hacker news with inline top comments    .. more ..    6 Jan 2016 News
home   ask   best   2 years ago   
Magic+ getmagicnow.com
444 points by calvin_c   ago   334 comments top 81
paul 8 hours ago 9 replies      
A lot of skepticism here, which is understandable given the somewhat unbelievable scope of what they are promising.

I'm a very active user of Magic+, so I'll give my perspective. (and of course I've been working with them from the beginning at YC, so you're also free to discard my opinion as biased)

For me, Magic+ is basically the impossibly good personal assistant, kind of like Jarvis in Iron Man, or Emily in The Devil Wears Prada. Unlike a conventional assistant, it's available 24/7, always happy to take on more work, and capable of accomplishing just about anything.

Obviously the $100/hr price point puts it out of reach for most people, but my expectation (as an investor) is that as the tech improves, they will be able to bring down the price while maintaining or even improving the quality of the service (I call this the Tesla strategy).

For me however, $100/hr is totally worth it since it effectively increases my leverage and enables me to get more done in less time. I've used it to plan events for YC founders, answer questions that are hard to Google (they will find the right experts and ask them), and provide unique and memorable gifts to friends, family, and business partners. I'm used to paying a high price for quality professional services such as accountants or lawyers, so $100/hr for the best possible assistant feels completely reasonable and rational.

BookmarkSaver 33 minutes ago 0 replies      
Ok. I must seriously be missing something here. I'm usually the last person to complain about shilling, because even on the very rare occasions that I am confident that some sort of "astroturf" operation is going on I usually find it to be a somewhat valid or at least entertaining form of promotion and don't care that it is clearly just advertising.

But seriously, this thread is absurd. I truly do not understand how a significant portion of this site (even knowing that it is probably largely made up of affluent, educated people) consider this to be even a reasonable value proposition. I'm not incredibly affluent or anything, but by any standard short of the true "1%" I am extremely well off. However the level of wealth required that a blind commitment of $100/hr for trivial delagatable tasks is way beyond anything I would consider using, especially considering the significant upfront purchase that seems to be required. What ten hours of random bullshit that I not just need done, but would entrust to a stranger without known qualifications is worth $1k? Not much...

But this comment section is filled with well crafted top level praise of the service with a staggering amount of popularity for what seems to be an extreme luxury service. Compounded by very "reasonable" objections with immediate and solicitous responses by accounts claiming to be representatives humbly begging for an opportunity to right their wrongs and improve the service.

This whole thing looks like a finely tuned campaign to leverage highly-regarded social media in a wide scale blitz to make the absurd product seem reasonable. Seriously, I'm staggered at this comment section and the popularity here.

And this "target market" excuse seems like crap. If the "target market" is extremely rich folk who would consider dropping $100/hr on miscellaneous unskilled labor with almost no real guarantee of reliability or quality, then they wouldn't be blitzing a random social media site to improve their image (which they explicitly are doing with mr. cmikec running around). They'd focus their efforts on true premium clients and demonstrate some sort of solid guarantee of their reliability that a suspicious rich person might actually accept. This whole thing looks like an attempt to make random $100/hr requests somehow seem reasonable to people who can technically afford it but typically wouldn't even consider it if they didn't see it as a "normalish" thing to do.

joslin01 9 hours ago 4 replies      
Looks like the reception isn't doing too well. I remember when Magic launched here on HN and it BLEW up. I was one of the people who tried it out. I live in NYC and actually had a poor experience.

The first two times, I said "hey I want a sandwich with [x]" and I got it but it took a lot longer than if I just clicked the necessary buttons on Seamless. Then I kept getting random calls from time to time from pizza delivery men saying they were downstairs.

They were very apologetic and nice about it, but really it just wasn't worth it for me. The CTO (I think) reached out to me some months later asking why I stopped and well it's the same answer: very little utility for someone like myself. If I were rich, hey sure why not boss someone around for random things (though I don't know why I wouldn't just hire someone I can trust). However, if you're middle income or even a little higher, what's the point really? Everything else is basically on-demand in this new uber-fied world.

negamax 21 minutes ago 0 replies      
If you can establish a business around this, that would be great. But personal assistants are more than just money and skills. There's lots of trust involved created over the years. I think people would be more comfortable if this was completely AIed (may be it can be promoted as that in a sly way) as compared to sending task requests to unknown (although trained) people. But that's just me. I really do think that this is bad example of technology. But looking at the examples, it may just be the thing nouveau riche are looking for.
tghw 8 hours ago 4 replies      
I just signed up to see if they could renegotiate my Comcast price for me. It turns out you have to buy either 10 hours at $100/hour or 40 hours at $75/hour to get started. That's way too steep to try something out.
jcrites 8 hours ago 2 replies      
I use Magic and they provide incredible service. They've been able to accomplish pretty much everything I've asked, including some requests that I thought were borderline outlandish, such as having food from a restaurant across the country sent to me via chilled overnight air mail for a friend's birthday as a big flashy surprise (friend's favorite restaurant).

If you value your time more than your money, then they're an excellent service that gives you a new suite of capabilities for making that tradeoff. They have been able to arrange everything I've asked them to do. What I like about them is that I can make a request without having any idea how to go about getting it fulfilled, and Magic will figure out how - they'll do the research and find a solution. They are familiar with service providers for all sorts of unusual tasks and will set them up for you: personal chefs, car servicing pickup, garbage pickup - for everything I've asked they've had an answer.

They are primarily limited however by their staff on the ground or lack thereof. Although they've been able to organize couriers in several cities to accomplish tasks, they have occasionally been unable to find couriers on the day of a request. Magic is a generalist service: they can do virtually anything, but not necessarily within the same hour you ask. They're worse than specialist services like Postmates at tasks like basic food pickup and delivery (mostly due to lower availability of couriers). Magic is most useful when your need is unusual and a typical service won't be able to get it done - or when you want a complex problem to be solved and don't want to have to think about or manage the solution. At such a task, they excel, and they've always come through for me in the end.

The Magic staff are very friendly and personable, as well. Their customer service is a tier above any other company I've interacted with. They handle requests with unusually high intellectual and emotional intelligence, and care. (Disclaimer: I haven't used Magic+, only the original Magic which has been surprisingly cheap for the value it adds.)

minimaxir 9 hours ago 3 replies      
I really am not a fan of the hyperminimalistic "we can do anything trust us!" landing pages that every text-for-personal-assistant seems to think is brilliant marketing copy.

There are examples of Magic+ requests, but no real-world examples of outcomes and whether the request was filled successfully to the customer's satisfaction.

Relatedly, the $100/hr is suspicious because it's impossible to audit the time spent by the assistant. (Contrast with flat fees stated upfront from the normal service.)

spdustin 8 hours ago 1 reply      
1) How does one become a Magic+ "Magician"?

2) Do the Magicians post a surety bond to Magic for liability-related losses? Does Magic have third party fidelity bonds to help defend against suits brought against them due to fraudulent actions by (I assume) contractor Magicians? Disclaiming all liability and hold harmless agreements can be problematic in reality, given the example market of impulse iPad Pro buyers could easily be envisioned to have enough resources to litigate Magic into oblivion.

3) Do Magicians undergo any kind of background checking?

If I'm going to trust a service with information otherwise protected by regularly rotated credentials and TFA - and I'm not beyond doing that, since the pricing for dependable and trustworthy (and bonded/insured) assistants for ad-hoc tasks doesn't seem too offensive to me - I'd want to know my risks.

I know that doesn't make for magical copy on a landing page, but it's a selling point. I used the original Magic pretty early on, getting a rather esoteric accessory for some discontinued on-ear studio monitors, and I was impressed by their professionalism. If the pricing goes to the next level, the professionalism needs to follow, in my opinion.

nlh 44 minutes ago 0 replies      
I'm trying to figure out why I (too) am having a strong negative reaction to this. Let me think out loud:

I'm fortunate enough to have a real personal assistant. She's amazing, she knows me, she does fantastic work, and I pay her a fair and reasonable wage (including health care) that's far less than $100/hour. So let's put me in the category of "people who can afford a personal assistant" but not quite in the category of "people who demand to meet Tina Fey & Amy Poehler on demand."

I would NEVER in a million years consider replacing my assistant with a faceless nameless AI-assisted service. I have a number of friends who are also fortunate enough to have assistants. They would NEVER consider replacing their assistants with a faceless nameless AI-assisted service (at least one friend has an assistant that's been with him for years and is basically part of the family).

And with the examples they give, Magic+ is painting a picture of both a service and user that's highly specific -- wealthy enough to afford these luxuries, but not willing to make the investment of hiring a real person to build a real relationship with to perform these tasks.

So the whole thing feels....dismissive. I guess that's the best word I can come up with. Dismissive of money ("Entertain me with Tina Fey - I will pay for her presence."), dismissive of human contact ("I don't want a real assistant - I just want to text a service to do my bidding.") Dismissive of warmth. It's sort of what I imagine a caricature of a dystopian tech billionaire would want -- all of the somethings with none of the someones.

I dunno. It just feels ... off. Sorry I can't come up with something better. But as the target demographic (I think?), I'm feeling like the pitch is very off-target and off-putting.

pyrrhotech 4 hours ago 2 replies      
Another service for the 1%. This one will go the way of homejoy. These kids don't understand how tight the household budget is for nearly all Americans.

