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Recruiters can't tell great programmers and flakes apart [comic] blog.codeboff.in
25 points by kranner 1 hour ago   7 comments top 4
5 points by wheaties 29 minutes ago 0 replies      
The problem is most recruiters have absolutely no idea how to judge a candidate so they come up with their own heuristics. It's much the same way that an accountant might measure lines of code for productivity. They can only go with what makes sense to them.
6 points by gte910h 1 hour ago 1 reply      
Considering the way recruiters are paid, I can understand that no matter how good this guy is, he is worthless to the recruiter to recommend him

Recruiters are paid based on salary of the guy and the fact he stays there for a certain period of time.

3 points by javery 25 minutes ago 2 replies      
If you are talking to recruiters you are doing it wrong 90% of the time.
2 points by acgourley 17 minutes ago 0 replies      
Assuming they could stomach doing it, how much money cold a technical person with good interviewing skills make as a head hunter? Perhaps after a year when they had time to build up a rep as being a good filter?
Wanna have zillions of google profiles? google.com
67 points by hazelnut 3 hours ago   21 comments top 12
10 points by avar 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Here's a Torrent with a tar.xz that contains all of them: http://v.nix.is/~leech/google-profiles.tar.xz.torrent

That's files sitemap-000 through sitemap-3278. They contain a total of 16,256,271 profile URLs.

12 points by acangiano 1 hour ago 0 replies      

    curl -O http://www.gstatic.com/s2/sitemaps/sitemap-[000-3278].txt
1 point by ptn 0 minutes ago 0 replies      
OK, I'll be that guy: what are we looking at here?
5 points by fdb 56 minutes ago 0 replies      
It's interesting that the profiles list the public followers and following stats. With some deep crawling, you could build a huge social graph from this data.
3 points by pierrefar 1 hour ago 1 reply      
The odd thing, is that getting a list of all profiles correctly doesn't wor. If you go to Google's robots.txt and scroll to the bottom to find the profiles sitemap is located at:


Which 404s.

Luckily, it's quite easy to reverse engineer. Start with:


and increment 000 till you 404. From quick testing, it's less than 3500 but more than 3200.

2 points by jpablo 43 minutes ago 0 replies      
This morning I started getting spam that used my real name on my gmail account. I wonder if this is connected.
2 points by andrewbadera 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Those profile lists aren't complete. For more discussion, see the Google Buzz list where, until the Buzz team released their own firehose, any of us who wanted a firehose had to build our own. Also noteworthy, it's easier to just download and parse those XML files -- why use a search engine for that to begin with when it's already aggregated for you?
2 points by DanielRibeiro 42 minutes ago 0 replies      
Twitter provides pretty much the same info through its api. Granted, it doesn't not disclose email.
2 points by Mark_B 1 hour ago 0 replies      
I wonder - what could be some non-evil things to do with easy access to all of this information?
3 points by deltaqueue 1 hour ago 0 replies      
sitemap-3278 is the upper limit, so there appear to be roughly 16.4 million profiles available. I would be interested to see how many of these have public information (name, address, etc.).
1 point by underdown 1 hour ago 2 replies      
I may be a little daft but how is this a big deal other than these files showing up in G's index?
Nature thinks we could safely wipe mosquitoes off the face of the earth. nature.com
12 points by eegilbert 58 minutes ago   5 comments top 3
1 point by Jun8 2 minutes ago 0 replies      
I have often thought the same thing. I have no "moral" or any qualms about this. If we have eradicated smallpox why not the mosquitos or the AIDS virus. However, let's not go too fast on this:

First, if you read the article, there's considerable disagreement among the scientists on what the effects of the disappearance of the mosquitos would be.

Second, fiddling with super-complex systems without having even a rough estimate of the possible effects may be disasterous. Typical example is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasive_species_in_Australia, where success is mixed.

3 points by toddh 10 minutes ago 0 replies      
What could possibly go wrong? We've done so well engineering complex ecosystems that there's certainly no possibility of unintended consequences. For a great example of success take a look at rabbits in Australia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbits_in_Australia) and perch in Lake Victoria (http://www.cichlid-forum.com/articles/lake_victoria_sick.php).
1 point by martingordon 17 minutes ago 2 replies      
You would think a site called "Nature" would provide a less human-centric point of view:
"The elimination of Anopheles would be very significant for mankind."

"A stronger argument for keeping mosquitoes might be found if they provide 'ecosystem services' — the benefits that humans derive from nature."

Just because we (might) have the means to eradicate them doesn't necessarily mean we should.

Though the article ends with a quote about how the niche could be filled by something better or worse, most of the article claims that the other organisms that would fill the niche would make things better. There is a pretty big possibility that things could become a lot worse (say, instead of spreading malaria, the replacements spread ebola).

User Interface Design Pattern Library endeca.com
11 points by tortilla 45 minutes ago   discuss
Apple the new world leader in software insecurity arstechnica.com
12 points by transburgh 1 hour ago   6 comments top 5
3 points by NathanKP 17 minutes ago 0 replies      
It is fortunate that Apple still has a small enough market share that they aren't being attacked as vigorously as Windows is. For now I still feel like my Mac is safer from viruses than the average Windows machine, but that security is definitely shaky if Apple gets a larger market share and starts attracting real attention from viruses and hackers.
2 points by antidaily 11 minutes ago 1 reply      
Many of Apple's flaws are not in its operating system, Mac OS X, but rather in software like Safari, QuickTime, and iTunes.
2 points by DuoSRX 3 minutes ago 0 replies      
The actual report (http://secunia.com/gfx/pdf/Secunia_Half_Year_Report_2010.pdf) is only about Windows computers. So it's about iTunes, Safari ... for Windows, not Mac OSX.

"In the first part of the report we look at the global picture covering all vulnerabilities in all products, followed by the analysis of vulnerabilities affecting the products and the operating system found on typical end-users PCs."

1 point by kaiuhl 7 minutes ago 0 replies      
Their report only analyzes the criticality of Windows-based exploits, and leaves Oracle and Apple bugs' severity undefined.

I can't find anywhere on Secunia's website that they make a big deal out of this though, so I'm going to chock it up to Arstechnica being sensationalist.

0 points by chaostheory 7 minutes ago 0 replies      
"Though this does not necessarily mean that Apple's software is the most insecure in practice—the report takes no consideration of the severity of the flaws"

Then what's the point?

I know your name, where you work, and live (Safari v4 & v5) jeremiahgrossman.blogspot.com
153 points by tptacek 9 hours ago   42 comments top 13
25 points by tptacek 9 hours ago 1 reply      
(Title sic).

Short summary: Safari autocompletes forms from your private address book, and can be tricked into doing that by Javascript events on form fields named in ways Safari would want to autocomplete; worse, once autocompleted, that data can be read out of the form by the same JS that triggered the event.

Long story short, if you browse to a site with Safari and you have autocomplete on, that site can slurp some stuff out of your address book.

3 points by roryokane 7 hours ago 1 reply      
The demo doesn’t work for me – it can’t detect my information at all. I’m using Safari Version 5.0 (6533.16), have the red-circled autofill setting enabled (and no other autofill settings), and have information about myself in my address book card.
5 points by macrael 9 hours ago 3 replies      
What do other browsers do differently to prevent this from being a problem?
2 points by mishmash 3 hours ago 2 replies      
While this exploit sounds like trouble, what's more disconcerting to me is that in mid-2010 Apple still doesn't have a functioning system in place to handle responsible disclosure.
3 points by caf 9 hours ago 0 replies      
It occurs to me that the reason it doesn't work for saved information that begins with a digit is probably to protect CC numbers / CVVs from a similar attack.
1 point by cubicle67 6 hours ago 2 replies      
completely unrelated - didtrade http://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=didtrade has been spamming HN for 21 days now, but they're still not banned?
1 point by loewenskind 7 hours ago 1 reply      
Since this is a problem in the JS handling (as mention in another comment in this thread, Safari isn't differentiating between keyboard entries that were generated from JS from ones that actually came from a keyboard), that's probably in Webkit itself and therefor fixable by the community, no?
1 point by izendejas 7 hours ago 0 replies      
This reminded me of Gator and their disingenuous practices.
1 point by retube 7 hours ago 2 replies      
> These fields are AutoFill’ed using data from the users personal record in the local operating system address book.

Sorry, maybe a stupid question, but can someone explain this? I had no idea my OS had an address book. Why does it have this? If it does, how do I put stuff in it? Or delete stuff in it? Is this just on mac, or windows and linux too?

1 point by mike-cardwell 5 hours ago 1 reply      
Has anyone actually confirmed this works yet? It doesn't look like it to me...
-4 points by orph 5 hours ago 0 replies      
TL;DR. I use Chrome these days.
-4 points by SeriousGuy 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Wow Ilove this stuf, I can already see Apple apologist lining up to show how this is "Just Works" or "magical Design" and how Chrome is evil since google is transffering data over their seceret wi-fi internet which fills the whole world.

I also see an idiot commenting about his mother in law, sadly theses people never understand concerns for privacy.

-4 points by SeriousGuy 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Wow Ilove this stuf, I can already see Apple apologist lining up to show how this is "Just Works" or "magical Design" and how Chrome is evil since google is transffering data over their seceret wi-fi internet which fills the whole world.

I also see an idiot commenting about his mother in law, sadly theses people never understand concerns for privacy since being apple fanboi they already have hardly anything to hide.

Why do location based services still suck for businesses? brianbreslin.com
11 points by jasonlbaptiste 1 hour ago   9 comments top 6
4 points by mechanical_fish 30 minutes ago 0 replies      
Because absolutely nobody wants to receive location-based spam? And at some level companies with location-based services understand this, and are therefore reluctant (consciously or unconsciously) to build a one-click location-based-spam generator?

The whole notion of location-based push messaging is inane. It reeks of something invented by a person who has never lived in a city, or thought hard about what a city means. In a city you are constantly surrounded by thousands of things and people in which, frankly, you are not interested. You are interested in your own little gang. A wise person once said that your city consists of a tribe of a few dozen people, living in the same space as a few hundred thousand other tribes.

If it weren't for my ability to selectively ignore 99.9% of what is happening within three blocks of here, I'd be insane.

On the long, prioritized list of factors that are likely to be predictive of what I want to see blinking on my phone at any given moment, I suspect that my current location is very, very far down.

1 point by jsm386 8 minutes ago 1 reply      
Seeing foursquare specifically, but all of the LBS companies, crawl toward offering something of value to both businesses and consumers was the inspiration for GroupTabs, which we're launching in a couple of weeks.

We looked at the popularity of group deals (ie Groupon and its hundred or so clones) and decided to wed checking in with group buying. So, if X number of people check in, everybody gets a group deal that they can redeem right that moment. I was planning on waiting until we launched to do a Show HN and ask for feedback, but after reading this post, I couldn't resist asking for feedback. I'd really love to hear it - you can find more info about what we're about to do @ http://press.grouptabs.com

Again, not trying to plug us, and was planning on waiting until we are live, but this discussion is just too relevant.

2 points by asmithmd1 1 hour ago 1 reply      
Brands have cash to spend and want to spend it with FourSquare but can't get FourSquare to call them back.


Just about everything a brand wants to do can be accomplished through the API. Traditional ad agencies can create websites, micro-sites, forums, etc; but don't know what to do with a raw API -- sounds like a little bit of an opportunity...

2 points by commandar 1 hour ago 1 reply      
SCVNGR seems to at least partially satisfy what he's wanting. From an end user perspective, I find SCVNGR a lot more interesting than Foursquare, too, but it doesn't have nearly the userbase.
1 point by minalecs 54 minutes ago 0 replies      
i always thought it was because both these companies are focused on traction and growing user base first. I think theres more money, in controlling the eco system, than allowing all kinds of junk to be put it into it.
1 point by sushrutbidwai 42 minutes ago 0 replies      
I think foursquare definitely will launch a location aware CRM tool soon enough. I will be surprised if they dont.
Court: Violating T.O.S Is Not a Crime, But Bypassing Technical Barriers Might Be eff.org
18 points by jaxc 2 hours ago   1 comment top
1 point by username3 17 minutes ago 0 replies      
Is violating TOS unethical? immoral? considered lying to something you agreed to?
9 Things You Should Be Doing With Your Server, But Probably Aren't roundhousesupport.com
10 points by luminousbit 1 hour ago   2 comments top 2
2 points by hopeless 8 minutes ago 0 replies      
This is a great reminder why I moved to Heroku ;-)

(the points re. backup and monitoring do still apply, but at least it's only for your app and not the whole server)

0 points by snitko 40 minutes ago 0 replies      
Nice checklist. I will use it sometime.
The Top Idea in Your Mind paulgraham.com
524 points by tarunkotia 20 hours ago   161 comments top 67
55 points by grellas 18 hours ago 3 replies      
There is a lesson here about lawsuits, which will drain you of both money and peace of mind all at the same time. Sometimes you can't turn the other cheek, much as you would like to do so, and have no choice but to fight. Having the guts to stand up for yourself (or for your company) is in itself a virtue and there are times when it is best not to walk away. Unless you are in such a spot, though, always consider that the engagement will cost you dearly in just the ways pointed out in this fine essay - it will consume your waking thoughts and may even pop up in your dreams (or nightmares) (and it will cost lots of money, enough to sink most startups as a matter of course). Therefore, when it comes to lawsuits, use your best judgment but always count the cost before proceeding.
86 points by michael_nielsen 19 hours ago replies      
A very closely related idea is that most people have a "ground state": an activity that they naturally gravitate toward when nothing else intervenes.

For many people, their ground state is shopping, or talking with friends, or watching tv. Nothing wrong with any of these.

For some people, their ground state is aimless coding, or writing, or drifting around some community (e.g., the community of actors, or musicians, etc). Again, nothing wrong with any of these, and they may be a useful way of learning, or having ideas.

But for a very small number of people their ground state is much more focused. I've known people whose ground state is writing papers about physics or mathematics. And it's simply unbelievable what such people can get done in a year. (Note, mind you, that very few professional physicists or mathematicians fall into this category.)

I haven't founded or worked at a startup. My observation-from-the-outside is that founders often have to take on many different tasks. And I wonder how difficult that must make it for any of them to become a ground state task.

41 points by nostrademons 18 hours ago 2 replies      
I suspect that one of the major reasons why big companies are incapable of innovating is that the top idea on most employees minds' is "What is my boss thinking about me?" Followed closely by "What are my coworkers thinking about me?" Social approval is a powerful motivator, particularly when that social approval is essential for your continued livelihood. Only the most self-confident (or delusional ;-)) people can completely ignore their boss's opinion and focus on innovating.

I suspect that at least some of Google's success has come from the hands-off culture of its management. You don't generally fear your manager's disapproval, since the bulk of your review comes from your peers. OTOH, you're still thinking about your coworkers' approval, and while it's a bit easier to ignore many people than it is to ignore one person, it's still hard. I suspect that one reason why startups can still out-innovate Google comes from an intense focus on their product, instead of being distracted by all the other perks, projects, and people at the Googleplex.

Similarly, scrappiness in a startup isn't just a matter of saving money. It's also a matter of avoiding distraction: when you're thinking about how awesome your life is, you aren't thinking about your product. You want enough perks so that employees don't have to have other things intrude on their consciousness (like where to buy lunch or what will happen to them when their COBRA benefits run out), but not so much that the perks distract from the project.

1 point by tmsh 15 minutes ago 0 replies      
I'd been thinking about a sort of related topic a week or so ago -- but I couldn't remember what it was until, ironically, sleeping last night, so I thought I'd relate my thoughts real quick.

It's my theory (and this essay does a good job articulating part of it) that the brain operates at different levels of 'connectedness'. By connectedness I mean the thresholds at the synapses that determine how many neurotransmitters 'make it' in communication with the nearby neurons. I was reading an AMA from a neuropsychologist on reddit, and she mentioned that on average each neuron is connected to 70 other neurons.

So that got me thinking: when you're sleeping, it seems like one makes connections so much more easily. And wouldn't that be because the thresholds are lowered and neurotransmission between neurons is increased? So if previously 40% of your neurotransmitters were making it across the synapse for the majority of the neurons at each node connection, perhaps that level were increased to 60% throughput when you're asleep.

This would come about via dopamine or other naturally occurring hormones and proteins (in addition to drugs, which have the real risk, of course, of causingyour brain to re-normalize levels) which bind to the chemical receptors and prevent reception (threreby lowering the throughput). Other hormones regulate these hormones and increase throughput.

