innovation.
trapperkeeper79 1 day ago 1 reply      
The iFixit was very interesting. It has a freakin FPGA?? A comment said it was there to drive the e-ink display, while the MCU slept. Any confirmation on that? Also, what the heck was the smart strap supposed to be?

This is sad because I was just about to get a Pebble (had tried beefier watches but felt battery life was too limited).

jscheel 1 day ago 0 replies      
So, basically, there will be no way to load watchfaces or apps when their servers go down, and a lot of other things will also stop working. I've been a big advocate of Pebble for a long time. This is a great middle finger to all of us that have been with them from the beginning.
rdl 1 day ago 1 reply      
This is the most orderly shutdown of a hardware+services company I've seen. Congrats to Team Pebble for that.

It has to suck to end this way after 8 years. :(

I hope someone builds a product like Pebble Core; I'm not sure how generally viable that is, but I'd love to have it myself.

digi_owl 1 day ago 0 replies      
I can't help but wonder if the whole timeline thing overcomplicated the pebble platform. I for one lost a bit of interest in the whole thing once i learned they where heading in that direction with future products.
kingosticks 1 day ago 1 reply      
That's a real shame. The search for a small Spotify-enabled device continues.
merpnderp 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm sad I'm not getting my Time 2, but that is really awesome of them to refund my money from their Spring Kickstarter. They didn't have to do that, which is much appreciated.
JustSomeNobody 22 hours ago 0 replies      
I wanted that Pebble core. This is sad.

I sincerely hope all the Pebble employees are able to transition to other jobs with minimal impact to their lives. Good luck in your future endeavors!

bryanlarsen 1 day ago 1 reply      
Is there any way to get a Pebble 2 instead of a refund on my Time 2 pledge?
iblaine 22 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm not sure how to react to this news. I have 3 pebble watches and 2 of them are broken. If fitbit can fix the pebble quality problem then I may buy more.
reustle 1 day ago 1 reply      
For those curious, you can still buy the Pebble 2 online via BestBuy, Walmart, Amazon, etc.

Did the Pebble Time 2 ever get completed? Did anyone receive one? I was really looking forward to it...

gabrielcsapo 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Open source what should have originally been open sourced?
yalogin 1 day ago 0 replies      
I was looking at Pebble before but this shuts that down.

Coincidentally I noticed that the market for luxury watches has heated up ever since Apple Watch was released.

DiabloD3 1 day ago 3 replies      
But I thought Fitbit was exiting the wearable market?
ecesena 1 day ago 0 replies      
tl;dr: hardware won't be produced anymore (currently working hw will still work).

Software will work on fitbit. Details here: https://developer.pebble.com/blog/2016/12/06/developer-commu...

tokenizerrr 1 day ago 0 replies      
I actually had a Peddle around my wrist a few months ago, decided I didn't like it and sent it back. Really glad I did.
lucaspottersky 1 day ago 0 replies      

this sounds like "yeah, f*ck ya'all up, we are leaving this boat".

i guess that's what you get from "small startups".

djhworld 1 day ago 2 replies      
I've had my Pebble Time (1) for about 18 months now, sad to hear this.

No other smartwatch can boast 4-5 day battery life.

deegles 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Did Pebble employees have stock options? Is there any money left for them?
tezza 1 day ago 0 replies      
So do the existing hardware watches become collectors items or second draw fillers ?
ausjke 20 hours ago 0 replies      
what's the core reason, wearable is not as popular as it is thought to be? too early for the generic public? Apple iwatch competition? something else?
gerryk 1 day ago 0 replies      
Sad to see the failure of a truly alternative product.
sickbeard 1 day ago 2 replies      
What's the point of warranties and cloud services if you can just be like "oops, goodbye"? Can they be sued for this?
k2xl 1 day ago 1 reply      
I guess their latest Pebble version didn't get the sales they expected.

Definitely surprising that they weren't able to sell the company - they had the brand and a loyal customer base. As an owner of a Pebble Time, I was impressed by the integrations, simplicity of design, and battery life.

I wonder went wrong - hopefully, there will be some type of post-mortem on these "various factors" over the next few weeks.

delroekid 13 hours ago 0 replies      
damn.. i felt bad about this
distantsounds 1 day ago 0 replies      
"66,673 backers pledged $12,779,843 to help bring this project to life."


pwelch 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is sad to hear. It was a really cool product.
m4tthumphrey 1 day ago 0 replies      
Wow that didn't take long.
Yoga: A cross-platform layout engine facebook.com
420 points by emilsjolander  22 hours ago   150 comments top 32
yladiz 20 hours ago 9 replies      
One thing I've thought about recently is Facebook's Patent grants, and it's one thing that makes me uneasy about using any open source technology from Facebook like React (I currently do but am thinking to move to Preact because of the nicer MIT license and that it's analogous to React in many ways) because they're generally given a patent grant. I'm not a lawyer so I don't know if the grant would hold up in court since it's not actually in the license itself, only referenced in the readme but if I had a patent and Facebook infringed on it my license is terminated if I assert my patent rights against Facebook even if it is valid and doesn't pertain to specific React technologies. This has been discussed heavily in the past but suffice it to say it's pretty scary and bears thought.

This library looks very useful for those who use React Native or want a layout engine in C# or Java for their mobile app, but as someone who works in an industry (bio/chem engineering) who develops applications around tools in that industry and thinking that Facebook may one day enter that field, or even if we create a software patent for some idea we create while developing the tools, it makes me uneasy whenever a new Facebook open source project, especially one with the potential to become popular in a specific area of software development, is introduced.

Also, another thing to keep in mind is not every big company does this with their open source tech. For example, Angular and Visual Studio Code are both under MIT license.

tumult 17 hours ago 1 reply      
I made a similar library earlier this year. It builds as C or C++ and is only two files (MIT license): https://github.com/randrew/layout

The API is similar to Yoga. I hadn't seen Yoga before, and I'm surprised at how similar it is. It seems like Yoga is about the same age (or older?) than my Layout library.

It's meant to be easily embedded into existing software, such as game engines, OpenGL-based tools, custom GUI libraries, etc. without requiring its own complicated build system. Its API and layout engine seems to work in a way similar to Yoga, but it doesn't have pre-made bindings for any existing GUI toolkits. There is, however, an example binding for the Lua scripting language.

API comparison:


 YGNodeRef root = YGNodeNew(); YGNodeStyleSetWidth(root, 500); YGNodeStyleSetHeight(root, 120); YGNodeStyleSetFlexDirection(root, YGFlexDirectionRow); YGNodeRef image = YGNodeNew(); YGNodeStyleSetWidth(image, 80); YGNodeStyleSetMargin(image, YGEdgeEnd, 20); YGNodeInsertChild(root, image, 0);

 lay_context ctx; lay_init_context(&ctx); lay_id root = lay_item(&ctx); lay_set_size_xy(&ctx, root, 500, 120); lay_set_contain(&ctx, root, LAY_ROW); lay_id image = lay_item(&ctx); lay_set_size_xy(&ctx, image, 80, 0); lay_set_margins_ltrb(&ctx, image, 0, 0, 20, 0); lay_insert(&ctx, root, image);
The Layout library can handle laying out tens of thousands of items in a few microseconds, so I would expect Yoga to have similar performance. (Layout is meant to work stutter-free and waste-free with layouts that could be animated or changing every frame in a game engine.)

One major difference I noticed, though, is that Yoga seems to allocate for each individual node, whereas Layout uses a single resizable contiguous buffer. This is gives it pretty good CPU cache performance (writes are all in their own separate region of the buffer) and allows you to do complete rebuilds of the layout hierarchy without any heap allocations. It's nice if you have a dynamic layout and want to keep the layout calculations fast/cheap. It might be interesting to do benchmarks of the two libraries in different scenarios.

Are there any other libraries similar to Yoga and Layout?

unwind 7 hours ago 1 reply      
Cool to see Facebook release code in C! I clicked the "C" tag in the blog post, and this is the only post referencing C. Heh. Anyway, finally code from an Internet Giant in a language I care about enough to go and take a look at.