You can smell the elitism dripping in their examples on the site. Private helicoptors, $31 grocery delivery... most people will pay a little extra for convenience, but this is ridiculous.

exogen 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I haven't used the $100/hour Magic+, but I've used Magic several times. I ordered sushi when it was first announced and the HN comment about my experience got a lot of interest.

Once I used it to order fried chicken from a deli that isn't available via any delivery service. That was nice.

The coolest thing by far was using it to buy a gift. I follow an embroidery artist on Instagram, and noticed she was doing a pop-up shop in Chicago (I live in Seattle). I directly inquired about commissioning pieces or buying her existing pieces, but it just wasn't possible this pop-up shop was the only way. I showed Magic a few of the pieces I liked best on Instagram, gave them a price limit (no idea even how much they were selling for), and described how there were only a few of these things available and they'd probably be gone fast. They sent someone there and managed to get one for me and mail it!

kriro 9 minutes ago 0 replies      
I'd be interested in seeing what failed requests look like. Can't really promise to solve everything so I'd like to know what mitigation strategies etc. are used when no acceptable solution can be found.
bigtunacan 6 hours ago 0 replies      
This sounds a bit like Uber for personal assistants. So for people in the top 1% they can now have 24/7 personal assistants at probably about the same cost as they previously paid for a 9 to 5-er.

Then a middle man skims most of the profits while all of the personal assistants of the world lose job stability and end up having to work 80 hours a week as "personal contractors" to try and break even with what they previously made in a 40 hour work week.

Yeah; I'm a bit skeptical.

HorizonXP 57 minutes ago 0 replies      
So I haven't used Magic in a while. I'll probably start using it again now.

Last time, I used it as follows:

1) Lunch for my cofounder and I at demo day since we had dietary restrictions. Worked perfectly.

2) went drinking with everyone after demo day, and we drove. Didn't plan out who was DD. Magic sent us a driver to drive us home in our car. Was one of the Magic founders' sister.

3) Had flowers sent to my wife, just to let her know I was thinking of her while I was away. Said they were the best flowers she had ever got, and got lots of compliments from family and friends.

Yesterday, I was just thinking about using Magic to get a bunch of things done, housekeeping wise within the company. Really timely to see this. I'll be using them for everything from fixing my glasses, to cleaning up my books, and more. I'm hoping to have them take care of the mundane things so I can focus on more important tasks like coding and such.

option_greek 14 minutes ago 0 replies      
There is so much on envy (masked as cynicism) in the comment section that we might as well paint the HN banner green today.

PS: Before you downvote me to death, want to clarify that the envy is that someone can use this service paying 100/hr :)

dcpdx 8 hours ago 1 reply      
This is like Tesla entering the market with a high end sports car, or Uber entering the market with only black cars. They're targeting a smaller niche of wealthy early adopters to tweak the service and revenue model and will eventually move downmarket to address a broader customer base (if they're successful with this initial niche). This is an ideal niche to start with because a) they have the money for it b) they're more tech savvy and generally forgiving of product shortfalls for bleeding edge services and c) they have lots of connections and can spread word-of-mouth more effectively (think Chris Dixon). It will be interesting to see if this becomes more of an API for other on-demand platforms such as Seamless or if it will be standalone. Also curious to see how this will stack up to Facebook's M and if they've built something defensible enough to pose a real threat.
SwellJoe 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I predict a few things for the future of this service (and this kind of service):

1. A lot of frustration from customers and a lot of churn. An effective personal assistant, or office manager, or whatever, effectively begins to read the mind of their employer. Lack of face-to-face, and what I imagine will be a lot of assistant churn, will result in very poor "mind reading" abilities. Cost of training a new assistant is much higher than actually having one, at least for folks who utilize their services a lot.

2. A race to the bottom on price, exacerbating the problem of assistant churn. $100/hr leaves a lot of room at the bottom, but it'll drop to the point where people in the US aren't willing to do the job of magic assistant.

3. $0 is the cost of Siri, Google Now, and Alexa. They truly suck right now, for almost everything except taking the place of a keyboard, but will get better. There's a limit to what "virtual" assistants can do for you; at some point you need a meat robot to go physically do stuff for you, if you want assistance beyond what technology can do.

Not to trash talk the idea or the company, at all. I haven't tried it. I can't think of anything it could do for me that I wouldn't rather hire an actual assistant for. At $100, you can get several hours of real human time, in your local market. Someone you can meet, and develop a rapport with. I'm ordinarily not on the side of the fence that insists that the personal touch is important (I don't like car dealers and want them to disappear, I don't like sales people at any store and generally want them to disappear, etc. because in general, they know less than me about what I'm shopping for and just serve to annoy me and occasionally lie to me to try to manipulate my decision). But, in this case, there is real value in a real live human having access to your daily life or work so they can be most productive about helping you get shit done.

omarforgotpwd 9 hours ago 2 replies      
Good morning,I read all your email while you slept. Your wife is very pretty. I wrote a message to your son telling him you loved him. He responded "you're not my real dad". I also hired that Visual Basic expert who emailed you yesterday. Don't worry, I already charged your AMEX $230 for the trouble.
habosa 9 hours ago 1 reply      
Find someone to train me like Jason Bourne.Get me a mobile dentist to my office ASAP.I want to meet Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.I need to rent out the Exploratorium this weekend.I need 6 convertibles tomorrow for rent.Organize my team for a town hall tomorrow.My 1 pm ran over. Bump my meetings back 1 hour.Im out of the office today. Check my email and let me know if theres anything urgent.

They're going way over the top here to market it to busy douchebags. I thought about using it until I saw who they think I might be.

xirdstl 9 hours ago 1 reply      
The examples are puzzling to me. Take this one:"Im out of the office today. Check my email and let me know if theres anything urgent."

Are they proposing we should be ok with giving them our credentials?

bredren 6 hours ago 1 reply      
I'd love to try this, as there is an out-of-production bag that is probably out there but I could not find this holiday season.

People aren't mentioning this here, but the real sticker shock is not $100 / hour but rather that to get that price you have to be ready to pay $1000 now or sign up for a $3000 a month subscription (that also begins now)

The low-key information page doesn't really set you up for that level of commitment to check things out.

dyladan 8 hours ago 1 reply      
I thought this was satire. Came here to see the jokes. None of you seem to be treating it like satire though.
hackuser 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I would love to see more comments that provided value to other readers. There is so much expertise and intelligence in this forum, but so many discussions contain only what is easiest: obvious cyncism. It's kind of fun banter once in a while, but gets old and isn't worth spending the time reading.
pazimzadeh 8 hours ago 3 replies      
Episode 5 of Rick and Morty's first season is relevant (the Mister Meeseeks episode).
kilroy123 8 hours ago 4 replies      
$100 an hour? Fuck that.

I'm currently living abroad and don't speak the language very well. So I hired a virtual assistant who speaks the language and English. He charges $7.50 USD an hour. I only pay him for time it takes to complete my tasks. I rarely even pay $100 for the whole month.

captaindiego 8 hours ago 3 replies      
It says it works from anywhere, but then only gives a number that works from within the US. How are you supposed to use this service while in another country and not having access to a US sim card?
Rauchg 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I use Magic occasionally and it's been wonderful every time. It's definitely not something I would use everyday, but it's been great for:- a time I needed a replacement power supply cable, and really didn't have the time to research where to get it, and needed it urgently. - a couple times where I needed a dinner reservation for relatives or friends visiting- quick questions about things to do or places to go

I definitely recommend the basic version!

pmichaud 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm deeply skeptical of this. It would be worth $100/hr to hand off highly complex task like planning a wedding (from their copy), but it's impossible--there is way too much interaction and iteration necessary on tasks like that.

For things you can realistically text to have done, the task has be crystal clear, and basically atomic. If I've already done the work of making it crystal clear and atomic, then it's not worth $100/hr anymore, because it's just rote busy work at that point.

stephenc_c_ 8 hours ago 3 replies      
So this is just Amex Plat/Centurion concierge for people who prefer to text than call?
omarish 7 hours ago 3 replies      
Based on everything I learned about this space from starting, operating, and later selling a company that does exactly this in the summer of 2014 [1] [2], I'm bullish on this idea. I think it's definitely a step in the right direction and incentives are starting to line up.

The "I'll do anything for you by SMS" space (I call it the "Houdini app" space) space affords the middle-to-upper class in first world countries (where labor is much more expensive) the same power you'd get if you were in a country where labor is much cheaper.

Example: in Lebanon, where I grew up, the middle-to-upper class of the population has: a stay-at-home maid ($200/mo), a driver ($300/mo), and a concierge at the bottom of their building ($30/mo), who will take care of pretty much anything for you. This is possible because labor is so cheap. I'd say you have to be in the 0.1% in the US to be able to afford this (since labor would cost you much more), but in third world countries, it's within reach of probably the top 15% of the population (by income).

I think the most successful concierges have a "fixer" mindset - you give them a very loosely defined need, and their job is 1) coordinating and finding a solution, and 2) actually following through and executing on it. The fixer's advantage is 1) the end user trusts them, trusts their taste, and there is a pre-existing relationship with the customer, and 2) the user has a general idea of what they can and cannot do.