So to make a long story short, if sleep is a natural adaption to vary 'throughput' in the brain's graph of neurons at night -- to ease visitation and solve things at a much faster, much more 'connected' rate. Then perhaps this is an evolved tool for problem solving.

Perhaps certain problems are better solved by traversing quickly through the graph, and perhaps even during the day, as dopamine and other things are constantly adjusting in the brain, perhaps we vary out global thresholds in the brain.

So when you take a shower, or take a walk, or do some other activity, you may be changing your thresholds by 2% -- and that may allow you to see certain connections that you wouldn't otherwise. Too much 'connectedness' and it's hard to make logical sense of anything. So for the most part these thresholds are really quite high (low connectedness).

But I wonder if it isn't a sort of a model for problem solving, with various different global parameters that affect the edges' connectedness. It's sort of like having different graph visitation algorithms and then changing the edges weights globally to try and rattle through different visitations or insights.

At any rate, this sort of dovetails with what PG was talking about (I remembered the connection initially because we'd both thought of different mental states in the shower) -- because anything that becomes the 'top idea in your mind' probably becomes a much bigger deal than we realize, because we are used to thinking that we only think with one level or global threshold parameter. But in reality when there are many levels, having a big idea in mind is being visitedmuch faster at night and in lower threshold / higher throughput times -- than we probably take for granted -- because, again, we presume that the only levelof connectedness that matters is the one when we are fully 'conscious' during the day.

18 points by sridharvembu 18 hours ago 1 reply      
This is great essay - pg's best in my opinion!

I call the thoughts my mind drifts to as the "background thread" in my CPU. And there are times when that background thread is very productive and enjoyable. Alas, there have are times when that thread is destructive - conflict, as pg mentions, is a very destructive background thread.

In general, I have found that the bad threads are much more persistent than good threads, which means that is is harder to get out of a bad thread than a good one. As an example, it is far easier to slip out of "How does this thing work" thread running in the back of my mind, but very hard to get out of "How unfair that ..." in that it takes a more conscious effort to get out of it.

I also would say that the difference between when I was 25 vs when I reached 40 is that I am now much more conscious of these threads. That awareness makes it somewhat easier to avoid bad threads (alas, not always). There is still a kind of thermodynamic efficiency involved, in that there is a maximum good-thread percentage.

As an aside, the spiritual philosopher Eckhart Tolle has many interesting things to say about these.

24 points by DTrejo 18 hours ago 2 replies      
Nassin Taleb calls this "glander."

Glander best describes the notion of lifting all inhibitions to “tinker intellectually in an undirected stochastic process aiming at capturing some idea that will enrich your corpus”. “Researching” or “thinking” smack of a top-down activity." More on Glander by Taleb: "It is an irony that the academy does not have a word for the process by which discovery works best –but slang does. I was trying to describe in a letter what I am currently doing: French would not let me. But argot lends itself very well... I am involved in an activity called “Glander”, more precisely “glandouiller”. It means “to idle”, though not “to be in a state of idleness” (it is an active verb). Gandouiller denotes enjoyment. The formal French word is “ne rien faire” (to do nothing), which misses on the active part –so do words that have a languishing connotation. Glander is what children without soccer moms do when they are out of school. It resembles flâner which has this perambulation part; though Glander does not have any strings attached. The Italians have farniente but it is really doing nothing. Even the Arabs do not have a verb for Glander: the construction takaslana from the Semitic root ksl denotes laziness (other words imply some inertia)."

Newton was a “glandeur”; In Dijksterhuis 2004:

George Spencer Brown has famously said about Sir Isaac Newton that “to arrive at the simplest truth, as Newton knew and practiced, requires years of contemplation. Not activity. Not reasoning. Not calculating. Not busy behavior of any kind. Not reading. Not talking. Not making an effort. Not thinking. Simply bearing in mind what it is that one needs to know.”

— Excerpt from The Black Swan

1 point by dfranke 21 minutes ago 0 replies      
I think most people have one top idea in their mind at any given time.

I'm not so sure this is true. It's true of me; it may be true of you; it's probably true of most HN readers. However, non-geeks who know me well enough to observe this of me think it's weird, which leads to me to think it's not true of people in general.

23 points by dangrossman 19 hours ago 5 replies      
I realized the ability of my unconscious mind to solve hard problems some time around high school. I made good use of it in college, especially in courses involving coming up with algorithms or proofs. I could rarely come up with a good solution consciously, but if I spent 30 minutes thinking about the problem right before bed, the next morning optimal answers would come easily.

I also formed a habit of driving at least an hour away to do regular shopping (groceries and such) on weekends. The long drive on the mostly empty highways let me daydream without distraction, kind of like a long shower. I made a lot of architectural decisions for my web apps while on those drives.

11 points by jazzychad 18 hours ago 1 reply      
I've called this type of thinking "subconscious thought" for years (thought "ambient thought" has a nice ring to it). This is exactly why I always have at least two current projects to work on. When I get stuck on some problem in one project and cannot solve it in a reasonable amount of time (depends on the project, could be 5 minutes, could be a day), I will force myself to stop working on it and do a full context switch to another project.

My subconscious mind grinds on the problem in the background without me having to exert any real effort thinking about it, until it finally finds a solution and raises an interrupt in my conscious mind.

This process has become so effective, that if I can spot a problem coming, I say to myself, "I should figure out how to solve X", and don't think about it. A few days later when I come back to it, as if by magic, I have a solution already starting to form.

This is the same phenomenon that causes you to wake up in the middle of the night with an answer to a question you were thinking about earlier in the day... usually, "who sings this blasted song?"

The brain is an amazing, complicated, wonderful thing.

7 points by JesseAldridge 16 hours ago 1 reply      
While changing your top thought directly may not be feasible, I think you can at least adjust the weights on various competing thoughts. For instance, my aunt is the president of a teacher's union and she recently recruited me to work on their website. She's paying me $25 an hour. I can feel the money pulling around my ankles like quicksand. It would be dangerously easy to get sucked into making web pages for the rest of my life. I tell my friends about the job and they say, "That's great!" and their respect for me increases palpably. I can tell they don't really understand startups and hacking and have been thinking of me as just being kind of a bum all this time.

But I tell myself: "This is not what I want to do with my life. I'm doing this as a favor to my aunt. I'm doing this on the side, just to make enough money to keep working on the stuff I really want to work on. That is my real focus, designing web-pages is not." And then when people say, "That's great!", I tell them the same stuff I told myself. I think saying the words out loud to others helps me convince myself on a deeper level.

So maybe by affirming your own values you can allow what you really want to be focused on to naturally rise above the petty stuff.

I also agree with disputes being a huge distraction. One guy I used to work with is extremely contrary by nature. He would argue with anything I said, seemingly out of habit more than anything else. After arguing with him, I would invariably find myself turning over the argument in my head and having a hard time focusing on work. Eventually I decided the guy was hurting me more than helping and that I needed to stop working with him. There were several other factors involved, but that was a big one.

One way to avoid disputes like that is to be single founder. Or at least seek out a co-founder who is agreeable. I watched an interview with Larry and Sergei the other day. They were asked, "What do you guys argue about?" and they seemed kind of stumped for a moment before one of them said, "We don't really disagree about much..."

This essay also helps explain the vague sense of frusteration and despair I feel whenever a friend wants to visit, or whenever I need to visit my family. Inevitably interpersonal relationships end up forcing their way to the top of my brain. Living a monk-like life of isolation is the best way I know of to focus on real problems.

Lastly, I think it is possible to do "ambient thinking" intentionally. Just sit or lie down somewhere comfortable (but not so comfortable you fall asleep), and do nothing for several minutes. Time passes amazingly slowly when you're doing nothing, so you don't need to worry about wasting time. Your mind will naturally start defragmenting itself and playing with various ideas -- at least mine does.

6 points by BrandonM 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I've recognized this phenomenon in myself in the last several years, but I never articulated it this well. I would just tell people that I had a "one-track mind," and that even though I find myself analyzing things a lot, it tends to gravitate towards whatever I happen to be working on most.

I have observed this several different times in my life: When I thought I was in (actually out of) love in high school, that was all I could think about, and I put out a ridiculous amount of poetry describing my "anguish". At various times I got caught up with different games: Everquest, Chess, Minesweeper, Battle for Wesnoth, Poker, and Chess again; at each point, I found myself spending all my leisure time on a single game, and all of my idle thoughts considering different opening sequences, or mine layouts, or starting hands: whatever was applicable to current "addiction". When I have been in relationships, I find that I tend to be consumed with not only the small disputes (as pg describes), but with things like "sweet" things I can do or say to make my s.o. happy -- thoughts tend to drift toward planning, anticipation, reconciliation, and any number of other difficult bits that are part of a serious relationship. At various points I have also found myself wrapped up in technical things like math, physics, computer science, and startups in general. And lately my top idea has been the nature of life, human relations, introspection, and psychedelics.

So for me, it basically seems to be whatever is currently consuming the majority of my consciously-used brain power. Some social problems are hard and require a lot of brain power to try to solve. The same goes for philosophical or cash flow problems. Of course, topics in math or science or engineering are most likely to take up this brain power, but for me at least, those are the things that I tend to procrastinate on the most.

So even though I find myself inclined to consume my top idea space with relevant technical stuff, I tend to nudge those out of my mind when I'm thinking consciously, instead focusing on more immediate topics (entertainment, socializing, paying bills). The worst part is that I know that if I'd only restructure my free time to actually work on worthwhile things, I would see my productivity increase many-fold due to the "Top Idea Effect". I'm really not sure what's stopping me from doing that.

9 points by ErrantX 17 hours ago 1 reply      
On the subject of dispute as a distraction; I've observed this almost every day for the last 4 years as a Wikipedia contributor.

You jump into article looking to improve them - add content, format, tweak, source and so on.

But within hours someone disputes the use of a word or the reliability of a source. Which usually gets sorted in a quick discussion - but often takes ages, drags in other editors and winds up with a month long discussion on various noticeboards and talk pages and edit wars on articles.

And you can see four or five of them start a week.

All over a single sentence. :)

So, yeh, I can relate a lot to what Newton was saying.

6 points by proee 17 hours ago 0 replies      
My background thoughts and ideas are usually based on what I really WANT to be doing, not what I SHOULD be doing (i.e. for my employer).

In fact, the basis for our startup came when I was focusing on the first, and ignoring the latter. The distraction to focus on the first became so strong that forming a startup was inevitable.

Now that I'm focused 100% on the startup, my thoughts are based on what I want to be doing AND what I should be doing - it's a great feeling!

12 points by photon_off 19 hours ago 0 replies      
I love reading these essays so much. There's something about the tone, perhaps because it's slightly playful and a bit pensive, that causes the curiosity at the core of the writing to become the unstated focal point. And for some reason, I find it more enjoyable to find meaning in things when they aren't explicitly written. Kind of like a special bond you have with someone, even a perfect stranger, when you're the only group of people to really "catch the drift".

I love the process of trying to figure things out that happens in these essays. Really, it's just great. Keep it up pg.

5 points by maxharris 13 hours ago 0 replies      
"Turning the other cheek turns out to have selfish advantages. Someone who does you an injury hurts you twice: first by the injury itself, and second by taking up your time afterward thinking about it. If you learn to ignore injuries you can at least avoid the second half. I've found I can to some extent avoid thinking about nasty things people have done to me by telling myself: this doesn't deserve space in my head. I'm always delighted to find I've forgotten the details of disputes, because that means I hadn't been thinking about them. My wife thinks I'm more forgiving than she is, but my motives are purely selfish."

This is brilliant, ethically (and practically - the two are never at odds in my view).

7 points by hugh3 19 hours ago 1 reply      
The effectiveness of thinking in the shower is why I hate shower curtains. If you have a proper transparent glass shower screen instead, you can write and draw on it as it steams up.

When I get my own place, this will be my first renovation: the ultimate thinking shower.

6 points by barmstrong 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Wow - this really resonated with me.

I have some investment properties and I've been realizing recently that even if they are decent investments, they have too often become the top idea in my mind when I didn't want them to be. This tax on my productivity and creativity could actually make them a net negative.

5 points by physcab 17 hours ago 0 replies      
This is exactly why you want a company culture like Zappos. If you work for a company like Zappos, you probably think less about things like disputes, medicare, salary, etc which means you can focus more on doing great work. I'm sure they aren't perfect but I've heard enough about Tony Heisch's philosophy about creating a great workplace to know employees are probably on average happier working there. Any Zappos employees here care to elaborate?
3 points by olliesaunders 16 hours ago 0 replies      
In response to the first footnote: I know it by the name intellectus, which apparently comes from Thomist Josef Pieper in his book "Leisure: The Basis of Culture". In it he says:

The middle Ages drew a distinction between the understanding as ratio and the understanding as intellectus. Ratio is the power of discursive, logical thought, of searching and of examination, of abstraction, of definition and drawing conclusions. Intellectus, on the other hand, is the name for the understanding insofar as it is the capacity of simplex intuitus, of that simple vision to which truth offers itself like a landscape to the eye. The faculty of mind, man's knowledge, is both these things in one, according to antiquity and the Middle Ages, simultaneously ratio and intellectus; and the process of knowing is the action of the two together. The mode of discursive thought is accompanied and impregnated by an effortless awareness, the contemplative vision of the intellectus, which is not active but passive, or rather receptive, the activity of the soul in which it conceives that which it sees.

13 points by b_emery 19 hours ago 0 replies      
I think this is why meditation can be so beneficial. With practice, you can take control of the thoughts going through your mind, eventually becoming quite good at it. Later on, say at work (or in the shower), you can then make the top thing on your to-do list the top idea in your mind.

Usually my top idea is a lot more fun to think about than all the other nonsense (conflicts, minutiae, etc) so that helps too.

1 point by nagrom 4 hours ago 0 replies      
"(I hear similar complaints from friends who are professors. Professors nowadays seem to have become professional fundraisers who do a little research on the side. It may be time to fix that.)"

There are too many words in that second sentence. I work in academia, and I know of very few professors who have any time to do research whatsoever. What's more, modern professors tend not be the people who were great at research - they're organisers, politicians and project managers.

I've often wondered about the similarities between a research leader and a start up founder, especially highly technical start ups. I have the greatest respect for anyone who can continue to write top quality advanced code and employ people, raise money, market and network. The individual tasks aren't so hard, but the combination is a killer.

1 point by alex1 1 hour ago 0 replies      
In the 9th paragraph:

"Try to get yourself into situations where the most urgent problems are ones you want think about."

Should be:

"Try to get yourself into situations where the most urgent problems are ones you want to think about."


3 points by euccastro 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Minor nitpick:

The reason this struck me so forcibly [...]

While "forcibly" isn't wrong here, if you mean "with force" (sin. poignantly) rather than "by force" (sin. inevitably) then "forcefully" is less ambiguous:



3 points by ashishbharthi 17 hours ago 0 replies      
I mostly juggle between what I call work thoughts and life thoughts. Work thoughts are strictly work related and life thoughts are buying house, paying mortgage, buying car, paying loan, planning vacations and the like. I am having this trouble only after I got married.

Does anybody having similar problem? Which ones should be your shower thoughts: work thoughts or life thoughts?

I think my problem could be resolved if I start taking shower twice a day!

2 points by Arun2009 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Jacques Hadamard gives an account of a similar phenomenon (a sudden flash of an idea) in Mathematics in his Psychology of invention in the Mathematical field (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Hadamard#On_creativity).

Also, very coincidentally, I have been reading up classical works on "proper conduct" in an attempt to do a spring cleaning of personal attitudes for pretty much the same reason as PG's - it just frees up a lot of mental energy. I'm currently doing a parallel reading of The Dhammapada and the Analects of Confucius. Earlier I read the Thirukkural (English translation, alas! - http://www.scribd.com/doc/20912297/Tirukkural-of-Tiruvalluva...).

If you or I rationally considered affairs and made up quotes ("'Tis easy to achieve an aim, if it be firmly kept in mind"), they wouldn't have the moral authority and rhetorical power they do coming from the world's classics. It just feels nice to work from ready-made axioms of conduct.

2 points by gfodor 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Great essay, and great writing.

This is why I shower twice a day. The morning shower is to boot the brain and for all the other things that showering is done for.

The second shower is simply to think, before the night's coding binge. Refreshed and with clear thoughts, I find that it provides a fresh start for the evening's challenges.

