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Historical Discussions: Instagram ads Facebook won't show you (May 04, 2021: 1232 points)

(1233) Instagram ads Facebook won't show you

1233 points 6 days ago by HieronymusBosch in 10000th position

signal.org | Estimated reading time – 2 minutes | comments | anchor

Companies like Facebook aren't building technology for you, they're building technology for your data. They collect everything they can from FB, Instagram, and WhatsApp in order to sell visibility into people and their lives.

This isn't exactly a secret, but the full picture is hazy to most – dimly concealed within complex, opaquely-rendered systems and fine print designed to be scrolled past. The way most of the internet works today would be considered intolerable if translated into comprehensible real world analogs, but it endures because it is invisible.

However, Facebook's own tools have the potential to divulge what is otherwise unseen. It's already possible to catch fragments of these truths in the ads you're shown; they are glimmers that reflect the world of a surveilling stranger who knows you. We wanted to use those same tools to directly highlight how most technology works. We wanted to buy some Instagram ads.

Access denied

We created a multi-variant targeted ad designed to show you the personal data that Facebook collects about you and sells access to. The ad would simply display some of the information collected about the viewer which the advertising platform uses. Facebook was not into that idea.

Facebook is more than willing to sell visibility into people's lives, unless it's to tell people about how their data is being used. Being transparent about how ads use people's data is apparently enough to get banned; in Facebook's world, the only acceptable usage is to hide what you're doing from your audience.

So, here are some examples of the targeted ads that you'll never see on Instagram. Yours would have been so you.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

Someone1234(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This is both an ad for Signal and an ad for Facebook Ad's ability to target depending on who is reading it.

What I mean is that for your average consumer, they'll read this and be horrified that Facebook is using the information they voluntarily gave Facebook to make money. But someone who is buying ads will read this same thing, be impressed by just how tightly Facebook can target, and put $10K into an Ad Account to try it out.

As to me, I use Facebook, I am willing to see ads within Facebook using the information I share with Facebook but where I draw the line is Facebook 'leaking' into my wider web browsing history (either tracking me, or using my non-Facebook browsing to advertise to me on Facebook). Therefore, I use Mozilla's Facebook Container extension and blacklist Facebook/Instagram's 'Share' tracking buttons.

I also access Facebook from a mobile browser rather than app and use Signal instead of Facebook Messager, to limit Facebook's ability to track my location and other phone meta-data.

jerf(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Any ad person in 2021 who isn't aware of this must be a sophomore in college still.

benjaminjosephw(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's absolutely transparent then that, without intervention, companies act in ways that are against individual's and society's best interests in order to make more money.

With that evident fact, we to face the reality, however uncomfortable, that manufacturing desire at this scale has become unambiguously unethical.

einpoklum(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Facebook is terrible.

However, Signal has its own failings as well. From what I understand, it:

* Refuses to federate.

* Hostile to independent clients.

* Run as a one-man show.

That's not Facebook-bad, but it's sad that Signal is consistently exhibiting this attitude, meaning that it can't be a good basis for personal instant messaging going into the future.

gempir(10000) 6 days ago [-]

They have good reasons for doing so. Watch this talk if you actually want to learn why https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nj3YFprqAr8

If you don't, use something else. But using Signal is for sure a lot better than using Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.

rhizome(10000) 6 days ago [-]

In what way are those failings?

crakhamster01(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Facebook already has a way in-app for you to see why you were targeted with an ad (on any ad click the 3-dot menu -> 'Why am I seeing this ad?'). The tool will tell you things like whether you were retargeted vs targeted using lookalike audiences, targeted based off of your age, gender, location, interests, etc.

I don't think this is the 'slam dunk' the author intends it to be, but I'm sure it will resonate with the WokeTM hackernews crowd regardless.

not2b(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Facebook's 'Why am I seeing this ad?' info is deliberately incomplete and does not reveal exactly how the advertiser targeted the ad.


notsobig(10000) 6 days ago [-]

guess what this guy does for a living...

creata(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Believe it or not, sometimes you want to raise awareness about something that would otherwise be hidden behind a kebab menu and rendered entirely clinical.

I don't think this is the sound criticism you intend it to be.

achairapart(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't know if it's just me but I can't stop thinking about the day Facebook & Co will get bored with selling those stupid ads and will use all their powerful datasets to do more dangerous, scary things.

Will then everybody think 'Oh, I really didn't see this coming...'?

not2b(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Or perhaps they'll set their algorithms free to figure out how to better monetize all the info Facebook has on people, and the machines will figure out that blackmail is a possibility: maybe FB could sell ads that would let you pay not to have certain information shared.

SyzygistSix(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Or someone else will do something with their data.

hetspookjee(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Ha, when the Ledger Nano database was leaked a few months ago it published the address data of roughly 300k users, including their email. Given the fact that you can upload e-mail adresses to Facebook for more directed targetting (really nice feature lol), I thought it might be fitting to advertise a 5$ wrench offer to each of these users and if they might be interested in one. Really weird actually that it's OK to upload other peoples contacts to such services without any checks whatsoever.

pta2002(10000) 6 days ago [-]

You can use that feature to do some incredibly specific targeting to mess with people - as in, make some incredibly targeted ads that will only show up for a single person.

djanogo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

And they are building signal for peddling their ecoin?

meepmorp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I believe they're making a point about privacy and ad targeting that's somehow orthogonal to their cryptocurrency.

shkkmo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Signal is a non-profit that was primarily funded by a WhatsApp co-founder who left Facebook because they didn't like the plans to add Ads to WhatsApp.

dannyw(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I like whoever is running Signal's blog.

hiq(10000) 6 days ago [-]

There are several writers, you can see their handle and pic at the top of the article. In this case, Jun Harada.

spoonjim(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's definitely the executives. You don't get to say something like "a Cellebrite fell off a truck" if you're anyone besides the CEO.

SmellTheGlove(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This isn't shocking at all. If anything, it makes me want to make a business account so I can see first hand what targeting criteria would be available to me.

I'm not an FB user, but I might as well be, since I have an Instagram account that I mindlessly scroll from time to time.

xmprt(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'd be surprised if there weren't different tiers of advertising accounts just to prevent normal people from having access to this. For example, you have to spend at least $10k before you get the next level of targeted information.

Rebelgecko(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Even without a business account, you can click the 'why are you showing me this ad' button on FB and it'll give you similar text (although sometimes it's more vague depending on how the ad is targeted)

capableweb(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> If anything, it makes me want to make a business account so I can see first hand what targeting criteria would be available to me.

Here are some examples: https://imgur.com/a/7YVH3ch

There are likely thousands more, that's just the browsing section.

fgonzag(10000) 6 days ago [-]

You don't need a business account but you do need a personal account (or rather a personal account can be a business acct).

The targeting is relatively specific. Think of a (general) category and it'll be available. I use it for bars and restaurants at a local level, and the granularity is quite nice vs other media (target people who like bars or restaurants, are into music, are into drinks, are into cocktails, are into concerts currently in the city or who are traveling to this city)

It really helps a small budget go a long a way, assuming the stats they give are correct.

octocop(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If you can't beat them, join them

wodenokoto(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This is a great pr stunt.

There's a similar story about a guy who sets up an add targeted to his wife or fiancé or something.

Later Facebook apparently made it so whatever group your targeting has a minimum size.

monkeywork(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I remember a story told on reddit about a guy who targeted his roommate with incredibly specific ads until it freaked him out.

tandav(10000) 6 days ago [-]

[not related but] I don't understand why people keep telling that signal app which uses a central server and phone number as identification and verification is secure and safe to use.

the future is decentralized

edoceo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

did you read their home page?

''State-of-the-art end-to-end encryption (powered by the open source Signal Protocol) keeps your conversations secure. We can't read your messages or listen to your calls, and no one else can either. Privacy isn't an optional mode — it's just the way that Signal works. Every message, every call, every time.''

Have you observed them get sued for records and be unable to deliver?

Forbo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Because your threat model is not everyone's threat model.

eingaeKaiy8ujie(10000) 6 days ago [-]

And it can only be used on insecure platforms, iOS and Android.

unnouinceput(10000) 6 days ago [-]

And then there is me who has no idea about ads. NoScript, PiHole and uBlock Origin tend to do that so ̄\_(ツ)_/ ̄

philshem(10000) 6 days ago [-]

That doesn't mean that you aren't being micro-targeted by ads. It just means you don't see to whom your personal information is being sold.

skinnymuch(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I wonder how your post and posts like yours would be received if you said you have no idea about the purchase button or pricing of apps in app stores because you had ways to get around app and in app purchases.

Probably not well. At least usually not well. Depends on the day and the audience of course.

an_opabinia(10000) 6 days ago [-]

A pretty cool piece.

Too bad they have to use text to make their point. It would essentially reach zero people due to rules (https://www.facebook.com/business/learn/lessons/how-to-adher...). Then there's personal attributes (https://m.facebook.com/policies/ads/prohibited_content/perso...). Then ads that do not sell products/services follow murky rules, and talking about Facebook itself is usually prohibited. (edited from: because the rule they're actually breaking is the 'No Text' rule in Facebook ad creatives.)

Is there non-symbolic imagery that they could have used to say the same thing?

Perhaps they should have retained someone with this kind of creative experience.

Looking critically, the most narrow and serious obstacle to advocate for privacy is storytelling.

davidedicillo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The rule doesn't exists anymore. Ads with a lot of text simply get penalized when it comes to distribution.

tgsovlerkhgsel(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> 'No Text' rule in Facebook ad creatives.

Where can this rule be found? That seems like a really odd rule, and https://www.facebook.com/business/help/388369961318508?id=12... says the opposite:

'Avoid too much text on the image itself. We've found that images with less than 20% text perform better, though there is no limit on the amount of text that can exist in your ad image.'

mkmk(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This actually violates the "personal attributes" rule. In my experience, this rule is enforced quite strictly — although you can still see the same targeting criteria under the "why did I see this ad" feature.


rcfaj7obqrkayhn(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> because the rule they're actually breaking is the 'No Text' rule in Facebook ad creatives

maybe breaking the rule was intentional, to make this article work

Vinnl(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't think the point here was to actually run these ads. They don't look like they'd drive a lot of conversion, and there's a big risk that quite a few would actually be inaccurate in practice - Facebook's algorithms, while they know a lot about you, can also be quite wrong.

But you can't see that in an article like this, and it's far more likely to reach the right people.

enragedcacti(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Signal should sell this exact design on a targeted t-shirt and then advertise that.

fgonzag(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Though you can't have text in the image, you could put the target filters as the post's text and use the image to grab the attention.

DisjointedHunt(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The no text rule has not been enforced to disable an adaccount for years now. It merely de-ranks you. Source: Worked in advertising.

martimarkov(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I wonder what the reasoning for disabling the account is. It would be extremely funny if the T&Cs said you can't expose FB as creepy. :D

martimarkov(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Someone mentioned that it's the "No Text" if anyone else was wondering

tgsovlerkhgsel(10000) 6 days ago [-]

For personalized ads, Google bans [1] ads that 'Imply knowledge of personally identifiable or sensitive information'.

Facebook has something similar [2] but much narrower. 'Gender Identity' is among the categories though ('LGBTQ adoption' in the first ad), as are medical conditions ('pregnancy exercises' in the second ad).

[1] https://support.google.com/adspolicy/answer/143465 [2] https://www.facebook.com/policies/ads/prohibited_content/per...

sharkweek(10000) 6 days ago [-]

See, the trick here is to put all the personal data onto an oddly specific t-shirt that's for sale.

Available now, size 'Large' t-shirt for sale!

'I'm a proud dad living in Seattle who attended the University of Washington and once went on a trip to Central America for a while. I have a dog and like to read and occasionally complain about politics.'

I'd buy this if I saw it, if just for the lulz and nihilistic outlook when it comes to privacy.

In fact... if I were a privacy-focused company, I'd 100% do this as a marketing stunt.

_bohm(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It hurts to admit, but I would probably actually buy one of these

an_opabinia(10000) 6 days ago [-]

As someone else pointed out, personal attributes are prohibited from ads.

My feeling is, communicating a compelling data collection story, even strictly positivist things like how much data is collected, let alone normative ones like we should collect less data or prohibit collecting it - you're not going to tell that story with some neat hack inside the system.

hangonhn(10000) 6 days ago [-]

OMG. This is just brilliant on so many levels. It's not just subversive against FB's rules but also can be the start of some kind of art project as a statement about what tech companies know about us. But the project itself gives us a choice in what is shown to others whereas FB doesn't give us that choice when selling the info to advertisers. It'll probably get shut down real quick by FB though once they know about this.

Edited: as my sibling comment mentioned, I too would buy one of these shirts.

johnmoonyy(10000) 6 days ago [-]

this.. would have worked and I would've believe the shirt was made for me..

roflc0ptic(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Relevant facebook group: Shirts marketed to extremely specific demographics


gnicholas(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Even better: phrase it in relation to the person reading the shirt, not the person wearing it:

'You are seeing this shirt because [advertiser] wants to reach people who are friends with individuals who are [age], interested in [topic], located in or near [city], who wear [size] shirts.

oceliker(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Ridiculously targeted t-shirt ads on Facebook are actually a thing, but probably not for privacy awareness purposes: https://thehustle.co/who-makes-those-insanely-specific-t-shi...

mrtksn(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I wonder if this tactics could be used to increase click rate. Sound like a good idea to grab someones attention and maybe reduce spending by targeting niches.

magicroot75(10000) 4 days ago [-]

As a FB marketing expert, this wouldn't work. Yes we could target you, but the market is too small and not worth the effort. The minimum audience worth targeting

corobo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Ooooh I like the idea of wearing those types of shirts ironically

I'm probably not going to, but I do like the idea

pyjug(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> The ad would simply display some of the information collected about the viewer which the advertising platform uses. Facebook was not into that idea.

Genius! But it's unclear to me if the examples in the blog were actual ads shown to users before their account was blocked, or the campaign never got off the ground at all. If it's the latter, the blog should make it clearer otherwise it makes it look like those were real ads

dannyw(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Those are real targetable attributes under Facebook. They would be real ads if approved.

nullc(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Years ago I added a widget to the user interface on wikipedia for logged in users so that people were able to add geography specific notification to tell editors about meetups that were coming up in their area.

It turned out that if the message displayed was too specific, like 'Upcoming meetup in your area: [New York meetup]' people got rather angry about the privacy invasion.

So instead the instructions for setting the messages had to tell the authors to instead say stuff like 'Find out about upcoming meetups!' -- which of course was only displayed if there actually was an upcoming meetup near where you geolocated.

Of course, regardless of if any message is displayed the site could guess your geography based on your IP address. The exposure of private information was nearly identical-- actually arguably worse because someone might mention that they're currently seeing a notice without realizing that this fact leaked their geography... but the more generic messages didn't generate complaints.

(and WP policy effectively makes it impossible to edit via Tor, even for established users in good standing)

Sometimes it seems people care a lot more about enjoying the illusion of privacy than they care about actually having privacy.

etrabroline(10000) 6 days ago [-]

>Sometimes it seems people care a lot more about enjoying the illusion of privacy than they care about actually having privacy.

Hiding the fact that you are spying on someone enough to make them stop openly complaining about it doesn't make them ok with you spying on them.

southerntofu(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Seriously how is advertisement legal?

If you truly believe in free market then surely you must agree advertisement is a mass manipulation technique that should be illegal as anti-competitive technique (reinforces dominant positions).

If you're an anarchist/socialist then surely you've read or seen some talks by Noam Chomsky about 'Manufacturing consent' and by now you want to burn down every TV station, bank and police station you can think of.

Even if you don't mind printed ads, if you're just a little bit concerned about privacy, you must be out of your mind that certain data obtained about you may be used against you and your loved ones

Who's left to defend that kind of degrading practice? How can we put enough social pressure on these people so they stop and develop healthier activities than to hijack our brains remotely?

pessimizer(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Advertisement is good because it lets me know who is supplying goods and services I may desire or need.

There are a lot of methods allowed in advertising that are basically fraud, and a lot of methods to deliver advertising that are basically stalking. That doesn't mean that people shouldn't be allowed to post what they have for sale.

the_pwner224(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This doesn't seem very effective to me. 99% of people who see an ad like that will not care. It's already common knowledge that Zuck's gonna take your data.

'Facebook knows I'm a single teacher in Moscow who likes soccer? ... So what?

And that's before taking into account that the labels FB/etc. put on you are often incorrect, further diluting the perceived seriousness of this privacy leak.

dharmin007(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Exactly my thought. The 'So what.

What do I care if Facebook shows me ads for the things I browsed on Amazon or Etsy. I often discover fun stuff directly from those ads for websites I wasn't even familiar with. On the contrary (and I could be wrong to do so) but I trust some website when I have seen its ad on Facebook, as I know it has been vetted by Facebook to not be some fraud.

ErikVandeWater(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's about how it's framed. People don't know how to feel until you tell them.

Take for example the obesity epidemic. Obesity is a factor in 20% of all US deaths. People know it is killing them, their friends and their families and don't do anything.

roachpepe(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The point of ads isn't always to get a reaction. Clicks are the grand goal of course but mere impressions are valued by marketing standards as well. The fact that the target audience sees the ad, even if only passing by while scrolling is widely considered a success by marketing standards. And equally needless to say but I'll say it anyway; that's the very point of Zuck leeching, so the ads will find the target audience.

Agree with you there that this isn't much of a privacy leak as the average user mostly knows what's going on. I'd guess the article wasn't really meant to point out a threat to privacy, maybe more on the lines of 'FB doesn't want to share it's methods of using the information it gathers'. Shocking...

octocop(10000) 6 days ago [-]

>99% of people who see an ad like that will not care. You're making quite the assumption here mate.

rchaud(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I agree that these are extremely general categories that could be reproduced by scraping a person's public LinkedIn.

What's trickier is when the ads make assumptions about your taste based on the Facebook groups you participate in, and the websites you visit outside Facebook. Those are still connected to you via the Facebook beacons (share widgets) embedded in practically every website.

dartharva(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The irony that Signal itself has an Instagram account...


Forbo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

When it comes to guerrilla warfare, sometimes you have to use your opponent's own tools against them.

onassar(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Could be seen as ironic, but I frame it more in the light of being critical of something, yet also understanding the value it can bring.

I may be critical of industrial farming, large corporate environmental policies and/or Facebook, but I still might buy corn, own a Toyota and use Facebook to keep up with friends overseas.

I think it can be super hard to take an ideological position at the expense of functionality (obviously depends on how strongly you hold your views, and what the cost of forgoing engagement with that company/person is).

Jsharm(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Is there a way I can see this for myself? Ie who facebook thinks I am? Is there something similar for google or other ad networks?

Karunamon(10000) 6 days ago [-]

You can get an extremely limited look on the ad preferences page. 'Categories used to reach you' and 'audience-based advertising'. Nothing quite as slick as this little instagram hack.


Historical Discussions: The Animal Is Tired (May 09, 2021: 1201 points)

(1205) The Animal Is Tired

1205 points 1 day ago by montenegrohugo in 10000th position

www.robinhobb.com | Estimated reading time – 3 minutes | comments | anchor

The animal is aging. Not surprising; I knew it would happen eventually, but I didn't make any provisions to deal with that eventuality. Somehow the reality crept up on me. And now it must be dealt with, day after day.

It is restless in the night, moaning about aches, unable to find a comfortable position for sleep. It awakes me too early, muscles stiff and reluctant to move but unable to return to sleep. And if I let it sit still, it dozes off in the middle of the day. Finding foods it can eat without upsetting its digestion has become a task as it rejects more and more foods but balks at the monotonous diet it can manage. And despite restricting its food, it is putting on pounds, its middle thickening as the creature loses strength, loses flexibility.

When it was young, I drove it hard. I fed it whatever was to hand, or didn't feed it at all. It slept only when I no longer needed its labor at the end of a long day. Day after day of steady work, night sleep sacrificed for more work; It didn't seem to mind. It could run, it could climb, it could carry heavy loads. It was never the loveliest of its kind, but it had endurance and strength beyond what some others possessed. It still does, but it pays more dearly when what I demand exceeds what I should expect of it. It never had fast reflexes, and now it's even slower to react.

The animal remembers every harsh thing I've done to it. I kept it too long in the cold, frostbiting its feet, and now every cold floor reminds it of what I did. I have degenerated its joints to keep to a schedule. Now its grip is fading. I risked its eyesight by staring endlessly at a screen, and now the colors are fading out of its day.

As our time together is winding slowy to a close, I wish I'd taken better care of it. Better food, more exercise, more relaxation . . . but I also wonder if it would have made any difference. I tell myself it still has useful years ahead of it, even if it can't do some of the things it once accomplished with ease. I reflect, sheepishly, that it is the only animal I have ever treated this way. Would I have fed a beloved dog stimulants to keep it working when it needed sleep? Never. Would I have dosed a cat with a mild poisoning of alcohol to relax it among strangers? Of course not.

But this one animal received no mercy from me. And I regret that now.

And so we enter our 70th year together. Me, and the animal I live inside.

Be kind to animals. It's never too late to start.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

autarch(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Robin Hobb is one of my favorite authors. Her masterwork is a series of series (four trilogies and a quadrology) known as The Realm of the Elderlings.

She published the first trilogy, which begins with Assassin's Apprentice, starting in 1995. I saw the books when they first came out and I assumed from the title and the cover that it would be a cheesy fantasy by the numbers, so I never bought it. But I kept hearing about these books from other people who liked SFF, so I finally picked up the first trilogy.

I was completely wrong. It's not at all by the numbers. While it's not trope-free (nothing is), there are all sorts of interesting ideas, from the political to ecological. As you read the later series, the world opens up quite a bit, and it gets even more interesting. The final trilogy brings so many elements together, and the ending is shatteringly powerful.

While this is epic fantasy, it's _not_ at all grimdark. Bad things definitely happen, but it's more hopeful and humane than something like Malazan or Song of Ice and Fire.

I can't recommend these books highly enough. Even if her writing is slowing down, I hope that she's satisfied with what she's done. This series alone is an enormous accomplishment. To build a world across so many books, across so many years, and have it come together so well in the end is massively impressive.

codeduck(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

I picked up the first book of the assassins trilogy on a whim, and ended up discovering, like you, one of my all time favourite fantasy authors.

marklubi(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I recently tried to introduce my son to them, but he just couldn't get into the series as it wasn't fast paced enough for him in the beginning.

Out of curiosity, and because of my praise for the series, my dad decided to give it a try...

I've never in my life seen him read anything for pleasure.

He's now >5000 pages in, just finished Fool's Fate, and is about to start The Rain Wild Chronicles (10th book in the series).

iamacyborg(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

> more hopeful and humane than something like Malazan

Am I missing something here? It's been a while since I read the Malazan series but hope seems to be one of the primary themes of the series, even if things are utterly bleak at times.

Benjamin_Dobell(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

100% agreed. Robin Hobb (Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden) was without a doubt my favourite author as a teenager.

Sadly, in the last 10 years, I've barely read anything. However, when The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy came out, you can bet I made time to read it!

climb_stealth(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Aw man, I just started a comment saying how this sounds really promising and was going to ask about it. Turns out I have actually read them. I might have to read them all again. I would recommend them as well.

I'm a big fan of the Malazan series as well. I still think of the hair jacket when I come across someone with a smelly jacket and it never fails to crack me up.

My recommendation for epic fantasy that is a bit different and unexpected: The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. Some very powerful stories in there. The first book is pretty short so it is a good way to try it out. Though I think it hooks from the very start.

elyobo(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I read the Assassin's Apprentice series through, but it didn't really satisfy, and I haven't read anything else by the author. I like the Malazan ones, and ASoIF, a lot more - partly the grimdark, but more so the overall complexity of the plot. While Hobb's work was pleasant it just didn't really engage me.

GordonS(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

I'm a fan of Robin Hobb too, getting my start with the Farseer Trilogy in the early 00's.

Her work is quite unique, I think - as you say, it's epic fantasy, but with a slant I haven't seen before. I'll happily second a recommendation for fantasy readers.

I hope she's doing OK, and would be very happy to read more from her, if it comes to her.

gpderetta(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Can't recommend her enough as well (Currently reading the last book of the third trilogy).

I didn't enjoy the first book too much, less epic scope than I was expecting and I don't like child protagonists very much.

But the writing was excellent and after a year hiatus and a streak of questionably written books (Malazan was one of them...), I picked her up again. Halfway through the second book I realized I was cheering to Kettricken charge to aid Fitz and I was hooked.

Since then each book has been better than the one before.

hutzlibu(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

' Bad things definitely happen, but it's more hopeful and humane than something like Malazan or Song of Ice and Fire.'

Ok, I agree on the positive outlook in her books in general (and I have not read the other books you mentioned), but I remember, that some books ended in a very dark way, leaving also me in a very dark mood. I felt a lot with poor young Fitz and the books affected me a lot in my teenage years.

But I never finished them, the last I read was Fools Fate quite some time ago ...

'The final trilogy brings so many elements together, and the ending is shatteringly powerful.'

So this sounds very interesting and after a short research, this means I have to continue with Dragon Keeper, Dragon Haven, City of Dragons, Blood of Dragons, Fool's Assassin, Fool's Quest and then finally Assassin's Fate.

Well, if I treat my own animal not too bad and my baby animals give me some rest - I might one day finish them, too.

lta(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

I entirely agree with your message and can only support the recommendation about those great books I've read countless times.

dilippkumar(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> While this is epic fantasy, it's _not_ at all grimdark. Bad things definitely happen, but it's more hopeful and humane than something like Malazan or Song of Ice and Fire.

I will always read anything recommend by a person who uses Malazan as a benchmark.

Purchasing this book right now.

ryantgtg(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The link isn't loading for me right now, so I'll just add to the appreciation for Hobb. I'm currently reading book 13 (4th in the Rain Wild Chronicles). They're all great!

I picked up The Assassin's Apprentice while looking for something to fill the Rothfuss void. I was instantly hooked. The tone and the pace was just right for me. I really like that they are so character-driven, deeply exploring the characters' emotions, history, flaws, etc. And she's great at having the plot build and build until basically everything is going wrong, and then she delivers a super satisfying ending.

I usually take a short break between each tril, but I might just go straight into her last batch after I finish this book.

cosmie(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

I concur with all of this!

The way she uses perception, perspective, and cognitive biases are, as you say, shatteringly powerful. Particularly with her stream-of-consciousness writing style, where you so naturally get sucked into the character's mental framework. The final trilogy in particular that brings it all together, but even within the individual trilogies she's constantly doing it.

I started reading her books back when I was still in school, and they had a fundamental impact on my life. It fundamentally altered the way I see things, and the career path I eventually took. I couldn't even articulate exactly how, until I stumbled upon the concept of systems thinking[1] a few years ago and realized that was what she had given me an awareness of. Which then led me to these[2][3], which pretty much describe how I had started seeing and approaching things after reading Robin Hobb's books.

Not sure if it would have been as impactful if I hadn't read them at such an impressionable age, but I'm forever grateful that I did. And for that, Robin Hobb will always reign supreme on my favorite author list.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systems_theory#Systems_thinkin...

[2] http://donellameadows.org/archives/dancing-with-systems/

[3] http://donellameadows.org/archives/leverage-points-places-to...

ajarmst(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

I'm waiting for the news that PETA activists have captured and euthanized Robin Hobb to end his suffering. After spaying him, of course.

CRConrad(10000) about 5 hours ago [-]


edoceo(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Oh, and eyesight. Like, I had to up-scale the default font sizes on mobile and now all sites (this one especially) are harder to use.

Use responsive design people! You'll need it someday!!

maxqin1(10000) 1 day ago [-]

No joke. The font on my mom's phone is so large that buttons were 'missing' from her parking app. I told her she had to be wrong, until I saw it myself. And that's also on a newer model galaxy note (big screen). She's in her 50s.

clcaev(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I just plead to my fellow developers to stay well under 80 columns... my largest monitor in a readable font can fit 77 characters wide.

every(10000) 1 day ago [-]

As luck would have it, today is my birthday. I am now officially 72 years old. My approach to the inevitable is, while getting older is certainly no picnic at the park, it definitely beats the hell out of the alternative. So far at least...

jacquesm(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

Happy Birthday from the Low Countries, and may many more follow.

sebmellen(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Happy birthday! Hope it was a good one :). You've got the same birthday as Billy Joel.


P.S. fantastic list you've got here: https://every.sdf.org/some_external_stuff/music/.

Jyaif(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> unable to find a comfortable position for sleep

Could this problem be solved with an advanced motorized bed that allows you to configure the surface on which you rest?

bgdkbtv(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I think it is just to do with restlessness, and not the bed. When you are proper tired you can fall asleep anywhere in any position.

possibleworlds(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

Loved Robin Hobb when I was a kid. I read a LOT of fantasy back then and she was up the top of the list next to GRRM for me.

The closest thing to traditional fantasy I have read in a very long time is Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe, and now I am bit broken trying to chase a similar hit. If anyone has any recommends to scratch the post BOTNS itch please do share.

gpderetta(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

BOTNS is inspired by Vance's Dying Earth tales. If you haven't read them, I strongly recommend them. In fact, anything by Vance is great, my favorite being his Lyonesse Trilogy. His stories certainly do not have the depth of BOTNS, but the characters are great, the stories are fun, and his prose is unique and extremely enjoyable, at least by me.

8fGTBjZxBcHq(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

Some of my favorite Wolfe work is his Latro series. It takes place in antiquity but is fairly fantastical.

It's a very different setting, but tonally similar in some ways. A lot of ancient cultural and religious stuff is key to the plot but not explained (and often the protagonist is lost too for reasons that will be obvious when you start) so you get that same backstory-detective experience when reading.

It also takes the unreliable narrator trope to weird new lengths even by Wolfe's standards. I won't get into the details for spoiler reasons but the narrator is unwittingly unreliable for reasons outside of his control but is fully aware of this state. While the reader regularly has information that the protagonist should have but no longer does. The prose mechanics of how this is achieved is wonderful.

kkoncevicius(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

The animal separation part is confusing to me. Not because of any 'mind versus matter' dilemmas but because of desires.

The author says that the animal wants to relax and lie down. But where is the distinction here? If you drink coffee when you feel the urge - that's on you, but if you relax when you feel like it - then it's the animal? Can it be that all those desires for working hard and having coffee and alcohol was part of the animal instinct?

I don't see how to decouple those, even thou I am sympathetic to the animal / inside animal distinction.

robscallsign(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

> The animal separation part is confusing to me.

Have you read her fiction, particularly the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies? Her fantasy universe, and the main characters, involve bonding with an animal so completely that you are essentially one combined being that inhabits both bodies. An emotional peak of the series involve the slow process of aging, and eventual passing of one of the main characters, who happens to be a wolf that is bonded.

Her phrasing here isn't just whimsical musings, but a bit of creative writing that combines her reflections on aging with an homage to her fictional work and style. Her words and message here will connect deeply with those familiar with her work, or at least it did with me.

kayodelycaon(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

> The author says that the animal wants to relax and lie down.

The author does not say this. She said her body needed this and she ignored that need.

The animal being talked about is her body and everything else is her regrets of not taking care of it. That's all.

phyzome(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

It's right there towards the end: She wishes she had treated her body as well as she would have treated any other animal.

podgaj(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I laugh when I see people running for 6 miles are doing marathons or Iron Man's. How can anyone think that is healthy and good for the long term functioning of the body? Study after study has shown that we are meant to be "lazy". But no one wants to hear that.

So listen to this guy, relax!

ljhsiung(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Numerous studies show that exercise provides U-shaped benefits to health [1], [2].

Specific to cardiovascular disease, repeat marathon runners [3] have higher calcium buildup than those who do not run in marathons, which as Robin might say, is one of those cases where the animal is driven too hard.

While you have a point for extreme exertion, I'm not sure what you mean by 'lazy'. Current general recommendations are 150 minutes a week, or <30 minutes a day [4], which definitely falls underneath moderate exercise. I don't think 'no one' is ignoring these recommendations (or, at least, they agree with them-- few people follow them :^)).

As for your grandpa's longevity-- your genetics is just a risk modifier, not a nullifier. Wearing a seatbelt doesn't prevent your death, it just reduces your odds of it during a car crash. So, at least, I hope you still wear your seatbelt, because the time cost of this activity is so miniscule compared to the time reward.

As I like to say, 'Run for your life! At a comfortable pace, and not too far' [5]

EDIT: I should add-- I ran competitively a few years ago. My 'animal' is no longer as fierce, and thus am a bit more moderate these days. But there is a large emotional aspect and validation to pushing yourself that goes beyond physical health. As with any sport-- running, swimming, football, basketball-- the physical toll is worth it. This, though, is what I would classify under Robin's description of a 'tired animal' and is likely what Bolt, MJ, etc. feels. When she says she 'wishes she treated her animal better', I don't think she means this, at least when it comes to exercise.

[1] https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Abstract/9000/Endurance_a...

[2] https://themedicalroundtable.com/article/role-physical-fitne...

[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21200345/

[4] https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6U728AZnV0

nradov(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The actual studies show there is a J-shaped curve relationship between endurance sports training and long term health. Most people in affluent societies are way over on the left side of the curve and could improve long term functioning through more exercise. The risks for chronic problems like heart scarring, arterial calcification, and musculoskeletal injuries only start to increase once you get over about 20 hours per week.

Elderly people frequently die because they get weak, then they fall and end up bedridden. At that point they don't last very long.

hombre_fatal(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Be wary of being desperate to justify your lifestyle. For example, let's see some of these studies that celebrate the sedentary lifestyle impact on health.

randomopining(10000) 1 day ago [-]

6 miles isn't that long lol. Exercise is good. Otherwise you get weak and shrivel up.

Buttons840(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I'm not aware of any such studies, can you recommend one to start with?

WarOnPrivacy(10000) 1 day ago [-]

'Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing.'

-- Redd Foxx

enw(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

There's something very comforting about vices.

A vice is a psychological safety net. The unknown unknowns are infinite, so you can always romanticize life without them, and the effect that would have. That gives you hope, and hope is extremely powerful.

blfr(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

Better food, more exercise, more relaxation... but I also wonder if it would have made any difference.

Yes. I'm only half OP's age but working out and eating well (well for me means much more) has made all the little aches I started to have in my 20s go away and made me much calmer, I can also sleep pretty much anywhere and at any time.

More interestingly though,

Me, and the animal I live inside.

there is no animal you live inside, this is not a meat vehicle for something else, your body is you, it's not some machine you merely inhabit. Its/your gut will affect your mood, its limitations are your limitations, being physically strong will make you feel strong and keep anxieties at bay.

Ensorceled(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

> there is no animal you live inside, this is not a meat vehicle for something else, your body is you, it's not some machine you merely inhabit.

It always drives me crazy when people take the work of a poet or author literally and then pedantically hound any joy or meaning out of the words.

The point is that humans are animals, treat your animal well.

Tade0(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

But at the same time our minds are something sort of built on top of our monkey brains.

So-called 'feral children' - people who didn't receive the appropriate attention in their early years to develop, among other things, language, are frighteningly less intelligent than their peers.

We're animals, but we're also something more, held up only through an unbroken chain of socialization.

polishdude20(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Yes! Weightlifting is probably the number one best thing you can do for your body.

sneak(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

> there is no animal you live inside, this is not a meat vehicle for something else, your body is you, it's not some machine you merely inhabit.

I wonder how history will view such statements once we manage the ability to uncouple our humanity from our meat prisons.

earthboundkid(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

> Me, and the animal I live inside.

This dualism is unhelpful. You are the animal. You aren't a thing inside of yourself. Yes, sometimes your mind can be sharp and your body tired, but at the end of the day, you are the unity created by the synthesis, not some disembodied force.

The worst thing about dualism is that people who think of themselves as not religious do it unreflectively, whereas when religious people do it, at least it's on the table as something up for debate.

robscallsign(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

I take it you haven't read her fictional work. Exploring this dualism is one of the main plot and emotional devices for several trilogies.

awinter-py(10000) 1 day ago [-]

  Though much is taken, much abides; and though
  We are not now that strength which in old days
  Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
  One equal temper of heroic hearts,
  Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
  To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
ztjio(10000) 1 day ago [-]

You really should credit that which you quote.

(It's Alfred Lord Tennyson)

smoldesu(10000) 1 day ago [-]

It's a pretty harrowing thought that given my age (barely still a teen) I may not live another 50 years. Between the mass pollution tainting our world, impending global warming and increased civil unrest, I figure the odds that my animal reaches 70 are not very high.

maxerickson(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The environment likely has many less free toxins than it did when the author of the link was a teen.

We have things to be concerned about (PFAS and microplastics for instance), but there are a bunch of areas where massive progress has been made in the last 50 years.

rchaud(10000) about 6 hours ago [-]

In just the past 5 years, men and women both younger (and much older) than you have travelled by foot across multiple nations' borders, looking for one that would take them in. Yes, you may die in the events of the future, but don't underestimate your survival instinct.

mrfusion(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I've got an easy way to solve those issues for you: throw out your TV.

myfavoritedog(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

Stop watching cable news and listening to the prognostications of celebrities who got where they are through their looks or ability to act.

The biggest problem we have today is that kids have no context that tells them how great they have it, so they're like putty in the hands of those who would use them to gain political power. Like some kind of emotional vampire, those vested political interests gain power from your fear and your willingness to be mobilized by it.

Most of us who have a few decades on you would gladly take another 70 years of youthful existence to experience life and see where this world goes next.

spoonjim(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Consume less media. Your chances of making it to 70 if you watch out for cars and take basic care of your health are extremely high.

pathseeker(10000) 1 day ago [-]

>Between the mass pollution tainting our world, impending global warming and increased civil unrest, I figure the odds that my animal reaches 70 are not very high.

You are living in approximately the safest time ever. The Internet has just made civil unrest visible when it would just be page 3 in a newspaper before that you wouldn't care about.

People living in the 80s in the US were in a war-zone by today's standard. Lead was in the paint and the gas not long before that.

WarOnPrivacy(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I think genetics is a better indicator.

In my line, male smokers/heavy drinkers die 20+ years earlier. My dad and brother died in poor health at 58 and 59 respectively. The men who didn't serially abuse themselves lived into their 70s to late 80s - generally on their own.

rnd0(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Between the news, being told by my parents that the Soviets could bomb us at any time and being poor I thought that I wouldn't live past 30, and now in my fifties (with multiple heart and lung issues) I wish I had made better choices; especially about smoking (don't) and diet.

My advice would be to nourish and exercise your animal with the assumption that you'll reach 80.

chadcmulligan(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I'm in my 50's when I was your age we were all going to destroy each other with a nuclear war. Relax, it probably won't happen, all these problems get sorted out, (until they don't, then it doesn't matter).

marcell(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

I'm 35 and I don't feel any of the ravages of age that some people describe. I do exercise and eat reasonably well, but I don't think it's anything out of the ordinary. I have a desk job (programming). Am I unusually lucky? or just part of a silent majority that has nothing to complain about? Is doom just around the corner?

CRConrad(10000) about 5 hours ago [-]

> I'm 35 and I don't feel any of the ravages of age that some people describe.

That's because 35 is fucking young. Get back to us in twenty years, or forty.

wraptile(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

I generally think it's just vocal minority. I might be subjected to survivors bias (I travel around SEA) but most programmers I meet, while older than me, tend to be quite healthy and happy!

I'm getting closer to the magic 30s and I'm honestly quite optimistic. Had some lower back issues (because of sitting too much) that I took care off with a bit of exercise and I find experimenting with diets fun and effective. Surely it can't all go down-hill in the next 20 years?

There's just so many interesting things to do these days; if for some reason I'm unable to climb mountains anymore I can easily migrate to a different hobbie - there's no reason to attach yourself so much to a single activity. Maybe it's a perception issue? Change isn't all that bad.

DocTomoe(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

You are still comparatively young. Give it a few more years.

djohnston(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I'm 29 and my lower back already has arthritis and stenosis. I don't expect to make it to 65.

pomian(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Patience Paduan. It gets better. All those pains, blend into the 'body'. You learn how to move or something, as you get older. In other words, don't, despair.

rubicon33(10000) 1 day ago [-]

70? My animal is only 33 and is very tired. Writing this as it lays in bed, 3 in the afternoon, because even a standard chair sounds more exhausting to it.

It seems to have no motivation or energy to do much besides lay here.

If I force it, it will get stuff done but at a huge cost. It will yearn the entire time to just lay back down.

It's interest in things seems to be fading quickly. What desire it used to have to work hard and succeed, has slipped away. It seems these days it has only enough energy to lay in bed and scroll through the internet. Not sure what is wrong with my animal, but this is no way for it to live.

I was hard on the animal in its early 20s, but no harder than the average animal. The past 7 years or so have actually been pretty calm, good food, semi regular exercise, stable job, etc.

It's scary to imagine how the animal would feel at 70 if this is how it feels at 33. Maybe the pandemic was a straw to its back, and the isolation has worn it down more than anything else possibly could.

Swizec(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> My animal is only 33 and is very tired

In life satisfaction surveys, your 30's are the most miserable stressful part of life. Highest amount of responsibilities, lowest amount of consistent reward, and it keeps getting worse until your 40's

Apparently it gets better again in your late 40's and early 50's. By 60 you're as happy as you were at 20.


(am 33 and also just ... tired)

logicslave(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Lately this has been on my mind. I do everything, diet, exercise, social interaction, etc. But I am still just tired sometimes, nothing seems to kick. Maybe my mind is telling me that this way of life is down trodden? Find a new path? Working alot has no value, and maybe I am missing out. Or I am just tired, and there is no where to go

AnimalMuppet(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I think Covid made life a lot less interesting. Or, put a bit differently, I think that we quit doing a bunch of the things that made life interesting. And I think that is mentally wearing.

I don't know if, in your case, that's the whole answer. You might find it worth while to seek medical advice...

koonsolo(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

Take a 1 hour walk outside every day.

Your 'wasted' hour will be given back tenfold.

hodgesrm(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The key is to keep moving forward. Marion Countess Dönhoff had a great line about aging in an interview when she was in her 80s: 'every day a little more self-discipline.'

Dönhoff was an East Prussian who became an influential journalist and later newspaper publisher in W. Germany after the war. In her family, the attitude to life was basically shut up, deal with it, and keep going. She was an aristocrat in the best sense of the word.


Edit: typo

nradov(10000) 1 day ago [-]

If you keep forcing it every day then eventually it gets easier. Listen to the audio book 'Can't Hurt Me' by David Goggins. It will change your perspective on what your animal can take.


otikik(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

Does anyone in your family suffer from hypothyroidism? That, combined with depression (it's a spectrum) is what was getting to me. I've since changed some habits, I'm taking 1 small thyroid pill each morning and going to therapy once per week. I still feel tired and lacking in energy from time to time but I have improved.

uvnq(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

Try avoiding distractions. I find that on days I go without the internet (other than for work) I become significantly less motivated and work is way harder to start. Not sure if that's even your problem but if it is then I hope this helps.

practicalpants(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

Do you have money? Quit your job, go travel, go entrepreneurial pursuing something that moves you.

Living in some San Francisco apartment, building a career at tech companies making 6 figures a year is, once you have some money, a pretty crappy wheel-spinning way to live life, by some opinions.

voldacar(10000) about 24 hours ago [-]

If you're constantly lethargic and tired, consider seeing an endocrinologist and having some tests done.

ahD5zae7(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

Apart from great comments already posted, please read about 'long covid'. I'm not sure if it's officially recognized yet but it's a strange illness lately and a large number of people suffer from it. One of most important symptoms is chronic fatigue. I'm fighting it since last year and one thing I can say is that the fatigue is different from anything I experienced in my 43 year life. It's crippling and even getting up requires effort. Caffeine in large doses helps somewhat but only to an extent.

There's always been a 'post viral fatigue syndrome' with many other viruses and it is a known phenomenon, maybe it's just a similar thing with Covid. Only it affects much more people I think. And most importantly you can get it after asymptomatic Covid, so you don't even know you had it.

graeme(10000) 1 day ago [-]

How much do you sleep? And do you track it or just estimate?

The single biggest improvement to my energy and happiness came from getting a sleep tracking device, and then making sure I slept around eight hours. (As opposed to being in bed for eight hours). I wake with no alarm, and have also started going to bed earlier since tracking this.

This may not be your issue, I see your diet and weight appear good. Could be some mental health issue or some other physical issue not currently diagnosed.

But, if you're sleeping less than eight hours or are not actually tracking so you know you're sleeping enough, it could be a big improvement to try doing both.

I have an apple watch and autosleep if anyone is curious about the combo.

ncmncm(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This might be an unwelcome suggestion, but tell your doctor. This sounds very like depression, which is quite treatable.

You need to know that there are at least six different illnesses all called depression. The only way known to figure out which you have is to try each treatment, in turn, to see which helps. Usually they start with one with few side effects, or that works fastest. Some people have more than one variety, or one plus anxiety, or attention disorder, or all three. (These might all be caused by industrial chemicals we are all exposed to nowadays, stuff our ancestors never encountered.)

If the drugs work, but have side effects, know too that the side effects will tend to pass, with time.

maxqin1(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> good food

Everyone thinks they eat good food.

Food is the number one physical measurable input into our bodies. So it boggles my mind that nutrition isn't the most studied subject, alongside maybe the study of living a fulfilling life.

Changing my eating habits has changed my life for the better. It took kidney stones (not recommended) to get me here. But even my most obese and unhealthy friends like to proudly tell me the 'healthy' things their eating, and I don't have the heart or patience to try to tell them anymore.

But if you find what works for your body, food becomes more of a tool for living your best life, and something you'll defend to protect yourself and to continue living that good life, which makes the right choices so much easier.

Now maybe that's not what you need to hear, but I know it's definitely true for some other people that are going to see this.

TylerE(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I know others have thrown out other things, but: Have you been tested for sleep apnea?

What you describe sounds much like how I used to feel.

bun_at_work(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

You've probably heard it before, but exercise will help. It does so much good for mental and physical health, it's basically mandatory.

After that, removing dopamine feedback loops (browsing the internet, social media, etc.) will help tremendously with motivation.

After reading a number of books on psychology and behavior it has become clear that the adaptability of humans works for and against us. If you browse the internet you adapt to that type of mental effort, where fast, shallow patterns of thought and action are rewarded. Alternatively, reading books, exercising, working on hobby projects, etc, all train you to subdue the desire for immediate gratification, in favor of future gratification, which is more healthy and rewarding.

fukmbas(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I blame MBA types. 10-15 years ago IT was fun, now that MBA leeches got word, they are infiltrating our industry and bloating it with middlemen and bogus ideologies like scrum and product. Get fucked

DougN7(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This actually sounds quite a bit like depression. Some inexpensive meds can make a huge difference. I know from experience.

mrfusion(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

So did Hobb inspire Harry Potter? Did Robert Jordan inspire Hobb? I see so many parallels sometimes.

Ensorceled(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

I would guess that Ursula Leguin's 'A Wizard of Earthsea' inspired both.

okareaman(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I did the best I could with my body except now that I am 63 I have one regret: I wish I had more sex when I was able. I mean, I had sex but I could have had a lot more. It's seems dumb now to deny this basic pleasure for 'reasons'

cm2012(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I've had a reasonably full life so far but my favorite memories are all sexual ones, so this is legit.

rchaud(10000) about 7 hours ago [-]

I had sex, and could have had more, but those would have been with partners I wasn't attracted to. Is that what you mean? Or did you actively pursue a lot of partners and decide, for whatever reason, to do it with just a few?

lupire(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Hey you missed out on some STD risk too.

globular-toast(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

I wonder what you really mean by this. Do you wish to have had sex with a greater number of women? Or do you wish you just had more sex with your partner/s?

If it's the former, I believe this is something all men want deep down. Religion has done well to squash this desire and many deny they have it at all, but they do. But it's like chasing the dragon. I don't think you can ever really satisfy this urge.

If it's the latter, why did you not have more sex at the time? Did you want it at the time? Now I live with one partner I have almost as much sex as I want with a single partner. But it's a lot less than I used to have/want.

Historical Discussions: LiveLeak shuts down after 15 years online (May 06, 2021: 1014 points)

(1015) LiveLeak shuts down after 15 years online

1015 points 5 days ago by ro_bit in 10000th position

techstartups.com | Estimated reading time – 4 minutes | comments | anchor

LiveLeak, a popular British video sharing website known for footage of war, politics, and many other world events usually censored on other video websites, like YouTube, abruptly shuts down today after 15 years online. LiveLeak joins thousands of other failed startups that bit the digital dust.

Founded on 31 October 2006 in part by the team behind Ogrish.com, LiveLeak was thrust into the spotlight in 2007 after the unauthorized filming and execution of Saddam Hussein were posted on the site.

A year later, LiveLeak was again in the spotlight in March 2008, when it hosted the anti-Quran film Fitna made by Dutch politician Geert Wilders. LiveLeak was known for its non-biased in its approach to violent content, enshrining freedom of speech within the site rules, regardless of how certain content can offend.

We visited LiveLeak's website and it quickly redirected us to a new website called "Itemfix," where a website banner reads:

"Dear Liveleak Visitor – Welcome to ItemFix. Click here to find out how you got here." Clicking on the link, Hayden Hewitt of Manchester, the creator of LiveLeak writes:

"Dear LiveLeakers, I'm sure you're wondering what's going on right now so it's only right and proper that you get a full explanation.

Fifteen years ago we felt the project we were working on had peaked and it was time to move on, LiveLeak was born. Although it's an overused analogy the last fifteen years have been an insane rollercoaster for all involved. Highs, lows, and some rather worrying bits where it felt like we were upside down. The thing is, it's never been less than exhilarating, challenging and something we were all fully committed to. Nothing lasts forever though and – as we did all those years ago – we felt LiveLeak had achieved all that it could and it was time for us to try something new and exciting.

The world has changed a lot over these last few years, the Internet alongside it, and we as people. I'm sat here now writing this with a mixture of sorrow because LL has been not just a website or business but a way of life for me and many of the guys but also genuine excitement at what's next.

I hope some of you will enjoy ItemFix and find it useful and entertaining. It's something completely different, completely fresh, and something we feel energized about tackling and whilst I know many of you will be upset, possibly angry, about our decision I do hope you also understand our reasons and appreciate that, alongside you, we have walked together through some interesting times and some crazy ones. Sometimes it's just the right time to chart a new path.

I'd like to wrap this up with thanks. Thank you to all the team past and present, the "inner circle," the admins, the mods, the coders. You guys helped make the impossible possible for so long it's unreal. If people truly knew what you'd put into this...they probably wouldn't believe it. But I know and I can't thank you enough.

To the members, the uploaders, the casual visitors, the trolls and the occasionally demented people who have been with us. You have been our constant companions and although we probably didn't get to communicate too often you're appreciated more than you realize. On a personal level you have fascinated and amused me with your content.

Lastly, to those no longer with us. I still remember you.

On behalf of the LiveLeak team and myself



All Comments: [-] | anchor

nickysielicki(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The world is a scary and violent place. Without Liveleak, you might never feel it. Until you see the actual violence and gore, it doesn't mean anything, it's just empty words. I didn't care at all about wars in the middle east until I saw the reality on Liveleak. Seeing dead children and people with their legs blown off made all the commentary on CNN and Fox seem so understated.

A lot is said about desensitization as a result of seeing horrible things on the internet, but in my experience, only the opposite was true. Seeing violence online when I was in my late teens sensitized me and made the stories on the TV real. Frankly, I owe a lot of my political beliefs (especially on foreign policy) to horrible realities I saw on Liveleak.

Bancakes(10000) 5 days ago [-]

True. Too many people protest police actions and recommend 'shooting the legs' and such. That's just one example that is readily disproved with a few liveleak videos of police shootouts, yet takes paragraphs to describe in text.

These videos help people shape their own opinions instead of trusting authority.

birthday(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I agree that ignoring and avoiding reality of this world is not good. However, sometimes I wonder how much I fucked up my mind by watching all the horrible stuff online during my teenage years.

nsgi(10000) 4 days ago [-]

That's a very good point. Bit of a shame to only learn the importance of it after it shuts down. Is there any alternative?

mrtksn(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It's fascinating to see how the sausage is made. It gives the most important datapoint before you can preach your higher ideals.

It's different if you seen a war(even if it's a liveleak video), it keeps your feet on the ground when you have to decide to cast a pro/anti war vote or argue about it's merits.

That's what worries me about our sterilised internet: Things happen, but we are not allowed to peak under the cover to see what actually happen. Unless it's something nice, it must be limited to the commentary of people who themselves may never seen how it is made or even worse, having their own agenda.

Sure, gore can brutalise people but if it's happening everyone deserves to see it.

Much more people used to claim that the Covid-19 is just the flu, until the footage of hospital corridors emerged.

vmception(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Same for me!

I remember the precursor to Liveleak, Ogrish, which was much more graphic than whatever Liveleak became in Liveleak's last final years.

It was back in 2004 or so when I had to reconstruct a somewhat censored link on their forum, which took me an FTP server directory with videos, that I waited to download, which showed me Al Queda celebratory videos of killing US soldiers.

That was a first for me, I'd never seen footage of US not winning, let alone a side that considered it a good thing. Really just broadened my horizon.

Was uncomfortable at first because I felt there might have been a reason with personal legal liability that the footage wasn't available in other places, but much more curious.

Anyway, such footage is much easier to come across now, with beheadings and such just occurring. Any Facebook feed assumes you want to see an extrajudicial killing involving a US police officer.

But at the time I was amazed such content exists. Not appalled. I can't really relate to people that say they can't watch that kind of stuff and will just take someone's word for it. I get appalled by things out of someone's control, such as a gas leak blowing off the side of an apartment building. But there's never anything real I have any feelings from watching.

throwawaysea(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Agree. I was never that cognizant of what ISIS/ISIL/Daesh were capable of until I saw videos on LiveLeak that made it all very real. You won't find those anywhere else, but I dare say that the emotions those stir in the viewer create political clarities that are razor sharp, in a way you can't get through overly academic and stoic news articles.

q_andrew(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Yes. After the Vietnam war, real footage of violence left the public zeitgeist. Liveleak hosted videos that showed what life was really like when you listened to the guy who was trying to recruit you into the U.S. Army.

nostromo(10000) 5 days ago [-]

War and terrorism was definitely made "more real" on LiveLeak than what you'd experience via the media or YouTube.

I also found a real appreciation for other things: driving safely, worker protections, fire safety. These "boring" things take on more importance when you can see what happens when you ignore them.

I don't think people should dwell on these morbid things. But seeing just one or two videos of, for example, a bad car crash, can really give you a healthy fear of these dangers.

spoonjim(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Agree. Kayla Mueller would be alive today if she had watched some ISIS execution videos on LiveLeak.

duxup(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Without Liveleak, you might never feel it.

Are we having problems finding horrible things to watch other than on Liveleak... because I sure am not...

I really don't think Liveleak is some paragon of 'truth' or the content you describe.

happytoexplain(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I agree in many cases, but remember that this is a double-edged sword. Being exposed to horrible things can also make people support unreasonable policies and seed hatred. This principle is why the family of victims aren't put on the jury.

Lev1a(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The change most immediately apparent to myself is that I actually wear a helmet while riding my bicycle now after having seen peoples heads pop like melons from even small accidents notwithstanding being run over by trucks (think of an opened tube of tomato paste being slammed by a fist).

trident5000(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Honestly LiveLeak got pretty soft over time. Final years were nothing like its former years.

sdgasg(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I never had courage to watch any such videos. But read a few things about torture and such, just reading these things traumatized me and triggered years long depression and anxiety. I lost my faith in God and humans. I lost my desires to make the world better place. Now I just focus on my family and ensuring their safety.

I guess different people will react differently to such images, some may become desensitized, some will become more sensitive like you, or some will go in shock and depression like me.

georgiecasey(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It taught me to never get involved in the drugs business in Mexico or Brazil or never drive in Russia.

chefandy(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It's powerful, important content, but collecting and promoting it as shock entertainment, entirely out of context, doesn't strike me as the right way to do it. Our media's lack of willingness to portray the human cost of our overseas exploits is clearly a huge problem, but I don't think this really addressed it. It's all impact without usable information.

While incredibly violent things do happen in the world regularly— and we should not be ignoring them— the world is safer than it has ever been, and that should also be front-and-center in people's minds when considering this. People predominantly concerned with the scariness and violence in the world will be more likely to promote overly violent responses to relatively innocuous situations through war, policy, policing, etc.

I wish there was a publicly accessible, nonprofit archive a la Wikileaks that focused on similar content including oversight for things like privacy issues. It would be nice to see citizen pundits paying attention to it for issues that matter to them and putting things in context as they're shared instead just blasting streams of violence at people.

But wish in one hand and successfully monetize in the other and see which one fills up first...

drawkbox(10000) 5 days ago [-]

LiveLeak is like those old drivers ed videos, it can make you better by showing how bad things can get.

I remember pre-internet it was Faces of Death [1] (lots faked but still intense), then Ogrish then the makers of Ogrish going to LiveLeak. There is some value in seeing the worst humans have to offer as it gives you a wider picture, but also too much of that is depressing. People should seek out the full spectrum to be based in reality, but also push better quality of life.

As a kid, horror movies were our superhero movies really with late 80s/90s slasher flicks. Fangoria was a big magazine. Then you see things like what actually goes on, seeing the true horrors of the world. Sometimes seeing those things can make you appreciate calm, quality of life focused ways, be nicer to people and try to make the world a better place as it can be raw.

LiveLeak was one of those places you could go to see the video that everyone else was blocking or censoring. ItemFix looks similar just not as intense, more on the WhatCouldGoWrong or IdiotsInCars type level. Always good to have another video site for seeing the broad spectrum of the human condition. Just balance time more towards quality of life, but always know how bad it could be, makes you respect today and appreciate things. Everything in moderation.

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

Barrin92(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Liveleak doesn't portray the reality of war because it shows you some beheading. Voyeurism and gore are not the same as genuine insight into what scary and violent places are actually like. It's worth reading Baudrillard's 'The Gulf War Did Not Take Place' on how media representation, and stylized, selective footage is used to distort. You didn't get to know the 'reality' of war, but the hyper-reality of it.

If you were to actually go see the reality of war what you'd see most of the time is actually soldiers doing nothing, not interating with any enemy. People trying to scrape by, someone fixing a pipe, that kind of thing. LiveLeak was even worse and a better source for propaganda than sensational news.


andrepd(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Liveleak opened my eyes to about two things:

- The horror of the Mexican Drug War. The unbelievable violence and cruelty, which is almost the exclusive responsibility of the United States' catastrophic War on Drugs.

- Car accidents. I'm always much more alert, as a driver and as a pedestrian.

Actually, add fires into that list. Terrifying stuff.

artificialLimbs(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I saw a couple/few videos on LL and it shocked me to the core. I never wanted to see that kind of thing again. But I also wish that everyone could witness it without becoming psychotic about it, to have a visual imprint of 'as bad as it gets', and hopefully do something about it or at least avoid perpetuating those actions.

But that would never happen. A whole lot of people will go to very desperate measures to avoid hard truth, to avoid even thinking about this kind of situation.

staticassertion(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I had a similar experience. I've lived a relatively privileged life, I've never been in a warzone. Being exposed to the brutality that exists outside of my comfort zone really opened my eyes to the fact that other people live very very differently. You can 'know' that, but it's much harder to feel it without some experience - and while a picture is nothing like experiencing that sort of life, it's a hell of a lot more than just reading that it happens.

There's a visceral reaction when you see something so brutal and horrific, and an empathy as well with the victim, that I think is extremely hard to obtain via text, especially short text.

I'm not saying LiveLeak was perfect or good, I think that it likely also fetishized tragedy - but I will say that there is absolutely something missing in existing news organizations with regards to showing the brutal, hard to watch truth.