The real value Magic brings is that they can be the fixer for your day-to-day life. If I were Magic, I'd change the pricing to $200/hour, but only charged if the task is actually completed. That way, the incentives really line up in that 1) they're more incentivized to complete the task successfully, 2) users trust them a lot more and know that they will get their money's worth, and 3) they develop the "fixer" brand, where Magic gets you what you want, and you only have to pay if it gets done.

Lots of important technologies start off as "toys for the rich" - I could see that happening here too. What I am curious to see, is how they plan on bringing the cost of the service down. Or if it's possible to get a big enough market share at this price point.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8094351

[2] http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/08/my-disruptive-d...

snydly 5 hours ago 3 replies      
So wait... did I miss the part about what happens if they fail to do what I ask? What happens then?

"Finish my dissertation. Thanks."

davecraige 4 hours ago 0 replies      
A few thoughts and questions

1. This is fascinating to watch

2. How is Magic going to compete with Facebook M and www.GoButler.com? Butler does all the things Magic does but for free. And Facebook M is being rolled out to more and more people.

3. Is there space for a premium concierge assistant that gives even better service than Butler or M can do? What prevents Butler or M from simply rolling out a premium $25/hour service and undercutting Magic if this segment proves valuable.

4. Isn't the real money in massive scale. Will Magic simply be a small concierge shop for the very wealthy and will we all use Facebook M for most tasks in the future?

relaxatorium 9 hours ago 1 reply      
The example they're trying to use to show you that prices aren't crazy quotes a $30+ surcharge for having groceries delivered.
voltagex_ 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I said to myself that I'd start less HN comments this year with "I'm in a wheelchair and..." but:

I'm in a wheelchair and access to a personal assistant (especially for travel arrangements) would be excellent.

Access to a personal assistant in the departure country and the arrival location (to check just how wheelchair accessible that Days Inn wheelchair-accessible suite really is) would be phenomenal.

There's a business idea there, just that the market is small and difficult to cater for (lots and lots of different needs)

I'm one of the lucky ones and I'm relatively well off, but 100/hour (~$140AUD/hour) is way, way out of my price range.

pbreit 9 hours ago 3 replies      
$100 an hour sounds expensive. $1/minute might be a better published price. And also suggest that it's priced in minute increments.
biot 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Show HN: I asked Magic+ to build me a Magic+ clone (getyourmagic.io)

With their promise of "Anything you want. Seriously." how long before we see that? :)

jaksmit 5 hours ago 2 replies      
I tweeted about this last week and was surprised no one else noticed sooner: https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2F_...

their roll out of this pivot has been a disaster:

1) Last week the homepage was saying it was free: https://www.dropbox.com/s/6v7ctgeakcya1wi/1.png?dl=0but when you signed up it asked you to pay $100/hr or $3000 a month

2) Then yesterday they updated the homepage to say it was a paid ONLY service:https://www.dropbox.com/s/t01zei3j9k6e99f/2.png?dl=0

3) Now today they've updated the homepage wording to say it's free OR paid:https://www.dropbox.com/s/5qlrt6vfzsigda0/3.png?dl=0

Venturebeat did a post on the pivot: http://venturebeat.com/2016/01/04/magic-to-start-charging-10...

JackFr 3 hours ago 0 replies      
I think it speaks to the whole PG inequality essay. This is clearly a catalyst for a more natural equilibrium. It seems to me the main service provided by Magic+ is liberating money from those who have more than they know what to do with.
lancewiggs 4 hours ago 0 replies      
$100 per hour, or $800 per day or $160k/year at 200 working days after holidays and weekends. That's arguably close to what the wealthy people who this is currently targeted at should pay a great assistant anyway.

So I challenge the amount of money Magic needs to pay the very best assistants, not the price to the customers. And while the automation will increase the amount of time spent on the job by each assistant delivering outcomes, it's a very exhausting day for them to deliver this sort of level of service non stop.

Over time the automation will increase the margins, but for now the best assistants will be setting themselves up to be poached by the best clients.

hysan 3 hours ago 0 replies      
> Q: How quickly will I get what I want after requesting it?

> As soon as possible.

So... it's not magic.

At their price point, it's only worth using the service if you have huge amounts of disposable income or your request is near impossible to fulfill on your own. It's basically a service that answers the question, "How much are you willing to spend to do X?" Where the amount is determined by them after the fact.

sauere 3 hours ago 0 replies      
What is it with all the comments about the service being for "elitist" or the "1%"?

People are paying for a convenient service - nothing special about it. Some pay the neighbors kid $20 to mow the lawn, others pay Magic $100 to get something done that would otherwise be a hassle for them. Same shit.

petke 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I thought this was about http://www.imagemagick.org/Magick++/
hackuser 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I'd love to know how they manage to scale such high quality service. They say they use "top-tier executive assistants and concierges", but it's hard to scale high-quality employees.

How does it differ from other concierge services, such as the one connected to American Express cards? What have others typically done well and poorly, and how does Magic+ overcome the limitations?

slmyers 8 hours ago 0 replies      
The landing page seems like a joke or a scam. I was honestly confused as to whether this was a legitimate service.
cballard 9 hours ago 3 replies      
Is this a parody?
S4M 9 hours ago 1 reply      
> Q: What about the purchases that I make through Magic+?

> There is no markup on the purchases you make through Magic+. We find you the best deals that we can on every purchase, and we negotiate strongly with vendors. Often you will save more money using Magic+ than if you had done things yourself.

... I see a conflict of interest there.

tedmiston 5 hours ago 1 reply      
> Q: How much does it cost?

> Its $100/hr to use Magic+. You only get charged for the minutes you use it for. If your request takes 12 minutes, youll only be charged for 12 minutes.

This could be affordable in small does depending how much time a human is allocated to do the task. I wonder if it's possible to know the estimate before you commit to buying.

1812Overture 6 hours ago 0 replies      
"Magic+! I need the schematics of this building sent to my phone. And hack a satellite with infrared imaging so I can see where the terrorists are." - Jack Bauer
jimmytucson 4 hours ago 0 replies      
What are the most significant improvements to this service since it launched on HN almost a year ago?


known 51 minutes ago 0 replies      
Sounds interesting.
ejhong 5 hours ago 1 reply      
Are you going to support bitcoin for Magic+? Currently looks like you need a credit card to register.
gcr 7 hours ago 1 reply      
"I need the following hash reversed: abcd...."
lectrick 5 hours ago 0 replies      
For what it's worth, I've used the service twice and it worked out great. People tend to complain more than praise (there must be some psychological concept to explain this...), so that's my two cents.
smegel 8 hours ago 1 reply      
Out of my world, but I could see why the super-rich might like something like this. But I guess they have their own personal assistants for this stuff anyway.
w1ntermute 9 hours ago 2 replies      
Isn't this just an overpriced Zirtual?


billiam 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Looks to me like someone read this undergraduate econ lesson from earlier today:


mizzao 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Magic+ isn't going to be able to satisfy all of the copycat requests to meet Tina Fey and Amy Poehler...
whalesalad 7 hours ago 0 replies      
The examples are a little outlandish. Maybe some more realistic ones?
jayzalowitz 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I recently thought of a better way to do this with a quasi supervised ML approach... I think this pricepoint is finally a good reason to do so.
mastazi 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Are you guys able to read comfortably those tiny SMS screenshots? I was hoping I could click and zoom but nope...
ageofwant 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm wondering if this trend to pay for limited use, or "human micro-services" is good for society. Soon I'll have to bid for work as a developer and will have no idea if I'll be able to eat today or sleep under a roof. God help me if I'm sick.

Progress and efficiency is great, but I wonder if we (you and I, common devs) are digging our own graves.

dinkumthinkum 5 hours ago 0 replies      
It seems like an interesting way to fiendishly separate foolish people from their money.
Animats 9 hours ago 0 replies      
This, of course, comes from Heinlein's "We Also Walk Dogs". Does Magic+ have anyone as good as Grace Cormet?
uhtred 5 hours ago 0 replies      
This crap makes my socialist leaning side come out. Another unnecessary service that no-one needs, yet people with too much money will probably use. Where's Karl Pilkington's Bullshit Man when you need him.
roarkjs 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Hey magic, can we get a UK version of magic?
rbnacharya 5 hours ago 0 replies      
This was what I had in my head 10 hrs ago.
mdevere 6 hours ago 1 reply      
This honestly looks awesome and easily worth the money.
aresant 8 hours ago 0 replies      
First, did anybody else miss that what's linked here is the "+" version, at $100/hr?

The original "pay per use" service is still offered at https://getmagicnow.com/

free2rhyme214 4 hours ago 1 reply      
Why Magic+ instead of Operator?
shitgoose 3 hours ago 1 reply      
is it just me or i hear indian accent when i read this web site?