2 points by berryg 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Ap Dijksterhuis is a famous Dutch psychology professor and has written a lot about unconscious thought. He even has a Unconscious Lab, see: http://www.unconsciouslab.com/index.php?page=People&subp.... You can find a lot of links to scientific papers on this website. He is also the author of a Dutch bestselling book on unconscious thought "Het slimme onbewuste". Unfortunately it has not been translated in English.

In an article on the BBC website (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4723216.stm) he says:

"The take-home message is that when you have to make a decision, the first step should be to get all the information necessary for the decision. Once you have the information, you have to decide, and this is best done with conscious thought for simple decisions, but left to unconscious thought - to 'sleep on it' - when the decision is complex."

3 points by jiganti 16 hours ago 0 replies      
If anyone is interested in further reading on the subject of ideas and how to manipulate the "drifting" of them, I suggest reading "The DaVinci Method". A decent amount of research has been done correlating the tendency to be distracted with creativity, the rationale being that these people have less control over their thoughts.

Those with ADD/ADHD among other "disorders" tend to be more prone for an outside-the-box thought process.

Some things you can do to stimulate your Alpha brain waves, which give you adequate conditions for what Paul Graham calls "drifting" include walking barefoot on grass, and staring into the darkness while laying in bed before falling asleep.

I tend to have a lot of abstract thoughts, some brilliant and many more ridiculous, and I have benefited greatly from writing them all down in my phone. Translating them into english is extremely beneficial, and it's surprising how easy abstract thoughts are to forget. I would suggest this for anyone who is in any field requiring an ounce of creativity.

4 points by ddewey 19 hours ago 2 replies      
PG talks about the problem of having a top idea that he didn't want, something practical like making money or impractical like disputes, stealing his ambient-thought time.

I have the opposite problem: practical things that need some ambient thought to really get right (day-to-day work, money stuff) fall by the wayside, while things that I care about or find more interesting (like programming projects or relationships) take all the ambient time. Anyone else find this happening? Have coping strategies?

I guess I have a long way to go towards controlling my ambient thought. Maybe this is part of why I always had trouble "forcing myself" to study effectively?

2 points by mmaunder 11 hours ago 0 replies      
So true it'll be hard not to think about in the shower.
5 points by kenpratt 19 hours ago 0 replies      
This reminds me of the famous poem "Desiderata" by Max Ehrmann. Same sort of philosophy.


"Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit." is a good method of keeping overly dramatic interpersonal interactions from affecting your top idea.

2 points by covercash 18 hours ago 0 replies      
For me, water in general has a calming effect, letting my body relax and my mind wander. I can stand in the shower with water flowing over me and get lost in thought or I can float in a pool and not realize where time went. I find I have more technical thoughts in the shower and in the pool I tend to lean toward more creative ideas.
2 points by billswift 15 hours ago 0 replies      
page 119 - But Dijksterhuis's work also shows that our unconscious thought processes don't engage with a problem until we've clearly and consciously defined the problem. If we don't have a particular intellectual goal in mind, Dijksterhuis writes, "unconscious thought does not occur."

from Nicholas Carr's The Shallows.

My local library got a copy right after the review of it was posted on HN. It makes a really good case against too much browsing web pages or other hypertext.

2 points by euccastro 14 hours ago 0 replies      
[1] No doubt there are already names for this type of thinking, but I call it "ambient thought."

The metaphor I had for this is background process, stressing my suspicion that they hog precious mind resources even when you're not consciously pondering them.

1 point by sanj 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I refer to this as my "back brain processing".

I've had conversations where I tell people that I'll do the work that they want me to, but it will only be a fore-brain effort because I've got a much more interesting problem percolating.

And I try -- hard -- to avoid working for/with/on anything that doesn't engage the back brain.

1 point by tmsh 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Now that I think this phenomenon is very clearly articulated, I wonder if it isn't possible to have multiple 'top [ideas] in your mind' or 'ground states'.

It could be simply a matter of training your brain to have a strong stack for traversing the two or maybe three key areas or contexts that you're thinking about.

I.e., one solution is: make sure your top idea or ground state really is what you want. Another solution may be: train a better graph visitation algorithm.

However, trying to train one's unconscious may be sort of like quantum physics -- i.e., for lack of a better word: difficult. Perhaps you can just throw two or three main things you'd like to see happen into a collider, go to sleep or take a shower, and see what happens. But it may be possible to train yourself to think with very clear visitation between different contexts consciously, and actually have this process bubble down into the unconscious and take hold there too. I.e., hack your unconscious. Arguably it's the same sort of thing we do when we try to offload parallel processing onto a GPU or cloud (though in those cases the hardware is much more specific).

2 points by runT1ME 19 hours ago 3 replies      
Has PG matured an incredibly amount in the last few years? Honestly, I hated his writing before (which may be part of the point, incite controversy and get me to remember who he was and what he said), but lately I've thought his essays were very well done...

Am I alone in this trend? Did he just win me over because of time?

On this particular topic he's quite right that letting your mind drift, but also controlling the environment of that can lead to good things. I'm going to actively make an effort to try this from now on.

2 points by MJR 12 hours ago 0 replies      
This hit me like a ton of bricks. It makes so much sense now that this could easily be the grounding principle behind the common saying "Do what you love and the money will follow". If you're doing what you love, your thoughts are focused on that. When what you love is your top idea you have the focus to innovate, solve problems, etc.

If you're too worried about making money, you'll be too preoccupied with that to give any thought to other things. If you're too concerned with a specific outcome, you end up taking energy away from the actions that will ultimately drive any outcome at all. Focus on your top idea and the rest will follow. It's not always as simple as it sounds, but I think there's a lot of truth there.

2 points by danielharan 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Corollary: stop working so intently on the problem, and give yourself time to let your mind wander. Being a workaholic actually impedes creative ability.

No need to stay in the shower for hours. Go dance, swim, skate or climb a tree: anything but startup related work.

2 points by scottyallen 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I realized while in college that I did my best thinking in the shower/bath tub. But I always forgot my good ideas in the process of drying off/getting dressed, before I could write them down.

So I went out and bought an underwater slate (divers use them to communicate and record information underwater). It's probably 6"x9", made out of plastic, and has a pencil attached with a cord. I can jot down notes/sketches/doodles/whatever when I come up with an idea, and take the slate with me when I get out of the shower to record in a more permanent fashion. To erase, I just scrub it with a green scrubber sponge. I love it - it's paid for itself many times over.

I also tried bathtub crayons. They're good in that you have more surface area to write on, but they wash off more easily and it's not as convenient to permanently record whatever you wrote down (it's hard to take the shower wall with you when you get out).

1 point by thingsilearned 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Well written PG. I sent this to a lot of friends with whom I've had issues describing my tendency to ignore details, pointless worries, and simplify my surroundings and lifestyle.

I personally find that keeping schedules in my head is a particularly distracting practice. If kept in my head there's always something I'm afraid of forgetting and continually think over it in my mind to keep the thought fresh. When I use a calendar or have very consistent days my thinking is much clearer.

2 points by bootload 16 hours ago 0 replies      
"... If you learn to ignore injuries you can at least avoid the second half. I've found I can to some extent avoid thinking about nasty things people have done to me by telling myself: this doesn't deserve space in my head. ..."

Sage advice. It doesn't always work because you can't control what you think all the time but a good, "habit of mind".

1 point by statictype 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Playing Devil's Advocate: I would say that sometimes you have to bring unpleasant thoughts (like fund raising) into the top of your mind. Because if you don't do it now, then it becomes an even bigger problem later on.
1 point by ziadbc 19 hours ago 0 replies      
PG is a bona fide philosopher. Just as we had the epicureans and the stoics, and their houses, we now how the house of ycombinator. AFAIK PG doesn't necessarily want it to get cultish, but its not cultish if its based in reason. And based in reason it is. Articles like these are what makes yc more than just a group of people doling out money for good material ideas. Its a forum for thinking about philosophical ideas too. This makes it an idealistic culture, and thats pretty cool.

Background on sensate, ideational, and idealistic cultures.

1 point by c00p3r 4 hours ago 1 reply      
This is very big idea - life is shaped by our mind, but what is shaped our mind? (behavior, which influences mind through body because they're two sides of a coin)

But how to control the mind? There are tens of techniques, from caring a beeper to write a diary every night. You need some kind of exceptions, interruptions, to catch yourself sweeping away into day-dreams and to return to the concentraction on the proper subject.

Many people will disagree, but meditation technique offers very efficient solution, like returning to posture and breathing when mind starts to wander. It is not like you must convert to Buddhism, it is about understanding how the mind works.

So, it is just a mater of a regular practicing, which will develop a new habit of observing where your mind is wandering about, so you could make any corrections.

This technique works perfectly for most of stresses, anxiety and obsessive neuroses, so it could help to concentrate on a proper subjects also.

2 points by corysama 11 hours ago 0 replies      
A book that deals directly with the strengths and limitations of the unconscious reasoning pg is talking about is "Hare Brain Tortoise Mind".


I recommend it to everyone I know.

3 points by ztay 19 hours ago 0 replies      
A nice actionable insight, "You can't directly control where your thoughts drift. If you're controlling them, they're not drifting. But can control them indirectly, by controlling what situations you let yourself get into."
1 point by johngalt 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Sounds almost like Nietzsche on solitude. If you can't control your environment then you become a product of it. It's difficult to force yourself to NOT think about something. The brain is a very reactive piece of equipment.

If I said "Don't think about the hexagon on top of Saturn" how many of you would actually be able to avoid considering it?

1 point by shaunxcode 18 hours ago 0 replies      
For me I find if I DONT "steal" back the time to pursue the top idea I will perform poorly on what ever else I am trying to get done (contract work). So it is actually necessary to "procrastinate" and flesh the idea out - more often than not it ends up being something that has far greater worth than the "paying" contract work.
1 point by redsymbol 18 hours ago 2 replies      
(I hear similar complaints from friends who are professors. Professors nowadays seem to have become professional fundraisers who do a little research on the side. It may be time to fix that.)

Now there's a startup idea!

1 point by orionlogic 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I wonder why new essay didn't show up in the feed.

Its very true for me that i found creative solutions in shower to my hard thought problems. May be i need a water resistant pen to write on the shower cabinet (possibly there is one).

0 points by mmphosis 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Dreaming, a technique employed by Warriors to achieve a "dreaming body" or "Double". The technique requires the apprentice to see his hands in sleep dreaming. Once the hands are envisioned the dreaming process has begun. The "Double" or dreaming body is a metaphysical manifestation of the self that can be employed by the dreamer to do any number of tasks. Individuals within the realm of the Tonal (day-to-day conscience) would see the "Other" (also known as the "Double") as ordinary persons or as other metaphysical (see philosophy) beings. Seers, would see them as very bright luminous beings, brighter then their human luminous counterparts. As such the dreamer and the dreamed become one but not in the same place or time. Dreaming might be compared with experiences such as lucid dreaming. Through the art of "Dreaming" Naguals theoretically can shape shift into numerous forms including but not exclusively the following: coyotes, crows, and non animals.

Gazing is another form of "dreaming" and is a waking meditative state.

"I am going to teach you right here the first step to power. I am going to teach you how to set up dreaming. To set up dreaming means to have a concise and pragmatic control over the general situation of a dream, comparable to the control one has over any choice in the desert for instance, such as climbing up a hill or remaining in the shade of a water canyon. You must start by doing something very simple. Tonight in your dreams you must look at your hands. Don't think it's a joke. Dreaming is as serious as seeing or dying or any other thing in this awesome, mysterious world."

    DON JUAN MATUS, Journey to Ixtlan
2 points by dgudkov 17 hours ago 0 replies      
This topic confirms one more time that personal productivity strongly depends on capability to manage thoughts. While it's not possible to manage thoughts fully, at least there are some ways to influence the way of thinking. Successful high-performers (like PG) usually have found their own ways to do it.
2 points by yewweitan 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Thanks for this one Paul. After reading this I just had to draw this one - http://scrivle.com/2010/07/22/ideas-in-the-shower/
1 point by steveplace 13 hours ago 0 replies      
I always wanted to sell markers you could use in order to write ideas on shower tiles.
3 points by danielford 19 hours ago 0 replies      
I've been doing this for the last six months, and I didn't even realize it until now.

Thank you.

1 point by indrax 11 hours ago 0 replies      
1 point by eds 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Good essay, but paragraph six is redundant.
1 point by ajj 19 hours ago 0 replies      
"I knew it (in the shower) was a good time to have ideas. Now I'd go further: now I'd say it's hard to do a really good job on anything you don't think about in the shower."

This is so very true. It is incredibly hard to get myself motivated about things I do not think about in the shower. On the other hand, it is impossible to stop myself from working towards things I do think about.

Sometimes this is scary -- its almost as if I don't have any control over what I will be passionately pursuing.

1 point by moolave 13 hours ago 0 replies      
That is why they say, ask for something (your good idea for instance) then let it go. It happens when you least think about it.
1 point by dknight 10 hours ago 0 replies      
I had a similar realization recently. I was in the toilet and was preoccupied by thoughts about some trouble at the bank. Well I was having a host of issues and very less time to solve all of them. After having a turmoil for a few minutes, I told myself that I can take more and suddenly my mind was calm. My mind was no more centred around the issues and the topic had changed to something else.

I believe the process of thoughts is quite usual; but the process of meta-thoughts could be more powerful.

1 point by da5e 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Wow, this is such a simple, yet powerful, idea. It's one of those "why didn't I think of that" ones. Another good time to discover your real top idea is at 3 am when you wake up thinking about it.
1 point by bluethunder 10 hours ago 0 replies      
This is an awesome piece from PG. I have known/felt all of the stuff but was never able to articulate it as well.
1 point by m_myers 19 hours ago 2 replies      
That's funny; I'm almost sure I've read the same basic idea somewhere else within the past year or two, but I can't for the life of me remember where. I thought it was Joel on Software, but a little Googling didn't turn it up. Anyone else?
1 point by cammil 17 hours ago 0 replies      
This is a really good essay. Absolutely spot on.
1 point by sashthebash 16 hours ago 0 replies      
This is exactly why dating women is dangerous to your startup success ;).
-2 points by TotlolRon 17 hours ago 2 replies      
Brilliant observations weakened by a cultural biased conclusion.

> Turning the other cheek turns out to have selfish advantages.

It is only true if someones self is defined by the culture of turning the other cheek. There are other ways to define self and solve a dispute. For example:

And Samson said, "Let me die with the Philistines!"

That's also a valid selfish conclusion.

Ask HN: Would you play a distributed, programmable MMO?
29 points by vyrotek 1 hour ago   21 comments top 13
5 points by patio11 1 hour ago 3 replies      
I have participated in a few AI programming competitions (where the AI control simple programs, robots, ants, etc) and they generally turn into a few weeks of wonderful ideas followed by discovery of a degenerate case in the rules set.

(For example, in a beautiful simulation where a single program had to control a colony of ants who did not have any room for state other than a current instruction pointer and the input of their senses, someone successfully identified an algorithm to have each ant figure out which ant they were, and then execute a pre-planned sequence of moves to wall in the entire enemy base, faster than any non-degenerate program could possibly counteract it. It was beauty to behold but it also crushed the life out of the community -- the best ant has been crowned, everyone else gets to play for second best.

3 points by rdl 10 minutes ago 0 replies      
This sounds like Core Wars and Network Tierra combined, both from 15-25 years ago.

I would definitely play an MMO which let me script and didn't require my realtime involvement. EVE Online is like that for some of the gameplay already, but something where everything is through "agents" would be even better.

1 point by d0m 1 minute ago 0 replies      
What I would really like is a RTS (such as starcraft) that let me play realtime, but we my macro preconfigured. To explain a bit more, starcraft let you queue up actions.. (For instance, build this, then go take minerals). However, suppose there was a script language that you could use and use it in all your games.. For instance, this script could take care of scouting the opponent, queuing up workers automatically, etc etc. while you focus mainly on the high level strategy.
1 point by arethuza 13 minutes ago 0 replies      
I'd love to see a larger scale version of something like Defcon (http://www.introversion.co.uk/defcon/).

Closer to realtime too (rather than a huge multiple) - which would make close to 24x7 interaction necessary, requiring automation, teamwork, mobile device interfaces....

Damn - yet another project to think about :-)

Edit: I've just noticed that they are trying to encourage the development of nuclear war fighting bots within Defcon.

4 points by shabble 33 minutes ago 1 reply      
This is something I've been thinking about for a long time, albeit with ridiculous sets of features that are unlikely to ever be practical.

http://metavore.org/faff/Botlife.txt is the sketch of what I came up with there.