Salgat(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This is why reddit's /r/watchpeopledie ban was such a loss. I didn't go to the subreddit often, but when I did, it was an intense reality check at how good I and others have it, and how much of the world still needs help. Also helped me to really appreciate OSHA at my workplace...

lunatuna(10000) 5 days ago [-]

For me it was seeing close ups of the Chechnyan war. I couldn't believe what people were doing to each other. It has made the anarchy of war something to be avoided at all costs. Clearly showing that there are no winners on the ground. Soldiers shooting 3 generations of a family unarmed, soldiers having their heads clumsily chopped off with an axe.

I've avoided all of the not safe for life type stuff since, but agree that these are important things to see. With all the wars since and the easy images found on western news at least I know what is happening outside of what they are willing to show.

mathieubordere(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Reading 'Maus' by Art Spiegelman had a similar impact on me.

acituan(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> The world is a scary and violent place. Without Liveleak, you might never feel it.

Counter-point; the world is mostly a neutral, even OK, place, with also violence in it. Our cognition is heavily biased towards saliencing and preserving the scary bits, and being exposed to a planet scale showcase of those bits does not necessarily make us wiser (e.g. better decision makers). At least for me personally it took a decade before I regretted having watered those flowers of morbid curiosity.

The redeeming quality of LiveLeak might be, however shocking the content was, it also had an inherent grounding in bare reality, compared to the narratively embellished one of mainstream media. The former is ultimately bound by rules of reality but the latter is only bound by what people are willing to believe in.

baybal2(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I remember American TV regularly showing things like Palestinian children blown to bits back in nineties, or atrocities of wars in Africa, and then it somehow just disappeared.

curation(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Yes. I watched Saddam Hussein hanged on Liveleak. Just before it was taken down. Horrible realities. Yes.

pfranz(10000) 5 days ago [-]

While I think visibility of these horrific things is important, watching too many or dwelling on them just isn't healthy. It reminds me of this opinion article on watching police videos:


hughrr(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Agree with this entirely. So much is never said or seen on commercial media. It's easy it's shrug off a censored report and carry on with your day.

However the comments section was nasty. There are a lot of really not very right people out there waiting to have their world view and prejudices legitimized. And that's quite worrying.

joshxyz(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Sites like that made me more careful about driving, especially on wearing seatbelts good lord.

cosmodisk(10000) 5 days ago [-]

We used to watch the stuff on Ogrish back in the day,when we were teenagers. I couldn't say it desensitized me but made me realise I can't do shit about it. When one side of the planet is launching rockets to space and the other throwing stones on people because they looked at someone, there's no fixing of this only slow, agonising passing of time,with the hopes that it will eventually improve as people will be less and less willing to do certain things.

It also made me realised,how we, people in the Western world,are insulated from many horrors of this world both directly and indirectly by the lack of coverage on them.

foobarthrowaway(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Mainstream news/propaganda organizations want it that way so they can sell you the next war in Iraq, the next genocide in Syria, the next assassination in Libya, etc.

lo_lo_lo_lo_ol(10000) 4 days ago [-]

When I was younger I drove way over the speed limit. Then I discovered places like Liveleak and saw videos of crashes, mangled wrecks and mutilated bodies.

hbosch(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> The world is a scary and violent place. ... A lot is said about desensitization as a result of seeing horrible things on the internet, but in my experience, only the opposite was true. Seeing violence online when I was in my late teens sensitized me and made the stories on the TV real.

I can understand this idea. I tend to agree that confronting the harshness of reality (death, suffering) is an important act, particularly in your formative years, so that those confrontations don't paralyze you as an adult. Traditionally this is also done, differently, but getting your kid a pet and ceremoniously allowing them to process the grief of that pet's inevitable death (however it may come).

But... I don't know. Are any of us better people for watching a US soldier get executed on our computer screens when we were 14? Does that content, in fact, give people a sense of hopelessness and dread? When a confrontation with death or violence becomes a common (everyday?) occurrence, what does THAT do to the psyche of a child? Certainly if you watch enough, the hyperreality of exuberant violence serves to disassociate the viewer from conscious engagement and does become a morbid form of entertainment and I personally believe (despite the 'free speech' angle) it is dangerous to condition your mind to be entertained by suffering.

throw37472(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I personally believe gore videos involving children need to be banned, just like child pornography is.

I also feel gore videos that involve non-consenting adults should be judged as 'revenge porn.'

I understand there should be some leeway for journalists reporting the news and shedding light on atrocites. I'm just not sure where that line should be.

ErikVandeWater(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Independent journalists seem more willing to show the brutal reality. I recently saw this video of an officer being sent into an ambush by a man Homeland Security knew was armed and dangerous:


Fair warning: The video shows the murder.

74d-fe6-2c6(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This also changed my perspective on Isis cutting heads off and filming it. The act of filiming it is just of medial relevance. Of actual relevance is the suffering caused to the victim. Having said that - our media tries to sell the idea of a clean war. Air strike -> Bad people dead. First of all if a bomb goes off more often than not also innocent civilians are hurt and killed. Further more - and that is my main point - if a rocket goes off somewhere not everybody is dead immediately. Instead people will get random parts of their body ripped off and will bleed miserably to death. It's arguably more painful to die that way compared to getting one's head cut off within twenty-three seconds.

GordonS(10000) 5 days ago [-]

As a kid, I always wanted to be a pilot in the British airforce. I'd grown up on games like F19 Stealth Fighter, and I thought it would be the coolest thing in the world to fly planes like that and drop bombs on the bad guys.

I think it was during the gulf war in 1991, when I a TV news piece, shot by a war journalist. He was filming from inside a helicopter, and there was a US gunner using a fixed gun (50-cal?), gunning down enemy forces, shooting them in the back as they ran away.

I was horrified - this was not what I thought war was. My silly ideals of valour and honour, were not real.

As I grew older I saw and came to learn of yet more horrors - US and British bombs dropped on schools and residential blocks. Children blown to pieces. The US and UK selling arms to anyone with the money. And going back further, the indiscriminate use of cluster bombs during the Vietnam war.

One of the worst aspects, was how the military often seemed to try to bury their mistakes. When they didn't, all we got was platitudes until they did it again. Perhaps the worst of all, was seeing how everyone else seemed to maintain the 'them and us' stance - we were the good guys, and all those brown people were the bad guys. Very few cared one iota if a bomb was dropped on a school in the Middle East or Pakistan. I was disgusted by the apathy around me.

And so, my dream became a nightmare, and I, thankfully, took a different path. I largely have journalism and truth seekers to thank for that.

dfxm12(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Seeing dead children and people with their legs blown off made all the commentary on CNN and Fox seem so understated.

The US understood that the media's unprecedented access & real time accurate portrayal of the Vietnam war was one of the reasons Americans got disillusioned with the war. Your sensitized reaction to the real scenes of conflict are common. The US doesn't want to make this same mistake again.

notatoad(10000) 5 days ago [-]

i always understood that liveleak and dailymotion were the same site, and liveleak was just the branding for their less-respectable content.

but this article doesn't make any mention of that, and i can't find any other discussion online of a relationship between the two brands. is this something i just invented in my head?

advance512(10000) 5 days ago [-]

These two websites are not related.

1123581321(10000) 5 days ago [-]

No connection. Dailymotion is French YouTube/Vimeo owned by a respectable large media company (Vivendi.)

duxup(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Why couldn't they make enough money to stay in business?

Kranar(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I don't feel like posting the alternative, but there is a much more extreme alternative to LiveLeak that makes LiveLeak look like eye bleach and I suspect much of LiveLeak's users moved over to it.

LiveLeak was in a weird position because it allowed full on gore but it also kind of tried to pretend to be a serious site reporting actual events. I suspect most people going to LiveLeak were not interested in seeing a legit gore site pretending to be news and just wanted the most hardcore gore they could find, and well the alternative to LiveLeak is exactly that.

U8dcN7vx(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The shutdown note reads like they got bored, but money certainly might have been an issue.

drdrey(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Serious question: how can we ensure stable and long lasting access to this kind of content, no matter how offensive, to journalists and researchers?

kzrdude(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Libya 2011 and arab spring in general spawned a lot of violent videos that were important for documenting what happened. They must have been archived or stored somewhere too - I know they were on youtube at the time, quickly taken down, and some were trying to archive/stow them.

lovelearning(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I feel decentralized storage and better tools are the key both for technical and social reasons. We should start looking at old data just like we look at old paintings, old parchment books and fossils - as things with inherent intangible value to be preserved for, and by, every generation.

Centralized archives are single points of failures subject to political and business pressures. Political ideologies and their governments love to hide or rewrite inconvenient histories. I feel centralized archives (like Wayback Machine or Google's initiative) can't be trusted or relied upon for long-lasting access.

Something that surprises me is that the tech community seems to feel the necessity for long-term archiving much more strongly than the history / sociology / humanities research communities. I expected university humanities departments would be at the core of such initiatives.

exciteabletom(10000) 5 days ago [-]


niutech(10000) 5 days ago [-]
class4behavior(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Same as in other industries, use something else to cover the costs, best if there is incentive to keep that service alive. For instance, a porn site like xvideos could take over the hosting and moderation.

brickabrack(10000) 4 days ago [-]

The internet is dying a slow death. Instead of being an open exchange of ideas and content, it's become just another vehicle for corporations to make a buck off of everyone. It's now locked down, dumbed down and buttoned down and is controlled and surveilled to make sure no one steps out of line or has their feelings hurt. It treats everyone like fools and children who can't handle reality, a new idea or an opposing thought. Don't talk about this. Don't look at that. Don't think independently. Control. Group think. Manufactured consent. The goal is to have you fall in line with the dominant paradigm that is ultimately driven by economics that make a small percentage of the world's population very rich and solidified in their position. Like all great things that had so much potential but ultimately got harnessed and driven to the lowest common denominator for control and power, it was fun while it lasted.

varispeed(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Free flow of thought is dangerous to ruling parties (and fake opposition), because people get to know what's going on more easily. The current push is to leave only a few global players that will share personal data with intelligence services. For example, the new EU regulation essentially stops anyone worldwide from running any website with user generated content, unless you have money to set up a legal entity in the EU that will respond to censorship requests within 1hr SLA round the clock.

Check the article: https://decoded.legal/blog/2021/04/the-eus-terrorist-content...

RGamma(10000) 4 days ago [-]

With so many (mainstream) eyes on the public web these days this was bound to happen.

The wild west of the (pre) 200x's may be coming to an end but stuff will prevail in darknet and private archives or outside western jurisdictions, and continue to spread from there. (It's easy to forget the non-English internet exists too!)

Alternatively we might end up with a more or less mild variant of a 'web in chains' (analogous to https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20201014-totalitarian-wor...), that's characterized by a highly siloed and prefiltered/fabricated flow of information.

Powerful (gov + big tech) forces push this way for some time now; OTOH I believe the internet remains a difficult beast to tame as long as control doesn't reach China levels.

Also, archive shit, because the internet does forget.

imranq(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Why is there so much fetishization of violent content in the comments? Sure maybe liveleak provided some footage you couldn't get on youtube and that is indeed a loss, but to think that the violence you see represents the truth is just as bad as denying that any bad happens in the world.

The world is far larger than any one mind can handle. I wouldn't judge it from a few videos taken out of context. The world can be a great place and so can the internet, buts it's easy to get PTSD from it. Browse responsibly.

argc(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I'll just repeat my previous comment because I actually feel this is important: I've gotten absolutely zero enjoyment from the few that I've watched. They make me feel completely sick and scared for myself and my family and I think about how incomprehensibly horrible it must be to live through these events, either as someone who died or someone who watched or knew the person who died. However, I am much more careful with my daughter and prone to take precautions after having watch them. I think they provide value, I absolutely do not get the same effect from reading or learning about bad things that can happen to me, my brain just never really considered it a real option until I saw it happen. And yes, I probably have PTSD from them, but I am not a careful person naturally so I feel they have probably had a positive effect on me and made my family safer because of that.

avereveard(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> fetishization of violent content [...] few videos taken out of context

it's literally the opposite, it's not for the of violence, it's the unadulterated content: every other outlet either filter or worse, 'narrates' hevaily cut snippets out of source material.

and we already live in a bubble as it is. having some amount of 'ground truth' was certainly better than none.

and I said as one that steered clear from the site itself most of the time.

elwell(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> The world is far larger than any one mind can handle.

^^ Never heard it phrased this way, but I like it.

Also see: 'For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.'

Ecclesiastes 1:18

throwaway823882(10000) 5 days ago [-]

If you don't experience seeing an American contractor getting decapitated by ISIS, then you may never have the gut-punch visceral understanding of how certain parts of the world works. Aside from actually getting kidnapped by ISIS, you can't experience it and truly feel the emotions of that act. Until you see a grainy, badly-compressed mobile phone video of someone slicing through cartilage and bone and sinew, a body twitching, blood trickling out from under the knife, a bunch of guys screaming and hollering and celebrating the victory of a murder. The body, headless, lifeless, being picked up and tossed in a ditch.

Now, watching that video won't help you understand ISIS at all. It may even completely color your interpretation of why the events took place, or who was doing it, or why. Is it better to walk around ignorant to a visceral understanding of horrible things? Or to walk around with new biases, after having seen something horrible with no context? Even if the 'truth' is lost somewhere in between, I would rather know a little than know nothing.

We live in a world of 'Nightly News' and platforms full of rules and restrictions. 'Truth' will always elude us there, as long as someone else is deciding for us what we are allowed to see. It's nice to have at least one place where you can remove the filter.

rocqua(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Violence doesn't represent truth. But it is part of it, and it is usually censored. Seeing it uncensored hence feels like seeing more of the truth.

ggggtez(10000) 5 days ago [-]

While you probably won't hear free-speech advocates shouting nearly as loudly for this as for view-point-diversity (ahem)... there is some legitimate concern that this content is often legal.

And more than that... it was often news-worthy. The kind of stuff on that site included war crimes, murders, armed robbery, reckless disregard for the safety of others, accidents caused by poor city maintenance...

You may not like the videos, but the things that they captured will happen whether the videos exist or not. And while I wouldn't recommend that anyone make a habit of watching something on LiveLeak, it was still a resource that had educational possibilities.

Like you said: most of the world is a great place. And I think most people, upon seeing violent content like that, would become deeper advocates for peace and safety. It's hard to be a big tough guy who thinks he's rambo when you see how meaningless your life is against a bullet.

c-c-c-c-c(10000) 5 days ago [-]

What are you on about. Since when can you get shell-shock from watching videos online.

Its not fetishization but rather an unabridged edition of the footage you see on the news.

Lammy(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> it's easy to get PTSD from it. Browse responsibly

'Yeah, he's real cool when he's showing you those videos on LiveLeak, man. The bus full of children being blown up is really funny; that's a funny video.' https://youtu.be/OQdHeNNWrj8?t=82

agilob(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Watching a compilation of car accidents from dashcams and cctv made me treat my car and motorcycle like a 2 tonnes weapon not a transport method where I can text, chat and fight search results on youtube. Don't accelerate on roundabout or that guy on a sidewalk might lose his hips with legs. Nope, I don't want to see that video again, but you should.

Me, and others, see such change of perspective a good thing, no other medium can provide. Many people here don't see that a positive fetish, but a warning. I watched that video like 14 years ago, and images are still in my head.

irjustin(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Mixed feelings from me. I remember the Hussein video. I never believed in the vision, but they hosted important events I simply could not see from other sites.

Reddit users rely on it and I knew what I was getting into if I clicked on a LiveLeak link.

Separately, being a content moderator for LL must be absolute hell. While you must filter for illegal things, you're actually expected to watch through the death and gore. That can not be healthy.

brigandish(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I do wonder/hope if there's a bio-technological way around it, with drugs or application of a magnetic field to the brain, that would interfere with memory making thus mitigating some or all of the effects.

Obviously, it would need to be safe to do. I still shudder inside at one video I saw (on Twitter that took forever to be taken down (>.<)) so I can't imagine what it's like to endure so many.

abhishekjha(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Is there any study or papers on people who actively go through such content? What changes about them after?

inoffensivename(10000) 5 days ago [-]

the YouTube moderators I've met at Google can get a bit of a faraway look when talking about some of the things they'd seen

spamalot159(10000) 5 days ago [-]

LiveLeak was the only video site that still felt like the wild west. If I was ever linked to a LiveLink url I knew something crazy was about to happen.

I'm sure serving this kind of content had its hurdles legally. And running a video site cannot be cheap in the first place. LiveLeak will be missed.

SN76477(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It did feel like a 1999 internet.

reedjosh(10000) 5 days ago [-]

BitChute maybe the replacement?

Flow(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This is a big loss and it comes at a time where it will soon be more needed than ever.

The last years has been brutal to 'free information'. Ever since Trump became president it seems a lot of people has begged the tech giants to filter and censor. And now they do.

I remember early 2020 when rumors about a new virus in China came out. There were very little news about it. But on YouTube and Twitter you could find scary videos of Chinese police/military in hazmat suits welding shut doors to big apartment complexes. You could find pictures and videos of roads with huge piles of dirt on it to block any traveling. There were secretly filmed videos where people just collapsed on the streets and in the waiting rooms at the hospitals.

Contrast that with the glorious 2021 online experience.

Go to YouTube and search for 'India covid crisis' and you'll be met with pages and pages of news reports from the big news corporations.

I don't know about you, but this is not the result I expect. In fact, it feels dystopian and scary and that YouTube has lost its purpose.

intricatedetail(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I have noticed that every time someone mentions China in negative light, they get downvotes. Interesting.

0xcafecafe(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Maybe you are right about youtube in context of Indian covid. However, the coverage elsewhere in mainstream has been quite graphic in the current wave.

hellothere1337(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Seeing a child trying to gather the pieces of his mother after getting shredded by an Apache gunship undermines government propaganda. If something makes you realize you're probably not always the good guy bringing democracy then that something is quite dangerous and it should be removed.

donatj(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> that something is quite dangerous and it should be removed

You really took a left turn at the end there and I'm not sure if you were serious. Poe's law in full effect, I'd argue the opposite. If something true challenges your narrative the only intellectually honest thing to do is embrace it.

georgiecasey(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I notice Ogrish.com redirects to this new vanilla site as well. What a relic from the turn of the century Internet.

joshmanders(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Ogrish was replaced by LiveLeak.

It's interesting how people talk about LiveLeak like it was original and not just a spin off and replacement for Ogrish which was much darker.

ryandrake(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I happen to think a lot of the pandemic denial and downplaying had to do with the media's refusal (for valid privacy reasons) to show what was actually going on in ICUs everywhere. The lack of graphic coverage kept the pandemic's worst effects out of sight, out of mind for a lot of people, allowing them to focus on and rage against the less important side-issues like how awful masks are and how upset it made them to not be able to drink at bars for a while. Just like honest, graphic war reporting helped to end Vietnam, honest, graphic COVID reporting could have helped shock people into doing their part to end the pandemic.

asdff(10000) 5 days ago [-]

That sort of coverage doesn't sway people who have decided already not to subscribe to facts, domain experts, or reality. Conservatives would be shown videos of known popular conservatives online storming the capitol, and in all serious start claiming that these people were actually secretly Democrats or something there to make conservatives look bad. Some would call these would be videos of ICUs fake, just like some people think the moon landing is fake.

'The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.' - Orwell.

otabdeveloper4(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Perhaps the lack of graphic Covid videos isn't because people are too shy to post them.

Covid is nasty, but at the end it's just another respiratory viral disease, a.k.a. 'common cold'.

It's just that before we ignored the human toll of the 'common cold'. (Yes, it is nasty and causes e.g. strokes and heart attacks and pneumonia. It's a leading cause of death that we never bothered to report before because we're so desentisized to it.)

Kye(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I took covid seriously when a doctor I follow on Twitter shared how bad things were early on.

dang(10000) 5 days ago [-]

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27058435.

throwaway_kufu(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I'm just a tad more jaded and think had the reality been shown more, it would just have been spun by media to fit a desired narrative (i.e. what you're seeing is normal, you're just see it for the first time, and you should ask why you're being made to see this now) or worse it would be called fake news/actors (e.g. students who survived school shootings being called actors, or entire school shootings being called fake).

_pmf_(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> downplaying

In what world do you live where you call the year long constant fear mongering 'downplaying'?

Clubber(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I took it really seriously when I saw videos of hospitals in NYC stacking bodies in a freezer truck because there were just too many. They should have shown that more. I usually assume anchors and reporters exaggerate for ratings today, so they've lost a lot of credibility. When I see a video, I get an unfiltered view of what's going on.

As a side note, I implore people to watch police interaction videos and how often they are captured on video casually violating civil rights as standard operating procedure. YouTube has endless content of this. It will make you think twice about the reality of world you live in. If it bothers you, call your mayor or city government.

jimmygrapes(10000) 5 days ago [-]

We did get an absurd amount of Tik Tok videos with seemingly empty hospitals and nurses with apparently enough time to choreograph dances though

ddingus(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I agree with this. Unfortunately, I got covid right out of the gate and should have been in the hospital.

Then I lost some people, one of whom was worth a lot, and despite that still spent 40 some days on a ventilator, basically in hell, only to die pretty terribly.

While all this was going on, I am surrounded by people who think it is all fake, nobody is dying, etc...

I would tell about what I saw, felt and they would just ignore me, or ask me why more of that is not on the TV.

lamontcg(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The US media also just likes to try to protect the emotions of the consumer. Some of the articles I've read of scuba diving accidents in the Mexican press are very NSFW by contrast and they'll just show you a dead guy in a wetsuit. In fact a lot of lifeleak content comes from new stories in other countries. Most Americans don't want to think about death and their own mortality or anyone else's mortality and want NSFW warnings splashed over anything remotely unsettling.

dweekly(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Totally agreed.

In terms of a 'graphic exposé on the reality of COVID' - if you haven't seen '76 Days' yet, I would strongly recommend it. It is a wincingly direct and raw documentary - no editorializing or narrative overlay, just real, high resolution footage of a city of millions of people fending off a deadly virus, shot in close quarters with the physicians attending to those dying and their families.


samuelizdat(10000) 5 days ago [-]

LiveLeak was the only place I know where I could find footage of warcrimes in Ukraine that will more than likely never be 'a part of our national conversation'.

Does the media tell you who Azov battalion or right-sector is? That we have no problem funneling weapons and money to them? Even if they did, would they show you the video of them crucifying and setting on fire a captured enemy? Liveleak did.

BlueTemplar(10000) 4 days ago [-]

But... but Ukraine is so close to transitioning from 'hybrid regime' to 'flawed democracy' !

Uberphallus(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Does the media tell you who Azov battalion or right-sector is?

Western media, yes? I mean, when they were relevant. Russian TV keeps mentioning them every other day, and short of how Ukraine has been the Third Reich all along.

Azov is integrated in the armed forces now and subject to a level of scrutiny that they were not back in 2014. Pravy sektor has no representation in other than some local councils, which is real good if you compare it with the numbers of Vox in Spain, Front National in France, or the usual suspects.

2014 caught Ukraine off guard and they threw everything they could to the East, and unfortunately that included extreme right paramilitary groups that had no rules of engangement or official oversight of any kind. The government(s) corrected it in the best way they could, which wasn't great to be honest. Not defending it, just contextualizing it.

advance512(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Whenever something big happened in the news and I wanted to see the video or images directly, uncensored, real as they are, LiveLeak was The Place To Go.

Outside the Big Tech bubble.

Not sure what alternatives there are, if any.

yubiox(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Well for police shootings at least, PoliceActivity on youtube is the place to go for uncensored, no-commentary bodycam video.

khawkins(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It certainly was at one point, but near the end it definitely wasn't. Whether it was soft censorship, hard censorship, or a declining user base, I struggled to find videos I could sometimes even find on Twitter or Youtube. Videos whose place was obviously LiveLeak, based on their standards from 5 years ago.

As much as I lament the death of LiveLeak, it died well before today.

buryat(10000) 5 days ago [-]


Human suffering should not be monetized.

Perpetrators must not get any audience at all and must have no outlet for showcasing their acts.

If you must watch gore to see the 'real world' then you're part of the problem. Empathy doesn't require seeing someone getting dismembered.

randomopining(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Hah foolish. There are many well-written posts in this thread that say the exact opposite of you. They're right.

With the money part I agree with you (most would).

ta_ca(10000) 5 days ago [-]

brutal reality is the only weapon against mass-indoctrination.

can you even imagine if Iraq was a western country? would Syria happen if 1/100000 of Iraq was televised? would Iraq happen if child deaths under sanctions was televised? can empathy see through the fog of indoctrination/demonization/skin-color?

go ahead, shadowban again and again.

diss(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I don't believe that any of the videos described were made for views or with the intention of having an audience. Many things go beyond your capacity for empathy if you're oblivious to them and their magnitude – they're shocking for a reason. I don't see wilful ignorance or filtered media as being a solution to any problem, but a big problem in itself. You seem to care about preventing people who 'enjoy' this stuff from seeing it more than allowing anyone to see the world for what it is, if they choose.

DarkByte8(10000) 5 days ago [-]

An alternative to liveleak for people who want to see gore, accidents, shootings, etc is theync.com

holoduke(10000) 5 days ago [-]

And childporn!!. The site is filled with links to very obscure porn sites containing childporn. Please don't support theync!

spoonjim(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Four LiveLeak videos will always stay in my head. WARNING: even in text this stuff is horrifying. Stop reading if you don't want to have nightmares.

1) an ISIS video where a 7 year old kid or so goes through a building where a bunch of hostages are tied up. He shoots them dead in succession. He looks like he's about to cry throughout the whole video — but he doesn't.

2) a completely covered up woman(?) in Iran is executed in public. They tie the rope around her neck and then lift her up . Her legs flail and kick a little, then a lot, then stop. The crowd is shouting.

3) a teenage girl in Guatemala is beaten by a crowd. When she's lying on the floor someone pours a liquid over her and lights her on fire. She struggles a bit and it seems like the fire has gone out. The guy comes and pours more on her and sets her on fire again. She struggles a bit more slowly and it seems like the fire is out. Then she yells the most chilling thing I have ever heard. She screams "Echenme mas gasolina, culeros!" (Throw more gasoline on me, assholes!) I will never unhear a 16 year old girl begging for a mercy killing. The crowd obliged and pours a very large amount of the accelerant on her and she flails around while burning to death.

4) a woman is walking with her two kids near a maybe 6 foot high single brick thick wall in construction. One of her kids touches the wall and it collapses on his or her head. The mother digs out the bricks to get to her child but when she sees him she has a meltdown and is grabbing her hair and screaming.

Absolutely horrifying, yes. But I don't think there's any other way to learn about this facet of the world. I think the world has lost a valuable resource.

Bancakes(10000) 5 days ago [-]

For me, it was a Kurdish soldier on the ground getting shot in the head with a AK from point blank. There were no bits and fragments flying around, his skull just broke apart and his head flattened uncannily like a squished rubber toy and his eyes popped out.

In another video, a ISIS (?) soldier gets shot in the head, and falls to the ground. We see him struggling to get up while a viscous red liquid pours out the side of his head. Just pours out. No pink mist or giblets. He didn't die instantly.

This broke the preconceptions I had from movies and videogames. I consider it an important milestone.

buryat(10000) 5 days ago [-]

read your depicts and

> I think the world has lost a valuable resource.

nothing of the value has been lost. You don't need to see this to understand that horrible things happen in the world.

Flow(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The ISIS slaughter house video is stuck in my mind. Lots of orange dressed and back-tied prisoners hanging on hooks. One is on the floor and they slowly cut/grind off his head with gurgling bloody noises. I read that everyone in that room is high of drugs. Prisoners and executioner.

But then, and this makes me want to shut the borders around EU and North America and a few Asian countries, you watch some gore videos from South America and you realize that ISIS has nothing on these drug cartels.

The drug cartels are truly completely fucked in the heads. And they slowly ruin country after country. It's just a question of time before we see strong presence of US/UN military and drug deregulation(whether you want it or not) to prevent a complete collapse of those societies and the whole of South America. Or maybe I've seen too many horrible gore videos?

dingoegret(10000) 5 days ago [-]

For me it was

1) gruesome abortions conducted in some western country

2) Denmark a man (immigrant?) was immolated outside his home by a crowd. They are shouting

3) man is hacked by a machete in the UK by some edl member

4) America a guy was run over by a truck and gets stuck on the wheels, still alive. crowd just blankly watches. truck begins to move

ergot_vacation(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Appreciate you and others detailing some of this stuff in this thread. I mostly have to stay aware from content like this; don't really have the psychology for it. But I'm glad it's documented.

Apaec(10000) 5 days ago [-]

There's a site called theync.com(I suggest not going there), which was always more gruesome than LiveLeak.

I never understood how they operate. Always thought search engines should ban the site or something.

dabernathy89(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I stopped visiting the site after viewing a video of cartel torture that was worse than anything I'd ever seen. I still see it in my head all the time. Although LL certainly helped meet the morbid curiosity a lot of us have, I am ultimately glad it's now harder to find this kind of content.

causality0(10000) 5 days ago [-]

LiveLeak definitely had the ability to change you. There was a video from a dashcam where a couple is driving down a road, and a brick or rock falls off a truck driving the opposite way. It bounces on the road before slamming through the windshield and instantly killing the wife sitting in the passenger seat. Whenever I feel like a member of my family has gotten on my last nerve, pushed me to my limit, I think of the sounds that man made as he looked at his wife and my anger just melts away. LiveLeak may have scarred me but it taught me not to ever take the people I love for granted.

ycombinete(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I suppose we'll just have to download our favourite facets-of-the-world gore, to show to our children as they come of age.

PostOnce(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Your first point, sad as it is, reminded me of this article I read, which gives clarity on how child soldiers are made in a way that I haven't read elsewhere, despite reading books on exactly that subject


Not related, but I'll just close by saying I didn't have the same respect that I now have for rotating shafts at industrial facilities until I saw some industrial accidents on the internet. Lo and behold years later, as a programmer, I'm working at a factory automating some things and there it is, an un-shrouded rotating shaft connected to a fairly large motor, right there at ankle level. Stink was raised, shroud was installed.

nickthemagicman(10000) 5 days ago [-]

For me it was the crackhead who climbed the telephone pole, got electrocuted by touching the wires, which caused him to fall off the pole, and then he then just stood up and walked off while on fire.

It made me both want to avoid crack and want to do crack.

That kind of invulnerability would be incredible.

miguelmota(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Anyone remember rotten.com? It was a treasure trove for morbid curiosity. You can probably still visit some of the pages on the wayback machine if you're curious.


remux(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Hell yeah! A good piece of history where many have gained their first experience

VWWHFSfQ(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I don't imagine it was easy to monetize most of the content they were hosting.

AliceWong(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Life insurance ads perhaps.

arthurcolle(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Probably super easy to monetize. The world isn't just Google Ad{Word/Sense} and Facebook Ads

Scoundreller(10000) 5 days ago [-]

But if your content is free and you don't really moderate, what's hosting cost?

Just gotta appeal to your clientele and your advertising will be successful.

Maybe I should white-label purchase some beef jerky and just advertise on sites like this.

syamilmj(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Probably a minority here - but I could not stomach the horrible comments on LiveLeak, especially because it almost seemed like they were all written by a bunch of really young audience.

c-c-c-c-c(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Comments were removed a few years ago iirc. Atleast made totally unusable.

arp242(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I never read any of the comments on LiveLeak, but this sounds awfully similar to the comments on YouTube.

enw(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Sad to see both LiveLeak and Best Gore gone. Not that I visited either much, but they really opened my eyes to the horrors of reality.

What are alternatives to LiveLeak or Best Gore?

rcpt(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Documenting reality is the lead site afaik

A_non_e-moose(10000) 5 days ago [-]

ItemFix FAQs are more informative on what is succeeding LiveLeaks


'What exactly is Itemfix? Itemfix is a website that lets users post and edit ('fix') video - , image - and audio files ('items'). Any registered user can turn existing items into 'fixes'.'

'What is a fix? A fix can be a video, image or audio file generated out of one or more items that exist in the ItemFix system. An example of a 'fix' would be a video with added captions, a gif image generated out of a video item, or a meme created through one of our 'fix templates'.

Sounds like a mix between YouTube and TikTok/Instagram, as in, video hosting with democratized editing. Wouldn't be surprised if they went for an app after a while.

My opinion is that the reality-check video host we need, is getting replaced by the meme video host we want. More holes to dig our societal heads into and abstract ourselves from harsher realities.

Hosting LiveLeak must've been really tough, can't blame them for moving on to something easier and more financially attainable, but I hope someone will pick up a similar torch.

BlameKaneda(10000) 5 days ago [-]

At first I wondered why ItemFix was hosting videos---based on the name alone, it sounded like a home improvement site.

ticviking(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Honestly allowing graphic content to get mixed and have context added feels like the best(and worst) of both worlds.

causality0(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I do hope you also understand our reasons

I mean, I'd like to try, except he didn't actually give us any of those reasons.

Rest in peace, LiveLeak. You were a beacon of reality that shone through the propaganda, the bullshit, and the sugar-coating. Your demise means that people who want to see something like a shooting that's been removed from mainstream platforms will be forced to visit darker corners of the internet. Now if someone asks me 'Hey where can I go see that thing that was taken off of Youtube' I don't have a ready answer that isn't an alt-right cesspool.

varispeed(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I think it's a first victim of the new EU regulation. Probably many more websites like this will fold, because it will not be possible to run them any more. Have a read: https://decoded.legal/blog/2021/04/the-eus-terrorist-content...

swiley(10000) 5 days ago [-]

You're going to find opinions you don't like on sites that aren't censored. It's odd to me that you find that surprising or frustrating.

concordDance(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Now if someone asks me 'Hey where can I go see that thing that was taken off of Youtube' I don't have a ready answer that isn't an alt-right cesspool.

Does this mean that only the alt-right have access to uncensored information?

crispyambulance(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> that isn't an alt-right cesspool.

But actually liveleak did become an alt-right cesspool.

Back before they made comments hidden to non-members, it was WALL-TO_WALL <insert-your-favorite-right-wing-kook-faction> a-holes mixed in with classic misogynists, anti-semites, racists, conspiracy theorists, and unclassifiable awful nihilistic basement-dwellers.

While I would have liked to think that the operators simply listened to their conscious, I am sure making the comments non-public was done strictly because they feared having a nut perform a mass-killing as a 'liveleak exclusive'.

rasz(10000) 5 days ago [-]

>Now if someone asks me 'Hey where can I go see that thing that was taken off of Youtube' I don't have a ready answer that isn't an alt-right cesspool


    theync, crazyshit
dmos62(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Now if someone asks me 'Hey where can I go see that thing that was taken off of Youtube' I don't have a ready answer that isn't an alt-right cesspool.

You complain about some sites being alt-right cesspools, as if being a cesspool is not bad on its own.

fukmbas(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Live Leak was an alt right cess pool full of racists

DebtDeflation(10000) 5 days ago [-]

>Now if someone asks me 'Hey where can I go see that thing that was taken off of Youtube' I don't have a ready answer

Wait, did Whirlstah! get taken down too?

niutech(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The solution to censorship is a decentralized video hosting like https://d.tube or https://joinpeertube.org.

thunderbong(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Everyone's mentioning the many tragic and gory videos they've seen on LiveLeak.

But how were they making money? Also, is it moral to make money out of people's anguish and human tragedy?

I also don't see any mention of why they are shutting down.

Additionally, shouldn't these things be in the realm of journalism? Or is this the new journalism? Shouldn't there be some kind of fact-checking against this?

In today's world where anybody can post videos which elicit responses (and the more responses the better), shouldn't there be some ombudsman?

irjustin(10000) 5 days ago [-]


> how were they making money?

That clearly was the problem - they weren't.

They lived in a space where no advertiser would work with them, they don't have a 'paid content' feature. General population does not 'hang out' on LiveLeak. You go there and then leave.

What is all this about 'journalism'? What journal going to feature actual death videos?

raunak(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Similar to bestgore.com - I suppose as the Internet becomes more and more just Google-land, niche websites such as these two will continue to disappear.

whymauri(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Wow, yeah. Reddit killed the forum. Google and silo'd social media (FB, TikTom) are eating everything else.

I just realized that I barely recognize the modern net vs. the one I grew up with.

baron_harkonnen(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I'm still surprised that Tor hidden services never filled that gap.

As more and more stuff disappears from the clear web, I assumed more people would realize that .onion sites don't have to be a wasteland of largely spooky scams.

But if anything the quality of hidden services seems to have declined in recent years. I'm guessing it's a mix of darknet FUD combined with less and less people knowing how to host a website without using an easy to deploy service

FpUser(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I wonder what will happen to content. Moving it somewhere like archive.org would be nice.

jacklewis(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I was hoping to find that out here in the comments but no luck. You would think they would offer up an archive or something at least temporarily.

throwawaysea(10000) 5 days ago [-]

That's really sad. They were one of the few platforms that would carry content honestly no matter how offensive it might be. With how overwhelming the scope and influence of big tech platforms like YouTube are, free speech has few homes left.

CyberDildonics(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Free speech has the entire internet, just don't expect giant public corporations to broadcast and amplify conspiracy theories. No one expects youtube to host porn or gore, but when they take down covid deniers and mass shooting conspiracies people think they are entitled to youtube hosting them.

RamblingCTO(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Very weird comment section. It feels really weird to me that you need videos of people blowing up and getting killed to get a reality check. Reading about it and being empathetic should really be enough. Are you guys so out of touch with yourselves and the world? And is it really necessary to consume this taxing content? I mean, I've seen a lot. I lurked on 4chan/krautchan in the early days. But I'm not so sure that was a good thing as I was quite young and I can imagine that it sends some people down the drain and incentivises violence.

I'm really wondering what happens to a brain that is exposed to such things. Now I would be really interested in the psychological effects of such content on our brains. But imho it's just weird to consume that stuff. Also I'm really glad that it's forbidden in Germany to take or publish videos of these things due to personality rights.

meowkit(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Its not a reality check its more akin to mindfulness meditation. Momento mori, a reminder that it is so easy to die of stupid things in this world.

> I can imagine that it sends some people down the drain and incentivises violence.

As far as I'm aware, this is not the case for video games and violent movies, so I don't buy it for liveleak content.

Propoganda for terrorism and cartels is a whole other argument though.

ta_ca(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Are you guys so out of touch with yourselves and the world?

in this instance i am living 1-life != 1-life, it just depends. in this instance institutions sugarcoat mass-murders and put people in prisons just for stealing a bread. we have no tool to defend against indoctrination at this scale.

i think it was 10 years ago that i was reading quite about isreal-philistine conflict, the injustices just overwhelms you, you become bitter and bitter, at one point i even hated them, not just the understandable hatred against a government. then i came across to this video, group of rabbies was beaten by police, blood everywhere. they were protesting against government policies. that single video showed me what a tool i was, generalizing group of people...

living an experience is infinitly harder than reading it. and closest thing to living is watching the real footage.

> I'm really wondering what happens to a brain that is exposed to such things

that is not very empathetic, is it now.

Quarrelsome(10000) 5 days ago [-]

There's one hell of a difference between the news reporting of 'sectarian murders' and seeing a group of people hitting another group of people with sticks WHILE THEY'RE ON FIRE.

Also I watched the Christchurch stream and there's something about someone seeing another person pleading for help and seeing the cameraman put a bullet in their head that really communicates a horror that words fail to.

For me at least, it humanises the dead (no longer statistics) and demonstrates the true horror of the capacity of human cruelty. Lest we forget.

I won't forget what I've seen, I won't forget how cruel people can be when unshackled and these stories act as significant warnings to me. While the press rationalise the next round of wars I've seen what it looks like and will never want.

Mandatum(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The fact they were HQ'd in London always confused me. Yes the EU gives you some protections, but taking a pseudonymous TPB-style approach is probably easier for everyone (support, operations, management, marketing) than the legal grey area LiveLeak operated in.

Also the end of the note from Hayden sticks with me, I know the type of videos or users he's referring to and I don't think the majority of readers will realise just how fucked up this platform was. Yes, there were videos from the likes of Lasse Gjertsen who made people question a lot of the content they saw, but there were some real ones in there too.

> Lastly, to those no longer with us. I still remember you.

I'm not sad it's gone. But there should probably be a place for all of this type of content, I'm just not sure where. The public internet probably isn't it.

Reading the ToS for the new site.. It seems all the content that made LiveLeak so popular (murder, shock videos, terrorism, suicide, sexual violence) is the exact content they won't allow. Seems a little bit like management are wanting to settle down, they know the main brand isn't going to be profitable long-term - but they can at least monetize some of it by building a video hosting site from its userbase.

varispeed(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The new EU regulation makes hosting of such sites no longer possible. Probably that's why they closed. I think that many more sites like this will be closed.

Take a look: https://decoded.legal/blog/2021/04/the-eus-terrorist-content...

varispeed(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> The fact they were HQ'd in London always confused me.

UK is quite different from the EU when it comes to law. Many businesses largely operate in a grey area and as long as there is no public outrage or they don't step on a wrong politician foot, they are good to go. Even before anything happens you'll likely get plenty of warnings and time to sort whatever problem you have before anyone will be knocking at your door.

judge2020(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> The public internet probably isn't it.

If it's not available to the public internet, what's the point? If you just make a 'upload your video and we'll archive it' site, it probably won't gain any traction as people can't link to it and thus your site doesn't gain the mindshare that LiveLeak had. And I don't think people are going to start sending SD cards to a random PO box.

ddingus(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Too bad. Being able to pick up a little harsh reality was a good, sometimes sobering thing.

We are trending toward a sort of digital disneyland. That depresses me.

Reality is far less pretty, and escaping that, avoiding the implications is being made easy and doing that made to pay well.

I do not see how this benefits us as people needing to know more than we do.

randomopining(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Oligarchization of the internet.

lettergram(10000) 5 days ago [-]

LiveLeak team moved to develop ItemFix - https://www.itemfix.com/

kinda interesting, almost like they are trying to create meme videos. Currently, I don't think it's very good, but generally could become a thing I supposed.

weird-eye-issue(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Itemfix is such a bad name. It sounds like it was generated by AI or a domain generator

q_andrew(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Was any person or institution archiving liveleak videos? Even just for the sake of law enforcement or journalistic documentation, I hope there is a way of accessing this content. I'm sure there's a lot of unprocessed history in those shut down servers.

abhishekjha(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I am sure there would be a torrent up soon enough.

lovelearning(10000) 5 days ago [-]

There are community efforts : https://tracker.archiveteam.org/liveleak/

Note : They are NOT the archive.org team. They are an independent decentralized archiving collective. IMO, that's the better approach.

Historical Discussions: Crazy New Ideas (May 06, 2021: 892 points)

(896) Crazy New Ideas

896 points 5 days ago by razin in 10000th position

paulgraham.com | Estimated reading time – 7 minutes | comments | anchor

May 2021

There's one kind of opinion I'd be very afraid to express publicly. If someone I knew to be both a domain expert and a reasonable person proposed an idea that sounded preposterous, I'd be very reluctant to say 'That will never work.'

Anyone who has studied the history of ideas, and especially the history of science, knows that's how big things start. Someone proposes an idea that sounds crazy, most people dismiss it, then it gradually takes over the world.

Most implausible-sounding ideas are in fact bad and could be safely dismissed. But not when they're proposed by reasonable domain experts. If the person proposing the idea is reasonable, then they know how implausible it sounds. And yet they're proposing it anyway. That suggests they know something you don't. And if they have deep domain expertise, that's probably the source of it. [1]

Such ideas are not merely unsafe to dismiss, but disproportionately likely to be interesting. When the average person proposes an implausible-sounding idea, its implausibility is evidence of their incompetence. But when a reasonable domain expert does it, the situation is reversed. There's something like an efficient market here: on average the ideas that seem craziest will, if correct, have the biggest effect. So if you can eliminate the theory that the person proposing an implausible-sounding idea is incompetent, its implausibility switches from evidence that it's boring to evidence that it's exciting. [2]

Such ideas are not guaranteed to work. But they don't have to be. They just have to be sufficiently good bets — to have sufficiently high expected value. And I think on average they do. I think if you bet on the entire set of implausible-sounding ideas proposed by reasonable domain experts, you'd end up net ahead.

The reason is that everyone is too conservative. The word 'paradigm' is overused, but this is a case where it's warranted. Everyone is too much in the grip of the current paradigm. Even the people who have the new ideas undervalue them initially. Which means that before they reach the stage of proposing them publicly, they've already subjected them to an excessively strict filter. [3]

The wise response to such an idea is not to make statements, but to ask questions, because there's a real mystery here. Why has this smart and reasonable person proposed an idea that seems so wrong? Are they mistaken, or are you? One of you has to be. If you're the one who's mistaken, that would be good to know, because it means there's a hole in your model of the world. But even if they're mistaken, it should be interesting to learn why. A trap that an expert falls into is one you have to worry about too.

This all seems pretty obvious. And yet there are clearly a lot of people who don't share my fear of dismissing new ideas. Why do they do it? Why risk looking like a jerk now and a fool later, instead of just reserving judgement?

One reason they do it is envy. If you propose a radical new idea and it succeeds, your reputation (and perhaps also your wealth) will increase proportionally. Some people would be envious if that happened, and this potential envy propagates back into a conviction that you must be wrong.

Another reason people dismiss new ideas is that it's an easy way to seem sophisticated. When a new idea first emerges, it usually seems pretty feeble. It's a mere hatchling. Received wisdom is a full-grown eagle by comparison. So it's easy to launch a devastating attack on a new idea, and anyone who does will seem clever to those who don't understand this asymmetry.

This phenomenon is exacerbated by the difference between how those working on new ideas and those attacking them are rewarded. The rewards for working on new ideas are weighted by the value of the outcome. So it's worth working on something that only has a 10% chance of succeeding if it would make things more than 10x better. Whereas the rewards for attacking new ideas are roughly constant; such attacks seem roughly equally clever regardless of the target.

People will also attack new ideas when they have a vested interest in the old ones. It's not surprising, for example, that some of Darwin's harshest critics were churchmen. People build whole careers on some ideas. When someone claims they're false or obsolete, they feel threatened.

The lowest form of dismissal is mere factionalism: to automatically dismiss any idea associated with the opposing faction. The lowest form of all is to dismiss an idea because of who proposed it.

But the main thing that leads reasonable people to dismiss new ideas is the same thing that holds people back from proposing them: the sheer pervasiveness of the current paradigm. It doesn't just affect the way we think; it is the Lego blocks we build thoughts out of. Popping out of the current paradigm is something only a few people can do. And even they usually have to suppress their intuitions at first, like a pilot flying through cloud who has to trust his instruments over his sense of balance. [4]

Paradigms don't just define our present thinking. They also vacuum up the trail of crumbs that led to them, making our standards for new ideas impossibly high. The current paradigm seems so perfect to us, its offspring, that we imagine it must have been accepted completely as soon as it was discovered. Whatever the church thought of the heliocentric model, astronomers must have been convinced as soon as Copernicus proposed it. Far, in fact, from it. Copernicus published the heliocentric model in 1532, but it wasn't till the mid seventeenth century that the balance of scientific opinion shifted in its favor. [5]

Few understand how feeble new ideas look when they first appear. So if you want to have new ideas yourself, one of the most valuable things you can do is to learn what they look like when they're born. Read about how new ideas happened, and try to get yourself into the heads of people at the time. How did things look to them, when the new idea was only half-finished, and even the person who had it was only half-convinced it was right?

But you don't have to stop at history. You can observe big new ideas being born all around you right now. Just look for a reasonable domain expert proposing something that sounds wrong.

If you're nice, as well as wise, you won't merely resist attacking such people, but encourage them. Having new ideas is a lonely business. Only those who've tried it know how lonely. These people need your help. And if you help them, you'll probably learn something in the process.


[1] This domain expertise could be in another field. Indeed, such crossovers tend to be particularly promising.

[2] I'm not claiming this principle extends much beyond math, engineering, and the hard sciences. In politics, for example, crazy-sounding ideas generally are as bad as they sound. Though arguably this is not an exception, because the people who propose them are not in fact domain experts; politicians are domain experts in political tactics, like how to get elected and how to get legislation passed, but not in the world that policy acts upon. Perhaps no one could be.

[3] This sense of 'paradigm' was defined by Thomas Kuhn in his Structure of Scientific Revolutions, but I also recommend his Copernican Revolution, where you can see him at work developing the idea.

[4] This is one reason people with a touch of Asperger's may have an advantage in discovering new ideas. They're always flying on instruments.

[5] Hall, Rupert. From Galileo to Newton. Collins, 1963. This book is particularly good at getting into contemporaries' heads.

Thanks to Trevor Blackwell, Patrick Collison, Suhail Doshi, Daniel Gackle, Jessica Livingston, and Robert Morris for reading drafts of this.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

kstenerud(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The thing is, most crazy new ideas are just that: crazy. For every great new invention there is the other 99.999% of bunk or snake oil.

It's very difficult to differentiate between an innovative idea and claptrap. Genius is difficult to recognise because it takes a genius to develop the idea in the first place.

chrisco255(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> the other 99.999% of bunk or snake oil.

I think you are being overly pessimistic by several orders of magnitude.

bilater(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Great article. What most people are not taking into account with Mighty is that new ideas like this rarely stay the same...who knows what product/use case it morphs into? Maybe the browser implementation takes off, maybe it pivots to an OS rather than just Chrome...maybe becomes a backup / cross device solution. Maybe something that we haven't even thought of yet becomes possible with new technologies like 5G coming on board. We don't know.

fillskills(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Let my people try - humbly, a startup founder

ammar_x(10000) 4 days ago [-]

The main idea of the article is that when someone who is a domain expert proposes an idea that seems wrong, there is a chance that this idea is a great idea because why would a smart person proposes a stupid idea? They must've known something.

He says that in history, great ideas started like that. But he didn't provide examples. I didn't find the article practical because of that. It would have been a lot more useful if it provided contemporary examples that support the claims made.

pedalpete(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I think there are enough examples for and against.

He does give the example of Copernicus, I believe Louis Pasteur would be another good example. PG does say he is speaking mostly of maths, sciences, etc.

But there are also many examples where the domain experts missed the opportunities, and somebody else stepped in.

The AirBnB gang weren't domain experts in hospitality. Coinbase founder wasn't an expert in finance (though he was an expert in security I believe), Collison brothers weren't experts in credit cards, doesn't look like the founders of DoorDash were experts in hospitality or delivery.

Not to say PG is wrong, there is good logic to not dismissing ideas, and finding nuggets, but I think the model is being overfit. Or perhaps one wild ideas by domain experts doesn't negate the potential for wild ideas from non-domain experts.

activatedgeek(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I think the key statement to realize here is this,

> Most implausible-sounding ideas are in fact bad and could be safely dismissed. But not when they're proposed by reasonable domain experts.

Off the top of my head, I vaguely remember that the latter half of the careers of many 'greats' like Einstein, Fermi, Erdos were riddled with pursuing directions which bore no fruit (to this day).

I don't quite think that crazy bets work on 'average'. On average they fail. It mostly so happens that crazy bets are on 'average' taken by people with a network that can attract able and passionate people, who can see through an idea to its conclusion. This is where experts come in.

Experts often rely on validation by their 'community', and by the nature of community dynamics need to upsell. They naturally attract the kind of people needed to execute crazy ideas. But then attracting such talent also has a corrective effect on the originally crazy idea, such that it has a higher chance of succeeding by minimizing the blind spots, the unknown unknowns.

marcosdumay(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Off the top of my head, I vaguely remember that the latter half of the careers of many 'greats' like Einstein, Fermi, Erdos were riddled with pursuing directions which bore no fruit (to this day).

I don't know about Erdos, but the other had ambitious ideas, not crazy ones. Evidence that they weren't crazy is that the problems they were working on are still seen as the ones to solve by most of the physics community.

In fact, on the case of Einstein, he worked on much crazier ideas on the beginning of his career. I don't think any respected physicist ever thought about solving Brownian motion, and the photoelectric effect was an interesting curiosity but mostly of interest of 'those inventors out there', not of researchers.

agalunar(10000) 4 days ago [-]

This is the whole 'black swan' idea that Nassim Taleb writes about – events that are very rare and unpredictable but completely life-changing. This might be a poor paraphrase, but roughly: We're not very good at reasoning about these sorts of events, and domain experts are not immune. It's easy to believe you have more predictive or explanative power than you actually do, and to expose yourself to unacceptable risk as a result.

the_af(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> I vaguely remember that the latter half of the careers of many 'greats' like Einstein, Fermi, Erdos were riddled with pursuing directions which bore no fruit

And don't forget Newton!

visarga(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This video is relevant. They talk about 'openendedness', serendipity, the tyranny of objectives, the evolution of ideas (and biology), inventing new problems not just solving problems.

There are important implications in AI. Kenneth Stanley - Why Greatness Cannot Be Planned on Machine Learning Street Talk.


ZephyrBlu(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I watched this entire video and it's awesome. Their whole channel is a gold mine of information.

keiferski(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Something I've noticed a lot lately is that the people who have crazy new ideas are often the absolute last people that should be communicating them to the world. I'm not sure if it comes from the insularity of academia or just a basic inability to write clearly.

My theory is that many domain experts haven't needed to communicate with a lay audience in decades (if ever) and thus aren't aware of their own baseline assumptions. Seems like a startup idea, maybe? Convert academic papers into comprehensible English. Two Minute Papers does this but it's only for technology.


This probably applies to early Apple. Wozniak, while clearly a technical genius, needed Jobs' communication and design skills to sell "personal computing" and make Apple a mass-market company.

aadvani(10000) 5 days ago [-]

We're building this for clinical papers! inpharmd.com We have 10k summarized so far

mikewarot(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I think many (but not all) domain experts end up that way because they are so interested in a topic, they've internalized all the jargon and assumptions required to get there. It takes quite a bit of effort (and practice!) to keep the viewpoint of the common person in mind as well.

Feynman loved explaining things, so he had to keep trying to explain them in a manner that the ordinary folk could understand, but he also loved physics, which kept him diving deeper, and playing with it.

Having charisma and knowing what people want, and how to sell was Steve Jobs portion of the game, once the initial technical hurdles were solved. Woz likes to minimize circuits and do clever things, that was his part of the game.

Here on HN, the balance seems to be keeping it focused enough on hacking technology, while still appealing to those who want to make money off of it in yacht loads.

It's all about balance between at least 2 domains.

bombcar(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The problem I immediately see is that you have to qualify your domain experts. If it's someone you personally know, perhaps it would apply - otherwise you're opening yourself pretty wide to domain experts out to scam you.

topaz0(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Right. Examples of ideas that seemed crazy, were initially treated as implausible, and nevertheless worked out are plentiful, but so are examples of ideas that seemed crazy, were initially venerated as the miracle way of the future, and turned out to be complete BS founded on deception.

gustavo-fring(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Graham's obviously inspired by some Kuhnian paradigms here, but in Grahamiam fashion, he doesn't cite anything to back it up.

What I find interesting where he calls most people conservative is how when I'm discussing VCs, YC, etc with non SV people is we talk about how conservative they are. YC's business model for years was predicated on finding talent (kids) that was undervalued, underpaying them (10k was the initial payouts?), getting them to pack up and move to super-expensive monocultural SV like everyone else, and then when they made bukku money, lose interest in improving the service (Reddit, Dropbox). There's nothing original there, it's the business model of carpetbaggers and robber barons. How boring.

I often feel like Jonah Hill in Moneyball, a pariah for pointing out how ancient VC thinking is. Or maybe I just imagine it. Well, it is my experience that true deep domain knowledge can only come from years of insights. People without years of experience will be lacking maturity and/or won't have time to even consider those insights. Usually people who mainly care about money, influence 'becoming powerful' (Graham's words about his protege, not mine) will jump at whatever shortcut they can take instead of spending the card work necessary for learning these deep insights PG is interested in.

With all due respect, Coinbase didn't require deep insight. It was the equivalent of 'You like money, too?' . PG, you should stop the contrarian persecuted intellectual look. You're not the little guy anymore, haven't been for 2 decades.

zanellato19(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Capital is the most conservative thing that exists. Any little sign of trouble and it flees. VC is not different, they just play the odds and invest in a way that the money is guaranteed back, but the optics is that they are 'taking risks'. They then lobby to have the goverment take that risk away, lobby against employees having power to never have any risk and so on. Capitalists are the most risk averse people.

131012(10000) 5 days ago [-]

And the fact that he states that he uses the word in the right way doesn't make it right. In fact, I find the use of the word paradigm quite shallow and disconnected from the Kuhnian definition.

antipauline(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> There's nothing original there, it's the business model of carpetbaggers and robber barons. How boring.

Indeed. Venture capitalism is still capitalism, with all its abuse and exploitation.

ad89aud89adjas(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The whole SV/VC thing is just a big shallow marketing scheme to get young people buy into bad deals because they are brainwashed into thinking it's the cool thing to do. Have been there, done that, regret it. It took me years of being outside of SV to realize how brainwashed I was by comparing myself to the media and people around me.

graycat(10000) 5 days ago [-]

'Crazy new ideas'? A VC, Graham, is praising crazy new ideas?

After I sent some hundreds of emails to Silicon Valley, NY, and Boston venture capital firms with nearly no positive feedback and nearly no feedback at all, I concluded several points:

(1) VCs won't invest in, consider, look at, or pay attention to crazy new ideas. Might guess that one reason can be that when the ideas are deep technically the VCs don't have the expertise to evaluate them, but the VC rarely seek evaluations from technical experts either. Net, VCs don't want to invest in crazy new ideas and hardly value ideas at all.

(2) My best guess is that most of all VCs like to invest in traction already significant and growing rapidly. The traction most desired is after tax earnings, but also good enough can be pre-tax earnings, revenue, or just Web site traffic.

(3) VCs also like the traction to be in a big market.

(4) VCs also like a team of several founders: Maybe the VCs are afraid that a sole, solo founder would get into human relationship problems as their company grew, and the team of several founders helps alleviate that fear. Also with several founders, if the VCs don't like the CEO, then the VCs can fire the CEO and promote one of the other founders to CEO.

E.g., I have had at least two crazy new ideas for new businesses:

The first idea was new and much better than anything else for real-time monitoring of health and wellness of servers and networks. I had running code and some quite good results on a variety of real data. The idea would not have had the potential of building a company worth $10 billion but might have built one worth $500 million and, maybe, with more advanced versions of the product, continued to grow. I gave a talk at the main NASDAQ site in Trumbull, CT, but apparently no VC had any interest at all. So, I went ahead and published the work; so, at least it was good enough to pass peer review!

Second I have an idea, and 100,000 lines of .NET code apparently ready for at least initial production, for a huge market and that, if people like it at all, and there is various evidence they will, should be worth $10 billion, maybe 200 times that if I further develop the work and people around the world like it a lot, and there is some evidence they might.

The idea makes powerful uses of some poorly known and understood advanced pure math (maybe understood by fewer than 10 computer science professors in the whole world, and only a tiny fraction of pure math professors will look for or see the connection with computing or business) and some original applied math I derived likely beyond over 90% of computer scientists.

But apparently no VC in the country is interested at all. Same for YC, the NSF IIP, etc. But, and really I designed this project this way, I don't really need funding now and won't if the traction grows. I've had some delays from unpredictable outside interruptions but am about to return to the work.

I can believe: The $500 million is too small for VCs to care, and the 200 times $10 billion is too big for them to believe.

stephc_int13(10000) 5 days ago [-]

There is a thing I realized a few years ago about about VC.

They are not in the game to fuel innovation, contrary to what they pretend.

They are in the game to protect old-money against innovation.

dataviz1000(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Isn't this the issue Joseph Campbell addressed? The journey a person with a crazy new idea endures? And, how in all different cultures the redeemer, a person solving an issue that their society needs to address, have the same symbolic characteristics. You and your children experience this not in a philosophy or mythology class but at every moment someone mentions a Star Wars or Marvel reference[0]. Disney keeps telling this one story over and over again, a story of a person with a crazy new idea being ostracized and rejected by their society and the journey they have to make to return to their society with a new solution to a problem.

The system, lol, I mean our culture and society, is very resilient to change. If it wasn't, it would be a different system. A part of the resilience, the reason it doesn't crash down into chaos and anarchy is because it rejects and ostracizes people with new ideas. It's by design, how it evolved. However, it also needs to evolve and grow and the people who do that have to endure.