PS you guys flagged a recent post with Obama's gun control executive action, but leave this one on??

eruannon 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Wow, these guys are desperate for a pivot after getting torpedoed by Facebook M, huh?
irascible 6 hours ago 5 replies      
Seeing this makes me feel ashamed to be a part of the tech industry. This is why people despise the 1%. Show some taste/humility/discretion. A "service" like this is so narrowly focused on the ultra rich, that it should be marketing in high end magazines/direct outreach.. not on hacker news.
allisonburtch 4 hours ago 0 replies      
magic*, exploiting labor so you don't have to!
voynich61 6 hours ago 0 replies      
irascible 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Can magic+ have someone gild my butthole while I snort lines of crushed modafinil from the belly of a vietnamese teenage hooker? Preferably while I'm in my corner office at my SF crowd funded startup disrupting the sustainable grass fed cheese supply chain?
such_a_casual 9 hours ago 0 replies      
> Our unique combination of humans and software

Oh god, I can't stop laughing.

sergiotapia 9 hours ago 0 replies      
This sounds utterly insane, yet so amazing.

Find someone to train me like Jason Bourne. Hahaha.

archimedespi 9 hours ago 1 reply      
Really, really freaky. Especially all the copy about how "you can trust us".
PaulHoule 8 hours ago 0 replies      
It reminds me of the old Heinlein story "We also walk dogs."

The $100/hr rate bugs me a little. Some people's time is worth more than that and other is less.

shaftway 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Really tempted to make an account just to request some inane stuff.
soared 9 hours ago 1 reply      
Based on their web design I doubt their ability to complete any simple task.
Why privacy is important, and having nothing to hide is irrelevant robindoherty.com
141 points by synesso   ago   64 comments top 11
tobbyb 20 minutes ago 0 replies      
I think the tech crowd is in denial about their role in surveillance.

We expect professionals to behave ethically. Doctors and companies working on genetics and cloning for instance are expected to behave ethically and have constraints placed on their work. And with consequences for those behaving unethically.

Yet we have millions of software engineers working on building a surveillance society with no sense of ethics, constraints or consequences.

What we have instead are anachronistic discussions on things like privacy that seem oddly disconnected from 300 years of accumulated wisdom on surveillance, privacy, free speech and liberty to pretend the obvious is not so obvious. And this from a group of people who have routinely postured extreme zeal for freedom and liberty since the early 90's and produced one Snowden.

That's a pretty bad record by any standards, and indicates the urgent need for self reflection, industry bodies, standards and for a wider discussion to insert context, ethics and history into the debate.

The point about privacy is not you, no one cares what you are doing so an individual perspective here has zero value, but building the infrastructure and ability to track what everyone in a society is doing, and preempt any threat to entrenched interests and status quo. An individual may not need or value privacy but a healthy society definitely needs it.

raminf 41 minutes ago 0 replies      
The issue with the 'nothing to hide' argument is that it puts the burden of proof and determination of whether something is 'hide-worthy' on the target of the inquiry.

If you subscribe to the 'presumed innocent' premise of the law (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presumption_of_innocence) then the burden of proof is on the inquisitor.

Either you believe in presumed innocence or you don't. Pick one.

Laaw 3 hours ago 4 replies      
I have two unrelated thoughts.

"Chilling effect" has always been a profound term for me, because I imagine the "cold" (numbness really) sensation a human body often senses when something truly awful (disembowlment/dismemberment) occurs. The body's way of protecting itself is to go "cold", and in many ways that's exactly the effect taking place here, as well.

There's also an undeniable part of this conversation that rarely gets addressed simultaneously, and I'd like to see it sussed out more in concert; what about the folks who are doing Evil in these private channels? It's unacceptable to me that TOR gets used for child pornography, and it's unacceptable to me that my government finds out I'm gay before I come out to my family.

I don't want to provide those who would do Evil any safety or quarter. I also want to give people a powerful shield to protect themselves against judgement and persecution from the public and sometimes the law.

We should talk about achieving both of these goals, but we generally don't.

jkonowitch 3 hours ago 1 reply      
This issue always boils down to the LOTR argument for me: the surveillance power is too great, and no individual or group can or should be trusted with it, regardless of its actual current or potential future benefits.

The crux of the debate then is where to draw the line between safe and unsafe amounts of power?

exodust 4 hours ago 1 reply      
Very good, but it's funny how on the "why IPVanish" page he links to, the first reason given for using a VPN is, to watch Netflix from any location! Oh the horror of limited localised Netflix content. We must protect ourselves. (Really it is awful, I use a VPN for that purpose too). But the point is, it doesn't seem popular to hide metadata from ISPs with VPNs. Will it ever be popular? I'm not so sure. For good or bad, I'm suggesting most people don't care that their IPs are recorded. Email content is not seen, nor what I type into this comment form.

Also, when I send an email to my friend "laserpants@something.com", sure the data captures the send-to email address. But the data doesn't know who laserpants actually is, nor does the email content get saved. I'm not saying laserpants can't be found if the law decides to investigate, but I doubt it's a matter of pressing a button to bring up the real name of laserpants. Especially if laserpants uses different email addresses and a shared internet.

logicallee 32 minutes ago 0 replies      
meh, I want to have my cake and eat it too. (I'm not making fun of someone, this is actually how I feel, and there is some tension between requirements.) I don't want any surveillance whatsoever, I want to just be able to do whatever I want, jeez. To live freely. I shouldn't even think about being watched.

At the same time, take something like the Dell database that was just stolen, and criminals starting to do their criminal crimes. Then I want courts to be able to flip a switch and say, you know what, if you're brazenly stealing a private company's database and calling its customers trying to defraud them, at some point there is some probable cause to make you stop doing that or figure out who you are. You're not just going to stay anonymous behind a skype number while you're defrauding people halfway across the world.

Also I don't want some bitcoin asshole to pay off an old soviet general and get a nuclear bomb, just because they think it would be a fun troll to blow up a major city, trololo.

These aren't theoretical concerns - ransomware, kidnapping, all these yucky things that civilized societies don't have, all happen absent rule of law.

There's a reason there wasn't a period in the Constitution (specifically the fourth amendment) after the words "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects shall not be violated." (Extra points for what is there.)

Even absent an anonymous Internet, way back in the eighteenth century, there were limits on privacy. Think of it like an operating system - a good kernel isn't reading my memory contents and slowing me down, but if I start performing illegal operations I might very well get shut down :)

It's not an easy line to find. Also, I don't want tens of thousands of people employed doing this crap. It's a minimal thing we need to live safely and sanely, not some fun snooping. Frankly I don't see why humans even need to be involved, until crimes start getting committed and the courts are trying to figure out why or where.

Pharaoh2 20 minutes ago 0 replies      
Personally I really think that encryption is a matter of second amendment and in the day of knowledge and communication the right to bear encryption should fall under the second amendment. Hell, the US even classifies encryption as a munition. We should be using the same argument for encryption that we are using for the right to own guns and form militias.

I wonder if the encryption will be recognized as a right under the second amendment by the court if it goes to that.

x5n1 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Privacy is less important than the ability to trust your government won't do blatantly illegal things like put innocent people behind bars, steal their money or property, when they actually know that they are innocent. The biggest problem with America is that the government can not be trusted to follow the rules, their own rules.

I don't live in the US, but the stuff the government whether local, state, or federal gets away with is very scary to me. What scares me even more is how the United States encroaches on everyone else's legal system. That's the underlying problem. Under such governments that are actually out to get people at times without much cause breaking all sorts of rules, that's what's scary.

The type of soft totalitarianism that exists and passes as common place is very scary. And that's really the people you should be scared of, and that's who you really want to protect your information from. Your run of the mill government that's actually trying to do a good job and not break its own rules, that sort of government like my government, scares me a lot less. Despite the fact that they encroach on my privacy. I know heads are going to roll if it comes out that they do things that are blatantly wrong or abusive with the information that they are collecting.

Not so in the US. They always have a half-ass lie that still somehow passes muster.

SFjulie1 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Wishing privacy on the internet is like wishing no turmoil while shagging during a massive religious events of paranoid gunned puritans.

If privacy is such a problem for some it is not a technological problem, it is a political problem. If so, people concerned should make their revolution in an appropriate place: the real world, and let internet stay a public media.

PS noticed another fun topic there are blacklisted keywords on HN, like F words. Isn't censorship more concerning than privacy on a media? And funnily enough all the "lite" censorship nowadays are first about sex and gross words. Are sex and slang that dangerous?

Mendenhall 3 hours ago 2 replies      
Many would trade their privacy for what they think is safety.
blitzprog 3 hours ago 14 replies      
"This affects all of us. We must care." is not an effective way of convincing someone.

I personally do not care about privacy. I see no reason why I should.

It's just my opinion. I know other people do but please don't generalize.

Lumosity fined $2M for deceptive ads of Brain Training app ftc.gov
473 points by lpsz   ago   201 comments top 35
ryanferg 11 hours ago 2 replies      
All of these brain training products are suspect. Evidence for far transfer (training in one task transferring to a different domain task) is surprisingly hard to find, and empirical findings otherwise tend to disappear or diminish when replicated.

Many of the pro-brain-training camp have already begun to shift the goal posts. First it was 'simple games increase IQ,' which turned out to be difficult to prove when well controlled studies were performed. Now it's more along the lines of 'These simple games might have preventative effects against age related declines!,' which is an even harder claim to actually prove given the difficulties performing well controlled studies on aged participants.

In the cognitive science world, if we discovered a solid far transfer paradigm, especially one which transferred to something like G(eneral Intelligence), it would be our anti-baldness pill\flying car\4-day cellphone battery. People thought that these working memory transfer effects were the real deal and got very excited about it, money poured in, and the water got muddied by all these scientists with conflicts.