The main novel aspect would be that it is essentially an MMO, but there is no direct control ability; you can only upload new programs to your robots.

2 points by astrodust 42 minutes ago 0 replies      
I'd be interested in something like a "WoW for robots" where you navigate through some kind of world using an API and control your character and its interactions all automatically.

If you limit the number of API calls per minute to something reasonable, should be scalable, too.

1 point by Confusion 40 minutes ago 0 replies      

  You can't battle your Java AI against your C# or Python AI

In things like realtimebattle and the recent Google AI competition, you most certainly could. This is usually accomplished by routing all commands and their results via the command line.
1 point by Tichy 31 minutes ago 2 replies      
I think several games like that exist, of varying complexity. Sorry I don't have names ready :-(

I know WeeWar has an API, but that is probably not the kind of game you have in mind. I think you mean long running simulations with agents trying to survive.

There might even be one by Microsoft, not sure if they are language agnostic, though.

I think there is still room for interesting worlds of that kind.

2 points by primemod3 1 hour ago 1 reply      
Interesting idea. Final Fantasy 12 is my favorite game that allows you to "script" your characters' moves, but you're only ever fighting against the computer. Incorporating this into a programmable MMO seems like it could be very fun, and somewhat parallel to the way stock markets work with everyone using algorithms to compete against each other.
1 point by madhouse 54 minutes ago 0 replies      
I do not know whether something like this exists, but it certainly sounds fun - something I'd probably "waste" a lot of time on.
1 point by Mgccl 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Good idea.
I like games where the rules are simple, but the strategies can be complex.
Like chess. Are there bot vs bot chess games around?
1 point by d_mcgraw 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Second Life comes to mind, but its not exactly what you're describing here, but close being user created and all.
1 point by webgambit 37 minutes ago 0 replies      
I'd be up for giving it a shot.
Mary J Foley (Microsoft blogger) buys an iPad zdnet.com
4 points by Flemlord 25 minutes ago   1 comment top
1 point by jmount 9 minutes ago 0 replies      
Kind of sad that the blogger has no idea (not even some vapor ware hints) if there any interesting Windows 7 tablets on the horizon. Looks like Apple is getting almost a 2 year head start in this market (through no virtue of their own).
We're happier when busy but our instinct is for idleness bps-research-digest.blogspot.com
22 points by mhb 3 hours ago   8 comments top 4
3 points by sp332 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Ugh, what's with the "evolutionary vestige" and "instinctual idleness" crap? The lead researcher is a behavioral psychologist, not an evolutionary biologist. There's no basis for the conclusion that this behavior is genetic, let alone instinctive.
1 point by microcentury 43 minutes ago 0 replies      
This makes perfect intuitive sense to me and is reflected frequently in my life. I have a job where I can often get away with doing very little, but if I do that I feel bad (and it creates a negative spiral). If instead I engage and work hard, I feel much better, but it seems I am always batting a innate preference for inaction. Or just laziness :-)
2 points by amk 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I like the chocolate bar experiment. Even if the rewards were switched, more people would still opt for the "busy" option. That has very interesting implications:
At times, the reward really doesn't matter. It's the process which is important.
3 points by mhb 3 hours ago 3 replies      
Implications for user interface design?
Time-Lapse Twitter Visualization Shows America’s Moods mashable.com
8 points by joubert 1 hour ago   1 comment top
1 point by NathanKP 14 minutes ago 0 replies      
People in Florida seem to stay fairly happy, never actually reaching the red at any point during the day. Perhaps it is because there are more retired individuals, and less people in the workforce? It would be interesting to have more data about the cause of the moods, or how the mood analysis is done, what keywords were used, etc.
How to explain Singapore’s growth despite lack of stimulus? harvard.edu
7 points by pragmatic 1 hour ago   2 comments top 2
1 point by ugh 0 minutes ago 0 replies      
Contrast and compare.

USA: 310 Mio. (2010, est.);
Singapore: 5 Mio. (2009, est.)

USA: 10 Mio. km^2;
Singapore: 0.00071 km^2

Population density
USA: 32 per km^2;
Singapore: 7,022 per km^2

I don’t know how useful comparisons between countries of similar size are, never mind countries which are so radically different.

What would be interesting (though not necessarily conclusive) is data on growth, stagnation or contraction in single cities (with, say, a population bigger than one million) in the US and to then compare that data.

4 points by forinti 15 minutes ago 0 replies      
People will embrace any speck of evidence in order to validate their economic theories.

Cuba grew faster than the US in 2008. Should the US have embraced a centralized economy then?

Ask HN: Does reading HN ever make you feel like shit?
283 points by photon_off 10 hours ago   137 comments top 78
164 points by pg 9 hours ago replies      
You have to consider the number of users. HN now gets 60k unique visitors on weekdays. That's a decent sized stadium full of people. Of course they seem overwhelming collectively, but most individuals are only experts in a few areas.

If it makes you feel any better, my biggest worry about this site is the opposite: that the median awesomeness is decreasing as the number of users increases.

If you want to feel less overwhelmed, try reading the comments starting at the bottom of the page instead of the top.

88 points by neilk 8 hours ago 4 replies      
One of your problems is that you are judging yourself by your natural abilities. I think this a trap that a lot of smart people fall into, perhaps being used to being the kid who always gets the gold star. There are studies that show that children who are praised for being "smart" stop working hard, because that threatens their self-image. Children who are praised for working hard go on to greater successes.

But back to HN. Recall that people post here, in part, to feel good about themselves and appear smart to others. It may be that the real heroes are not here. They are off doing stuff, not yammering about it.

I've been lucky enough to meet a lot of successful web startup people (a different group from say, pg or other YC alumni). I can tell you that the only thing they have in common is that they Keep Doing Stuff. No matter what, Keep Doing Stuff. They often have very low tolerance for naysayers and armchair critics. This isn't so much iron determination (well it is, in part) but mostly because they are motivated by the intrinsic rewards of building and exploring. In other words: they are just trying to have fun.

Their initial prototypes are ugly and naive. They don't care because it does something they wanted. They use a language that others deride as a toy. They don't care because it gets the job done fast. At launch, the whole thing is held together with tinkertoys and chewing gum. They still don't care as long as it's making people happy. Then scaling problems happen. Then they hunker down and make even more spectacular mistakes.

And you know what? Then one day they look back on at all they've done, and the system is humming beautifully and they're experts in multiple fields. And O'Reilly starts bugging them to write a book about how they did it all so effortlessly.

Meanwhile those guys on HN are still whining about how it would have been so much better with a functional language and a NoSQL data store.


P.S. This is not an argument for doing anything sloppily. It's just that you have to be laser-focused on results. It's a paradox; you have to be capable of rolling out something of heart-breaking beauty but also have no concern for things that ultimately don't affect success. It's been my experience that the version 1.0 of anything really creative looks like a piece of junk. And it takes a very sharp eye to see that it's doing something new and important. I guess this is why not everybody is a successful investor.

30 points by patio11 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I would suggest competng with yourself rather than other people. I cannot write a fuzzer in C, have conversations in French, or buy a house with my petty cash. Many here can do these things. I can, however, totally paste the 25 year old me in web app programming, marketing, etc. Start pasting yesterday's you today.
26 points by lionhearted 7 hours ago 1 reply      
Good! This is a good thing! You're feeling sick to your stomach that you're not living up to your potential - good that you come here to post this. Most people fight this feeling down with distraction, intoxication, or otherwise tuning out.

You're doing something about it. This is fantastic. If you want, email me a reasonably short email and tell me what your goals and projects are, I'll recommend you some reading and give you some advice. Spend 5-10 minutes thinking about your core life goals before writing me, and feel free to put in a couple specific projects as well. I'd be happy to be of service, I admire people who confront themselves and reality.

I love when I get that sick to my stomach feeling, it means I'm about to do some great things. Don't fight it. Drop me a line if you like, my email is in my profile.

44 points by loganfrederick 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I sympathize with your feelings. Coming to HN can instantly humble anyone who previously believed (s)he is smart, talented, destined for greatness, etc. when you see what truly brilliant people are like. I know it gave me a good reality check and sense of my relative knowledge compared to all the potential things to learn.

But you've taken the wrong lessons out of it. Don't view it as a community of people better and smarter than you, see it as a wealth of knowledge like a library.

Don't view the people here as your competition. View them as people with something to teach you.

Intelligence is not a zero-sum game. No one will prevent your success because they are "smarter" than you. The more educated, energized, and ethical people in the world, the better for us all. Take what HN has to offer and apply it to what makes you happy and what will bring you fulfillment and success.

1 point by fragmede 12 minutes ago 0 replies      
1) You cared enough to mention WinXP and an IDE. Why bring this up, unless you realize there are alternatives. If it really bothers you that much, delete WinXP and your IDE, and jump into the deep end; install $BetterOS and learn $BetterEditor. (And spend the requisite time setting up $BetterEditor to do code-completion.)

Realize that it also doesn't really matter, as long as your code is good, you can code on Win98 for all I care.

2) In my mind, smart is worth zero. Motivation is everything. (And I'm telling myself that as much as I'm telling you.)

What are your ideas? Better yet, what are your ideas that you could do overnight? Do one a week! Realize that there's very much a survivor bias - you don't pause to consider the ideas that you never heard of that went anywhere because, well, you never heard of them.

It's frightening and inspirational, but take it as motivation to stop standing still!

3) Well done on a successful posting. You've written a navel-gazing AskHN post that got you 200+ karma. (Read: the community has given you a good amount of karma, a community-based metric of how much something belongs to said community, and it was for your thoughts (as opposed to posting the latest TechCrunch/Wired/Ars/etc post from the rss feed before someone else got to it).)

So you're working on a startup, and, despite your convictions that it's the right thing, the best thing to do, there's will always be an air of uncertainty. An unproven business plan, a failed-before business model, a different pricing structure, a questionably useful product; some question with no right answer. A competitor in a similar market is great! It validates some part of your startup. You should relish competition, from this crowd specifically, because it means YOUR idea is a GOOD one that someone else who isn't you has decided to pursue it in a serious fashion. (That said, leave my customers alone :p )


Yes, I do get overwhelmed occasionally that others are doing better than I, but that should be motivation to do better, do more. I frequently find myself thinking "Psh, that app is so lame, I could do better in my sleep." To which my retort is "Sure, but what did you do last night? Sleep? ...yeah".

Do the idea that you have floating around, write down what your MVP is, cut that down to a proof of concept that you could finish the engineering essence of in a day and do that. Stop feeling overwhelmed and get to work. Feel guilty for not working as hard as you could on everything, and work harder. While you're working harder, define your own tiny metric of initial success... If only one person visits, if only 1 persons reads this, if only. Be happy with what you have, but work hard to do even better.

11 points by gojomo 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I fear that what you're feeling is a dark side of the net's otherwise positive aspects. (It's not just HN.)

The net lets us see all the great output from the most talented writers, thinkers, doers of their fields -- including people who we could imagine to be our peer group. But what we see is not an accurate sample -- it's dominated by the most remarkable, outliers by both skill and luck. (That is, there's massive survivorship bias; see Taleb's Fooled by Randomness.) Still, if we choose to look, it's in our face every hour of every day, in our news feeds, our Twitter streams, our Facebook statuses.

(Compare also: the quality of social networks whereby for almost everyone, your friends will have more friends than you [1]; the Matthew Effect, whereby small changes in initial endowment of power/fame/success can compound [2]; and how viewing top athletes can actually decrease someone's coordination in following challenges [3].)

In the plant and insect world, sometimes as one organism thrives, it sends off chemical signals that suppress the growth of its siblings/peers/neighbors, in an effect called allelopathy.

Information about others' great works and successes, transmitted by the net, may sometimes serve as a sort of memetic negative allelopathy. The message is: this territory is taken; you can't reach the sunshine here; try another place/strategy (or even just wither so your distant relatives can thrive). This can be be the subtext even if that's not the conscious intent of those relaying the information. Indeed, the reports may be intended as motivational, and sometimes be, while at other times being discouraging.

What to do? Not yet certain, but awareness that this mechanism is in play may help. You can recognize that what you're reading is not representative, and that comparing yourself against prominent outliers -- or even worse, vague composites of outliers who are each the best in one dimension -- is unrealistic and mentally unhealthy.

Actual progress for yourself may require detaching from the firehose a bit, picking a narrower focus. (HN's eclectic topic matter can be inherently defocusing.)

And remind yourself that despite various reptilian-hindbrain impulses, most interesting creative activity today is far from zero-sum. The outliers can win, and you can win too (even if you don't achieve outlier-sized success). Their success can expand your options, and they may wind up being your collaborators (formally or informally by simply participating in a mutual superstructure) moreso than your 'competitors'.

[1] http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-scientific-fundament...

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_effect

[3] Can't find the reference at the moment, but the study I recall showed people video of a top soccer player, and subsequently they performed worse on tasks requiring physical coordination.

19 points by lsc 8 hours ago 0 replies      
you are 25. is this your first 'big pond' experience?

I mean, yeah, it's hard. When I was 20, I got an opportunity to work with some of the best people in my business. (I got the guy who hired me to write a preface to my book... In it, he calls me a 'dumbass kid' which pretty much sums up the situation.)

I did okay at the job until the company crashed (In about 2001, you see) as the pressure went up, I couldn't deal with it. I felt like I was not remotely qualified to work there, or really in the industry at all, and that I was the reason why the company was doing so poorly. I ended up quitting, and taking several months off to road trip. This, of course, ended when I ran out of money, and when I found that working at a coffee shop was more likely to require a degree, it seemed, than getting another SysAdmin gig. I ended up getting a job at a local ASP, and not doing any thing else notable until I started my own company a few years later.

In retrospect, I handled the situation all wrong. The company survived, and if I toughed it out, I would probably be another 3 years ahead in my career right now, and I'd be much closer to the incredibly awesome contacts I made there.

But, the point is, there are always going to be people who are better than you are, and if you can work around those people, do so. you will learn a lot. On the other hand, going from a small pond where you get to be the big fish to the big pond, where there will always be people with whom you simply will never be able to compete, is, well, quite an emotional shock.

If you are a healthy person, you will eventually come to accept and appreciate people who are better than you without getting the feeling that your ego just got kicked in the nads. On the other hand, if this is your first 'big pond' experience, the blow to the ego is very common and generally something that should be expected. You can get over it.

18 points by Zev 9 hours ago 2 replies      
Just remember, however many smart people there are on HN, there are just as many people who are very nice and more than willing to share what they know. And thats my favorite thing about HN; if I ever have a question about something (that I read here or otherwise), I know that I can come and ask and get an answer. If you ever have any questions about something you read, I'd strongly encourage you to ask it as well.

Or in general, really. Not just on HN. Learning and asking questions isn't something that should be scary.

As for your three points:

1. Those are three useful languages to know. Especially Javascript. Don't be so quick to put down what you do know; someone else will always know more than you. Good for them. Ask them a question, learn something from them.

My personal belief is that you have to like what you do to be good at it. And people like to talk about things they like. So, don't be surprised if someone is willing to talk to you about your question :)

2. I don't mean to be harsh, but it sounds like the only thing stopping you from having a bunch of neat ideas to show off is, well, you. It sounds like you've started a few ideas. Why not finish them up as well?

A very good friend of mine is fond of saying (something along the lines of): "If you pretend to be something long enough, you'll eventually find that you've become what you were pretending to be." If you have 80% done (or even 50%), thats a start. Keep going and you'll wind up with something to show for it. Then you'll find that you've turned into one of those people that you aspired to be like.

3. Everyone had to start somewhere. Some people started earlier and others later. Some people can pick certain things up quicker than others. Thats no reason to be so harsh on yourself. And not everyone is working on the same idea.

And even within the same idea, there's always going to be plenty of room for multiple companies. YC has funded companies in the same area before. There's hundreds of Twitter clients out there. Don't ever let "Well, someone else is doing this..." stop you.

4 points by jakevoytko 3 hours ago 1 reply      
I'm late to this party, so I'll give you two quick pointers: "You and Your Research" by Richard Hamming [0], and "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" [1]

Read both in their entirety.

You will gain a new perspective on those who make great achievements. They experience the same self-doubt you do! Feynman notes in dismay that other researchers at Los Alamos effortlessly solved problems mentally after he'd spend days working out the solution. He also mentions when he starts in academia, he was overwhelmed by an academic paper being discussed at a conference because he didn't understand it. Richard Hamming notes a few extra pressures, specifically the pressure to solve great problems instead of small problems, and how this pressure ruins your work

Both books have similar lessons. Feynman says it implicitly, and Hamming says it explicitly: Keep modern, work with others, understand the twists and turns of your field, think about the future, and solve the small problems. You can't force yourself to do great things, but you can stack the deck in your favor.