Not all people who are on this 'Hero's Journey' are correct. Disney isn't addressing whether the crazy new idea is good or not, although in their media it is always a good idea, which is what Paul Graham is writing about. Their stories are addressing the journey a person endures if they have any crazy new idea that challenges their culture and society, good or bad. Whereas, Paul Graham is looking to quantify signals that a crazy new idea is good, something he should invest in. To which, I'd add asking if the person with a crazy new idea is honest, not only to other people, but more importantly honest to themselves, integrity. If a person can separate delusion from fact except for that one idea, that's a signal.


gustavo-fring(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I feel like Godwin saying this, but the other side of that coin is that's the same process that Joachim Feist's biography describes Hitler as going through.

You might be a Skywalker, but you don't know which one.

the_af(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I think Campbell's 'journey' is about storytelling and the narrative journey, with a heavy dose of Jungian psychology, not about tech/science ideas. So I'd say it doesn't fit here.

bttrfl(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Unrelated to PG's post... I had no clue what MightyApp is so I went to their website [0]. When I scrolled to 'Work without the fan noise' section on the homepage my fan started to work pretty hard. Haven't checked if they intentionally got the fan to work, but it was a nice coincidence.

[0] mightyapp.com

OhNoMyqueen(10000) 4 days ago [-]

They could do the equivalent of those images comparing Full HD and 4K side-by-side, by having a button 'with MightyApp' which reduces CPU load and makes your fan stop.

amznthrwaway(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I didn't think there was anything crazy about Mighty.

It looks like a straightforward play to implement app streaming to deliver an application that holds immense amounts of personal data, and Mighty will (eventually) monetize that data.

It feels weird to bet on devices not being fast enough though, in a world where my phone is faster than my laptop.

grodes(10000) 5 days ago [-]

can the font size be smaller? please

drux(10000) 5 days ago [-]

And the text a little more to the left

II2II(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The reference to the Copernican Model of the solar system is an interesting one since it produced less accurate predictions than the Ptolemaic Model. Improving the predictions of the Copernican model initially involved the introduction of epicycles, diminishing the value of the crazy new idea.

It took the work of Kepler (elliptical orbits) and Newton (a physical basis for elliptical orbits) to elevate the heliocentric model to the status that it enjoys today.

There are two reasons why I bring this up: one is the validity of many of Paul Graham's assertions and conclusions. The other is to point out that things aren't so simple. Copernicus did not reap the rewards of his ideas since it took the work of others to prove those ideas. In fields outside of science, there is little reason to expect people to arrive upon similar conclusions. (Even within the sciences, there is no reason to believe we would converge on similar conclusions in the same time frame via different paths.)

bombcar(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I think there's a very strong analogy between the Copernican model vs Ptolemaic and computer languages (for example) - you can have something like C which has obvious defects (grant this for the argument, substitute something else if you like), but a replacement like Rust isn't taking on just C, but the entire ecosystem around C and all the tooling and knowledge therein.

Similarly the Copernican model was 'more correct' depending on how you look at it (currently we model everything relative to everything else, the earth and sun 'orbit' around a midpoint that is inside the surface of the sun but not the exact center, for example) but it provided WORSE predictions than the Ptolemaic model of the time.

And this had real practical implications in the technology of the day - navigation charts, etc, analogous to trying to use new tooling and finding it doesn't support aspects the old tooling did.

gustavo-fring(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Graham has a tendency to use hindsight to show that, yes, indeed he is contrarian and genius.

The Ethereum people do it, too. They use the example of old massively successful tech to prove that Eth too can catch on, but they don't cite all the failures.

Laremere(10000) 4 days ago [-]

To add to this:

He lists two reasons why people want to dismiss 'crazy new ideas': envy, and the desire to seem sophisticated. Using Copernicus as an example simply does not fit these claims.

Reasons to dismiss Copernicus's ideas:

1. They were worse predictions, so for all 'practical' purposes of the day (essentially, only knowing where the wandering stars would be), adopting his ideas would be poor.

2. Most crazy new ideas like this proposed by people on the fringe of a field are flat out wrong. The Copernican Model is a good example of a common mistake, really: Someone saw a complex but accurate system and tried replacing it with a simple system that is easier to understand but rejects the actual data. Turns out the world is complex and doesn't care about being intuitive. See all of quantum mechanics for an example.

3. Classical relativity was only established later by Newton. The moon, sun, and other planets were poorly understood at the time. It wasn't until Galileo's observations that evidence was gained for a rocky moon. The idea that the whole Earth could be moving and spinning without violating everyday observation, and therefor the other bodies in the sky follow the same rules as those on Earth, is simply a large and unnecessary leap in intuition. Sure, it's a correct leap, but the path of reasoning there is backwards. It is only with Newton's laws of motion that heliocentrism begins to make any sense.

4. Further, much better evidence (as discussed above) came to light far before Copernicus's ideas had any effect on non-academic matters. Other than finding things interesting, and generally liking to know how the universe works, heliocentrism has no practical affect on life even today. Sure if you work at NASA it's super important, but most people don't. Trying to force an idea before it's time, when it won't effect things anyways has little practical value.

The crux of this is that this article is not a response to people dismissing a new idea. It's people dismissing a new business. He seems to be arguing that new ideas by domain experts shouldn't be criticized because they might be right, while ignoring that people can have strong financial motivation to promote incorrect ideas. Fighting such ideas is good because:

- If the ideas prove correct, internet criticism of it really won't matter. Only a few key investors need to be convinced, and yeah they'll make a lot of money.

- If the ideas are wrong, healthy skepticism is the strongest force against snake oil salesmen.

90% of starts fail, so the criticism will usually be on the correct side, even if the exact criticisms don't point to the true cause of failure.

tutfbhuf(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Is it possible to add a HN filter (hide) all paulgraham.com posts? I'm not interested in his posts and they pop up very often on HN.

AnimalMuppet(10000) 4 days ago [-]

People ask for the same thing for politics, and for various subjects. So how many different 'hide' filters should we create?

Then there's the classification problem. Is post X really about politics? It's not binary.

The only solution that would even approximately work would be to add a block list of domains to peoples' profiles. That way, if you don't want to see anything from paulgraham.com, and I don't want to see anything from HuffPost, we can each do that. But even that only approximately works. I've seen articles posted here that are Twitter comments on Paul Graham articles.

Or, the absolute simplest solution: Skip over the articles that don't interest you. It's really easy to just move your eyes to the next line.

hutrdvnj(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I'm not sure what you are down voted. It's a very legitimate question.

kevinskii(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I can't speak to Mighty's potential, but this essay is quite good.

As one anecdote in support of its argument, I have an acquaintance who co-founded a startup about 10 years ago. Much like Dropbox's early skeptics, I didn't understand how this business solved any real problem that couldn't be trivially addressed in a multitude of other ways.

I was puzzled as the business continued to grow and open offices around the world, and I was astounded when they were acquired for many multiples of the minimal VC investment that they eventually accepted.

gustavo-fring(10000) 4 days ago [-]


UncleMeat(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I really wish PG would actually talk to some historians. History of Science is an extremely deep field with tons of professionals who have spent their lives studying this material. His overview is shallow. The only history book he cites is from fifty years ago!

It is so frustrating. There is this huge wealth of content available and a large group of people who'd want nothing more to be able to share what they know about the history of science and instead we get think pieces based in hunches, feelings, and generalities. The historians are right there! They want to talk to you!

jean_tta(10000) 5 days ago [-]

A very smart man, PG himself, once said [0]:

> I actually worry a lot that as I get 'popular' I'll be able to get away with saying stupider stuff than I would have dared say before.

PG started writing essays about what he knows well (programming, start ups), then about things he knows a bit (painting) and then stuff like this, or his essays on economic policy. In any case, he predicted his own future quite well.

[0] quoted here https://idlewords.com/2005/04/dabblers_and_blowhards.htm from there http://lemonodor.com/archives/001091.html#c8508

walleeee(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I see little evidence he would want to talk to them, indeed his way of life is an insult to their discipline and their discipline is a threat to his way of life

Consciousness of history is inoculation against the sort of 'thought leadership' PG sells

intergalplan(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Being actually-correct about one's historical analogies and still making them work (or even finding that they don't! Gasp!) is harder than repeating 'common knowledge' tales or fudging things to fit your narrative while writing with the same bold voice you would if you were actually-correct.

Not to pick just on PG—that's more common than not, really.

anatoly(10000) 5 days ago [-]

You should use this opportunity to recommend an especially high-quality introduction/overview of modern history of science, approachable by a curious outsider.

dukeofdoom(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Seems like the privacy implications of this are not worth it for any serious company.

I was watching Rudy Giuliani yesterday on youtube, talk about how the FBI accessed and monitored his iCloud account for over a year. Which included his privileged lawyer/client information. If they can do that to a president's lawyer, while he's defending the president. They can do it to anyone.

tome(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Do you have a source for that? It seems extremely implausible for a number of reasons.

srckinase123(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The idea of using reasonable domain experts as a filter to implausible-sounding ideas seems obvious for hard-technology and scientific problems. But what about entrepreneurial ideas that provide a social service, such as Uber or Airbnb? Were the founders 'domain experts'?

jimhi(10000) 5 days ago [-]

He has a different essay explaining the Stripe founders were not experts at all when they started. I think there's multiple paths to success and change

bombcar(10000) 5 days ago [-]

What's interesting is both of those examples are relatively removed from the 'original proposition' - Uber was 'ridesharing' and now is 'taxi on demand' and AirBnB was 'couch surfing' and now is 'unlicensed hotel'.

swayvil(10000) 5 days ago [-]

From the footnotes

>3] This is one reason people with a touch of Asperger's may have an advantage in discovering new ideas. They're always flying on instruments

On the contrary, it is everybody else who is flying on instruments. The sperg sees straight.

anotha1(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Maybe he meant to say we're observing the rules via mental systems(instruments) we developed to 'fit in' instead of whatever neuro-typs use.

qshaman(10000) 5 days ago [-]

He is an investor on this "crazy new idea" , I don't believe him, he is just hustling his audience and trying to create hype about a product that is neither new nor competitive. People like Guido van Rossum , James Gosling , Bjarne Stroustrup , just to mention a few, have contributed way more to the field and have earned the respect of millions , you don't see them hyping crappy startups for a few bucks (billions* ) . I do respect the founders , and understand the have worked hard on this project , I just don't think that just working hard on something makes it good , or whatever Paul Graham says is something I should accept as truth.

SheinhardtWigCo(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> he is just hustling his audience

And doing an extremely effective job of it. Getting readers to feel something is the whole game. Paul and Suhail know the default reaction to this idea is "well that's dumb". Encouraging and exploiting heated conversation around that is a smart move.

AbrahamParangi(10000) 4 days ago [-]

This is such an uncharitable read that I think it's doing you a disservice.

I recommend imagining "what frame of mind or perspective would PG need to have to honestly believe what he's saying?"

nostrademons(10000) 4 days ago [-]

All of the people you mention are examples of the sort of folks the article mentions - domain experts with a 'crazy new idea'.

bestinterest(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Very interesting. This sounds like a response to the Mighty [0] launch which Paul Graham has been defending on twitter recently after an outcry from some of the 'hardcore' developers such as Jonathan Blow [1] and Casey [2].

[0] https://www.mightyapp.com/

[1] https://twitter.com/Jonathan_Blow/status/1387101172230672389

[2] https://twitter.com/cmuratori/status/1387645578067124224

peterthehacker(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Has mighty app announced what pricing will look like? I'm assuming that you couldn't offer something like this for free.

PragmaticPulp(10000) 5 days ago [-]

My hang up with Mighty isn't about their idea or their technology or their execution. It's impressive to see what they've done.

My issue is that it's not a product I could feel good recommending to anyone, at least at the high pricing that was proposed in the last discussion. In an era of $999 M1 Macs (and even cheaper AMD laptops) and readily available financing options, it doesn't make sense for anyone to throw their money away at a SaaS service that simply cannot perform as well as local Chrome on a modern machine.

I could see the narrow use case for limited situations where someone has

1. Weird IT department restrictions that require them to use old, slow computers but also

2. Budget rules that allow them to spend monthly money on a SaaS but not on financing the hardware they need to get their job done and

3. Guaranteed high speed internet all of the time and

4. An IT/corporate security department that is okay with them sending all of their keystrokes, login info, and browser data to a 3rd party service

Surely this situation exists, but it still feels like Mighty is targeting a broader audience by providing untrue claims about remote thin client technology somehow being faster than a halfway decent local machine. I'd feel equally uncomfortable if Stadia was charging $50/month while claiming to be lower latency than local gaming.

The counter arguments about disrespecting hard working startup founders or doubting visionaries feel like a strawman response to legitimate questions about the value of their service. The technology and execution look to be good, AFAICT. It's the product, pricing, messaging, and value that I can't recommend.

d_burfoot(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I follow Blow's work and opinions quite closely. I am quite confident he was NOT criticizing Mighty specifically. Instead he was deploring the state of software engineering in general and web programming in particular. He is saying something like 'I can't believe web engineering sucks so bad that a tool like Mighty actually makes sense'. See his talk about preventing the end of civilization (!!):


elbasti(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I am actually in Mighty's market if it cost ~$10usd per month, not $50.

At our startup we have a small org of customer service reps. They basically live in four tools: Notion, Slack, Chrome, and Front.

These four tools have one thing in common: they are all Electron apps. They SUCK. On any windows computer slower than a $1.5K lenovo, our reps can't have more than ~10 tabs open before their computer starts to stutter.

One answer would be to buy everyone an M1 mac. However, most of these reps are not familiar with apple (they use PCs at home) + they are still a bit too expensive (we're in Mexico where they cost 1.5 - 2x).

I would love to be able to buy our customer service reps a setup (monitor + mouse + computer) for ~$500 USD and have them use Mighty to run our customer service suite for $10-$15 bucks a month. That would scale to a customer service org of hundreds.

At $50 bucks a month I should just buy them a mac.

IMHO Suhail's pitch about 'running figma' is wrong. I'm happy to buy a designer any computer they want. But outfitting a CSR team of 50+ people? Mighty + a thin client would be amazing.

Pxtl(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I'm not upset about Mighty itself - I'm sure it's a fine product made by some decent people.

No, I'm upset that Mighty is necessary. That we, as an industry, have failed so hard that multi-gigahertz mult-core machines with gigabytes of ram can no longer consistently and quickly render documents without offloading it to a central server.

lghh(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I don't understand how Jonathan Blow of all people, figurehead behind several great video games that would have been impossible to run on a supercomputer 25 years ago, could possible have this take.

wildermuthn(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It is fascinating to me how quickly people reject the premise of Mighty, even after PG lists all the good reasons for replacing judgment with curiosity.

I'll admit, my initial reaction to Mighty was "I can't imagine it ever being faster than my behemoth PC." But then I stopped for a second and got curious. What is Mighty, really? It is a thin-client. That's it. And are thin-clients a bad thing? Well, if latency is an issue, sure. But "high-ping" is a somewhat solved issue, whether in multiplayer gaming, in terminal utilities like Mosh, or even in optimistic GraphQL mutation updates. Where's the use-case where near-zero latency is vital? The only cases I can think of are games like Rocket League: fast-twitch games where even the latency between my controller and my PC is something I happily spend hours optimizing — where latency prevents the necessary feedback loop for learning (akin to trying to learn how to hit a baseball while drunk).

But beyond near-zero latency use-cases, why would a thick client ever be better than a thin client? At the edge of performance, this question is easily answered: I would never attempt to train a PyTorch model on my admittedly powerful GPU. That's what the cloud is for. So when it comes to my browser, why am I content to eat up memory and cpu-time with hundreds of tabs open that almost always include one or two that are broken, soaking up my resources, and have to be hunted down and killed off so that IntelliJ can return to its normal lightning-fast speed?

Might goes even further and asks why I would want to run IntelliJ on my machine at all. Wouldn't I rather run IntelliJ like I used to run Vim over Mosh, where I never have to worry about storage space, about download/upload bandwidth, or about my computer becoming sluggish?

And that's the killer idea here: that thin-clients almost always beat thick-clients. One could even argue that the entire internet is premised upon this reality.

I'd happily pay Mighty to try it out for a bit. Even if it doesn't work, I've dropped more money of less fascinating ideas. At the very least, I'm rooting for their success, because it would change a lot more than how you consume content over the internet.

peterthehacker(10000) 4 days ago [-]

This is the first time I'm hearing of Mighty App and, at least at first glance, I wouldn't categorize it as a "crazy idea," in fact it seems pretty non-crazy to me - chrome but more efficient. It's literally a faster horse. I guess the implementation is the crazy part...?

moultano(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I did not take Jonathan Blow's tweet to be saying it's a bad idea, or won't work, but rather that it's an indictment of the whole web stack that it's necessary.

runako(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I have no dog in the fight either way, but I think it's weird that their demo product shots are on a Mac when part of their pitch is

> '50+ tabs without your computer coming to a crawl'

On Macs, people can just switch to Safari for free and solve that problem. Yes, Chrome is a memory hog. Stop using Chrome, don't send all your browsing data to a third party.

Perhaps Windows would be a better choice for Mighty demo shots, since there may not have a better option than Chrome for Windows.

anotha1(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Mighty is a good idea, marketed to the wrong people. I mean, who wouldn't just upgrade their computer? New software is a cost, even if it's 'free.'

I'm sure there's a niche, though. Like low-paid workers needing to do a lot on their crappy personal machines.

vishnugupta(10000) 5 days ago [-]

There was this product[1] to browse internet offline by downloading something called "Web Packs". This was back in 2005 just when I was graduating when I spoke to the founding team. They were naturally quite confident about the product taking off. Something seemed off to me I couldn't point out what so I didn't take the job offer. After all these years I realized the source my discomfort. They were actually betting against the speed of internet getting better. While most of the businesses like Amazon, Google were betting for the internet tech to improve this product did exactly the opposite.

To me Mighty sounds like a similar category of product. They are betting that PC/Laptop/Mobile hardware will stagnate from this point on. Exactly when Apple has launched M1, which blows the previous version out of the water, at a non crazy price. From this point it's a matter of time other hardware also catches up in terms of performance and price.

Besides, yet another company to handover my entire browsing history and data for purported improvement in latency? I don't know.

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

blocked_again(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Yeah. Also, Suhail Doshi, the founder of Mighty, is mentioned as one of the people who draft read this essay.

zitterbewegung(10000) 5 days ago [-]

We have game streaming services from NVIDIA and amazon has had Amazon workspaces. With the global chip shortage which will affect a large amount of people I think that this would be the best time to prove your product to have a good effect.

Not only that but a great amount of people here live in a literal tech bubble and we believe that everyone has a reasonably fast laptop or can setup a large workstation.

thundergolfer(10000) 5 days ago [-]

If a "Crazy New Idea" (CNI) is getting VC funding from establishment tech capital to deliver a twist in an existing product, it doesn't seem like it could be so crazy.

Reading this I thought of CNIs like the Internet of the 1980s, women's suffrage in the 19th century, Project Mercury, The Eiffel Tower.

The CNIs gaining ground today in tech seem to be crypto, brain-computer-interfaces, quantum computing, and CRISPR gene editing.

busymom0(10000) 5 days ago [-]

If there was a similar offering as mighty for certain development tools including Xcode and android studio together, that would be awesome and something I would look into. Basically something which would reduce the build times.

AussieWog93(10000) 5 days ago [-]

From what I understand of both the recent tweets and both of their fairly radical/extreme (and mostly correct) views about abstraction being a net negative, the criticism is less 'Mighty doesn't work' and more 'We shouldn't need to use an app like Mighty to get good performance on a basic website'.

antipauline(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Why are you all upvoting this shit?

Just because Paul Graham wrote it, doesn't mean it's worth reading. Usually the opposite, in fact.

You people need to lay off the PG cultism. Stop worshipping every word he writes just because you idolize his riches, or want to be him, or whatever.

fallingknife(10000) 5 days ago [-]

You actually add credibility to his writing because you make it obvious that you don't actually have a counter argument.

bonoboTP(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Fully agreed. A lazy article all-round. Where are the examples? Where are the pitfalls?

Is the insight merely that some wacky ideas turn out to be right sometimes?

Yeah, sure so how can we tell in advance? How is this actionable? And his answer is: listen to reasonable domain experts. That phrase is doing some real heavy lifting there...

wrnr(10000) 5 days ago [-]

You are being unfair, its not any better then most HN articles, fits here just fine if you ask me

ta_ca(10000) 4 days ago [-]

pg is one of the people introduced me to lisp and i think lisp is the greatest idea in computer science. so his ideas have some weight for me, but lately the disconnect is quite unbearable. he is again picking the wrong side in history.

will these supervillians ever stop? nothing less than world-domination is enough.

microsoft tried to own everything about computing, they largly succeeded. they even infiltrated schools and still every pc is sold with windows-preinstalled.

then came google/facebook/apple... and they all want to own the entire internet.

unity wants the entire gaming/gamedev/computer-graphics. i am sure there are schools out there have unity classes, just unbelievable. 'unity-developer' is the norm in job titles now, and i have never once heard 'photoshop-artist' in the title of a job description.

this particular case is no exception.

ok, most logical conclusion is i too am envious.

halfmatthalfcat(10000) 5 days ago [-]

You created an account just to say this? Damn, commitment.

darkerside(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Another reason people dismiss new ideas is that it's an easy way to seem sophisticated. When a new idea first emerges, it usually seems pretty feeble. It's a mere hatchling. Received wisdom is full-grown eagle by comparison. So it's easy to launch a devastating attack on a new idea, and anyone who does will seem clever to those who don't understand this asymmetry.

I wonder if most people realize this? In my experience, it seems like a characteristic that defies intellect and education. Incredibly smart people are, if anything, someone's more dismissive of new ideas because of their confidence that it just won't work.

randomsearch(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Related: when ideas are young, they must be nurtured like saplings. Too much criticism will kill them, they must be watered and fed to give them a chance.

peter_retief(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I wish somebody would take my wild ideas seriously.

kirubakaran(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I'd love to hear them. My email is in my profile.

Misdicorl(10000) 4 days ago [-]

The central thesis

> Most implausible-sounding ideas are in fact bad and could be safely dismissed. But not when they're proposed by reasonable domain experts.

Is later contradicted by a discussion on the quality of criticism

> The lowest form [of criticism] of all is to dismiss an idea because of who proposed it.

So which is it? Judge an idea by who proposes it or not? I think the essay stands without the tangent on ranking criticism, and it could perhaps be discarded entirely.

But that's too easy, and I think the discussion of criticism is a strong (unintentional) counterpoint to the essay. You have gated the hard work of weighing an idea behind the reputation of the person who proposed it. History all too often labels a genius only in retrospect and in their own time were more likely to be considered fringe or even crackpots.

In short, I think the essay is boiled down to 'find the right people to trust/engage/pursue, and especially don't discard their implausible ideas'. The tack on of trying to localize to a 'smart domain expert' in whatever you're interested in seems.... uninspired. The tack on of being more open to implausible ideas is more interesting. But the fundamental work is unchanged from basically all of human history- 'find (or become) the people who are going to be successful/transformative'

fighterpilot(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Those two statements are not inconsistent.

The first statement isn't a suggestion that implausible sounding ideas can be dismissed on the basis of a lack of credibility of the person communicating the idea.

But I share in the dislike of an appeal to authority. The idea should stand on its own merits.

bob33212(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This is a great essay. I follow similar logic when assessing bitcoin.

1. Listen to as many viewpoints as possible 2. Remove the people who are not domain experts 3. Remove the people who are blinded by their own financial interests or ego. 4. Remove the people who are influenced by social pressures ( good and bad ) 5. Assign probabilities to the remaining viewpoints evenly. 6. Repeat steps 1-5 and chart the progression of the probability space.

Currently, It seems 40%+ likely that Bitcoin will end up as an accidental Ponzi scheme with a crash based on late adopters rushing out. But there is also still a 10%+ chance that it replaces gold as a currency hedge for the next 20+ years and 5+ percent chance that it becomes a first class currency.

fallingknife(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Who exactly is a 'domain expert' in bitcoin? The whole thing was created by an anonymous developer 10 years ago, and all of the so called 'domain experts' are johnny come latelys who smelled a quick buck.

vaylian(10000) 5 days ago [-]

For those 10%: Do you see BitCoin as an actual currency that you can buy stuff with, or purely an investment?

tw04(10000) 5 days ago [-]

>The reason is that everyone is too conservative.

Everyone isn't too conservative: veterans in a field are conservative because they have earned the war wounds they carry. Which is why you tend to see 'disruptive apps' targeting younger people. They don't have the life experience to understand, at first glance, why an idea may be extremely dangerous.

I'm young enough to remember being that way myself: Who cares if someone gets my bank account info, what are they going to do, pay off my student loans? Spend the $25 I have in my checking account? Oh no!

I abhor people who throw around the idea that someone in tech being 'conservative' is somehow wrong or bad. They're conservative because they know just how much is at risk for the folks who don't know any better.

dralley(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It's technological manifest destiny.


OhNoMyqueen(10000) 4 days ago [-]

It's not necessarily true. Some people are conservative and have forgotten the reason why.

bko(10000) 4 days ago [-]

From the article, PG argues that the crazy idea should be taken seriously predicated on the person having deep domain expertise.

I don't think anyone with deep domain experience in banking would say 'Who cares if someone gets my bank account info'

borski(10000) 5 days ago [-]

That founder naïveté, however, is also what often leads to founders winning. Building Stripe really seems like a schlep if you've built a payments company before - so much so that you might not want to do it. It's hard, and annoying, and has all sorts of regulatory hurdles.

But if you don't know any of that, you build it anyway, because schleps are really just long collections of much smaller problems, and naive founders can solve much smaller problems at a rapid succession, whereas "conservative industry experts" simply wouldn't even start because it's too hard.

CJefferson(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This is an interesting idea, but I feel it's not calibrated right -- I'm an academic, so I'd imagine I work with many 'domain experts' (if you don't think so, that's of course another valid discussion). I don't think 'if you bet on the entire set of implausible-sounding ideas proposed by reasonable domain experts, you'd end up net ahead.'.

I hear a implausible sounding ideas all the time. I think one of the main points of academia is to give people the chance to explore those ideas. But they don't turn out good 'on average', not even close.

magusdei(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Ending up 'net ahead' does not necessarily mean maximizing the fraction of successful projects. I don't think pg is saying that implausible-sounding projects usually turn out good. He is saying that when they turn out good, they have outsized impact, precisely because they initially sounded implausible and therefore produce lots of new information if true.

runeks(10000) 4 days ago [-]

As you point out, it depends on how we define 'domain expert'. I may be a 'blockchain domain expert' but I also need to understand what consumers need from a blockchain in order for it to be a profitable venture. My idea may be very innovative, but if it doesn't solve people's problems it's not going to make much of a difference.

In other words, a successful business requires not only producing an innovative product, it also requires knowing if people actually demand this innovative product. One half is the core idea, the other half is how this idea interfaces with the world.

tlb(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The median implausible-sounding idea is bad, for sure.

But if you never bet on any implausible-sounding ideas, you exclude the chance of being an early participant in any big paradigm shift.

A good exercise is to back-test your rule against big ideas through their history. Would you have invested time in solving Schrodinger's weird equation in 1925? 1927? 1940? Would you have invested time in public key cryptography in 1975? 1976? 1980? 1990?

People who got in early, got to make the big discoveries in those fields.

anotha1(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Yes, because even when those implausible ideas fail, your more likely to learn something than when experimenting on an existing hypothesis with just a minor change.

ojbyrne(10000) 5 days ago [-]
FiatLuxDave(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Check footnote number 2?

bernulli(10000) 4 days ago [-]

My favorite crazy ideas from Science are

- 'Imagine, they're like really small animals, but the're too small to see! The're everywhere! They live on us, in us, around us! They are what makes us sick!' (Pasteur, germ theory of diseases)

- 'You know how there can be mountains as huge as the Himalaya? Easy! In reality, all continents are really like small leaves floating on a see of magma, and they're bouncing into each other, and when they crash we get these huge mountain ranges and continents.' (Alfred Wegener, tectonic plates)

- 'You know time? Yeah, it's really different for everyone, and there isn't even a thing such as 'simultaneous'. I'm serious! Just imagine riding on a train and playing with a flashlight and a watch!' (some patent clerk in Switzerland)

Metacelsus(10000) 4 days ago [-]

More recently:

Seeing small things is difficult. Instead of making microscopes better, what if we made the samples bigger?

(Expansion microscopy)

gman83(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I guess because I think that Hyperloop is a really dumb idea I must be extremely envious. This smells like a way to justify ignoring difficult criticism. The critics are envious, they're trying to look sophisticated, they're not real domain experts, etc.

deadite(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Not the first time, not the last time. We were misogynists when we were criticizing Elizabeth Holmes. It comes with the territory.

ZephyrBlu(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This kind of attitude seem to be very common among 'ambitious' founders, especially the YC crowd.

Rapzid(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Your just not a domain expert on ideas though. Just look at all the words he wrote on ideas. You should be more open to his absurd belief in the idea of Mighty App being a game changer.

mcguire(10000) 4 days ago [-]

This is one of the major problems with PG's essays---he frequently assigns the worst possible motives to the people he disagrees with.

arua442(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I don't like how Paul's writing always gets hundreds of likes just because it's by him.

Not everything he writes is amazing. I wish there wasn't such a cult around him.

cptskippy(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I think that's the curse of our social media. At best you get a binary Like/Dislike mechanism, at worst just Like. There's no contextualization of those choices.

In this case, PG's writing is directly related to the discussions around MightyApp even though he doesn't disclose this fact. I think that's important because it's seemingly a conflict of interest being passed under the auspice of objectivity.

I also think it's important to discuss MightyApp, not for it's merits but for it's implications.

Unfortunately social media doesn't offer a 'look at this shit' button along site the like button. I venture to say if they did there'd be a lot fewer likes.

bkirkby(10000) 5 days ago [-]

You should offer some criticism about what he wrote. Dismissing something because of who wrote it is just as ineffective as liking something because of who wrote it.

vaylian(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Upvotes don't mean that something is perfect or worthy of worship. It means that something is interesting or (partially) insightful.

drclau(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I think this may be an American thing. People as successful as PG, Musk, Bezos, Gates etc become demigods, for a majority of people. Cults are created around them. They can never be wrong and so on.

As a result, the opposition arises too: the people who dislike these demigods for the same reasons their followers like them.

I say this is probably an American thing because I don't see this happening in Europe. I worked for years for one of the most successful startups in Europe and I have no idea what the names of the founders are. Probably no one does by now.

adwf(10000) 4 days ago [-]

You are aware this is his website, right?

A large proportion of people are here specifically because of PG and his endeavours, of course he's going to get lots of upvotes. Even if you don't agree with him, he's worth listening to, particularly if you have any aspirations to join YC.

ck425(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I don't think he gets hundreds of likes because he's amazing (though some of what he's written has been). It's because his writing is an insight into silicon valley and VC culture. Even when I completely disagree with his opinions they're interesting to read because they give an insight into how him and many of his peers think. And as someone interested in this industry that's fundamentally interesting even when it's not great. Arguably more so.

temp-dude-87844(10000) 4 days ago [-]

This essay is a frustrating read, because you can feel his condescension towards critics (oh, they must be envious, or taking cheap shots), and you get a window into his headspace in which he believes that his way of examining the world and arriving at substantially the same beliefs is the only correct way.

But to be quite honest, many PG essays fit this same basic structure, whereby some venture or belief of his is introduced in a slow-burn way, with lots of short sentences light on content as if trying to sound off-the-cuff but way too authored to sound convincingly so, and then a dispassioned but complete teardown of the critics of the idea. A subversion of an appeal to historical authority thrown in for good measure. He always comes across as the understated luminary whose low opinion of the clueless hordes or meddling schemers below him is emotionlessly obvious, and anyone who disagrees is clearly a meddling schemer because of envy or fear or some other existential insecurity, because his seldom-mentioned achievements ought to speak for themselves about the supremacy of his approach.

But what's especially frustrating about this essay is that it's clearly precipitated by the dismissive public reaction towards the Mighty app -- an observation shared by many others in this thread -- but this is intentionally unacknowledged by him, presumably so that he can pontificate about the bravery of weird ideas the envy and fear of others on his personal blog without soiling the name of a business venture he backed. But it's also evidence that with a simple Twitter beef, you can get under his skin -- a sad fact you'd be forgiven for doubting if you hang on every word of his essays.

fillskills(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Wow, I came here to say that this was possibly Paul's best essay ever. There is so much to learn here. Completely surprised by the negative comments and so many of them :). Specially on an essay that is essentially asking to not being critical right away.

In my short startup life, I have had the opportunity of meet many founders, VCs and also get solicited and unsolicited opinions from friends and family. Most of the VCs, friends and family members were critical of my ideas or simply didn't spend the effort to really listen. I see the same thing happening to other founders and startups. Specially fun is meeting VCs who have never built a startup themselves or coming from a non technical background be overly critical and share their strongly held opinions on how my startup could fail. I ran out of fingers counting how many ways.

Ofcourse a startup can fail. Thats why it's not a company yet. There is a saying that it takes many miracles to make a startup a success. Most founders know that already. We are already scared.

Paul is suggesting a different approach. A more positive one. And given the statistics around Paul's and YC's success versus other VCs, you would think that the HN crowd of all people would at-least pay attention.

P.S: My startup was rejected multiple times by YC. So not a fan exactly.

npsimons(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I don't know if I'd say it's Graham's best essay ('Beating the Averages' still ranks as one of my favorites), but reading this most recent essay, I was thinking of Elon Musk.

Say what you will about the guy, and there's an argument to be made that Tesla at least is incremental and not a crazy new idea, but Musk co-founded Paypal and is now pushing limits in spaceflight.

gustavo-fring(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Do you not think there is a balance between unalloyed boosterism and lying (the YC way) and not giving you any good feedback?

There are just way more people that I know and trust personally that I think could give positive, but constructive advice. I would believe absolutely nothing coming out of Paul's mouth because he hasn't shown that he's an honest person. He's not disinterested about any of this, but feigns like he is above it.

I think some of us are very sick of the absolutely fake and fraudulent way he and others like him and Musk operate. They do not care about the truth or other people, they care about their own egos and people for whatever reason buy that.

davesque(10000) 4 days ago [-]

It seems people often have a weird 'anti-bias' to believe that everything that goes on to be wildly successful was originally dismissed as ridiculous or impossible. First of all, it's not true. There are plenty of examples of ideas that seemed good to begin with and turned out to be good in practice. So something seeming ridiculous doesn't really count as an important quality in predicting success. Secondly, even if it were somehow true that all successful ideas seemed ridiculous, that still says nothing about how likely something is to succeed. What percentage of failed ideas originally seemed ridiculous? It's also an important question, but I guess one you don't need to answer if you're a billionaire and have a large audience of worshipers.

Sometimes a stupid idea is just that.

davidivadavid(10000) 4 days ago [-]

The problem is compounded by the fact that most of this is just a storytelling retcon anyway.

Mighty is trying to make your browser experience smoother, faster, whatever (saying nothing of the larger vision). That's obviously a good idea, and it's easy to tell a story about how the founders overcame huge technical hurdles to make it work, and so on.

But then Mighty is also obviously one of the ugliest, most inelegant ideas ever invented, which, in case it fails, can be used to point it how obvious it was.

So, yeah. Not sure there's much to be learnt here?

codingdave(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Someone proposes an idea that sounds crazy, most people dismiss it, then it gradually takes over the world.

This is survivorship bias. He is not wrong in that yes, we should consider ideas from domain experts carefully and not be overly dismissive. But it is absolutely survivorship bias to believe that every crazy idea from a domain expert worked out.

david-cako(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Having crazy ideas seems to be a prerequisite for taking over the world with an idea. The alternative is having familiar ideas which are already pervasive, or having no ideas.

yesenadam(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> it is absolutely survivorship bias to believe that every crazy idea from a domain expert worked out

Who believes that?

zby(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It would be survivorship bias if the author suggested a rule here - but this quote is only a statement that 'this can happen'.

Where the author suggest a rule: 'Such ideas are not guaranteed to work. But they don't have to be. They just have to be sufficiently good bets — to have sufficiently high expected value.' - it is hedged against survivorship bias.

gustavo-fring(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Graham should know better, he talked about arc as the messiah for five years before getting beat to market by Clojure. Now they barely do proper language releases.

sneak(10000) 5 days ago [-]

From TFA:

> Such ideas are not guaranteed to work. But they don't have to be. They just have to be sufficiently good bets — to have sufficiently high expected value. And I think on average they do.

It's likely that you're both right. If something is biased 45% off of a coin toss, but gives 25x returns, it's still positive EV.

This is a part of VC and speculative investment that a lot of people gloss over. Success is the difference between being wrong 95% of the time and being wrong 97% of the time. (And, with Softbank around, sometimes it's the difference between being wrong 97% of the time and 99.5% of the time.)

nottorp(10000) 5 days ago [-]

If this is about Mighty, the bad parts of it aren't technical.

- Even with today's concentration of information, there are several independent information sources left... and they want us to access them from a single point of failure?

- Who pays for this and how? How do I install my own ad blockers and anti tracking extensions on Mighty? Am I supposed to just trust them that they won't sell my advertising profile?

- What happens to the sites Mighty management disagrees with? Do they become inaccessible? Or they render badly? Especially since they're an American company and society is getting ultra polarized over there...

intergalplan(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Exactly. The tech is farcical (surely even a proponent of them can see that?) but that's not really Mighty's fault.

It's bad because their strongest viable business plays seem to all involve leveraging their access to people's browsers in not-so-nice ways.

not1ofU(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Founders: 'Write that down'

rsp1984(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I agree with the general gist of this, however the crux is that most ideas that turn out to be revolutionary just don't originate within the accepted circle of domain experts, exactly because being a domain expert makes you more unlikely to think out of the box.

Google didn't come out of Yahoo. Napster wasn't founded by music industry execs. Friendster didn't evolve into Facebook. Match.com didn't invent Tinder. It's often the curious outsiders that disrupt the status quo, not the well connected insiders.

bryanrasmussen(10000) 5 days ago [-]

>Google didn't come out of Yahoo.

from my reading of the history of Yahoo they had plenty of good ideas that they destroyed because the problem was not domain experts but thinking they were in the wrong business (media!)

shoto_io(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I agree 100%. The list could be continued indefinitely.

Less positively formulated, you could also say people outside an industry are naïve enough to start something people inside would deem impossible.

pilingual(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I'm curious to see a list of world-changing ideas that came out of domain expertise and those that the essay claims could be dismissed because the person was not an expert.

AirBnB, which is perhaps pg's favorite company, would never have gotten into Y Combinator without Michael Seibel and the endorsement of the JTV crew. AirBnB simply would not exist today.

So I hope people don't read this essay and think, 'I'm not a domain expert, so I'll give up on this idea.' Somewhat of a dangerous essay for that reason.

Putshort(10000) 5 days ago [-]

You could also look at the list of Google's failures.

hoppyhoppy2(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Why are all your examples software companies? Certainly not because most of the world's revolutionary ideas are from programmers. Perhaps there are benefits to domain knowledge for coming up with revolutionary ideas in, say, biology or chemistry or electrical engineering or literature or political science or manufacturing or medicine...

matt_s(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I don't think pg intended that crazy new ideas require someone to be a domain expert, just some expertise. Slight wording difference.

In the case of music, one could have domain expertise on audio files, compression and domain expertise about file sharing and domain expertise about younger people's listening habits. That's just having some insights into the domain, several as is the case with Napster. Music industry execs in those days probably had domain expertise on contract law, revenue sharing models, marketing and didn't have a clue about file sharing or audio compression.

Also want to mention the examples you mention seem to have not much 'newness' to them to be 'crazy new' in my opinion.

When I think of 'crazy new' ideas, I think of things like stuff that came out of PARC in the 60's. If you go watch the Stanford 2 part series 'How To Invent The Future' with Alan Kay on youtube [0] it goes into a lot of detail about them.

The challenge there with Xerox was they couldn't capitalize on every single idea that came out, just not logistically possible for a company to really do that.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=id1WShzzMCQ

tomhoward(10000) 5 days ago [-]

He didn't say 'the accepted circle'. Just domain experts.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin were domain experts - they were doing a PhD dissertation on mapping and indexing the web.

The other businesses you mention aren't all that crazy; they just needed good implementation.

samstave(10000) 5 days ago [-]

SpaceX and Tesla came 'out of' PayPal.

guerrilla(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> the crux is that most ideas that turn out to be revolutionary just don't originate within the accepted circle of domain experts, exactly because being a domain expert makes you more unlikely to think out of the box.

I don't know about that... look at physics for example. You have plenty of experts who are total mavericks and then a bunch of outsiders spewing crankery and messing up on the basics.

jacquesm(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Those are all excellent examples of the main reason why innovation can not be done in established businesses: the fear of cannibalizing the cash cow will stifle any real innovation.

taurath(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It's also just as often someone who's worked in an industry for a while and has a bunch of good ideas from understanding the problems. We put the college kids making big companies on a pedestal but most startups are from people who know the domain.

You won't find a revolutionary import/export company that doesn't have some knowledge about the logistics industry. But you are more likely to be paying attention to new technologies as they emerge that might allow you to come up with the revolutionary ideas. I've noticed as I've gotten older I've stopped spending my time fiddling with all my devices. As a result I'm less likely to realize when something new and exciting might be within reach, until it hits a higher point on the bell curve of maturity.

phenkdo(10000) 5 days ago [-]

However, for everyone of those examples there are many counter-examples: Intel came out of Shockley, ex-IBMers went onto found several other companies (SAP, Peoplesoft,...)...

So Im skeptical of this outsider/insider characterization, IMHO it's almost always the individuals.

Nihmie(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Everything Paul wrote about in this post resonated with me. He avoided any examples, and looking through these HN comments, it's clear why. A lot of people assume that his experiences are specific, but no, there really is a culture of shooting down crazy new ideas.

I can think of a few examples of crazy ideas being dismissed. I remember seeing this post where someone was trying to figure out if it was possible to verify that a photo was either undoctored or else that someone went through a lot of trouble to hack the camera hardware of a phone. The post started off in the vein of, 'Here's this idea, and even though it sounds crazy, I can't convince myself that it's a bad idea.' The peanut gallery had all sorts of reasons that it was a bad idea -- I think my favorite reason was that it would be immoral to try to provide this capability. Paul's essay suggests a few reasons that this crazy idea might have generated such a personal attack.

Crazy new ideas are uncomfortable. I'm reminded of 'Pitch Anything' by Oren Klaff, which describes the 'croc brain' that protects the higher functioning parts of our brain by trying to discard anything that is uncomfortable. A crazy new idea challenges our worldview, so it's going to be uncomfortable.

There's a class of ideas that engineers are comfortable with: incremental improvements. If there's a framework in place to evaluate an idea, it doesn't make people so uncomfortable. By extension, if an idea is non-incremental, meaning it's a crazy new idea, then since it makes us uncomfortable, it should be rejected immediately.

I remember a conversation about the value of an idea. There's the school of thought that ideas are worthless -- a monkey with a typewriter can hammer out ten ideas before their breakfast banana. Another viewpoint recognizes that good ideas are important starting points, but after that the only thing that matters is hard work.

My feeling is that crazy new ideas are more like a lottery ticket: probably worthless. I don't know, maybe the peanut gallery is right. Since the lottery ticket is probably worthless, the easiest thing to do is to toss them all in the trash before checking them against the winning numbers.

taytus(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> He avoided any examples

Because most people following HN knew about what SPECIFICALLY he was talking about.

This was a reaction, not something that happened out of nowhere.

stephc_int13(10000) 5 days ago [-]

In case someone missed the story, Paul Graham is indirectly talking about the feedback received by Mighty App.

And in this particular case, I don't think this is a valid defense.

First, he clearly has too much skin in the game to be credibly neutral about it.

Second, he avoids addressing the main critique about this 'new tech'.

People are not claiming that it is a bad idea because it is infeasible or not valuable, but because it is dangerous and also because it sounds technically ridiculous. (thin client inside thin client)

https://www.mightyapp.com/ https://twitter.com/Jonathan_Blow/status/1387101172230672389 https://twitter.com/cmuratori/status/1387645578067124224

dunkelheit(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> First, he clearly has too much skin in the game to be credibly neutral about it.

I think this is a general and important point (and sadly not at all discussed in his post). When an expert publicly says something that seems wrong, my default explanation is that they have a vested interest that consciously or unconsciously forces them to consider the implications of what they say and alter the message accordingly. Recent case in point: public health authorities telling the public that masks are useless and even harmful during the pandemic (presumably to avoid shortages) and then reversing their stance when masks became abundant.

This is especially true for public statements. If I were a friend of pg and we would go to a pub and he would not stop talking about how awesome one of the startups he invested in are, that would be a strong signal for me. But if he shills for one of his investments on twitter and on his blog just like some influencer-investor would do, I don't find this especially strong evidence that said startup is revolutionary even though he is an undisputed expert on startups.

adenta(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Imagine not having to think about cross browser comparability. Customer wants to use internet explorer? Just head to ie.example.com, for a mighty version of a given website.

fossuser(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> " People are not claiming that it is a bad idea because it is infeasible or not valuable, but because it is dangerous and also because it sounds technically ridiculous. (thin client inside thin client)"

This is the kind of asymmetric dismissal he's talking about, and it's not very good.

Dangerous? We run everything via cloud services and encrypted communication. "Sounds technically ridiculous" - so did probably every modern technological idea when it was new "you put your database in some other company's servers?!".

You're mostly proving PG's point.

stephc_int13(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This idea of a dumb client is not new, it has been around basically forever, but we're seeing it again in multiple different incarnations because it could be huge.

And I mean that in a bad way.

Privacy and users rights are already pretty bad, but we still own our computers.

I can see how it would start in the corporate world.

breck(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Mighty is such an obviously good idea, and if you've spent decades on the cutting edge of the web you'd understand why. People's demands for more powerful web apps are for all intents and purposes infinite, and it is much more pleasant as a developer to develop once, run anywhere, than to develop an app for low powered clients and a different one for high powered ones.

baron_harkonnen(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> Paul Graham is indirectly talking about

I find it strange that for someone that is a relatively immune from any real scrutiny, and constantly claiming to be a bold thinker, PG is always so coy in his writing.

I would find PG's recent stream of ego driven rants much more enjoyable and potentially insightful if he would just say what he's really trying to say.

He might be trying to add strength to his arguments by making them somehow more general, but since these pieces always seem very clearly about a specific bone PG has to pick, the result is they read as some of the most cowardly essays I've ever encountered.

hardwaregeek(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Maybe this is a terrible stance but if the idea pisses off Jonathan Blow and Casey Muratori, I wouldn't take that as a bad sign. jblow and Casey are brilliant programmers and I mean them no disrespect, but their philosophies are certainly in the vein of prescriptive, 'correct' ways of writing code. Namely you should write code that is fast and efficient. Unfortunately (or not, depends on your view), programmers do not like prescriptive, 'correct' ways of writing code. Worse is better and all. If you give them a cheat code to let them use a little more performance, give them a little more headroom, they'll take it. For all the jblows and muratori's in the world, there's a lot more people who don't care about perf and just want to make cool stuff. For better or worse.

AnimalMuppet(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Perhaps he is indirectly talking about Mighty. We could still consider what he says here on its own merits.

fsociety(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Not to mention the privacy concerns of allowing someone else's machine to proxy all of your web requests.

citrusybread(10000) 4 days ago [-]

hahaha, fuck, I remember ages ago, maybe 2013, when people were trying to get me to buy into the 'web 2.0' craze -- 'Web is the future!', 'web can scale!', 'nobody will install apps!', 'your stuff will be accessible everywhere!'

funny how they all turned out to be mixed bags. the best part? people telling me web apps are 'lighter'. even back then I knew that was a hot load of bullshit.

good to know the other shoe has dropped and we're really going full-circle to thin clients/mainframes, but shittier.

dannyphantom(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Could perhaps the idea of a thin client inside a thin client not be an idea that could be further developed to be of use one day?

heipei(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I lost a decent amount of respect for pg due to how he keeps portraying Mighty like it's gonna change how we use the Internet and computers in general. Like, really?

I don't mind Mighty as a product, I don't mind their team, their pricing or their slick marketing website. But please, call it what it is: A nice and slick Remote Browsing product, one of multiple ones. Cloudflare recently launched an RBI product with much more humble and honest marketing about where it will be useful.

suhail(10000) 4 days ago [-]

He might also be talking about many more ideas too: Dropbox, Boom, Lambda School, and another dozen ideas within YC that all seem surprisingly possible. You can criticize him for having skin in the game but you could equally commend him too: he puts his money where his mouth is.

cmiles74(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Wasn't this a feature of Amazon's Silk browser?

'The browser uses a split architecture where some of the processing is performed on Amazon's servers to improve webpage loading performance.'


dotdotdotdot(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> People are not claiming that it is a bad idea because it is infeasible or not valuable, but because it is dangerous and also because it sounds technically ridiculous.

An idea isn't bad if it's valuable and built on ridiculous / dumb / silly / simple / old technology. A product should be measured on output, not input... in fact I'd go as far as to say that we (hackers) should celebrate ideas that deliver incredible value with such a simple implementation.

nl(10000) 4 days ago [-]

These 'Mighty is bad' arguments are actually arguments in support of Mighty.

They are arguing that technology shouldn't need Mighty. The mere fact they are complaining about the state of the world means that there is a problem that needs solving.

yifanl(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This domain is frustrating to talk about as a technical person because success isn't based on technical soundness, but rather popularity.

So any argument I could realistically make against $sillyAppThatHasVCBacking will not matter if enough Paul Grahams back it and $sillyApp makes itself a moat.

WeWork would be the most prominent example of this; even after their 2019/2020 crash, they'll probably come out of the pandemic okay compared to its competitors simply because it just got big enough.

choiway(10000) 4 days ago [-]

It's funny how this context changes the entire the article. I didn't realize that this was related to Mighty and thought it was a good 'call to arms' for domain experts in non-tech industries to disrupt their markets.

elcapitan(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> First, he clearly has too much skin in the game

That sounds like an odd use of 'skin in the game'. 'Skin in the game' would be if that thing failed and then he gets skinned, basically. Being invested in something with potentially lots of upside and worst case a bit of lost investment isn't like that.

FlyingSnake(10000) 4 days ago [-]

It's quite illuminating to see the very forum that PG created is calling him out on his shortcomings. Almost all the recent posts by PG were panned down by HN hivemind and PG seems to take no hints from the wisdom of the HN crowd. The case with MightyApp is the latest in the saga.

randomsearch(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> In case someone missed the story, Paul Graham is indirectly talking about the feedback received by Mighty App.

This is the subtext I came here for, thanks.

I'm undecided on Mighty, I don't have a strong opinion. I wouldn't consider it 'revolutionary', unless perhaps they have a vision way beyond the product they've talked about publicly, but it would seem a bit unfair to use that as a defence against criticism.

One thing I did notice is that a few people involved or indirectly involved with Mighty seem to have a problem with the criticism on HN, which seems really strange to me if you consider yourself an open individual who supports freedom of discussion. You don't need to engage with that criticism directly, but presumably it's useful to be criticised - you'll need answers to those arguments. And if the criticism isn't constructive, well, who cares? There's always some noise.

It feels to me like 'oh yes I want people to freely debate ideas and criticise them but just not the ideas I like'.

vgchh(10000) 5 days ago [-]

- Personally I don't think PG is defending mighty app because he has skin in the game. I would think he is at a point where he doesn't need to.

- Also IMO we should let mighty app (or for that matter other crazy ones) play out. We all know little about the capabilities of individuals and what the future holds. So why to ridicule and prematurely declare certain death.

nojs(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I wish he would say this in the post!

john_minsk(10000) 4 days ago [-]

So during their onboarding process they have a survey about your usage patterns. One of the questions is about speed of switching between tabs and one of the answers is 'Tabs are switched very fast (<1 sec)'

I'm sorry, but 1 sec is not fast...

mindfulplay(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This post seems to be in response to the recent Mighty app.

To me, the main problem lies in what VCs think pass as 'tech'. The mighty app website made it sound it like it was some novel revolutionary app.

I was hoping it was really something clever like what the Cloudflare people or even game streaming companies do. But nope.

It's significantly worse: it's literally slapping together existing tech and calling it novel. And worse, simple security/privacy seem to have taken a backseat as if there is some innovative performance-oriented solution being prioritized here.

There doesn't seem to be any tech. But reading through the website, one might be mistakenly led to believe it is something of a hard problem to solve. In fact the person running the show admits to how they pivoted from a Windows VM company to running just Chrome. This is reality distortion at best. Running an Electron app to stream a live Chrome VM session seems like a CS401 style project.

This is similar to Uber or AirBNB: the value add is in slapping together some quick existing tech with the main 'innovation' being the funding system or creatively working around regulatory/legal hurdles.

I find it amusing and sad that there isn't any new tech nor even a sound financial plan for a lot of these companies (nor even a so-called moat beyond just siloing their first mover advantage behind legal paperwork).

It seems as though the 90s VCs funded actual technically sound, innovative, 'pushing the envelope yet making money' companies.

These days it's a popularity and ego matching competition among VCs and founders. This isn't tech. This is throwing money at a problem inefficiently and seeing what sticks. The people that work in this space are rather uninspiring, technically demotivated but financially motivated group.

I hate to think that this is the new 'tech' world that was promised. I don't even want to start on Jonathan/Casey comments as they are obviously right but that's besides the point here.

Makes me wonder if Mighty or Clubhouse (or even Lambda school/Coinbase) are the stellar examples a budding CS student is going to look up to: which is sad and makes me really wish for the 90s VCs to come back and fund more technically/financially sound and inspiring companies.

klaudius(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Paul Graham addressed this in his previous essay 'How People Get Rich Now':

    The best way to envision what happened is to imagine a pond with a crust of ice on top. Initially the only way from the bottom to the surface is around the edges. But as the ice crust weakens, you start to be able to punch right through the middle.
    The edges of the pond were pure tech: companies that actually described themselves as being in the electronics or software business. When you used the word 'startup' in 1990, that was what you meant. But now startups are punching right through the middle of the ice crust and displacing incumbents like retailers and TV networks and car companies.
roymurdock(10000) 4 days ago [-]

The VCs are just following the money. We're at the tail end of the economic boom brought on by computers. Until we have another paradigm-shifting scientific discovery, computers will be used to more efficiently match up existing assets (AirBnB) while serving ads and content that decays our social bonds/infrastructure (Facebook).

If there was less money in the system a lot of these quasi-innovative companies would die, or not even get off the ground. But there is tons and it is leading to the misallocation of a great amount of time, energy, and intelligence - at the cost of future generation's standard of living.

Sanzig(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Unpopular opinion: the use of 'tech' or 'high tech' to describe many of today's tech companies is a misnomer.

For me, a tech company is a company that leverages advances in applied sciences and mathematics (computer science included) to create new, innovative solutions.

While there are certainly companies that are innovating in fundamental technologies and making that a cornerstone of their businesses, the vast majority of tech companies are little more than conventional businesses with some digital business automation plumbing. Innovative business models are still innovation - don't get me wrong - but they're not technology innovation.

It made sense to call e-business 'tech' companies when the web was fresh and new and everyone was innovating, but these days, very few are pushing the envelope on the technology side. It's pretty well accepted that any business needs electronic technologies to work now: at what point do we stop calling every company that builds an app tied to a database a 'tech' company and just call them an '[insert vertical here] business'?

HDMI_Cable(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Wait, Mighty App is just a remote server running Chrome and then sending it to an on-device app? Correct me if I'm wrong, but that sounds so dumb. I thought it was at least some recompiled version of chrome optimized for performance.

financialize(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I don't understand how no one at any point wondered whether it was a good idea to render web pages on a server they did not control. Mighty has investors, are these same investors using the product?

archon810(10000) 2 days ago [-]

On a technical note, is there really no https on Paul's site? The link is http, and changing it to https throws an certificate error https://imgur.com/a/1rnsGnM.

forgotmypw17(10000) about 10 hours ago [-]

What would be the purpose?

geebee(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Lots of comments already, but I'll chime on in.

I realized this very late in life, but I have a test for when it's time to pay attention to a new technology. It's when technical people look at what seems like a groundbreaking idea, seem unimpressed, and say 'couldn't you just _____', were the blank is filled with something a nontechnical person doesn't understand or considers very cumbersome.

The web: couldn't you just transfer a file to an open port and use a rendering tool to view it?

Blogs: couldn't you just update a web page?

Wikis: couldn't you just update a web page?

social media: couldn't you just set up group view preferences and use RSS?

youtube: couldn't you just upload a video and use tags for search?

twitter: couldn't you just not? Isn't that just a worse version of what we can already do??

Honestly, I've overlooked almost every one of these things, because I failed to understand how removing small bits of friction can cause a technology to explode.

Sure, some ideas are crazy new, but some sound too underwhelming to be revolutionary. but they are, there's no question about it, all those things I listed above changed the world, in ways both good and pretty damn awful.

c01n(10000) 4 days ago [-]

The problem is that success in Silicon Valley means how much money you can make from a product and not about how the product improves the lives of the users in a balanced and morally acceptable way. Is it really successful to disregard user privacy and capitalize on their lack of knowledge, or to build unsustainable tech on top of already unsustainable tech rather then fixing the real issues.

johbjo(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Another perspective; blogs and wikis are two use-cases of essentially the same interaction. The different designs guide and inspire people how to use them. Then, they discover that the use-cases are beneficial.

In some ways, all of social media consist of apps tailored to specific use-cases that haven't been new for decades, but they 'invite' normal people to use them.

heavyset_go(10000) 4 days ago [-]

This is just cargo culting the Dropbox 'you could just use FTP' comment.

emrah(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Yes exactly. Technical people suffer from curse of knowledge and miss great opportunities. Or the idea has to boil the ocean or it's a bust.

bserge(10000) 4 days ago [-]

All of those examples boil down to making technology more accessible for the millions or billions of less technologically savvy people.

Indeed, anyone with the knowledge would overlook a lot of these. They're not revolutionary on a technical or individual level, but they are on a social level.

failwhaleshark(10000) 3 days ago [-]

There are incremental/larger/easier improvements and then there are populism 'improvements.' The one tends to amplify the other. Facebook was incrementally better than Myspace at first, and then became more popular and much better. Myspace was much better than Friendster. It's an evolutionary model where some improvements are made, some features are lost, and specialization meanders.

I think the transition point is when incremental improvements amplify themselves to the point where they are both way more popular and way more efficient than what came before.

tjs8rj(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I'm not convinced that's a good rule of thumb at all, because there's so many examples where it applies and is wrong, and many where it doesn't apply but the tech was revolutionary.

Not to mention the greater point: Im not even that convinced tech is ever really revolutionary (at least at the same time it gets mainstream adoption). Usually the big improvement it made existed years earlier or in competitors but the timing was right for it to appear.

Youtube was doing the same thing as daily motion and another (I think Vimeo?). Facebook was just "cool MySpace", blogs were personal webpages that got suddenly popular: a lot of these just popped up and executed at the right time and in the right way.

My point is: without looking at the technology at all or knowing anything about it, you could perfectly tell what "revolutionary product" would suddenly become the next big thing simply with perfect information about the market and how it will shift at each step.

You could invent the fastest most efficient and cheapest way in the universe to launch spaghetti, but the "revolutionary" nature of your invention doesn't matter at all because there's no market for it, even if the very technical spaghetti enthusiasts suggest "why don't you just build your own spaghetti railgun?".

Markets matter, products derive their value entirely from those markets and are worth nothing alone.

Consequently, knowing which products WILL BE revolutionary (here I deliberately define revolutionary after the fact, because amazing product with no market isn't revolutionary) is very hard because even if you know the initial market, you won't know how things change.