I obviously don't put much stock in working memory training. I wish it worked like they said, but I don't think it does. If far-transfer shows up at all, it's tiny, and doesn't persist after delay.

lettergram 11 hours ago 16 replies      
I just wanted to share my thoughts, which are simply: "Thank God!"

I've been working on a startup: http://synaptitude.me/ demo is old)

Essentially, we can do some of what Luminosity claims (and have independent studies to prove it). Every time someone goes: "Oh it's just like Lumosity" I have to go through and explain the difference. My wife has a degree in neuroscience and I minored in BioE, and we both just HATE Lumosity. Their misleading ads seriously damaged the public perception, and there is no way they can assess anything they claim (if it is even possible).

That's pretty much why my startup is working on our applications. We feel there is a market and can definitely help people, but just "brain games" (without feedback/guidance) don't do anything.

kazinator 11 hours ago 11 replies      
The way I see it, they tapped into a widely held belief, rather than fears. It is a popular belief that doing mental work staves off cognitive decline (including age-related). I bet you that everyone at Lumosity actually believes it because their mother told them that when they were kids.

My wife (Japanese) always says "good for older people" about any sort of puzzle. She didn't get this from being deceived by Lumosity.

The FTC is being very heavy-handed here.

It's like someone sold carrots claiming they improve vision, and got thrown in jail.

Testimonials being paid for shills? Like, say it ain't so. Every damed commercial you've ever seen in your life has fake people presenting fake testimonials. It's assumed.

(Claiming that doing puzzles can stave off Alzheimer's is going somewhat far, though. That disease has specific physiological causes which can't be reversed through brain activity.)

6stringmerc 12 hours ago 1 reply      
Based on the ads and no little fine print at the bottom citing any real science, I was a skeptic from the outset. Never did any real research to find out if their claims were inflated - or even viable in the first place. Apparently when challenged by the FTC they didn't have anything solid to show in their defense.

Oh, and then there's this bit:

>The complaint also charges the defendants with failing to disclose that some consumer testimonials featured on the website had been solicited through contests that promised significant prizes, including a free iPad, a lifetime Lumosity subscription, and a round-trip to San Francisco.

Classic huckster move, not surprised, glad they got caught, etc.

w1ntermute 12 hours ago 5 replies      
Great article on this trend of investors/entrepreneurs with no scientific background thinking they can get into the space and "shake things up":

Silicon Valley is confusing pseudo-science with innovation[0]

> I dont think all the VC firms that are moving into the space know what theyre doing so I think you only need a couple of nasty failures to get them to pull back. Take Pathway Genomics, for instance, which was selling a test that was supposed to tell you if you had cancer. I say "supposed to" because it turns out no one including Pathway Genomics itself had done any research whatsoever to determine the test actually did what it said it did. The company sold the test directly to patients through a regulatory loophole, and after we wrote about it, the FDA got wind and told them to knock it off. But Pathway had investors: Edelson Technology Partners, Founders Fund, IBM Watson Group. Youll notice these are not health care firms.

In the next couple of years, we're probably going to see companies like Nootrobox, Stemcentrx, and Theranos go belly up, after which SV investor interest in the healthcare industry will dry up, just as it did in the energy industry after the late 2000s.

0: http://www.theverge.com/2015/12/29/10642070/2015-theranos-ve...

drglitch 12 hours ago 1 reply      
About a year and a half ago i got dragged into the hype (via family subscription) - and actually enjoyed the games for about 3 days. after that, the fact that they had a total of about 5 variations, with totally predictable ordering, got really boring and i went back to 2048. You don't have to be a neuroscientist to see how this kind of predictable repetitive activity will make you "get better at it" every time you play...

Cancelling took a couple of emails and threat to dispute the CC charge.

Hooray for FTC!

jmcgough 12 hours ago 0 replies      
One of their recruiters reached out to me - in a former life I worked in a neuroscience lab researching neurogenesis to improve memory problems from a neurodegenerative disease (regular exercise can actually do wonders for that).

Would have been a really neat to revisit my academic passion, but as I started to read papers that had been published on their product, I wasn't convinced of its efficacy. That, and all of the studies used people with real problems, and they're marketing it to the general population as a way to "train" your brain, which feels wrong to me.

Laaw 11 hours ago 2 replies      
I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I think F.lux is equally as guilty of this. None of their cited studies are done with light from an LCD screen (which is prone to white light bleeding), or using their app.
coffeevradar 10 hours ago 3 replies      
I have less faith in public radio because my local station is always playing Lumosity adverts. I'm old enough to remember when the whole "sponsored by" thing being extended to full ads was a controversial development on US public radio. Now they're shilling outright scams and doing so with specific promises that are completely specious.
tedmiston 8 hours ago 0 replies      
My perspective on Lumosity and its "science" is different because I was a paying customer.

I found Lumosity in 2009-2010 and played occasionally, eventually converting to a paid membership in 2012-2013 and playing weekly on desktop and iOS.

I was even quite proud to make it to the 98th percentile of all players [1]. (For reference, that's statistically consistent with my score on a standardized IQ test.)

Eventually something felt off about the scoring. At one point I distinctly recall them catching flack for changing the algorithm to boost you higher for playing more without necessarily playing better.

What I found anecdotally was that playing their games while I was in a distracted state would help me regain focus to the point where I could work on a cognitively challenging task, like a programming project, math problems, etc. afterward that I wouldn't have been able to before playing. I don't claim (or know) whether any longterm difference was made, but I also didn't join for that reason and never really cared about that. Lumosity games gave me a brain reset not dissimilar to a short meditation.

I don't know the science behind this idea, and perhaps it's purely placebo effect, but personally Lumosity was helpful to my life. That was my experience.

1: https://twitter.com/kicksopenminds/status/426760502128041984

pbnjay 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Every time I heard these ads I cringed. As a scientist (with plenty of experience in the neuroscience domain) I knew there was no way they could back up those claims reliably.

I definitely noticed when they toned down the claims, but even then I was surprised they were still going...

+1 FTC

cordite 11 hours ago 2 replies      
NPR plays ads on the radio about Lumosity and brain training, nearly every day for the last year here.

It seemed ED to be more of a "We will give you a chance to raise an arbitrary number over time if you pay us" and heavy marketing ploy.

Seems like if cow clicker got viral and took peoples money.

mapt 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Ugh. Could have been higher.

My local entertainment mediums were spammed with this ad:


for a solid year or two. The vapid, cultish, yet manic grin. The "Now, with Neuroscience(tm)!". The recursive caricature of a borderline mentally retarded person who now feels that everything is right in the world because she's paid tithe to the Intelligence Authorities. The notion that the commercial is not only defrauding, but actively mocking anyone too uneducated or uncritical or low-self-confidence, to doubt their claims. The several percent of her life it's implied she's supposed to spend engaging in ritual flagellation with repetitive, poorly designed games, in order to diminish the shaming at not 'working on my mind'.

It is the singular most offensive scumbag commercial advertisement that comes to mind. It brings on vivid fantasies of punching the smug grin off of this woman, even though I know intellectually she's just a professional actress, and I'm a pacifist.

Briel 12 hours ago 2 replies      
>The order also imposes a $50 million judgment against Lumos Labs, which will be suspended due to its financial condition after the company pays $2 million to the Commission.

So does that mean after paying this fine, Lumosity is in financial trouble?

jrbedard 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Marketplace has done an interesting investigation on those types of mind games. http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/episodes/2014-2015/brain-train...
mrzool 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Looks like they toned down their website quite a lot:


Confront that with the transcript in the original FTC complaint (from page 7):


hyperion2010 10 hours ago 0 replies      
I wrote my prelims on these kinds of 'training' paradigms and there is zero credible experimental evidence that ANY of them actually generalize to things like fluid intelligence or g. For an excellent overview on the real state of the science see here [0].

0. http://longevity3.stanford.edu/blog/2014/10/15/the-consensus...

balls187 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Rose-Hulman (my alma mater), should probably revise this:


paulpauper 11 hours ago 0 replies      
even though I'm a 'free market' guy, nice to see action being taken against pseudoscience.



'Brain training' no better than 'penis enhancement'...just as dubious

marcuniq 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Improvement of fluid intelligence by training with dual-n-back was studied in Jaeggi et al.[0], but could not be successfully replicated [1]. More in the following article: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/brain-training-doe...

[0]: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2008/04/25/0801268105.full...

[1]: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal....

ericdykstra 7 hours ago 0 replies      
On the topic of games and their actual potential impact on cognition and other aspects of life, Jane McGonigal is doing a lot of interesting research, and I highly recommend reading or listening to some of her material if you're interested in the subject. A good starting point is her interview with Tim Ferriss (http://fourhourworkweek.com/2015/07/28/jane-mcgonigal/), and from there check out her books if you're interested in going deeper.

I believe it's in that interview that she says that these kinds of "brain training" games are less effective than just normal games built for fun at developing any kind of cognitive ability. I tried Lumosity out for a trial period to see what it was about, but the games were overly simplistic and not well-designed from a fun standpoint. I also felt like I was hitting 90% of their specific "categories" of games with a single game like Starcraft 2, except a game like Starcraft 2 actually forces you to engage the thinking part of your brain if you want to perform at any decent level.

interesting_att 6 hours ago 0 replies      
The worst part of this is that Lumosity probably did a cost-beenfit analysis years back, realizing they would make more money via these deceptive ads than the expected FTC fine.