It seems ... smallish, which was a pleasant surprise. The core Yoga/ folder contains six files which is certainly fewer than I expected.

Didn't have time to do a full read-through, but one thing that I couldn't ignore is the use of a pointer-hiding typedef for the core layout node:

 typedef struct YGNode *YGNodeRef;
I'm really opposed to "hiding the asterisk" in C, since whether or not a thing is a pointer typically matters, and code becomes harder to read when you need to think about this more.

Even stranger, though, is that then most function protypes look like this:

 void YGNodeMarkDirty(const YGNodeRef node);
So, you have a function called "mark" which really sounds like a mutating, modifying, operation. But it's declared to take a constant node reference!

Peeking at the code, what it does boils down to:

 if (!node->isDirty) { node->isDirty = true; ... }
So it really is modifying, there's no trickery involved (like having node be a handle or indirect reference). It then recurses upwards through the chain of parent nodes, like you'd expect.

This works since the "const" here doesn't apply to the pointed-at object (it's distinct from the un-typedef:ed version "const struct YGNode * node"), it applies to the reference.

So the code jumps through these hoops and adds a const to the external interface, which doesn't matter, all it does is say "yeah, this function won't re-assign the reference variable to point at something else". Which, in my opinion, is not very useful information, as opposed to "this function doesn't write to the object you pass in" which you'd get with the non-asterisked version.

Can anyone shed some light on why one would do this?

BinaryIdiot 21 hours ago 13 replies      
I like the concept and the C# code is just hands down the best example out of all of them (yet another reason I miss coding in C#).

I'm curious though, will this be eventually ported to JavaScript? Yeah yeah I know "flexbox is already on the web!" but if you could write a layout in this fashion versus using style sheets then you could take it and directly apply it to any of your applications (even if you have to convert between languages the exact same setup is still there it's just a straight up conversion).

Overall cool idea and implementation. Curious to see where it goes from here.

amelius 20 hours ago 3 replies      
Okay, question: can it perform the following task elegantly?

Say, I build a declarative tree describing a layout, and I render it. Now I remove one item from the tree. Can the layout engine efficiently remove the item from the view, and... (now it comes) provide an animation for it? As in, the item slowly losing opacity, then the surrounding items moving closer together? (Or a different animation depending on settings).

Of course, the opposite should also be possible (i.e., inserting an item).

Implement this, and we're a step beyond CSS, because so far this has not been possible (elegantly) in CSS. I.e., remove the element from the DOM tree, and it is gone immediately (without the animation). And no amount of CSS can fix this.

RubenSandwich 21 hours ago 5 replies      
Yoga's layout API is very similar, if not a direct copy, of the web's Flexbox. Which funny enough means that we might get a chance to use Flexbox on the desktop before we can use it on the web. (I'm looking at you IE and your continuing partial support: http://caniuse.com/flexbox)
pcwalton 20 hours ago 2 replies      
Why not use parallelism? Parallel layout tends to be a major speed boost in our experience, and we have a parallel implementation of flexbox already. See Meyerovich 2010 [1] for the basic idea; you can adopt it to flexbox relatively easily.

Additionally, I'm a bit skeptical about the use of C here: this stuff tends to end up exposed to the user and security-sensitive.

[1]: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

adamnemecek 21 hours ago 5 replies      
Why not just embrace Cassowary (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassowary_(software)) aka the algorithm behind Cocoa's Auto Layout? Auto Layout isn't perfect but I think that it's fundamentally the API/UI that you are working with, the concepts are definitely at the right level of abstraction. Some sort of DSL could really solve this.

Flexbox could be implemented as a framework on top of this.

olalonde 19 hours ago 1 reply      
> Yoga also does not support styling properties that have no impact on layout, such as color or background properties.

Does that mean that Yoga is too low level to be used directly by application developers? Who's the intended audience?

rsp1984 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Is it just me or does anyone else also feel a bit left behind by this?

They say it has bindings for Android and yea, I can generate these Yoga objects in Java but how exactly would I integrate this with my Android view hierarchy? Do I need to use React for that? The documentation says exactly nothing about this.

What's the piece of information that I'm missing?

phn 21 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm especially happy to see the C in CSS go away.

Flexbox and the explicit inheritance used in react native makes styling so much nicer.

king_magic 20 hours ago 1 reply      
Very, very interesting - curious about whether the C# bit supports Xamarin on iOS and Android, or if the C# piece is just Windows-only (not super clear from the documentation).
jordanlev 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Curious how using this for a complete page layout "feels" to someone who's familiar with designing websites. Since flexbox is intended for 1-dimensional layout only (as opposed to the old-school display:table or the forthcoming Grid spec, which are intended for 2-dimensional layout), I wonder what they do to make it work well for the full page / screen layout (in terms of ease of coding, not the display algorithm itself).
m0llusk 17 hours ago 1 reply      
Yoga is also the new Lenovo laptop. Human languages need better support for namespaces.
mwcampbell 19 hours ago 0 replies      
I wonder why the new C implementation is faster on Android than the old Java implementation, even though the former comes with some overhead for JNI and the inability for the ART ahead-of-time compiler to do any cross-module optimziation between Java and native code. Is it because C has structs, which java still doesn't have?
skbohra123 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I wish they had chosen a different name, Yoga is too popular a name to be chosen for something like this.
bnycum 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Looks like a nice library, but maybe I'm missing one thing in the examples. In the examples they define an image and text views, but only in the iOS Obj-C example are they a native image or text view. How do you define the YogaNode to say be a TextBox in C#?
namuol 20 hours ago 0 replies      
I'd love to see this defined as a formal spec so it might be implemented in JS. Having access to raw layout calculations in React applications would solve the need to peek at the DOM all the time in so many cases.
shurcooL 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Is anyone thinking of creating a Go binding for this?
jgalloway___ 20 hours ago 2 replies      
I like Facebook creating platforms but it is unclear, at least to me, what the problem is they are trying to solve here.
WhitneyLand 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Is there a designer online to easily build these layouts? (not counting generic flex box tools)
omouse 20 hours ago 1 reply      
I wonder if this competes with Qt or GTK?
amelius 19 hours ago 1 reply      
What is the footprint of this library in bytes?

And is it light on dependencies?

polskibus 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Can i use this in react?
mrcheesy 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Static layouts are hardly "complex." The complexity comes from animating between different layout states, animating elements in a list, animating elements relative to other elements (e.g., parallax), animating element size changes, etc.

It seems confusing to me to have "layout" as a separate component rather than having it be tightly integrated with the rest of the UI framework.

andersonk 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Is this a more general-purpose, polyglot version of Vaadin?
miguelrochefort 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Why not use something like XAML instead? Much more readable and powerful.
tn13 19 hours ago 1 reply      
Using the name "Yoga" for your software is cultural appropriation. Facebook should not do it.

It is equivalent of naming a sports team Rednecks.

sickbeard 21 hours ago 3 replies      
Looks nice but the naming is wrong. We shouldn't expropriate well known names for tech solutions
crudbug 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Great work guys.

I think now we can start on CSS => Compiled Style Sheets. :)

abledon 19 hours ago 1 reply      
I really dislike how software is able to hijack meaning of nouns in our regular lives. To call a software 'Yoga' is so tasteless lol.
Chrome 55 uses 30% less memory than 54 prerender.cloud
383 points by jotto  4 days ago   217 comments top 26
ikeboy 4 days ago 6 replies      
Wow. My normal session now leaves me with around 8gb free out of 16, compared to 1-2gb free previously. Gmail is using less than 1GB again. I might even disable The Great Suspender, and stop killing tabs that use up lots of memory.

Whoever worked on this, you deserve a raise. QOL improvements for so many people.

dirkg 4 days ago 2 replies      
Chrome can't even begin to compare to Firefox when it comes to handling anything >10 tabs, which is I think what 99% of people max out at, so Chrome doesn't bother about the rest even though people have been begging for years.