I suspect the best you can do to make or identify revolutionary products is to really know the initial customer and early market, rely on some long term perceived trend that aligns broad markets closer to your early market, then iterate quickly keeping the pulse on the market onwards towards the mass market - which means we've just re-derived the lean startup process.

mikesabbagh(10000) 4 days ago [-]

u r talking about the small changes that can be disruptive. This is different than the crazy ideas mentioned in the article. Ideas like the earth is round or that a large mass can bend light.

I guess Clayton Christensen explains the difference best in his youtube videos. Also Peter Thiel talks a lot about the difference of ideas in his talks on youtube!!

tshaddox(10000) 4 days ago [-]

The problem I see with this heuristic is that it is going to give false positives for, well, the vast majority of cases where there's a supposedly new idea that actually is just an unnecessary rehash or combination of things that already exist but with a new coat of paint. I don't see how the heuristic can possibly have any predictive power. Look at pretty much every tech startup, every get-rich-quick scheme, every cryptocurrency project, etc. and they'll be making grand claims that their idea is groundbreaking, and technical people are going to say 'couldn't you just x?' or 'isn't this worse than the existing x?' and those dismissals are actually going to be reasonable and proven valid in the overwhelming majority of cases. Of course, your heuristic will also catch the tiny number of cases that do turn out to be groundbreaking (or at least extremely successful or popular).

louissm_it(10000) 4 days ago [-]

"For a Linux user, you can already build such a system yourself quite trivially by getting an FTP account, mounting it locally with curlftpfs, and then using SVN or CVS on the mounted filesystem. From Windows or Mac, this FTP account could be accessed through built-in software." - Dropbox

- https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9224

amykyta(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I think there is an analog here to the great man theory vs zeitgeist. Maybe this tech was underwhelming and its massive impact was due to fortuitous timing. So you weren't wrong about the tech just how it would mix with the spirit of the moment.

swivelmaster(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> twitter: couldn't you just not?

This is, actually, still true :)

splithalf(10000) 4 days ago [-]

In other words, "we were promised flying cars but ..." You might as well celebrate stock buybacks.

dd36(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Pretty much everything you listed is a free consumer product.

hndamien(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Canva - couldn't you just use photoshop? This isn't a dig at Canva, but praise.

marcus_holmes(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I think of this as my 'Kardashian problem'.

I don't understand why the Kardashians are famous or wealthy. I mean I get the mechanics of it - famous legal case -> sex tape -> reality TV show. But I don't understand how this works, or why it works.

This isn't their problem. They are very wealthy, famous, and they obviously totally grok how their market works.

This is my problem. I should not attempt to produce a mass-market product until I understand it as well as the Kardashians understand their market. They are experts in their domain. I am not, and I doubt I ever will be. I don't even understand how their market works. Why does anyone spend any time watching these people? Until I understand that, I should stay away from mass-market ideas.

ergot_vacation(10000) 4 days ago [-]

'twitter: couldn't you just not? Isn't that just a worse version of what we can already do??'

This is correct though. Twitter is not a good idea, or a good product (if your metric for good is being useful and improving lives, rather than simply profit). Twitter succeeded because it became a 'meme': everyone was caught up in what it could be. By the time it became clear that all the things it could be were bad, it was too late: too many people were on the platform, and their gravitational pull could keep things going indefinitely. Twitter, like a lot of recent 'ideas' in tech, is a cake that's all frosting. It runs almost entirely on FOMO.

pgwhalen(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I'm curious if you got this idea from the famous HN comment about Dropbox.

graeme(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Thank you! I wanted to write a positive comment but couldn't put my finger on it. This is exactly what has me interested in Mighty: making things ever so slightly easier. I already have a fast computer, but I'd still like to try, as there is room for surprise. And the service suggests it is aimed at reducing all manner of friction in using a browser: tab management, etc

This may or may not work but there seems to be obvious potential and In don't know why people are so dismissive. If it improves worker productivity or saves on hardware upgrade costs, every business will want this.

catears(10000) 4 days ago [-]

This is something I have thought about before when it comes to Docker. 'It's just a fancy chroot' is what people often say.

While there is some truth to that statement, the real 'innovation' is getting millions of people to share and collaborate using the framework. How do make it easy to share and collaborate? Making the technology as frictionless as possible.

I don't see Dockers rise to prominence as a result of some spectacular technical innovation. It's a group of technologies which already existed but now with a great UX around it.

gustavo-fring(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I absolutely agree with you that you can get insane mileage from improving the basic UIs of almost everything. It's sad how little attention we give to this stuff. I think that's what Jobs got and his imitators only imitate...a genuine concern for the user.

edited by me for content

tlogan(10000) 4 days ago [-]

There are two types ideas:

1. ideas which improve the current broken system (blogs, wiki, youtube, dropbox, etc.)

2. ideas which admits that the current system is broken and just to try to ride on that wave (mighty app, random 'fix you wet iPhone', and numerous other failed ones)

The second type of ideas are just are 'bad' regardless of how crazy they are. But they will make some money.

throwaway2037(10000) 4 days ago [-]

That is a great list. I also felt the same about many of those technologies, but I never thought to put it so succinctly -- as you have!

For years, I never understood the point of Twitter. It felt like nano-blogging -- Why not just use a regular blog platform?. Later, I realised it is a single global open forum of 'random' chats that are interlinked via @person and #idea links. So if a bunch of random people who don't know each other are nano-blogging about #idea, it's like they are part of a chat room called #idea. And, of course, you can cross-post to multiple @people and #ideas in same Tweet. And there is no gate-keeping: You don't need to ask to join an #idea and I don't think it is possible to block other people referencing your @name. Other social media platforms seem to integrate with the @people and #idea thing -- no sure if that actually came from Twitter.

Technology and concept aside, I still think most of Twitter is garbage content. /Once in a while/, I see a Twitter thread from an economist or hedge fund manager that is referenced by FT Alphaville (https://ftalphaville.ft.com/). And to be fair: A lot of interesting discussion about racial injustice in last five years originated as complaints or short stories on Twitter... then blew-up in more traditional media. Else... it seems like noise.

Related to your list: One thing I have never understood: Brand names create social media precense, like Coca Cola on Facebook. And people subscribe. Why? That is so weird. Coca Cola... really? I dunno... maybe they have fun photos on their Instagram. I assumed social media was for human-to-human contact, not business-to-human contact. I was wrong! Some of those brand names have massive social media following. Campbell's Soup! Tide Detergent!

hanniabu(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> It's when technical people look at what seems like a groundbreaking idea, seem unimpressed, and say 'couldn't you just _____'

Sounds like HN's reaction to cryptocurrencies

mgranados(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Good heuristic.

qshaman(10000) 4 days ago [-]

This argument have been attempted already, you can also take Juicero, 'can you just squeeze the bad yourself?' , and was indeed a dumb idea. This 'crazy idea' is not removing any friction to regular people, regular people browse youtube, or instagram, tik tok, etc... this is targeted to techies, look at the homepage, people who are pointing out the 'crazy new idea' , is neither crazy, new, or good at all, are the target of this product. Just because some successful companies had bad feedback in the beginning, doesn't imply 'you missed it' or their product will become the next thing. The HN crowd of today is also not the same as the crowd back then(dropbox founder comment fiesta...).

allenu(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I really don't remember tech people poo-pooing some of the examples you gave as 'couldn't you...' I think you're looking at these examples with too fine a lens of implementation, especially in retrospect.

the web: I was a teen when people started using local 'freenets' to connect to a text-only web and I think most people who tried it were amazed that you could instantly view content somebody on the other side of the world put up

blogs: I suppose 'blogging platforms' were things you could say 'couldn't you update a web page' but I think it was clear that what they provided was network effects you couldn't get from just your own web page and easy styling

wikis: I remember the idea being amazing because you could edit the page without having to sign in or create an account. That's not something you could just do with 'updating a web page'

youtube: it was amazing that you could easily stream videos for free and search them. There was also a ton of copyright stuff in the early days.

Really, a better way to look at whether a technology is worth paying attention to is to ask 'what can this allow us to do more easily that we couldn't before?'

btbuildem(10000) 4 days ago [-]

That's just the realization that opinions of technical people don't really matter that much. They don't add up to a critical mass that puts enough buck in the game to make it bang.

dvt(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> It's when technical people look at what seems like a groundbreaking idea, seem unimpressed, and say 'couldn't you just _____', were the blank is filled with something a nontechnical person doesn't understand or considers very cumbersome.

This is basically putting the cart before the horse and pretty much the definition of hindsight bias. We all know the BrandonM/Dropbox quip, but that's just a fun anecdote, not some universal axiom.

I don't really have any dog in this race (I won't use Mighty because my PC/Laptop is more than capable of hundreds of tabs and Electron apps), but if it succeeds, good on Suhail!

lambdatronics(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Great observation! It feels to me kind of like the 'blub' problem [0], in that these are both cases where technical folks misjudge the utility of something new (to them) because it merely makes it easy to do something, instead of making it possible to do something. And maybe that 'something' they either don't know they want, or don't realize how often they would use it if it were available, or don't appreciate that others want.

Edit: It might also be an example of the curse of knowledge: what seems trivial to an expert may be a showstopper for a layperson. An expert suffering the curse would implicitly assume that everyone else has the same knowledge sufficient to make convoluted method seem trivial.

[0] http://paulgraham.com/avg.html [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curse_of_knowledge

defaultname(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Dropbox became a thing among technical users before it bridged to mainstream users. We all knew other, kludgy ways of doing the same thing, but it made it a little easier so we adopted it. Soon enough we were telling mainstream users that it's a good solution. Wikis and blogs began among technical people and grew out from there. Reddit was basically /r/programming in its early days.

I didn't pay attention to early Twitter, but I'd wager it probably leaned pretty heavily to the software dev demographic.

There is a bit of a disconnect that a lot of people are casting technical users as if it's the group that you shouldn't listen to. As if you can find single cases and say 'See!' and that proves the point [1]. Yet an overwhelming percentage of products in the technology space first saw success among the most technical of all. If you don't get that group, it often is doomed to failure.

[1] - just as an aside, there is a tendency of many to point out some 'top' comment on some site like HN as if it therefore is the majority opinion. It doesn't work that way. We all don't have mandatory votes on every comment, and even a tiny amount of clustering can send a minority opinion to the top.

pjmorris(10000) 4 days ago [-]

This seems related to Clarke's First Law: When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

Second Law: The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarke%27s_three_laws

rikroots(10000) 4 days ago [-]

The alternative, of course, is when a plausible person expresses an implausible-sounding idea which turns out to be, well, wrong. For instance when Noam Chomsky presented his theory of Universal Grammar[1] which managed to impede and derail the study of linguistics for decades[2].

[1] - This is my own personal opinion supported by no evidence whatsoever.

[2] - Again, an outrageously subjective statement without an ounce of evidence to support it.

blululu(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Chomsky's followers are not as powerful as they used to be so you can say this sort of opinion without losing your job as a linguist. That said, this objection does not directly contradict Graham's point. There are issues with Chomsky's theories, but they are non-obvious and we learned a lot along the way. Would it have been reasonable to have dismissed these theories out of hand? Maybe but we false positives and false negatives exist as a trade off, and we would miss things if we try to lower our false positive rate too aggressively.

jimhi(10000) 5 days ago [-]

In the realm of entrepreneurship, I think domain experts who also risk tons of their cash on crazy ideas should be looked at even closer.

Y Combinator and Tesla were seen as stupid and crazy for a long time. Meanwhile I've seen a lot of domain expert entrepreneurs do really crazy things that lead nowhere when it's VC money instead of theirs.

fendy3002(10000) 5 days ago [-]

There are too many factors that'll decide whether it'll be success or not. I believe timings and luck are often overlooked.

iPhone certainly not the first touch screen display, Microsoft did have one, I believe. However Apple's timing was perfect, there was increasing adaptation of wifi connectivity and 3g, making it able to browse anywhere. Of course smoother interface and beautiful design also contribute big.

AmongUs was lucky they got advertisement from streamer, at perfect timing that was (is) pandemic and lockdowns.

Tesla can be considered crazy because they try to emerge with unknown product, with unknown market and unknown possibility of success. If we look at the past, Apple's iPhone was crazy too, because it was new product, with unknown market.

aparsons(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I think a lot of people - dare I say it, even PaulG - are missing the point of Mighty (or not putting it into words properly).

Mighty isn't betting on the internet continually getting more bloated, or being better than a thick client. Even for a poor person working mostly in Figma, buying a decent laptop will be much more cost-effective.

What they are really selling is the equivalent of upgrading your laptop to a new model while it's still running. Hardware shopping is time-consuming, stressful, and never done proactively - so you suffer in silence till the new one arrives. Then you have to replicate your old workflow and warm the caches.

The two biggest threats to Mighty are Apple/MSFT building "snapshot" recoveries in new hardware (almost AMI-like), and real adoption of saving bookmarks, history and passwords to the cloud by signing in to Chrome (most I know are hesitant). As has always been the case in this industry, the hardware is irrelevant.

This isn't game-streaming, where you unlock hardware economies of scale because most users play a tiny amount a day on average. Your browser is always on.

wraptile(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Hardware shopping is time-consuming, stressful, and never done proactively - so you suffer in silence till the new one arrives. Then you have to replicate your old workflow and warm the caches.

What a luxurious problem to have: would rather swipe my card and pay 50$/month than buy a new laptop - ugh!

aa_memon(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I believe the technology behind Mighty is amazing, the people involved are amazing, the experience for it's users will be amazing.

I believe the underlying reason for HN's reaction to Mighty has almost nothing to do with any of the above. To the contrary, most of us probably feel that Mighty will be a raging success. But we don't actually like that at all. When I reflect on my own thoughts, the reasons my initial reaction is pessimistic are:

1. If Mighty makes badly designed/architected apps 'fast', nobody will fix the underlying issues.

2. The internet will be amazing for the folks that can afford to pay $30-$50/month and all others will have to live with a sub-par experience because of #1

3. Some other company will come along and try to subsidize Mighty for all those that couldn't afford it but they'll monetize by advertising and further personal data collection.

4. Further lack of control over core software on our personal computers.

I fear that one day I'll visit a website with a message saying 'This website runs best using Mighty'.

There were similar sentiments when RSS blogs started moving to medium. Medium is amazing! but at some point medium needed to introduce a 3 item limit.

More and more of the internet which a lot of us remember as this open thing that no one owns is being siloed into privately owned.

losteric(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Unfortunately, that timeline probably why Mighty will go big - the business model is a trojan horse for a very lucrative global surveillance business, which challenges and likely surpasses current businesses ('social media' and 'search engines').

HN and the tech crowd at large is cynical but also naively ethical... missing how ideas can be profitable because we're really thinking in terms of bettering society. Exploitation is where the real money is at.

nicebyte(10000) 4 days ago [-]

medium isn't amazing - it's probably one of the _worst_ ways of putting writing on the web. pastebin is better than medium.

kumarvvr(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Off Topic : The site is sending a GET request to


every 5 seconds.

Anyone have any idea what it is?

Note : The address keeps changing for every request.

Edit2 : Is it only on my PC, or are others also able to see it?

SingAlong(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I see those requests too but my adblocker takes care of it.

Lexity.com looks like a Yahoo service and maybe this is the analytics being collected. AFAIK pg's site is still hosted on Yahoo.

lioeters(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I see it too, but my ad blocker prevented the request(s).

A quick search for 'lexity.com' shows that it's an analytics company.

> Lexity - Apps to help grow your ecommerce business

> Commerce Central is the easiest way to grow your small and medium ecommerce businesses. We provide the best real time analytics and insights for ecommerce for free, and apps to advertize your store through Google, Amazon, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

de_keyboard(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I think 'attacking' Crazy New Ideas is how we develop them, iron out the kinks and test our understanding. Criticism is an essential part of the journey from crazy new idea to accepted wisdom.

However, the main problem I have with with this article is that it divides people into domain experts and the rest. This kind of black and white thinking is pervasive in PG essays, and always lead to a cute conclusion. You can have two domain experts that disagree. You can have an idea that spans multiple domains, and there are no (or few) experts in all of them. Maybe the Crazy New Idea seems brilliant to experts in one domain, but only because they don't grasp the others.

marvin(10000) 4 days ago [-]

That two domain experts disagree on a radical idea is irrelevant, if the one presenting the radical idea turns out to be right. There are no points given out for merely participating.

This happens all the time. And the most interesting ideas are rejected by almost everyone, except the tiny minority that happens to be positioned to understand the change. So you can't make predictions by tallying up expert votes either.

npsimons(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> I think 'attacking' Crazy New Ideas is how we develop them, iron out the kinks and test our understanding.

Criticism is the crucible in which crazy new ideas are forged into crazy viable ideas.

> However, the main problem I have with with this article is that it divides people into domain experts and the rest.

Let's be honest: in this day and age 'the rest' are far too vocal and need to STFU on things which they have no knowledge. Sure, domain experts can disagree - let them be heard, but the know-nothings should be given zero attention.

WindyLakeReturn(10000) 3 days ago [-]

>I think 'attacking' Crazy New Ideas is how we develop them, iron out the kinks and test our understanding. Criticism is an essential part of the journey from crazy new idea to accepted wisdom.

It depends upon the level of attack. Outright dismissal without consideration compared to critique. Is the intent to destroy the idea so it goes away or to test it for flaws? That's done by the suggestion given to ask questions. Instead of saying 'this is stupid', figure out why your think it is stupid and turn it into a question. Such a question is a soft attack, one that may be met with an explanation without needing for direct conflict, or which may be met with a 'I haven't considered that, let me think on it' or a 'That's one of the flaws I'm still working on'.

>However, the main problem I have with with this article is that it divides people into domain experts and the rest.

While the presentation did present this as an overly binary classification, I don't think the intention (that I perceived) is wrong. Some people have more experience in certain things, and given we are all mortals with limited time, we need to have some way to decide how much attention we give ideas and using relative expertise in domains seems a decent filter. This does not have to be perfect, because the result is not accepting the idea but instead not outright rejecting the idea. In cases where the idea still is mistaken it will still be revealed under critique. It is a test to determine what should be given the chance to be critiqued given limited time and resources.

It would lead to experts overlooking ideas from sources who don't have expertise, but I think that is acceptable for two reasons. First, there are already a flood of ideas so applying a filter that lets more through will still lead to ideas not being considered, but this time due to a lack of time and resources. Second, this is all relative so a good idea from a non-expert would still pass the filter for someone who is slightly more of an expert. If they find it passes their critique it now is able to pass filters of people who are more of experts in their fields. Good ideas can still bubble up (we just need to take care that they are correctly attributed).

mcguire(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Likewise, one of the best, most valuable, things that Albert Einstein did was to attack quantum mechanics in every way he could.

merwanedr(10000) 5 days ago [-]

HN comment section pessimism is a new metric for evaluating your odds of success. 'It's too expensive' or 'Nobody needs it because we have X' on a project lead by a domain expert is not constructive criticism or conservatism, it's pure envy.

PG isn't defending Mighty, Dropbox or Coinbase because he has skin in the game, but because he knows what the teams have achieved and what they could potentially achieve.

I don't understand, it seems so obvious to me. Dropbox started as a better FTP, Coinbase is a better Bitcoin wallet, Gmail is a better SMTP, Mighty is a better Chrome. All of these products are meant for the masses because the core technologies/protocols are too complicated or restrictive to directly interact with.

dunkelheit(10000) 4 days ago [-]

People always bring Dropbox to these discussions as an example of a startup that was dismissed by HN but turned out to be huge, but turns out there are examples of the opposite thing happening too!

Does anyone remember Color Labs? Go read this thread and marvel at the similarities: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2364463. A stellar team backed by top VCs who invested (extraordinary at the time) $41M sets out to build a location enabled photo-sharing app. VCs tout it as 'the next Google'. Most of HN is pretty critical with some voices advocating caution and saying 'let's not be so dismissive, maybe there is something more to it'. Well, it turned out there was nothing more to it.

So no, being dismissed by HN does not automatically mean that your idea is good and you will be successful.

FlyingSnake(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> HN comment section pessimism is a new metric for evaluating your odds of success.

The success of a startup depends on many factors and pessimism on HN is definitely not one of them. HN is a forum where people intellectualize things from their limited point of view. It is usually not the primary forum where the founders seek feedback. I think HN is a remix of the old slashdot forums with a healthy mix of digg + reddit.

dd36(10000) 4 days ago [-]

If they pivot, does that mean the negative feedback was right or is it always wrong? What if the feedback precipitates the pivot?

I have no idea if Mighty will succeed or not. But I suspect it will not succeed as a a $30/mo consumer product. Indeed, I'd bet money on it. The companies everyone keeps referencing were free products. I got excited about Dropbox. So did my friends. No friend has excitedly sent me a link to Mighty.

I'm sure some professionals will pay though. How many and how many they need to hit their numbers is another question. They can still probably ride the hype machine to an exit.

clpwq(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Interesting metric. The underlying principle is:

'No one went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.'

HN just hasn't internalized it quite yet, so we have the counter-indicator.

justicezyx(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> PG isn't defending Mighty, Dropbox or Coinbase

Those are not needing defense. Those are quite mundane business.

Dropbox for one, everyone thinks it's useful. The controversial part is whether or not it's a good business. Turns out Dropbox is not so great a business. I mean, if Dropbox is in China, it will be crushed by copycats and die very quickly.

Similarly for coinbase. It's useful. The question was whether or not btc and crypto currency will be big enough for coinbase to be a great business. Of course, given the success in crypto currency, coinbase is a great business.

But neither of these are "crazy new ideas". They are not even new ideas...

baud147258(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Mighty is a better Chrome

yes, it's better in the sense that the privacy issues are even better; well, worse in the viewpoint of the user, but since when VCs cared about it?

te_chris(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Mighty isn't 'better chrome'! It's a whole thin client proxy-service privacy-nightmare. It's more and more centralising of everything under corporate control with the payoff to users of marginal gains in speed. Kill it with fire.

ta_ca(10000) 4 days ago [-]

there are lots of links to casey's twitter account but the real gem is[0]. it reads like the famous jurassic park quote: 'Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should'


easton(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Mighty's problem is different than the others though, in that it is a thin client for a thin client. If web apps are too big to the point people need to stream Chrome in a container to get them to run well, why wouldn't you just stream them a full operating system where developers didn't have to target the web with all of its oddities and instead could just target Windows (or Linux)? The entire point of web applications was that they didn't require an install and were lighter than their desktop counterparts, and now that isn't true, so can't we ditch them?

qshaman(10000) 4 days ago [-]

This is so common in SV, you are just being arrogant and salty in general, because people are showing how dumb, privacy unfriendly, and dangerous this product is, it has nothing to do with envy. Using Dropbox as an example is even worst, thats like saying 'X celebrity is famous and smoke weed, then if I smoke weed, I will be famous'. PG is clearly biased and he is just trying to get a return on his investment, thats all, and if he needs to hype this product to make money he will. People are not dummies, if the product is meant for the general public and not the HN crowd, then start a Google Ads campaign, or get in the Tonight Show or something.

networkimprov(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Gmail is a better Eudora/Outlook, not a better SMTP.

TMTP is a better SMTP. See link in my profile.

mbesto(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> HN comment section pessimism is a new metric for evaluating your odds of success.

It's not. This is survivorship bias from the infamous stories about Dropbox, Coinbase, etc. There's plenty of 'Show HNs' of HNr's criticizing companies that go nowhere. Including one of my own!

What you're referring to is effectively called 'non consensus and right'[0]. The problem with this concept is that it can only be verified after the idea is deemed right or wrong.


s3r3nity(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Don't forget my favorite: "Slack is just IRC with clever marketing."

Historical Discussions: I've had the same supper for 10 years (May 08, 2021: 864 points)
Experience: I've had the same supper for 10 years (April 17, 2021: 4 points)
I've had the same supper for 10 years (April 22, 2021: 3 points)

(877) I've had the same supper for 10 years

877 points 3 days ago by pumpkinhead in 10000th position

www.theguardian.com | Estimated reading time – 5 minutes | comments | anchor

I have lived in the Teifi valley, in west Wales, all my life: 72 years. I'm a farmer and look after 71 sheep. My boyhood was spent helping my family on the farm. I have never wanted to run away from it, even as a young lad. This valley is cut in the shape of my heart. I once visited a farm in England, about 30 years ago; that was the only time I left Wales.

Many of the friends I grew up with left to find work in the big cities. As a young man, I was offered a job in Scotland on the oil rigs, but I could never leave. My heart belongs here with the birds and the trees. I knew, if I left, I'd be thinking about my valley the whole time, so what would be the point? All I want is right here.

I have a routine, just like nature. That extends to what I eat. I've had the same supper for 10 years, even on Christmas Day: two pieces of fish, one big onion, an egg, baked beans and a few biscuits at the end. For lunch I have a pear, an orange and four sandwiches with paste. But I allow myself a bit more variety; I'll sometimes have soup if it's cold.

When I go to the supermarket, I know exactly what I want. I'm not interested in other food. I've never had Chinese, Indian, French food. Why change? I've already found the food I love. It would be a job to alter me. My uncle, a bachelor and farmer like me, had the same food for every meal. He had bread, butter, cheese and tea for breakfast, lunch and dinner (although he would bring out the jam for visitors).

Whether it's Easter Day or Christmas Day, being a farmer means every day is the same. The animals still need to be fed. Feeding the sheep and seeing how happy they are makes me happy, too. They never ask for anything different for supper.

People might think I'm not experiencing new things, but I think the secret to a good life is to enjoy your work. I could never stay indoors and watch TV. I hear London is a place best avoided. I think living in a city would be terrible – people living on top of one another in great tower blocks. I could never do it. Walking around the farm fills me with wonder. What makes my life is working outside, only going in if the weather is very bad.

Autumn is my favourite time of the year, with all the colours of the leaves: it's just beautiful. Cuckoos come here every April, and I look forward to hearing them. A lot of people, locals and birdwatchers, come here wanting to hear the cuckoo, but they don't stop long enough; sometimes they don't even leave their cars. This makes me feel so sad that I actually cry a bit; it pains me that others don't get to enjoy it. I urge people to get out of their cars and walk up the road to hear the birdsong.

I've had several strokes. Once, I didn't move for two weeks while I was in hospital. But my sheep helped me – I knew they were relying on me to get better. I need them as much as they need me. I have recovered now and am able to do all the jobs I usually do.

I never got married, and it's not something that I've ever regretted. It just didn't happen, and I can say with confidence that I am happy as I am. I'm married to this farming life. I live with my sister. Like me, she had a stroke, but she is no longer mobile. I try to look after her as much as I can, but she needs more care than I am able to give. She has two carers who come in four times a day, and they are wonderful.

Just because I eat the same food and haven't left the valley, it doesn't mean that I don't like to know what is going on in the world. I listen to a Welsh radio station every night to keep me updated. I'm always interested in local farming stories, and new developments happening in the area.

If I could go anywhere, it would be to the Great Wall of China. The amount of work that went into building it is unbelievable. I've been a stonemason; I understand the ingenuity involved.

If someone offered me £2m to move, I would tell them to keep it. Most evenings I walk right up to the top of the valley. I look down and everything looks small and far away. And I feel like I'm on top of the world.

As told to Kiran Sidhu

Do you have an experience to share? Email [email protected]

All Comments: [-] | anchor

asidiali(10000) 2 days ago [-]

What struck me the most from this article was that he has had multiple strokes and was hospitalized for two weeks once.

His diet doesn't sound the worst, he seems to be active, just genetics? The beans every morning? He didn't mention what he does for dinner.

earth_walker(10000) about 24 hours ago [-]

Just guessing, but a 72 year old farmer from Wales probably smoked most of his life.

cfqycwz(10000) 3 days ago [-]

A britishism I've never come across—does anybody know what 'sandwiches with paste' are?

thinkingemote(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Paste is basically pate, long life, in little jars, with the exception of (confusingly) 'sandwich spread' which many would say would be a paste but it's more like chopped pickle salad.

mrmincent(10000) 3 days ago [-]

My mum spent a couple of years in the UK and refers to peanut butter as peanut paste. Could be a term for 'spread'.

munificent(10000) 3 days ago [-]
t_von_doom(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Here (in the UK at least) you can buy little jars of paste, often made from some kind of meat or seafood. It seems the intended use case is to spread it on bread. I personally have never tried it nor plan to but see for yourself via James May: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVdodVA3qTk

pmorici(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I believe paste is a general term for any kind of spread made to put on a sandwich.

FartyMcFarter(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> I hear London is a place best avoided. I think living in a city would be terrible – people living on top of one another in great tower blocks. I could never do it.

He should visit - most people in London don't live in tower blocks, and there's lots of nature around.

There are wild deer in Richmond Park, and Hampstead Heath is almost indistinguishable from any other forest (and quite close to the very center of London).

flr03(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Coming from the 'actual' country side, Richmond Park and Hampstead Heath feel like parody of nature for me. Don't get me wrong I like to go cycling and see the deers in Richmond but I've never had a feeling of being really in the nature. Too many people, too many cars around. Hampstead Heath is bigger I've been a couple of time only, but I remember how poor the soil was at places because of how many people walk around.

ckdarby(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Sounds like a much simpler life that for a lot of the readers here is doable.

I purchased 3.3 acres of land this year to begin the process of simplifying. I'm leaving the software world over the next couple years to have a life of homesteading.

forsakenkraken(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Farming isn't any easier than software I'm afraid. However I live in the countryside and work remotely and I love it here. Just down the road from the chap in the article.

drcongo(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I'm surprised there's this many comments and none of them are wondering the same things as me: what does he do with that onion? Is it eaten raw like an apple? Roasted?

paul_f(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I only looked at the comments to find the answer to this question. How does one eat an entire onion?

MichaelMoser123(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Now he's 72, what happens if he grows too old to care for himself? How do they care for the elderly in rural Wales, when they don't have a family?

robotmay(10000) 3 days ago [-]

It'll start with his neighbours and friends helping out, and maybe eventually he'll have to scale down and be looked after by carers himself. But there's an equal chance he'll die happy on his farm - I've seen farmers with very progressed Alzheimer's that could run their farm without any trouble, as it's something they've done literally their whole life.

nessex(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I've found a lot of freedom in similar decisions. Not sure I could take it to the same level, but even just having a small set of meals to eat every week makes shopping, cooking and planning around expiry dates so much easier. Clothes can be similarly hacked such that everything goes together and every combination is something you are comfortable wearing, leaving you never needing to consider what to wear. I've optimised these to the point that they take up nearly zero mental space and generate no stress. In my case, I use pre-prepared frozen meal delivery service, but I know some meal preppers who find similar freedom that way. Don't cook or order anything you won't eat at any arbitrary time, and you'll never be stuck with wasted food or indecision. And for clothes I found a small set that works for me and can be worn in any given situation (except formal, though that doesn't impact me in any way).

I see a lot of comments that seem to see all the things you miss out on in this situation. But in my mind, it frees up a lot of mental effort, time and stress. If I ever get bored I can go to a restaurant and eat something wild and it will be all the more exciting given I don't optimize for excitement or luxury in my everyday steady-state.

When Soylent came out I was super excited about this idea. Don't think about three meals a day that you normally fuss over, and instead have two predictable, quick meals and optimize to make the third one amazing. Soylent was OK, and DIY soylent offered some hope too. The third meal WAS always amazing, in a relative sense, and tasted better somehow than when I had the same thing before this diet. Unfortunately liquid diets are just not satisfying to me and so frozen meals won out.

I'd love to find other areas of my life that can be similarly optimized. I have hope for bill management services to take the annoyance out of juggling payments etc., and roboinvestors or similar automated financial services. Doing these things manually offers no excitement and no added value beyond the transitively provided service so I don't think they should take up my life.

The amount of time wasted across the whole human population on things like preparing meals, choosing outfits and managing everyday responsibilities must be huge and that is all time that could be spent doing other exciting or valuable things.

chubbyish(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Cooking is enjoyable and you can get the same flow state cooking that you can coding. And it's where you can let your mind wander and come up with sparks of new ideas/approaches.

Soylent is terrible for your insides.

theonething(10000) 3 days ago [-]

May I ask which frozen meal delivery service you use?

alisonatwork(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I completely agree.

I recommend decreasing your gadgets to just a phone (for when you go out) and a tablet or laptop for home. That is, no TV, no stereo, no games console. Assuming you live on your own, you can do all the same things you did before, just move your laptop screen to a comfortable distance. I suppose you could buy headphones if you also want loud audio, but personally I prefer to go out to a bar or nightclub or movie theater to get that experience.

You can also optimize most of the furniture away. The last few places I lived I just had a mattress in the main/living room and cooking supplies in the kitchen. Not only is the up-front cost less, but you can live in a much smaller apartment, cleaning the whole place is much faster, moving house is easy. Personally I like to work lying on my stomach, so I don't need a desk, but I suppose you could get a small table and chair if your body isn't comfortable lying down or sitting on the floor for a lot of the day. More available floor space means it's easier to pace or work out too.

Other recommendations... Best to live somewhere without carpet, so you can clean it with a broom - saves buying a vacuum cleaner. You can use toilet paper for the bathroom and also in the kitchen and also to blow your nose. You can use shampoo for everything in the bathroom, including washing your hair, hands, body and clothes (if your house doesn't have a washing machine). You can use dishwashing liquid to clean most surfaces in the house, as well as your dishes. You can avoid using lights for most of the day/night by keeping windows uncovered and using the ambient light from outside.

The upsides are exactly as you say - since you're not spending as much time and money maintaining your house, you have more time to go out and visit interesting places, and you can spend more money at nice restaurants or splurge for a comfortable hotel if you want to enjoy some luxury every now and then. But I find I don't really want to. Life is a lot more enjoyable, in my opinion. Way less stress than cleaning and maintaining a bunch of stuff.

auslegung(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> I'd love to find other areas of my life that can be similarly optimized. I have hope for bill management services to take the annoyance out of juggling payments etc., and roboinvestors or similar automated financial services.

You're probably familiar with auto bill pay (I think most services have it, and many banks offer it as well), and index fund investing with automatic transfers, so I'm guessing those don't solve the problems you're talking about. I'm interested what you mean then.

Xcelerate(10000) 3 days ago [-]

It seems a lot of this comes down to personality differences, particularly with regard to novelty or sensation seeking. There's no right or wrong, but it's interesting that both groups don't really understand the other.

For me personally, I have a very high inclination for novelty, even if that novelty comes with the risk of a bad experience. I just can't imagine doing, seeing, eating, working on, or talking about the same things my whole life. Heck, I work in tech but keep floating the idea of opening a restaurant to my wife (which promptly gets shot down).

For other people in my family, they know what they like, and that's that. Why fix what's not broken? I can't relate to that viewpoint one bit, but I can respect it.

Edit: Actually, now that I think about it some more, my desire for novelty might depend on the topic. I rotate between about three colors of T-shirts and wear the same brand of jeans every day and have no desire to branch out beyond this. Maybe openness is not a personality trait that applies universally to everything.

globular-toast(10000) 3 days ago [-]

My girlfriend and I are at opposite ends of this spectrum in many respects. I seek novelty in most aspects of life. I often choose novelty over guaranteed enjoyment. My girlfriend, on the other hand, is afraid of novelty. When we eat out, if we have been to the restaurant before I can order her food without asking 100% of the time. It will be what she had last time.

My desire for novelty can be problematic. I find it difficult to maintain long term sexual relationships. I'm so bored of having the same sex in the same positions over and over again. But I'm also too introverted to be happy with polygamous or short term relationships, not too mention how expensive that lifestyle is.

Like you, though, I don't seek novelty in all aspects of life. I too wear the same few t-shirts and same pair of jeans every day. Maybe there is just so little room for novelty here that it doesn't matter? What difference does it really make to me if I wear a pink t-shirt instead of green? My girlfriend, of course, buys new clothes almost every week.

I also don't change things for the sake of it. My desire for novelty doesn't override if it ain't broke don't fix it. When I cook something I've cooked many times before, I will reproduce the method exactly and produce consistent results. My girlfriend will slightly change things every single time, sometimes consciously, sometimes not. My dad cooks like this too. I think he actually does seek novelty in the way he cooks something. If I cook a dish and it's delicious it will be just as delicious next time. If he cooks and it's delicious, next time he'll add a completely new ingredient to it, for better or worse.

telesilla(10000) 3 days ago [-]

'This valley is cut in the shape of my heart'. I've known farmers like him, bachelors who are mild mannered and love their lives and the extended family that comes with living an entire life in one valley. He maybe goes to Sunday service for socialization and the local pub to watch the game, and as long as his sheep are healthy and the sky does what it promises (because he knows the day before always if it will rain), the peace he feels is the result of being in place, of not creating too much fuss, the satisfaction of seeing the stone walls he built in his 20s holding strong and knowing they'll be there long after to tell his story. He leaves behind him more of a legacy than many of us.

notjes(10000) 3 days ago [-]

This man is independent. The powers that are, hiss in horror at his sighting, because they want him in a cubicle and in debt.

microtherion(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I respect the simplicity and contentment of his life, but it seems to stem from a base of incuriosity that I find harder to respect.

The complete lack of variety in his dining routine in particular is something I'd never want to emulate. This man is basically a low tech Soylent bro, using food as just a source of nutrients. He raises sheep (and is not a vegetarian) yet never even eats mutton or cheese?

TheRealDunkirk(10000) 2 days ago [-]

A successful businessman on vacation was at the pier of a small coastal village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The businessman complimented the fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The fisherman proudly replied, "Every morning, I go out in my boat for 30 minutes to fish. I'm the best fisherman in the village".

The businessman, perplexed, then asks the fisherman "If you're the best, why don't you stay out longer and catch more fish? What do you do the rest of the day?"

The fisherman replied "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, spend quality time with my wife, and every evening we stroll into the village to drink wine and play guitar with our friends. I have a full and happy life."

The businessman scoffed, "I am successful CEO and have a talent for spotting business opportunities. I can help you be more successful. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats with many fishermen. Instead of selling your catch to just your friends, you can scale to sell fish to thousands. You could leave this small coastal fishing village and move to the big city, where you can oversee your growing empire."

The fisherman asked, "But, how long will this all take?"

To which the businessman replied, "15 – 20 years."

"But what then?" Asked the fisherman.

The businessman laughed and said, "That's the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!"

"Millions – then what?"

The businessman said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, spend time with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your friends."

adflux(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Beautifully written

heavenlyblue(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Yeah, and if everyone in the world did exactly the same thing we would be already a) out of space on the planet b) starving because you can't just eat sheep c) dying because there's no high-functioning medical industry requiring a working manufacturing facilities to have nice things like MRI

shafyy(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Ah, legacy. It always makes me happy to listen to Carl Sagan's words on his text 'The Pale Blue Dot':

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it's different. Consider again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every 'superstar,' every 'supreme leader,' every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.


usgroup(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I appreciate the romance, but those of us who have children leave behind much more than stone walls we built in our 20s.

He's a 72 year old Batchelor who's once stepped foot outside a Welsh valley. If happiness is a lobotomy then credit to us who don't choose it.

milchek(10000) 3 days ago [-]

One of the reasons that this is quite beautiful is that it portrays the ideal of having just enough, living simply, and being grateful. There is something also stoic about the character described.

I imagine the farmer you're telling us about doesn't want attention, material possessions, or any kind of excess at all. This person is happy to build something slowly over time, in small increments. They're happy with what they have, who they are, and that they exist.

I think there are elements in your portrayal that we can all strive for, whether this person was a farmer, carpenter, or programmer, doesn't really matter.

oftenwrong(10000) 3 days ago [-]

This is similar to Sven Yrvind's philosophy on eating at sea.

>I will eat twice a day, breakfast and lunch four hours later.


>I say, "Cows only eat grass and wolfs only eat meat"

>Modern society is so boring and there is so much food that we have to be stimulated by spices and chefs and different foods to eat. At sea in a small boat its different. Life itself out there is so interesting that I do not need stimulants.

>My breakfast consists of one can of sardines, one slice of dense dark rye bread and muesli.


>My lunch is the same as breakfast but no sardines.



ip26(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Sounds like starvation rations...

ericjang(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Contrary to popular belief, cows have been known to eat small animals / meat for extra calcium or protein supplements https://farmhouseguide.com/do-cows-eat-meat

And vice versa, wolves also eat plants sometimes https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/feed-your-dog-like-a-w....

sampo(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> two pieces of fish, one big onion, an egg, baked beans and a few biscuits at the end

How do you eat an onion for supper? Raw, or cooked? If cooked, how do you cook it?

sleavey(10000) 3 days ago [-]

You can bake onions. Quite nice.

telesilla(10000) 3 days ago [-]

A white onion can be eaten raw thinly sliced. Perhaps a dash of vinegar but that might be too fancy for his tastes.

mastazi(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Besides baking as the other comment said, you can also caramelise onions on a frying pan with a tiny bit of oil, they're quite nice that way.

If you like stronger flavours, you can add your favourite salad dressing to a chopped or sliced raw onion (I usually add extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and oregano).

watwut(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Cut raw into small pieces and eat it slowly. As a spice or something like that - it adds flavor when mixed with other foods.

For example, you can put butter or lard on bread, spread those small pieces of onion on it, add salt. It is actually good.

You can also cut it into thick ovals and bake. Third option is to caramelize it. But, these two are time consuming.

kebman(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Ah, the simple life...

My grandfather would take me along and we'd go to the neighbour to fetch eggs. He had a plastic bucket that he put them in with some old newspapers scraps in the bottom. I heard that before the war they didn't even need money. He'd simply bring a bucket of milk, and he'd get a bucket of eggs in return. But it was of course a lot simpler to bring money. It was far cheaper than in the store too.

My grandfather knew what all the birds were singing. Every bit, plus their behaviour. He'd especially heed the magpie, because it's a smarter bird. If it warbled this way, it meant that the weather would stay warm. If they warbled in another way, it meant that it might become rainy. He said that the birds knew, because their lives depended on it.

Another more commonly known sign is dependent on where the magpie makes its nest. If it it's high in the tree, then it will most likely be a warm and sunny summer. But if it is tucked way down in the tree, the summer will be cold and wet. It makes sense. There's more protection from the elements further under the leaves, but it's also colder there. If I were a magpie, I'd want to make a warm and nice nest for the summer, but all that could be ruined if I didn't heed the weather.

One day, the grouse was seen perching atop the family house. When I told this to my grandmother, she went silent at first, and then she told me that it means someone will die in the family. This was of course terrifying news to me. But it also turned out to become true, because my grandfather also died that year. May he rest in peace.

danielrangel(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Beautiful family memory thanks for sharing

skzv(10000) 3 days ago [-]

That was a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing it.

mcbishop(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Thanks for sharing. I love a book called 'What the Robin Knows'. It's about the knowledge of birds, and the insight they give other animals.

tailspin2019(10000) 2 days ago [-]

This highly enjoyable comment reminds me of the pleasure of reading Walden (by Henry David Thoreau)

axaxs(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Nice story, thanks for sharing. A shame this isn't written down someplace. I'm still learning and trying to teach my daughter, myself.

randompwd(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> One day, the grouse was seen perching atop the family house. When I told this to my grandmother, she went silent at first, and then she told me that it means someone will die in the family. This was of course terrifying news to me. But it also turned out to become true, because my grandfather also died that year.

Do you actually believe the grouse perching on house was foreshadowing??

michaelmrose(10000) 2 days ago [-]

How many people died in that town in your lifetime where no bird perched on a roof. How many birds perched on roofs that nobody noticed where nobody died.

thisCtx(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I grew up rural.

I buy into a lot of the "bird" wisdom. Science is discovering dogs can smell disease.

Our modern world isn't more complex, just more distracting with asinine theory chasing. It's always been ridiculously complex in ways we can't imagine, we've just started realizing it in detail.

Turns out animals with their "lesser" cognitive powers are tuned into the hidden complexity in ways we barely understand.

Yet we deem ourselves the more advanced species.

Humans will surely kill themselves off and the specifically evolved for their ecosystem "dumb" animals will remain.

mrits(10000) 3 days ago [-]

It seems like the bird would want to position itself based on the current day's weather and not the average of the next 3 months.

jim-jim-jim(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Are you talking about European or Australian magpies?

anonymousiam(10000) 3 days ago [-]

It's an inspiring article, but it left me wondering what is his exit plan. He's got nobody to pass the farm on to, and his sister is dependent upon his care. At 72 and with his medical history, he will not be able to continue much longer.

throwawayboise(10000) 3 days ago [-]

He never married, presumably has no kids, so what happens to the farm after he's gone probably isn't a big concern of his.

Osmium(10000) 3 days ago [-]

This is in the UK where there exists something of a social safety net. For example, I very much doubt he pays for his sister's carers (speaking from experience), and he will have healthcare available for himself if he needs it. So he may not feel the need to consider an exit plan.

User23(10000) 3 days ago [-]

My understanding is that in the UK if you have no heirs your property reverts to the crown.

flatline(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> She has two carers who come in four times a day, and they are wonderful.

My dad arranged something similar for my mom in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's. It is nearly impossible in the US, I don't even know if you can still do it without being wealthy. It required long term care insurance prepaid for years, and it was still a nightmare of weekly paperwork to manage all the claims. The care for his sister, and treatment and recovery for multiple strokes - out of reach for many farmers around the world. This man is very lucky indeed.

hycaria(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It's not really a sustainable solution though is it?

worik(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Socialised medicine. It is great

someelephant(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Even small European communities have adult day programs for people with Alzheimer's etc. The idea of old folks homes is foreign in places where people aren't wealthy to begin with. Interesting how a market appears to extract wealth when it exists.

forsakenkraken(10000) 2 days ago [-]

This is pretty common on the NHS. Also, as Wales is a devolved nation, we can plough more money into the NHS than happesn in England. Also less privatisation.

doe88(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I usually have the same dinner or close variants 6-days a week, then after few months when I'm tired of this menu I slowly update parts of it and it then evolves to something new. I don't force myself in doing it, it's often just about the simplicity of knowing that a given meal has the right balance of calories by knowing it works (i.e. maintaining the same weight) from one day to the next.

arketyp(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I do the exact same thing. Usually parts are rotated by things which come in season or on sale. After a day's work I enjoy spacing out doing something predictable.

ipaddr(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I wonder about the two strokes. Him and his sister. Probably genetic or is it a result of the same diet they both share? Is eating an egg a day really bad for you. Science has gone back and forth on this. He would get plenty of exercise what could have caused the strokes?

throwawayboise(10000) 3 days ago [-]

From the photo, he does look overweight. Could be hypertensive.

greshario(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Genetics and aging? He's 72.

Jtsummers(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Strokes can be caused by a variety of factors and are increasingly common as people age regardless of physical fitness and diet.

An injury or illness leading to bed rest can cause clots to form. Clots can just form anyways. High blood pressure. Which, again, becomes increasingly common as people age regardless of fitness level and diet.

failwhaleshark(10000) 3 days ago [-]

This guy doesn't really farm. If he did, he'd be in much better shape. I had family who were serious farmers (many chores everyday) and they were lean/skinny like runners even in old age. This guy overeats and doesn't get much activity.

guerrilla(10000) 3 days ago [-]

What a disgusting comment, as if you've surveyed the weight of all farmers and are some kind of authority that approves who is and isn't a farmer. Really, individuals differ and there are millions of fat farmers, you just haven't met them yet.

trainsplanes(10000) 3 days ago [-]

That's... an odd assessment.

As someone from a family of farmers, yes, people can be fat and work on farms. I know people who are in the fields everyday and with beer bellies like you wouldn't believe.

This man is 72. The fact he's working outside well past the age of retirement for most people shows he's not in completely terrible shape.

dukeyukey(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I dunno about that, I grew up in a Welsh farming town and there were plenty of farmers that looked a bit rotund but had astounding strength behind them.

tyingq(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Appears he once tried to venture out and try a pizza instead, but was thwarted by Pizza Hut:


Edit: Yes, just a different Wilf Davies, but also from Wales.

throwaway1777(10000) 3 days ago [-]

LOL, good find. I wonder if the whole story is made up.

axiom92(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Two different Wilf Davies (unless you were joking).

waihtis(10000) 3 days ago [-]

All the highly important software people (myself included) would do good to remember that farmers are literally keeping us alive while basically working 7 days a week - and in many cases barely getting by.

simonhfrost(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Happy international workers day the other day (May 1st), I hope you celebrated it.

annoyingnoob(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Working the same code base for 10 years could have you eating dog food every day.

tonyedgecombe(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

I've been working on the same product for 21 years now, although I did rewrite it in C# about five years ago.

worik(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Seventy one sheep? And he makes a living?

Something missing here.

vb6sp6(10000) 3 days ago [-]

he eats for a few bucks a day, never eats out, never travels, etc. he probably doesn't need much cash to live

peteretep(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Couple of cellphone towers on the property maybe, leasing some land to other farmers, and/or he did a bit more before his stroke and now just focuses on the sheep? All pretty plausible

inimino(10000) 3 days ago [-]

He's 70 years old. Nothing said his sheep were the only source of income he ever had over his entire life.

robotmay(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Farmers in Wales are pretty canny and they have some unique advantages due to the hillyness. Leasing out land for mobile towers is one option, as someone said above, but I've also seen them group together to build small hydro power installs in their streams, or set up solar panels, and sell that power to the national grid. Sheep are pretty much all you can raise due to the geography of the place.

Wales is poor, outside the cities. You can still buy a house for £10k here (it'll be shit obviously). He'll likely get some subsidies and his pension now too, and I imagine he probably trades for some of his food. Eggs for fish, that sorta thing.

haihaibye(10000) 3 days ago [-]

71 sheep is a hobby, not enough to make a living as a farmer. In Australia a family farm can have 10-20x that number.

zwayhowder(10000) 3 days ago [-]

They also use different tools and methods size is relative.

My favourite anecdote for visiting Welsh friends is to tell them about Anna Creek Station, a cattle farm in South Australia that is slightly larger than Wales.

dzink(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I find that our childhood joys imprint and become adult obsessions for some. If you grow up in one place, like this man, you may crave to stay there. If you are taken to new places frequently, you condition to want that. Happiest moments on the beach? You crave beaches. Favorite foods for a kid become comfort foods in adults. I grew up in the delta of the Danube, rich with fruit trees and amazing tomatoes. Ended up settling in a place that has great orchards within driving distance as well (every other climate felt really uncomfortable). Be careful how you condition your kids :)

visarga(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Many people over 40 in Romania still crave the communist era sweets. I crave my grandpa's smoked meets and his wine, and my grandma's home baked bread (they lived in the countryside as peasants).

smcameron(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> I've never had Chinese, Indian, French food. Why change? I've already found the food I love.

Jeeeeeeeeezus. That's some pathological parochialism right there.

Try some new things, you might find some new things that you love that you didn't know you loved.

You're rejecting Chinese food. You're rejecting Indian food. You're rejecting French food.

And you're expecting anyone to take your opinion seriously?

GTFO of town. You're a moron.

mod(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Have you tried eating the same thing every day?

You might find that you love it and didn't know you loved it.

You're expecting anyone to take your opinion seriously?


vasco(10000) 3 days ago [-]

He's not expecting much, he only shared his life with a journalist. You on the other hand expect a lot from him it seems.

earthlingdavey(10000) 3 days ago [-]

He's content, I admire that.

Not much curiosity when it comes to food, but it sounds like he's interested in nature.

And to say that he is rejecting the other foods is a bit of a stretch, I mean, for example, are you rejecting a career as a sheep farmer? You might love it.

Or maybe you're content with something too

phobosanomaly(10000) 3 days ago [-]

He's had 'several strokes.'

Who knows when his first stroke was? His sister's history of stroke as well could indicate that there is something more going on. He could have had multiple microinfarcts over the years leading to a mild form of vascular dementia with cognitive impairment or something.

He probably isn't holding the secrets of the universe in his noggin, but cut him some slack. I'd have tea with him. Sounds like a chill guy.

liamwire(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I think this is an incredibly poor take, and done with incredibly poor taste – pun not intended.

Experience is, broadly speaking, able to be considered as a spectrum with both vast breadth, and depth. I believe this holds true not only for external experiences, in this instance cuisine, but also for internal qualia and more compounded experiences.

It is, to my understanding, widely accepted that people are capable of living lives that can be vastly alien to what we might consider 'consensus reality,' or everyday life, more loosely. Look towards monks, yogis, and more briefly, psychonauts as examples of living beings with, presumably, internal lives vastly different to our own. Yet in those people we hear accounts of deep personal satisfaction, even euphoria, from no external source. Contentness, at a minimum, doesn't demand a minimum breadth of experience, or any experience at all, as a prerequisite.

I'd go so far as to argue that the small-mindedness you've presumed of this man, may be an acute reflection of your own base assumptions about others.

It pays to be mindful that others lead lives as rich, meaningful, and subjective as your own, even if the set of experiences in question may vary vastly.

I see no good reason to not take this man on his word when he says he truly is satisfied with his life, particularly when he's at a point where he can reflect back on it – something not afforded to those of us still living what we can only hope to be the bulk of our lives.

Everything I've written prior notwithstanding, let me ask: do you actively go out of your way to try every new experience possible to you, costs be damned? If you answer no, then you accept that there's a radius you choose to set, within which you're satisfied knowing that the experiences you've had thus far, and their costs, are in equilibrium, and that you're content with not exceeding that boundary. Who are you to say that his 'smaller' radius of experience, ignoring the incredible amount of contemplative time afforded to this man, and what that may imply for his internal life experiences, is any less of a valid choice than yours is? Surely you'd then accept you very likely fall within a subset of a larger radius of possible experiences, of which there are people willing to explore past the boundaries you've set for yourself.

Ignorance may in fact be bliss, but I wouldn't be so quick to assume this man is the ignorant party here.

dang(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Please don't fulminate or call names on HN.


irjustin(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Happiness - he's found it.

Sure, he's an extreme and very few want to emulate it because there's a mild element of delusion. But, he's found the thing so many of us work our entire lives for only to never find.

Part of life is letting happiness find you, part of life is finding happiness, and part of life is pushing away things to find happiness in what you have.

I say, well done.

noir_lord(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Happiness is a terrible word because there are different kinds.

I think contentment is closer to what he's found, his world makes sense in his context and is comfortable and familiar.

Happiness is what you want when you are young, contentment is what you get if you are lucky later.

I think that is how it should be, it's a good progression since too much contentment when you are young would have made me less driven and been less driven wouldn't have helped me reach a point of contentment in my late 30's.

I have a partner who loves me and I her in return, a stable job I enjoy, money in the bank and time and money for my hobbies - it's not euphoric happiness but that never lasts, contentment can.

psychomugs(10000) 2 days ago [-]

" Don't aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself." - Victor Frankl

DyslexicAtheist(10000) 3 days ago [-]

you did use the word 'mild'. but it made me wonder if not every person I've ever encountered that looked happy seemed like that a bit.

The happier somebody is the more deluded they look to the rest of us. People in love are perhaps the most obvious. But it says probably more about the observer.

ikurei(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I feel like us (hyper connected city dwellers, constantly chasing personal growth or success or novelty) are the deluded ones.

Why do you say he seems deluded to you?

User23(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Reminds me of Steve Jobs and his closet full of dozens of identical black turtlenecks.

throwawayboise(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I can kind of see the advantage of having one outfit. Eliminates all decisions about what to wear. But if I did that, I would not have a closet full. Maybe a weeks' worth, to get from washday to washday.

TruthWillHurt(10000) 3 days ago [-]

'An open mind is a fortress with gates unlocked'

slothtrop(10000) 3 days ago [-]

People often do behave as though new ideas, or changing their minds, is a threat. They make ideas part of their identity.

robbrown451(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Does it strike anyone else as oddly ironic that he is so sad that people don't go to the effort to hear the cuckoos, and yet he basically doesn't want to experience... well, pretty much everything.

It's great he's happy with the life he has chosen. But I personally find people who are even slightly like that (i.e. closed off to new experiences) depressing to be around. My parents are kind of like that, and have been as long as I can remember. But to each their own.

graderjs(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Is his way better? Nah, it's just what he prefers. But he's smarter than them, because, he doesn't try stuff he's not committed to. He just keeps doing what he loves. But they try things, but don't commit to it, and so they miss out. His ROI is higher. He invests in 5 things, and they all pay off. The cuckoo 'fly overs' make a bet on the cuckoo, but don't persist enough to see it pay off. We can definitely learn something from this guy, in our 'ephemeral age'.

As Dang says about attention on HN: people give it their all, only the moderators do that, and that's what keeps the place from descending into madness. But everyone else can only give a part of their attention to HN. Fair enough, but you need some people giving it their all if you want HN to be good.

Caveat is, he's probably great at narrating his solitary life and justifying his seclusion. We don't hear from him about all the stuff that isn't great. It's possible there's lots of that stuff, too :) ;p xx

kwdc(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I got the sense he laments others lack of depth in what he has experienced, 'They only stayed a moment and didn't see everything!'. The irony is that others wonder about his lack of breadth of experience. 'He hasn't explored enough and didn't see everything!'

People are different.

steve_adams_86(10000) 3 days ago [-]

To me it seems he's saddened by knowing the beauty that they've missed out on for such trivial reasons of impatience and rushing through their lives.

isoskeles(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I find them a bit less depressing than people frantically trying to experience 'new' things as an effort to quiet the constant agitation of their souls.

fma(10000) 3 days ago [-]

That's not what he's saying. He's saying that those who want to experience things...don't. People drive from far away probably just to stay there for a few seconds and call it a day, while sitting in their car. Probably take a selfie and say they were there to experience the cuckoos...but really didn't. That's why he's sad for them.

oilostthelast(10000) 3 days ago [-]

You find noble, humble and virtuous souls depressing to be around?

Look at this austere man, so capable. Entirely singular. Wholly content. How can you come to find even a hint of the vaguest ennui. Truly I envy the man, I aspire to be so contented, unfortunately I've decades of conditioning to unravel to attain such a saintly outlook. Imagine how simple and humane the world would be if it was populated with people like this. The man is wise.

Would it be fair to assume you find such people 'depressing' because they're resistant to your superficial intellectual rotundity? Because they don't play your games?

cldellow(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I read that differently from you.

I think he's sad because they _do_ go to the effort of hearing the cuckoos, but they're rushing. They're not fully present, and so they don't get the full experience.

He, by contrast, is very present in the things he does. That he doesn't choose to do many things is a different topic.

Osmium(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I think you slightly misread the article. His sadness was for those people who wanted to hear the cuckoos (for example, birdwatchers) but could not because they were in a hurry, or did not have the patience or the time to listen.

tomc1985(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I think that most rich-country urbanites and suburbanites are spoiled for choice in things to experiences. It wasn't that long ago that most people hadn't traveled much further than the next town over, let alone another state or country. Logistics has gotten to the point where its practical to have most everything everywhere that lots of people are.

Life before plenty was hard and boring by our standards. You can still see this in poorer, remote areas -- my experience is mainly with the American midwest and random foreign travel. There simply isn't much to do (or eat, or see), unless you're close to a big city.

eMGm4D0zgUAVXc7(10000) 3 days ago [-]

[Removed by myself to obey voting result of being a bad post.

Please do not beat the post's corpse any further :) Thank you.]

patrickm129(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Can you share what meals you enjoy making? :)

rubidium(10000) 3 days ago [-]

" By not leaving my apartment for a year except for shopping" this is entirely foreign to me. Where do you live?!

ufmace(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I'm a little sad that it's removed. Votes on HN are a fickle beast, a popularity contest. IMO, it's usually worth saying what you really think even if it might not be received too well. Especially if it's a unique and genuine perspective, rather than spam or mindless snark. IMO, if you've never been downvoted to -4, you've probably never said anything really interesting either.

auslegung(10000) 3 days ago [-]

This guy is a saint. To have that kind of contentment and peace is the goal of most religions. Honestly I'd like to hear more of his life, would love to talk to him.

sxv(10000) 3 days ago [-]

You may enjoy this video (and others in the series) which had a similar flavor: Appalachian Man interview-Elmer, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uqwy0dPRVOw

forsakenkraken(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Come and visit Wales, specifically Mid-Wales, like say Lampeter, or Newcastle Emlyn. Go to a pub in the evening and have a chat to some of the local farmers, if you buy the beer, they'll be chatty enough.

teleforce(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Probably being a shepherd has something to do with that. It is interesting to note that all the prophets of Abrahamic religions have been a shepherd at one point in their life, for examples the most popular ones namely Moses, Jesus and Muhammad were all once shepherds.

marmot777(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Yes, he kind of reminds me of the aesthetics in India and elsewhere. Respect.

giantg2(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I feel like my could hear that kind of contentment. But of course there are property taxes and the like. It's easy to lose what you have and what makes you happy. I want land, but will never get it.

faichai(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I'm not trying to be mean, but there is a chance this guy has some deep anxiety and self-esteem issues which means he doesn't even think to look outside of his comfort zone. Routine is a way of not stressing yourself out with newness and the possibility you might not cope, and fail.