For those who don't know- Lumosity is killing it. They can easily pay this fine with their enormous profits.

kevinalexbrown 10 hours ago 0 replies      
One intuitive way to categorize products is according to the observability of the value. In one class, it's readily apparent: the storage is cheaper, it doesn't fail very often, there's little downtime, my payments always go through, the user experience just feels better, all my friends use it. This doesn't have to be objective, just 'noticeable'.

On the other hand, it's hard to judge the value of an encryption app, or a brain training program, because the true value is often hidden. It's difficult to tell, at least for the average consumer whether an encryption app works. There might be signs for the more immediately knowledgeable ('why won't the passwords take special characters, or passwords longer than 12 characters?'), but it's usually a small group.

Unfortunately, this is probably going to make it harder for the latter kind of company to grow quickly, because trust takes time to develop. I don't just need to trust that my data will be safe - the entire value of the product depends on my trust that it does what it says.

I have no idea if lumosity does what it claimed, but I doubt I could easily tell in a day or two. Contrast that with instagram or a better computer - the value (however large or small) is obvious.

golergka 9 hours ago 1 reply      
I develop similar product, that focuses on eye training instead of brains. Half of our office is filled with ophthalmologists, with some big names (supposedly I don't know much about the field). Constant print outs of scientific articles lying around, presentation files stick to the walls (I don't know the proper term, but you know what I mean if you've been into scientific conferences and seminars) and overall vibe really feels like it's a university faculty and not a start-up. Damn, we even have fully equipped ophthalmologist office and get free eye exams when it's not used to measure our beta-testers.

I always assumed that brain training apps are just like that. What "did not have the science" really mean in this case? Did they find some errors in peer-reviewed papers these companies have published? Or they just faked it all?

wnevets 9 hours ago 0 replies      
The brain training craze all started with the nintendo's brain age game for the ds.
nostromo 10 hours ago 1 reply      
Where does that money go?

I really hope the FTC doesn't get it. It's a conflict of interest that permeates local law enforcement all across America.

Kinnard 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Did the USDA ever get fined for the Food Pyramid being completely wrong and then being thrown out[1]? Justice, justice?

[1] http://www.pjstar.com/article/20151230/OPINION/151239951

plg 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Where is the scientist? The grad school dropout with one peer reviewed publication?


mkhalil 11 hours ago 4 replies      
Dual n-back, coffee, LSD. All things people swear make you smarter.

Coffee has proven to make brain work better. But it's only temporary.

LSD...well, I've never tried it, but people swear by it. Not sure if scientists would be allowed to try it on test cases.

grillvogel 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I always wondered how the "brain improvements" from this thing compared to just playing a video game
sidcool 4 hours ago 1 reply      
I was subscribed to Lumosity for 2 years.
circa 11 hours ago 1 reply      
I did not read the article yet but what immediately comes to mind are those "try this one weird trick" ads
georgemcbay 11 hours ago 2 replies      
I have something of a litmus test for companies where I just assume any company that advertises a lot via "live reads" on radio/podcasts is not to be trusted. Lumosity, LifeLock, etc.

There are outliers for which I wouldn't quite say "not to be trusted" like Dollar Shave Club and Blue Apron, but even in those cases you are, IMO, overpaying for a vanishingly small amount of convenience.

I think it holds up pretty well though that putting a lot of effort into advertising via "live reads" on radio and podcasts is a negative indicator as to how much you can trust a company.

gobengo 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Only 2M...?
ivanca 7 hours ago 0 replies      
So, televangelist can claim that you need to send a "seed" (money) to get good fortune and get away with it making millions from the most gullible people around, but a brain-training app is penalized for deceptive ads?

Shit doesn't add up.

Sun, Oracle, Android, Google, Mozilla and JDK Copyleft FUD ebb.org
94 points by g1n016399   ago   35 comments top 9
defenestration 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Some quotes to quickly understand what is going on.

Andreas Gal, Former CTO of Mozilla, wrote yesterday:"... a curious event got my attention: A commit appeared in the Android code base that indicates that Google is abandoning its own re-implementation of Java in favor of Oracles original Java implementation. Ill try to explain why I think this is a huge change and will have far-reaching implications for Android and the Android ecosystem."Source: http://andreasgal.com/2016/01/05/oracle-sinks-its-claws-into...

Bradley M. Kuhn, in charge with the task of enforcing the GPL for Linux, wrote today:"Thus, my conclusion about this situation is quite different than the pundits and link-bait news articles. I speculate that Google weighed a technical decision against its own copyleft compliance processes, and determined that Google would succeed in its compliance efforts on Android, and thus won't face compliance problems, and can therefore easily benefit technically from the better code. However, for those many downstream redistributors of Android who fail at license compliance already, the ironic outcome is that you may finally find out how friendly and reasonable Conservancy's Linux GPL enforcement truly is, once you compare it with GPL enforcement from a company like Oracle, who holds avarice, not software freedom, as its primary moral principle."Source: http://ebb.org/bkuhn/blog/2016/01/05/jdk-in-android.html

guelo 2 hours ago 3 replies      
It's weird how uncommon the knowledge that Google lost the lawsuit is. They lost it in appeal at the Federal Circuit. There is a remaining "fair use" decision from the lower courts but Google doesn't have much hope there.

Google's current approach using Harmony's clean-room API implementation has been basically deemed illegal. Google will likely have to pay millions if not billions to Oracle for copyright infringement. And they will continue to be infringing as long as they are distributing their current Android systems.

P.S. The law of the land is now that when you create an API it is copyrighted.

azakai 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Why is there "Mozilla" in the hn title here, but not in the article's title? (nor the article body, except for a small aside about the MPL license, in parentheses
wbillingsley 57 minutes ago 0 replies      
A bit undermined by speculation like "we should expect Oracle to..." and "despite Oracle's expected nastiness" being so central to the analysis.

If we're talking speculation, then I'm guessing the next piece of news might be an announcement that Google is buying Java and Oracle's Java team. The line of thinking goes...

- Despite currently looking like losing a lawsuit, Google has just cosied closer to Oracle's version of Java. (Something's afoot...)

- Despite currently looking like winning a lawsuit, and Java 8 being very well received, Oracle's rumoured to have just let its Java evangelists go, and to be less interested in Java than it used to be. (They look willing to sell...)

- JavaOne was apparently a bit light on announcements (Could something other than just work on Java 9 be distracting them and making them put some plans on hold for a mo...)

- Having a litigious competitor own a key piece of Android is surely a pain point for Google that gets more painful as Android keeps storming ahead. Buying it would make that pain go away.

- Google's looking at possibly having to pay some money in the lawsuit, and will likely want to get something for it

- Oracle's looking at an uncertain return from the lawsuit, hasn't extracted that much revenue from Java itself, and might just be happy to take some cash for someone else to be custodian of it from here on

rms_returns 4 hours ago 1 reply      
The important thing is that Java should not be allowed to be owned and trolled upon by companies. Java belongs to the community that developed it collectively, not to a single corporation that paid bucks to purchase it from Sun.

And Java IS open source. Lets not allow Oracle to monopolize and troll the API spec. If we allow that to happen, it will open a floodgates of patent trolls across the United States and the victims could be innocent startups who have just begun struggling and innovating in the market.

kevingadd 1 hour ago 0 replies      
I find it hard to believe that the author of this post didn't know better than to refer to Andreas as a "pundit". I have my many disagreements with him personally but it's ridiculous to treat him as a tech media talking head when his opinions on the subject are clearly based on multiple years shipping an Android-derived operating system on phones. Not to mention Firefox for Android, which I think he had some involvement with as well. The post as a whole seems to be intended to frame disagreement with Mr. Kuhn's PoV as coming from uninformed rabble and media talking heads.

The post itself is well-written and thoughtfully argued, so it's disappointing that it's undermined by the author's choice of tone. If anyone is qualified to share their detailed thoughts on the OpenJDK/Android move, former/current officers of Mozilla are high on that list.

pron 2 hours ago 3 replies      
This entire thing may be confusing to a lot of people, as many are already confused by what the entire Android court case was about. The confusion is not accidental. Google's very extensive PR machine has put in a lot of resources to make sure people are confused (what Oracle puts into lawyers, Google puts into PR). But just to lay down a few facts:

Since 2006/7, Java has been available under two licenses: commercial and open-source. The commercial license allows free implementation of the Java APIs and has a full patent grant, but requires conformance with the Java TCK (Technology Compatibility Kit) and requires payment if used in mobile devices (this was Java's main revenue stream for a long time). It is also possible to license the JDK source from Oracle under the commercial license for a fee. The same JDK is also released under the GPL. This license is completely free and unencumbered (the GPL itself prohibits any restrictions). It does not require compatibility (unless you want to call the result "Java"), and has no field of use restrictions. It also has a full (implicit) patent grant. As this article notes, OpenJDK's copyleft is not viral either (certainly not more than Linux): applications and libraries running on top of it are unaffected due to the "classpath exception". You can do whatever you like with Java when you use it under the terms of its open-source license: use the implementation, use just the APIs and implement it yourself, use the whole thing or just small portion, pass the TCK, not pass the TCK, fork it or not. You are even allowed to use it to implement .NET.