- no multiple tab rows

- when you launch, it reloads every single tab vs loading only the active one (the only sane option), causing massive slowdown and network traffic

- as a result in Firefox you can have 100's of tabs, open the browser, work in a few and close, without affecting anything.

- Firefox had Tab groups, an awesome visual representation, before they made it optional due to everyone copying Chrome's limited feature set.

- Chrome still uses much more memory

- Firefox extensions are by design much more powerful. e.g. Session Manager. And things like Tree style tabs etc.

barnacs 4 days ago 3 replies      
Great news! A simple weather website, with about 1 MB worth of actual content (text, markup, images, layout) now only uses 250 MB of memory. And it only takes a few seconds to load on a 100Mbps+ connection whenever I click a menu item (that's with all ads and tracking blocked and most of the stuff already cached).

I'm sorry, I just don't see any reason to celebrate.

niij 4 days ago 6 replies      
They mentioned that weather.com crashed their website. Their website is always extremely slow for me as well. It's ridiculous how poorly designed their website can be for such a simple service.
ausjke 4 days ago 7 replies      
awesome news then, chrome really needs to improve memory usage, especially when I have lots of tabs open.

under firefox I normally had 120 tabs open all the time, and it's fine. with chrome, I dare not to exceed 60 tabs. chrome triggers heavy swap all the time still, which renders the system very sluggish.

Tempest1981 4 days ago 5 replies      
Any way to set the minimum tab width yet? Once I get 7+ tabs in a window, they're truncated to a useless width.
smegel 4 days ago 1 reply      
Also, if you are not yet using 64-bit Chrome, you really should. It is more stable and avoids internal "out of memory" errors individual tabs can sometimes return. Not the default Chrome for some reason!
dirkg 4 days ago 1 reply      
This is only for low memory devices. From the linked article -

"All the improvements discussed above reduce the Chrome 55 overall memory consumption by up to 35% on low-memory devices compared to Chrome 53. Other device segments will only benefit from the zone memory improvements."

hemancuso 4 days ago 2 replies      
Anyone have any perspective as to whether these gains will flow toElectron?
spacehacker 4 days ago 1 reply      
How does this compare to Firefox?
kfrzcode 4 days ago 1 reply      
For the layman web developer with little knowledge of browser internals, how does this compare to Firefox's memory usage?
tbrock 4 days ago 0 replies      
AWS Console went from 284 to < 150 but that was the only tab that broke 100mb. Not sure what all of you with 100s of 250mb+ tabs are doing.

Excited for electron + node to get this improvement.

amelius 4 days ago 1 reply      
This sounds too good to be true. Are there any downsides to this improvement?
edblarney 4 days ago 2 replies      
I'm still getting full white and black screens on Chrome 54.

It's 2016.

known 4 days ago 0 replies      
rjain15 4 days ago 1 reply      
More exciting news coming in Chrome 56 with complete optimization.. V8 can optimize the entirety of the JavaScript language. Can't wait for Christmas presents
desireco42 4 days ago 0 replies      
That is welcome change, I already switched to Opera and happy with it, but we really need a lot of choices always and that is why I welcome this change.
olegkikin 4 days ago 3 replies      
It also looks like the UI shrunk 30%, and there's no way to change it, except by changing the DPI of the whole OS.
leeoniya 4 days ago 0 replies      
from my testing, there's also a bit of a dip in js perf. maybe due to GC aggressiveness tweaks.
chrija 4 days ago 0 replies      
My own tests confirm these numbers.
bogomipz 4 days ago 1 reply      
I have a question - should the same also be true on the latest Chromium?
gf263 4 days ago 4 replies      
does this help the battery life in any way?
wfunction 4 days ago 1 reply      
[edit: removing comment as people made it unreadable anyway.]
RaitoBezarius 4 days ago 0 replies      
Typo in the title of the article linked : It's not Chome, it's Chrome.
agentgt 4 days ago 1 reply      
Nice... but why is it faster/memory is more important to me. I suppose I could look at the changelog but it would have been nice if the post guessed why.
piotrjurkiewicz 4 days ago 0 replies      
> heap snapshot87 KB85 KB3%

Are those really kilobytes? Not megabytes?

Google Trusted Contacts blog.google
404 points by eipipuz  2 days ago   292 comments top 55
natch 2 days ago 7 replies      
With regard to the cheerleaders saying there are no problems whatsoever with this feature:

1. The reason people raise concerns about Google, and less so about iOS, is that Google and Apple are in different businesses. Google is in the business of profiting off your personal data and that of your family members. Apple is not, and iOS makes it significantly harder for rogue apps to get access to personal data without the actual user's direct permission.

2. Google (Android) and Apple (iOS) place different priorities on security relative to other factors.

3. Many of the naysayers are raising issues that do not single out Android, however fair it may be to do so. There are some issues that remain the same beyond the specific platform. For example: this kind of app creates social pressure for people to be tracked by their family and show trust that they may not sincerely feel.

4. If you think they can "just" turn the feature off or "just" remove the trusted contacts when they feel uncomfortable, you are not thinking this through. These "trusted" contacts may be authority figures in the family and may be able to examine any settings done by the actual users.

5. If your kids are carrying a cell phone, it should probably be a secure phone, with strictly enforced app store policies, and with a secure OS that is not provided by a company with every incentive to gather and monetize personal and private information. Your kids do not deserve to be the targets of this kind of commercial activity. So even if you think the feature is good, it is tainted by the interests of the provider. But whether the feature is good or bad, Android is a bad way for children to get the feature.

cyberferret 2 days ago 9 replies      
I am guessing that the nay sayers to this app probably don't have young children. I have two sons (16 and 13) who are always out and about socialising with friends, or at sporting / musical activities. My older son gigs with his band late at nights, and let me tell you - as parents, my wife and I do not rest easy until we either pick him up or he gets dropped home.

Any app that lets us check on our kids' whereabouts quickly and effectively without taking them out of the zone (Have you ever tried to get a teenager to call to let you know "Hey everything is OK"??) is a blessing IMO.

An app like this would be restricted just between my wife and I, and our two boys. No more than that. No more is needed. We are an 'absolute trust' group and quite frankly, the idea that any of us would want to hide our locations from each other is simply not even a thing.

gpm 2 days ago 3 replies      
Used as intended this sounds like a great idea. However used by an abusive significant other or parent (even just an overbearing parent) it seems pretty scary. To mitigate the potential harm I would hope for two things

1. Make it hard/impossible to be forever telling your location to someone (it's unclear if that's what the feel unsafe mode does in the first place, or if it just broadcasts it once)

2. Make it easy to 'enter an alternate location' to tell the inquirer

mrgriscom 2 days ago 2 replies      
I can't believe the amount of effort invested in this more cumbersome, much more specific use case solution rather than just bringing back Latitude -- a fully functional product (and exactly the same under the hood) that existed 6 years ago.

I trust my trusted contacts -- let me share my location all the time. (No, some backwater tab in the G+ app does not count.)

hakanito 2 days ago 0 replies      
Coincidentally (or not), Facebook presented this as an upcoming Messenger feature today [1]

> If you can't find a friend and become worried about their safety, Messenger could one day let you send a request to see their location. A timer would begin on the friend's phone that gives them a chance to approve or deny the request. If the timer expires on its own, their location would be sent to you automatically.

[1] http://www.businessinsider.com/mark-zuckerberg-reviewed-cool...

kumarm 2 days ago 0 replies      
I am afraid most people are missing the target audience of this feature.

This is for people who live in unsafe areas and have trusted family member than they do want to watch over.

This is an app that should have been released in India immediately after Nirbhaya incident. For a Company thats supposed to move fast, Google definitely blew timing of launching such a feature.

robteix 2 days ago 2 replies      
> Invite a trusted friend to virtually walk you home if you feel unsafe

As a parent, I find this tremendously useful. This is specially important for people in certain countries where walking/driving home at night is realistically dangerous.

tatotato 2 days ago 3 replies      
An insinuation of this kind of tech is that if you aren't carrying a phone, you aren't safe.