[0] http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~robins/YouAndYourResearch.html

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Surely-Feynman-Adventures-Curious-Char...

14 points by etherael 8 hours ago 1 reply      
On the contrary, no community I've ever known in my life has ever made me feel so empowered.

The "real world" is packed with people who will belittle and disregard your achievements and abilities, you will be told again and again that people like you will simply be replaced by counterparts in a third world country willing to do what you do for sixteen hours a day at five dollars per hour. This comes from fear and ignorance but is so universal amongst the general populace that you can start wondering if they might be onto something.

A community like this is concrete evidence that they are dead wrong; That what we do matters, and that it is not wrong to take pleasure and pride in it. It betrays the attempts to sideline the work and misdirect attention to the importance of politics and salesmanship, neither of which have any spoils to be arguing over or peddling respectively in the absence of the essential process of making wealth and not just money.

Most of all it makes me not hate the world like I used to, because it shows me what humans can be and not what they seem to be when I stand in a random room in meatspace and take a look around.

8 points by ahoyhere 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Psychological research studies have shown that if you tell a kid that he's "smart," he's less likely to take risks because he's afraid of not succeeding & losing the "smart" label.

Sounds like you're suffering the grown-up version of that. You're worried about the "smart" label and not the, say, persistence, hard-worker, stick-to-it label.

If you are interested in finishing something, I highly recommend read the posts on http://www.justfuckingship.com/ - you'll probably find them right up your alley.

Take heart, by the way. Finishing and shipping is a skill, like any other, you have to do it a lot to get good at it, but it's totally learnable. As is entrepreneurship.

Oh, and take all these people here as a challenge, not a reason. You aren't competing with them. You're the only person who will ever be "you." Let their accomplishments at being the best of who they can be inspire you to be the best of who you can be.

Sounds a little woo, but it works.

3 points by JunkDNA 4 hours ago 0 replies      
My work evenly splits between biomedicine and software development. I have spent lots of time around really smart scientists who were trying to do things like develop cures for cancer or new antibiotics. One of the things I learned early on in science is to get used to feeling like the dumbest guy in the room. There is a whole world of information out there and no one person knows it all. You just can't.

That said, what I learned over time was that the best way to make yourself smarter was to hang around people smarter and/or more experienced than you are. The hallmark of truly intelligent people is their ability to recognize they don't know everything. If you do this and you make an effort to learn and build your skills, some day you wake up and realize you are an "expert" in some area you have worked in for 10 years. 

I worked with a very talented programmer a lot early in my career. One time I was feeling down about ever being able to code like him. He looked at me and said, "You know, I wasn't born knowing this stuff." I hear his voice every time I get discouraged.

1 point by acangiano 1 hour ago 0 replies      
You are comparing yourself to the entire HN community: a young man against thousands of years of collective experience.

I suspect the reason why you do this is because you give your "talent" more value than you should.

You wrote this:

> HN shows me all these people and ideas that are succeeding. It used to be inspirational, but now it's frightening.

> I've always been told I'm a smart kid, and that I'll be a millionaire some day, and all of that shit.

You can snap out of it, but you need to change your mindset about intelligence, learning, and mastering a trade.

Please consider reading this essay of mine. I think it may be helpful: http://programmingzen.com/2010/07/04/the-pursuit-of-excellen...

12 points by loewenskind 7 hours ago 3 replies      
Do you ever watch Formula One? You know that guy who always finishes at the end of pack that everyone laughs at? He's the (~)20th fastest driver on this planet. Imagine how he feels.

EDIT: People are getting hung up on the specifics here, so let me expand a bit: If you are, say, the 20th best at anything then how you feel about yourself depends on where you look. If you only look forward you'll be thinking "good greif, there are NINETEEN people in front of me, I suck!". If you only look behind you'll think you're the greatest. Just look at all the billions behind you.

I think the key is a healthy combination of looking forward for motivation ("Just 19 more to go!") and behind for perspective.

1 point by chc 35 minutes ago 0 replies      
You make claims like "I am not even a tiny drop in the giant ocean of talent" and "I will never be as good," but that's just pure mental melodrama. The actual, real-world observation you've made is this: "There are people here who have done things that I haven't."

That's all. It's just about doing things. In many of these cases, you've chosen not to do these things. So you only really know three languages? Has somebody threatened to shoot you if you learn Ruby?

Most of your supposed "inferiority" is just the fact that they've chosen to do some work and you haven't.

4 points by RiderOfGiraffes 3 hours ago 0 replies      
I know squat about most things, but I know a lot about a few things. When I'm here I can comment on the things I know something about, and express confusion and willingness to learn about the others.

You're 25 - you can't know everything.

You can do some stuff - get on and do it.

You come here and find people who know more than you do - learn from them.

Don't be over-whelmed - everyone here has their weaknesses, it's just that you usually don't get to see them.

1 point by nazgulnarsil 16 minutes ago 0 replies      
don't make the mistake of conflating status with success. remember that status is zero-sum (other programmers succeeding is you failing) while the economy is positive sum (humans create wealth). There's room for all of us to win.
10 points by lkozma 7 hours ago 1 reply      
The gapingvoid comic line comes to mind: Never compare your inside to someone else's outside.
4 points by ibagrak 6 hours ago 0 replies      
If that's any consolation, you are not alone. I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about strategies for advancing past mediocrity. Here are some general principles that I apply regardless of your background and past accomplishments:

1) Learn by doing and trying, not by thinking. Aimless reflection and introspection are bottomless pits that can suck up enormous amount of time that could be put to far more productive uses. If you have a choice between reading a book on a programming language and going through a tutorial that forces you to try examples, go through the tutorial. Immediate, tactile learning is better than abstract success stories which paper over important ingredients for success.

2) Social networking is key. Grow by connecting yourself to communities of peers, mentors, gurus, etc that you can actually rely on and that you can benefit from. If HN is making you depressed, stop reading it. Instead establish meaningful professional and personal connections with people that are supportive. The value of your circle is often overlooked. I am a firm believer that the quality of the people you know is the great predictor of your overall happiness and achievement.

3) Focus on the things you need to know. The number of programming languages you know doesn't matter. It is a meaningless metric. What matters is how comfortable you are with the tools that help you get _your_ job done. This is related to point 1). Having mastery and proficiency of something that you use daily is far more important than having the breadth of knowledge and mastery of exotic languages.

4) Stack your skills. Time is short so the best way to advance is to leverage maximum of what you _already_ know. In other words, don't jump around and shift gears all the time. Think of a long term goal(s) and try to segment the path toward that goal such that you can (a) complete each segment without getting distracted, (b) get feedback after each segment (c) learn something in each segment that you can use in the next. It doesn't have to be one project. In fact it's better if a sequence of projects, so you can adjust your course along the way.

5) Don't stop. Giving up is an attractive option. Our society has many different ways to cushion your fall, which can make quitting tempting and virtually painless. If you want to achieve something, idleness is definitely _not ok_.

Update: edited for style and grammar.

4 points by revorad 6 hours ago 1 reply      
I used to think like that, especially when I hung out on LessWrong (http://lesswrong.com). Then I decided my aim in life is not to be the best at everything as an individual. My aim in life is to do great and useful things, on my own or with help from others.

Once I started seeing things in that way, it became really exciting to find so many people, much more intelligent and talented than me. I can learn from them, hire them, partner with them, work for them or even compete with them. I can leverage (for lack of a better word) their awesomeness in some way or the other for a goal higher than just personal achievements.

5 points by phaedrus 8 hours ago 3 replies      
I don't get that feeling from HN, but I get the exact feeling you describe when (trying to) read MathOverflow.com. For some reason the level of math being discussed there has quickly risen to such a rarefied atmosphere that I although go there out of interest and a desire to learn, I come away feeling I can't keep up.
5 points by robryan 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I get this to but I think sometimes we are getting overwhelmed by the collective knowledge of hacker news rather than individuals. Granted there are a lot of exceptionally talented people posting here but you will probably find that the really great technical comments are coming from people who spend a lot of time on what specific topic they are commenting on and would have areas your great at but they have little knowledge or experience.

Also there are people that have been in the area a lot longer, so me being 21 wasn't around programming during the late 90's tech bubble or before. They have had a lot more time to try a lot of different things.

It's good though to have the median above your own level, allowing you to learn but faster then if you were one of the smartest people here.

15 points by br41n 8 hours ago 0 replies      
That's EXACTLY how i feel, except i'm almost 29, live in an "undeveloped" country in eastern Europe with barely any opportunities and even though i'm the lone sysadmin of over 20 servers in one of the largest media groups around i feel like i suck badly compared to my peers.
So you're not alone :|
1 point by razerbeans 2 hours ago 0 replies      
This is similar to the very same issues that I struggle with from time to time. I have found, however, that the best way to counter such feelings is to change your mindset. While easier said than done, changing your mindset to a more positive one will do wonders while allowing you to accept the fact that, while you won't be the very best, you are indeed capable of getting close. It boils down to putting on metaphorical 'blinders'. Don't worry so much about what others are doing, but worry about what you're doing. Get passionate about what you do or a project that you are working on. If your projects or ideas consume your mind there's no place for worry.

I've also found that talking to others about your ideas that may not totally understand the tech world and explaining to them in terms they'll understand will help in boosting morale. Often times, people will see with fresh eyes what others (such as those of us here) would overlook otherwise.

2 points by chipsy 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I've only felt as overwhelmed by HN as any other point in life where I'm impressed at others. I recall being a kid and just starting to read, and reading a book of jokes, and wondering how in the world someone could possibly be clever enough to make all of those great jokes. Every other situation has basically been a repeat of that. So while I often get the feeling of "that idea is so simple, why didn't I think of it" or "I could have done something like that," more and more I recognize that it's just a matter of right place/right time to get the idea, to be motivated to take it seriously, and to execute on it.

Learning is easier than product creation, IMHO. A product involves an ongoing dialogue with a customer of some kind(even if it's free), while a skill is just something you have and can demonstrate every so often, so you can go at your own pace and not worry so much about "the guy at the other end."

The only thing bad about learning is when you hit a peak so high that you run out of other people at or above your level to talk with. It's an incredibly lonely feeling.

2 points by MikeMacMan 2 hours ago 0 replies      
You need to remember that people go through ups and downs in their lives. Some years, months, weeks are more productive and successful than others. Some people have all their success early and then struggle later in life. Others are late bloomers.

My point is this: don't get discouraged by all the great stuff you see on HN, thinking that you don't have your best years ahead of you. You can be as articulate, and insightful, and successful as many of the people you admire here.

6 points by thibaut_barrere 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Here's the fix: don't compare yourself to others - compare your today's self to your tomorrow's self (ie: grow your own abilites instead).

I really suggest reading "Nonviolent Communication" (http://www.amazon.com/Nonviolent-Communication-Language-Mars...), which gives a lot of insight on these topics.

1 point by JangoSteve 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I often see the same thing you do, but honestly it makes me feel better, not worse. Let me explain.

I've had a lot of successes (and failures) in my life. Some I've earned with a lot of hard work and failed attempts, and some just came from my "natural talent and ability" (that's a load of BS by the way). Can you guess which successes were far and away the most satisfying? Hint: it's the successes I had to kill myself trying to get.

Moral of the story? Don't ever feel bad when you recognize a difficult path lay in front of you. Don't feel bad when you see room for improvement in yourself. You have direction and purpose. And when you get there, the reward will be that much more satisfying for it.

You have a shot at success if you work hard for it. You have a shot at success and happiness if you work really hard for it.

2 points by macromicro 2 hours ago 1 reply      
The one thing I've learned doing this PhD is that progress IS other people. If you're the only one doing research on a topic, you'll never get anywhere. Similarly, if you launch an awesome website and nobody comes, you're in the same problem.

The wonderful thing about the hacker community and especially ycombinator is the openness and mutual support we offer each other. We create, and we create more with other people. And rather than fighting over what's there we just make more.

So your best bet is to identify your place and roll in this community. Understanding other facets of the R&D economy can only help you, but use this knowledge to figure out how you can contribute the most. The other people here are not your competitors, they are your friends, employers, employees, and colleagues. They raise the bar on you but give you a way to get there-- they're the most important people in the world.

1 point by elblanco 2 hours ago 0 replies      
We're all just drops in an ocean of talented people. Work hard, work constantly, learn always, learn from everything, practice, practice, practice, get a hobby that's not development work, exercise regularly, read classic literature, learn some philosophy, business, math, art....basically follow the model of the Renaissance man, but molded for today's world, don't be afraid of failure (learn always), hate failure, start at the bottom and work your way up so you can learn everything about how the world works, be an opportunist, don't be afraid to step a bit outside of your comfort zone.

Hey, you're just 25, try and relax a little.

5 points by aharrison 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I actually had this problem when I was reading through Steve Yegge's blogs. Here was this guy who had done so much, had so many great insights, and was routinely pushing himself to do better. It was very inspiring, but also kind of scary: how can I ever be that awesome?

It took me about a year to realize that his blogs are collectively almost a decade of work by him, his collective wisdom and insight, which wasn't even started until he had been out of college for at least 5 years. I was getting a compressed version of his long-term work.

Like robryan says in another comment: the collective knowledge of HN is vast and deep indeed, but most of these people have been hacking for years or decades. Just keep at it, and try to realize that creating useful things is not a zero-sum game.

1 point by kaens 3 hours ago 0 replies      
I used to feel like that. I felt constantly inferior. Eventually, I stopped feeling inferior and started feeling like I was associating with peers. I suspect that this had to do with a combination of me actually getting some experience (so that I can now actually contribute to discussions about certain technical things without sounding like a fool), and realizing that every single uber-competent person was an utter noob at one point.

I used to stress over never being able to contribute to OSS projects because I felt like I was drowning when I tried to, and a bunch of other stuff.

Give it time, keep hacking, and you'll be contributing amongst a field of your peers before you realize it :)

1 point by zackham 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Being able to recognize areas you're motivated to improve upon is an incredibly valuable skill. Just in this post I see the following:

1) You have side projects and experiments that have interesting enough ideas behind them that you think they may be worth pursuing beyond 80%.
2) You think you should be familiar with more than Javascript, PHP, Java, and MySQL.
3) You are not completely happy only being comfortable in a Windows XP environment with whatever IDE you are using.

Each of these items has a clear next step. (1) Think about your projects, pick your favorite one, look at the code and do something minor. (2) Poke around and do some light research (if you haven't already) on other dev stacks, play around until you find yourself genuinely interested in one. (3) Install Ubuntu in a virtual machine (VirtualBox is free and works well) or dual boot. Google vim and emacs and pick one to start playing with.

If you feel like you are falling behind you can use that as an opportunity to figure out what you're unhappy with specifically and do simple things to take a small step forward. You can't do everything all at once, and the people here that are impressive to the point of it being intimidating got where they are by diligently making incremental progress over some time.

2 points by malabar 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I would have to say that yes, everyday I visit this site and feel like a big pile of sh#t. My reasons are:

1) I am fascinated by the stuff programmers do. I do not program, have tried to learn, but I am impatient. I will never code, so I feel like shit.

2) I see info on some real cool startups, and think I will never be involved in one. I do not have any great ideas, do not know any smart, cool people and can kiss that experience goodbye.

3) I am in IT, but it is at the Class A level, not the major leagues. I feel I will be stuck in the helpdesk forever, and it scares me.

So I feel like sh#t every day, because I read HN everyday. But when I do not read it, I forget about it and feel better. Well, maybe it is the porn sites I visit that make me fell better.

2 points by CoachRufus87 1 hour ago 0 replies      
i feel like shit for 15 or so seconds, and then an overwhelming sense of motivation pours over me and makes me want to go out and make something that I too can proudly share on HN
1 point by cabalamat 3 hours ago 0 replies      
> I have my own ideas that I love dearly and work on, the first of which will be released for you all to play around with and break at the end of the week, but I never leave HN without feeling that no matter what I do, it will never be as good as what I've just read about.

There are 7 billion people in the world. For nearly all these people, for every skill they have, there is someone else better than them at it. I suggest you not worry about it. You probably aren't the best in the world at anything; you probably nevertheless are capable of making important contributions to things.

4 points by vimalg2 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Like somebody wise once said, you should always surround yourself with people smarter than yourself in order to grow.