Google has had both of these options for licensing Java (at least since May 2007, but that was still before Android was released). Until very recently, Google chose neither. They couldn't reach an agreement with Sun on the fee for the first license, and didn't like the second (possibly because they feared that phone manufacturers would reject a GPL runtime, classpath exception or no). Instead, they chose to argue in court that the APIs are not Oracle's to license[1].

What has changed now? Perhaps Google realized that given Android's success, phone vendors would swallow whatever license Google gives them. In any event this is a win for everyone: Google wins because they will need to spend less resources on maintaining Android, Oracle wins because Java will now be on Android, and Android and Java developers win because they'll have a better runtime and greater compatibility. This is contingent, however, on Google not forking OpenJDK too much beyond compatibility; the license does allow them to do so.

Yes, the mainline OpenJDK project is steered by the JCP (Google, Intel, Twitter, and IBM are all members) and Oracle does have veto power, but that is just the project governance. Anyone is free to fork OpenJDK, as long as they don't call the result Java (unless they fork and choose to pass the TCK). The situation is no different from other large open-source projects.

[1]: I have no opinion on whether or not Google's actions were legally justified (I do have an opinion about their ethics), but I do know that unlike Google's PR line, the ruling has little or no effect on the industry. Google's actions with Java's APIs were quite different from any other API implementation that I know of. Also, the ruling does not apply to web APIs. See discussion here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10811011.

dingo_bat 2 hours ago 3 replies      
All these complex licences (GPL2, GPL3, LGPL, Least GPL, etc) do nothing except create confusion about which license to use. I have found a simple solution that allows me to focus on my work and not on the legalese; I just use the MIT license.
throwaway_forcl 2 hours ago 3 replies      
I'm not sure how common knowledge this is, but Oracle is quietly going after any company of any significant size which uses Java in their software at all. It's not just the embedded stuff either; simply using Java in enterprise software is enough to bring them running with their team of lawyers threatening a lawsuit. These suits are being settled at large sums without raising any external indication that this is going on. It's not the big guys or the startups that have to worry, it's the mid-sized companies that know a long, protracted lawsuit with Oracle will not end well for them.
Kodak resurrects Super 8 kodak.com
204 points by tarp   ago   138 comments top 28
SwellJoe 4 hours ago 5 replies      
I watched the analog-to-digital-to-analog trend happen in professional audio (I was going to school for audio as ProTools was beginning to be a thing, we worked on analog tape machines...but the year after I finished my degree, they brought in digital ADAT machines for the small labs, and eventually went digital in the 24 track room, as well). It's amusing how superstitious people can be, especially in industries that are mostly subjective but happen to bump up against a lot of technology. Audio, photography, video, and now film have all been through this.

The final product will be delivered digitally for 99.9% of consumers. Why fight it? Why spend so much money, time, and effort, to work with inferior media? I dunno. I worked on analog tape machines (I was even a hold out, for a while, having a 1" 16 track machine, as big as a mini fridge, in my house for several years after digital multitracks were the smart choice), but there really is no good argument for it today.

There was a brief window where the best digital equipment was inferior to the very best analog equipment, but it didn't last long. Maybe five years. We may still be in that window for film when comparing 70mm film to the best digital equipment...but, on the low end? Hell no. This janky little camera from Kodak will be a joke compared to digital equipment in the same price range. And, the film/processing costs will be outrageous comparatively speaking, limiting ones options when shooting to a significant degree.

In short: This is just hipster bullshit. Just like analog audio is hipster bullshit.

Animats 7 hours ago 5 replies      
Amusingly, it's also a video camera, since the viewfinder is an LCD display. Not clear if the manual aperture and shutter time settings affect the viewfinder. You can feed video into the display (why?) but it's not clear if you can get video out of the camera. The film costs $50 to $75 per cartridge, for a running time of 3.5 minutes. Market: wannabe hipsters and old guys in the movie industry.

Kodak makes movie film only because the major studios, at the urging of some older directors, pay them to do so.[1] (Pro movie film sales were down 96%) The studios have to pay for a certain amount of film whether they take it or not. This leaves Kodak with a paid-for, underutilized film production plant and film development facilities. That's probably why Kodak is doing this.

[1] http://www.wsj.com/articles/kodak-to-continue-making-movie-f...

sparky_ 8 hours ago 2 replies      
Interesting to see history repeating itself a bit: "When you purchase film you will be buying the film, processing and digital transfer". Kodak was pursued by the DoJ in the 1950s and ultimately ruled against in an antitrust suit for doing the exact same thing with Kodachrome, the market leader in color (still) photography at the time. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kodachrome#Prepaid_processing
bprater 7 hours ago 3 replies      
You may have not noticed it, but the benefits of film have been going extinct this decade. Check out how many feature films are shot digitally versus on film. Unless you are Spielberg, you are shooting digitally.

Currently, there are small digital cameras like the Blackmagic Pocket Camera (BMPCC) camera, under $1k, which have a capability to shoot images that are so similar to 16mm film that the average consumer couldn't tell.

The bottom-line today: if you want the 8mm vibe, you oversample your image when shooting (16mm or 35mm digital) and then degrade the image in post-production to 8mm.

nickbauman 8 hours ago 1 reply      
I wish they would have resurrected 9.5 mm instead. 9.5 mm was an amazing format in that the emulsion went from edge to edge with no pulldown claw sprocket. Instead it used a single sprocket hole between the frames. It was still very cheap film but more than 50% larger emulsion than Super8.


ryandamm 6 hours ago 0 replies      
The death of film has more to do with distribution than acquisition; the pervasive switch to digital projection completely killed the last bastion of demand for film stock. (A typical film might requires 100s to 1000s as much stock for delivery to theaters as it needed for initial capture.)

That said, you can't get the entire Super8 look with digital filters. There are optical properties (have to use the same lens and sensor size), and the way it handles highlights vs lowlights is different than digital sensors. (The 'rolloff' in the highlights, rather than clipping at saturation, is very desirable.)

And it's true that film isn't entirely dead in Hollywood. Quentin Tarantino shot his most recent film on 70mm stock. But that's nearly 100x the resolution of 8mm film, so they're not really comparable. OTOH, I recently saw Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom," which was shot on 16mm reversal (color, not negative) film stock for the look.

In each case, the choice of film stock definitely affected the look of the film. It also affected the act of shooting the film; even if you can mimic a filmic look digitally (through digital acquisition and post processing), shooting digitally is very different than shooting film. I happen to prefer digital, but courses for horses.

But yeah, for consumers, it's pretty much a hipster affectation. Good for Kodak, though! Also of note in the annals of hipster retro photography is 'The Impossible Project,' which revived Polaroid film:


Also, 'lomography.'

lcrs 8 hours ago 0 replies      
With modern film stocks and scanners Super8 can look remarkably good. It'll be interesting to see how Kodak's scanning service compares to scans like these, both of which were shot with another new Super 8 camera, the Logmar Digicanical:



liquidise 7 hours ago 0 replies      
As someone who went to school in Rochester, NY (RIT), i love to see Kodak making a move that could possibly return them to a relevant position in the film industry. Rochester was once a proud city that has been beaten down by missing the innovation train. I hope this and other initiatives help to return it to some of its former luster.
lectrick 5 hours ago 1 reply      
Is there an actual double-blind study that proves that digital still cannot beat analog in certain realms? Because I'm having a hard time believing that this "analogue renaissance" isn't just pure marketing hokum.
ethbro 8 hours ago 2 replies      
Hearing the name "Kodak" just makes me sad these days.

From the wikipedia entry, "From the $90 range in 1997, Kodak shares closed at 76 cents on January 3, 2012".

sssilver 7 hours ago 0 replies      
> There are some moments that digital just can't deliver

Isn't this the mindset that drove them into the ground in the first place?

markbnj 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I grew up in upstate NY and visited Kodak's campus in Rochester in their heyday. It was impressive as hell to a ten year-old. I'm sure the idea that the massive works and the business they represented could almost completely evaporate never occurred to the people working there. It's a little melancholy in some ways. I wish I could see this as more than a desperate attempt to rekindle that dead business, but I can't. How much do the benefits of using analog processes to capture the light really matter when the vast majority of people will access the content downstream through digital delivery platforms? Somewhere along the line the information is going to get sampled and aliased. Tarantino getting all nostalgic for analog content that will be shown to viewers via $100,000 digital projectors is one thing, but most photographs are viewed on phones, and in web browsers.
k-mcgrady 8 hours ago 2 replies      
Interesting. Today I've come across quite a few stories on analogue tech. This + new Technic SL-1200 models + new vinyl pressing machines being produced due to vinyl demand continuing to grow + record players and instant film cameras being incredibly popular on Amazon this Christmas. I wonder if we'll see this occur to other analogue tech too?
salmonet 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Came across a tweet about the Sony MiniDisc Recorder/Player going for hundreds and even thousands of dollars on Ebay. Nostalgia apparently sells.


dietrichepp 8 hours ago 4 replies      
I see USB and... SD card slot on the back? HDMI and... 3.5mm audio?