I'm seeing in the comments that the level of trust in companies is higher than the trust in your government.

Both very sad things.

potatosoup 2 days ago 2 replies      
Useful feature, yes, but I see this as a license to track locations of more people at all times. Also see: Uber's recent "always track" update
keypress 2 days ago 0 replies      
Bad name. How about: "I'm here.", or "Where are you?". Trusted contacts sounds more like a FOAF vouch, or authenticated contact details app.
emilburzo 2 days ago 2 replies      
For anyone looking for a more privacy conscious version, I made Graticule[1] a few years ago.

Install the app, start beacon, send anonymous and platform independent link, done.

Optionally customize location technology (gps/network/passive) and beacon interval (from the default GPS/1 second).

No registration, no contacts, nothing else.

You choose when you're sharing your location and with whom.

Partially inspired by the old Google Latitude.

[1] https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.emilburzo....

quickben 2 days ago 1 reply      
This just promotes obsession and anxiety.
CoryG89 2 days ago 1 reply      
I tend to feel that this is more for parents who don't trust their kids, rather than those who do. Many parents will say, "My kids won't have a problem with this because we have trust in our family."

The truth is, if you trusted your kids, you wouldn't need the ability to obtain their exact location without having to ask for it. Parents who trust their kids will already know where their kids are supposed to be, or will just ask them.

On the other hand, I see no problem with the feature that allows you to request location and will automatically send location after a long non-response.

Of course, most kids (beyond a certain age) are going to occasionally go places their parents aren't comfortable with. This is a normal part of growing up and it shouldn't be impossible IMO. Even in particularly bad or dangerous cases, I would feel this calls for a normal punishment (maybe?). No TV, chores, etc. Not constant location tracking.

nexxer 2 days ago 0 replies      
Shrug, yet another product we cannot even try in Cyprus due to Location History being disabled country-wide, for some reason.
ocdtrekkie 2 days ago 2 replies      
It's always amazing to me how often Google takes something they... already had... renames it, and then announces it as a brand new thing. I used to use this six years ago, it was called Google Latitude.
waltkurtz 2 days ago 0 replies      
And now, Google injects itself directly within and throughout the level of trust some people only place in their parents or spouses.

It used to be that certain truths were only know between two people, but now for many, it will be those two people, and Google.

Even if it were any other company, the totality of awareness a single organization has, from childhood on up should give us some pause.

Microphones, accelerometers, cameras, GPS, and now annotated depth of relationship, instead of presumed depth inferred from ancillary metrics.

At this point it's getting a little strange.

With software and services these days, there's almost nothing people won't consume. It's as if people will eat everything in a package labeled as food, even if most of the contents are inedible.

More and more, it feels like people know they're eating fish hooks, but maybe they'll pass the foreign objects they've swallowed, before any fisherman tries to tug the line and set the hook.

But even if you or I don't buy in, when everybody else does, the outliers still get hooked and still lands in the boat, just by implicit association and proximity.

The stakes are raised ever higher with each beat of this game. It's like the quote from Apocalypse Now:

 Ah, man... The bullshit piled up so fast in Viet Nam, you needed wings to stay above it.

achikin 2 days ago 0 replies      
Thelma requests Elliots location and in five minutes can see that his last known location was...one block away from Julia's apartment ha-ha.
agumonkey 2 days ago 0 replies      
Google PI ;)

I very often wish for something similar, for instance when my mother is running a bit late in a park. I don't want to mess with her jogging or walk. But I'd like to be sure she's still fine.

Thing is, except for the current generation, smartphones are often silenced and forgotten in some pocket. So unless it's an invasive constant-on tracker .. it wouldn't work in my case.

reacharavindh 2 days ago 2 replies      
Should I think that it is coincidence that Uber wants 24/7 location data, FB wants it, and Now Google officially wants it.. Now, people like me who prefer to 'own' their digital lives, and not become part of this surveilled garden would be labeled as 'tinhat'.

Thanks but no thanks.

exhilaration 2 days ago 1 reply      
Heres how it works: Once you install the Android app, you can assign trusted status to your closest friends and family.

I've got an android phone but my wife has an iPhone, does that mean this is useless for us?

Edit, it's in the works:

If you're an iOS user, click here to get notified when the iOS app is available

themihai 2 days ago 0 replies      
>assign trusted status to your closest friends and family

Would be great if we wouldn't have to assign the "trusted" status to Google(or any other 3rd party) too in order to use the app.

XorNot 2 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting. Me and my SO use glympse to coordinate pickups, but we've been looking for a relatively low power consumption way to share location just generally.
kalkiYuga 1 day ago 0 replies      
If you have concerns you can always use this. I am planning to opensource this


wfunction 2 days ago 1 reply      
Is there any app that can send my location to a custom server of my own rather than Google's?
restuos 2 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if this would work for when I need to pick my kids up or some friend at the airport.

Basically tell them to wait inside while I share my location. Then have it alert them when I'm nearby so they can come out.

This would be really helpful for the airport situation, as I wouldn't even need to park.

gravypod 2 days ago 1 reply      

It sometimes escapes me how much power google holds over the internet. It's moments like this that rekindle my fear in the "Don't be Evil" slogan (or for that matter, the removal of said slogan).

imh 2 days ago 3 replies      
>Because Trusted Contacts works even if a phone is offline, Thelma requests Elliots location and in five minutes can see that his last known location was in the middle of the canyon.

The cynic in me thinks this whole use case is intended to normalize the idea of a company always knowing everywhere you go. See? Privacy is unsafe!

whyagaindavid 2 days ago 0 replies      
Such a live tracking service exists for openstreepmap based OSMAND already (with privacy)http://osmand.net/features?id=osmo-plugin
wfunction 2 days ago 0 replies      
The app isn't working for me. I keep pressing Continue on the welcome screens and after the 4th or 5th screen Continue stops doing anything. Same thing when I restart the app, etc... anyone have this problem?
etchalon 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's this just a Google version of Apple's "Find My Friends"?
rmc 2 days ago 0 replies      
What a great way for homophobic parents to keep track of their gay kids and make sure they aren't hanging out at that LGBT centre, or with any LGBT-friendly people!
koolba 2 days ago 0 replies      
Anyone want to take bets on how long until someone uses this to find his or her spouse's secret lover?

My money is going to be on "not very long".

imaginenore 2 days ago 0 replies      
Or you can install Cerberus on your family's smartphones, and have all kinds of useful features besides determining their location.
bhstahl 2 days ago 0 replies      
Want an app just like this for iOS, today? Try out https://goguardian.xyz
bigethan 2 days ago 0 replies      
Is talking about distrusting this service due to government intervention a violation of the "no politics" rule? What about if it's just a nosy parent?
ComodoHacker 2 days ago 0 replies      
>assign trusted status to your closest friends and family

OK Google, we got the whole point of this app.

Nevertheless, it's a useful feature and can help many.

symlinkk 2 days ago 1 reply      
How does it know your location when your phone is offline?
dayaz36 2 days ago 0 replies      
I already have an app like this that lets me share my location and everything with my loved ones. It's called text messaging
sathishmanohar 2 days ago 0 replies      
Dad has requested your location.

Your location will be auto shared in 4min 59seconds.

Loud Music Notification Not Audible

Son is in Strip Club. Thank you.

barnacs 2 days ago 0 replies      
- google now has one more reason to collect your location and associate it with the rest of your activities

- you are encouraged to use your phone even more, because doing so signals to your loved ones that you're ok. Using your phone pretty much means sharing even more data with google, watching their ads and buying stuff from their app store

It's a pure win. For google.

chirau 2 days ago 0 replies      
Reminds me of Google Latitude. Honestly, I prefer Latitude to this. This just smells of eternal tracking to me.
richartruddie 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is nice. Definitely in response to Facebooks Safety Check and it's great to see innovation that makes the world a better place. I wrote about this: http://richartruddie.blogspot.com/2016/12/facebook-google-sa...
jakebasile 2 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if Google Apps accounts can use this? I don't have an Android phone to find out.
matt_wulfeck 2 days ago 0 replies      
iOS allows me to request location access as well as permanently or temporarily share my location. It would be great to get a "last known location" coordinate, but this feature is still very useful.
tonyplee 2 days ago 1 reply      
How does it work when it is offline? Via SMS?
wineisfine 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is just an incident waiting to happen.
cfv 2 days ago 0 replies      
How far are we from being required to use a Google Buttplug in order to use gmail?
laktak 2 days ago 0 replies      
Just remember that Google will be your most trusted contact.
yersonperez 2 days ago 1 reply      
What's it?
mcs_ 2 days ago 0 replies      
I trust my contacts google. I don't trust your ideas.Got an idea... vote before implement. You ask us if we want the new feature looking at our data.