If you can't do it in the real world because of your geography or the quality of your physical peers, Hacker news is the best place to hang around, particularly if you're a comput(er/ing) enthusiast.

2 points by mmaunder 7 hours ago 0 replies      
The only proof that we've gained the talents we need is that we have achieved the goals we've set. We are all like you.
1 point by chegra 4 hours ago 0 replies      
I try to run my own race. I generally see HN as a place to assess what moves I can make giving my ability and background. I talk about it in my Queen Theory blog post: http://chegra.posterous.com/the-queen-theory

For me it's a pleasure to see so many people doing awesome things, cause it implies I can too.

To put some numbers behind it, having an IQ greater than 120 does nothing to improve someones chances of winning a Nobel prize. I think it's the same thing here, it's a matter of just choosing something to work on.

3 points by Twisol 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I just discovered Hacker News a few days ago, and I visit several times a day. I've learned so much over just these few days. It's definitely overwhelming, and you do get that feel of insignificancy after a little while. But I've come up with one rock I can lean on:

Don't compare yourself to the masses. Seeing so much awesomeness can be overwhelming, but you're just one person, after all.

I'm having some trouble with a project of my own, because it's such new ground for me. Reading HN can be a little scary, because it does seem like these people are doing something I'm not. Well, I can't say it's not true, but Rome wasn't built in a day.

(Also, can I just say how weird it feels to give advice? I hardly feel like I'm qualified! I figure you might get something out of it, though, and I've always liked Wikipedia's "Be bold" sentiment.)

1 point by mgrouchy 3 hours ago 0 replies      
In life, people are going to be faster, smarter, more well rounded then you. Thats one of the sureties in life, the best thing about that is that there is always room to improve and get better if that is your desire. So you shouldn't let it discourage you, you should just look at it as an opportunity for self improvement.
1 point by mkr-hn 20 minutes ago 0 replies      
Everyone has some failing, no matter how high they rise.

The nice thing about being humble enough to admit it is that you can seek out people who are strong where you're weak and ask for help and advice in that area.

2 points by jgoewert 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Everytime I start to feel like that, I remember a truthful joke:

Q. What do they call the guy who graduated last at medical school?
A. Doctor.

Don't discount what you can achieve. It may be intellegence, inspiration, persperation, or luck. At last weeks RubyMidwest, the last lecture of the weekend was a guy who just started taking on new challenges and went from working as a kitchen staff to being a independent contract developer. He did it by pushing his own limit in small bits. If you are just doing the same thing every day, you aren't building skill or learning. Find something that makes you uncomfortable and do it.

2 points by gawker 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Hey there,

On the contrary, I feel rather inspired by the audience of Hacker News. Reading stories about how people have done it, the mistakes they've learnt and their advice has given me renewed confidence in myself to go out and do it. Typically people who are successful are normally those we see on tv but reading the success stories and just how brilliant people there are on here, it's a true inspiration. HN is probably my most favourite place on the web hands down. Thanks to all of you! It keeps me humbled - never ever think that I am fantastic at something or even if I am, there are other people out there that can do just as well and I should never ever brag or boast about it. HN keeps me grounded and keeps me driving. I love it.

1 point by evlapix 3 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm was in the same place as you and have recently evaded this feeling by distracting myself with other projects. (I bet I'm the best boat restorer in the discussion now! I kid.)

I'm curious though; how do you feel now that you've gotten the communities feedback on the matter?

I'm also wondering if this is something that others are interested in knowing.

1 point by joubert 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Other posters have replied with some valuable things to keep in mind.

I'll add that you need to remember there is probably a difference in age between yourself and that of the person (experience and thus knowledge is partly a function of age of course) who posted some mind-blowingly interesting and esoteric bit of information (I'm regularly amazed by the broad range of knowledge by the HNers)

1 point by geekytenny 26 minutes ago 0 replies      
You are a great contributor, speaking out for so many.
Stick around much longer, you will find yourself stepping up towards your goals.
Much hard work and and faith in yourself are two very important things you need.
Good luck!
2 points by sliverstorm 8 hours ago 0 replies      
1) There will always be someone better or smarter or versed in more languages than you. Probably a lot of them, in fact, and they will probably be a lot better. You just have to learn to accept that.

2) You are young; not everyone here is as young as you are. Some of the people you see as rivaling yourself could in fact be your elders, who are naturally a step ahead of you, and whose place you will assume in the future

3) Big fish. Little pond. Happens to me all the damn time. Fortunately I realized a while back anytime I find I'm the big fish, that means it's time for me to get out of my little pond and find the really big fish.

2 points by sidyadav 8 hours ago 1 reply      
The way I look at it, I'm just glad that there people somewhat like me who are doing, working on, and talking about smart things, and some of them who are succeeding. You have to realize, the kind of people that hangout on this site are fairly similar: they have entrepreneurial aspirations (and drive -- or they would be reading more fun/non-practical news sites like Reddit and Digg), most of them can design or code or both, and most of them are actually working on something.

60k unique visitors does sound like a lot, but it's not a drop in the hat of the amount of people that read Reddit or Digg or TechCrunch. So in a way, I actually feel good about this being a site that is smaller and more focused than those other ones, which really are the true depressants, so to say. Nobody on HN is out here to flame anyone, and most of them are thoughtful, intelligent people -- the kind I want to be with.

What I'm trying to say is, if you find HN frightening, the world is beyond anything you can imagine. There are people who are smarter than you, work harder than you, in better/more happening places than you, and naturally more rewarded than you. So then, being on HN gives me some comfort in knowing that there are people who are sort of like me, and who are also navigating the same world I am. Instead of comparing myself to these people, I'm just glad that they exist.

2 points by pclark 6 hours ago 0 replies      
No. I think it's awesome. I think the more smart people in the room, trying to do stuff, the better.

You talk about talent and intelligence - both important. But I've learnt that most people - 90% - never actually try. They talk like they want to succeed, but deep down they don't. They won't quit their contractor job. They won't even try. What kind of life is that?

2 points by PaulJoslin 7 hours ago 0 replies      
In reference to point 2 and 'I've always been told I'm a smart kid and that I'll be a millionaire one day'

It's worth reading this recent thread and the comments.

The post is entitled 'Dear reddit, did you believe that one day you'd all be millionaires, rockstars and moviestars?' - taken from the quote in Fight Club.
It raises some interesting points about how we are brought up to believe the dream is achievable and often it takes a lot more hard work than we originally perceive.

I personally wouldn't compare myself to anyone else. I've worked with some of the smartest guys I know from a technical point of view, but they have lacked in other areas such as ideas and execution.

(Often the best technical people neglect important things like marketing, design and user experience - expecting the 'amazing product' to equal success).

2 points by hotmind 6 hours ago 0 replies      
You can assume two things of insightful comments from successful HN members:

1) they are older than you, or put more time in than you, thereby had more time to learn success systems, gain experience and accomplish things.

2) they are acquiring wisdom and success in various aspects of their lives and leveraging those wins in the business arena.

Start moving in different directions and get some easy wins wherever you can find them. These wins may seen small to you but be an Everest for someone else. Also, recalibrate what success and talent mean to you. Explore different definitions of it. Your perception of yourself and the HN community may not be the most accurate one.

Most important of all, seek out wisdom. A lot of what you think is relevant is only relative and transitory.

I've personally explored the topic before and wrote Three Steps To Obtaining (More) Wisdom: http://zerotosuperhero.posterous.com/3-steps-to-obtaining-mo...

3 points by nmftt 8 hours ago 0 replies      
No, not really. I actually feel underwhelmed quite frequently e.g. the reddit "fundraising" story two weeks ago. Don't get me wrong there are some advanced topics being discussed sometimes. But most of the time it's either opinion or layman's level non-technology topics.

But I also don't have a strictly CS background. I generally try not to express myself negatively though, but instead value the good parts and recognize that YC/HN is what it is.

1 point by dill_day 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I really like how on HN the content of the comments is emphasized -- no colorful avatars or signatures or any of that stuff.

I wonder if that maybe helps add to...like subconsciously, all the comments appear the same so you start feeling like HN is this big thing that 'knows everything' without realizing how many different people are contributing their knowledge of whatever area.

1 point by hackermom 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I have to answer no on this one. Not out of lacking humbleness or having too high thoughts of myself, but for the fact that I just don't compare myself to other people, regardless of whether they are "better" or "worse" than me.
2 points by jaxn 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Never judge your insides by other people's outsides.
3 points by pathik 8 hours ago 0 replies      
All the time, my friend, all the time. But it's much better to compare yourselves to these geniuses at HN and be threatened/inspired to do better than compare yourself to a bunch of average people and feel good about it.

HN and PG's essays are the best things that a student / aspiring entrepreneur could experience. I learn new stuff everyday. HN rocks.

1 point by mfalcon 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I used to feel like you. Then I thought feeling like that was useless and continued minding my own business Who cares if some people are better than you?, there is no competition. Keep working in what you love enjoying the moment, that is success.
3 points by malkia 9 hours ago 1 reply      
Yes, but I don't care.

Please come to the video game industry :) There is always need of someone that knows MySQL, LAMP, etc.

1 point by jblount 3 hours ago 0 replies      
This is something I struggle with as well, but I think it's your response that matters more than the feelings of inadequacy you might have when comparing yourself to the very best parts of any community.

Does your perceived lack of talent drive you to learn and become better? Are you actively looking for opportunities and inspiration to drive you forward? Or are you simply idling on a web page re-living other people's accomplishments?

It's a thin, dangerous line. Some people idle, some people drive forward. I wouldn't suggest that either is the 'right' thing to do (I think it's morally ambiguous) but my desire is to drive.

4 points by dreaming 8 hours ago 1 reply      
The biggest problem I have is opening thousands of tabs, finding great articles, bookmarking them for later and then not reading them.
1 point by hellosamdwyer 29 minutes ago 0 replies      
All you can do is keep fighting.
2 points by muon 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Yes indeed, and it acts as great barrier fore me, even to comment here, but I am luck as those questions are asked again by other HN folks.
3 points by amk 7 hours ago 0 replies      
If you are damn good with javascript, you already have my respect. And I am not just trying to make you feel better.
2 points by SteveMoody73 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I have the same feelings of being overwhelmed myself sometimes and I also feel envy for the people who are regularly working with the latest technologies.

At one time I was working for a company where we were constantly developing new systems for clients ranging from websites to large scale corporate applications. It seemed that we were learning new languages and systems every month and working on all sorts of platforms. It was hard work, but it was also a great deal of fun.

The last few years I’ve been spending about 90% of my time developing embedded software and very rarely use any languages beyond C, C++ and Assembly.

I try to read up on the latest developments as much as I can but I do often think that I’m falling further and further behind the older I get :)

1 point by LookingToBuy 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I like you, feel overwhelmed with grief after Reading HN at times. Many times I have had great idea's, but lack programming skills (sys admin with asterisk knowledge) that I have not been able to execute them quick enough using oDesk developers etc that they have gone in to other peoples portfolio with great success, leaving me feeling pretty useless.

My problem is, I get basic php, I can work with mysql just about, but can't design/CSS or get JavaScript!

I keep saying, it can't be that difficult, but just don't get it when I try!

Since I found HN, 6 months ago, I have spoke to some great people, been given very good advise. I have even started a project with iPhone app using outsourced developers but it's slow (try telling a Latvian how to orient a photo depening on type). I long to be a great programmer, I would love to have even LAMP skills (could do with your talent, get in touch if you want to work together).

One thing I do know, I'll make it, why? Cos all the cool talented talented programmers here reply.

1 point by scorpion032 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Not that you would want to, but if you fancy being even more humbled, try reading the top questions from http://mathoverflow.net/
1 point by rkalla 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Everyone feels this way in every profession every where... doctors at medical conferences, race car drivers at racing events, movie stars at red-carpet events.

This is why team-work is so important, because individually none of us can really hack it.

1 point by kymmx 6 hours ago 0 replies      
For me, as a non-english-speaking reader, who wants to know trends in these information-overwhelming and daily-innovating tech society, HN gives valuable source of news, blogs, even sometimes kind of tech 101.

Sometimes I feel like I am an only alien in the middle of natives, but think about your school days. You didn't know everything you should know, if you had finished your grade.

I'm happy everday reading and learning any tiny bit of new things posted on HN. I hope someday I can comment more and even post my own writing.

1 point by betterlabs 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I agree. This is true outside of HN as well IF you look at the aggregate smartness/knowledge of experts and compare that aggregate to your smartness/knowledge. Its incorrect to do such a comparison. If you look at the experts whose smartness you subconsciously aggregate, they are each not as smart in every one of the areas that others are smarter at. Sean Ellis is awesome as growing a startup who has achieved product/market fit, but not at achieving product/market fit (in his own words). Sean could say/feel the same. But instead he continues to be better at what he does. That, I believe, is the way to go. Master the areas that you are good at/can get good at, and learn the rest from others.
1 point by pbjorklund 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I just feel more inspired. Imagine all the failed startups that this site collectively represents. There are so many people here who went for their dream, failed, and got back to it which eventually led to the success-stories that we get to enjoy.

There is no single person that can be an expert in every area. But widening your views just beyond one simple tool/technology is always beneficial, and thats what I primarily read this site for. I read this site for the "aha" moments. Also consider the amount of people that don't care enough to even think about the subject you talk about. Just by wanting more your getting ahead of them.

2 points by mian2zi3 7 hours ago 1 reply      
Yes, but for the opposite reason. I usually walk away wondering why I wasted my time here when I could have been learning something or, even better, creating something.
2 points by c00p3r 5 hours ago 0 replies      
The same mantra - launch (yourself) early (fast) and evolve (practice!). ^_^ Just do it.

The goal is to develop a proper habits (of focusing and concentration) and increase self-esteem through them. Practice makes you "perfect".

Most of those people just started early and spent more time practicing. ^_^

1 point by Yaggo 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Remember, it generally takes 10 years (of hard work) to master anything.
1 point by matrixownsyou 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I felt the same way until i read a post from a HN user about "being mediocre and it's OK".
Not being a rocket scientist doesn't mean i can't build great stuff too, i'll just never do something like this :) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9u0qlIoSSkQ
-4 points by borism 8 hours ago 0 replies      
-4 points by Tichy 9 hours ago 0 replies      
iFart made a lot of money, too, I think.
Data portability in the Credit Card industry dataportability.org
4 points by bryanjohnson 1 hour ago   2 comments top 2
2 points by pyre 19 minutes ago 0 replies      
Clicking the DataPortability site the first time gave me some malicious ad that took over the whole window trying to get me to install some sort of Windows virus protection (even though I'm on Linux). The second time gets me to the site... Oddly enough the site doesn't seem to have any adverts on it (now that it's loaded)...
1 point by bryanjohnson 1 hour ago 0 replies      
The DataPortability Project has been at the forefront of addressing challenging data portability issues that affect all of us. We (Braintree) are really excited to see our Credit Card Data Portability initiative be adopted by them. This is their first initiative for B2B data portability. We were unsure what to expect from our efforts but are really excited to see that it's starting to get traction.

Original Credit Card Data Portability announcement: http://www.braintreepaymentsolutions.com/blog/data-portabili...

Open Letter to the CEO's of Authorize.net and Paypal: Help End the Credit Card Data Hostage Situation http://www.braintreepaymentsolutions.com/blog/open-letter-to...

Reality: Old Spice sales are down since ad campaign began yahoo.com
23 points by cwan 2 hours ago   36 comments top 9
37 points by SamAtt 1 hour ago 4 replies      
Forbes contradicts this (http://tinyurl.com/2exqhg7). Here's the quote...

And, perhaps, persuasive. Total sales for Old Spice body wash at supermarkets, drugstores and mass market retailers excluding Wal-Mart were up 16.7% in the 52-week period ending June 13, according to SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm.

So the yahoo article is singling out the one sub-brand of body wash in the Old Spice Man's hand (which is down) but the brand itself seems to be up. Now I don't know about the rest of you but I didn't even notice what specific type of Old Spice Body Wash he was holding and I don't think others had either. So I don't think that specific sub-brand's falling sales reflect on the ads at all.

(To give the appropriate plug I actually found the forbes link via this site: http://tinyurl.com/27d9aer)

12 points by raganwald 1 hour ago 1 reply      
In all fairness to the team behind this, they're obviously trying to cross the product over into a new demographic. If Old Spice's existing demographic is dying off, there can be a huge payoff if they succeed in making it hip and ironic. Remember the Black Label campaigns in the 90s? That succeeded in turning a moribund beer brand into a hip brand. It's worth swinging the bat a few times over the next five years to see if they can do something with Old Spice.
13 points by j_baker 1 hour ago 2 replies      
My first instincts are to assume this is a "post hoc ergo propter hoc" statement. Just because sales are falling doesn't mean the commercial is ineffective. After all, how do you know that sales wouldn't be down 14% without the ads?
12 points by edanm 1 hour ago 1 reply      
Isn't it way too early to tell what the effects of the campaign are?