One of the most characteristic features of Super 8, at least to me, is the complete lack of audio (at least, on most Super 8 works). So if you went to a theater to see something on Super 8 there might be a live band playing the soundtrack.

I wonder if Kodak is doing something like putting audio on the SD card and then storing digital synchronization marks on the film somehow.

Edit: To be clear, I know you can already put audio on Super 8. It's just that most Super 8 films I've seen in the theater have had no audio or live audio. And yes, I looked at the specs. The specs don't mention anything at all, but the product rendering appears to show jacks for audio and data, and I'm wondering how that's incorporated.

WalterBright 6 hours ago 1 reply      
It'd be nice to see films shot in color again instead of blue and orange.


newday 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Cool, I'm switching to coding with punchcards.
zzzeek 8 hours ago 2 replies      
dumb question. as someone who shot plenty of super 8 about 35 years ago, what I don't see here is the projector? That was the part that sort of sucked (not to mention editing). You still need a projector to consume this media, right? Or is it just teleported through some hipster USB device now...
AnimalMuppet 8 hours ago 1 reply      
Interesting. But it doesn't solve the worst problem I've ever had with analog film: The developer lost the rolls that had our honeymoon pictures on them. (As compensation, they were generous enough to offer us... blank replacement rolls. We were not impressed.)

That's the advantage digital has - you don't mail the pictures anywhere. Nobody can lose them for you. (Yeah, you can still lose them yourself...)

namuol 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Well, this will surely at least be a collectible, some day.
pacomerh 8 hours ago 0 replies      
This is amazing news, the quality of the super 8 has a lot of character.
smacktoward 9 hours ago 5 replies      
I'm strugging to figure out who exactly this thing would be for.

Amateurs for home movies? Nope, digital will always be cheaper, and faster/more convenient to work with to boot.

Aspiring filmmakers? Nope, if you want to shoot on film professionally you'll want at least 16mm to avoid the magnification/graininess Super 8 brings with it.

People nostalgic for the blurriness of old home movies? Do any of these actually exist?

n_plus_one 7 hours ago 2 replies      
Here's a nice solution in search of a problem.
fomoz 9 hours ago 1 reply      
That's crazy amazingly awesome. Need to know how much it costs though, both camera and film/processing/cloud.
mtw 5 hours ago 0 replies      
These are all meaningless words without a sample video
DonnyV 4 hours ago 0 replies      
This is going to fail HARD.
lazylizard 3 hours ago 0 replies      
c mount?i mean "c mount"!!!!!yes!
rfrank 8 hours ago 2 replies      
If Kodak is scanning all of the photos and putting them into the cloud themselves, does that mean they have rights to said images?
Microsoft Solitaire was developed by a summer intern reddit.com
521 points by yurisagalov   ago   102 comments top 16
kyle_u 13 hours ago 15 replies      
I don't know what it is, but I love implementing Solitaire to learn new languages and frameworks. It's always a fun exercise, and the engine gets better with every iteration. My latest attempt is https://solitaire.gg - it's a Scala/Scala.js WebGL/websocket Phaser web/native app with hundreds of games.
pc86 14 hours ago 1 reply      
For anyone who comes here without clicking the link, it's linking to a comment of the intern that actually wrote it. He provides some neat context as well. Worth the read if you don't mind being on Reddit at work.
cabirum 13 hours ago 3 replies      
He mentioned "KlondGmProc" and "DefColProc" as names of message passing routines, so google finds a single result [1] from win2ksrc.rar > klond.c, I think that might be the actual source code.

[1]: http://read.pudn.com/downloads3/sourcecode/windows/248345/wi...

ChuckMcM 9 hours ago 1 reply      
I remember playing 'spider' on my Sun system back in the day (it was a form of solitaire) and once Don Woods (who was also working at Sun at the time) walked past my office and said, "Oh you like that? I wrote it." To which I could only reply he was responsible to two major time wasters in my early career :-)
Diederich 12 hours ago 2 replies      
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: an un-nervingly large amount of the work I've done over the years has had this property: the long-term value is inversely proportional to the time put into it. Learning from this correlation remains a big priority for me.
dice 13 hours ago 1 reply      
You used to be able to underflow the score in MS Solitaire by repeatedly dealing new hands (would subtract 52 points or so). I believe that, in Win95 at least, the score was a 16 bit signed variable so you could underflow it with a mere 1261 deals! I wonder if the modern one is 64 bits, and if you can still underflow it...
DanBC 13 hours ago 1 reply      
I hope someone is archiving this folklore properly. It's a bit scary that it's only in a Reddit thread.

(ditto for the stuff that's languishing in Google's Usenet archive.)

us0r 11 hours ago 2 replies      
"He received no royalties for his work despite it being among the most used Windows applications of all time."

Anyone know why he would receive a "royalty" (esp. as an intern)? I've seen big bonuses/stock options but never a royalty.

protomyth 12 hours ago 1 reply      
It was probably the nicest way to teach new people how to use a mouse. I am grateful to the author for that.
albemuth 11 hours ago 0 replies      
An interesting bit is that the design for the game came from Susan Kare from NeXT [1] and had been on the original Macintosh team.


wstrange 10 hours ago 1 reply      
So a single intern single handedly caused billions of dollars in lost productivity :-)
JDiculous 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I think the most interesting part is that he now makes hard cider full time. A reminder that there's a whole world outside of programming.
induscreep 6 hours ago 2 replies      
What does "goofy message passing architecture to get polymorphism and inheritance" mean?
qnaal 13 hours ago 0 replies      
the classic freecell game had the useful feature where you could play the entire game from the numpad, the new one sucks
piokuc 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I wrote a clone of Solitaire in Turbo Pascal long time ago. I still remember the satisfaction of coming up with a recursive algo for uncovering safe tiles. The joy of understanding recursion, that was nice, ha ha!
ChicagoDave 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Best Reddit comments ever. "I'm the Girlfriend!"
North Korea announces successful hydrogen bomb test bbc.com
152 points by forgingahead   ago   106 comments top 14
profmonocle 3 hours ago 5 replies      
Is there any reason to believe they actually tested an H Bomb? Wouldn't that be a pretty big leap from low-yield atom bombs? It seems like the only evidence it was thermonuclear is that the North Korean government said so, and they're not exactly reliable.

Meanwhile, CNN is proclaiming "N. KOREA TESTS H-BOMB" on their front page, which is a pretty far cry from them claiming to have tested one.

jayzalowitz 3 hours ago 4 replies      
The 5.1 earthquake for this bomb would suggest a smaller explosion than the bombs at the tail end of WW2, however that depends on a lot of things. Looking at this list it would suggest about a ~600 ton explosion http://self.gutenberg.org/articles/richter_magnitude_scale
scottyates11 2 hours ago 1 reply      
Every time when North Korea wants to bargain for something, it tests a bomb. Nuclear crisis is the only chip for the DPRK to survive in between the US, Russia and China.
sandworm101 2 hours ago 1 reply      
My money: a boosted device. A fission weapon with a drop of liquid hydrogen thrown in to qualify it as "thermonuclear".

It had to be an h-bomb. The korean people have been told that the regime already has nuclear weapons. So any test has to be a marked improvement. The only way up from nuclear is thermonuclear. Whether that H contributed anything meaningful to the force of the blast is very much secondary (pun intended).

efremjw 54 minutes ago 0 replies      
The myth of nuclear deterrence is an interesting concept http://setbpbx.nuclearfiles.org/menu/key-issues/nuclear-weap...
csense 2 hours ago 5 replies      
What happens if the rest of the world decides to strike first with e.g. a massive wave of conventional missiles and bombers, combined with a ton of defensive mines air-dropped into the DMZ?

Would it be enough to take out North Korea's nuclear capability and cripple troop encampments on the DMZ enough that they can't immediately launch a massive counterattack on South Korea?

njharman 1 hour ago 2 replies      
George Carlin explained this here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMwXR-1oajE
sandworm101 1 hour ago 1 reply      
What is the significance of the depth being reported as 10km?

Is that some sort of minimum for a quake, or did they dig down 10,000m to fire this thing off? That seems rather deep even for a large bomb, which this wasn't.

atomic_nuclear 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Surely the first hydrogen bomb was constructed in 1952, not 1958?
horsecaptin 3 hours ago 3 replies      
Wouldn't this cause some kind of an earthquake that's detectable?
meeper16 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Not for long.
exaltedbaking 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Any time discussion of the DPRK comes up, I inevitably see many people repeating blatant lies about the country.


lenkite 1 hour ago 0 replies      
If as a nation, you wish to be safe from US invasion/arm-twisting, you must have nuclear weapons. It is the best possible deterrent against US interference. Countries that do not have nuclear weapons must depend on US benevolence - which tends to change from year to year depending on the policies being followed by the US state department and administration.

If Saddam really had nuclear weapons, there would have been no Iraq war and no ISIS today.

hnamazon123 3 hours ago 6 replies      
Good for North Korea!

It's important that there be Mutually Assured Destruction between North Korea the imperialist US-backed South Korea.

We have nuclear weapons. Who are we to say that North Korea shouldn't have them? That just wouldn't be fair.

       cached 6 January 2016 08:02:02 GMT