StanislavPetrov(10000) 3 days ago [-]

If he is happy and content, why would he want to leave his comfort zone? Why does that denote some mental flaw? You could just as easily say that those who feel the need to challenge themselves outside of their comfort zone suffer from some deep-seeded inadequacy that they are trying to fulfill.

throwawayhermit(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> I'm not trying to be mean, but there is a chance this guy has some deep anxiety and self-esteem issues which means he doesn't even think to look outside of his comfort zone.

As a person with some anxiety and (what I have diagnosed in myself as underlying) self-esteem issues, this is something that I have been thinking about.

People around me tend to think that 'oh, throwawayhermit is just a bit of hermit and likes to be on their own', which is partially true and my introvertedness needs time on its own. But on the other hand, a big part of my closing off from others is anxiety and self-esteem issues, which I presume are not that easy to spot at first when a person 'seems confident and well off'.

So, that has got me thinking, how many of the people closing themselves off from others are doing it because they are happy that way and how many are hiding from issues/fears (regardless whether they realize it themselves or not)?

> Routine is a way of not stressing yourself out with newness and the possibility you might not cope, and fail.

I feel that there is a place for routines. They can give you space to focus on something that actually matters, teach you mental discipline and give you some kind inner peace from not constantly searching for new and shiny things.

guerrilla(10000) 3 days ago [-]

There's no evidence of anxiety or self-esteem issues in the article at all though, so what are you basing this on? It specifically says he's happy, which people with those problems generally aren't. As an extremely cynical person, I have to say I think you're being way too cynical.

Snoogans775(10000) 3 days ago [-]

This is a shoe-in for membership in the Dull Men's Club


avaldes(10000) 2 days ago [-]

>4. Is the DMC a movement? > >No. We prefer to stay put.

Gave me a good chuckle.

lmm(10000) 3 days ago [-]

How incredibly small-minded.

I respect people who've tried something and decided it's not for them. But to never even try a different kind of food? I suspect it's less that he's found what he likes and more that he's scared he'd find out he actually liked something else better, and has wasted those 10 years.

noofen(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> How incredibly small-minded.

How incredibly patronizing.

Have you considered that people have different tastes? Personally, I hate eating; if I could take a pill to replace all my nutrition needs, I would in a heartbeat, even if it costs more than my current dietary expenses.

cogman10(10000) 3 days ago [-]

The Welsh live a different way of life. This guy's attitude is far from unique. A bunch of people live in the same town, with the same job their great great great grandparents worked, that rarely travel more than 10 miles away.

Don't knock it, though, there's something to be said about this level of extreme stability. It simplifies a lot of life's worries.

herbturbo(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Dude just loves his life. Doesn't feel like he needs anything else. Lucky him I say.

systemvoltage(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I think I would be more worried about the nutrient diversity and serious deficiencies of vitamins and minerals for having the same meal for 10 years.

darkerside(10000) 3 days ago [-]

How incredibly ironic

seaknoll(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Maybe food just isn't that important to him as anything but sustenance. He sounds like a very kind and content person.

montenegrohugo(10000) 3 days ago [-]

There is value in finding your place in life and being content with it. Yes, you might be able to change it, perhaps to conform to more traditional standards of 'success', but why bother if you're happy as you are?

If we humans optimize by happiness, then we should have nothing but envy for a life like Wilf Davies leads.

megablast(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Sure, but you don't do it by never leaving home and never trying anything differently.

FractalParadigm(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I came to this realization in university - I love software, I love writing programs and solving problems, but I really don't love office work or the idea of sitting at a desk all day. I dropped out of a software engineering program to work on a factory floor, a decision I haven't regret once in five years (even if my parents would consider me a failure). The hours are good, the wage is good, benefits are good, I get to come in stress-free and leave 8 hours later in the same cheery mood. I tried stints in 'more successful' fields like in-house software or sales teams, but there was just something about it I loathed. To the outside world I'm just some deadbeat small-town factory worker, but I don't think I could make my life any happier or more enjoyable if I tried.

medium_burrito(10000) 3 days ago [-]

one must imagine Sisyphus happy

marmot777(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Well said.

georgeecollins(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I agree. If you don't want or like this person's life, more power to you. But here is someone who works hard and finds satisfaction and enjoyment in what they do. I hope we can all be so lucky.

marmot777(10000) 3 days ago [-]

A buddy of mine has rice and beans nearly every dinner though he knows how to cook variations so it's a surprisingly tasty diet.

I'm surprised the guy in the article could go decades without eating any veggies but his diet has clearly worked for him.

The strokes could just be genetics and/or old age catching up.

jkepler(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> I'm surprised the guy in the article could go decades without eating any veggies ...

Doesn't he eat a whole onion every night? Onions are vegetables right?

I would agree it sounds like a lack of green veggies, though, if that's what you meant.

kohanz(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> but his diet has clearly worked for him.

Is it clear, given the multiple strokes? We don't know with certainty whether the diet was a significant factor, but it's possible.

joegahona(10000) 3 days ago [-]

He said he has an onion every day.

chubbyish(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Humans ate only meat for 2 million years.


lacker(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Wow, he eats a whole onion at dinner every day? That seems like a lot of onion to eat! I wonder how he cooks his onion.

jhomedall(10000) 3 days ago [-]

If you roast an onion for long enough, the flavor completely changes and it becomes quite sweet.

See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xV9spqCzSkQ or https://joythebaker.com/2015/01/whole-roasted-onions/

Garlic can be roasted in similar manner.

spaetzleesser(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I would assume it's fried or cooked with his other food. Eating a whole onion is pretty hard on the stomach.

exciteabletom(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Onions are quite nice to eat raw like an apple. The perfect combination of spicy and sweet.

asciimov(10000) 3 days ago [-]

A big onion in the UK is most likely not the same as a big onion in the US.

jiggawatts(10000) 3 days ago [-]

My partner was horrified to learn that I ate the same breakfast pretty much every morning for something like five or six years when I was a teenager. I always had cereal with milk. If I was extra hungry, I would have a second helping. Very rarely, I would try a different cereal brand, but I would always gravitate back to the same one.

The funny thing is that at the time, I thought nothing of it! It was just a part of my morning routine, not a sign of poverty or an unusual personality. I still don't think it's unusual at all, many people eat the same breakfast every day.

Yet, this horrifies her. She cooks a different breakfast every morning and refuses to eat leftovers from yesterday. I never had a problem eating something my Mom cooked on the weekend for three or four days in a row. Schnitzel is delicious for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

nly(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I'm 35 and pretty much have the same cereal for breakfast every week day. It's not even a wholesome cereal. Sometimes I'll mix it up and have toast.

People have very different ideas of what meals should be.

While we have similar ideas about breakfast, my girlfriend makes large ish but quick cooked meals for lunch, whereas for me lunch is always a light meal like a sandwich and a cup of tea. Dinner is the main event for me, a reward for a day's work and a way to unwind, whereas to her it's just to tide you over until bedtime. Living together reveals these things.

Al-Khwarizmi(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I'm a foodie, and still, I eat cereal with milk, for the straightforward reason that I just don't feel like cooking or doing any extra effort at 7 AM.

Of course, if I'm at a hotel, I storm the buffet and try all kinds of things. Surely my breakfasts would be much more creative if I had a cook and a butler.

lifeformed(10000) 3 days ago [-]

No vegetables?

seaknoll(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Doesn't the onion count?

justapassenger(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I often envy people like him.

Working in tech it's very hard not to get lost in rat race and always go for more money, more knowledge, more everything. I'm actively trying to avoid it, but it gets to me as well. And most of my friends think I'm weird that I don't want to get one more promotion or why I don't want to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I'm fine where I am.

giantg2(10000) 3 days ago [-]

If you don't at least pretend you want a promotion, you might be fired. It almost happened to me.

p1mrx(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I was basically doing that in tech: working for food and a place to be. It was like living in a VM. After 2020 and 14 months of isolation, I'm retiring. Need to find a real place.

paxys(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Here's an interesting thought experiment – would you (and everyone else here) have the same reaction to this article if it was written by a North Korean farmer who was perfectly happy with life being in the exact same situation as this Welsh one?

Would he still be 'enlightened' and 'content' or brainwashed, oppressed and a victim of propaganda?

c3534l(10000) 3 days ago [-]

You mean if there was a strong implication that there wasn't a genuine choice, but an adaptation to hardship brought on by human rights abuses and an authoritarian government? Call me hypocritical, but no. I don't think I'd have the same reaction.

bombcar(10000) 3 days ago [-]

People have a range of "happiness" - in other words they can look at X and say "I think I could be happy doing that" and hold that the person truly is happy.

But if it is outside their range they will adamantly refuse to believe the person could truly be happy.

greshario(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Well, my reaction to this one is suspicion that it sounds a little too perfect and either the farmer is idealizing his life or the journalist has taken editorial liberties.. so, maybe?

alex_g(10000) 3 days ago [-]

No because he can leave if he wanted to. He stresses that- if someone gave him $2 million he would stay.

resoluteteeth(10000) 3 days ago [-]

It seems weirder to me that someone in a country like the UK would do this then someone in a country with less availability of foods but I don't see that as an issue of enlightenment or brainwashing.

eyelidlessness(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Given my own take[1], I was confused as you explained your thought experiment because I think I'd trust its sincerity more from a North Korean farmer.

Edit to clarify: not because I'm dismissing the oppressive dictatorship but because I think it's more likely a rando person farming in North Korea likely has less exposure to a larger world that might make them happy, and less motivation to justify their self-isolation with denial.

1: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27083285

oconnor663(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I've seen people have the exact opposite reaction to this same article. ('If this was a foreigner from a poor country, would you still think he was boring and sad?') So much of our lives are just the stories we choose to tell about them.

bourgwaletariat(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I remember traveling around some islands with a new acquaintance on his own journey. I remember him saying, 'It's amazing and romantic. Most of the folks here have never left. All they need is right here.'

Fast forward a day.

'Americans are idiots because they never leave America. Most of them don't even have a passport.'


throwaway_kufu(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I have been listening to an audio book, Man's Search for Meaning, written by Viktor E. Frankl a neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor.

Like many books written of experiences involving extreme suffering and trauma it's extremely powerful and I tend to have to stop just to contemplate and dwell on certain passages or just sentences. I like your "thought experiment" as it's not unlike how I go about reflecting on these kinds of books.

Frankl talks about being on a train being moved from one camp to another, and upon seeing there were no chimneys at this new camp there was a silent celebration among the prisoners. For whatever inhumane reason, that night the newly arrived prisoners were made to stand (I believe naked) throughout the whole night in the freezing cold. Yet they were all still greatful not to be at Auschwitz or another camp with chimneys. There is a separate passage where he describes the types of prisoners, the last he describes are those who had lost all meaning, spirit and would walk up to and grab the electric fence.

I can't tell you how much heart it gives me to think of the human spirit in these conditions that can't be broken. It's very similar to some of the slave narratives I read, and on occasion coming across passages with descriptions of slaves on a plantation celebrating the opportunity to sing and dance together around a fire at night. I have shared with others I wish if push came to shove I'd have that type of spirit, to your point about brainwashing, I've received similar responses that I am romanticizing it and even that my mental impressions reflect racism, but The reality is I could have pointed to many other counter examples from my readings like the prisoners that lost meaning and grabbed the fence, but for better or worse that doesn't lift my spirits and it's not the examples I tend to pass on.

I often ask myself what I think I would do in a camp or on a plantation, what actions would make me the most proud and if I would have the courage and spirit to make them, but I never pretend to know what I would actually do and I'd never once judged the actions of any of them...even the most deplorable acts, like the prisoners that worked on behalf of the guards for the slightest of comforts. Even more challenging is trying to put myself in the shoes of some young German or Southerner born into and inheriting the evils of these situations, it's a lot easier to say what I hope I would do, but just the same I have to admit no one knows what they would do, after all how many people do you really encounter that are willing to go against the grain rather than fall in line much less when it means death?

squeaky-clean(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> two pieces of fish, one big onion, an egg, baked beans and a few biscuits at the end. For lunch I have a pear, an orange and four sandwiches with paste. But I allow myself a bit more variety; I'll sometimes have soup if it's cold.

This would be a great meal for a North Korean farmer. If I read this same article by a North Korean farmer, it would either involve a different food listed, or they'd probably be lying about being a North Korean farmer.

> A UN assessment found North Koreans had been surviving on just 300g (10.5 oz) of food a day so far this year.


cptaj(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Of course I wouldn't have the same reaction.

North Korea is a brutal dictatorship. What are you trying to imply with the question? That brutal dictatorships are not so bad an we've been lied to? Do you live or have you ever spent some time in one? Cause I do and I think people defending dictatorships deserve a swift kick in the nuts.

lacker(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I would believe a North Korean farmer even more, that he was content with this life. A North Korean farmer who has eaten the same dinner every day for the last ten years is doing pretty well - it would mean they have avoided many of the North Korean famines and prison camps.

fridif(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> even on Christmas Day: two pieces of fish, one big onion, an egg, baked beans and a few biscuits at the end

> I've had several strokes

alashley(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I could be wrong, but it doesn't seem like any of that meal in moderation could predispose someone to a stroke?

FredPret(10000) 3 days ago [-]

This is the kind of person who has a wifi password like welcome2007

throwawayboise(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Sounds like the kind of person who doesn't have wifi. My dad died at about his age, never had the slightest interest in the internet, and he was a career scientist and did a lot of computer programming (mostly FORTRAN). He main interest outside of work was gardening.

sg47(10000) 3 days ago [-]

He's probably happier than your arrogant little self

diehunde(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Trying to eat something different everyday is an American obsession that I'll never understand. It's just so stressful and inconvenient. I grew up in a small town where eating the same for dinner everyday was extremely common. Tea or coffee and bread. The only variable would be what you put in your bread. Some days it would be butter, some days it would jam. Some days it would be honey, some days it would be avocado.

jldugger(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> Trying to eat something different everyday is an American obsession that I'll never understand. It's just so stressful and inconvenient.

It's not like we do this to because variety is intrinsically good and we have to force ourselves. It's more like we're addicted to variety; the more often you have the same meal the less appetizing it becomes.

aniforprez(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Eating something different every day is not 'an American obsession'. Heck most people I know would want change and something different in their routine of food. I personally have 10-12 breakfast recipes that I cycle through and regularly try stuff I find online

wombatmobile(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> The only variable would be what you put in your bread.

Would it be less stressful and inconvenient if you could put the same thing in your bread every day?

Do you imagine that would make you more happy or less happy?

lotsofpulp(10000) 3 days ago [-]

My parents come from a place that is the polar opposite of America, and eating the same thing repeatedly would get you sent to a mental asylum, based on how my family life revolves around food.

The idea of not using an innumerable number of fruits, vegetables, meats, and spices available is crazy to me. We're even excited to go back to the city try at various times of the year because different seasons bring different foods.

brokencode(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I think eating the same thing every day is fine, though you need to make sure to have a balanced diet with good nutrition. The author mentioned his uncle who just ate bread, butter, and cheese for every meal, and I'm not sure how you can even survive off of that. Surely it's lacking something important with no fruit or vegetables.

I've heard that humans had a long period of time after we became sedentary and started relying on agriculture that the average height decreased significantly, and it was only in recent centuries that it has gotten back to normal due to more varied nutrition. So even if you can technically survive on a very limited diet, it can still have negative effects.

slothtrop(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> It's just so stressful and inconvenient.

So is tending to a farm.

We need some amount of stressors in our lives to keep from feeling bored and stagnant. Exercise is literally an imposition of stress, but increases our well-being. Really a matter of picking your poison.

Farming might be samey, but if something is hard work it's also stressful.

throwagrayson(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Coincidentally, anorexia started in the US. Maybe we're just really hungry

jonnycomputer(10000) 2 days ago [-]

An American obsession? I think that is a gross over-generalization. I am American, by birth, and am happy eating mostly the same thing day after day. My spouse is from Poland, and she is not satisfied by that approach to food. Not by a long shot.

guerrilla(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I feel you. I eat the same thing for weeks or months at time until I get tired of it. Unfortunately it's not just an American thing though. I've experienced the same in Spain, Denmark, Sweden and to a lot lesser degree in Portugal...

jamesblonde(10000) 3 days ago [-]

As an irishman, i can so relate to the comment on the jam :)

'My uncle, a bachelor and farmer like me, had the same food for every meal. He had bread, butter, cheese and tea for breakfast, lunch and dinner (although he would bring out the jam for visitors).'

zebnyc(10000) 3 days ago [-]

This is not that hard to do and can happen naturally without overthinking it. I used to do a variation of this when I was single. I used to eat the eat the same breakfast (blended milkshakes with fruits/green veggies) and the same dinner (salmon/slice of bread with tomato and walnuts). The key was

a) Eat to live instead of living to eat

b) Being too lazy to commit more than 5-10 minutes for food preparation.

c) Being single where I could own my decisions and 'weirdness'.

davchana(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Exactly. My breakfast consist of Buns, cheese slice, cream & coffee. Easy, repetitive routine, nothing to spend brain energy. Same with lunch, fruits.

ozim(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Just take a mental note while reading this article, those people that moved out, probably had to move out because there was no place/work for them there.

He is a wealthy man that owns a farm. Same story about someone who would be a bartender in a local pub, where he was just an employee serving local drunks, would be much sadder one.

Barrin92(10000) 3 days ago [-]

>He is a wealthy man that owns a farm.

He's got 70 sheep mate. In Romania (IIRC) they'll unironically gift you farms like this because there's nobody else there to maintain them and you basically get some land for free. As the man himself points out it's a very simple life that involves a lot of hard work during all seasons, he's not privileged. Most people move out because life even in the service industry is easier.

berkut(10000) 3 days ago [-]

What makes you say he's wealthy?

robotmay(10000) 3 days ago [-]

His land is probably somewhat valuable compared to the local area, but West Wales is rural and the land is steep and hilly - it is really only good for raising sheep. And he's had it his whole life, so that value is meaningless to him.

However yes, you are right that many local people will have had to move away for work. Aside from Aberystwyth there's not a huge amount of work out that way. Lots of them will come down south to Cardiff and Swansea.

dannyw(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I don't know, big difference between running a farm and working as a bartender.

dinamic(10000) 3 days ago [-]

My great-grandfather was traveling to USA for work back in 1912. He came back after 6 years and settled in his village becoming its head. Almost everybody in my family knows this story and it's indeed fascinating, because at that time people rarely moved anywhere.

And now we are fascinated by a man living in the same place all his life. It's funny how the concept of norm changes in 100 years.

aeternum(10000) 3 days ago [-]

A man living in the same place all his life has no basis for comparison. I would be more convinced that your great-grandfather's village is something special since he experienced elsewhere yet still returned.

lostlogin(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> now we are fascinated by a man living in the same place all his life. It's funny how the concept of norm changes in 100 years.

And then most people spent a year at home. Strange times.

sateesh(10000) 3 days ago [-]

  We shall not cease from exploration
  And the end of all our exploring
  Will be to arrive where we started
  And know the place for the first time. -- T.S.Eliot
voidfunc(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Im nowhere near the extreme of this guy but I cook a vegetable soup and eat it 4-6 days a week every week for dinner. I save the calories and good (edit: interesting) cooking for restaurants.

I mess around with the soup occasionally trying new flavoring or techniques but its the same damn soup and I like it. Its easy to make, keeps well, costs nothing relative to output, and leaves me time to think about other things other than food. Also its very healthy.

At this point its just a habit. Sunday or Monday evening is soup making time. Two hours nets me two weeks of food.

mongol(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Do you eat something together with the soup?

kwdc(10000) 3 days ago [-]

This kind of thing is an old tradition and common. Good way to use up leftovers as well.

sethjgore(10000) 3 days ago [-]

and whats the recipe?

jimbob45(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I also eat the same dinner ~6 days of the week, largely for the same reasons of practicality. Being able to prepare dinner on Sunday saves loads of time during the week.

steve_adams_86(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Before I had a family, I did this too. You really grow to appreciate food more by keeping it low key so often. And I agree, it's relatively healthy. You kind of eat well on autopilot.

Then when you have something different and special, it really is special.

My family loves to have something great for every single meal. It's very excessive and unnecessary - but I keep it to myself and let them enjoy it. It's not a bad or destructive habit at all, I just wonder often if they value or appreciate it as much as they could.

tonyedgecombe(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

I'm sure I've read that the more varied your diet the more calories you will consume.

Of course we are advised to have a varied diet but I suspect that is because most people have such poor eating habits. If you can squeeze all the nutrients you need into a single dish then why wouldn't it work.

max_(10000) 3 days ago [-]

What most people don't realize is that farmers have alot of free time.

Most work of the day concentrates between early hours of the morning and lates hours of the afternoon.

Most of your day is usually free-time. Better than a 9-5 IMHO

forsakenkraken(10000) 2 days ago [-]

At the same time you basically never have holidays, unless you have family who can look after the farm for a week. Or you say farm chickens, then it's not hard to arrange a few weeks between raising a batch.

Historical Discussions: Please fix the AWS free tier before somebody gets hurt (May 04, 2021: 832 points)

(837) Please fix the AWS free tier before somebody gets hurt

837 points 6 days ago by forrestbrazeal in 10000th position

cloudirregular.substack.com | Estimated reading time – 5 minutes | comments | anchor

Read what the community is saying about this post: Hacker News, Reddit

I try not to write this newsletter in rant mode. And I'm trying not to rant right now.

After all, the AWS Free Tier has been broken for 10+ years. How urgent of a problem can it be?

But I've been shaken all day by this message that appeared in the A Cloud Guru Discord server:

Before anybody worries: this student is fine, they have lots of support now, AWS is on the case.

But all I can think of is that horrible story that appeared during the worst of the pandemic, about the young man who died believing he'd lost hundreds of thousands of dollars on the stock trading app Robinhood.

And I keep thinking: what if this student hadn't reached out to a developer community? What if AWS Support hadn't been nudged on Twitter, and had taken a few days to get back? What if the costs (and the panic) had kept spiraling?

Am I being melodramatic? I can hear the objections now.

"It's the student's responsibility to know what they're deploying."

With all due respect, get out of here with that. Even highly experienced engineers struggle with "bills heard round the world", but at least they're usually doing it on company credit cards. Students trying to break into the cloud have no financial buffer, and shouldn't be penalized for learning. I'm not saying learning should be free! Just that it shouldn't be a game of resource whack-a-mole.

"It was 'just' $200, that's not the end of the world."

Sure - this time. What if the student had, say, accidentally written a Lambda function that PUTs and GETs the same object to S3 in an infinite loop? How would they have known? They could easily rack up tens of thousands in costs before the billing console even refreshed.

"AWS Support is great about refunding these types of claims, there's no reason to be alarmed."

You know that. I know that. The 20-year-old student staring at an unexpected $200 charge didn't know that. How could they? It's not a documented resolution path.

Anyway, credit to the student who wrote that message in Discord - despite their panic, they've laid out exactly the two worst problems with AWS's current "free/not free/just kidding/good luck" approach to free accounts:

  • Unexpected charges

  • Inability to find what's causing the charges

AWS is the only cloud provider that creates these problems. Azure, GCP, even Oracle all give you ways to set billing limits and/or delete a project and feel sure that it's totally deleted.

On the other hand, I've personally got a dormant AWS account that's charging me cents every month, and I bet you do too. I'm not at all confident that I could figure out where those charges are coming from, and I'm an "AWS Hero". It would be easier just to destroy the account.

And, come on, if the only sure solution to closing out the tab on your AWS project is "cancel your credit card and nuke the account", that's not a great way to keep customers, is it?

Is there a solution here?

Corey Quinn, your first and last stop for any question that touches AWS billing, has called for an updated free tier that treats "personal learning" AWS accounts differently from "new corporate" accounts, and sets hard billing limits that you can't exceed.

We could also consider time-limited sandbox accounts that automatically shut themselves down after a period of time; this is the solution A Cloud Guru/Linux Academy has used, with success, for their popular Cloud Playgrounds. But as an ACG employee I'm happy to tell you that feature should be in the AWS console; ACG shouldn't have had to build it.

Updated 10 PM ET 3/4 - Some have pointed out the existence of AWS Educate Starter Accounts, which give no-credit-card access to a limited but useful subset of AWS services. The problem is that you can only get access to these accounts through student affiliation with a participating educational institution like a high school or university.

It might be more feasible to expand this program, say to any applicant who demonstrates some reasonable threshold of non-bot-ness, than to re-engineer the normal free tier.

In the meantime, if none of this is feasible - AWS, the least you can do is stop talking about training 29 million new engineers on your platform by the year 2025. Until those people have a safe way to learn without jeopardizing their personal well-being, that promise isn't merely unachievable; it's irresponsible.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

ineedasername(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't understand why there isn't at least a setting that says 'turn everything off if I hit $x.'

Then just given people a certain grace period to reactivate or get their data out before it's removed.

It wouldn't fix production deployments where you want alarms, not a shutdown, when you hit spending caps, but it would help people on the dev stage to avoid issues like this.

runawaybottle(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Because, buster, newsflash:

AWS is for enterprise and enterprise startups and wannabe startups that seek vanity milestones ('we are in the cloud').

It's not for your broke ass that needs to turn the tap off at a certain price point lol.

paulpauper(10000) 6 days ago [-]

becase the billing proces is seprate from the other processes

scarface74(10000) 6 days ago [-]

So let's say they "turn everything off". Does that include deleting all of your objects in S3? Deleting your database? Deleting your attached disks (AMIs)? Deleting your DNS entries?

anonytrary(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Can confirm. Default ElastiCache clustering option chooses an extremely high compute node, I ended up accidentally spending $1300 in a month just for testing some Redis clustering script. The minimum option ends up only costing a few dozen dollars a month. The billing alert did not even trigger until the very end of the month, so I got a $1300 surprise. I complained about it to AWS, mentioning how misleading their shit was, and they ended up refunding me $800. Still -- a $500 mistake anyone could make at 11pm. They also made it extra clear in their response that they are not legally obligated to refund me, and that they were doing it out of the kindness of their hearts.

AWS console is some next level outdated shit that needs to be improved. GCP's console is way cleaner IMO. I really hope AWS fixed this after this happened to me, but somehow I doubt they did.

Draken93(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Damn, I can't imagine how you felt... Only the unique experiences in this thread are enough to know how f*cked up AWS billing is.

okareaman(10000) 6 days ago [-]

When I read about the myriad predatory practices of Amazon I think about who the predator is and the saying 'the fish rots from the head.' I'm looking forward to the day Jeff Bezos pays the price for being the predator that he is.

lazide(10000) 6 days ago [-]

He's already left - you're going to be waiting a long time.

labster(10000) 6 days ago [-]

He already lost half his wealth to his ex-wife, what more are you waiting for?

yawnxyz(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I've stayed away from AWS for these reasons. Instead I use systems on top of AWS, like Vercel etc.

Is it ironic that Amazon's mantra is to be 'Customer obsessed' yet AWS is so magnificently confusing for anyone not doing it full-time?

As a designer I've used plenty of Digital Ocean, Vercel, Cloudflare Workers and other static hosts without a problem... I've never been able to figure out how to even start on AWS, and all these horror stories constantly make sure I stay away

UglyToad(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm so miserable that I finally got around to embracing open ecosystems after almost a decade of being Microsoft-poisoned and now everyone is all in on some baffling walled garden with abysmal UX and about 300 different services that you need a damn NASA PhD to understand.

Like the number of times I find myself in some random service/feature/part of AWS like 'do we use one of these? how would I even tell?'.

scarface74(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I know AWS well. In fact I work at AWS in ProServe. But, I have run up a "bill" on my internal personal accounts before.

If I were ever going to do a personal project that wasn't appropriate for serverless, I would just use LightSail.


civilized(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Anyone who asks you for a credit card or other means to bill you for a 'free' service intends to steal money from you without your consent

rataata_jr(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Its not stealing. You are using their services for free now which can / will be charged later.

vvram(10000) 5 days ago [-]

For accounts you want to put spend limits on always use a pre-paid card or card with spend limits https://privacy.com/.

U8dcN7vx(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Privacy.com doesn't believe anyone would want their service if they have a land-line, and not a mobile. 'Give us your phone number', okay, 'we sent a confirmation SMS' ... hahahahaha.

Yes you can probably dodge that by going with a SMS enabled VoIP provider.

version_five(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I had an AWS account that charged me like $6 per month for a year after I thought I had turned everything off. I finally went on a hunt for what was causing it, and had to escalate to support to find it. This was 11/12 my fault I admit, I should have been on it after the first month.

More recently, I was looking for a cloud GPU provider, and tried a different provider that I won't name. I tried out a ~$3 per hour instance, and shut it down after maybe 20 min. A few hours later I (thankfully) started getting billing alerts that my bill would be $1500 ish at the end of the months if my usage kept up. I couldn't find anything still running, could not get anything from support (they had some kind of chat support that told me to open a ticket), first opened a ticket then after and then after ab hour shut down my account as a last ditch effort. At which point they promptly emailed me an invoice for the $16 I had incurred during the time before I cancelled. The help desk relied to my ticket like a week later, asking for more information.

Needless to say, I won't ever use that company again, but it could have been a lot worse, even more so if I was a student or someone who blew their whole experimentation budget on whatever mistake I made.

gpm(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> [Vague description of provider now removed]

Hinting at the name like this seems unfair to any other companies that might reasonably be interpreted as '[Vague description of provider now removed]'... especially since I can't decide if you're sarcastic about [piece of description] part.

At the very least [two names] are big names that you could plausibly be referring too... and I could see only one name coming into many peoples minds and then them assuming you're referring to that provider.

totetsu(10000) 6 days ago [-]

is there an IAC template somewhere that resets an aws account to 0 and deletes everything? I know this articles point is this shouldn't be possible, but as long as it is, there should be a simple measure, that could be linked in tutorials for stopping ongoing charges.

eric4smith(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yup. Got charged over $800 for 'experimenting' with a DynamoDB database and forgetting to delete it afterwards.

Sure, I called customer support and they reversed the charges. But something the nice lady on the other end said as she chuckled: 'This happens all the time'.

DigitalOcean is the worst with the dormant accounts. Just got dinged around $2.40 on my credit card. Going into DO I could not find what was causing that charge. There was nothing there. Wuuuttttt.

pjanoman(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Honestly I get lost inside of AWS. Only recently was I able to figure out why I was getting charged $.82/month which, in the long run, is really nothing. But it's amazing how hard it was to figure out why I was getting charged for something that I originally thought was just going to be free.

jrockway(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> DigitalOcean is the worst with the dormant accounts. Just got dinged around $2.40 on my credit card. Going into DO I could not find what was causing that charge. There was nothing there.

Did you look at the PDF invoice in the Billing section? I have never seen an invoice where the line items didn't add up to the amount charged to my credit card. If there's just $2.40 on there with no explanation, I'd open a support ticket to complain.

(While looking into this, I was surprised at how minimal DO invoices are, however. For GCP, I'm used to seeing on the order of a million line items per month. Seeing only 3 on my DO invoice was surprising, and could definitely lead to a case where something isn't accounted for correctly. But, I bet support will fix it up for you.)

willcipriano(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Apparently I owe AWS 1 cent for DNS. The problem is I can't login to pay it, so every month I get a email that says 'your aws account is going to be suspended' and 30 days later I'm disappointed that they didn't follow through with the threat.

ladzoppelin(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yeah but it shows they are reasonable and flexible if a customer makes a mistake. The reason Google Cloud is third, people remember how they were treated when they used Google for Work or whatever its called now.

> But something the nice lady on the other end said as she chuckled: 'This happens all the time'.

Is better then if they said: 'We reminded you about the consequences of not deleting, we have done nothing wrong.'

xdennis(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I used the AWS free plan many many years ago as a student. I was so paranoid about losing money that I immediately shut what I was using down after I thought I didn't need it any more (even though leaving it on was part of the free plan). I turned off the instance, but I forgot the public IP. A month later I got charted a few pennies because an associated public IP is part of the free plan, but an un-associated one isn't.

I didn't go bankrupt, but it proved to me how scummy AWS can be given that actually trying to use less is what got me charged.

pjc50(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I think I'm going to save this whole thread as 'why zero friction micropayments are never going to happen'.

harry8(10000) 6 days ago [-]

>DigitalOcean is the worst with the dormant accounts. Just got dinged around $2.40 on my credit card. Going into DO I could not find what was causing that charge. There was nothing there. Wuuuttttt.

Wuuuttt? Fraud is what.

xtracto(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I have a DO server thats been running for more rhan 5 years. It was the basic $5 bucks instance they offered at the time I felt a bit robbed a couple of days ago when I was spinning another instance and I saw that the newer $5 instance has more memory and more cpu power. I feel like they should have decreases the cost of the older less performant instance.

I have been spoiled by my Internet provider who year after year they will automatically increase my speed as they made it cheaper, as I paid the same amount for the service.

adamparsons(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> DigitalOcean is the worst with the dormant accounts. Just got dinged around $2.40 on my credit card. Going into DO I could not find what was causing that charge. There was nothing there. Wuuuttttt.

Oh I used to get this, for me it was snapshots of a VPS I destroyed. Completely my fault, but yeah it was annoying to figure out at the time. Probably worth checking you don't have any reserved IPs, disk backups or snapshots left over

Aeolun(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Isn't DO some random saved image from years ago? I'm still paying them for a few of those I think.

batch12(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The billing statements I see in DO under Billing (sidebar) > Billing history seem pretty verbose to me. If it's not there I would recommend reaching out to their support.

bckr(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Ugh. I'm so glad my first owie was 'only' $200. Hurt a lot at the time, though. I could still use that back...

reilly3000(10000) 6 days ago [-]

AWS represents over 60% of the net profit of the entire Amazon empire across all its divisions and acquisitions. If they truly helped the customer to waste less money, it would have a massive impact on everyone who has stock, from sovereign funds to junior engineers. They have a vested interest in dinging your sandbox account $1/month for storing secrets you haven't used in 2 years. I don't see this changing anytime soon, especially when the competition is no better.

sixothree(10000) 6 days ago [-]

We would definitely spend more money on AWS services if our company could feel more secure in understanding which project those costs were associated with and were able to track the costs without spending multiple hours.

tsfranke(10000) 6 days ago [-]

AWS offers throw away accounts during immersion days, jam sessions, etc (especially at re:invent). It would be great if these were extended to the general public, even if at a small fee.

Bluecobra(10000) 6 days ago [-]

There's a service like this called Qwicklabs that I have been using for GCP training. You load a time limited lab and get a new set of credentials only for that session. After the timer is up, poof everything is deleted.

cookguyruffles(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Arguably discovering surprise bills absolutely should be part of the free tier, how else can you mentally prepare for running something in production on AWS?

macintux(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If someone told me about a cool new programming language and to teach myself how to use it could either be free or maybe $5000 because infinite loops are expensive, am I going to learn it? Hell no.

chpmrc(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Funny story: I keep receiving a $0.01 monthly invoice from AWS for a very old account (opened 5+ years ago) I have lost access to. I have no idea why (the invoice doesn't list the services being used) and the associated credit card has expired a long time ago. They requested notarized documents to prove my identity. Obviously I'd rather settle my $6 (+ interest) debt 50 years from now than give hundreds to a notary today!

ineedasername(10000) 6 days ago [-]

All states, with exceptions listed below, cap notary charge to $10 at most. Most states are less. These states don't have limits one way or another:









Puerto Rico



wittyreference(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Any bank at which you are a customer will notarize documents for you for free.

lolsoftware(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It doesn't cost hundreds of dollars to notarize something. https://www.nationalnotary.org/knowledge-center/about-notari...

Edit: as the other comment mentions, most banks where you have an account offer this for free. My local UPS store where I have a mailbox also offers the service to me for free.

tr1ll10nb1ll(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The exact thing happened to me one year ago, I was 17 and using my dad's credit card to test out Lambda and SageMaker, I had assured him it won't cost anything since I'd be using the free tier.

However, my application instance somehow kept running ( was a total noob to AWS ) and I got charged over $300 the next month when I got a monthly report in an email. I panicked and literally just deleted my account. Yes, I just nuked my account like the article mentions. AWS never reached out after that.

boruto(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Hey I did the same when I first used it. Raked up 9000 Rupees. Cancelled the card and called them, customer care said no worries and the bill was gone.

nemothekid(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> "It's the student's responsibility to know what they're deploying."

Anyone who seriously argues this is 100% unaware of the quagmire that is AWS billing. There are companies with entire teams built around just optimizing AWS billing - it's whole unsurprising that some AWS feature actually spun up 5 separate AWS features that end up being billed.

harrisonjackson(10000) 6 days ago [-]

And even when you spin things up knowing their cost you may not be accounting for data transfer, storage, mismatched reserved instance purchases, unused EIPs, and so many more 'hidden costs'

ActorNightly(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Ill seriously argue this.

The issue is that when students are 'learning' 'cloud', they are not really learning cloud as much as following tutorials to click together turnkey solutions. Dynamo DB, ElasicSearch, and whatever else are all business-oriented, quick to set up services. And such, these services are hiding what is going on underneath, with the expectation that the company will cover the costs of whatever those services run. This is a standard buisness practice.

If you want to learn how to put together cloud solutions with those technologies involved, you don't even need an AWS account. All you need is a decent laptop or a desktop, with docker or VM software, where you install everything yourself and learn how to configure it (since all of the software is free), do all the networking yourself. This is what actually learning the cloud involves and translating those skills to AWS is very easy.

Perhaps the blame is on the universities and/or tutorials that push the students towards creating free AWS accounts, but regardless, there should be some incentive to takes one profession seriously so you don't end up making this mistake in a company that will not have protections in place that people want for free tier. And money is as good as incentive as any. Id rather people be smarter rather than treat ignorance as a standard and put blame on others for not expecting people to be ignorant.

adamparsons(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Not to mention it only goes one-way. If you destroy the service that created all those others, it won't clean those others up.

Aeolun(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Honestly, my company only forces everyone to add tags with 'platform' and 'team' to every resource that gets deployed to AWS (otherwise your resource is automatically destroyed).

This works perfectly for going to cost explorer and seeing exactly where you are spending your dollars.

I don't think this is a very high difficulty exercise.

kossTKR(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Lots of companies also gets hacked each month for thousands of dollars because some key to S3 with too many privileges gets leaked.

The entire system is completely sinister. The fact that keys pertaining to S3 has anything do with being able to start hundreds of VM's in different parts of the AWS system or do whatever is bad.

I've seen companies be ruined by this, and it's in no way obvious how stupid their system is. You have to read huge manuals to know how to 'only give access to s3' through a key.

Instead of starting with 'no access' then adding atomized access you have to understand this extremely complex 'json privilege system'. Instead of just programming, this is the only allowed IP, the is the only allowed bucket, this is the only allowed service, and my max is 200usd, or something to that effect.

Also the fact that a key can start new services that are billable is almost criminal in my mind when people don't even gen an email when it happens - makes zero sense.

ficklepickle(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> You have to read huge manuals to know how to 'only give access to s3' through a key

I have to disagree with this. It really is pretty straight forward.[0]

[0] - https://objectivefs.com/howto/how-to-restrict-s3-bucket-poli...

simonw(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The feature I most want from AWS is a simple way to create credentials that are only allowed to read from or write to a specific S3 bucket.

The way you do this at the moment genuinely involves copying and pasting JSON policy documents around! It's horrific.

I want this for myself, but more importantly I want it for users of software that I write. I would love to be able to build something that stores a user's data in an S3 bucket that they own (and are billed for directly) - but it's currently just too difficult to talk them through setting up the bucket and creating the right credentials for it.

koolba(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Instead of starting with 'no access' then adding atomized access you have to understand this extremely complex 'json privilege system'. Instead of just programming, this is the only allowed IP, the is the only allowed bucket, this is the only allowed service, ...

What would that look like if it's not going to be a series of access permissions and filters represented as JSON?

Security is never a simple checkbox and complaints like this about it needing to be simpler need to be backed up with an alternative. I genuinely wonder what alternative there is to the current permissions model.

It's incredibly expressive and doesn't take that long to understand. People who cannot master it would likely leave some other side door open anyway.

> ... and my max is 200usd, or something to that effect.

This has been a valid complaint for years. Though to solve it you need to answer what happens to legit resources when your billing cap is reached. Do all your ephemeral serves turn off? Do your EBs volumes all her deleted? Do your S3 objects all disappear?

hannofcart(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> ...an updated free tier that treats "personal learning" AWS accounts differently from "new corporate" accounts, and sets hard billing limits that you can't exceed.

Honestly, this is needed for corporate accounts as well. Not all companies are FAANG scale behemoths who can shrug off an unexpected charge.

For a scrappy startup in India, an unexpected $5000 bill would be an existential threat.

andrewmcwatters(10000) 6 days ago [-]

A scrappy startup in India is not AWS' ICP.

jiggawatts(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Everyone: PLEASE stop making the argument that it's 'too hard' or even 'impossible' to implement spending limits.

As the article points out: Every other cloud does this! They all have non-production subscription types with hard spending limits.

There's a difference between 'unable' and 'unwilling'.

The people that refuse to understand the difference are the same people that don't understand that 'unsupported' isn't synonymous with 'cannot be made to function'.

Don't be that person.

If you have a large account and you're in regular contact with an AWS sales representative, pressure them into making this happen. Even if you work for Megacorp with a $$$ budget, keep in mind that your future hires need to start somewhere, need to be able to learn on their own, and need to do so safely.

Don't walk down the same path as IBM's mainframes, where no student anywhere ever has been able to learn on their own, making it a dead-end for corporations who pay billions for this platform. You, or your company will eventually pay this price if AWS keeps this IBM-like behaviour up.

Think of the big picture, not just your own immediate personal situation.

Apply this pressure yourself, because the students you want to hire next year can't.

davidgatti(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Hmm not sure where the problem is. With IAM you can create a policy to limit the user to only use certain services, deploy only the cheapest type of instance type, limit the region, the time of day etc. All of this and more is built in to IAM by default. You can even create a CloudFormation as a internal product this way you can limit even more what people do, and budget for that. And on top of that you can make a Lambda that is triggered every 1h to shut down unused resources or send a warning to shut it down, if not, it will go down the next day.

The possibilities are endless. I personally don't see the IBM comparison.

swiftcoder(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm also going to point out, as a former AWS engineer, that 'too hard' isn't in the AWS engineering vocabulary. If an AWS engineer were to dismiss something as 'too hard', they'd be on the fast track to a performance-improvement-plan.

The problem isn't that it's too hard. It's that it isn't a business priority. As soon as it becomes prioritised, a legion of very smart AWS engineers will solve it.

kaishiro(10000) 6 days ago [-]

'Every other cloud does this! They all have non-production subscription types with hard spending limits.'

This is simply not true, to the best of my knowledge. GCP has budget limits, which can send alerts, but outside of manually catching a pubsub and shutting down billing on your own, there are no configurable hard billing limits.

I'm unsure what to make of the rest of your rant.

dinkleberg(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Which clouds do this? I work quite a bit with AWS and GCP, and Azure to a lesser extent, and I've yet to see a spending limit on any of them. I'd love to be proven wrong though.

ryan29(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Every other cloud does this! They all have non-production subscription types with hard spending limits.

They don't. I've looked. They all have some ultra complex scheme for monitoring billing and programmatically shutting down services, which is a favorite recommendation by apologists, but none have a nice, solid 'shut down everything' plan that's usable for learning and testing.

AWS does have billing actions which are fairly new, but they're still a bit too difficult to deal with if you also follow the advice for setting up a root account for billing plus sub-accounts / organizations for use.

Azure has been ignoring the request for over 8 years [1]. There's a warning they're moving away from User Voice to a product-by-product solution for feedback, so that request might disappear altogether. I reached out to them and politely asked for an update and they said they'd look into it, but it's been over a month and I don't think there's going to be an update without some pressure. If anyone has a good social media following and would like to see hard caps on spending in Azure, tweet @AzureSupport. Maybe if enough people do they'll actually follow up.

> PLEASE stop making the argument that it's 'too hard' or even 'impossible' to implement spending limits.

I agree 100% with this because all I really want is something along the lines of the 'personal learning' account that's described in the article. I want a dev / testing account where I can learn and test assumptions about billing without risking a massive overage that I wasn't expecting. They don't have to get into the complexities of dealing with production accounts.

AWS, Azure, and GCP have all had close to a decade to figure it out, so I think the only way it'll happen is if we start asking legislators to regulate those providers. It would be relatively simple in my opinion. Cloud infrastructure providers must allow users to indicate a maximum amount of spending per month and may not charge more than the indicated amount.

I think big tech is proving they can't self regulate, so it's time to quit letting them.

1. https://feedback.azure.com/forums/170030-signup-and-billing/...

whoknowswhat11(10000) 6 days ago [-]

What a lie

AWS offers an AWS educate account already - go here to learn more


If you are a startup go through AWS activate - 100,000 to play with.

GCP etc al do not offer this either. This is not done crime- AWS pioneered this free tier model. I used Dell and you paid for everything there.

dragonwriter(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> As the article points out: Every other cloud does this!

No, they don't, the article is misleading if not technically wrong (since they use "and/or" to link billing caps and better whole-project deletion, the latter of which mitigates a subset of the problem but doesn't address accidental unbounded spend from a project that you want active at some level) and the same general class of complaint is raised for the other clouds on this issue; the frequency of the complaints seems to vary (ordinally, but not linearly) with usage of the various clouds.

mjdude(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This really is not true. Spending limits are not supported by all major cloud providers.

Red_Leaves_Flyy(10000) 5 days ago [-]

>future hires need to start somewhere, need to be able to learn on their own, and need to do so safely.

I've shared this before on hn, but I was about to bite the bullet on a fire base subscription to back a web app I'm building. Google announced its cancellation the week I was going to subscribe, I was hitting daily limits in my testing with my garage code and wanted the extra buffer to speed up my progress. As soon as they announced the cancellation I ripped out fire base and have been working on a swap to hasura/postgres/auth0. I can't afford, likely multiple, hundred or thousand dollar mistakes for a hobby.

'Just code better'

I'm trying...

kaydub(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Nah, I think not. My business needs to run. Would be very painful if an engineer put in a hard shutdown at $X and then left the company only for me to find out after all my services are shutdown when we've grown past $X.

This is a hard no from me.

How is AWS going to even know what to shutdown/remove? What if it's storage causing my bill to overextend?

Yeah, not just no, but hell no.

nix23(10000) 6 days ago [-]

>Don't walk down the same path as IBM's mainframes, where no student anywhere ever has been able to learn on their own






>There's a difference between 'unable' and 'unwilling'.

True words, look at the Links.

dhimes(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It seems obvious that AWS simply doesn't want you as a customer if you need to implement spending limits. We've all talked about having customers that were too much trouble for the value they bring. Customers with hard spending limits are those customers for Amazon.

anothernewdude(10000) 6 days ago [-]

My business uses off-cloud backups, devops and prepaid credit cards to limit our risk exposure.

HumblyTossed(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Corey Quinn, your first and last stop for any question that touches AWS billing, has called for an updated free tier that treats "personal learning" AWS accounts differently from "new corporate" accounts, and sets hard billing limits that you can't exceed.

This would be good.

I don't normally do 'cloud' stuff. It's just not my skill set. But I have looked at it on occasion and one thing that turns me off is my inability to know if I'm going to fuck myself with a large bill from some of these services.

xyzzy_plugh(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yeah this is a huge problem. I suspect this is significant for people to choose inferior non-hosted alternatives just for peace of mind. Hard limits would probably create a large influx of users.

Even for something as simple as S3, I'm hesitant to use the real service during development because it's so easy to stack up charges. For one of my accounts, the usual bill is <$10 but last month it was $27 because there was some network flakiness that resulted in excessive transfer.

stjohnswarts(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Yes,they should totally have a high water mark 'trigger' so you could set a shutoff for $100 or whatever.

_carbyau_(10000) 6 days ago [-]

+1 Same boat.

I don't know how to work with AWS. I don't want to pay $$$ for a 'course' for something that I can explore with a 'free' tier.

I logged onto AWS. Looked around, figured I had no idea what I would be charged and what the 'free' tier meant I could do exactly.

So I logged out and haven't been back.

WORMS_EAT_WORMS(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If you delete your AWS account you will still be charged if you don't remove / terminate some of your services for up to 90 days!


adamparsons(10000) 6 days ago [-]

For me its currently over two years, not 90 days

ipaddr(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I tried signing up with a prepaid credit card and they refused the card so I moved on. It's setup for massive profits on minor mistakes. The risk on a free tier is like shorting a stock, one bad day and you go bankrupt unless you have a connected twitter account.

Sounds like a new dystopian future that is best not to be part of.

When IBM ruled or Microsoft or AOL things you had one main evil corp. We're in a period where Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook can appear the hero or villian depending on the day but the sum of the faangs is much greater than the worst evils of the original megacorps. Could you envision forced unlimited billing on a free tier with no ability to limit charges on the account?

vxNsr(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Use a temp number card. Either privacy.com or Citi cc also offers this feature

Johnny555(10000) 6 days ago [-]

As a personal user, I wish they gave two options to fix this.

Option 1:

When credit balance reaches a certain level (or monthly spend reaches a certain level), initiate a resource stop on every resource that can be stopped without data loss. This would still incur charges for some things like EBS volumes, S3 data, etc, but at least it would slow the bleeding.

Option 2:

I don't care about data loss, just terminate everything when I hit the threshold. This should require a double-opt in and maybe a warning banner in the console UI.

NoPicklez(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I think it should be option 2 by default, but allow you to customise later if you want resource stops on only certain resources.

So option 2 by default with option 1 customisable from then on.

throwawaaarrgh(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Oh come on. We all know that the 'accidental revenue' from the way Free Tier is set up probably makes up a cool 2 million or more annually. Plenty to justify its continued abuse of naive students. Why would they walk away from that cash? The only people they're pissing off is people who aren't using AWS anyway.

gibba999(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This ain't it.

Obfuscated billing helps Amazon with $350/hour engineers, where an engineer figuring out where $10k is going each year isn't a top priority. Been there, done that.

Obfuscated billing is definitely not there to hit free tier or poor folks. AWS has an awesome reputation for just about everything, and it isn't worth the reputation hit. Free tier is there so that:

* the student in college will pick AWS in their first job

* the random engineer will prototype something on the weekend, and Amazon gets millions of business

* the random pre-funding startup starts building on AWS, and if it goes big, so does the account

And it works. Amazon has made millions based on things I've built on free tier. AWS' problem is that my ONE YEAR free tier ran out probably around a decade ago, and I've long since moved on from what I was doing then. If AWS were to continue to provide me a free tier, the same thing would have happened a few times since.

akerl_(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I've heard of plenty of people accidentally blasting past the free tier, or past dev credits, or other ways where they got burned by a surprise bill. 100% of those people have gotten a refund from AWS support by filing a ticket.

AWS pretty clearly isn't raking in money on this. Even at your imaginary 2 million a year, that's a drop in the bucket for AWS, let alone Amazon.

PeterisP(10000) 6 days ago [-]

AWS annual revenue is $50+ billion. (https://www.zdnet.com/article/aws-run-rate-hits-54-billion-a...)

Anything that they can get from 'naive students' and developers who don't notice small recurring charges is so utterly insignificant that it can't justify any decision whatsoever. If the public relations aspects of it cause even a 0.01% change in AWS growth, that's already $5 million of lost revenue; if you can assure developers worldwide that it's not so risky to try and adopt AWS a bit more and get a 1% extra growth, that would be worth $500 million and justify walking away from all kinds of irrelevantly small cash flows.

aprdm(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I really recommend using something like Linode for cheap throwaway, might be a bit more expensive (i.e: 5 per month), but the surprise factor disappears..

wyattpeak(10000) 6 days ago [-]

You'd have to be doing something extremely small to make a $5 Linode more expensive. AWS might be cheaper for a static site, but as soon as you involve a database you're probably paying more.

AWS is not cheap. A lot of people seem get bitten by this.

sebasvisser(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I thought I was just to incompetent to figure out how to stop an instance...so I just gave up while watching my creditcard getting billed for about €20 each month.. Last month I went full on and spent a few hours removing everything on every screen I could find. After many hours of failing to remove an instance because you have to stop a thingie from auto starting on another screen first...and another thingie from running there. I finally managed to remove all the instances...

Then two months later, I still get a bill for a few €...

I give up.

I Hate Amazon

top_kekeroni_m8(10000) 6 days ago [-]

You can try using this tool: https://github.com/iann0036/former2

This will scan your entire account and list all of your resources - it's actually made for generating CloudFormation templates, but it's very useful for a use-case like yours.

quesera(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'll bet you created the environment with Elastic Beanstalk, whose job it is to (among other things) replace instances if they fail.

When you stopped the instance in EC2, EB did its job and created a new instance.

You eventually figured this out and killed the EB env, and the instances stopped reappearing.

But the Elastic IP address assigned to your EB env is still on your account, and it's no longer free of charge, because you don't have a running instance.

So you will be billed about a €/mo until you delete the Elastic IP reservation.

This is ridiculously confusing, and ridiculously common.

HomeDeLaPot(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Is there seriously no way in AWS/Azure/GCP to specify 'Here's my budget, shut everything down if I exceed $X'? I don't use those platforms much but was always surprised I couldn't find anything like that right off the bat. I'll build cloud stuff if it makes sense at work, but if I'm footing the bill I'll stick to something that can provide an actual upper limit.

ta988(10000) 6 days ago [-]

You can get alerts. And there are some limits for young accounts. But they really need a 'beginner' mode. Or a budget mode, put $x on the account can't spend more. But I guess they are making a lot of money with 'mistakes' so there may not be kuch incentives

manigandham(10000) 6 days ago [-]

On top of the other reasons for complexity and delay, this just creates another potential mistake where people delete their entire accounts or stop production services.

It's far easier to negotiate dollar amounts than lost data or service uptime.

diveanon(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's not real time billing, so there is no real way to disable service until costs have been determined.

I agree that it seems like a solvable problem, but it doesn't make them money so why should they care?

snorkel(10000) 6 days ago [-]

A spending kill switch can be setup on AWS using AWS Budgets alerts and Lambda but it's a DIY project, not a built-in feature.

dragonwriter(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Is there seriously no way in AWS/Azure/GCP to specify 'Here's my budget, shut everything down if I exceed $X'?

All of them have billing APIs which should, in principal, allow you to build "Shutdown everything at some indefinite time interval (and additional spend) after I exceed $X", though you'll need to do nontrivial custom coding to tie together the various pieces to do it, and actually stopping all spend is likely going to mean nuking storage, not just halting "active" services.

None of them provide anyway to more than probabilistically do "Shut everything down before I exceed, and in a way which prevents exceeding, $X."

maxgashkov(10000) 6 days ago [-]

That's extremely hard to design, at least with the current state of what AWS bills and does not bill.

Example: let's assume you've set the cut-off budget too strict, spun off another shard for your stateful service (DB for example), it received and stored some data during the short window before some other service brought whole account over budget (i.e. paid egress crossed the threshold).

To bring VM and EBS charges to 0 (to implement your idea of 'shut down everything') AWS will have to delete production data.

While it may be OK when you're experimenting, it's really hard to tell in automated way.

So, to fully comply w/o risking losing customer data, AWS will have to stop charging for not running instances and inactive EBS volumes which most definitely bring on many kinds of abuse.

There may be some other way to do this, maybe mark some services expendable or not, so they are stopped in the event of overspend.

nineplay(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Azure will alert you when you exceed a budget, but it won't disable anything.

Azure MongoDB billing was insanity. I was up to $800 to host a couple of GB that wasn't doing anything.

I'm still not sure what happened, even their support kept saying 'it's priced by request units' and I kept saying 'How does a handful of queries a day translate to $40 in request units?'

A year later, I think that I had a lot of collections and they seem to charge per-collection, but I'm still not even sure. Thank goodness we moved off of it after only a month or two.

josephorjoe(10000) 6 days ago [-]

You can set price alerts to email you on the day when you cross a monthly spending limit, but it is not the simplest thing to figure out.

I run a small server and have a few odds and ends and get emails at $5, $15, $50, $75, and $100. Haven't broken $75 limit yet...

newobj(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Of course there's a way. But it's opt-in, not opt-out.

jrockway(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I think the big problem is that usage collection is a few days out of date, at least for GCP. Autoscaling can react in seconds to increased load, but it takes about 3 days before that shows up on your cost reports. You can burn through a lot of cloud resources in 3 days.

GCP at least has some provision to get very detailed information about usage (but not cost) that updates in less than an hour. That, to me, is the tool for building something like 'shut down our account if usage is too high'. It is annoying that you have to code this yourself, but ultimately, it kind of makes sense to me. Cloud providers exist to rent you some hardware (often with 'value-add' software); it's the developer and operator's responsibility to account for every machine they request, every byte they send to the network, every query they make to the database, etc. and to have a good reason for that. To some extent, if you don't know where you're sending bytes, or what queries you're making, how do you know if your product is working? How do you know that you're not hacked? Reliability and cost go hand in hand here -- if you're monitoring what you need to assure reliability, costs probably aren't confusingly accumulating out of control.

NullPrefix(10000) 6 days ago [-]

IIRC the excuse is that billing is a separate department and they count all the usage dollars way after you done using it, not in realtime. You would still be able to go over your limit and then who should foot the bill?

Realtime counting would be too difficult to figure out, our brightest minds are busy figuring out engagement metrics.

StratusBen(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm Co-Founder of http://vantage.sh/ and we allow you to connect your AWS account(s) and we'll monitor cloud spend on your behalf.

We send out regular cost report emails to try and help folks avoid situations like this and have some future plans around anomaly detection to try and help out in advance of things like this happening.

I strongly encourage folks to sign up and let us monitor things on your behalf. We have a free tier that likely covers a lot of personal users here.

Havoc(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Is it essentially read only / limited in some fashion by IAM? Wouldn't really want more things connected that open up more threat surface

adamparsons(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I cancelled an account 2 years ago because no matter how much I explored cost manager or any regions I used, I can't find why I still get billed a small dollar or so a month.

I still get bills on the 3rd of each month, followed by a 'we can't charge your card' (I removed it when they pulled this shit) followed by a few days later you get the 'hey we're gonna suspend your account if you don't pay'

Yeah cool, I only closed the account 2 years ago now, go right ahead and suspend/close/do whatever you've gotta do, I stopped caring.

dennis_jeeves(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Came in to say I had to do the same thing, close i.e an account to stop being charged.

tomwojcik(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Same! I literally closed an account and created a new one after a few months because I was charged a few bucks a month and I didn't know what I was paying for.

I think it was either related to db backup or some encryption keys but I couldnt find what and where to delete to get rid of this charge.

Nowadays I use aws only for route53 and s3.

sixothree(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The cost explorer is beyond deplorable. It provides either too little information or information that is so fine-grained it becomes useless.

It infuriates me the hoops we need to jump through just to understand how much a single virtual machine costs. Or in cases like yours - to find out what resource a charge was for. Impossible.

Designed to be impossible. FFS. We would spend more money if we were able to manage costs better.

tomerv(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Same here. I had a monthly billing of a few dollars and couldn't figure out where it's coming from (and given that it's only a few dollars, it wouldn't make sense to spend many hours investigating). In the end I just canceled the card and hoped for the best.

whoknowswhat11(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Goodness - reading these statements makes me laugh - 'sinister' 'evil' 'by design'.