I for one had never heard of Old Spice before, still haven't actually seen their product (not so prevalent here), but I do look out for it when I go to buy deodarant, since I want to try it out.

2 points by jsz0 12 minutes ago 0 replies      
No advertising campaign is going to make people rush into their bathroom, throw away all their old supplies, and rush out and buy new ones. You'd need to look at least a few months of sales to determine how successful it was.
3 points by rythie 58 minutes ago 0 replies      
This really is a poor article.

It's not stated if that's a new product or an established one they are talking about. Also, whilst they say one product is down, what about the others? If you dig into the bnet article (http://industry.bnet.com/advertising/10007535/the-old-spice-...) you see that the sales figures are for the 52 weeks upto the 13 June - long before the online campaign started.

All the yahoo video links fail to load properly for me. The mention YouTube but don't link to it all. They link to their own previous coverage for no good reason.

1 point by nevinera 11 minutes ago 0 replies      
>Are the women targeted by the ads not actually the ones making body-wash-related decisions for the men in their life?

Those ads are clearly not targeted at women.

0 points by dmm 1 hour ago 1 reply      
> perfect example of the male body

Ha! I must spend too much time around weightlifters/powerlifters. He looked a little scrawny to me.

Another interesting case of internet popularity not translating into sales was "Snakes on a Plane". From wikipedia:

Due to the Internet hype surrounding the film, industry analysts estimated the film's opening box office to be between US$20 million and US$30 million.[4] While Snakes on a Plane did narrowly beat Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby for the number one position during its opening weekend, it did not meet these estimates and grossed only $US15.25 million in its opening days, a disappointment for New Line Cinema. ""

-2 points by brm 1 hour ago 2 replies      
Either way, when your ad campaign is the most remarkable thing about your product you still have a problem.
Rails Magazine railsmagazine.com
13 points by duck 3 hours ago   1 comment top
1 point by micrypt 30 minutes ago 0 replies      
Interesting. Is there a Python/Django equivalent to Rails Magazine?
This, is boomerang github.com
20 points by DanielH 4 hours ago   2 comments top 2
1 point by izak30 1 hour ago 0 replies      
This is cool, have you used it?
1 point by br41n 1 hour ago 0 replies      
nice stuff, handed to my dev colleagues :)
Wavii - Not stealth enough techcrunch.com
29 points by zemaj 6 hours ago   2 comments top
1 point by mark_l_watson 2 hours ago 1 reply      
Automatic generation of interesting thing to read?

While I believe in the tech of statistical NLP, I question whether the quality of news articles automatically generated from other news and social media will be all that interesting.

I spend about 3 to 4 hours a week reading through Twitter, HN, and Reddit: half is to waste time in an enjoyable way and half is to find interesting articles to read, new useful projects, etc.

For me, Twitter is the most targeted because I follow people into the same tech that I am into. I also have several blogs I follow closely. A big part of it is enjoying authors' online personalities and having occasional email dialogs.

Can an automated system replace part of this experience? I don't think so.

What automated systems can do is cluster reading material and make good recommendations - but this is different than what (it sounds like) Wavii is trying to do.

SQLite 3.7.0 Released sqlite.org
45 points by obiterdictum 8 hours ago   12 comments top 4
6 points by yan 1 hour ago 2 replies      
FYI, if you're looking for a very, very well-written and well-tested C codebase to read, give SQLite a look.
4 points by rlpb 6 hours ago 2 replies      
"WAL provides more concurrency as readers do not block writers and a writer does not block readers."

Excellent! This is the one feature that I missed before.

3 points by draegtun 5 hours ago 0 replies      
This FLOSS Weekly podcast of SQLite maybe of interest: http://www.twit.tv/floss26

Its from early 2008 but I found the discussion on public domain fascinating.

6 points by ww520 7 hours ago 1 reply      
SQLite is one of the best software of all time.
The Power of Saying "I Don't Know" verticalresponse.com
20 points by monkeygrinder 5 hours ago   7 comments top 4
8 points by jeremymims 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Beware of the other extreme.

I've seen organizations where this is the only "safe" answer and nothing gets done. Sometimes people say "I don't know" when they actually know enough to make a decision.

2 points by napierzaza 2 hours ago 0 replies      
This really depends. All you need is a manager that doesn't accept that as an answer and you start lying. I have one like that. If I say "I don't know" he just keeps asking me the question over and over. It's surreal for sure, but I learned to nod my head and agree so he can finally leave my office and stop eating an banana with his mouth open.

while talking as well

5 points by roadnottaken 3 hours ago 1 reply      
I've always found that it demonstrates security with one's intelligence to be able to admit ignorance. People that feel like they know a lot, but don't happen to know what you're talking about will freely admit to it. OTOH it's people that feel like they don't know enough and that think they should know something that will pretend they do.
1 point by nhnifong 2 hours ago 1 reply      
The Truth really doesn't hurt! well said. I am an intern at an organization where everyone is about two decades older than me, and there is a lot I don't know. They don't know what they can expect me to know, and I don't know what they know. I send piles of questions out to anyone who has some spare time and have not once been chastised in return.
The call of Kraken, GSM cracking software reflextor.com
25 points by monkeygrinder 6 hours ago   10 comments top 3
4 points by Rod 3 hours ago 0 replies      
From last year's Chaos event:


"From the total lack of network to handset authentication, to the "Of course I'll give you my IMSI" message, to the iPhone that really wanted to talk to us. It all came as a surprise -- stunning to see what $1500 of USRP can do. Add a weak cipher trivially breakable after a few months of distributed table generation and you get the most widely deployed privacy threat on the planet."

3 points by antirez 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Is it possible to use a common phone to sniff the GSM traffic? Or something like a GNU-radio capable external device is absolutely required?

GSM and GSM security are interesting topics but really hard to touch with your hands because of the difficulty of reading what's passing over the air. The more hackers will have access to equipments, the more secure will be our conversations in the long run.

3 points by vgurgov 4 hours ago 2 replies      
I dont know much about GSM protocols. Can somebody here explain what might be possible applications for this thing? Would it be possible to decode recorded GMS calls around you? Is it significant vulnerability?
Ask HN: How can I recognize when I don't know what I'm talking about?
11 points by spiffytech 1 hour ago   10 comments top 9
1 point by jsz0 0 minutes ago 0 replies      
It's good not to adopt strong opinions on things you don't know much about. There are also lots of ways to drop in disclaimers about your (lack of) knowledge so you can still have a good conversation. This results in more learning and less arguing.
8 points by drivebyacct2 20 minutes ago 1 reply      
What? You're phrasing something that you don't actually know as a fact that you know? That's called lying. You recognize it by learning to not lie and deceive people as a child.

Not sure what else to tell you. If you're passing off knowledge you pulled out your ass and are getting called on it, maybe you shouldn't do that. If it's speculation or if you're trying to be helpful but don't know for sure, then phrase it that way. Or if you can't take the criticism just keep your nose out of it.

I don't understand where the disconnect is to be honest.

2 points by AmberShah 24 minutes ago 0 replies      
You can't, all you can do is be open and humble when you're wrong. When you say something that turns out to be incorrect, don't get defensive or extremely, apologetic - a simple "Oh, really. Interesting" will suffice and move on. It can be difficult if the other person is extremely insecure and is trying to shove it in your face that you were wrong, but so long as you yourself are secure then you will be ok with being wrong. The smartest people I know are also the most humble because they are open to new ideas and willing to be wrong.
1 point by dgabriel 31 minutes ago 0 replies      
First, in case you're wondering if you should just keep your trap shut, it's ok to get called out once in a while. It can be embarrassing, but it's part of every learning curve & it will make you smarter, so long as you listen and handle it with grace. There is a lot to know in the world, and you won't be an expert in much, but it's good to share the knowledge you have. It's good for novice observers to see you called out and corrected, and for them to see you reply with appropriate solicitousness.

Second, it's sometimes really hard to know. The best advice is to avoid speaking with absolute authority, unless you have evidence in hand to back up your shit. Even the experts get tripped up occasionally.

I guess my advice boils down to this: embrace being corrected because it means your knowledge has just been expanded, and approach all topics with a modicum of humility.

2 points by d0m 34 minutes ago 0 replies      
I think you focus on the wrong problem. It is ok to be wrong and if someone can prove it to you, be happy to have learn something new and thanks him/her.

Of course, to do that, you need to have an open mind and always act on the safe side. Instead of saying: "You stupid idiot, haskell is not purely functional because there are monads", you're better with "I'm pretty sure haskell..." or "I think Haskell..". This way, you encourage people that might know more than you in that subject to speak and help you instead of aggressively attacking them.

There's nothing wrong in being wrong. And to be honest, I think it's the only way to learn :o

2 points by Charuru 35 minutes ago 0 replies      
I don't see being proven wrong as a very big deal. Say the wrong things, be proven wrong, and now you know.

Way easier than to second guess yourself every turn.

In startups we talk about failure as an important part of the learning experience, so it applies to life in general too.

2 points by dansingerman 54 minutes ago 0 replies      
Do you have a conception of the difference between stuff you "know" (i.e. certain facts that you are sure are correct) and things you "believe to be the case"?

If yes, are the things you get called out on stuff you had previously categorized as stuff you "know"? If so, you need to think on the distinction between the two.

If not, then, what I do is this: If I know something to be correct I am happy to assert it. If I only believe it to be the case, I will caveat it with something like "It is my current understanding that..." and make it clear that I am not the font of all knowledge on the subject, and others may have a more informed opinion.

You can mentally prefix this whole answer with a "It is my current understanding that.."

1 point by projectileboy 44 minutes ago 0 replies      
I have the same problem, and so does my dad. My safety catch is to ask myself if I could begin working on a project related to what I'm talking about. If not, then I know I'm full of shit. It doesn't mean you have to stop talking; you just have to let other people know that you're full of shit, and simply making educated guesses.
1 point by stewsnooze 57 minutes ago 0 replies      
You could try to only have contentious opinions on topics that you are sure you are right about. On other topics take a listening role until you've heard differing opinions. You could of course offer an opinion you may have as a question:

What do you think of the opinion many people have..which is Do cats always land on their feet...even when they've been buttered e.t.c.

Programming for a culture approaching singularity lukepalmer.wordpress.com
22 points by rsaarelm 6 hours ago   13 comments top 2
6 points by arethuza 4 hours ago 1 reply      
I don't think we are seeing any signs of approaching a singularity. However, it is clear we are going through a major technological step change as significant as printed books and mass transport.

I just found this quote which I love:

"A man born in 1453, the year of the fall of Constantinople, could look back from his fiftieth year on a lifetime in which about eight million books had been printed, more perhaps than all the scribes of Europe had produced since Constantine founded his city in A.D. 330"


2 points by phreeza 4 hours ago 1 reply      
The unix philosophy is along these lines i think, making small tools that do one thing well, and text input/output. Perhaps its time for an update of this for the 21st century.
Lisper's first look at Haskell tourdelisp.blogspot.com
22 points by fogus 4 hours ago   23 comments top 9
22 points by plinkplonk 2 hours ago 1 reply      
"Static typing sucks. It reminds me of the dark ages of programming in the c family of languages. "

If working in Haskell reminded him of C (and the post is full of rubbish like this [1]), I'd imagine he didn't understand Haskell at all. This is on the order ranting about how lisp is sucky because of "all those parantheses".

"And don't even dare to mention Emacs, a lot of people don't like it.It's 2008 and creating a simple Haskell editor is not an rocket science"

A supposed "lisper" saying this is hilarious. Many lisps (CLisp, CMUCL, Clojure) reccomend Emacs + slime as "their" editor (and take a lot of heat from uninformed ranters for not having an Eclipse like IDE!) .

To top it all he claims Lisp was "divinely inspired" whereas the lowly Haskell is "unblessed". (The basis fr his weird analogy, the linked martial arts "ryu" vs "do" article is an interesting read though)

I quote "Haskell is one of those 'unblessed ', modern do languages sharing company with c++, java, c#, OCaml, F# etc"

He didn't program anything significant in Haskell, didn't "get" it any way and yet is sure of its inferior nature.

This reminds me of an old HN post of a similar rant by a Clojure fanboi titled "Clojure VS Python". He had gems like "A man with a thousand knives...of which none are sharp. It's a chinese proverb ..(which) can also be used to describe Python. ". I wonder if it is the same guy? [EDIT. No it isn't)

[EDIT here it is http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=881642].

Contrast with what an ultra competent lisper said about Haskell (Rich Hickey, dismissing another uninformed anti Haskell rant on the Clojure mailing list
[ http://groups.google.com/group/clojure/msg/32b11b22ec104d4d]

"Everyone, please refrain from language wars. Haskell is a tremendously ambitious and inspiring language, for which I have the highest respect. There is zero point in bashing it (or its users) in this forum. "

The post itself is nothing more than uninformed fanboi ranting, but on HN, even dumb posts result in high quality discussion (as is already happening - silentbicycle's comments on unification for e.g), but it would have been really awesome to get an intelligent and well thought out post on "A (competent) Lisper's reaction to Haskell"

[1] another sample: "Case sensitive - why does types has to start with uppercase and functions with lowercase. "

8 points by silentbicycle 2 hours ago 2 replies      
I'm not surprised that he's finding Haskell's static typing to be a hurdle. I had the same experience when I started learning OCaml after years with Python and Scheme - it took me a couple days to think in, rather than fight with, its type system. Nowadays, I strongly recommend reading _The Little MLer_ before starting with Haskell or OCaml - it does for static typing what _The Little Schemer_ does for Lisp.

Its type checks can be incredibly useful for finding code needing updates during refactoring, automatically verifying things that would otherwise require writing reams of tedious tests, etc. It's a trade-off, though - you're deliberately structuring your code so that your assumptions can be mechanically checked. This is very much a matter of taste, and I understand having strong opinions either way. (I go back and forth on it.)

Stupid type systems suck hard, though - smart static typing (ML and Haskell) and full dynamic typing (possibly with optional static annotations) both work well, but in between lies pain and misery.

Also, look at the follow-up: (http://tourdelisp.blogspot.com/2008/03/farewell-haskell.html) I feel like he barely tried.

9 points by judofyr 1 hour ago 2 replies      
I upvoted this, but only because it proves that even Lispers can be as closed-minded as anyone else. Lisp is often shown as an example of how "enlighten" you'll get when you understand it, but clearly that doesn't necessarily mean you're open for different types of enlightenment.
1 point by pohl 23 minutes ago 0 replies      
Hogs a lot of brain resources. It's syntax is complex, and ...(snip)...forces me to spend more resources on dealing with language than with dealing with the problem.

I love lispers. I always learn something from their writings, and generally admire their prose. There seems to be some correlation between deftness of expression in fingernail-clipping languages and deftness of expression in English.

I don't quote the above part as an example of that, but rather because I find the contrast to be damned funny. Somewhere in the deep, misty recesses of history there was a divinely-inspired Ryu for some natural language that was an ascestor to English, and that Ryu said that sentences were simple - subject, verb, and an optional direct object: "Thag hunt beast", or "Narg die".

Yet those who want an obscenely simple syntactic kernel to build everything on seem to be adroit with compound-complex sentences, replete with gerunds, prepositional and participle phrases, appositives, interjections, and modifiers galore.

Just once I'd like to see a critique of a syntactically complex functional language like haskell that's written entirely in caveman. It would sound more honest.

6 points by Scriptor 1 hour ago 1 reply      
> and after few days I already wrote a lengthy essay about Haskell

Can we stop doing this, please? This is just a really cheap way of driving traffic to a blog. All you have to do is tinker with something for a few days and write an inflammatory post. I'd rather read the analysis of someone who's written a decent-sized program in it.

2 points by mahmud 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I found the reddit response to this to be more interesting:


Most programmers who achieve mastery in a fringe language find themselves having to justify their choice of tool to others. I think that poster did a good job in that regard.

Btw, Lisp vs Haskell debates can either lead to intellectually stimulating discussions, or they can devolve into a bum-fight. The decision that leads to the choice of either language over something more "popular" is the same: a quest for beauty and profound insight.