Just kidding. I like the idea.

peterhadlaw 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not even kidding, I was thinking about this EXACT application / functionality yesterday and was thinking about making it.
jonstewart 2 days ago 2 replies      
FTFY: Sometimes you just want to share your location with the Ad Sense team...
ap22213 2 days ago 1 reply      
Geez. Google is just getting carried away with this tracking stuff. It's like every day they release something new that seems to con people into letting Google track them.

I know advertising is a trillion dollar industry. But, you'd think that Google, of all companies, would be the ones to create real innovation and value without falling to the lowest common denominator.

castratikron 2 days ago 6 replies      
>When Elliot doesnt show up at the coffee shop, Thelma starts to worry. Because Trusted Contacts works even if a phone is offline, Thelma requests Elliots location and in five minutes can see that his last known location was in the middle of the canyon. Thelma calls the nearest ranger station, they send out a rescue party, and find Elliot in a few hours.

Yeah because that has totally been a problem I've been needing a solution for.

shade23 2 days ago 4 replies      
This is not good. This basically gives a public opening into massive amounts of data which they could legally collect till now but now use it as a product? What happens when people disable location access.

And this:

>But if youre unable to respond within a reasonable timeframe, your location is shared automatically and your loved ones can determine the best way to help you out.

This does not seem like consent.I can think of at least a 100 situations where I was not near my phone and yet do not want to send my location.

Moreover how is this different from messaging someone/calling someone to ask them where they are?The only time I am trying to reach a person and cannot reach them is when they are out of coverage range.At that time, no app would make a difference.

This is nice when its a part of other apps (Whatsapp,Uber etc) .On its own, location based information as being the only purpose can prove to be quite disastrous.

Edit 1:People seem to miss the intricacies of human relationships here.I'd like to see folks tell their parents/loved ones/other close beings how they do not want to add "trusted contacts" and share their location continuously.

Facebooks Walled Wonderland Is Inherently Incompatible with News mondaynote.com
367 points by drallison  3 days ago   228 comments top 24
andrewvijay 3 days ago 10 replies      
> We are not in the business of picking which issues the world should read about. We are in the business of connecting people and ideasand matching people with the stories they find most meaningful. Our integrity depends on being inclusive of all perspectives and view points, and using ranking to connect people with the stories and sources they find the most meaningful and engaging.

Simply incredible. They are asserting themselves only as a business and not emotional influencers. The emotional influences that facebook brings in people is very powerful. I have seen so many of my friends just vanishing from my feed and almost all of my feed is filled with a couple of pages that I see/interact often. The bubbles are getting incredibly smaller that its very worrying.

A very good example that I saw is the `demonetisation of higher denominations` in India. I was shocked to see the amount of ignorance my close friends showed on how the poor people of our country were left to suffer. So many never read any sort of arguments against the govt's move. They read only pro posts. They were quite visibly upset when being told about how 70+ people have died because of this and all that. I saw a bubble being burst with my own eyes. When there is no way to argue then its not a democracy at all. It favors fanatics because hate/fear spreads faster than love/acceptance.

Facebook simply kills democracy for their own benefit.

bionsuba 3 days ago 0 replies      
Hideo Kojima keeps getting proved right:

 But in the current, digitized world, trivial information is accumulating every second. Preserved in all its triteness. Never fading, always accessible. The digital society furthers human flaws and selectively rewards development of convenient half-truths. You exercise your right to "freedom" and this is the result. All rhetoric to avoid conflict and protect each other from hurt. The untested truths spun by different interests continue to churn and accumulate in the sandbox of political correctness and value systems. Everyone withdraws into their own small gated community, afraid of a larger forum. They stay inside their little ponds, leaking whatever "truth" suits them into the growing cesspool of society at large. The different cardinal truths neither clash nor mesh. No one is invalidated, but nobody is right. Not even natural selection can take place here. The world is being engulfed in "truth."

NeutronBoy 3 days ago 1 reply      
Facebook censor news!

Facebook removes human censors

Facebook allow fake news on their platform!

One a serious note: Fake news is a different problem to news 'bubbles' designed to create positive emotions. Sure they're closely linked, but you can have either without the other. I read this article and it seems to switch between them both. I appreciate the viewpoint but I found it hard to follow.

DanielBMarkham 3 days ago 1 reply      
It's interesting when Zuck says that "...Weve gone from a world of isolated communities to one global community, and were all better off for it..." he's exactly wrong. FB has created much more stronger community segmentation.

Were you that weird guy in your village who believe aliens built the pyramids? Before, you'd have to interact with those villagers. They'd have to interact with you. Neither of you would like it, but they might be reminded to be more compassionate to others. You might be reminded that the vast majority of people think you're a nut. Both of these effects are socially worthwhile, yet unpleasant.

But not anymore. Now you can log into Facebook from the comfort of your house and instantly be in a community of ten thousand other people who think aliens built the pyramids. You can share videos, pictures, links, theories, and generally rant about how stupid most people are.

The villagers? Dude. You don't exist anymore. After a few years of that, most of the villagers probably wouldn't even believe people like you exist. After a decade or two the next generation would think of you as being sick, dangerous, and in need of societal intervention.

This is a really, really bad thing we're creating. Yes, you can make a cute and useful app that lets people communicate. But don't rationalize and bullshit your way into thinking that somehow you are changing the world. What you're doing is ignoring centuries of mankind learning how the species gets better over time in favor of making a few bucks with advertising. Dressing it up and trying to sell it like it's nirvana is evil.

herbst 3 days ago 5 replies      
This is just getting more stupid everday. Facebook is no and never was a news platform. It is a crappy social network and only reflects your inner friend circle.

Why anyone and especially facebook should care about fake news is beyond me.

twhb 3 days ago 1 reply      
Going on a tangent for a moment, please don't take it as a comment on Facebook, Facebook's culpability, what Facebook should do, etc.

Say we have a Facebook alternative X which implements no filter, makes no effort to garner views and shares (let's elide financials for now). Say X, like Facebook, has news published on it, which users may subscribe to and receive. Is it not true that most users will more often follow news sources they're interested in, effectively self-filtering? Is it not true that news sources are financially motivated to appeal to said users by self-filtering, or even manifesting as multiple brands with different biases?

And finally, say there's no X, and each news source has its own separate channel to its users - like websites or newspapers. Are both of the above effects not still true?

Back to Facebook, we need to figure out what a solution looks like before we tell Facebook which direction to turn.

moomin 3 days ago 1 reply      
The broader point is that this analysis applies not just to Facebook, but Twitter and Reddit as well. Engagement is a revenue driver and veracity isn't.

What's worse, the same applies to regular news as well as aggregators. It always has to a certain extent, but improving technology, changing social attitudes and razor-thin margins have weaponised this.