Reality - very few folks want a hard billing limit.

To stop charging you AWS would need to delete all your EBS and S3 volumes, stop all EC2 instances, release all public IP's, delete all AWS directories and the list goes on. The idea that AWS would build this giant data loss footgun into their system is ridiculous.

Somewhere in AWS someone said, how could this blow up, and they came up with 100 ways, including misconfigured cost accounting etc.

That said, the GCP project based model makes more sense to me, give you more control etc.

That said, if there is such demand for hard billing limit playgrounds (I'm sure there is but not by folks giving AWS a lot of money), someone should be able to do a hosted solution for AWS that bills into their corp account and gives you a playground for learning (with a real hard billing limit). That type of approach is used in a lot of other contexts already.

paranoidrobot(10000) 6 days ago [-]

AWS employs a whole lot of brilliant people, and they're an insanely profitable business unit.

I'm sure those people, given the appropriate motivation and opportunity, could provide a solution (or several) that avoids foot-gun data loss at every turn. There's all sort of solutions they could go with.

As an idea, perhaps some kind of functionality within the billing side of things:

They could, perhaps, decide to just apply a basic cap functionality - when you reach that cap, it stops/disables all chargeable resources above the free-tier and gives you 72 hours to go raise the cap or they'll delete everything except things in their AWS Backup.

AWS can eat the storage cost for the stopped things without a noticable impact on revenue.

Perhaps a more advanced workflow-type setup:

When monthly spend reaches $x across all regions: - stop all running instances that are not below the free-tier limit - apply deny policies for per-request charged services - send an email alert to the billing, tech and admin contacts.

When monthly spend reaches $y across all regions: - Delete all chargable resources not tagged with 'Foo: bar' - send an email alert to the billing, tech and admin contacts.

One of the other things that would be great, is to be able to apply limits to AWS Accounts. For instance, the AWS Account that we give to developers to experiment on, it would be great to forbid them from starting baremetal instances, or GPU instances, etc.

Some of it can be controlled through deny rules, but not enough.

Billing alerts are also currently nowhere near responsive enough - it can be hours or days before you get told that some resource is running up your bill.

A comprehensive dashboard of 'here is every chargeable resource running in this account, in all regions, right now' wouldn't go astray, either.

taftster(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Another solution to this problem is the availability of disposable credit cards. It would be ideal that credit card numbers could just be created from scratch, as needed, and turned off whenever the use was done.

We had promises of this as ecommerce took off, to help avoid fraud. But it seems these don't get widespread adoption, probably because purchases are easy to get chargebacks for (in general).

A hard limit for cloud purchases is surely needed. But because the cloud providers aren't giving us this, I'm wondering if a solution like disposable cards could?

gruez(10000) 6 days ago [-]

1. Does aws even accept prepaid cards? many providers don't dye to fraud/abuse concerns

2. Your payment method refusing to accept charges doesn't mean you're still not on the hook for them. Technically they can still send your bill to collections and wreck your credit report. They probably don't do this, but it's still a bad bandaid solution

cddotdotslash(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's absolutely unacceptable that AWS hasn't fixed this, but in the meantime, would using a privacy.com temporary credit card with a ~$20 limit when signing up help? I'm unsure if those kinds of cards can be detected/blocked by AWS, or if they do.

p1necone(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Not paying the bill doesn't make the bill go away, you'd still owe Amazon the money unless support waived it.

artichokeheart(10000) 6 days ago [-]

AWS employs cost obfuscation by design otherwise the default view when you open the console would show you all of your current active services. Not only is that not the case, a single screen to show you all of your current active services doesn't exist. You need to take a deep dive into cost explorer (assuming you have access in corporate land) and try to decipher in what that all means.

SavantIdiot(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If I go to billing I can see an itemized breakdown of every service I'm using. What is wrong with that?

indemnity(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Azure does this a little better, but best would be to see a breakdown on the invoice with links directly back to the resource.

Maybe there are discounts or other processing that makes this hard.

Or, less charitably, this would lead to people optimising their costs a lot better and canceling unused services much sooner.

hinkley(10000) 6 days ago [-]

AWS is literally trying to trick you. With friend like these, who needs enemies?

The Trough of Disillusionment for AWS is going to be Bastille Day levels of ugly.

tapland(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This is what keeps me from tinkering with the free tiers and never even attempt to host my own projects in the cloud.

I want a free tier with a lock on it. I'd very much appreciate advice for what tiers would fit my monthly use if I hit free tier caps, but if I got hit with $500 right now I'd be ruined.

I think my Google compute stuff is safe, but I really don't like having any doubt.

ggregoire(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Not disagreeing with you (a view with all the active services would be great) but one of the many benefits of using Terraform is that it allows you to know what you running.

singlow(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't understand why so many people want to use AWS for such small budgets. At that scale wouldn't it be easier to just build everything out of a few VMs at a cheap service?

AWS is awesome when you have a large number of resources, that are created programmatically and reproducibly, with redundancy and duplicate environments.

The budgeting tools are really amazing at letting you categorize your costs and create appropriate alerts. The permissions system lets you define very specific roles.

Its complex. But if your system is complex, it gives you the tools to keep track of it all. If you have a <=$5000/month budget, it is probably too small to make sense in AWS. You can probably run your system on a couple servers.

bogota(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yep and is a huge SaaS market place now so mid to large size companies can figure out what they are spending money on.

I don't use them for any projects mostly because I already don't enjoy having to manage AWS at work all the time. I also don't want to live/work in a world where AWS is my only option so I try and use smaller hosting providers and services like tarsnap.

apatters(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Until AWS fixes this the best thing to do is just use their service as little as possible. There are plenty of other cloud providers out there these days which don't employ this hostile practice.

I closed an AWS account for this reason just a few days ago, we hadn't used it for a while but there was no clear way to remove our credit card so it felt like a risk just to have it open, what if a developer logs in to mess around and accidentally flips some switch that smacks us with a charge of a couple grand... unlikely, sure, but the fact that it's even possible is terrible system design. Better to just nuke the account and move on to other cloud providers that don't make it harder for me to sleep at night.

StratusBen(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Disclosure: I'm the Co-Founder of Vantage.

This is exactly what we do with Vantage: http://vantage.sh/

We give point-in-time run-rates of all active resources based off of the region and resource/service configuration.

In addition we try to simplify people's understanding of where their costs are coming from. If anyone needs help with this, they can personally reach out to me at [email protected]

thejosh(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Why the f do I have to use a service like billgist to get a breakdown of my services?

AWS billing IS complicated but could be made so much simpler...

paaakthecaaa(10000) 6 days ago [-]

They definitely need a senior executive to stand up and say, 'The Customer wants us to be transparent in billing, fix that now.'

Then they need to start a team dedicated to finding a good way to let customers halt spending at a given limit with minimal impact on their operations.

They already win on UX (okay, okay, it's an opinion ffs), but unlimited liability makes a lot of people very uncomfortable. Those two actions would go a long ways towards demonstrating good faith in that area.

If it would cost too much, maybe they could present it as an easy way to cut expenses at the same time that they introduce a small price increase. This is a common and long-standing complaint/feature request.

young_unixer(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Can anyone recommend a cloud provider that's suitable for learning (the opposite of AWS in this regard)?

danielmeskin(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Plain old Linux: Free: GCP

Paid (but cheap): Linode, DigitalOcean

—- Machine Learning:

Free: Google CoLab, Paperspace Gradient

Paid (but [relatively] cheap): JarvisLabs, DataCrunch

—- Databases and user auth:

Free: Firebase spark

Paid (but cheap, remember to set billing alerts!): Firebase blaze

kaydub(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm in agreement with the cloud providers over those of you wanting a hard shutdown.

Businesses, the entities that are paying the most money to AWS, will NOT want a hard shutdown. When you generate revenue off of your SaaS service maybe you'll understand.

No, I won't be pushing my TAM to enable a forced shutdown due to budget metrics.

Not to mention, how does AWS decide what to shutdown and what to delete? It's not like it's only running resources that cost money, what about all my data that's stored???

jawns(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Businesses, the entities that are paying the most money to AWS, will NOT want a hard shutdown.

I don't think anyone is arguing that any account MUST take advantage of hard shutdowns. Only that it should be an option for those who truly do want it.

> How does AWS decide what to shutdown and what to delete?

That's a much more interesting question. It tends to be services, rather than storage, that are the root cause of these outlandishly large surprise bills. But if, by chance, it's S3 that's running up the bill, what would a hard shutdown mean? Which data does Amazon delete first to get the account down to its hard limit?

jerrysievert(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I had an AWS account for one of my businesses, and decided to bring it in-house about 2 months ago.

went through the account deletion, and got yet charge/another bill today - account is deleted, so can't log in to see why I'm being charged.

hopefully their support will help out, but not holding my breath.

editing to add: billing was for db backups, I terminated the db, and no clue how to remove the automatic backups it made. of course I can't log in to look any further.

inetknght(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Without a receipt to show what's being charged for I'd just call the bank and ask for a chargeback.

moolcool(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I once had a cloud computing class and a lot of it was based on the AWS free tier. The number of students who got dinged and needed the professor to pull strings was... too many.

Vaslo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Came here to say the exact same.

mjthompson(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Oracle - of all businesses - got this right. I know, I'm in shock too.

In Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, after your credit is exhausted, you have to explicitly opt in to billing or else they stop all paid services for you.

Moreover, you can choose to keep billing disabled and use their free services without fear of unknown costs.

AWS have just decided to run with a policy of offering refunds when people make mistakes. Unfortunately, some people are ignorant of this, or too timid to ask for their money back.

perryizgr8(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Wow this is amazing! Never thought Oracle would have such a nice free tier.

> 2 Compute virtual machines with 1/8 OCPU and 1 GB memory each.

> 2 Block Volumes Storage, 100 GB total.

> 10 GB Object Storage.

> 10 GB Archive Storage.

> Resource Manager: managed Terraform.

namelessoracle(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Might just be an urban legend but doesnt Amazon keep track of people who do too many refunds and cancel services with them? I've heard of and met people who dont do minor returns to Amazon because they were afraid it would put their Prime account on some kind of 'naughty list'

Aeolun(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Unfortunately, some people are ignorant of this, or too timid to ask for their money back.

I guess that turns out to be good for AWS's bottom line.

Historical Discussions: Google Removed ClearURLs Extension from Chrome Web Store (March 24, 2021: 815 points)
ClearURLs – automatically remove tracking elements from URLs (May 05, 2021: 802 points)

(802) ClearURLs – automatically remove tracking elements from URLs

802 points 6 days ago by stanislavb in 10000th position

github.com | Estimated reading time – 5 minutes | comments | anchor


ClearURLs is an add-on based on the new WebExtensions technology and is optimized for Firefox and Chrome based browsers.

This extension will automatically remove tracking elements from URLs to help protect your privacy when browse through the Internet, which is regularly updated by us and can be found here.


Many websites use tracking elements in the URL (e.g. https://example.com?utm_source=newsletter1&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=sale) to mark your online activity. All that tracking code is not necessary for a website to be displayed or work correctly and can therefore be removed—that is exactly what ClearURLs does.

Another common example are Amazon URLs. If you search for a product on Amazon you will see a very long URL, such as:


Indeed most of the above URL is tracking code. Once ClearURLs has cleaned the address, it will look like this: https://www.amazon.com/dp/exampleProduct


  • Removes tracking from URLs automatically in the background
  • Blocks some common ad domains (optional)
  • Has a built-in tool to clean up multiple URLs at once
  • Supports redirection to the destination, without tracking services as middleman
  • Adds an entry to the context menu so that links can be copied quickly and cleanly
  • Blocks hyperlink auditing, also known as ping tracking (see also this article)
  • Prevents ETag tracking
  • Prevents tracking injection over history API (see also: The replaceState() method)
  • Prevents Google from rewriting the search results (to include tracking elements)
  • Prevents Yandex from rewriting the search results (to include tracking elements)


Reasoning for needed permissions can be found under here.


CI/CD Artifacts Download (for Firefox- and Chrome-Dev only)

Here you can download the packed files for the Firefox- and Chrome-Dev:


If you want to test whether ClearURLs works correctly on your system, you can go to this test page: https://test.clearurls.xyz/


If you have any suggestions or complaints, please create an issue.

Note: If you have any suggestions or complaints regarding the rules, please create an issue in this repo or email us rules.support (at) clearurls.xyz (this mail will automatically create a new issue in this repo).

Translate ClearURLs

You want to help translating ClearURLs into many languages? – Nice

You can choose between two options to contribute. You can create a merge request, or you can use the POEditor to translate ClearURLs.

Hint: The description field in the translation files are only an information for what the translation is used. It is not necessary to translate the description field; in the most cases it is empty.

Merge request

If you want to create a merge request, you must open the path _locales/en/messages.json in the ClearURLs repo and translate the english terms into terms of your language. Once you have translated all the terms, you make a pull request of your translation. Please push your translation into the folder _locales/{language code}/messages.json.


Projects that use parts of ClearURLs

  • Uroute used ClearURLs to filter/clean URL before launching browser
  • Scrub used ClearURLs to filter/clean URLs as cog for the Red Discord bot
  • Unalix a simple Python module that removes tracking fields from URLs and unshort shortened URLs
  • Unalix-nim a simple Nim library that removes tracking fields from URLs and unshort shortened URLs

Recommended by...


Reasoning for needed permissions you can find under this discussion.


We use some third-party scripts in our add-on. The authors and licenses are listed below.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

FabHK(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Is there something similar for Safari (on macOS/iOS)?

rexf(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Not the same (mac app vs browser extension). I released a mac app to clean clipboard links https://apps.apple.com/us/app/id1528299767

With Apple's Universal Clipboard, you can clean links copied on your iPhone

scottmcleod(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Thanks for screwing over marketers for no reason.

sodality2(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The reason is avoiding tracking, whether you agree with it or not, though.

neop1x(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It's not just privacy! When I want to share an article with someone, I don't want the link to have 1000 characters with urlencoded arguments! On mobile I often do it manually and it's very annoying!

zymhan(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If you think user privacy is 'no reason', this thinking is exactly the problem with the online advertising.

Privacy is a right. Ad-tracking is not.

DangerousPie(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This is a neat extension but I think we should acknowledge that stripping parameters like these from affiliate links is going to cause major problems for websites that are financed through affiliate revenue, even if they are open and honest about it.

lenwood(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Your point is valid. Any business model that is dependent on collecting visitor data is flawed and its appropriate for these companies to either change or wither. I hear the concern, but IMO the need for privacy is greater.

codingdave(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I would love to see an 'educational' mode on this - rather than just removing the tracking elements, put some info on-screen that shows what was removed and why, so people can use this as a tool to learn more about what types of tracking exist online and how common it is. Hopefully that would lead to a more knowledgeable end user community online and we can have more nuanced discussions in the future about where tracking is benign, and where it is not.

ycombinete(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I agree. I uninstalled this add-on precisely because I couldn't quite figure out what it was doing or where it was doing it. Unlike an add blocker there's very little tangible difference when it's on or off

uo21tp5hoyg(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Not exactly what you requested but there's the ability to log all requests that are processed: if you click the extension icon and then under 'Configs' enable logging, then at the bottom of the ui there's a button for checking the logs. This will show you the before and after processing urls, the rules that were triggered, and when.

pellias(10000) 6 days ago [-]

They really need to allow whitelist, i uninstalled because some sites cannot function with it and there is no way to whitelist.

NeckBeardPrince(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Same, we have a hosted Gitlab instance and with it installed I can't even switch branches in the UI.

amelius(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Does GDPR allow these kind of 'cookies'?

ok123456(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Tracking URLs like this started becoming more and more common after the GDPR because they don't fit their definition of a cookie.

ShaneXie(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I think one thing need to be clarified is Tracking Link !== Affiliatized Link. If the extension get rid of all the affiliate info in the link, it can destroy the income of the youtubers who put affiliate links in their content.

Khalos(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It looks like the add-on has an option to 'Allow referral marketing' which is off by default. If you install this add-on and feel like enabling this, it looks like you can.

That said, it still results in some level of tracking and given the add-on's purpose, having to opt in to affiliate links seems like the right choice.

asdff(10000) 5 days ago [-]

There is an 'allow referral marketing' toggle in the settings that I assumes keeps these sorts of links in play.

jordoh(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It should be noted that this extension strips ETag headers from all responses by default, which can break sites in surprising ways. As a developer of a web application that relies on ETag headers for vital functionality, I see not-infrequent support inquiries from ClearURLs users who don't understand the technical ramifications of this feature - nor do they understand why so many of the websites they use are so broken.

Khalos(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Have you considered using something other than ETag for your use case? It seems like ETag been compromised by trackers, and unfortunately this is why we can't have nice things.

sdevonoes(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I like it, but I'm afraid companies would just change the way it is currently done: from query parameters to encoded urls. Example:





Now the tracking parameters are all encoded in the last segment of the url. The backend just has to decode it accordingly and it will have both the item id and the bag of tracking parameters.

contravariant(10000) 5 days ago [-]

That and in cases where they link to third parties they now apparently use such a tracking link but with the orignal URL as name.

So something would look like:


but would link to


anticristi(10000) 6 days ago [-]

While I greatly value my privacy to the point where I donate to noyb.eu, removing utm campaign tags feels too much. Those do not commonly contain private information. I believe that marketers should feel free to use those to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns, instead of relying on more privacy-intrusive and opaque methods (e.g. cookies, fingerprinting, IP address collecting, etc.).

maple3142(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I usually removes those parameters manually when I want to share the url to my friends, so it is quite useful for me.

selfhoster11(10000) 6 days ago [-]

UTM tags are unsightly. I always strip everything but the core part of a URL before sharing.

reaperducer(10000) 5 days ago [-]

A utm tag isn't the only way to measure the effectiveness of marketing. It's just the laziest way.

And once the adtech companies notice that every tag except utm is being stripped, you can bet that utms will start being stuffed with tracking.

theshrike79(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The issue is this:




Both take you to the same page.

URLs, especially when clicked from ads tend to have a HUGE amount of extra crap that's in no way needed for any kind of functionality.

matheusmoreira(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> I believe that marketers should feel free to use those to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns

I don't. I believe marketers should have exactly zero ways to measure the effectiveness of their mind hacking efforts. Any data they try and collect should have negative value by virtue of being completely randomized by the browser.

Actually I believe marketers shouldn't even exist. Nothing they say is trustworthy by virtue of conflict of interest. The internet would be much better off without these constant attempts to subvert it for their purposes.

axiosgunnar(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I agree, and I wonder if over the long term, an economy where no tracking is possible might not perform as well as an economy that tracks everything, for knowledge means better resource allocation.

(and then the tracking economy, let's say China for example, will just steamroll our economies. This is what I'm worried about, in a vacuum a slower developing but ad/tracking-free society would be preferable of course.)

Of course I despise all ads as much as the next hacker here on HN, I just wonder sometimes if they're a necessary evil.

So in the end I'm inclined to agree with your nuanced „some general statistical gathering is OK, just no fingerprinting etc".

bottled_poe(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Nah, the industry started a war on consumers. That's what they are getting.

rplnt(10000) 6 days ago [-]

That's not the only issue. The ids are then fed back into the facebook.

Facebook can use it to link contacts together. I get a share link, it gives it an ID, I send it to someone, they open it and now they have linked my account with their account. Same works if I click on a page and get the ID, share just that page, and someone clicks it (and there's some fb element on the page).

Now if several users a day share a link here on HN, facebook will know about us as belonging to a certain group.

cyborgx7(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Every time any kind of measure to improve people's browsing experience is posted here someone comes along and explains how this one is too much. But they are always wrong. There is no 'going too far' in optimizing the browser for the people who are using it.

DangerousPie(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't mind people stripping these tags manually for link sharing, but stripping them across the board would be a major issue for website that finance themselves through affiliate links. Suddenly your referrals are no longer tracked and your main source of revenue dies up.

throwaway81523(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I always remove them. They're like referer headers. Where the visitor came from is just like any other info that might be useful to the site operator, but is really not any of their business unless the visitor voluntarily discloses it.

gdsdfe(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's sad that nowadays we need at least a dozen of add-ons just to have a decent browsing experience on the web

slver(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Tracking data in URLs doesn't make your browsing experience less decent.

luke2m(10000) 6 days ago [-]

We need something like this in email and chat clients for those who always copy and paste their entire url bar.

hollander(10000) 6 days ago [-]

You can rightclick a link in your email, copy it, then paste it in the browser bar, remove the unwanted stuff. A lot of work, especially if you need to do this many times a day.

marban(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Related, if you're looking to clean urls on the backend, here's my current pattern used on https://upstract.com and some other news aggregators I've built:

startswith: 'utm_', 'ga_', 'hmb_', 'ic_', 'fb_', 'pd_rd', 'ref_', 'share_', 'client_', 'service_'

or has: '$/[email protected]', '.tsrc', 'ICID', '_xtd', '[email protected]', '_hsenc', '_openstat', 'ab', 'action_object_map', 'action_ref_map', 'action_type_map', 'amp', 'arc404', 'affil', 'affiliate', 'app_id', 'awc', 'bfsplash', 'bftwuk', 'campaign', 'camp', 'cip', 'cmp', 'CMP', 'cmpid', 'curator', '[email protected]', 'efg', '[email protected]', 'fbclid', 'fbplay', '[email protected]', 'feedName', 'feedType', '[email protected]', 'forYou', 'fsrc', 'ftcamp', 'ga_campaign', 'ga_content', 'ga_medium', 'ga_place', 'ga_source', 'ga_term', 'gi', '[email protected]', 'gs_l', '[email protected]', 'igshid', 'instanceId', 'instanceid', '[email protected]', 'maca', 'mbid', 'mkt_tok', 'mod', 'ncid', 'ocid', 'offer', 'origin', 'partner','[email protected]', 'print', 'printable', '[email protected]', '[email protected]', 'rebelltitem', 'ref', 'referer', 'referrer', 'rss', 'ru', '[email protected]', 'scrolla', '[email protected]', 'sh', 'share', '[email protected]', 'source', '[email protected]', 'sref', 'srnd', 'supported_service_name', 'tag', 'taid', 'time_continue', 'tsrc', 'twsrc', 'twcamp', 'twclid', 'tweetembed', 'twterm', 'twgr', 'utm', '[email protected]', 'via', 'xid', 'yclid', 'yptr'

Edit: Will turn this into a Gist at some point.

pushcx(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Thanks for sharing this. We filter some of these from submissions to Lobsters (https://github.com/lobsters/lobsters/blob/f25fc62d7603c1bf70...) and I'd be glad to expand it.

In your second list, are those the names of query params? I'm puzzled by the inclusion of @ in many of them, maybe you're saying that '_encoding' is a tracking param on any amazon domain, 'sk' is a tracking param on bing.com? What does the $ in the first entry indicate?

vmateixeira(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Thanks for sharing

werds(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't see the point in blocking utm_ query string variables? they don't give up any personal information about you, they just help inform the landing site about which channels of marketing are working more effectively than others. This isn't about personal data, removing the UTM codes isnt helping anybody, it just means that the sites don't know where best to spend their money on marketing and ultimately results in seeing more ads in more irrelevant contexts in the future.

zibzab(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Doesn't ublock provide something similar?

If this one is better, any chance supporting it in ublock?

ronjouch(10000) 6 days ago [-]

See sibling comment from gorhill.

greggturkington(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Don't remove them, stuff them with dummy values. It's way more fun, Chrome extension incoming

yabones(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Yes! I would love some casual data poisoning to ruin some data analysts week.

ChrisGranger(10000) 6 days ago [-]

AdGuard https://adguard.com/ and uBlock Origin https://github.com/gorhill/uBlock have URL parameter removal functionality as well.

smnscu(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Thanks to your comment and the sibling, I found this https://old.reddit.com/r/uBlockOrigin/comments/bif6wp/can_ub...

AndrewDucker(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I can't find this in uBlock Origin. Can you point me at it?

schwinn140(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I'm not in the affiliate landscape but this kind of thing could have detrimental impact on publishers driving traffic to various commerce sites. If you're a person that makes an occasion purchase through publishers (small or larger)to support their content, this will immediately kill their earnings.

Publishers are desperate to monetize their audience anyway possible. Affiliate revenue always seemed to be lesser of evils, IMO, in comparison to programmatic/display. After all, the user intentionally is making a purchase vs. having their data sold out from under them with zero knowledge.

Here's to hoping that I'm misunderstanding how inclusive this will be to stripping parameters.

mdavis6890(10000) 5 days ago [-]

What would be nice is if I can pay the content creator a small sum to consume the content. I would pay. Nobody monetizes in this obvious way though.

ronjouch(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'd love if Firefox's built-in Tracking Protection did without an addon the job ClearURLs does, so two months ago I created

Bug 1697982: 'Firefox Tracking Protection should protect against URL/queryparam-based tracking (like ClearURLs/NeatURL addons do)' , https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1697982

Please vote for the bug if you'd like it too.

Also, I see a few interesting comments in this HN thread; this evening when the dust settles, I'll aggregate & bring them to the bug for consideration if/when fixing this bug is considered.

guilhas(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Firefox should worry about implementing standards as fast as possible and improve the browser speed

And Stop trying to 're-implement' features for which there are already user extensions way more capable

VortexDream(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I think the problem with this is that ClearURLs can break legitimate uses for URL params. I need to disable it when I do things like online payment. That's not intuitive for users and means an integrated solution needs to take laypersons into account who wouldn't know how to solve the problem (or even what the actual problem is). Is that realistically solvable?

daveoc64(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I am not a fan of making such functionality part of the browser.

I use the HTTPS only mode in Firefox - it breaks some sites, and telling Firefox to disable the mode for a specific site doesn't always work.

I feel like a plugin (HTTPS Everywhere) can deal with this a lot better than something that's integrated and reduced to a single checkbox in the settings.

wackget(10000) 5 days ago [-]

You should also suggest they remove their own garbage redirect tracking from the Firefox Addons site.

Any URLs in the addon description section are all tracked/redirected via `https://outgoing.prod.mozaws.net`

nagarjun(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Instead of it being a default feature, I wonder if this makes more sense as a default in Incognito/Private browsing mode?

eythian(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't really know how I feel about having the browser mess with URLs without the user engaging it deliberately. It feels to me something that should perhaps be approached with caution. On the other hand, it does make sense. It's a tricky one.

surround(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Mozilla themselves is guilty of link tracking. Any external link on addons.mozilla.org looks like this:

JimDabell(10000) 6 days ago [-]

There's lots of rules and patterns in this implementation, but it's worth bearing in mind that you can normally get a clean URL by looking at the <link rel=canonical> element.

Sites put this in because they want search engines to index a single clean URL rather than many tracking URLs, so it's pretty reliable.

account42(10000) 6 days ago [-]

That works if you want to get a clean URL to share with others. But if instead you have gotten a link then not using built-in patters means you would first need to retrieve the site with the tracking parameters to get to the canonical URL.

karlicoss(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I have an idea for a project (I call it 'cannon' for now)[0] which would 'canonicalize' URLs and extract semantic information from it, ideally just by looking at the URL, without doing any extra requests. For example, a tweet URL usually encodes the tweet author and tweet ID; and by extracting such entities one could determine 'relations' between URLs. I'm using a simple prototype in Promnesia [1], a browser extension aiming to make the web browsing history more useful and aid knowledge management.

This effort is really ought to be shared, it's potentially a lot of manual work, and could benefit many projects. ClearURLs seems like one of the most promising existing projects doing similar stuff; have been meaning to approach the devs, feels like it's something we could cooperate on. Although ClearURL has a somewhat narrower scope, but still I feel like there is a potential to share.

[0] https://beepb00p.xyz/exobrain/projects/cannon.html

[1] https://github.com/karlicoss/promnesia#readme

ForHackernews(10000) 6 days ago [-]

How would this be possible? Different sites have different ideas of what counts as a 'canonical' URL: example.com/page1 vs example.org?page=2

StavrosK(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This is a nit, but why 'cannon' and not 'canon'? Presumably it's not firing projectiles at things.

slver(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This is one of those things that either few use and it works, or if many start using it, the tracking will just get obfuscated.

I already see many sites use something like ?arg={BASE64 STRING OF ALL THE THINGS} and no automatic tool can decypher that as it's a custom list of bytes.

moehm(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Removing utm_ parameters will probably always work, because they are standardized and shared between different applications (like the website and Google Analytics). If you try to obfuscate them your analytics software can't read them as well.

But yeah, home grown analytics can't be reliable circumvented.

akie(10000) 6 days ago [-]


> no automatic tool can decypher that


asymmetric(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Note that this addon requires the 'Access your data for all websites' permission[0], which means:

> The extension can read the content of any web page you visit as well as data you enter into those web pages, such as usernames and passwords.

I'm sure the devs are super trustworthy, but there have been cases of legitimate extensions falling in the wrong hands, and this, coupled with automatic extension updates, could be a big security hole in your setup.

[0]: https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/permission-request-mess...

PS: Ironically, the link above has utm elements.

drexlspivey(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Why is this permission needed? Aren't browser permissions granular enough to only give it access to the url?

jacobajit(10000) 6 days ago [-]

A particularly bad instance of link tracking I've found is in TikTok's link sharing feature.

If you share a link from the TikTok app, it gives you a vm.tiktok.com/[xyz] link to send/post elsewhere. It gives you no indication that this isn't a generic link to the post, nor does it give you an option to expose the generic link to the post.

Instead, when you share that link and someone clicks on it and does not have the app, it opens with a header saying '[First Last] is on TikTok.' On the other hand, once you do click on that link (if and only if you don't have the app installed), you get redirected to the static link to the video and finally obtain it.

This is an anti-pattern that enables further tracking and potentially unknowingly exposes user data when links are shared publicly. And there's no indication to the user that this is happening, since the link is structured as if it does not contain any tracking. Ie a tool like this wouldn't be able to 'strip out' the tracking since it isn't tacked on in any way, but embedded as the generated link itself.

space_fountain(10000) 5 days ago [-]

A fun/weird result of this that the interface in the link is in the language of whoever generated the link not your browser's language

fossuser(10000) 6 days ago [-]

That's pretty bad. I think TikTok's risks are higher than people think. It's better to avoid it.


Any company running out of mainland China is going to have serious privacy problems due to CCP influence and their need to comply with both local laws and the government's interest in influencing public sentiment.

3np(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Discord does something very similar

imiric(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Stack Overflow does something similar, and adds a user tracking ID to any shared link, though apparently it's possible to remove it without breaking the link[1].

I only noticed when I received a badge for how many times it was clicked, and even though it's not nefarious I'd still prefer it to be opt-in rather than done by default.

[1]: https://meta.stackoverflow.com/q/277769

vagrantJin(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This is needlessly alarmist.

A short video platform can hardly be expected to be a paragon of security and privacy. It has no utility whatsoever. I don't see where the concern comes from. A video of someone drinking coffee does not particularly invoke a point of concern.

What may be the real concern is China and the fact that the app is tied to it. Thats more race/geo-politics/war-mongering issue than a privacy concern.

1vuio0pswjnm7(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Assuming any certificate pinning can be defeated, it is easy to manipulate URLs with a loopback-bound forward proxy. Would be great if someone provided example of one of these TikTok URLs so we could investigate.

milofeynman(10000) 5 days ago [-]

When twitter's snowflake was lengthened recently I was worried they might be doing this too. I'm afraid of the big ones moving to this. Spotify, instagram, twitter, etc

jtbayly(10000) 6 days ago [-]

But this can be solved, too, can't it? It's effectively a Bitly link. Just need to auto-expand to the final destination, right?

Breza(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

VRBO is another egregious example. My friend asked what I thought about a house she was thinking of renting for a trip. VRBO wouldn't let me view the link on my phone unless I downloaded their app. I had her copy and paste the house's description which I then Googled to get to the right listing.

userbinator(10000) 6 days ago [-]

With websites, at least you can just copy the URL from the address bar and clean it. Of course, people are being slowly dumbed down by browser's (mostly Chrome, but Firefox seems to follow its stupid trends not long afterwards) attempts at removing or hiding the URL, which is no surprise when you realise that herding the userbase to use dedicated 'share' buttons (complete with tracking) is one of the reasons they're doing that.

joshstrange(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Yes, I regularly warn people on Reddit that their full name is being leaked in the TikTok link they shared. I have an iOS shortcut that expands the URL and chops off the gross tracking stuff so I can share links in private/public without exposing my TikTok 'name' (I don't link any accounts and my name is made up).

ignoramous(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Another way to browse one-off sites one visits is to through a mirror like https://archive.is/ (I exclusively use mirrors to view posts on content aggregators like Medium, Substack, Buzzfeed, Blogspot, Wordpress; annoying News websites that download a gazillion files; and file-hosting websies like imgur).

A caveat: When you submit a request to archive a url, archive.is sends the client-ip (X-Forwarded-For) to the destination server.

runxel(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Little bit OT, but I always wondered what archive.is does better than archive.org....

edtechdev(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Does anyone know of something like this that works on mobile? Couldn't find a Firefox mobile add-on that does this.

edtechdev(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Doing some more digging, apparently AdGuard just created a URL tracking filter a couple of weeks ago that we should be able to enable in either the AdGuard or Ublock Origin (or perhaps other ad-blocking) Firefox mobile addons eventually: https://adguard.com/en/blog/adguard-url-tracking-filter.html

Or you can manually add the filter now. After installing the Ublock Origin addon in firefox mobile, I clicked on the 3 dots -> Addons -> Ublock Origin -> Open the dashboard -> Filter lists -> Import... and pasted this URL (from the top of the above link): https://raw.githubusercontent.com/AdguardTeam/FiltersRegistr...

I tested by sharing a URL with UTM and other parameters, and it did strip them.

acdha(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Here's an iOS service:


In addition to cleaning trackers it tries to convert AMP and Apple News links to the real pages.

cies(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This add-on together with Firefox, Bitwarden, uBlock Origin, HTTPS everywhere and EFF's Privacy Badger I us to improve my privacy online. Once a blue moon (few times per year) I have to switch them off to get a site to work.

Besides that I only have the Tree Style Tab add-on installed, which is much recommended.

hollander(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If a site doesn't work, open the link in a private tab. Usually that works, unless you have all these addons working in private mode as well of course. But I only use them in normal mode.

StavrosK(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I used to use Privacy Badger as well, but they've recently removed the learning feature (because it could be used to track you, IIRC), so it became similar to uBlock Origin, to the point where it feels redundant to run both.

kristofferR(10000) 6 days ago [-]

LocalCDN and Universal Bypass are two other privacy extensions you should add.

medstrom(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Those addons are very basic, just what I'd have done in 2010 --- before Snowden!

Since you have Firefox, you could sync with a community-developed user.js like Arkenfox (previously GHacks) [1], which seems to go much farther and still not break much! At least the settings privacy.resistFingerprinting and privacy.firstparty.isolate looked indispensable as soon as I learned what they do.

And without FPI (first party isolation), not getting LocalCDN [2] (Decentraleyes successor) and Temporary Containers [3] seems like a gross oversight. They have a great discussion on add-ons at the Arkenfox wiki [4].

[1] https://github.com/arkenfox/user.js

[2] https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/localcdn-fork...

[3] https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/temporary-con...

[4] https://github.com/arkenfox/user.js/wiki/4.1-Extensions

Historical Discussions: HTML Tips (2020) (May 05, 2021: 684 points)

(684) HTML Tips (2020)

684 points 5 days ago by web_master in 10000th position

markodenic.com | Estimated reading time – 6 minutes | comments | anchor

In this article, I will share with you some very useful HTML tips. Enjoy! * Post will be updated regularly with new tips!

But first, what is HTML?

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is the standard markup language for documents designed to be displayed in a web browser. It can be assisted by technologies such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and scripting languages such as JavaScript.

Let's start!

All Comments: [-] | anchor

didymospl(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Is there any good 'linear'(with a clear learning path, e.g. course/book, as opposed to MDN) resource to learn modern HTML/CSS? Preferably not one starting at Hello World. The thing is I'm primarily a BE developer but I have to do some front-end tasks every now and then and I often catch myself reinventing the HTML5 wheel.

rchaud(10000) 5 days ago [-]

John Duckett's book 'HTML & CSS' is good. You can skip to the more advanced chapters if you don't want to start from zero.

As much as W3Schools is hated, I find their HTML/CSS/JS guides to be a lot simpler to understand than MDN: https://www.w3schools.com/html/default.asp

rayrag(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Not linear but I recommend: for HTML read chapter 3 & 4 of HTML spec - https://html.spec.whatwg.org/

For CSS I recommend Wes Bos tutorials about flexbox and grid - https://wesbos.com/courses and this blog: https://ishadeed.com/articles/

tiborsaas(10000) 5 days ago [-]

YouTube, NetNinja had great courses that are real easy to follow.

Also read MDN often.

lucb1e(10000) 5 days ago [-]

To build upon this question, more broadly: I'm also someone who's done quite a bit of HTML but it definitely isn't my day job. Finding good info is quite hard whenever I do want to make some site: most of the time I end up on reference pages but they don't give a good overview, whereas beginner's tutorials might have the piece of info I'm missing somewhere on the middle of part 7 (I don't have the patience for that). Searching for 'modern HTML mobile scaling for someone who's about 12 years out of date please' doesn't quite seem to do it.

Does anyone have a good way to approach this? Or for HTML in particular, is there some way to keep up with it (on a decade time scale, not this year's framework hype)?

tylerscott(10000) 5 days ago [-]

TIL about <meter> and wow is it interesting. Here is the spec: https://www.w3.org/TR/html52/sec-forms.html#the-meter-elemen...

I wonder what else in the HTML5 spec I've missed...

Thanks for sharing this!

runarberg(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The <meter> and <progress> are pretty amazing... I only wished they would settle on a standard way to style it. And if they would allow non-linear transformations (e.g. by putting cos and sin functions in the transformation matrix so it can appear like a speedometer) that would be golden.

mdenic(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Glad you enjoyed it.

iib(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I see that it is very similar to <progress>, and may be misused as a progress bar (which w3 actually even acknowledges and guides against). I wonder why one tag could not have sufficed.

Ayesh(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I wish the <progress> tag receuves some love, from both users and browsers.

I recently worked on a page (e.g https://php.watch/rfcs/fibers) that I didn't want to set inline CSS to set a dynamic width for an element. Helps me not use a strict CSP.

I kind of abused the progress element because it has customizable width. Elements that support a width attribute (object, iframe, image, etc) didn't fit that well. Progress elements are pretty nice, supported almost everywhere it mattered to my audience, and with some pseudo properties I never heard before, I could customize the colors and other properties as well.

runarberg(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I agree. A couple of years ago I answered an SO question about how to style a <meter> tag cross browser[1]. It is kind of ridiculous the amount of vendor prefix one must use to achieve this. At this point I would even just settle on a standard so that I could have autoprefixer do this for me.

Also both <progress> and <meter> would be an order of magnitute more usable if non-linear functions (such as sin(), cos(), pow(), exp(), etc.) were allowed as values in CSS transformation matrices so that I could use <meter> instead of <svg> when my designer wants the meter bar to look like a speedometer (which is a quite common, and a valid design choice).

1: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/8094835/how-to-style-htm...

theandrewbailey(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> 5. HTML Native Search

I've dynamically updated <datalist> on a site, only to find out that browsers will only show options that strictly begin with whatever you've typed into the <input>. When you want to do Google Search-esque suggestions, that's a problem. I don't know how to override that to force it to show all options.

jnellis(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Is that only an artifact of dynamically updating them? Firefox and chrome do as expected in the example; match any substring.

asddubs(10000) 5 days ago [-]

on firefox it finds all phrases containing the entered string

intergalplan(10000) 5 days ago [-]

There's so much stuff in HTML that's almost good enough to replace things we use Javascript for. We should also have had built-in pagination and sorting on tables, like, years ago, with some kind of (optional, if your data aren't all available on the initial page load) back-end spec for how the requests will be shaped and for delivering the data.

An awful lot of 'AJAX' Javascript use could just be frames and iframes, if they were somewhat better.

Form validation should be built-in (with optional light JS for defining non-built-in validators). The browser should supply a lot more input types, including some kind of payment integration. It's absurd those things have to be built over and over and delivered by the website.

I could go on. It's a damn shame.

livinginfear(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Awesome list! The '<ol> tip reminds me that I wish there was a better way to do nested list numbering of the kind you'd likely find in a table of contents, such as '1.1.2' and so on. As far as I'm aware there's no simple way to do this natively without using CSS or JS to change the list item prefix.

marcosdumay(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Hum... Are you referring to the numbers that appear when you nest lists? As in putting an ol inside an item of another ol?

tyingq(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Didn't know about <ol start='<number>'>

Now I can have proper zero indexed lists and annoy friends. Chrome even supports negative integers.

bigiain(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Sadly, it appears that the logical starting index compromise between the zero index and one index factions doesn't work.

<ol start='0.5'>

Is not supported...

wanda(10000) 5 days ago [-]

No mention of the <dialog> element [1] but that's probably because browser support isn't great—not implemented in Safari, experimental flag in Firefox.

The lazy-loading option for img elements is news to me, but I think I'd still prefer to use JavaScript for that task. Same probably goes for the dialog element actually now that I think about it.

Having a simple HTML5 option might seem cool, but I like to keep the actual logic in JavaScript and to use HTML just for page structure. Basically, I prefer to depend on HTML as little as possible for user interaction/behaviour.

  HTML: what an element *is*
  CSS:  how an element looks
  JS:   what an element *does*
There's always overlap and blurred lines but that's one of the joys [2] of developing for the web.

If you're using a framework like React you don't even care about the markup, it's all abstracted away -- but in that case, you care even less about neat little HTML5 additions, you've got components and they're woven into your event dispatch and state already.

[1]: https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/HTML/Element/di...

[2]: horrors

Zardoz84(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> No mention of the <dialog> element [1] but that's probably because browser support isn't great—not implemented in Safari, experimental flag in Firefox.

There is a polyfill that makes it works even on IE.

I embraced and use it on a product that it's remaking&modernizing all the frontend. Sadly, when I take the decision a few years ago, I thought that <dialog> would be supported for all browsers, but looks that adoption has been paralyzed.

thrwaeasddsaf(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Basically, I prefer to depend on HTML as little as possible for user interaction/behaviour.

I prefer to depend on the user agent for user interaction and behavior. Javascript and all its potential for tracking, malware, side channel exploits, etc. should be abolished from the safe web.

afavour(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I'd argue that image lazy loading isn't really a thing an image does, it's a browser optimisation for asset loading. The built in functionality ensures the image is loaded well before it appears on the screen.

Pabblo001(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Thanks! Nice blog btw.

mdenic(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Thanks! Glad you liked it.

weinzierl(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Very first tip:

'Performance tip. You can use the loading=lazy attribute to defer the loading of the image until the user scrolls to them.'

Can someone explain to me when this is useful?

As a content consumer I'm frequently annoyed, when I have to wait for images to load while scrolling.

As a content creator I understand the idea that I might potentially save the consumer some bandwidth, given they might - against all odds and for whatever reason - decide not to scroll down. Kidding aside I think that as a creator I should optimize for the readers that are thoroughly interested in my whole content and therefore I should preload and not lazy load.

Tomte(10000) 5 days ago [-]

When I read that tip I was thinking whether I should use it on https://www.2uo.de/russland-2013/

It's a longish travel report, lots of photos, interspersed with comments. I think it might be nice not to have all of them loaded in the beginning. Especially since random visitors probably won't read it till the end.

FriedrichN(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It's more about saving bandwidth on the server side, plus it allows for tracking without using JS.

martijn_himself(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This was my thought exactly. It's infuriating and unnecessary.

kilian(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> As a content consumer I'm frequently annoyed, when I have to wait for images to load while scrolling.

That's the experience most javascript solutions gave you. This browser native solution will load images _before_ they're visible in the viewport so you do not get the fading-in flashes you often see. Combine it with setting the width and height on an element and your page also won't shift around as you scroll.

This will actually optimize for the reader as it will improve the time it takes before they can interact with your page. I also think you'd be very disappointed if you see the percentages of people that end up scrolling on any given page.

TonyTrapp(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I've been using this in a script I wrote for myself which is basically a huge image gallery. This gallery may consist of thousands of images on a single page. When the browser always had to load all of those thumbnails, it consumed a lot of bandwidth and was very slow. In fact, the user experience was strictly worse because images are normally loaded in the order they appear on the website, so it took several seconds until the thumbnails at the end of the page were available. Now the browser just loads those thumbnails that I can see (or am about to see), and they are there pretty much instantly even if I scroll to the end of my gallery.

chrismorgan(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Some remarks, with some opinions, some caveats, and some extra info that I find interesting:

1. Lazy loading: generally speaking, just don't do this. It's much better than doing it in JavaScript (especially when combined with a blurry image until it loads, which I and many others find surprisingly disconcerting), but if you're not very close to the server (which very commonly means "if you're not in the USA") then it commonly just means that the images won't be loaded when you scroll to them. Also there's the whole load-the-page-then-go-offline problem, which I feel is more common than most realise. Instead, I say: if you care about the image, you very probably shouldn't use lazy loading on it; and if you don't care about it, hey, why not just remove it?

2. Telephone and SMS links: the unfortunate trouble with these is that you can't detect whether they'll work or not. If they don't work, they'll probably just mysteriously do nothing, and you can't reliably detect that, because your code may not be able to detect if it did do something. This is all just something to be aware of.

4. The <meter> element: see also the <progress> element. Two similar elements that differ in semantics as to which you should use.

6. Fieldset Element: a point in the demo that's not ideal is that the gap between the radio button and the label isn't clickable. One way of fixing most of this is to start the label immediately after the radio button, with the leading whitespace inside it rather than before it. But depending on user agent and content styles, even that may well be insufficient, leaving a tiny gap. In a situation like this, the ideal is to put the radio button inside its label, and make the label `display: block`, or something else that achieves this effect (if done carefully, you might even find `display: grid` suitable nowadays).

7. window.opener: it suggests including rel='noopener' or rel='noreferrer' in order to remove the opener; I think it's worth noting for explanation that noreferrer implies noopener (because you could access the referrer through the opener): https://html.spec.whatwg.org/multipage/links.html#link-type-....

10. The `spellcheck` attribute: this is actually a tristate attribute: it has states true, false, and default (which mostly means "inherit"). `spellcheck='true'` can be written more briefly as just `spellcheck` (which, in the HTML syntax, is equivalent to `spellcheck=''`). See https://html.spec.whatwg.org/multipage/interaction.html#attr... for more info.

12. HTML Accordion: I have just two general remarks on web design here. 1 If you're using something like this for FAQs, please strongly consider not using an accordion, but instead having a table of contents with links to each question, followed by the questions (as headings) and answers (as paragraphs); or if you're not willing to do that, please provide an "expand all" button through JavaScript. 2 On the web, accordions have historically regularly been implemented so that at most one item of any set will be open: that opening another closes any that was open. Please don't do this. It's a pain. I just want to read stuff, I don't want to have to interact further. (See also my "expand all" request in part one.)

14. `download` attribute: this can also take a value, which will be used as the filename. This is useful if you generate a file client-side as a data: URI. It's not so useful outside that, actually, as you're probably better to get the server to set the filename via the content-disposition header, or if you're generating a file client-side with a blob: URI, use File instead of Blob so that you can set the filename.

15. .webp: significantly overrated, in my opinion. It doesn't give anywhere near as big a boost in compression relative to properly-done JPEG as people think (like under 10% a lot of the time). Now AVIF, that's another matter.

16? Video thumbnail: an interesting thing that has just occurred to me on this is that the poster attribute doesn't let you provide multiple formats like <picture> does. Hmm, so you probably keep serving a JPEG here instead of WebP, AVIF or whatever else. Wonder if anything can ever be done about that. I can imagine them making poster='#foo' followed by <picture id='foo'> inside the <video> work. Eek, this similarity to svg:use made me realise that you can actually achieve this goal with SVG already: the code below ought to do it; ugh!

  poster='data:image/svg+xml,<svg ...><foreignObject ...><picture xmlns='http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml'>...</picture></foreignObject></svg>'

If you enjoyed this article, see also https://markodenic.com/css-tips/ from the same author on CSS tips, discussed here nine days ago at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26945263.

Jiocus(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> 15. .webp: significantly overrated, in my opinion. It doesn't give anywhere near as big a boost in compression relative to properly-done JPEG as people think (like under 10% a lot of the time). Now AVIF, that's another matter.

I was saying the same thing but then I realized something. The thing about webp isn't about how it compares to jpg[0]. Png on the other hand, with all those logos and some with transparency. Webp can replace these with only a fraction of png-size.

Anything photographic, where quality is priority and transparency isn't required I find jpg to be finer quality.

[0] Altough that's often the narrative.

slver(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Regarding lazy image loading, I'm not a fan of these wholesale opinions that don't consider how varied our needs are. I'm showing a gallery of photo thumbnails going back a decade.

I want to provide a smooth experience similar to how you'd watch your gallery on Android or iOS.

So this means no, I don't want to have the user click links with years and months on them, I want a single page.

But do I want to load literally THOUSANDS OF IMAGES at once? No.

I want to know where on the page I am, and load the visible images, and also few rows above the fold and few rows below the fold.

And I can do this with JS.

What's the lesson here? 'They won't be loaded when you scroll anyway'. They can be. 'HTML is much better than JavaScript' sometimes (often) it isn't. 'if you care about the image, you very probably shouldn't use lazy loading on it; and if you don't care about it, hey, why not just remove it?' Well, BS.

c22(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Lately I've been a fan of lazy preloading. First I just load the requested page and all resources on it. Then, if javascript is enabled, I start loading the rest of the site (or section of the site) into hidden dom elements, starting with the resources most likely to be requested next. Then the rest of the user's interactions on the site are near-instant and you can even bring the entire thing offline.

eyelidlessness(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> In a situation like this, the ideal is to put the radio button inside its label, and make the label `display: block`, or something else that achieves this effect (if done carefully, you might even find `display: grid` suitable nowadays).

This is actually not great for accessibility. It may be okay for some screen readers if you also populate the for/id attributes, but even then you should test to be sure.

Edit to add:

> Video thumbnail: an interesting thing that has just occurred to me on this is that the poster attribute doesn't let you provide multiple formats like <picture> does. Hmm, so you probably keep serving a JPEG here instead of WebP, AVIF or whatever else. Wonder if anything can ever be done about that. I can imagine them making poster='#foo' followed by <picture id='foo'> inside the <video> work. Eek, this similarity to svg:use made me realise that you can actually achieve this goal with SVG already: the code below ought to do it; ugh!

My solution is to skip the poster attribute and use a picture with object-fit: cover.

zamadatix(10000) 5 days ago [-]

14. `download` attribute: this can also take a value, which will be used as the filename. This is useful if you generate a file client-side as a data: URI.

Now there is one I can't believe I missed.

gfiorav(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I actually used 5 (native search) for a fully static web (non spapp) that I helped build recently:


1_player(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Doesn't seem to always work for me on Edge: the spinner spins, sometimes I get the autocompletion window, others I don't, or I need to focus the input again for it to appear.

Which is consistent with the experience I had with the native search widget in this article. I guess nobody uses it, so it's full of bugs and UX issues.

AdmiralAsshat(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Does lazy loading at least carve out a placeholder spot for the image so that it doesn't throw off the layout? Because if not, please use something that does.

There's nothing more frustrating than when I'm trying to read through a page and my spot keeps getting pushed up and up because of dynamically loading elements.

jontro(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Currently loading='lazy' is not supported by safari https://caniuse.com/loading-lazy-attr

poniko(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Oh yes it does, you need to specify width and height for it to work properly.

dynm(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I believe that with current browsers the layout will change unless the width/height are specified in HTML.

That being said, lazy loading does at least some of the time work 'invisibly' with images getting loaded before they would become visible. It's up to the browser to decide how aggressive it wants to be about this.

austincheney(10000) 5 days ago [-]

If you know the size of the incoming image specify its dimensions with CSS.

tshaddox(10000) 5 days ago [-]

As other replies have mentioned, you need to set the width and height attributes on the img element. I believe that now works for responsive images in recent versions of popular browsers.

It used to not work for responsive images. We had to do tricks like pseudo elements with padding set to a percent value: https://css-tricks.com/preventing-content-reflow-from-lazy-l...

ilkka_es(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Wow, I had no clue that these existed, and I am a front-end developer!

tommek4077(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Not to go after you in particular. But this is somehow the state of the modern web.

Frontend devs not knowing HTML, but having complicated and over engineered build pipelines and continous integration for their JS cruft.

I wonder why sites don't load faster or render... ah right Javascript in the mega bytes.

mdenic(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Glad you enjoyed it.

lucb1e(10000) 5 days ago [-]

#1, images that load only when they scroll into view, bother the hell of out me. I doubt there's a website that enabled this where I haven't noticed the constant flashing of content as I scroll down. Looks rather glitchy and constantly distracting from the text you're reading.

Luckily not that many sites have it, but come to think of it, does anyone know of an add-on or something to disable the lazy attribute?

eyelidlessness(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Not saying you're wrong, or that it isn't annoying, but in my experience it's typically JS lazy loading solutions which cause this. Native HTML lazy loading, again in my own experience, is generally aggressive enough that I rarely if ever scroll to where an image would be in view before it loads.

zamadatix(10000) 5 days ago [-]

In Firefox you can set 'dom.image-lazy-loading.enabled' to false in about:config.

In Chromium based browsers set 'Enable lazy image loading' to disabled in about:config

In Safari it's still an experimental feature you have to enable manually.


Of course since Safari doesn't support it yet plenty of sites lazy load via classic JS style solutions and trying to fix those is like playing whack-a-mole.

yummybear(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I want a cachebust='yes' attribute that invalidates an image when it changes, yet never contacts the server when the image is unchanged.

abraae(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Why not just give it a new url?

sandreas(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Well, I would prefer an attribute, that is already there for some elements (like css or js files):

This would kill two birds with one stone: If it changes in HTML, this means:

- Please bust cache

- Refetch and ensure, that the fetched file is securely valid

And it could be optional for every fetchable resource (img, video, css, js, etc.)

intergalplan(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Huh? That's what HEAD requests and correct HTTP headers are for, surely?

chias(10000) 5 days ago [-]

What I have done to accomplish this in the past is some filename shenaniganry with the file's last-modified timestamp:

    <img src='/path/to/file.[last modified timestamp].png'>
PHP code for this kind of thing might look like this:

    function auto_version($urlpath) {
        // get a filesystem path
        $fspath = $_SERVER['DOCUMENT_ROOT'] . $urlpath;
        // if file doesn't exist, don't mess with the url
        if (!file_exists($fspath)) {
            return $urlpath;
        // insert last modified timestamp
        $mtime = filemtime($fspath);
        return preg_replace('{\\.([^./]+)$}', '.$mtime.\$1', $urlpath);
Then in .htaccess or equivalent to strip the timestamp back off before serving the file:

    RewriteRule ^(.*)\.[\d]{10}\.(css|js|png)$ $1.$2 [L] 
Whenever the file is updated you automatically start serving a new link which points to the same file, and otherwise you can rely on the browser caching. You don't need to mess around with ?params, which also helps semantically because those incorrectly suggest that the resource is dynamic.
chrismorgan(10000) 5 days ago [-]

A common technique here is to use the query string to control this, with something like ?t=‹timestamp› or ?v=‹version› or ?‹hash of file contents›. Then the server can include proper cache-control headers to say "this is immutable, never going to change, don't bother asking me if it's changed".

A cachebust='yes' attribute wouldn't be useful in practice because the server would either be serving it to everyone, effectively disabling caching (and which would be better done by actually disabling caching with the cache-control header), or need to decide who to serve the attribute to, in which case there are better solutions. In short, cache busting only works if you have some sort of cache key, which is what the query string technique is all about doing.

jkaptur(10000) 5 days ago [-]

How would the browser know if the image changed?

Historical Discussions: Hatetris – Tetris which always gives you the worst piece (May 06, 2021: 669 points)
Hatetris (March 29, 2021: 4 points)
HATETRIS (June 03, 2017: 1 points)

(669) Hatetris – Tetris which always gives you the worst piece

669 points 5 days ago by rishabhd in 10000th position

qntm.org | Estimated reading time – 7 minutes | comments | anchor

Play Hate Tetris.

This is bad Tetris. It's hateful Tetris. It's Tetris according to the evil AI from 'I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream'.

I have to be honest, this is not an entirely original idea. However, RRRR's implementation of the concept of a game of Tetris which always gives you the worst possible pieces leaves much to be desired:

  • the keyboard interface frequently doesn't work
  • the conditions for failure are ambiguous and inconsistent
  • the playing field is only 8 blocks wide as compared to the standard 10
  • the AI is either overly generous, or stupid, and frequently does NOT provide you with the worst possible piece

(UPDATE: there is also Bastet, which can be played online here, but is also far too forgiving.)

HATETRIS was an experiment to rectify those flaws. Also, every coder has to build Tetris at least once in their life. In addition, I also have a passionate hatred of JavaScript, but I felt that that hatred was borne out of ignorance, so this was an attempt to reconnect with that most derided and crippled of languages. The latter failed, but there you go.

Some things you'll spot:

  • Yes, the game is written entirely in JavaScript. You can find the source code here on GitHub. Very few real games are amenable to this, but Tetris, being played on a very wide grid, is one of them. If you want to save the game locally you'll find a few things that are easy to tweak, including the dimensions of the playing field and the height of the bar.

    You can also put custom pieces in the list at the top, including pieces of more or fewer than 4 'bits' (components). Note that at the moment these pieces are sorted so that the least convenient ones are at the top. All things being equal, with no other major differences between possibilities, the AI will give you an S.

  • No, there is no gravity: on the one hand I simply never got around to implementing it and on the other hand I honestly think that gravity is the least of your problems with this particular Tetris clone.

  • The method by which the AI selects the worst possible piece is extremely simple to describe (test all possible locations of all possible pieces, see which of the pieces' best-case scenarios is the worst, then spawn that worst piece), but quite time-consuming to execute, so please forgive me if your browser chugs a little after locking each piece. If you can figure out a way to accelerate the algorithm without diminishing its hate-filled efficiency, do let me know. The algorithm for 'weighing' possibilities is to simply maximise the highest point of the 'tower' after the piece is landed.

    More complex algorithms could be possible, but aren't strictly necessary. Also, now that replays have been added, I can't change the algorithm without screwing up or invalidating all the replays.

  • Yes, you will get a lot of S pieces. But it doesn't give you solely S pieces - if that were the case, then it would be possible to make lines forever, which is much too easy.

    If you can't figure out how to turn a constant stream of S pieces to your advantage, that's your problem. Rest assured that once you do, other pieces will appear. If you get creative, it is possible to force all 7 different pieces to appear, including even those incredibly useful T pieces.

There is no randomness in the process - the AI is deterministic, so you are all playing the same game. It may be possible to create a strategy to get into a loop and continuously outplay the AI. If so, let me know. If not, my top score is 5 lines.

Update 2010-04-04

I've added some replay functionality. This will allow you to share particularly high-scoring games with other people just by passing a simple string of hexadecimal around, instead of having to laboriously capture video!


A small update regarding the possibility of HATETRIS II (i.e. the one where the algorithm looks more than 1 piece into the future). I successfully implemented this recursive search, which can theoretically look to unlimited depth. I also added a huge number of optimisations - such as treating the well as a list of binary numbers rather than an array - in order to make it so that new pieces were generated in 0.5 seconds under these conditions, rather than closer to 30 seconds without those optimisations. I also added functionality to add more variety to the pieces.

Unfortunately, this version of the game is still far too easy. I can routinely get 3 lines or more in this mode, without any real planning. It is frighteningly straightforward to devise a situation where even looking two moves ahead there is no way for the AI to prevent you from getting at least one line. Forcing more variety in the pieces, even if the piece chosen is always one of the 'equal worst', makes the game a lot easier. And finally, looking three moves ahead is computationally impractical to achieve (in client-side JavaScript, at any rate). I think it should be possible to build a game which permits no lines whatsoever, and I hope to create this, and I'm not intending to release any kind of intermediate solution. More as it happens.