2 points by neutronicus 1 hour ago 0 replies      
I often find myself wishing for a combination of the two languages. An S-Expression based Haskell-alike instead of an S-Expression based Python-alike (yes, yes I know - Lisp came first - whatever). Bonus points if I can drop into an S-Expression based Fortran-alike when bashing on a chunk of memory is the only way to do something fast.

I like macros, but, as a scientific programmer, I know the type of everything in my program (double-precision floating point numbers and aggregations thereof), and I don't want to play some guessing game where I figure out which types I have to declare to get something to run fast. Same with garbage collection (what! the GC might move this while LAPACK bashes on it? I need to explicitly tell it not to? Fuck!).

emacs + paredit is also the best structured editing tool I have used in any language.

4 points by kanak 3 hours ago 1 reply      
I had a similar observation about haskell's pattern matching when I was learning haskell: " Built in pattern matching - it's very convenient about programming sometimes. Unfortunately for someone who learned Prolog before Haskell, Haskells' pattern matching will look very limited.First it doesn't allows me to repeat a variable in a pattern , second compared with Prolog, it's one sided. Big issue for someone used to full power of unification."

I much prefer unification.

1 point by klodolph 2 hours ago 0 replies      
This article appeared over at Reddit about a half day earlier: http://www.reddit.com/r/lisp/comments/cs94g/on_preferring_li...
Useful things you can make SSH do derwiki.tumblr.com
176 points by derwiki 21 hours ago   58 comments top 14
1 point by _pi 6 minutes ago 0 replies      
I'm just gonna say this, NEVER have SSH keys without a password and "think" it's a passwordless logon. It's unsecure and your keys can get used against you. Giving your key a strong password and using ssh-agent and ssh-add will give you passwordless logons and the benefit of security.
7 points by jerf 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Check 'man ssh' for escape characters, including for how to terminate an SSH session when the remote is not responding. Check 'man sshd' for the AUTHORIZED_KEYS FILE FORMAT section. I call particular attention to the "command='command'" option, which allows you to set up an SSH key in such a way that it can only be used to run a particular command. Of course the key is only as secure as the command, but that's a great start. I use it for when I want to cron a job where one server has to talk to another to do something as some privileged user, and of course can't enter a password then, but I don't want the key to grant full login privs as that user.
12 points by p3ll0n 20 hours ago 3 replies      
Two more that come to my mind ...

1. Comparing local and remote files

$ ssh user@ "cat /tmp/remotefile" | diff - /tmp/localfile

2. Outputting your microphone to a remote computer's speaker

dd if=/dev/dsp | ssh -c arcfour -C username@host dd of=/dev/dsp

19 points by herrherr 19 hours ago 3 replies      
My personal favourite:

- Get a cheap development box (Linode, Slicehost, etc.)

- Set Firefox to use Socks Host

- Open up your terminal and enter this: ssh -C2qTnN -D 8080 your-user@example.com

Et voilà, you're tunneling all your browser traffic through the development box.

9 points by novas0x2a 18 hours ago 2 replies      
My favorite trick (in .ssh/config):

  Host *.internal.workdomain.com
ProxyCommand ssh gateway.workdomain.com nc %h 22
ForwardAgent yes
User <username>

Then you can type

  ssh bender.internal.workdomain.com

and ssh will automatically connect through the gateway to the (normally inaccessible) internal node. ForwardAgent will pass the credentials through. (If you copy this blindly, note that this requires netcat). This configuration lets you pretend (to tools like scp, rsync-over-ssh, etc) that you have direct access to the machine in question, even when it goes through a gateway machine:

  scp config bender.internal.workdomain.com:
scp bender.internal.workdomain.com:logfile .
1 point by surki 4 hours ago 0 replies      

  Got a computer behind a firewall whose configuration 
you don’t have access to? It’s pretty easy to get the
computer behind the firewall to poke out to another

(step 1, from the computer you wish to access)
derwiki@firewalledcomputer:~$ ssh -R localhost:2002:localhost:22 mypublicserver.com

(step 2, from any computer than can access
derwiki@mylaptopontheinternet:~$ ssh mypublicserver.com -p 2002

If you want to keep it running always, you may want to consider "autossh" (restarts ssh connections if they ever exit/disconnect)
9 points by mjschultz 20 hours ago 1 reply      
One of the biggest 'ah-ha' moments I had with SSH was that I could create my own hosts with certain properties. For example, if I wanted a backup server with a special user and key I could add it to my ~/.ssh/config file

  Host backup-server
HostName backup.example.com
User backup
IdentityFile ~/.ssh/backup_dsa

Then just have a shell script run

  $ ssh backup-server

It ended up working really well.

Also, control sockets.

3 points by dododo 20 hours ago 1 reply      
want to log in without appearing in lastlog(8)/w(1)/who(1)?

ssh -T host

(of course syslog still sees you).

if available, ssh-copy-id(1) is an easier way of setting up passwordless ssh(1).

note also that openssh supports on-demand proxying via SOCKS4/5: check out ssh -D. this makes it easy to pipe all web traffic (for example) over ssh.

2 points by ww520 17 hours ago 1 reply      
My favorite trick with SSH is running Tramp mode in Emacs to do editing on remote servers, invaluable when accessing isolated servers in data center via a jump-box server from my local machine. The fun part is the multi-host jump to editing files on a server that is couple hops away, like jumping through multiple data centers.

I usually bookmarks the Tramp sessions of the frequently visited servers to avoid retyping the host url and logon setting.

3 points by cypherdog 20 hours ago 1 reply      
This one is simple, but I like it. Use -X command to launch a local x11 session for a given remote application. Works for Linux and OSX machines with x11 installed.

>ssh -X user@remoteserver.com will connect you.
>gedit file.txt

will launch a remote instance (viewable locally) of gedit with the remote file.txt loaded and ready for editing. Especially good for those who don't like command line editors (note: gedit must be installed on the remote machine for the example to work.)

2 points by sabat 20 hours ago 0 replies      
He left off the use of proxytunnel, which lets you tunnel SSH through an HTTP/S proxy, even if it requires authentication:


Also, as others have mentioned, -D is pretty useful (SOCKS proxy).

1 point by Groxx 18 hours ago 1 reply      
This could really use an explanation of what the arguments are doing. It's just a list of ingredients, not a recipe; very little can be learned from this list (though it may inspire learning).
1 point by bacarter 15 hours ago 1 reply      
It's important to encrypt your private key with a passphrase. Use ssh-agent to store the un-encrypted key in memory on login. On OSX 10.5 or greater, this is really easy: http://bit.ly/alDMhp. Make sure to add 'ForwardAgent Yes' to your ssh config, and then never have to type your ssh password again.
2 points by afhof 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Making a VPN over ssh using a address:


Zuckerberg admits working for man claiming Facebook ownership theregister.co.uk
115 points by cesare 17 hours ago   60 comments top 11
80 points by grellas 13 hours ago replies      
The nature this case in relation to how it is being reported fascinates me. Let me summarize while making a few observations:

1. A guy comes out of nowhere and files a lawsuit in a state court in Allegany County, New York (population: about 50,000 - http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/36/36003.html).

2. The lawsuit is filed on June 30, 2010 and consists of a grand total of 2 pages of allegations, coupled with a request for relief (see http://www.scribd.com/doc/34239119/Ceglia-v-Zuckerberg-compl...).

3. Among the substantive allegations are absurdly wrong ones (from a lawyer standpoint), such as the allegation in paragraph 3 that Facebook is a "domestic corporation" in New York. Facebook is in fact a foreign corporation that is qualified to do business in New York, as is shown by the very attachment the lawyer appends to the complaint itself (Exhibit B). I make this point only to highlight a certain level of sloppiness that attends this whole matter. This is hardly a mark of top-flight lawyering.

4. The contract states that it is entered into as a "Purchase agreement and 'work made for hire' that reflects two separate business ventures," the first for something called StreetFax Database and the second for the "continued development of the software, programs, and for the purchase and design of a suitable website for the project Seller has already initiated that is designed to offer the students of Harvard university [sic] access to a website similar to a live functioning yearbook with the working title 'The Face Book'." Mr. Ceglia was to pay to Mr. Zuckerberg $1,000 for the work he did on StreetFax and an additional $1,000 for the work he did on "The Face Book." In turn, Mr. Ceglia was to receive (with respect to the "Face Book" work, the following: "It is agreed that the Purchaser will own a half interest (50%) in the software, programming language and business interests derived from the expansion of that service to a larger audience." The contract then provides that "the agreed upon completion for the expanded project with working title 'The Face Book' shall be January 1, 2004 and an additional 1% interest in the business will be due the buyer for each day the website is delayed from that date."

5. The agreement appears to be a canned document and is poorly drafted. Since its terms appear to be heavily slanted in favor of Mr. Ceglia, it is probably fair to assume that this was his form of contract which he presented to Mr. Zuckerberg (then a student) to sign.

6. The complaint then alleges that the website was completed on February 4, 2004 (paragraph 7) and asserts that Mr. Ceglia is therefore entitled to an extra 34% of "the business," (paragraph 8) or 84% in total.

7. A few comments on the above:

(a) can anyone say "vagueness" and "uncertainty" as serious problems with this contract? with no company formed at the time, this is a guy who essentially hired Mr. Zuckerberg to develop a website that was to be like a "live yearbook" and who claims that he is to have an 84% stake in any future expansion of that idea to be made by Mr. Zuckerberg, no matter what form it took and no matter who else contributed value to build that business; this in essence is a claim by Mr. Ceglia that, at any time and under under any circumstances, he can pull a piece of paper out of his pocket and claim a perpetual non-dilutable stake in somebody's company based on a work-for-hire contract for a small development fee done before that company was even to be formed; thus, every founder who might work in that company, even for years, every investor who might invest in it, and every other stakeholder (including innocent purchasers for value who bought shares in the company in secondary trading), all such persons were to work, sweat, and toil, taking huge risks all the while, and all were to be subject to dilution - except for Mr. Ceglia, who could take his sweet time and come forward at any time with his claim of an 84% non-dilutable interest;

(b) if not vagueness, how about an unenforceable penalty? How would you react to someone who told you he would pay $1,000 for some development work and then take 1% of your company for every day delay in completing the project? Such terms are outrageous to say the least and probably serve to render the entire contract unenforceable, particular when the contract as a whole amounts to an alleged non-dilutable stake in a business no matter what future form it might take;

(c) how about statutes of limitations? New York apparently has a 6-year statute for breach of a written agreement. If the work was done by February 4, 2004, then Mr. Zuckerberg's obligation to perform would have started on that date. The complaint was filed on June 30, 2010, well past the 6-year deadline. Thus, on its face, the claim appears to be time-barred. One can of course allege facts for why the statute did not begin to run until a later date. This complaint fails to do so.

(d) Other equitable defenses would almost certainly apply so as to preclude assertion of any claim for equitable relief after such a long delay (laches being the most obvious - I discussed this in an earlier comment, http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1509601).

Thus, all in all, a lawsuit full of holes is built up by sensationalist reporting into a supposed major threat to Facebook and to Mr. Zuckerberg.

This is where the reporting becomes interesting. I think this relates to a strong impulse to see Mr. Zuckerberg get some sort of comeuppance for whatever reason.

The case got major headlines nationwide because a judge in a small state court entered a TRO, with the reports touting the idea that this gave the claim more gravitas because judges do not enter a TRO lightly. Yet this judge did just that. He entered the order even though the defendants had been given no notice of the application and even though the plaintiff made no showing whatever of likelihood of success on the merits and of alleged irreparable harm that he would suffer if the defendants were not enjoined from transferring assets while the TRO was in effect (see the brief filed by Facebook making these points, http://www.scribd.com/doc/34240120/Ceglia-v-Facebook-Motion-...). Without getting into technicalities, this amounts to a court having concluded that the TRO had to be entered to cover a 15-day period in which Mr. Ceglia might otherwise suffer irreparable harm absent a court order barring any transfer of Facebook assets during that period. After a nearly 7-year delay, it is basically absurd that such an order should have been entered. No possible harm could have come to Mr. Ceglia over a 15-day period that would have been any different from whatever risk he had faced for the nearly 7 years pre-dating the order. Thus, the TRO was ill-conceived at best and the federal court to which this case was removed immediately stayed its effect upon getting the case (the parties have since agreed to allow it to expire and die a merciful death).

In this piece, then, we get a subtitle stating or implying that the claims made by Facebook's lawyers (that this lawsuit was frivolous) were in themselves frivolous. Why? Because we now have an admission by Mr. Zuckerberg's lawyers that he did indeed sign the contract. This is then touted as some sort of setback for Facebook's case.

From a lawyer's standpoint, this is all really weird. This case is full of holes and represents at best a wild swing at Facebook and Mr. Zuckerberg. The contract is worded in a flaky manner. The terms themselves are outrageous by any measure (think about you would react if someone claimed a perpetual stake in whatever you did just because he paid you a small fee for a minor development effort). The lawyering in support is slipshod at best. Yet, in spite of all this, the reporting on it is building continual momentum such that it is perceived as a serious problem for the company and all because a judge entered an ill-conceived TRO and because of the basically irrelevant fact that Mr. Zuckerberg's lawyers admit that he signed the contract (a fact never previously denied). Yes, this all makes for high drama, but it also makes for highly inaccurate reporting on the legal merits of what is happening.

At most, in my view, this case represents a nuisance claim against Facebook, as no court in the world is about to prejudice the interests of innocent investors, co-founders, employees and the like for the sake of some guy who comes out of the woodwork after long delays with a wildly worded contract that is of dubious enforceability. While a court might be more open to entertaining a claim against Mr. Zuckerberg personally, even that is so dubious here as to be barely worth considering.

There are obviously many people who want to see Mr. Zuckerberg get what is due to him but this will not be the channel by which that might happen, notwithstanding the reporting on the case. In the end, this will be tried to a federal court and not in the blogs. And, in the courts, this thing is going nowhere.

I am, by the way, no apologist for Mr. Zuckerberg and have been quite critical of his actions in relation to the whole ConnectU mess (which does pose a serious risk for him and for Facebook, as I discussed in an earlier comment, http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1362379).

22 points by chaosmachine 15 hours ago 2 replies      
Of all the speculation on what could kill Facebook, did anyone ever imagine it might be a "wood fuel salesman" from New York? Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
9 points by mark_l_watson 15 hours ago 1 reply      
It sounds to me that FB should settle for a nice wad of cash, and make this all go away. Given a decent offer, my advice to Ceglia would be to take it. That said, a lot of people invested in FB in good faith, so perhaps any payments should come from Zuckerberg himself? I am usually not so interested in legal proceedings, but this may get interesting.
14 points by mkramlich 13 hours ago 1 reply      
Facebook may be close to becoming a Harvard Business School case on how to create a startup with dangerously murky ownership of IP and equity.
5 points by finiteloop 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Please see http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2010/07/21/the-massive-hole-in-f...

We strongly suspect the contract is forged. We have not seen the original (no one has). Thus, we’re focusing on the things that are not open to interpretation and are indisputable -- Mark could not have given interest in a company that didn’t exist or and idea he had not thought of yet and, even if he could, the statute of limitations has expired.

Bret Taylor, Facebook CTO

12 points by stretchwithme 11 hours ago 1 reply      
I hate these leeches. "Yeah, I hired him to shovel the driveway, and you didn't do the sidewalk behind the garage, so I own your house now."
5 points by spokey 13 hours ago 1 reply      
I actually found the last line:

Facebook paid [ConnectU] $65m to go away.

to be the most interesting. I don't follow the Facebook story very closely, but I had no idea that much money changed hands over the ConnectU thing.

4 points by tlrobinson 13 hours ago 2 replies      
If this guy's claims are legitimate, does he own 85% of all of Facebook, or 85% of Zuckerberg's share of Facebook? Presumably he would have been diluted in subsequent funding rounds, etc?

What portion of Facebook does Zuckerberg still own?

5 points by Charuru 15 hours ago 0 replies      
If Zuck was a more empathizable character I would feel really really sorry for him. This is the sort of youth mistake that really gets you.
6 points by amichail 14 hours ago 2 replies      
Why would a Harvard student give up 50%+ of ownership for a mere $1000?
1 point by karlzt 0 minutes ago 0 replies      
Ubuntu needs to work on user experience rebol.com
3 points by pragmatic 1 hour ago   2 comments top
1 point by ephesus 1 hour ago 1 reply      
He managed to write the entire post without pointing out a single thing he found fault with. Kind of a waste of time.
       cached 22 July 2010 16:02:01 GMT