But we're not even finished there: the US and the UK are geographically sorting their populations by political affiliation. Want to see a political bubble? Look outside.

exwebtina 2 days ago 1 reply      
"Trump campaign made use of fake news" NPR tracked down one of them - Democrat. http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/11/23/503...
vivekd 2 days ago 1 reply      
To be fair, if an individual's primary source of news is facebook, it doesn't seem like such an individual would be all that informed about the world around them with or without facebook.
norea-armozel 1 hour ago 0 replies      
I think the biggest issue I have with fake/spun news isn't the election but the fact that many fake news articles are used as an excuse by those who believe them for their actions. For example, I've seen all kinds of people buy into the transgender women being sexual predators in public restrooms thing. And every time a spun or fake news article alluding to such shows up they just use it as a bludgeon to say, "see your kind are sick perverts that need help." What's worse is when it's a representative or some other government official that can submit legislation or regulation on such matters. I wish there was a legal obligation for all legislators to provide evidence for their suggested laws the same way police and DAs have to do the same for their actions. Maybe then this wouldn't be a concern for me but the fact that this isn't the case means either I or someone else like me has to constantly take the role as activist to talk these idiots out of the most insane laws they can cook up on such matters. Hell, the same happens to some extent with liberals who are scared of guns, looking for any excuse to submit total bans on firearms. Anyways, this is the real problem with fake/spun news and not the current excuse of Trump's win (dude won because he pulled a smart gamble on the Rust Belt, I just wish the DNC would admit it and move to fix their strategy there).
ivanhoe 3 days ago 3 replies      
How is this different from news sites? They also earn the most of money from advertisers and the main criteria for those advertisers are page views. We still completely lack a viable internet business model that would strongly encourage the quality and not quantity...
earthly10x 3 days ago 1 reply      
That's yet another reason why it's the next AOL.
794CD01 2 days ago 1 reply      
Another article that avoids talking about the root cause because it's too unpalatable. Blaming facebook is misguided. Free speech is inherently incompatible with news.
dpandey 3 days ago 1 reply      
A huge part of the story seems to be around confirmation bias (people like reading stuff that supports what they already believe).

While confirmation bias is a fact of life, reading fake stories to confirm your bias is not something that anybody wants to do, regardless of how irrational the bias is. Facebook obviously doesn't want to be seen as having influenced the election so they're unwilling to say anything that admits responsibility. But Zuckerberg has shown boldness and maturity as one of the best CEOs time and again, and I'd expect them to start filtering out fake news before the next presidential election. This is not an issue that's going to go away because it's going to get worse and it's going to get a lot more attention now that everyone knows about it.

A core part of Facebooks stand is that they don't want to be seen as taking editorial responsibility (they can't afford to). Part of the problem there is precisely defining 'fake news'. For example, if I am a conspiracy theorist and I write a blog about how NASA never landed a rover on Mars, should Facebook delete it? At what point does irrational writing turn to fake news? Anecdotally we know that the article that claimed an informer who reported on clintons emails was murdered was obviously false. Or that the pope didn't endorse trump. The key is to build a framework that allows a company like Facebook to flag these without being seen as editors.

It doesn't sound like a problem Facebook can't solve. And it has to. There's no escaping it now because political and public opinion are both going to pressure them. And it'd be unwise to ignore them.

UI wise, a clean way to do this might be to put a red banner on a corner of the article with the words 'possibly false'. So Facebook doesn't delete the article, but labels it and you can challenge it if you want. It's going to be hugely discouraging to fakers.

Super_Jambo 3 days ago 1 reply      
My personal view is that low regulation advertising is simply not compatible with Western Democracy. If you don't regulate away emotive and brand advertising you're corrupting all the systems that are supposed to regulate our societies (for brevity "advertising" refers to brand and emotive advertising in the below).

The basic idea of how information flows & control works in western market driven democratic republics:

People -> Government -> Markets <- People

The People Elect their Government. The Government controls the rules of "The Market". The People decide what they want in their day to day lives, demand it from actors in "The Market". Those who fulfill these needs are rewarded and copied. Information moves from consumers to market actors rapidly, this information is hard to fake.

This is very much how markets that don't have much advertising work, take rice, wheat, logistics. Success demands you provide a better product at lower cost. People can easily compare products so you _must_ compete on price, the companies get very efficient they make stuff people want cheaply.

What does advertising do to the above system? Firstly your market starts rewarding the best liars and cheats. Make cheap crappy sewing machines whilst buying out previously good sewing machine brands and running their name into the dirt? FANTASTIC! HUGE REWARD! DO MORE OF THIS. Make soft drinks of dubious health value but persuade people that their consumption is necessary to their social lives? FANTASTIC! HUGE REWARD!

If this wasn't bad enough the advertisers are able to give away entertainment and news content for free. Most people do not want to pay for things and aren't aware how subtle and pervasive the lies are. So most people lap this free information up, so now the advertisers hold the purse strings on every media channel out there. The advertisers control the people, the advertisers control the market.

Adverts -> Government -> Market <- Adverts.

The final negative impact is the huge swaths of people who are working incredibly hard at a net loss for society at large. People who aren't working making things other people want. People who are working at making other people want things they otherwise wouldn't. Wonder why we aren't working 15 hour weeks as predicted by Keynes? Blame all the people making adverts and everyone who's making content funded by those adverts.

Fake news & Facebook are the latest and worst examples of this corruption. But really it's just a symptom of the underlying disease. After we've perfected mechanization and economies of scale large profits require you fool people into making bad decisions. Doing this is lucrative and since our markets are evolutionary optimizing machines we are going to see it get worse unless we take action to stop it.

SuperPaintMan 3 days ago 0 replies      
Just as a curiosity, the feeds shown through FBs various channels are different. I've switched to the mobile site after using the dedicated app and noticed much less random things-tangentially-interesting in my feed but with more of a focus on my immediate friends. It's surprisingly made FB a much more enjoyable medium for me as I can keep tabs on the personal lives of a few close members in a fairly chronological view.

Anyone know possibly why there is these differences or can explain exactly what's going on here?

edblarney 3 days ago 0 replies      
I do not accept the author's premise that 'personalized curation' inherently implies 'false news'.
john_mac 3 days ago 0 replies      
There really is an alternative - crowd curated news by Virwire - https://virwire.com - bypasses the whole media bias thing with good old wisdom of the crowds. (shameless plug, I'm the developer)
rimantas 3 days ago 1 reply      
The urge to flag any post that has "Walled X" in it gets stronger every day.
hanso 2 days ago 0 replies      
Arguments occur to be weak. Some reasons are given, but cannot be said to appear to be complete. Verdict: arbitrary gossip.
tmptmp 3 days ago 2 replies      
I am not a fan of FB but it must be understood that FB is not a news agency.

Another thing to consider here is: FB may be wallgardened, but what about the mainstream news organizations that are sold out to various parties? (e.g. Saudi Islamists have many huge investments/shares in many mainstream news organizations)

Many mainstream news organizations are worse than FB when it comes to spread lies and propaganda in the name of news. We can already feel the influence of Saudi money in the US mainstream media. The mainstream US media is suppressing any criticism of Islam under the flimsy arguments like racism and islamophobia. This is already creating a suffocating atmosphere for true liberals.

A factor to note here is even though the mainstream news organizations claim that they are liberal and left-leaning, they act like barbaric people when it comes to Islam. I do not see any criticism of Islam (e.g. horrendous treatment of women, homosexuals in Islam) in the mainstream media. Not even the discussion of problematic aspects of Islamic scriptures has any place in the mainstream media.

Why should a common man trust the mainstream media news media?

Then you see that it's the social media (FB, whatsapp, twitter, reddit etc) that gives the people what they think is needed to be reported/argued/discussed.

e.g. FB (along with many other social media sites) has helped lot of people to learn the dangers posed by Islamism.

How and why someone as lowly as Trump got elected? This may be very complex topic to analyze as there are many contributing factors but one factor played very important role in his win is the "outright dishonest approach by mainstream news media towards the issue of dangers posed by Islam".

Sam Harris has put it quite aptly: Liberals failure to talk honestly about Islam is responsible for the rise of Trump [1]

I have learnt over the years to not trust many of the pseudo-liberal news organizations like NY times, Guardian etc. e.g. When Charlie Hebdo people were killed by the Islamists, most of these left-leaning pseudo-liberal news agencies were/are very much partial and acted like outright sold-out to Islamists (Saudi funders) when it comes to deal with news related to the vicious and barbaric aspects of Islam and various Islamic cultures.