Contrary to what is stated here, HATETRIS is not related to Hatris.


Replays are now presented in Base65536, making them just about small enough to be shared via Twitter. Old replays will still work, of course.


Replays are now presented in Base2048. Thanks to a combination of this and the new increased character limit on Twitter, even the latest high score replay of 31 lines will now fit in a Tweet, which it previously did not. Old hex and Base65536 replays will continue to work.

High scores

Update 2010-04-04

Atypical's 11-point run is 'ϥقໂɝƐඖДݹஶʈງƷ௨ೲໃܤѢقҾחࢲටฅڗ௨ΡІݪ௨ళȣݹࢴටງ໒௨ஶໃܥ௨റІݮ௨ఴІݥذඡଈݹƍق๓অஒॴแђञඖЅи௨sǶɔۑడПݷޠقԩݹࠉൿຟɓతණງஈশ੬෪অࠑථධٽଫ൝ଆࡨশ૫СܭߜయլݚɶऋഭܭرɤธӃస൯'.


An anonymous guest at the Speed Demos Archive achieved 17 points with this run: 'ۑටժݹਐටดݹமsරݪƐජଈݲ௨ණໃφذගדݶಒටܨݹসටѧݹ൭ඤדݜ௧ซະਨதԀໃڻಜʈະसѻගІѠ௧ซະऄமϺเݹߤඨVܭѻඳІʅઅගتףயҔзݢऊටȝधѻೲܨݷಗචЄࡨଫඝܘɚமʈฅ๐ષ෦ฅ൩Ԥ๗ཚޡதԻѣݪॳ౾ແߢࡃశ༩ܣறඤÐњ௬ගƫঋ୦ԟȠॾಭ'.


Same person got 20 lines later in the thread: 'ۑටलݹञටฅཧஶʈໃŦ௨ਮܘݶذಗไӔƐකІݶಒටࡍݹصටलݲ௭ඈຯঅஶʈໃഡ௨ੲժݢ௨ཙງ൫ৎටफಏ௧Δαཧऊටฦџ௨ೱܘקஶΟໄ๐ஒقฐݹࢲقܨݹऍ੬ဒھۑశະकஶइഥಏதԻѣݸಣҔଜݸ౻ණໄঅࠁඡܘѣஶsࡎח৭ؾ૭ঔதඞ୩ڽഡలѣݢষܯ໐џஹڏ૭חɢචÐלமΟիॾ౯مຯםமȺЉރ௮ൿങھࠐ7'.


Things Of Interest reader Ivenris is reporting 22: 'ಳටܤݹஜƣແࡑ௨ఽໃݚޛඡܦݹরට๐ݹஜуເঅ௧ڈໃݹ௩Οເɕ௧ڠແऔ௨૮Іܢ௨කܘݓ௨౾Іݠ௨කƔݹகقฆݹϢඈՀݹభඨÐݚѻඍɑݚѻಬໃࡠɷళɑݢ௨ڈໃݷ౫ඡІމமҔธࡨஐට൧ۏଛقԟݱ௨മฆݠ௧ΑషݚɷٴฅՉதฃฅݶذڌฅٽࠑ൝ܘނஐؾʑɥࢶلܪݣ௫سଅݸԫצถܤஓඥ۵ݝ'.


The same anonymous guest at the Speed Demos Archive is now claiming an astounding 28: 'ۑටݕݹযටະࠇ௧෪ໃܭИටܨݹસට๐ݹஜуໃݶԥڈໃݹ௩Οແऔ௧ฃໂɕ௧ڠແऄ௨ඥܘށ௨ౘЈཧதقഫݪޛೲໄ൫੫ගƬݶԊಋໃݒষܯໃץౚටࢩݹɷගVݪѻචȣݻޛඳଈף௧ڴໃݼѻദݏಏ௩Թໃڽௐقଭނ௩Ϻ༩ݶಈඝଈڍஶs༡ݸ൘Οະऔৡක૭ɒഩಬѣݲষܯະसѻಋଈजƐఽ໐ݪɷٴฅݸౚಀຯஇసضɱŦષට༣ܡஶضʑɠଢമ໘ܣறඡଢڝहథ༣ބஜҕऐ'.


Slashdot.jp user Deasuke has reached 30: 'ౚටลݹமȺІݿ௨ගÐݸಳටɱݹশට๐ݹஜуເঅ௧ڈໃݹ௩Οເஜ௨ಗໃܭ௨൝ܘܭۑටຜݹౚඦͲஉݣටմݹԥ൝ໃѢ௨ɊІܥࡂܯໃρಛԀໃݪরටเݹਫටঋݹछقฐݹहටܨݹసقܨݺɷඩܘѧ௦قෆऄதටฅ൫ࠑඨɑݹமΟลຍஐق༱ݚذงໃͷશජХࢭಎටȻݢமҔСݐෂඞවౘஓӺХಏமԗVݏआඖໃϠஐΟවݶѻ౾ແࡑࢲඤÐɥઅඪຯஇಈ౾ຣݪذඪϽऔƐڠÐלஜҕɐזѻڐ༥މభ೯۱ࠇࢳ൯'.


Twitter user @chromeyhex edges out the previous record with 31: '௨ഖƌݯߜࠏІWƑsໃa௨೯ܘݷಳජଈیԪؼʥݺԥඞܘݲࠐڄໂঅமةໃݹ௧ړІٽ௨൞ໃZ௨ಘІܥࠐΣІZߜටȜখذජНݹߛeʛݹߤปເѧ௩ԚໂՉࢸටuа௨સȣݷłقෆঅਏeܘԔצقషݸɢڠຜঀಧҸມѧஐට༪൩ԊಅഫܡथsถԡԦԚໃɥஸقࡈɕɠɈไݸצقషݰਵϺФঅஓػݐɓԞуຯɕझࡈ๐ݞझࢶІݞमปദஈƉؿଭݪஸҩЂ൸ԛمϦGƁҨVھԥචЅշࡂ෮लݷƘණ໘ࠅƘಧНקࢻҨฆӘದԋϝପࠑ੧ͳݲடփරݞਵΚϼɢԒԺٳѦԤࠌξGಘسਯܥஶҋϮτथlϼʔ'.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

mLuby(10000) 4 days ago [-]

IDK why the link is to the Github. Here's the [actual site](https://qntm.org/hatetris) and here's the [browser demo](https://qntm.org/files/hatetris/hatetris.html).

dang(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Changed from https://github.com/qntm/hatetris. Thanks!

WarOnPrivacy(10000) 4 days ago [-]

That something I wonder frequently when I find myself at Github.

Trufa(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I got it to 5, how far are you all getting?

zxexz(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I got to 4. How did you get to 5?

bennysomething(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Does anyone know if Gameboy Tetris had any code in it to attempt to give you bad pieces?

NauticalStu(10000) 4 days ago [-]

It doesn't, although its randomizer does favor some pieces over others:


polyamid23(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It literaly gives me the same piece everytime. Don't know if it is broken or this piece is concidered to be the worst...

xtracto(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Haha, it gives you an S (Z), except when you are about to fill up a line. (place SSSSS together, filling the bottom space). Then it gives you a I. At some point it gave me an L and a J. The darn thing is really mischievous!

Wowfunhappy(10000) 4 days ago [-]

If you think it's broken, then you should try to clear some lines, I dare you! >:D

teachingassist(10000) 4 days ago [-]

It will keep giving you that piece until you threaten to get a line using only that piece.

mitko(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Is there a minimal guaranteed optimal play for the game of tetris (not just hatetris as linked here). Or phrased another way, if you play against the smartest, most devious AI, what's a score that you cannot get past.

The high score of hatetris seems to be 31 lines, but it seems that it may be taking advantage of the algorithm being myopically giving you the worst piece 1 step ahead, and being deterministic. I wonder if the algorithm has some randomness (among multiple horrible pieces) and multi-step look ahead, how would that affect the high score.

Has anyone done research on tetris's worst case bounds?

lalaithion(10000) 4 days ago [-]

The author of Hatetris did a quick look into this: https://qntm.org/tetris

xgulfie(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Tetris' worst case is all S-pieces or all Z-pieces, in which case you could never clear a single line.

MaxBarraclough(10000) 4 days ago [-]
NaturalPhallacy(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Does it just give the S shaped piece? I tried playing and that's all I got.

jupp0r(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I was looking for that in the readme, thanks!

emehrkay(10000) 5 days ago [-]

For about 15 years I've been trying to figure out how to articulate a `Tetris is life` essay. 'Things are going good, you're given an S piece that doesnt fit anywhere. You have to decide where you'll put that blocking piece so that you can hopefully clear it later. This might be an unexpected car repair bill or a death that you aren't emotionally capable of addressing ... You're in control, you have a good job, a great partner, and yall are saving to buy a house -- basically waiting for an l piece to complete your `Tetris`...'

Anyway, this game of (ha)Tetris is a lot like a lot of people's lives, just roadblock after roadblock. While the normal version where you start from zero on level one is probably an upper middle class life. And Id say that the majority of people in the world start on level 6 with the board halfway filled with a bunch of gaps and the pieces move at a speed that is barely controllable (im thinking of the classic gameboy version when I imagine these boards)

Hatetris is cool. I couldn't get one line and I consider myself a damn good tetris player. It kept giving me S pieces and threw a Z in there and then an l

SamBam(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I got three lines.

I realized half-way through that I had to get into a totally-different mindset than normal Tetris.

Normally, if the game gives you the wrong piece, you can put it where it will do the least damage for your current plans, and wait patiently for a better piece.

What you have to realize in this one is that the game will never give you the piece you want, if it has any option of giving you a worse one.

And so you have to play this like a Chess puzzle: how can I checkmate the game so that any piece it gives me will finish a line? How can I force it to either give me a piece that can fit in a 1x1 hole in the middle, or just give me 2x2 squares and I can complete the row with those.

It's quite different and fun when you think like that.

akvadrako(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I have a quote for you:

If Tetris has taught me anything it's that errors pile up and accomplishments disappear.

Lammy(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> It kept giving me S pieces and threw a Z in there and then an l

'Line piece. Line piece. Line piece. LINE PIECE!' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Alw5hs0chj0

OGWhales(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I got so many S pieces in a row that I was beginning to think it was just a joke and that was the only possible piece

david422(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Got 3 lines.

Moral of the story - S pieces are the worst possible pieces.

systemvoltage(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Your analogy suggests that life is 100% luck. Not everything in life is handed to you through luck like Tetris pieces falling from the sky. Your medical degree is largely dependent on you studying, working hard and finally clearing the requirements. Definitely a few shitty pieces to deal with though. It keeps things interesting. Most people revel in building their own blocks and not relying on stuff that falls from the sky.

js8(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> Anyway, this game of (ha)Tetris is a lot like a lot of people's lives, just roadblock after roadblock.

They should make a multiplayer version where you could pass the pieces you don't like to other players!

l0c0b0x(10000) 4 days ago [-]

For about the same amount of years, I have thought of my life as playing multiple Tetris games at the same time. Some games moving at different speeds, depending on what's happening at the time on each. I'd focus my priority on the fastest moving games, without discarding the other (slower) games, since accumulation is non-stop.

...and yes, in my spare time (at times), I play multiple tetris games, but since I haven't found one that runs multiple games, I have to run many different windows--so I don't do it very often.

Anybody know of a Tetris game that allows you to add multiple games at the same time? That'd be awesome!

asdfasgasdgasdg(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Here's a replay with four: ॠڅܕଘळطЫݎ௧ڠແझ३ටիઉ౬ѲໃҲɷඤwঅஓڠເ੪ϢඞПݹਹɈຽঅதڗІށ௨౾Іނ௨୮າএƐඉƊݲడقঀஈஜɜາঌ௧ปบदਹؼƟԿЬඦƊݹݦਮȜƏஓڄຯࡑ୦ΟරݞԪػଅޅޛٮഫɞϯغȣßಣϷМѠ౫7

You have to try to sacrifice some lines in order to get guaranteed lines.

danbolt(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Are you familiar with Twinbeard's Futiltris? You'll need Flash to play it these days, but I always found it really entertaining.

[0] http://twinbeard.com/140_futilitris [1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ab62aohgpKI

JohnHammersley(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Best I could do is five lines, and even that felt like it was because the game was optimized to prevent 'any line now' rather than 'any lines in future'.

Method: If you lay the 's' pieces on their tip, next to each other horizontally, starting from one side, when you get to having a gap of two left on the other side, it changes to giving you line pieces. You can then lay these line pieces horizontally on top of the s pieces to create a full 'wall' eight blocks wide all the way to the top. Then start filling in the two-wide column to start making lines. Best this seems to give is five.

Has anyone made it to six? Is it possible?

Edit: after reading more of the comments here, I see the high score is 31!!! Wow, didn't expect that -- it is neat to watch it through:


junga(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Wow, like every time I grab the old gameboy and play some rounds of tetris I just think the very same thing: tetris is a wonderful anology for life. And of course I did not expect someone else to think the same. Thank you! :)

neffy(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Well here is the soundtrack...


Compete History of the Soviet Union, arranged to the music of Tetris. Pigwiththefaceofaboy.

YeGoblynQueenne(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I just came here to ask how does it know it's giving you the worst possible piece. And I find this.

:shakes head:

jdonaldson(10000) 4 days ago [-]

This is a great analogy, I might have to steal it.

graup(10000) 4 days ago [-]

There are a few 'Tetris is life' essays out there. One I enjoyed: https://zachsnyderproductions.medium.com/8-life-lessons-ive-...

nautilus12(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Lol, it just gives me S pieces constantly.

SamBam(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Right, that's the first puzzle of the game.

If you can't figure out how to score a row from only S's (it's not intuitive, because it's not what you'd do in normal Tetris if you got several S's), then it will keep giving you those.

Once you work out how to make a line with S's, it will give you something else before you complete it.

dang(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Ok you guys, all the base-64 Tetris lines in here are breaking the layout of this page. Not because of base-64 or Tetris; it's the long unbroken lines. Usually I succumb to psychological pressure and edit them (by adding whitespace and—yes—telling the commenter we did so), but there are so many here that you've broken me.

If anyone figures out how to fix HN's CSS so that it doesn't do this anymore, without breaking anything else, we will find some way to glorify you. One helpful user seemed to come close, but ended up having better things to do. Others have come close, but the changes broke something else. It may not be that hard, but my body rejects learning enough CSS to find out.

(Also, yes, HN's HTML and CSS and general layout, and many other visible things about the site, are old-fashioned and weird and perhaps even trollish when you look at them a certain way and Mercury is in Leo; but anything one might say about that was probably already a cliché 10 years ago, so it would be good not to go there if you'd be so kind. It is what it is.)

castaweh(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Feels too simple to be right, but would this work? word-break: break-word; on the .comment class?

.comment { font-family: Verdana, Geneva, sans-serif; font-size: 9pt; word-break: break-word; }

qsort(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Open-ended homework for those who are interested: solve the same problem, but with actual Tetris rules.

I've seen a bunch of those 'adversarial tetris' variants, and they all operate under the assumption that any of the seven pieces can appear at any time, and with only one preview.

Modern Tetris has 3 previews + hold, and pieces are drawn randomly 'from a bag', without replacement (more formally, if P[i] is the sequence of pieces, each aligned subsequence of 7 pieces must be a permutation of the tetrominos).

This would be more interesting to make/play. Note that under such rules there exists a strategy that allows infinite play if the well is at least 17 tiles high.

Kaze404(10000) 4 days ago [-]

There's an aversarial Tetris you can play in any Tetris implementation: no rotation. It's surprisingly hard.

jandrese(10000) 4 days ago [-]

To be fair, the random piece selection is how the Tetris on the NES and GB worked, which is how many Americans were introduced to Tetris. Getting 5 Z or S pieces in a row was definitely something that happens regularly in those versions.

An interesting note about the versions that use the piece bag strategy is that the game can be solved. It's possible to play until the game speeds up to the point where you can no longer get a piece to the edge of the screen before it hits the bottom. https://tetris.wiki/Playing_forever

Fun fact, Tetris is NP-Hard. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mathematicians-pr...

Wowfunhappy(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I would at minimum like to play this with a Hold option. I'm not a huge fan of the mechanic in normal Tetris, because IMO dealing with and recovering from unfortunately-timed pieces is a key part of the game. But, that's not really an issue here!

etxm(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Did you just nerd snipe all of HN?

username90(10000) 4 days ago [-]

The most popular Tetris was the original, it is one of the most sold video games ever, and it didn't even allow you to hold a piece. That is what people think of when they hear Tetris, it isn't old enough that the people who played it back then are dead.

kakkun(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Had no idea that the creator of Hatetris was also the author for There Is No Antimemetics Division. http://scp-wiki.wikidot.com/antimemetics-division-hub

alanbernstein(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I can't tell if there is actually a story by that title and it's not linked to for the obvious reason... or if that title just refers to the other related stories.

Verdex(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I find his fiction pretty good. He also wrote Ra and Fine Structure (both available on his qntm.org website and as physical books on amazon).

As with most fiction written online, it could probably use an editor. But it's as good as a lot of more conventionally published scifi AND it's covering topics that I haven't been able to find other authors interested in covering.

AlphaWeaver(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I KNEW I recognized the username from somewhere!

Detry322(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Speaking of silly Tetris games, I once made a version of Tetris where you can only move pieces by shooting them - https://jack.plus/guntris/

The pieces aren't on a grid either - makes playing it very frustrating.

airstrike(10000) 4 days ago [-]

WOW... that's frustrating! Thank you...

wizzwizz4(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Similar: Not Tetris 2. https://stabyourself.net/nottetris2/

This game is just Tetris with physics. It's very funny to give to people used to ordinary Tetris, though, because the controls are the same.

unholiness(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I feel like there's some bug where it gives me S's when a Z would clearly be worse. I managed 3 lines, all of which were completed by S's and would have been thwarted by Z's.

In fact I'm not sure I got a Z all game, though it seems other commenters did.

SamBam(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I got a Z once when an S would have scored me a row.

Did you keep the replay code of your game?

unholiness(10000) 4 days ago [-]

All right I'll bite. Here's my replay with 4, can anyone do better?


unholiness(10000) 4 days ago [-]

With some more fiddling I got 5: హقຽࡐԚقଖݹ३ΤໃςԎРಊݶɺටງђञසໃל௨ೱІJলظІŧԥගƖݹƔقWђવටܢݹԪmЄࡧԥฃໄڝরߩງוభ൜ϾঊஶϺळॾԫԉІݶݬΟไࢲذ൜షaஜشНܥಒකСݤЬඝܘƎࢶ૫Ɣڍகnബॠ

layer8(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I managed to reach 11: సقແࡆ௨౾ܘݸథ৩ໄɕஐփЂঅࢳइະࠇஶقງыதقݍݹলজຽࠇ௧රІރ௨ගͲວ௨ඦϼɕறقؼݑђ੬ໃŦߜඦഫݹԥറІܯࡑق༢ڢ௨ڞܘࡇ௧ڠງڣݹ୮ܬŦஜυషKϢټຽࠇ௰ඪܘܭݳ൝ඤτரػଇœԤڏ૭ɔԥ౾ಋ൳ݢऋخӷࡑ୩πںڲת෧uਮڝƜݢशԹసດࡓౚઈڭਧօ5

But the current highscore seems to be 31: https://qntm.org/hatetris#sec0

bmosse(10000) 4 days ago [-]

does anyone know what happened to Evil Tetris, an old Mac game that had awesome sound effects (nice slide!)?

kwdc(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I feel like there should be a middle ground alternative where its normal tetris for awhile but then it just goes nasty. First it lulls you into a false sense of security and proficiency then it strikes hard.

maxqin1(10000) 5 days ago [-]

That's normal Tetris. As the speed increases, you're more likely to get a difficult piece.

hyperdimension(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I remember playing a game with the same principle; it was called `bastet'.

sswam(10000) 4 days ago [-]

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; ... there is nothing new under the sun.

eaplmx(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Well, our team made an android version of bastet, renamed as bastard blocks. It was a quite interesting experiment understanding the original code, and trying to 'improve' (or worsen) the board analysis on Unity and C#


anthony_romeo(10000) 4 days ago [-]

It's in a number of linux package repos (it's at least in Ubuntu and Debian).

Though I remember at least getting a few lines in Bastet. Hateris seemed to be a lot more difficult (as the article states should be the case).

hprotagonist(10000) 4 days ago [-]

somewhere in north africa, a cat is really pissed off and doesn't know why.

jetrink(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Speaking of Tetris and Hatetris, have you ever heard of Hatris? I just learned about it from last week's No Such Thing as a Fish podcast. Alexey Pajitnov, the creator of Tetris, continued to experiment with the Tetris formula. One of the games he made was called Hatris[2] which involves hats falling on people's heads. Entertainment Weekly reviewed it saying: 'There is, after all, a cure for Tetris addiction. It's Hatris.[3]'

1. https://www.nosuchthingasafish.com/

2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioHEQlTxiLY

3. https://ew.com/article/1991/05/24/new-videogames/

rozab(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Hatris has nothing on the fourth installment, which is called 'Faces... tris III'.


Kaze404(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Little unknown fact. The rights to Hatris were then sold to Valve, which spawned the critically acclaimed game Team Fortress 2 :)

chacha2(10000) 4 days ago [-]


Quick rundown of tetris history.

huachimingo(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Or Bop-It Tetris, where you had to rotate and push the pieces.

andrewflnr(10000) 5 days ago [-]

'Show HN' is generally for things you made yourself, and I'm fairly confident you are not Sam.

rishabhd(10000) 4 days ago [-]

It was an honest mistake, I misunderstood that it meant to show something cool you have identified on internet. Sorry if I caused any trouble.

jtbayly(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Doesn't this mean that you'd never get a long or square piece?

anotha1(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It depends on the algo. So not if it's optimizing for least placements to insert that would clear a row.

innocenat(10000) 5 days ago [-]

No. For example, there are no flat part on your playing field, then you would get square.

SamBam(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I got several square pieces, because I was able to get to a state where any other piece would fit into the remaining 1x1 hole, and so a square piece was the only thing that would block me.

goda90(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I layered S pieces horizontally across the bottom and then it gave me a long piece.

Cthulhu_(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Only if you can't use it to finish a line at that time, lol.

tickthokk(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Someone got 31 lines on Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuwI52xwyuU

Replay: ௨ഖƌݯߜࠏІWƑsໃa௨೯ܘݷಳජଈیԪؼʥݺԥඞܘݲࠐڄໂঅமةໃݹ௧ړІٽ௨൞ໃZ௨ಘІܥࠐΣІZߜටȜখذජНݹߛeʛݹߤปເѧ௩ԚໂՉࢸටuа௨સȣݷłقෆঅਏeܘԔצقషݸɢڠຜঀಧҸມѧஐට༪൩ԊಅഫܡथsถԡԦԚໃɥஸقࡈɕɠɈไݸצقషݰਵϺФঅஓػݐɓԞуຯɕझࡈ๐ݞझࢶІݞमปദஈƉؿଭݪஸҩЂ൸ԛمϦGƁҨVھԥචЅշࡂ෮लݷƘණ໘ࠅƘಧНקࢻҨฆӘದԋϝପࠑ੧ͳݲடփරݞਵΚϼɢԒԺٳѦԤࠌξGಘسਯܥஶҋϮτथlϼʔ

Wowfunhappy(10000) 4 days ago [-]

HN cut this off so I couldn't copy and paste it without opening developer tools. I can't find a way to put the code in a HN comment without breaking it, but you can go here and copy and paste:


Also, it's amazing, definitely give it a watch!

linux2647(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Reminds me of https://xkcd.com/724/

forgotpwd16(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Make it playable using the userscript: https://gist.github.com/banthar/438067

swyx(10000) 4 days ago [-]

this is remarkable. In my first playthrough I was not able to clear a single line.

AlanSE(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I read the topic and thought 'oh, this sounds like fun, I want to play'

Then I played it. Kudos to the creator. I really do hate it.

JohnTHaller(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I wonder if any inspiration came from 'The Tetris God' by CollegeHumor 10 years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Alw5hs0chj0

'line piece, Line Piece, LIINE PIEECE!'

quacked(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I've always thought that sketch was the funniest one on CH.

Nition(10000) 4 days ago [-]

The Minesweeper one was good too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHY8NKj3RKs

forgotpwd16(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Off topic: Since when YouTube started requiring ID for age verification? And why will this video be age-restricted in first place?

furyofantares(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I can't beat 5 lines. Another goal: Find a state where it gives me a T piece. I've gotten all the other pieces

replay of last game: ϥقາɜ௨ഗƊݸƔقࠄחƔطЛپƐටҾɕடٯໃKƐ൳WখƐࡆЂɚஜقໃঅமق༱ݚ௧ڠଭƏjට๐ߟԥකݕݶԪقוݶԪضΚࡨذකଛЩɢڟ۶Щౘڈȥݹ୷ҸຽथѺٯసƩ౫ೲบयஶѮໄэƔشΛюԪغҾɡد੯૨һɆٴПҼౚĐ

BenjiWiebe(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I played a bunch of games, but sorry, I didn't save any replays. I got 6 lines once and a T piece once (I think it was the same game.)

Historical Discussions: Send: A Fork of Mozilla's Firefox Send (May 05, 2021: 663 points)

(663) Send: A Fork of Mozilla's Firefox Send

663 points 5 days ago by andredz in 10000th position

github.com | Estimated reading time – 5 minutes | comments | anchor


A fork of Mozilla's Firefox Send. Mozilla discontinued Send, this fork is a community effort to keep the project up-to-date and alive.

  • Forked at Mozilla's last publicly hosted version
  • Mozilla & Firefox branding is removed so you can legally self-host
  • Kept compatible with ffsend (CLI for Send)
  • Dependencies have been updated
  • Mozilla's changes since the fork have been selectively merged
  • Mozilla's experimental report feature, download tokens, trust warnings and FxA changes are not included

Find an up-to-date Docker image here: docs/docker.md

The original project by Mozilla can be found here. The mozilla-master branch holds the master branch as left by Mozilla. The send-v3 branch holds the commit tree of Mozilla's last publicly hosted version, which this fork is based on. The send-v4 branch holds the commit tree of Mozilla's last experimental version which was still a work in progress (featuring file reporting, download tokens, trust warnings and FxA changes), this has selectively been merged into this fork. Please consider to donate to allow me to keep working on this.

Thanks Mozilla for building this amazing tool!

Docs: FAQ, Encryption, Build, Docker, More

Table of Contents

What it does

A file sharing experiment which allows you to send encrypted files to other users.



To start an ephemeral development server, run:

Then, browse to http://localhost:8080


Command Description
npm run format Formats the frontend and server code using prettier.
npm run lint Lints the CSS and JavaScript code.
npm test Runs the suite of mocha tests.
npm start Runs the server in development configuration.
npm run build Builds the production assets.
npm run prod Runs the server in production configuration.


The server is configured with environment variables. See server/config.js for all options and docs/docker.md for examples.


see docs/localization.md


Pull requests are always welcome! Feel free to check out the list of 'good first issues' (to be implemented).


Find a list of public instances here: https://github.com/timvisee/send-instances/


See also docs/deployment.md


  • Web: this repository
  • Command-line: ffsend
  • Android: see Android section


The android implementation is contained in the android directory, and can be viewed locally for easy testing and editing by running ANDROID=1 npm start and then visiting http://localhost:8080. CSS and image files are located in the android/app/src/main/assets directory.


Mozilla Public License Version 2.0

qrcode.js licensed under MIT

All Comments: [-] | anchor

hojjat12000(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Naive question: The github page says 62% of the languages used in this repo is FreeMarker. I checked the repo and every file I look at is js, what and where is FreeMarker?

timvisee(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I don't know. Have been asking myself the same question the past month.

chungy(10000) 5 days ago [-]

GitHub's language 'detection' is ridiculously naïve and basically limited to examining file names only, not content.

niea_11(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I can't find any freemarker templates on the project, but apparently it's using i18n files with an '.ftl' extension which is the default extension for freemarker templates.

Ex: https://github.com/timvisee/send/blob/master/public/locales/...

tym0(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Is there a way to use ffsend if I drop some basic auth in front of the upload?

timvisee(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Yes! `ffsend upload --basic-auth USER:PASS FILE`

voiper1(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I'm liking croc with a CLI on each end.

psanford(10000) 5 days ago [-]

croc just had multiple major vulnerabilities discovered that required protocol breaking changes to fix: https://redrocket.club/posts/croc/

fireattack(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Semi-related, but is GitHub's search by programming language feature broken on this repo?

I'm curious about 'FreeMarker' being the top language so I clicked on it, surprisingly it returns zero code: https://github.com/timvisee/send/search?l=freemarker

So does 'javascript': https://github.com/timvisee/send/search?l=javascript

emi2k01(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Search is disabled for forked repositories in github. It's better to create a new repo and push the code if you want a fork.

Search in original repo works: https://github.com/mozilla/send/search?l=javascript

fouric(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This is excellent! I've been missing Firefox Send ever since they took it down.

However, it needs to be hosted somewhere.

...and if I'm going to be using a hosted service, I'd like the ability to easily pay for it (so that it doesn't eventually collapse or resort to shady things like ads), either though donations or microtransactions for bandwidth/storage.

Unfortunately, there's no good microtransaction service.

Wasn't Mozilla working on one? Where did that go?

...and thus, we've gone full circle.

And I'm typing this comment in a Chrome browser, because my company is migrating away from Firefox due to 'security issues'.

circularfoyers(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Did your company actually gives any details for those supposed security issues?

U8dcN7vx(10000) 5 days ago [-]

You can host your own Send, and the host need not exist when there's nothing you are sharing which is right in-line with utility computing as provided by 'cloud' hosting companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Oracle, &c. Should be possible for under $5 for a month of Send operation provided low disk space suffices, say under 5GB. Perhaps not micro enough though.

timvisee(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This is a comment for my instance specifically, but you might find it nice to know:

The https://send.vis.ee/ is mostly funded by donations right now. I do not plan to take it down, unless the cost becomes a problem. I'll never resort to ads.

If this ever happens, I'll likely show a warning beforehand. Some time later I'll disable the upload page, and will take the rest of it down the week after. Files have a maximum lifetime of a week anyway. So if you discover this when uploading, you can simply switch to some other service. Existing links should not break.

There's a donation link on the bottom of the page (https://vis.ee/donate). But feel free to use it without a contribution.

cassepipe(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Oh, I forgot about that one. Yet another Mozilla project that worked well that was abandoned. (Remember Firefox OS? https://killedbymozilla.com/) I know what you're thinking : They did not abandon Rust ! Well I just learned from a post that recently made it to the HN front page that management was considering dropping Rust. The only reason they did not was because of someone who fought hard for it.

dralley(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It wasn't 'abandoned' it was shut down because it was being used by malicious parties to deliver malware, and worse.

timvisee(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Maintainer here, thanks for posting!

Feel free to ask any questions.

Want to try it out? I've a public instance at: https://send.vis.ee/

Other instances: https://github.com/timvisee/send-instances/

A docker-compose template: https://github.com/timvisee/send-docker-compose

StavrosK(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This is fantastic, well done! A very useful service, and I loved it when it was Firefox Send. I'll be sure to use this now.

AdmiralAsshat(10000) 5 days ago [-]

What level of logging/privacy can we expect from a self-hosted instance? I had faith in Mozilla's commitment to privacy, but I don't necessarily trust some random dude's AWS instance.

alexmcc81(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I was wondering why I recognised your name - you're the main developer of ffsend. Thanks for all the work! I really hope you get more people interested in maintaining and developing Send.

newman314(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Why does it say 'We don't recommend using docker-compose for production.'?

I'd like to understand the reasoning behind this. Thanks.

alert0(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Thanks for doing this. I used Send regularly and miss it.

andredz(10000) 4 days ago [-]

You are welcome (poster here :-)). And thanks to you for maintaining a great, and useful, piece of software. I recently needed something like Firefox Send that could have files uploaded for longer than 1 day but no more than 7 days and Send (and your public instance) was perfect for such task.

zie(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Thanks for maintaining this! I just upgraded our local mozilla copy to your version, works great and was seamless!

skavi(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I was wondering where I had seen your name before, and then after scrolling through your GitHub, I realized it was your Advent of Code 2020 solutions in Rust. Those were absolutely beautiful.

antaviana(10000) 5 days ago [-]

How is end-to-end encryption achieved? By storing the password in the URL and not logging the URL when the file is fetched at the receiving end?

alexmcc81(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Do you have any major new features in mind you would like to implement (assuming you had time + help)?

NortySpock(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Naïve question here, but is there a config setting that would work without HTTPS?

I run a home server just for internal use and it might be nice to send files via a link for memes, jokes, quick one-shot uses rather than storing it on a samba share, etc, but it doesn't have a public-facing URL for confirming a LetsEncrypt certificate.

mxuribe(10000) 5 days ago [-]

@timvisee I have no questions, but just wanted to thank you for your work on this!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Ameo(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Hey - love this project! I was able to get an instance deployed with Nginx reverse proxy without too much trouble. Password encryption doesn't seem to be working, but that might be some weird header issue thing with the reverse proxy setup and I'm not too worried about it.

One thing I was wondering is if/how expired files are cleaned up. I uploaded a large file, set it to expire after 5 minutes, and although I can't download it anymore I see that it's still in the files directory on my server.

I glanced through the code, but I didn't see any mechanism for periodically purging expired files or anything like that. Is there something that I missed, or should I just set up a cron job or something to delete all files in that directory older than a week?

SLWW(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Have you had many issues with abuse?

For private instances could there be an option for requiring a login before upload?

surround(10000) 5 days ago [-]

An observation. This is the second time today we've had a submission link to github, even though the main repo is on gitlab (the first was https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27047243)

forgotpwd16(10000) 5 days ago [-]

How is ClearURLs' main repo on GitLab when their main site[0] links to both and their docs[1] link *only* to GitHub?

[0]: https://clearurls.xyz

[1]: https://docs.clearurls.xyz/latest/

matham(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Do you know what led Mozilla to stop this experiment (I'm assuming spam)? Will this not be an issue for your instances as well?

gsich(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Storage in S3 is not cheap.

timvisee(10000) 5 days ago [-]

They said they stopped due to spam, but there might be more to it because they also had quite a lot of layoffs that period. I don't know.

I can imagine spam being a problem with such a service with a well recognized brand name.

IainIreland(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The announcement is here: https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/what-happened-firefox-s...

Quick summary: it was being used for malware and phishing, aggravated by the trustworthy-seeming firefox.com URL.

itake(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This is self-hosted, so probably easier to apply security through obscurity.

Jhsto(10000) 5 days ago [-]

After trying all these WebRTC options and the NAT traversal service (STUN, iirc) always being down, I ended up using IPFS instead. With public gateways from CloudFlare it is very easy to effectively drag and drop files and have them accessible via the IPFS-to-HTTPs gateway.

TedDoesntTalk(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Doesn't IPFS have problems with persistence? IOW you can't guarantee a file will be available?

dennis-tra(10000) 5 days ago [-]

https://share.ipfs.io/#/ is also very convenient for simple p2p file transfers.

livre(10000) 5 days ago [-]

For the rare times I have to do this I run a local server and the free version of CloudFlare argo tunnel. It provides an https url so the upload/download is safe from ISP snooping, there are also no size limits, you can send a 30GB file if you need to do that.


kickscondor(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Some other WebRTC file transfer options:

* https://wormhole.app/ (my recent fave, by creator of WebTorrent, holds for 24h, https://instant.io by same)

* https://file.pizza/ (p2p, nothing stored)

* https://webwormhole.io/ (same, but has a cli)

* https://www.sharedrop.io/ (same, does qr codes)

* https://justbeamit.com/ (same, expires in 10 minutes)

* https://send.vis.ee (hosted version of this code)

* https://send.tresorit.com/ (not p2p, 5 GB limit, encrypted)

I track these tools here: https://href.cool/Web/Participate/

Dumbdo(10000) 5 days ago [-]

There's also https://github.com/schollz/croc which is a very simple P2P CLI transfer tool.

dschep(10000) 5 days ago [-]

There's also https://snapdrop.net which seems extremely similar to sharedrop.io but has an additional useful feature of letting you send messages which I sometimes use to send links to devices that aren't logged into any service.

fckthisguy(10000) 5 days ago [-]

As I recall, there's a difference between file.pizza and webwormhole. file.pizza allows the sender to specify files and then generates a share url, whereas webwormhole creates a share link first. The latter can be useful if you're not sure exactly what you'll send before you share the link.

carbonatedmilk(10000) 5 days ago [-]

love Wormhole, but that animated background chews up an incredible amount of battery power on my M1 Macbook Air (even when the tab is in the background). Please wormhole crew, turn it off.

iagovar(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Hmmm, it seems like https://webwormhole.io/ has changed from last time I used it. https://wormhole.app/ seems more similar to what I remembered as frontend.

I remember trying many of those services and I decided to use this one because I could send large files without any problem (was trying to move sqlite dbs that were several Gbs, as it seemed to stream the file instead of trying to store it on ram first, but now I see wormhole.app allows up to 10GB, and I don't remember to have any limit.

WebRTC services seem to have problems to get up to speed, but for streaming files between devices it seems the best solution in terms of friction.

dennis-tra(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I've also built a file transfer tool (CLI) with emphasis on decentralization. It's a fully decentralized p2p file transfer tool based on libp2p:


I'm currently trying to make it interoperable with https://share.ipfs.io/#/ which resembles the functionality of the posted tool.

Ansil849(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> I track these tools

How frequently do you validate that they are still functional?

I tried File Pizza several months ago, and neither I nor the recipient could get it to work.

seriousquestion(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Thanks, useful site!

elliebike(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I'm a fan of Kipp! Not p2p, but has optional encryption


fljsdflsdfjdslf(10000) 5 days ago [-]
puchatek(10000) 5 days ago [-]

That website or yours should be its own hn article.

ctpide(10000) 5 days ago [-]

We build a web app for e2ee file transfer:


NeoLaval(10000) 4 days ago [-]

http://Gofile.io File sharing and storage platform, unlimited and free

rorykoehler(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Historical Discussions: The Ultimate Guide to Inflation (May 09, 2021: 660 points)
The Ultimate Guide to Inflation (May 09, 2021: 1 points)
Quantitative Easing, MMT, and Inflation/Deflation: A Primer (May 04, 2020: 2 points)
Quantitative Easing, MMT, and Inflation/Deflation: A Primer (May 07, 2020: 1 points)
Quantitative Easing, MMT, and Inflation/Deflation: A Primer (May 07, 2020: 1 points)

(660) The Ultimate Guide to Inflation

660 points 1 day ago by jger15 in 10000th position

www.lynalden.com | Estimated reading time – 54 minutes | comments | anchor

Inflation is a controversial and complex topic. This article looks at 150 years of data across multiple countries to provide a general idea of what inflation is, what to look for, and how to invest with inflationary and deflationary risks in mind.

Read from the beginning, or jump to the section you want.

Article Chapters:

  1. Definitions: Three Types of Inflation
  2. Broad Money Supply vs Consumer Price Inflation
  3. How Accurate is the Consumer Price Index?
  4. Transitory vs Non-Transitory Inflation
  5. Who Benefits or is Harmed by Inflation?
  6. Investing Ramifications
  7. Summary Thoughts

Definitions: Three Types of Inflation

Merriam-Webster defines inflation as "a continuing rise in the general price level usually attributed to an increase in the volume of money and credit relative to available goods and services".

In other words, if the number of currency units in the system goes up way more than the availability of goods and services in the economy, then we can get supply shortages and price increases.

That dictionary definition is a good place to start, but opens up some obvious questions. Which goods and services are we measuring the price level of when we quantify overall price inflation levels, and with what weighting? Can there be instances where the volume of money and credit goes up a lot and yet prices still remain low, and if so, why would that happen and what would we call that?

This leads to a debate of definitions. Economists of different schools of thought often speak past each other about what inflation is. So, rather than debate which definition is best, we can define three types of inflation, and go from there.

Monetary Inflation

Monetary inflation generally refers to an increase in the broad money supply, such as M2. In other words, it's not about prices going up; it's about the amount of money in the financial system going up.

Broad money supply, M2, refers to all of the various bank deposits for people and businesses that exist in the system, like checking accounts and savings accounts, as well as physical currency in circulation. There are alternative measures of broad money that can include additional types of cash-equivalents as well.

This chart shows the US broad money supply over time in blue on the left axis, and the year-over-year percent change in that broad money supply in red on the right axis:

Chart Source: St. Louis Fed

There are two main forces that drive up the broad money supply over time: either banks make more private loans and thus create new deposits (which increases the money multiple, the ratio of broad money to base money), or the government runs large fiscal deficits while the central bank creates new bank reserves to buy large portions of the bond issuance associated with those deficits (which increases both broad money and base money). For a full breakdown of how money creation works, see my article about money printing.

This chart shows the growth in private sector loans, government deficits, and broad money growth, as a percentage of that year's GDP for the United States since 1881:

We can see on that chart that the 1880s, 1890s, and 1900s decades, as well as the 1950s and 1960s decades, were characterized by strong loan growth and low government deficits. The private sector drove the creation of money. We also see major banking crises, such as the Panic of 1893, the Great Depression (early 1930s), the Savings and Loans Crisis (early 1990s) and Great Financial Crisis (2008/2009), where loans collapsed.

On the other hand, during instances like the 1940s and the 2020s so far, it was government deficits that drove broad money growth, rather than private sector loan growth.

Monetary inflation is generally a starting point for the next two forms of inflation: consumer price inflation and asset price inflation, which we feel more directly.

Consumer Price Inflation

Consumer price inflation is when the nominal price of a broad set of goods and services goes up. In other words, if you paid $4 for a Big Mac five years ago, and $5 for a Big Mac this year, then it inflated 25% in price at an average annual price inflation rate of 4.56% during that period.

Some goods or services can have unique supply/demand balances that affect their price, so we can't focus on single goods or services when measuring inflation. When the majority of goods and services start going up in price, that's consumer price inflation. The value of the currency itself is what is losing purchasing power in that case, rather than a specific product or service going up in price.

The difficulty with this measurement is coming to an agreement on a basket of goods and services to measure the price of. If we cherry-pick certain types of goods or services, we can make consumer price inflation seem higher or lower than it really is. And if certain goods or services improve in quality, how do we factor that into year-over-year price changes?

For example, if the new Toyota Camry car has gone up a lot in price compared to then-new Toyota Camry cars from a decade ago, but comes with a ton of extra features thanks to new technology compared to back then, how do we measure its price inflation? We can easily measure the price inflation of a simple commodity like copper or aluminum that doesn't change at all over time, but how do we maintain an apples-to-apples price comparison for complex items like Toyota Camry cars? Governments use a hedonic adjustment to adjust for this, but naturally it is prone to debate. So, we already have an area of inevitable controversy.

And then how do we weight prices? If "Household A" spends 40% of their expenditures on housing, 20% on transportation, 10% on education, 10% on healthcare, and 20% on all other categories combined, while "Household B" is much richer and spends only 20% of their expenditures on housing, 10% on transportation, 5% on education, 5% on healthcare, and 60% on all other categories combined, then how do we weight various products and services into a formula to determine the actual rise in prices as it relates to most people?

If, thanks to improving technology and changing lifestyles and work habits, the typical mix of expenditures for the median household changes over time, should we change the basket of goods and services that we are measuring the price of to reflect that? Or should we keep the basket of goods and services fixed for the sake of consistency, even if it becomes less relevant for the typical household over time?

Quite often, consumer price inflation is tied to commodity price inflation. If oil, copper, lumber, and other key commodities are abundant and cheap, it puts downward pressure on most types of prices. On the other hand, if there are supply constraints of major commodities relative to demand, then commodity prices go up a lot, and that trickles into other prices because the cost to make them and transport them goes up.

This chart shows the consumer price index and the commodity producer price index since 1913, which was when the Federal Reserve was founded. We can then divide the period since then into two halves due to a significant change in monetary structure that occurred in 1971:

Chart Source: St. Louis Fed

What that consumer price index chart shows, is that a basket of goods that would cost $100 in 1982, would cost $265 today, and would cost about $10 in 1913. The price of a basket of goods, in other words, has risen over 26x from 1913 to today in dollar terms. Breaking that down further, it rose by about 4x from 1913-1971 (58 years) when Nixon took the US off the gold standard, and about 6.5x from 1971 to 2020 (49 years).

As I described in my article on the petrodollar system, the 1971 dollar-gold breakdown realistically failed in the late 1960s, and was inevitable by 1971 when it was made official.

To give a bit more granularity, this chart shows the year-over-year percent change in the consumer price index, which is what we generally refer to as price inflation:

Chart Source: St. Louis Fed

Prior to 1971, there were both periods of inflation and deflation. Since 1971, there have been periods of inflation, but barely any periods of deflation, due to different mechanisms and goals that policymakers have as it relates to monetary policy.

Asset Price Inflation

Asset price inflation refers to the prices and valuations of financial assets, like stocks, bonds, real estate, gold, fine art, and collectibles increasing over time. These are things that can be held for a while and tend to appreciate in price over the long term.

There are multiple ways to measure asset valuation, and I use several of them throughout my newsletters and articles. None of them are perfect, which is why I use several to see if they agree or don't agree.

Here is US household net worth as a percentage of GDP in blue (currently 600%, left axis) and short-term interest rates in red (near zero, right axis):

Chart Source: St. Louis Fed

Household net worth includes stocks, bonds, cash, real estate, and other assets, minus liabilities like mortgages and other debts.

Asset price inflation often happens during periods of high wealth concentration and low interest rates. If a lot of new money is created, but that money gets concentrated in the upper echelons of society for one reason or another, then that money can't really affect consumer prices too much but instead can lead to speculation and overpriced buying of financial assets.

Think of it like this. If the government and central bank were to create a trillion new dollars and give the 100 richest people in the country an extra $10 billion each with that money, what would they spend it on? All of their physical needs and desires are met many times over already. They're not going to eat better, travel more, or really do anything differently in terms of personal consumption than they're already doing. Instead, they'll buy more financial assets, like more stocks or real estate, and push those prices up with this extra demand. This money won't get out and push the prices of things like copper or beef up.

On the other hand, if the government and central bank were to distribute $5,000 to every American adult who makes less than a million dollars (which would be in the ballpark of 200 million people, and thus also total up to $1 trillion in brand new money), then a significant portion of them would spend that money on everyday goods, and push up many consumer prices as demand outpaces supply for a period of time. This is money that would actually lead to more consumption and circulate more.

Due to tax policies, automation, offshoring, and other factors, wealth has concentrated towards the top in the US in recent decades. People in the bottom 90% of the income spectrum used to have about 40% of US household net worth in 1990, but more recently it's down to 30%. The top 10% folks saw their share of wealth climb from 60% to 70% during that time. When broad money goes up a lot but gets rather concentrated, then the link between broad money growth and CPI growth can weaken, while the link between broad money growth and asset price growth intensifies.

Money Supply vs Consumer Price Inflation

Over the very long run, we should expect technology to continually improve and push prices down. For example, people use to farm by hand. Then, the invention of the tractor and similar equipment empowered one person to do the work of many people. And then, we can imagine a fleet of self-driving farming equipment allowing one person to do the work of a hundred people. As a result, a smaller and smaller percentage of the population needs to work in agriculture in order to feed the whole population.

However, money creation processes and other policy choices can create inflationary results that offset those technological price reductions.

In general, per-capita money supply growth is one of the most closely-correlated variables to consumer price inflation, and this section takes a look at that relationship over 150 years.

For this set of charts for 1875-2020, I used the 1870-2017 academic database from macrohistory.net and added 2018-2020 data from the St. Louis Federal Reserve. Here is the full citation for that macrohistory dataset:

Òscar Jordà, Moritz Schularick, and Alan M. Taylor. 2017. "Macrofinancial History and the New Business Cycle Facts." in NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2016, volume 31, edited by Martin Eichenbaum and Jonathan A. Parker. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Example 1) The United States

This chart shows the rolling 5-year cumulative percentage increase in the consumer price index for the United States compared to the rolling 5-year cumulative percentage increase in the broad money supply per capita:

Individual years can be very noisy. By looking at 5-year rolling total increases rather than 1-year fluctuations, we can filter out the noise and look at periods of significant and persistent broad money growth and price inflation.

We see that the chart has a rather strong correlation; broad money supply growth and the consumer price index growth often go up or down together. Thanks to productivity gains (real growth), broad money supply usually grows faster than CPI. There are some notable periods where the disconnect is larger than usual, and worthy of review.

Examining the Exceptions

The 1875-1910 period and the 1990s-present period are two notable times on that chart where broad money grew rather quickly without causing significant price inflation, and are worth exploring. In other words, these are the "exceptions" where the correlation wasn't as close as the rest of the time.

For the first exception period in the late 1800s, that chart basically shows a technological revolution and the rise of a superpower, which kept prices low and allowed for tremendous growth. The United States had abundant land as the population spread out west across the continent (displacing the natives, to put it lightly), which put downward pressure on prices. Cheap labor immigrated from around the world to work in the United States. Huge amounts of oil was discovered, and Standard Oil was founded in 1870 and made vast improvements in refining and transporting techniques. The transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, Edison commercialized the light bulb, various folks including Tesla and Edison led to broad electrification, and the internal combustion engine was invented. Modern sanitary techniques became widespread, to reduce disease and improve healthcare and longevity. The banking system grew as a share of GDP from tiny to significant. So, money supply could grow a ton, and it was all real growth towards massive gains in productivity rather than inflation. The dollar was on a gold standard as well.

For the second exception period from 1990s-present, we had another technology revolution with the creation/adoption of the internet and smart phone, with a proliferation in software. The exponential increase in computer power and networking allowed us to digitize a lot of our equipment and processes. With the fall of the Soviet Union and the subsequent expansion of free trade agreements as impoverished areas opened up economically to interface with developed countries, globalization accelerated around the world. Corporations outsourced domestic labor to cheaper places like Mexico and China and eastern Europe, which put downward pressure on domestic wages and prices in wealthy nations. The rise of automation also displaced quite a bit of labor and put more downward pressure on wages and prices. Additionally, the CPI calculation method changed during this period, and there is a discussion on that later in this article.

What about Velocity?

There is a common idea that high monetary velocity (GDP divided by broad money supply) is needed for inflation. However, the data show that this is not the case.

Here is the rolling 5-year cumulative percentage increase in the consumer price index on the left axis, compared to broad money velocity each year on the right axis:

Monetary velocity was extremely high and declining in the late 1800s, while inflation was low and rising. Velocity had periods of temporary correlation with inflation during World War I and the Great Depression, and not much correlation with inflation during World War II. In the 1970s, velocity wasn't any higher than the 1950s or 1960s, and yet inflation rose substantially. In the 1990s, velocity went up noticeably, but inflation went down.

Brief periods of collapsing velocity are generally deflationary shocks, which contributes to the idea that velocity is the key variable for inflation, but in general, inflation is far more correlated to broad money supply per capita than it is to monetary velocity.

Example 2) The United Kingdom

In the previous example of the United States, we saw the rise of a superpower with abundant new land and resources that took the mantle of the global reserve currency.

With this example of the United Kingdom, we instead see the gradual decline of a superpower and loss of the global reserve currency. Here is 5-year rolling cumulative broad money supply per capita growth vs 5-year rolling CPI growth:

This chart has even tighter correlation between broad money supply per capita and price inflation than the United States. There was no free and abundant land in the 1800s for the United Kingdom like the United States had, so broad money and inflation went more closely in hand.

Example 3) Japan

The United States and United Kingdom never outright lost a critical war during this period. Japan, however, was devastated during World War II and experienced hyperinflation upon their loss. So, that makes for another instructive example:

Japan spent the earlier half of this chart as an emerging market, and then became an imperial power and developed market later on.

Similar to what the United States experienced in the late 1800s after the American Civil War, Japan experienced what was known as an "economic miracle" from the 1950s to 1990 after World War II. We can see on the chart, there was a large gap between broad money growth and price inflation, as Japan rapidly re-industrialized and became an extremely efficient exporter. Money supply went up a ton, but so did goods and services, which kept prices in check.

More recently, people often wonder why Japan didn't experience high price inflation in the past two decades, due to how much it expanded its central bank balance sheet. The answer is clear on the chart; Japan had very low broad money supply growth over the past two decades, which I explored in detail in my article on Japan.

Example 4) Australia

As our final example, here's the chart for Australia, which had pretty strong correlation throughout the period:

The rise of China as a major trading partner from the 1990s through the 2010s gave Australia an economic boost, where their money supply could grow a lot faster than CPI. The country went 28 years without a recession from 1991 through 2019.

How Accurate is the Consumer Price Index?

The CPI attempts to accurately report the changing cost of a representative basket of goods and services. Over time, some of those goods and services are inflating or deflating in price, being substituted out, and being weighted into the overall calculation in changing ways.

And there have been changes to the CPI calculations along the way, to use more quality adjustments.

There are many people who believe that CPI, especially due to changes in that calculation over the past few decades, understates the true inflation rate in the United States. House prices, food prices, healthcare prices, and tuition prices are all rising faster than CPI, and they represent the bulk of middle-class household expenditure. Sometimes proponents of this idea are dismissed as "inflation truthers", since they push back on expert numbers and assert that CPI is manipulated in favor of a narrative.

On the other hand, there are folks like Brent Moulton who have worked in government that think CPI overstates the real inflation rate. The general argument is that despite more widespread use of hedonic adjustments in CPI, it still hasn't been enough to capture the true growth of technology and digitization that has pushed down the cost of living.

Back in 2011, there was a widely-reported interaction where then-NY-Fed Chairman William Dudley was speaking with an audience in Queens NY, and received a lot of questions about food inflation which was running hot at the time. As Reuters reported, Dudley responded by saying you have to look at all prices, and that for example an iPad 2 just came out for the same price as the iPad 1, but was far more powerful, and thus on a quality-adjusted basis is way cheaper. Someone in the audience yelled back that you can't eat iPads.

The power of technological deflation is important not to overstate, though. In everyday use, the rise of the smart phone displaced a lot of house phones, cameras, video recorders, film, CD players, iPods, beepers, radios, scanners, roadmaps, and many ATMs. They also displaced a big percentage of physical newspapers, calendars, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and books. In more niche areas they displaced some mobile game devices, pocket translators when traveling, compasses, voice recorders, and photo scrapbooks. We folded many of our devices and consumables into one powerful device with dozens of software applications.

In a 90s episode of the comedy show Friends, a traveling encyclopedia salesmen played by Penn Jillette tried to sell Joey a full physical encyclopedia for $1,200. Joey was broke, however, so he only bought the book for topics starting with "V" for $50 and became a niche expert in that letter.

That was less than 25 years ago. Today, we access countless things like that for free anywhere as part of a phone/internet cost.

So we have a bit of a populist vs academic feud here about whether official broad CPI accurately captures rising prices due to money supply growth. Who's right? Folks paying for things in the real world, or academics with models and the numbers in front of them?

There are some number-crunchers supporting the inflationary view too, though. John Williams' Shadow Stats, for example, calculates that annual price inflation has been around 5-10% for the past decade if it was calculated as it used to be. Williams holds an MBA from Dartmouth. Interestingly, looking at the Way Back Machine, he has not raised his subscription price for his data at all since at least 2008.

The Moderate and Boring Conclusion

As is often the case, I find that the numbers point somewhere between the extremes in this case.

As I'll show below, I think the evidence suggests that in a true apples-to-apples comparison, US inflation has been somewhat higher than CPI reports, but not as high as some folks think. Official CPI says that broad prices rose by about 2.5% per year on average since 1990, while I think there's a good case that it's closer to 3% or more. In other words, prices went up more like 150% (2.5x) rather than 100% (2x) in total during that three decade compounded annual period.

So, I don't see good evidence that real inflation has been 2x-3x higher than CPI reports as some folks suggest, but I do think that CPI understated it enough in recent history due to some calculation changes, that over a three-decade period, it hasn't fully captured the rise in prices for an appropriate basket of goods. Even broad money supply per capita only went up about 5% per year during the period, which represents an approximate ceiling for how high CPI inflation could have been, and as we've covered, CPI inflation is usually slower than broad money grow by a varying gap.

More importantly, a lot of the discrepancy comes from the fact that, due to offshoring and automation, combined with rather high broad money supply growth, we've been in an environment where some categories have seen rapid price deflation, while other (often more essential) categories of goods and services that haven't been automated or outsourced, have risen in price faster than broad CPI.

Plus, wages have barely kept up with inflation, which is compounded by the fact that more education (and thus more student debt) is required on average to get those same inflation-adjusted wages. In other words, on an inflation-adjusted and education-cost-adjusted basis, median wages have decreased.

The Big Mac Test

The Economist has tracked the prices of McDonald's Big Macs around the world since the late 1980s.

Apart from being partly for humor, the Big Mac is an interesting choice because it's iconic, fairly standardized, and requires multiple inputs to produce including various agricultural commodities, domestic labor, and energy. McDonald's also needs to earn a profit and support its real estate expenses through the sale of Big Macs and other menu items.

If we look at Big Mac prices in the US since 1990, they have trended notably higher than CPI, and have a smaller gap vs the growth of broad money supply per capita, which is how prices have generally moved in most historical periods:

I also looked up McDonald's gross margins (revenue minus cost of goods) since the 1990s using data from YCharts, and McDonald's made the same gross margins in 1990 and 2020. So, it's not like they had the same input costs but simply charged more.

Based on this funny but actually kind of relevant metric, CPI has fallen short over the past three decades, and particularly within the second half of that period. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, commodities were very cheap, and so the Big Mac rose in price more slowly than CPI. Starting in 2003, commodity prices had a big rise up, and Big Mac prices caught back up to CPI and eventually outpaced it by a noticeable margin.

During the whole period from 1990 to 2020, the broad consumer price index rose at about 2.5% per year, the Big Mac price rose about 3% per year, and broad money supply per capita rose about 5% per year. I'll leave it to readers to judge how the quality of the Big Mac has changed or not over the period.

The New Car Test

According to the official CPI for new vehicles in the United States, prices for new cars only rose by 22% for the entire span from 1990 to 2020.

I dug up an old Chicago Tribune article that had some data to cross-reference that. According to that article, the average price of a new car in 1990 was $15,472. In 2020, the average price of a new car crossed over $40,000. That's more than a 2.5x or 150%+ increase in price, during which the new vehicle CPI says that it effectively rose only 22%.

Why the discrepancy? Well, new cars got bigger and better. They have more features, and preferences shifted towards a higher mix of SUVs, so the CPI model discounted their inflation rate to compensate for that. Offshoring and automation did help suppress vehicle prices on a quality-adjusted basis.

Let's pick the Toyota Camry as a direct comparison to reduce the size/type changes. The starting MSRP for the automatic was $12,258 in 1990. The starting MSRP in 2020 was $24,425. That's a 100% price increase, almost exactly. That's about 2.5% per year.

Certainly we can allow for a substantial amount of quality adjustment in the new car CPI calculation. The new Camry has power everything, a navigation system, better safety features, and better gas mileage. But is the quality/size adjustment enough to reduce the actual price appreciation from 100% down to just 22% on a quality-adjusted basis during this three-decade period, as official new car CPI says was the case?

Plus, according to official CPI reports, the cost of car maintenance has gone up faster than broad CPI during the past thirty years, with a roughly 140% increase from 1990 to 2020. Gasoline prices went up around 130%, which were also faster than broad CPI.

The Broader Test

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American household spends 33% of its expenditures on housing, 17% on transportation, 13% on food, 11% on the combination of insurance and social security and pensions, 8% on healthcare, 5% on entertainment, 3% on charitable contributions, 3% on apparel, 2% on education, 1% on personal care products, and the remainder on other categories.

Housing, transportation, food, healthcare, and education collectively are 60% of the expenditures. The combination of pensions/insurance/social security and charity is 15%. Everything else combined is 25%.