We must also understand that it's finally the reader's responsibility to filter all news, whether it's from FB or from other established news agencies/organizations.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YCWf0tHy7M

Ygg2 3 days ago 1 reply      
I have a huge problem with this article. I don't think anything it says cannot be applied to people using Internet without Facebook or Google.

Internet is the filter bubble. Facebook is just its latest upgrade.

anabis 3 days ago 2 replies      
I think people are being unreasonably demanding of FaceBook.

Fake-news, I can see the problem.

However snobbishly trolling with risque art and historical pictures, and slamming FB because the overworked mods were not sophisticated enough to recognize them seems like bullying to me.

mozumder 3 days ago 3 replies      
Social media sites always end up turning toxic. The problem is that they give a voice to all the mindless idiots of society.

These people should never be given a voice. There is no justification for that. Voices should always be edited and filtered by higher powers.

The common opinion is worth nothing, since we already know what it is, so why repeat it?

Canadian journalist's detention at US border raises press freedom alarms nytimes.com
439 points by anigbrowl  5 days ago   241 comments top 30
jliptzin 5 days ago 20 replies      
Don't be fooled, Canadian border patrol proudly engages in this as well. I was recently driving across the border to Montreal on vacation when Canadian border agents, in addition to searching my car and personal belongings, demanded to see my cell phone and turn over the password. I simply asked why, since I didn't think I was doing anything suspicious, at which point the agent angrily responded "because I can and now I'm going to search it extra thoroughly." I asked what would happen if I didn't turn the password over and just went back home to the US, they told me they'd seize the device and put me in prison until they break into it. So, I gave the password, 3 agents took it in the back for 45 minutes, came back and questioned me about some texts I had with a friend from months ago who was talking about marijuana, and eventually let me pass to Canada. Hopefully they didn't hold on to all my personal data or install backdoors but just in case I wiped the phone and reinstalled from a backup.

In any case, this was extremely intrusive and I couldn't stop thinking about it the whole trip. I wondered what would happen if I had actually forgotten my phone password - just weeks before I changed from a 6 digit numeric code to a longer alphanumeric and almost forgot it since it had been a while since the last time I restarted my phone requiring password entry. I had a lot of very private photos and conversations on there with my SO. Definitely ruined my whole vacation.

Edit: Also, they didn't just stick to private photos and messages, they even opened up dating apps checking for messages there, opened up unread snap and kik messages too.

loceng 5 days ago 1 reply      
'Agents requested access to his phones and to look through his photos so that they could make sure he was not posing next to any dead bodies, he said. When he refused, citing the need to protect his sources as a journalist, they took the phones, he said.

The phones were later returned and showed signs that the SIM cards had been replaced, he said. Giving up the contents of his private phone would be akin to a doctor giving up confidential patient information, he said.

Im not going to open my phone for any other country, Mr. Ou, a New York Times contributor who was an intern for the news organization in 2010, said in a phone interview on Thursday from Nunavut, Canada. I cant be expected to do the same for the U.S.

Jason Givens, a United States Customs and Border Protection spokesman, declined to comment on Mr. Ous case, citing privacy laws.'


nostromo 5 days ago 13 replies      
I'm so embarrassed how America treats people entering the U.S.

It's the first experience foreigners have in our country, and we make it one of the worst experiences in the developed world.

Industries that benefit from tourism should lobby the Federal Government to improve the travel experience to, from, and within the US. I personally would fly at least a few more times a year if the TSA/CBP process treated people with urgency and dignity.

tristor 5 days ago 1 reply      
I work remotely and travel the world. I'm also a staunch privacy advocate. My mode for travel is to ensure any device I bring with me has a minimum of data on it, has full encryption, and is powered off before crossing any security boundary.

If the device is powered off it requires a complete pass phrase to decrypt and is not susceptible to cold boot attacks. Beyond that I will adamantly refuse to turn over my passwords to ANYONE, EVER. Anybody who has a legitimate need to bypass my authentication has the ability to do so without my passwords (ala SSO at work). If that ends up with me being unjustly imprisoned, I will fight that battle when it happens.

My findings though are there are two types of border agents that ask inanely stupid things like having you login to a device. The first are bullies on a power trip. These guys will make spurious claims and try to hold you to them, hopefully their supervisors are more reasonable or things go South fast.

The second type are wheedling opportunists. These guys will ask for unreasonable things as an opening to negotiate a large bribe or because they think you'll play along and let them display a power trip to their nearby cronies. If you're adamant and serious, they'll usually just not target you.

The fact this sort of behavior is becoming commonplace in the "more civilized" parts of the world is truly worrisome though. Corruption in most Western governments tends to be at the top, not officers taking bribes. That means this behavior has the full backing of the law (or at least some semblance) and you play a real risk of your entire life being ruined if you don't comply. Personally I still plan to refuse and not give in, but that's not a reasonable choice for most people in this situation. The whole thing is disgusting.

ericthor 5 days ago 0 replies      
Another case from 2013...

US Citizens, Phones stolen, detained without explanation, and officers refused to give names.

"OTM producer Sarah Abdurrahman, her family, and her friends were detained for hours by US Customs and Border Protection on their way home from Canada. Everyone being held was a US citizen, and no one received an explanation. Sarah tells the story of their detainment, and her difficulty getting any answers from one of the least transparent agencies in the country."

It's an audio podcasts, but there are transcript as well.


More on the subject.http://www.wnyc.org/story/on-the-media-2014-02-28/

leeoniya 5 days ago 2 replies      
"Keeping America safe and enforcing our nations laws in an increasingly digital world depends on our ability to lawfully examine all materials entering the U.S.,"

What does "lawfully" even mean in this context? It's one of those words used specifically to excuse legally questionable practices at best, and outright illegal or unethical behavior by people in positions of authority, like parallel construction and evidence suppression.

You can say we lawfully performed a civil forfieture. Or lawfully detained a suspect for 8 months.

NotSammyHagar 5 days ago 2 replies      
This appears to be a horrifying development. There has been similar treatment of journalists writing about Edward Snowden. I wish there was will to change our laws to restrict such searches, but it aint happening right now.
colmvp 5 days ago 3 replies      
I tried arguing this persons privacy yet I got highly downvoted on /r/canada, for points that I felt I couldn't refute, specifically that crossing a nations border is not a right but a privilege, and that most Western nations have similar POVs when it comes to the right for border officers to inspect laptops/phones.

I know that the ACLU and EFF have fought to defend Americans from having their laptops/phones inspected at the border, but I believe I read they haven't had much success in the legal system.

I still don't understand the rationale behind being able to inspect someones computer/mobile phone. Even in the case of say, possessing child pornography, I would assume most people are caught by tracked websites than random searches at the border?

Aloha 5 days ago 0 replies      
As an American, I find this extremely disconcerting. I've long been deeply bothered by the unlimited power the border patrol has, and the lack of transparency it shows when it takes action. Nor am I comfortable how far beyond the border these extended powers are claimed by CBP to exist either.

Frankly, entering the country should be a much more transparent process - and barring something I dont know, I see no reason why this journalist should have been denied entry, other than someone at the border got a hair up their ass about it.

sqeaky 5 days ago 1 reply      
I am deeply concerned for the state of my country people say stupid shit like this:

> Keeping America safe and enforcing our nations laws in an increasingly digital world depends on our ability to lawfully examine all materials entering the U.S., Mr. Givens said in a statement on Thursday.

People who say this fail to realize they are the threat.

yladiz 5 days ago 0 replies      
It doesn't mention in the article if he had a work visa, but I imagine he did if he was assigned by CBC to cover the event. It's pretty terrible that a journalist would be denied entry into a country that supposedly has high press freedom on an official assignment because the government (or maybe just the officer who denied him) doesn't like what's happening in Standing Rock. It's even stranger that 1) he is a well known Canadian journalist, so he's probably as low risk as someone could be, and 2) if this would have been a problem, I'm sure that CBC would have taken care of it ahead of time and made sure everything was in order, but it must be so routine for journalists to come from Canada that there wasn't any other necessary preparations besides getting the visa (which should be enough anyway...). We might not have "minders" while we're in the country, but it seems we now have them when entering.
buildbot 5 days ago 1 reply      
Given how everything in most phones is by default encrypted these days, I wonder how diffult I would be for someone like Apple to offer a border crossing mode that has whatever apps you deem acceptable, while firewalling off others in an undetectable way?
vijayp 5 days ago 1 reply      
If he actually flew out of YVR, he was probably in a us preclearance area -- us customs are located in some Canadian airports so flights can go directly into us domestic terminals.

Since those screenings are on Canadian territory, us agents do not have police powers or the right to detain people. They can deny entry but people can leave at any time unless they have violated Canadian law. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_border_preclea...)

If this was the case, he could have simply left the airport at any time.

TazeTSchnitzel 5 days ago 3 replies      
Interestingly, even US citizens aren't exempted from this. Constitutional rights seemingly don't apply at the border.
plg 5 days ago 2 replies      
Q: do customs agents (in either USA or Canada) have the right to ask for social network passwords, even if you don't cross with a device? e.g. Facebook? Gmail? what about Dropbox? I suppose you could try "I don't have an account on that" but what if they know you do?
spinlock 5 days ago 0 replies      
I'm sure the journalist would have used a burner phone if he were traveling to China or North Korea. He just needs to understand that the United States of America has a similar view of his human rights.
pasbesoin 5 days ago 0 replies      
OT but pertaining to increasing frictions at/across borders.

I'm in the U.S. Today -- for the first time in quite some time -- I went to the post office to mail a small box to an old friend in Belgium. Five paperback books and an inexpensive ceramic dish with a catchy/inspiring quote on it. $38 worth of gifts. Weighed in at 3 lbs, 10 oz.

I'm used to being able to mail something like that for, I don't know, $15 -$20. Maybe $25.

Today, the cheapest option they have for such a thing is "first class". $50. For less than four pounds, in a small cardboard box.

The postal clerk told me she herself has been shocked by the increases. The supposed explanation: "Security."

As I commented elsewhere, it's almost like they don't want us to have international family and friends, anymore.

kazinator 5 days ago 0 replies      
> questioned about whether he had seen anyone die.

"Why, yes; that 151 foot copper lady standing between New York and Jersey, what's'erface."

intro-b 5 days ago 0 replies      
search, interrogation, and intimidation are timeless and scary-effective ways of maintaining control of narratives and perspectives

the maintenance of physical borders is not only about the physicality of keeping people out, but ideas and expression, the conceptual border guard, too

huangc10 5 days ago 2 replies      
As a Canadian living in the US, I've had a lot of trouble with US Customs at both airports (YVR, YYZ) and border crossing (Vancouver, Niagara).

However, I don't deny that it is at times necessary for Customs officers to be more strict. I would rather the officers do their jobs correctly and prevent incidents (drug smuggling, terrorism etc.) from happening.

Although at times they do seem to be unnecessarily aggressive.

hysan 5 days ago 0 replies      
Having recently returned to the US after moving abroad 5 years ago, I was pretty shocked by how much more security there was in the airports. Not only that, the manner and air of the various security workers made it feel like everyone was a terrorist threat. I felt guilty when being checked even though I had nothing to be guilty of. Has the American populace really become used to this level of treatment like a frog slowly being boiled alive?

Compare this to the many countries I visited on vacation and while some, for example China, have similarly strict and high levels of security, none of them made me feel like I was some sort of terrorist. It makes me wonder what sort of training the security staff goes through. Are they taught to treat people like this? Or are people skills simply not a requirement for a job that requires talking to people all day?

nickthemagicman 5 days ago 0 replies      
Journalists should start publishing under anonymous public/private keys over VPN's and Tor...or something along those lines Satoshi style.

I have a feeling with all this ugly Nationalism starting to rear its head in the world, journalists publishing unpopular opinions towards the mainstream Zeitgeist are going to be vulnerable to witch hunts.

refurb 5 days ago 1 reply      
That wall of navet that I had about the freedom of the press in the U.S. kind of shattered at that moment.

Freedom of the press means reporters can publish whatever they like. The CBP isn't stopping him from doing that. It certainly doesn't mean that reporters are free from searches that the average citizen has to put up with.

fatdog 5 days ago 0 replies      
What kind of mobile filesystem wipers and SIM wipers are available?

I use Signal for txts, and while I believe it does not store plaintext txts on the SIM card (haven't analyzed it), SSDs strew cleartext data all over the place. Border guards using a disk imager like EnCase or something similar would get significant fragments of browser and communications history.

Key thing is if you have an iPhone, don't use TouchID, or as I call it, "Apple Bad Touch," because they can just hold you down and run your finger over it.

It's best to travel with a burner. Maybe we need a cyanogenmod image that includes a "duress key" like TC had, and old RSA tokens, but if there is anything on your phone that could be used against people you know, don't take it across borders.

neom 5 days ago 0 replies      
I clicked this expecting to read that they wanted to know if he was allowed to work there or that he needed some obscure work permit or something, however what unfolded is truly bizarre, especially the part about looking for photos with dead bodies. Tangentially: I've crossed the border from Canada to the US so many times, applied for multiple visas etc. Sometimes I feel like if the enforcement officers wonder that they themselves are ignorant of the law (I do imagine there is some complexity and nuance to approving crossings outside of the standard tourist or B1 visa) they go into random and long checks to figure out what they are supposed to do, but on the traveler side it feels like they're figuring out if you are doing the right thing (if that makes sense).
kakashi19 5 days ago 0 replies      
When you're entering the U.S. or Canada, you surrender your rights by default. The border agents can search all your belongings, including any of your digital device. At the border, less is more; bring less, tell less. Once they start digging, be prepared to answer a lot of questions.
negrit 5 days ago 0 replies      
Is there a truecrypt for iPhone?
debt 5 days ago 3 replies      
why would they tamper with or replace the sim cards?

seems like it'd be smarter these days to be more covert about your photojournalism career; might be smart to have a cover.

also standing rock is reaching a boiling point. it's obviously becoming a national security issue if they're stopping people at the border.

mzw_mzw 5 days ago 1 reply      
Disclaimer: US border control, including in this case, is in my view terrible, unjust, and counterproductive. That being said:

There's a weird "OMG A JOURNALIST WAS HASSLED!" angle to the story that, frankly, smells of aristocratic entitlement. Journalists aren't some superior class entitled to swan about the world freely while us filthy plebeians wait in line for toilet paper; at least in America, they're citizens with no more -- and no fewer -- rights than anyone else, and that's the way it should be. The First Amendment is for every citizen, not just those who've managed to get credentials with someone.

Indeed, anyone advocating a reduction to border search insanity is likely harming their cause by linking it to journalists in particular, since journalists are such a widely despised group. There's going to be a nonzero number of people who are going to hear about a journalist being given trouble at the border, even unjustly, and think "good," not "wow, that could happen to me."

How to Ship Side Projects andyjiang.com
410 points by nickfrost  1 day ago   107 comments top 29
Tarlen 1 day ago 4 replies      
I will agree with the strategy of separating your product into sub-products, and working on and releasing them one at a time. A single, well-executed feature is often better than many mediocre ones.

Especially as a solo founder (shameless plug: I run https://resend.io), I think this is the best way to both test your assumptions early, and to consistently ship improvements without spreading yourself too thin.

I've taken this approach as I set out to compete with companies with 100s of millions in funding and 100s of employees who had built out very feature rich and elaborate product platforms.

In my specific case, it went something like

1. build a shitty live chat plugin

2. make said shitty live chat plugin good

3. extend previously shitty live chat plugin with shitty automated messaging capabilities

4. make those shitty automated messaging capabilities good

5. and so on..

In between each step you should try and get people to use it, be shameless. You'll often be surprised that you can find users already at step 1, despite competitors already rocking well-established and mature solutions.

Doing this long enough (I have been going hard for 9 months), all of a sudden you'll fin