The median house, healthcare CPI, and education/childcare CPI all went up faster than broad CPI according to the official metric. Food CPI was in-line with broad CPI according to the official metric, but potentially higher according to things like the Big Mac Index.

Chart Source: St. Louis Fed

New car prices, as we saw, went up at the same rate as CPI (about a 100% increase from 1990-2020, or 2.5% per year) even though their CPI model said they went up extremely slowly on a quality-adjusted basis. Car maintenance CPI and gasoline prices officially went up faster than CPI as well. Overall, transportation spending grew at least as fast as broad CPI.

So, if the majority of things that Americans spend money on went up faster than broad CPI, it brings into question the accuracy of broad CPI. That basket of housing, education, food, healthcare, and transportation represents 60% of total average household spending according to the BLS, or about 70% of total ex-pension and ex-charity spending.

If 70% of their goods/services expenditure basket is going up equal-or-higher (in some cases notably higher) than the broad inflation rate, do cheaper goods in the smaller category outweigh that?

That discrepancy is how we get to a situation of NY Fed Chair Dudley talking about the iPad 2 vs the iPad 1, and an audience member shouting back that you can't eat an iPad.

Here's a chart that shows various prices, including the median house, healthcare CPI, tuition/childcare CPI, the Big Mac, and major commodities, relative to broad money supply per capita and broad CPI:

During the three-decade length of the chart, most major expenses and commodities rose faster than CPI.

There are many deflationary or low-inflation categories as well. Unlike the chart above, electronics, apparel, digital goods, toys, and many other consumer products have indeed either deflated in price or inflated less slowly than CPI, thanks to improving technology and offshoring labor to cheaper markets. Collectively, however, these types of items and services only represent 25% of household spending according to the BLS, or 30% of ex-pension and ex-charity spending.

House Prices vs Owner-Occupied Rent

One of the discrepancies in various measures of consumer price inflation is the way housing costs are calculated. The biggest expense for most people is their house or apartment, so differences here play a huge role in how accurate an inflation basket is.

The median house price has outpaced broad CPI over the past three decades. The CPI went up about 2x (100%) over that period while the median house price went up around 2.8x (180%). The median home size grew about 15% during that time, but even doing an adjustment for that, the median house price per square foot has risen faster than CPI.

The CPI, however, does not include house prices, since that is a capital asset rather than a consumption asset. Instead, they use "owner's equivalent rent", where they do surveys to ask people what they think the price to rent the dwelling they have would be. In some ways this makes sense but in other ways it opens up survey errors and introduces financing costs.

The big discrepancy in this part of the calculation is whether or not we should include financing into the price of a home when calculating the cost of the home. Since owner's equivalent rent looks at monthly cost, it indirectly takes into account financing rates.

Using the Bankrate mortgage calculator and historical mortgage rates from the St. Louis Fed, assuming 20% down with a 30-year fixed mortgage, here is a back-of-the-envelope check. If you bought a median home in 1990, it would cost around $125,000 and you'd have a 10% mortgage rate. Your estimated monthly payment would be $1,025. If you bought a median home in 2020, it would cost nearly $350,000 and you'd have a 3% mortgage rate. Your estimated monthly payment would be $1,476.

In other words, despite the fact that the price of the median house went up faster than the CPI rate, the monthly cost of owning the median house with leverage went up less than 1.5x (50%) during this three-decade period, which is less than the broad CPI rate.

However, if the item itself goes up in price by a lot, but the cost to finance it goes down, does that mean price inflation didn't happen? The actual collection of lumber and labor and land that went into that house on an apples-to-apples basis even accounting for size differences is more expensive if you were to buy it unlevered. The bank simply gets a smaller cut of the ongoing cost, if it's bought on leverage.

That aspect alone can make a big difference in CPI calculations, since it makes up about a third of the basket. Yes, the cost of owning the median home through long-term financing hasn't risen much, even though the actual price of the median home has outpaced the CPI growth rate.

For similar reasons, rent hasn't quite kept up with CPI over the past few decades in most locations. The landlord has lower financing costs, which keeps their costs lower even if the property itself is more expensive, and so that trickles down into keeping rents from rising too quickly.

So, this is another discrepancy; the price of purchasing unlevered property vs the cost of buying or renting that property with leverage using lower financing costs, affects CPI calculations.

Education Necessity

One of the biggest price growth outliers was tuition, with a 4x (300%) increase compared to 2x (100%) for the broad CPI from 1990 to 2020.

Decades ago, a 4-year or 6-year college education wasn't necessary to have strong wages. Right out of high school, young adults could start earning money without student debt assigned to them. More prestigious careers of course generally needed the higher degrees.

But due to globalization, offshoring, automation, and reduced union participation, there has been considerable downward wage pressure on many types of non-college jobs. The median male income has been virtually flat in inflation-adjusted terms over the past four decades, but he increasingly needs a college degree and student debt in order to earn that median income. And the cost of that degree has gone up at twice the pace of broad CPI.

The proliferation in student debt, becoming a meaningful problem, is a very recent phenomenon:

Chart Source: St. Louis Fed

This contributes to a lot of people feeling like they're running in place, because they are. Wages are only going up in line with price inflation, and yet a bigger up-front investment (and/or ongoing student debt payments) is needed to get that income.

Republican political strategist Oren Cass popularized the notion that major expenses are rising faster than wages a couple years back:

Chart Source: Washington Post, Oren Cass

The idea was critiqued around the margins. For example, the healthcare calculation assumes that the worker is self-employed and paying the full cost, whereas most folks earning the median wage are employed and have part of that expense covered.

The left-leaning Economic Policy Institute has a widely-shared chart of productivity and compensation that shows a similar outcome, to which I added an annotation in red:

Chart Source: EPI

Outsourcing and automation were fantastic for investors and not great for blue collar workers. The first group got all the benefits without the drawbacks, while the second group got some of the benefits but the full cost of the drawbacks.

When you add everything together, the middle and working classes have indeed been squeezed. The share of US net worth held by the bottom 90% of the country decreased from about 40% to 30% from 1990 to 2020:

Chart Source: St. Louis Fed

The top 10% have increased their share from 60% of the wealth to 70% of the wealth. The top 1% alone hold slightly more household wealth than the bottom 90% combined.

So naturally, most people don't feel like price inflation is as low as CPI says it was. Their actual ability to buy a good living doesn't match with what it says.

CPI Accuracy Summary

If we approximate the cost of living the classic "American Dream" solid middle class life of a spouse, 2+ kids, a single family home, healthcare, university, a car, an annual vacation, and quality meals, I find it hard to match that to the reported CPI over the past three decades. The big expenditures that make up 60-70% of the typical household annual expenditures went up faster than CPI, and could not have been offset by disinflation in the remaining smaller categories.

On the other hand, if someone lives in their parents' home or rents a suburban apartment, skipped university, doesn't have kids, and most of their expenditures are on electronics, digital goods, food, their car, and apparel, then their cost of living probably is accurately reported or quite possibly even overstated by the CPI.

Overall, this 1990-present period has been a recipe for inflation controversy. Labor offshoring and information technology have suppressed both wages and prices in many categories, while the biggest costs of living that can't be outsourced or digitized have outpaced CPI. Lower financing costs have kept the monthly cost of some of those big-ticket items like the median house in check even though their actual prices inflated at an above-CPI rate. On the other hand, a bigger upfront investment in student debt is often required compared to previous history in order to earn a decent income. As a result of all of this, broad money supply went up a lost faster than CPI and was collected by folks in the top income brackets, and there is plenty of controversy about the accuracy of CPI.

Based on the data, it seems that with an apples-to-apples comparison, the American Dream basket of goods and services has risen faster than CPI, especially if unleveraged. You need to downsize living standards and take into account lower costs of financing, to get a result that says otherwise.

Think of it like this. CPI says that price inflation averaged about 2.5% per year for the past three decades. Factoring out some questionable parts of the model, a number of around 3% seems more realistic. However, because more education/debt is required to get the median income, inflation at the end of the day feels more like 4% annualized for many people, and the bottom 90% of the income spectrum are collectively losing pace vs the top 10%. Broad money supply per capita rose at 5% per year during this time, but a lot of it concentrated in the upper echelons of society; those who benefited from the technology/offshoring the most.

Transitory vs Non-Transitory Inflation

You'll often hear from policymakers or the media that inflation is transitory. Many types of inflation occur rapidly and then suddenly cool off.

However, there's a big difference between inflation that is only transitory in rate of change terms, and inflation that is truly transitory in absolute terms.

Inflation that is truly transitory in absolute terms would mean that a lot of prices temporarily go up due to a temporary supply shock, and then come back down when the supply shock is over.

Inflation that is only transitory in rate of change terms, however, would mean that prices jumped quickly and then stopped going up quickly, but never actually came back down.

1940s Inflation Example

Let's look at the inflationary 1940s in visual terms. Here was the official year-over-year inflation rate, and we can see three big clear spikes of inflation:

Chart Source: St. Louis Fed

That inflation was obviously very transitory in rate of change terms, meaning that it came on fast and went away fast. However, as you can see, there was very little if any deflation between those spikes; prices went up quickly and then cooled off, but never really came back down. Here is the absolute CPI during that period:

Chart Source: St. Louis Fed

The reason this happened is because, as you recall from an earlier chart, broad money supply per capita went up a ton in the 1940s. This was due to large fiscal expenditures and central bank monetization of those deficits to industrialize the country and fight World War II. Policymakers tried to use price controls, which were temporary at best. Once all that money was created, it remained in the system forever, and prices reached permanently higher levels. The amount of goods and services increased, but not at the same rate as money supply growth.

This is something to keep in mind when you are told that inflation is transitory. It's often transitory in rate of change terms, but not absolute terms. With inflation that is transitory in rate of change terms but not absolute terms, broad prices stop accelerating to the upside, but don't come back down.

During these times, inflation is often described in terms of supply shortages, and that's true. Those shortages contribute to how fierce the price spikes can be. However, the other factor is that broad money is going up a lot, and that money usually stays in the system for good, which permanently keeps broad prices higher once it's all in the system.

Still, quality of life went up for most people from the 1930s to the 1950s.

1970s Inflation Example

Next, if we look at the inflationary 1970s, it also came in waves, but was more persistent because even the "low" points between those three spikes still had 3-5% annual inflation:

Chart Source: St. Louis Fed

As a result, absolute CPI had a smoother trend upwards, with periods of acceleration in the late-1960s, mid-1970s, and late-1970s during those extra-inflationary spikes:

Chart Source: St. Louis Fed

A Note About Hyperinflation

Alternative financial media sources often argue that hyperinflation is always just around the corner. That sort of content draws in a lot of clicks and attention, but it's not very productive for managing a portfolio.

Hyperinflation is defined as 50% month-over-month inflation. If that persists and therefore compounds exponentially month after month, that would be well over 10,000% inflation by the end of the year.

Hyperinflation often happens in developing countries, and nations that lost critical wars. It's extremely difficult, but not impossible, to have a hyperinflationary event in a developed country that has not lost a critical war. Basically, you need a rather huge collapse in productive capacity, as a result of bombings or total social upheaval, in order to get actual hyperinflation in developed countries.

The Weimar Republic hyperinflated after World War I, for example, as a result of badly losing the war and having to pay foreign war reparations.

Zimbabwe hyperinflated in the 2000s after a series of extreme land reforms that evicted existing landowners from farmland and placed new landowners there based on race, but without training to ensure that production didn't collapse from lack of knowledge and the upheaval in property rights.

Venezuela hyperinflated in the 2010s from a collapse in oil prices (of which Venezuela was overly-reliant on exporting) and loose money-printing policies from the authoritarian government.

Mild reductions in industrial capacity aren't enough to cause hyperinflation. For hyperinflation to occur, there needs to be an enormous loss of faith in the currency, and an inability of the country to provide the goods and services it needs even with a period of adjustment, because the industrial capacity is too divested or there is a failed state and lack of economic functioning.

With the current monetary structure in developed countries, hyperinflation is very hard to occur. Changes to the Federal Reserve Act or equivalent laws in other countries could make it more likely, but as it currently stands, investors are better off focusing on normal inflation when it comes to developed countries. We can cross the hyperinflation bridge if conditions change. The same types of investments that work well in an inflationary environment work well in a hyperinflationary environment anyway.

In developing countries, hyperinflation is easier to occur. This is because they don't have much starting capital, and thus rely on foreign financing. Corporations or the governments in developing countries often then owe debts in currencies that they cannot print (like dollars or euros), and are prone to nominal default risk.

Wikipedia has a good article on inflation, including a list of occurrences across the world over time.

Who Benefits or is Harmed by Inflation?

Another controversy is the topic of who inflation helps or hurts the most.

Outright hyperinflation is bad for almost everyone, since the economy can't function properly while it's happening. If you have no reliable medium with which to pay or accept payment, it's hard to offer products and services, especially products and services for which it requires any sort of multi-month or multi-year planning and investment.

However, the types of environments that we can think of as inflationary like the 1940s or 1970s in the US, often do have winners and losers.

Usually, people use narratives to describe who theoretically would do better or worse in an inflationary environment, but such narratives are often incomplete with their reasoning and don't hold up well to historical outcomes.

For example, I've seen the idea proposed that because lower classes have most of their savings in cash, while the wealthy are highly diversified into real assets, lower classes would be more harmed by inflation.

The reason that's an incomplete analysis is because a) lower classes also have more debt which gets partially inflated away in inflationary environments, and b) inflation often occurs because wages are increasing or more government transfer payments are occurring to those lower classes, which need to be taken into account as well.

So, let's look at history and run some numbers, rather than theorize.

During both the 1940s and 1970s inflationary decades of the past century, wealth concentration went down:

Source: Ray Dalio, Changing World Order

In the 1940s, for example, inflation happened due to massive fiscal spending to industrialize the economy and fight World War II. The employment rate increased, and the country nearly tripled its industrial base. Technology that was used for the war was then repurposed for domestic use. Soldiers, when they came back from the war, were given all sorts of benefits thanks to the GI Bill, and nearly 8 million of them used the education portion of the benefit to complete college degrees or training programs. To pay for this, taxes were raised on the rich, and inflation ate away the purchasing power of bonds and cash, which were disproportionally held by the rich.

In the 1970s, there was a rapid increase in wages and bank lending, along with rising fiscal deficits. Commodity shortages negatively affected poor and rich people alike. Financial assets like stocks and bonds, primarily held by the rich, performed very poorly while real estate with a mortgage attached did quite well. Labor unions were still near the height of their power, which caused various issues but also kept wages pretty high for the bottom 90% until their power weakened in the 1980s:

Chart Source: EPI

Let's fast-forward to 2020/2021 numbers. Based on data compiled by the Federal Reserve, the top 1% of society currently has 31% of US household net worth, while the bottom 50% of society currently has 2% of net worth. The average member of the top 1% has 775x as much wealth as an average member of the bottom 50%.

More specifically, the top 1% of households in the United States have $39.4 trillion in assets and less than $0.8 trillion in debts, which gives them a net worth of $38.6 trillion. So, they have a debt/equity ratio of just 2%. Almost their their entire balance sheet consists of assets.

Meanwhile, the bottom 50% of households have $7.6 trillion in assets and $5.1 trillion in debts, resulting in just $2.5 trillion in net worth. So, they have a debt/equity ratio of 200%. Their balance sheets have a lot of debt relative to equity, and almost as much in debt as in assets.

Inflation is good for debtors and bad for creditors in aggregate, since many types of debt get partially inflated away when inflation runs hot. The very lower classes tend to have more liabilities than assets. The working and middle classes tend to have only moderately more assets than liabilities, and with most of their equity tied up in a house, offset by a mortgage.

When inflation happens, these highly-levered balance sheets do a lot better than the unlevered balance sheets of the rich, especially because the types of policies that tend to be inflationary (high wage pressure from unions, or government transfer payments to citizens that increase the broad money supply) tend to benefit the non-rich and tend to be funded by increased taxes on the rich. Moderately high inflation that runs above prevailing interest rates is also primarily an indirect tax on the rich, as the vast majority of cash, bonds, and stocks are held by the rich.

Hyperinflation, which is a different subject entirely, tends to hurt almost everyone and especially the poor, and society has a risk of breaking down into a failed state. However, historically and mathematically, moderate-to-high inflation within the context of an intact state tends to reduce wealth concentration.

There are, however, some groups in lower income brackets that do poorly in inflationary environments. If someone doesn't have a lot of money and lives on a fixed income in retirement, they have a lot of vulnerability to inflation. Those sorts of folks should consider owning inflation hedges to protect their lifestyle, if they expect that high levels of inflation have a reasonable probability of occurring.

If we consider cultural cycles, moderate-to-high inflation often comes from populistic-dominated political environments and policies, after a period of disinflation and high wealth concentration that occurred in establishment-dominated political environments and policies.

The political pendulum swings back and forth between the interests of capital and labor over the ages as different groups gain control for periods of time. Problems tend to arise when the balance shifts very far to one side or the other, resulting in rapidly-shifting public opinion to push it back the other way.

Capital had political control from the late 1800s through the 1920s. Labor had political control from the 1930s through the 1970s. Capital again had political control from the 1980s through the 2010s. I'm not sure what's next but signs are increasingly pointing towards labor regaining some influence, and it's a topic I continue to monitor.

Inflation/Deflation and Investing Ramifications

There are fortunately good data sets to determine which asset classes generally do well in inflationary or deflationary environments.

Bonds (Deflation Good, Inflation Bad)

The big loser asset classes in inflationary environments are cash, loans, bonds, and any sort of fixed income stream. In other words, if you disproportionally own the liabilities of other entities, you're the one that gets the bill.

This chart shows the 10-year US Treasury rate in blue, and the forward inflation-adjusted annualized returns of Treasuries purchased that year, if held until maturity:

If you were an investor at the time and bought a Treasury note in the 1880s-1890s decades or the 1920s decade and held until maturity, you made strong gains from the yield, plus an extra boost from deflationary CPI. Similarly, if you bought a Treasury note in the 1980s or 1990s, you also did very well, with high rates that more than compensated for prevailing inflation levels.

However, if you bought a Treasury note leading up to any of the three major inflationary periods in this 150-year history and held until maturity, you lost purchasing power at up to a -5% annualized compounded rate for a decade, which led to approximately a -40% loss in purchasing power by the end. In other words, Treasury buyers in those periods basically made giant donations to Uncle Sam.

Stocks (Depends on Starting Valuation)

This chart from Robert Shiller shows US equity valuations compared to US Treasury note rates, and subsequent excess returns of stocks vs Treasuries during the next decade.

Chart Source: Prof Robert Shiller, Yale University

If you bought stocks shortly prior to or during the inflationary WWI period, you outperformed Treasury notes by a moderate margin. If you bought stocks shortly prior to or during the inflationary WWII period, you outperformed Treasury notes by a huge margin. Stocks were quite cheap during both of those periods.

In contrast, if you bought stocks shortly prior to when inflation began in the late 1960s and into the 1970s period, you mildly underperformed bonds (and bonds did poorly too, so it was bad all around). It depends on specifically when you bought though; if you bought after the big stock corrections during the period, you generally outperformed bonds from those points. Stocks were quite expensive in the late 1960s but became cheap in the 1970s as inflation ran hot and policymakers increased interest rates.

Whether the broad stock market does good or bad during an inflationary market compared to bonds, historically depended mainly on the general valuation level of those stocks going into that period. As for sectors, value stocks generally outperformed growth stocks in inflationary periods.

Real Estate (Mostly a Short-Leverage Trade)

If we move onto real estate, we can look at another chart from Robert Shiller. The blue line is inflation-adjusted home prices, indexed to 100 at the start:

Chart Source: Prof Robert Shiller, Yale University

Home prices performed poorly in inflation-adjusted terms during the inflationary 1910s. Home prices performed very well in inflation-adjusted terms in the inflationary 1940s.

Folks who bought homes prior to the inflationary 1970s generally saw the property remain flat in inflation-adjusted terms. However, folks who had property with a fixed-rate mortgage going into the 1970s, generally did very well. The house price kept up with inflation, but the mortgage was devalued against inflation, and so home equity went up by quite a bit, along with their wages.

Commodities (Deflation Terrible, Inflation Great)

Commodities are historically poor performers for the long run, since gains in productivity usually make them cheaper over time.

However, they were generally massive winners during inflationary periods. Oil, as the key commodity during the 20th century, performed well in all three inflationary decades. This was basically an axiom; high oil prices are basically what defined inflationary periods, as a key input commodity.

That oil chart also shows that the 2000s decade would probably have been another inflationary decade for the United States, but the big labor offshoring cycle to China that started at that time basically exported that inflation elsewhere and prevented it from getting too high within the country. Wages remained low, which kept consumer prices in check.

Gold was pegged to the dollar during the first two inflationary periods (1910s and 1940s). Silver did poorly during the 1910s inflationary period but quite well during the 1940s inflationary period. Both gold and silver did exceptionally well in the 1970s inflationary period.

Summary Thoughts

Inflation is a rather complex and controversial topic, but we do have a good set of history and numbers to work from.

As a recap, there are some important relationships to keep in mind for inflation in its various forms.

Monetary inflation, meaning a rapid increase in the broad money supply, is driven either by an increase in bank lending or large fiscal deficits. Whether this leads more to asset price inflation or consumer price inflation (or neither) depends on a few variables.

Interest rates: When interest rates rise, it puts downward pressure on most asset prices, as we saw in the inflationary decade of the 1970s. When interest rates remain low, then monetary inflation remains a decent environment for asset prices, as we saw in the inflationary decade of the 1940s from the market bottom in 1942.

Pendulum swings: Whenever the balance of power favors the wealthy, due to some combination of offshoring, automation, and the political environment, then monetary inflation is more likely to translate into asset price inflation. Whenever the balance of power shifts towards labor, due to labor onshoring, labor organization, and/or populist politics gaining a foothold, then monetary inflation is more likely to translate into consumer price inflation. This is largely correlated to wage increases or lack thereof, as well as being correlated to the size and scope of government transfer payments and tax policy.

Commodity scarcity: When commodities and other resources are abundant, with supply outpacing demand, it keeps input costs low and puts downward pressure on consumer price inflation. When commodities are scarce, with demand outpacing supply, input costs start to rise and it puts upward pressure on consumer price inflation. Technological revolutions can also cause massive productivity gains that create commodity abundance for a period of time.

In terms of investing, there is no guaranteed rule since each inflationary or deflationary period has different reasons for happening, but there are some consistencies.

Inflation: During periods of moderate to high inflation, gold and commodities tend to do extremely well. Equities outperform bonds more often than not, but it depends on the type of equities and their starting valuations, and therefore have a huge variance. Real estate does well, mainly because leverage attached to it gets melted away from inflation. Bonds do poorly in inflationary environments.

Deflationary Shock: If temporary deflation is caused by a deflationary shock, such as a recession or depression, bonds are the place to be, and outperform everything else. Gold also generally does fine compared to other assets. Stocks and commodities usually perform very poorly.

Productive Deflation or Disinflation: Bonds and stocks do well in goldilocks periods of strong real growth, with low inflation and high productivity gains. Between the two, stocks can do better. Commodities and gold are prone to poor performance in this type of environment.

My base case going forward continues to be that with the combination of sizable broad money supply growth, along with public opinion pushing the pendulum back away from globalization, consumer price inflation is likely to be higher in the 2020s decade than in the 2010s decade.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

jpmattia(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The section on owner's equivalent rent (OER) is worth finding in the long article: OER accounts for about 1/3 of the CPI. However, when you view OER in light of the housing bubble around 2006, CPI was negligibly affected.

IMHO, it is a large signal that CPI fails to accurately describe consumer inflation for a large segment of the population.

Negitivefrags(10000) 1 day ago [-]

But in 2008 the housing bubble popped and the prices came back down to 2004 levels.

Wouldn't you say then that the CPI was correct not to adjust too far to account for it?

And if you think housing right now has increased a lot and the CPI isn't taking that into account, perhaps that says something about what is to come....

aazaa(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> Inflation: During periods of moderate to high inflation, gold and commodities tend to do extremely well. Equities outperform bonds more often than not, but it depends on the type of equities and their starting valuations, and therefore have a huge variance. Real estate does well, mainly because leverage attached to it gets melted away from inflation. Bonds do poorly in inflationary environments.

The article doesn't talk specifically about gold, but I believe it should. From this chart, you can see that gold started an upward trend in price pre-pandemic that peaked in August of last year, and has since declined noticeably:


Gold is supposed to be the canary in the coal mine for inflation. The slightest whiff of inflation is supposed to send the price soaring, usually led by gold mining stocks.

This hasn't happened. As the price of copper, lumber, other base commodities, houses, used cars, and possibly even labor, has surged, gold has barely budged.

What does gold's lackluster performance so far say about the future direction of inflation?

That's the question people worried about (hyper)inflation should be asking themselves.

Many in the gold market claim that the price is being manipulated by central banks, by the paper derivatives market, an other forces.

But it's very hard to believe that literally every other commodity is flying to the moon while gold is stuck in the basement due to 'manipulation.'

Something isn't adding up here.

nine_zeros(10000) 1 day ago [-]


gregwebs(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Lyn Alden actually also has one of the best explanations of the price of gold! [1] It is tightly correlated to the broad money supply modified by changes in real rates (10 year - inflation). In August we saw the 10 year rate start rise and gold start falling. Now the 10 year is consolidating while we have inflation: gold prices seem to have finished their consolidation as well and are going up a bit.

Whether it is a good time to buy gold now really depends entirely on what happens with the 10 year treasury rate. With that being said, the movement of the 10 year and gold are slow, so it isn't that hard to exit a position in gold.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cc5YJZcswvI&t=30s

chii(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

> gold's lackluster performance so far say about the future direction of inflation?

some of the gold bugs who would've pushed up the price of gold has switched over to bitcoin (and other cryptos).

omalleyt(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Gold went up a lot in 2020. It's underperformance in the past few months is because Treasury rates ripped higher, which made owning bonds more attractive. However, rates can't rise much more, or the UD gov't will be unable to service its debt. Therefore, gold has begun to climb again

deanak(10000) 1 day ago [-]

So far it's a lot of words and graphs with a tenuous grip on reality in a few places:

> There are, however, some groups in lower income brackets that do poorly in inflationary environments. If someone doesn't have a lot of money and lives on a fixed income in retirement, they have a lot of vulnerability to inflation. Those sorts of folks should consider owning inflation hedges to protect their lifestyle, if they expect that high levels of inflation have a reasonable probability of occurring.

If you think someone in a low tax bracket on fixed income has the spare money to invest in anything, you're not understanding the words 'low income' or 'fixed.'

> Capital had political control from the late 1800s through the 1920s. Labor had political control from the 1930s through the 1970s. Capital again had political control from the 1980s through the 2010s. I'm not sure what's next but signs are increasingly pointing towards labor regaining some influence, and it's a topic I continue to monitor.


paulpauper(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Some of the assertions are questionable. college and healthcare have gone up but the amount people actually pay relative to sticker price is small . There is tons of financial aids and other deference and forbearance programs, so college is quite affordable if you finish.

leg100(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The idea that workers were lording it over the rich from the 1930s through to the 1970s is preposterous. Unless the words political and control have been twisted to mean their polar opposites.

xyzzyz(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> If you think someone in a low tax bracket on fixed income has the spare money to invest in anything, you're not understanding the words 'low income' or 'fixed.'

The low fixed income often comes from investment. For example, you save money in 401k, then as you near retirement, you shift investments into safer instruments ie. bonds. The result is exactly low fixed income and vulnerability to inflation.

anm89(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This is culture war baiting.

The whole appeal of someone like Alden is that she isn't playing for either team, shes just trying to step back and analyze. And it is a much more useful an interesting perspective on the world than turning every single discussion into team sports politics.

The fact that the parent is one of the more upvoted comments I've ever written seems to indicate that I'm not alone.

A final point is that her publicly listed example portfolio performance seems to indicate the she has an exceptionally solid grasp on reality.

PhaedrusV(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

I get the argument from the fed about hedonic adjustments and increased quality of life, but that's not how people measure their happiness. Subjective happiness is how you're doing relative to those around you. The hedonic adjustments are all about objective quality of life. Sure, my resources in my working class midwest neighborhood would be the envy of Louis XVI's court, but that doesn't matter to me when my neighbor gets a new car.

I wonder how difficult it would be to build a 'Subjective Inflation' measure that was useful. Based on category consumption by income quintile you can figure out rough price inflation experienced. With the understanding that happiness is mostly about keeping up with the Joneses you can just assume away the hedonic quality boost and call it 'subjective inflation'.

The point from the inflation link about not being to eat ipads is critical. Increased resources are definitely nice, but the happiness derived from them is zero-sum, and at the end of the day they're taking more of my income.

This, coupled with the stagnation of median wages, means that:

    We're not getting any happier as a cohort, and
    The things we consume cost a bigger chunk of our earnings every year
I buy the link's argument that we should expect price inflation. Interestingly, this analysis is done with mostly pre-COVID data. COVID has amplified all these trends leading to price-inflation, and narrowed our demand into fewer goods and services. That further amplifies the inflationary forces that were already gearing up to make the 20's crazy.

Buckle up. There's going to be a lot of people who feel like their quality of life is crashing.

karatinversion(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

> coupled with the stagnation of median wages

But this is an effect that only appears in real, i.e. inflation-adjusted, wages?

sologoub(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This chart in the expense share of a typical income illustrates a number of issues well, but healthcare stands out like crazy: https://mobile.twitter.com/_cingraham/status/123195012984367...

College, transportation and housing are all pretty high overall, but the healthcare share is just stunning. If we were looking at dramatically better outcomes or services, fine. Unfortunately, doctors get to see patients for less and less time, billing is going up and you don't really see anything in return. Most other developed nations put a stop to this a long time ago...

syshum(10000) 1 day ago [-]

>>Most other developed nations put a stop to this a long time ago...

hmm I wonder if there might be a connection there... as other nation implement price controls a larger part of the R&D and the costs associated with that are born by the US

Further Medicare / medicaid price controls to keep the cost of the entitlement program from going bankrupt has transferred the cost to patients not on those programs

Third leg of this stool is standard of care, American patients have a high exception for standard of care then in 'most other developed' nations where waiting months for a specialist is accepted as normal, or having ward style hospital rooms is normal as well. Where the US we expect must faster treatment times, and semiprivate rooms normally with no more than 2 people to a room, though 4 to a room has become more popular in some regions. This increases costs

fouric(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

Slate Star Codex has an article that examines this effect in more detail (although the author doesn't make any conclusions as to the cause): https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/02/09/considerations-on-cost...

wodenokoto(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

I think healthcare is 3 fold:

1. Is that it is just out of control in the US, but there are also some valid reasons, like,

2. Aging population. As people get older, they need more medical care, so an aging population will have higher average healthcare spend than a young population.

3. Advances in healthcare tech. We can treat more things, so there are more things to receive healthcare services for. And we can also treat things for longer, at great expense. Something along the line of: 10 years ago you could live with disease A for 10 years at a cost X. Now you can live for 20 years at cost X^2.

gruez(10000) 1 day ago [-]

tracing back to the source of the chart...

>Cass calls this calculation the Cost-of-Thriving Index. It measures the median male annual salary against four major household expenditures:

> • Housing, defined as the annual rent for a three-bedroom house in the 40th percentile of the local housing market.

> • Health care, defined as the annual premium on a typical family health insurance policy.

> • Transportation, defined as the average cost of owning and operating a car driven 15,000 miles per year.

> • Education, defined as the average cost of tuition, fees, and room and board at a four-year public college.

Why is education being overweight by a factor of several times? The other items are the annual cost of expenses that you incur annually. But education is only incurred 4 years out of the 80 years you're alive. Giving them the same weight as the other items is ridiculously misleading.

neuroma(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I presume you are in the USA. I watch and marvel at how the USA has such expensive health care and yet apparently has poorer outcomes than other G10 nations, in aggregate. The NHS in my home country is undergoing privatisation of the more lucrative or self-contained components. But it seems important for other countries to watch and learn from this example because free market economics are so often heralded as a solution to inefficiency, cartels, and high prices. Why healthcare is not as amenable to the benefits of capitalism is no doubt complex, but if I may speculate, I'd suggest that choice is not really a good thing in healthcare. All we want is good care, and we want it quickly and conveniently. Choice is only needed if we are getting poor care. Furthermore, the infrastructure (buildings, equipment, supply chains, specialists) are sufficiently costly that often the market cannot entertain multiple variations. In other words, we can't always have many equally equipped hospitals competing to do the same things.

pmiller2(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The problem is not that the share of things like college, housing, and healthcare is high. It's that they have risen much faster than inflation and much faster than median income over the past 40 years. Notice the white space in the chart below 'median male income' in 1985 is all gone by the time you get to the right hand side of the chart.

ItsMonkk(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I've been researching this topic independently over the last year and about 70% of what I've researched is presented beautifully within this article. What a great post.

The only thing I would try to add that she left off was just the Fed's power[0] over this entire topic. It's mentioned slightly with interest rates dropping, but they play such a pivotal role, together with the yield curve, that it needs to be mentioned.

The Fed has the power to have a yield curve inversion, which drops the amount of broad money available, which creates a recession, which has people lose their jobs, which depresses CPI inflation. Once the loss of jobs occur, they drop interest rates back to where they were and along we go for another cycle.

[0]: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=AzYM

sbelskie(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Is your claim that the Fed intentionally causes this cycle? I'm not sure I understand what their supposed goal is here.

paulpauper(10000) 1 day ago [-]

the fed wuld alsmot never allow it to invert if they can prevent it.

jameslk(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

This sounds awfully similar to the Austrian business cycle theory:


imtringued(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

That's a weird complaint. What you're essentially saying is that the Fed has the power to both create inflation and reverse it, which is not as impressive as your comment implies.

You're also messing something up. Cycles are not caused by the Fed. They are caused by the cyclical way humans use debt. It's primarily rooted in psychology. People get into debt in times of high consumer confidence and once consumer confidence goes down it becomes obvious that some of these people shouldn't have gotten into debt in the first place and are no longer able to pay their debts back. The Fed drops interest rates so that it becomes easier to pay off bad debt instead of going bankrupt, which increases consumer confidence again.

One problem is that paying a bad debt over a long time frame is still a drag on the economy. It keeps accumulating and the debt burden gets worse over time as more people spend money on debt servicing than consumption, which drags incomes down, which makes the debt problem worse.

crb002(10000) 1 day ago [-]

M2/Population https://twitter.com/SMT_Solvers/status/1391506520488153091/p...

That is an unprecedented hockey stick.

zeckalpha(10000) 1 day ago [-]

They changed the definition in 2020: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/M2

lupire(10000) 1 day ago [-]

That's a recent spike, not a hockey stick.

A hockey stick requires far more than just a 30% lift in an anomalous year.

ubertoop(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Interesting but, I don't really think I understand what this is. Would you mind explaining it in lay terms?

nabla9(10000) 1 day ago [-]

That hockey stick is neutralized by reverse hokey stick.

Velocity of M2 Money Stock/Population https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/fredgraph.png?g=DPfD

sbelskie(10000) 1 day ago [-]

You're correct that the recent uptick is unprecedented, but given that the other graph (shared by Nobel prize winning economist) shows no stable relationship between M2 and inflation, why does it matter? He might be wrong and you might be right, but that graph alone doesn't tell that story.

crb002(10000) 1 day ago [-]

M2/Heavy Truck Sales. Note the huge growth inside a recession of money chasing an industrial sink.


lbschenkel(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

Some personal anecdotes. I grew up during the hyperinflation days in Brazil (80s, early 90s): talking about 60% a month.

People would get their salary and run to the supermarket and buy everything they needed for the month, because if they waited a single day the prices would have changed. A lot of people internalized that habit and still do that nowadays (not in the sense of running to the supermarket, but buying a lot for the whole month).

This was before barcodes, and every item had a price label on it. Supermarkets had people employed full time just to be remarking the items. I remember running to pick up an item on one end of a shelf while the employee was remarking the items coming from the other end, so you could buy the item at yesterday's price.

I lived through 6 currency changes. Usually when prices started being in the scale of millions, the government would announce that in a very short period (sometimes that being next week), there was a new currency with a new name and 1000 OLD = 1 NEW. Until the government could replace all existing bills, the old bills would be accepted as if they were the new bills (at 1/1000 of the face value, of course). Old bills passing through the banking system would be stamped with the name of the new currency and the new value before being put back into circulation.

Contracts like rentals were all indexed: there was a clause saying the price would be corrected every month using the official index that tracked the inflation. Or were pegged to the dollar. This by itself fed into the positive feedback loop that was perpetuating the hyperinflation.

The government tried some bizarre measures to tame inflation. Often they would try freezing all prices, but that was never sustainable for long. The craziest one was probably in 1990 when the government simply froze 80% of everybody's money in the bank for 18 months to reduce the amount of money in the economy. This was a total disaster and even caused many suicides.

In 1994 hyperinflation was finally tamed when the current currency, Real, was introduced. It was the culmination of an ingenious plan that actually worked.

Feel free to ask me more, if you're interested.

benrbray(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

With prices constantly changing, how were people compensated at work? What were the dynamics of the job market during that time?

wodenokoto(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

Thanks for the great story.

I'd love to hear more about why the real was successful. Wikipedia makes it sound like it was just luck that Brazil had positive trade balance in the years following its introduction.

skzv(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

> In 1994 hyperinflation was finally tamed when the current currency, Real, was introduced. It was the culmination of an ingenious plan that actually worked.

What was the plan?

ohashi(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

I feel like you ended the story too soon. Let's hear about the Real and how it worked.

simonsarris(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Mentioning M2 without mentioning the accounting change that completely changes the graph starting May 2020 is very odd. Of course the percent change is large when you start measuring a different thing from before.

The simplest explanation of accounting change can be found here: https://www.collaborativefund.com/blog/the-fed-isnt-printing...

But the St Louis fed also publishes a disclaimer at the bottom of their graph about it: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/M2

karagenit(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Are you sure that's correct? If I'm reading the article you linked correctly, they basically decided to count savings accounts as M1 instead of M2. But since M1 is included in M2... this shouldn't change the total value of M2? So all of the increases in M2 were actually due to printing of more money (among other things).

treeman79(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Didn't see healthcare.

My dads carefully planned retirement was ruined because he never imagined how expensive it would get.

I pay 1400 a month for a family. Still doesn't cover a lot.

spaetzleesser(10000) 1 day ago [-]

And even if you are insured there is a good chance that a serious illness will eat up your retirement savings.

huitzitziltzin(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Healthcare is a component of the CPI, outlined here:


Since I am a health economist, I can tell you that it is subject to many of the same problems other goods face: prices increase and this is generally observable (though much harder in healthcare than other areas!), while quality improves all the time but measuring quality is quite hard, perhaps also harder than in other classes of goods.

okoslaatoo(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I upvoted you.

lotsofpulp(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I have no idea how families that earn less than $100k are saving enough money for healthcare expenses / loss of income in their years between 50 and 65 (or whatever age Medicare will start at in the future).

Unless you have a cushy government job with those benefits or a high paying white collar job, those years are the most likely for you to lose income due to age, health reasons, etc and any new job you get probably won't have any benefits, or decent ones.

okoslaatoo(10000) 1 day ago [-]

inflation 150 years is not enough history. inflation is part of game theory.

hogFeast(10000) 1 day ago [-]

You should use 150 years across multiple countries i.e. 150 years * N countries.

In-sample annual probability of Weimar is well under 0.5% so it is still a tricky topic to reason about even if you have a bigger sample.

polskibus(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Please elaborate and /or share some links for someone interested in this angle.

cortesoft(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I've wondered what the effect our modern digital economy has had on consumer price inflation.

Normally, an increase in money supply would cause consumer goods to increase in price, since more people are able to buy them and there is a limit on how much of any particular physical good is available.

This isn't the case, however, for digital goods. If there are suddenly 100 million new people who want to buy a Netflix subscription, it isn't like we are going to see the price of a Netflix subscription go up because there isn't enough Netflix to go around. The marginal cost for a new subscriber is practically zero, so there should be no price increase caused by a shortage.

It would be easy to see that inflation would be essentially zero if ALL goods people wanted to buy were digital ones... no amount of demand can eat up the supply, since supply is practically infinite.

Of course, in the real world, some goods are digital and some are physical. If you gave everyone $5000, some of that would go to Netflix subscriptions, which wouldn't effect consumer prices, and some would go to buying TVs to play Netflix on, which WOULD cause inflation.

I am curious how much of our current 'low inflation even with an increasing money supply' is caused by our increasing spending on non-exclusionary goods.

base698(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Cantillion effect:

> Cantillion wrote:

> "The river, which runs and winds about in its bed, will not flow with double the speed when the amount of water is doubled."

> Inflation is not simply an average rise in prices. Prices do not rise proportionally or simultaneously. This results in arbitrary benefit to some who have not created any economic value and detriment to others who have not destroyed anything of economic value by destroying savings for example. This is the Cantillion effect.

bob33212(10000) 1 day ago [-]

We are entering a Post Scarcity Economy. A lot of fiction books write about how this plays out. Regardless of what happens a lot of economic theory becomes less relevant.


z3t4(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Also the marginal cost for Macdonals to serve one more hamburger is also very low. And anything that is automated has very small marginal cost, which is most stuff now a day. If you want to measure inflation, check how much it cost to hire a plumber. And craftsman likes to charge even numbers, so they will jump from $100/hour to $200/hour (rather then from 100 to 110)

anovikov(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

Got to add that almost all physical goods are part software these days. In a way, everything becomes software. And fixed costs to create something and put it into the market are huge and tend to grow, but manufacturing unit costs are low and tend to fall.... So this observation applies to most physical goods just as it does to digital ones!

tomrod(10000) 1 day ago [-]

We still have to pay for food, shelter, transportation, clothing, and other physical things.

Our inner world is richer, and we consume non-decreasing goods. But everything is tied to something in the physical world, even if it's the hardware and energy running it.

barnesto(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Digital goods prices won't increase due to demand necessarily. Those prices will rise because electricity, rent, and all the other overhead line items increase. Those increases get passed to the customer, who is going to be hit with increased prices for the necessities of life - food, water, housing.

Digital goods do nothing to support human life - food, water, housing. Sure you can buy things online, but you can buy those things at brick and mortar stores. In turn, gas prices will rise to the point where delivery services become unviable.

Inflation touches the entire chain whether the product is digital or otherwise.

chupchap(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

> The marginal cost for a new subscriber is practically zero, so there should be no price increase caused by a shortage.

This is true in a vacuum. With a bigger customer base a company will need to invest more in support. Also, in the case of Netflix, they need to invest more in sourcing content to cater to the now increasingly varied demands of their customers or else they'll lose them to competition who might also be offering their products at the same rate.

forgithubs(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Inflation is not always in relation directly to the price.

For example, if Netflix is able to get 10,000,000 new subscribers. It receives $100,000,000.

It can now spend $50,000,000 on new infrastructure, which will make the price rise.

Netflix can also hire for $50,000,000, which creates jobs that otherwise wouldn't exist. Those new employees, working for that new currency will spend their salaries, rising the prices.

fedreserved(10000) about 6 hours ago [-]

The expense that matters most to Netflix is cost of content. They are trying to hedge this by creating their own, to fight against the rising cost of purchasing from middle men but they will still need to license content from others . As their subscribers increase, next contracts negotiations are going to be that much more contentious

paulpauper(10000) 1 day ago [-]

>Normally, an increase in money supply would cause consumer goods to increase in price, since more people are able to buy them and there is a limit on how much of any particular physical good is available.

Computers and other electronics are cheaper than ever on a real and absolute basis despite increased demand and increased money supply

victor106(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> This isn't the case, however, for digital goods. If there are suddenly 100 million new people who want to buy a Netflix subscription, it isn't like we are going to see the price of a Netflix subscription go up because there isn't enough Netflix to go around.

Good point but you have to think that if there's lot of demand for Netflix which means Netflix has lot of hit shows. Say their hit percentage is 10% (which is very high). Which means they have to make more and more shows to provide that number of hits to sustain so much demand. Which means more expenses, which puts pressure on them to increase the price of subscription. Which also means actors, story writers etc can charge more (as they are only a finite number of good actors etc)

atq2119(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> Normally, an increase in money supply would cause consumer goods to increase in price, since more people are able to buy them

This isn't actually true, though it's a widespread belief (quite a number of pundits kept making incorrect predictions after the global financial crisis).

Where the logic goes wrong is that an increase in money supply doesn't automatically translate into higher disposable incomes. (And higher disposable incomes don't automatically translate to higher effective demand, though in practice they usually do if you the increase in income isn't extremely unequally distributed.)

pessimizer(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> If there are suddenly 100 million new people who want to buy a Netflix subscription, it isn't like we are going to see the price of a Netflix subscription go up because there isn't enough Netflix to go around.

No, it would go up because they would make more profits with fewer subscribers and a higher margin.

LudwigNagasena(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> The marginal cost for a new subscriber is practically zero, so there should be no price increase caused by a shortage.

Digital goods aren't priced at marginal cost. By your logic not only an increase in money supply would have no effect on the price of digital goods, but the price of digital goods should be 0 before and after the increase.

gruez(10000) 1 day ago [-]

>I am curious how much of our current 'low inflation even with an increasing money supply' is caused by our increasing spending on non-exclusionary goods.

Not much? Based on the CPI weights given by the BLS[1] at least 82.238% of the CPI is from non digital goods. This is based on summing up the top level categories which are definitely not digital, ie. Food and beverages, Housing, Apparel, Transportation, Medical care. If you drill down into the remaining categories (Education and communication, Recreation, Other goods and services) and eliminate non-digital goods from there you can probably get that percentage even higher.

[1] https://www.bls.gov/cpi/tables/relative-importance/2020.htm

coldtea(10000) 1 day ago [-]

>Normally, an increase in money supply would cause consumer goods to increase in price, since more people are able to buy them

Not if the increase in money supply goes from the banks to the already wealthy (as cheap loans), which don't use the extra money to consume, but to invest, buy land, and fund small-competition-crushing rent-seeking endeavours.

Then the money supply increases, consumer goods remain more or less the same price, but some stuff like rent goes up.

throwawayboise(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

Worth noting that digital goods, almost all that I can think of, are entirely nonessential. They will be the first things cut if a household budget gets tight.

closeparen(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

A Netflix subscription buys actors, directors, writers, editors, cameras, microphones, lights, clipboards, trucks, sound stages, hair & makeup, trailers, set decoration, tape, clapper boards, generators, radios, VFX render hours, insurance premiums, producers' risk, and all the other accoutrements of film and TV production.

There's a lot of accounting and financial engineering and temporal shifting going on under the hood but ultimately you are paying for real things.

eloff(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

I spend fifty times more on real goods each month than digital goods. So while it's fascinating to think about, and it makes quite a lot of sense, it's a rounding error still.

vmception(10000) 1 day ago [-]

These organizations would be expected to have some marginal cost increases from running data centers and physical hardware cost increases and they would calculate passing these on to consumers. Or as an excuse to. But I guess that is covered by your example and understanding that their physical costs being non-digital goods. So, fun thought exercise.

habibur(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Inflation means consumer's purchasing power remains the same, regardless of money supply. Therefore in an inflated economy people won't have the extra money now to subscribe to Netflix as they still are struggling to make ends meet even with the extra money, as everything else has increased in price proportional to his income increase.

alex_smart(10000) 1 day ago [-]

>The marginal cost for a new subscriber is practically zero, so there should be no price increase caused by a shortage.

Yeah, I don't think that that argument works at all. The price does not increase due to 'shortage', it increases due to an increase in consumers' willingness to pay. Going by the Netflix example, if Netflix realizes that not too many people will cancel their subscriptions if they were to increase the price by, say, 1 dollar, they would certainly increase the price.

Consumers' WTP is the reason why digital goods are priced differently in different markets. Many digital goods are sold for much cheaper in India compared to developed countries because the Indian market is much more price sensitive. For instance, Netflix costs only about half as much in India as it does in America.

Black101(10000) 1 day ago [-]

They don't price things based on cost, they price them based on what you are willing to pay.

teitoklien(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

The digital version of goods indirectly does cause inflation.

When you have a surge of users and you got more servers in aws, EC2 prices increase for the on-demand instances , aws buys more servers , the more customers it gets , which means more metal excavation , more semiconductors , more minerals , more trucks to move these things , more fuel to move the trucks , it goes on and on.

Also money gets turned into profit , which is then paid to employees , executives , founders.

Who then go on to pay into other items that are non digital (houses , cars , premium cereals lol), which then do cause inflation.

Until all goods are digital , every digital product still indirectly causes inflation using its non digital items , because all of em are transactions between humans.

And all goods can never be digital , because you still need non digital items to run the digital goods on.

So inflation continues.

lupire(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Businesses charge what customers are willing to pay. If they have more money, they are willing to pay more. Competitiuis the countervailing force, but Netflix has exclusives and serials and network effects (fandoms and friends)

echelon(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Downsides aside, won't inflation help exports and keep USD-denominated trade attractive?

It's not like we're the only economy suffering. We might be doing the best of the whole lot.

kebman(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Well, the ECB is also printing, and the overseas cooperation is pretty good. But it's still visible on the currency charts that something is going on. Just go to Trading View and have a look. Also compare when money printing started after the 'Rony Crash' in March 2020, and when a lot of stocks, commodities, and not least Bitcoin started mooning like crazy soon after. What you're witnessing is a giant transfer of wealth.

nradov(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Inflation only improves the balance of trade if we inflate faster than our trading partners. Lately many countries have been engaged in a competitive currency devaluation race to the bottom.

midjji(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Has anyone seen any study or discussion of inflation arbitrage? Not in the trivial sense of if you predict inflation borrow and invest, but in the case of viewing a country as multiple separate markets and there being inflation differences between them, which in turn means there is opportunity for arbitrage?

It seems to me like a failure to accept that adjacent markets sharing a currency can have different rates of inflation is a large part of why people are so damned bad at understanding and measuring inflation. The article is a good example, every metric and estimate proposed assumes that there is a single inflation rate for the currency. But if you instead thought of it as one good being trades in multiple different market places, then its obvious that there could be differences in price between these markets which traders could exploit. Critically, unless they did so and doing so was a near perfect market, there would effectively be multiple different prices for the commodity and the textbook use of inflation would be such a shitty model as to be near useless. If you instead asked, how many ingots of currencium would I need to buy a bag of other goods, it would be obvious that this would also require a statement of in market A. I doubt the reason this arbitrage opportunity is entirely missed, but it could be that its unusually hard to exploit. However, I suspect it is partly because even among financially literate people, a currency has one rate of inflation is a common idea.

That said, the single market model where currency has a common price provides shitty predictions. For instance, the strongest counter argument against the apparently obvious statement. SNP500 has not increased more in value in 2020 than 2019, its mostly just inflation, is: No metric of inflation say it has been anywhere near 40% in 2020.

However, if we view this as two different markets, A(capital), B(consumer) where the inflation is different for each. Then any metric which is designed to predict inflation assuming its the same in both would by necessity underestimate one and overestimate the other.

The counterargument would be that if this was the case an efficient market would eliminate the arbitrate opportunity. But thats barely true in the most ideal cases, and its easy enough to come up with such arbitrate opportunities.

For instance, we know that historically, whenever there is inflation, stocks respond quickly, but salaries generally lag behind. This is damned near proof of the multi market model on its own, but a model with more parameters always fits the data better. A sufficient, but not necessary proof would be the existence of insurance contracts for and against inflation in another market priced in the same currency. In short, is there a reason that salary futures aren't a thing?

grenoire(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Usually eaten up by the Fisher effect [1] to the extent that it's hard to execute.

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

ur-whale(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

To do arbitrage, you need velocity and amplitude deltas.

Assuming that inflation has enough amplitude deltas from one region to the next (I doubt that's the case), there is still a great lack of velocity.

shubik22(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Seems like a solid, albeit somewhat dry explanation of inflation. I love concrete examples of how inflation impacts people's lives, and there are a few that really helped clarify my understanding of inflation that I like to point others to now.

1) https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2015/12/02/458222801/epis.... A great Planet Money episode about how Brazil combatted hyperinflation by just replacing their currency.

2. https://slate.com/business/1998/08/baby-sitting-the-economy..... A Paul Krugman Slate article about a 1978 journal article that uses the example of a babysitting coop to illustrate the way that the monetary supply can have ramifications on the real economy.

3. And the Money Kept Rolling In (and Out) https://www.amazon.com/dp/1586483811/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_.... A much longer read, but this is book about the economic crisis in Argentina is one of my favorite economics books, and also teaches you a lot about the international monetary system as well.

dnautics(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Krugman's blindness to the patently obvious solution to babysitting coop scrip story is astounding. If anything it belies the Marxist philosophy that an hour of work is an hour of work. It's completely ridiculous that any arbitrary pair of hours should be equivalent to each other. They should not have pegged the currency, and that is the problem. When you think inflation is a hammer and all planned economies are nails, people are gonna get hurt.

marcosdumay(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

> by just replacing their currency

And stopping printing money and balancing the budget. Also a lot of legal interventions to stop some habits, and even a constitution change.

The Real was a complex and multifaceted project.

anm89(10000) 1 day ago [-]

So awesome to see Lyn Alden at the top of Hacker News. She is an absolute genius!

If you aren't familiar with her work and thinking I think a good introduction interview is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_JmGLMjIOk&t=35s

Fun fact: She is an electrical / industrial engineer by trade, not an economist.

silexia(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I agree. I made a great bet at the beginning of the pandemic, but then the Fed hurt me with it's quick action. I didn't understand macroeconomics, but Lyn Alden has really helped me understand it better with her long form articles.

cerved(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

If she's not an economist, what is it that lends credence to her writing about economics and monetary policy?

jbay808(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I really liked her article on understanding Japanification, which I probably found linked from HN too. I'd never heard of her before but I immediately added her to my favourites.


dang(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Some other threads from that site:

An Economic Analysis of Ethereum - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25811356 - Jan 2021 (111 comments)

The Fraying of the US Global Currency Reserve System - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25558573 - Dec 2020 (17 comments)

The fraying of the U.S. global currency reserve system - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25407583 - Dec 2020 (344 comments)

Banks, QE, and Money-Printing - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24978567 - Nov 2020 (235 comments)

Why This Is Unlike the Great Depression - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22890151 - April 2020 (2 comments)

How to Win a Currency War - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22837518 - April 2020 (60 comments)

The Global Dollar Short Squeeze - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22828991 - April 2020 (211 comments)

dnautics(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

While most of the article is good, It's really sad that she apes the old refrain that inflation hurts the poor because they are in debt.

Many of the poor cannot even be in debt because they have no access to the financial system. Those that do, mostly have access to payday lending. It's laughable to hold the opinion that inflation will do anything for someone who owes 10% on top by next month. For the middle class, it's one step up -- credit cards, still laughable to think that a 2% inflation will help out someone with a 15% APR revolving line of credit.

The place where it starts to help is when you have large capital loans on fixed interest like home ownership. But her graphs in the next section relating inflation to wealth gap capture the 1% vs the rest, which is not necessarily a mechanistically informative figure of merit... I'd like to see it where the wealth gap when you draw the line closer to something like the low-interest loan accessibility gap.

mensetmanusman(10000) 1 day ago [-]

" The power of technological deflation is important not to overstate, though. In everyday use, the rise of the smart phone displaced a lot of house phones, cameras, video recorders, film, CD players, iPods, beepers, radios, scanners, roadmaps, and many ATMs. They also displaced a big percentage of physical newspapers, calendars, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and books. In more niche areas they displaced some mobile game devices, pocket translators when traveling, compasses, voice recorders, and photo scrapbooks. We folded many of our devices and consumables into one powerful device with dozens of software applications."

This, and we haven't even discussed the amazing tech in food production that is getting better daily. (Satellites telling tractors in iowa what to do based on hyper spectral drone flyovers).

I remember our family taking a few years monthly payments to get me encyclopedias, and now we have wiki.

HNfriend234(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This is true but it is imperative that citizens have a reliable currency to use to do transactions. This is why I think it is imperative that we transition over to cryptocurrencies that are based on strong fundamentals that make money reliable.


omalleyt(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Time to buy gold.

HNfriend234(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Problem with gold is that it is also inflationary only difference is it is mines that 'print' more gold instead of a central bank.

Cryptocurrencies are better since they have geometric decay built into the algorithm to make them deflationary by default.

127(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

Just throwing this in the air: in the 1970, getting off the gold standard made it possible to take much more debt in varied ways. This probably enabled the rich and the corporations to drain a much larger part of the economy for themselves.

Also throwing this in the air: debt might not actually increase productivity unless it's explicitly only used for productive purposes. Even then it seems dubious. The whole argument of using debt to build a business smells funny.

Right now if you look, people who have access to cheap debt, are buying assets with it. A lesser version of this has been probably going on for decades.

Gustomaximus(10000) about 2 hours ago [-]

> The whole argument of using debt to build a business smells funny.

I think this conflates generally running at a loss with debt, but there is also positive investment.

E.g. Many property developers run on ever increasing debt as they grow, and many of these business do really well. They are using debt to create something of value, sell it and then replay debt.

But if a company is using debt (or equity) to keep growing with overly hopeful future profitability plans, then yeah this is not good.

Both use debt, one is totally normal and common. The other 'smells funny', so I feel it more about the value creation the debt is used for to build the business than the actual debt.

zby(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

'The whole argument of using debt to build a business smells fnny' - so what is the alternative? Do you believe that equity is the only way to finance a business?

Historical Discussions: Why I Work on Ads (May 06, 2021: 652 points)
I Work on Ads (May 04, 2021: 7 points)
I Work on Ads (May 05, 2021: 3 points)

(653) Why I Work on Ads

653 points 5 days ago by benjaminjosephw in 10000th position

www.jefftk.com | Estimated reading time – 9 minutes | comments | anchor

'I work on ads at Google' 'Can I ask why? I honestly can't understand how anyone could.'
Someone recently asked me why I work on ads, and I wanted to write up something more thorough than my comment. (Despite being a work topic this is a personal post and I'm speaking only for myself.)

One answer is that I'm earning to give: I give half of what I earn to the most effective charities I can find, and the more I earn the more I can give. This is not the full answer, however, since when people ask me this they're generally coming from a perspective of viewing ads (or perhaps online ads) as negative, and the question is more like 'why do you choose to work on something bad?'

The thing is, I think advertising is positive, and I think my individual contribution is positive. I'm open to being convinced on this: if I'm causing harm through my work I would like to know about it.

So: why is advertising good? I mean, isn't it annoying when sites show you ads instead of whatever it is you want to read? The question is, what is the alternative? I see two main funding models:

  • Paywalls. You pay with your money.
  • Ads. You pay with your attention.
It's also possible to fund projects through donations, or as hobbies, but producing most of what there is to read requires more money.

(I'm using the internet-specific term 'paywall' to refer to the general 'pay money for access' concept: buying books, paying admission, subscribing to streaming services, etc.)

Both paywalls and ads have a range of advantages and disadvantages. Some of these vary by medium: books are expensive enough to print that they couldn't be funded by advertising; an analog radio receiver is simple enough that a paywall would require draconian legal force. On the internet, however, I think ads are generally a better fit for two reasons:

  • Minimal friction. You can follow links from site to site, without barriers. You don't have to decide which sites to subscribe to. If someone sends you a link to an article, you can read it.

  • Non-regressive. Paywalls, like other fixed costs, are regressive: a newspaper at $220/y is effectively much more expensive for someone earning $10k than $100k.

You can sort of fix friction with bundling: you subscribe to a streaming service then can watch (or listen to, or read) anything in their collection. There are advantages to this approach, but it's a bad fit for articles. Web browsing works best when people can read and share anything without a subscription ('sorry, this article is for Conglomerated Media Group subscribers only'). To meaningfully fix friction with bundling you would need to get down to a small number of subscriptions, which then gives those organizations an enormous (and dangerous!) amount of power.

Micropayments could potentially resolve this friction in a decentralized way, which I would love to see. On the other hand, this is a really hard problem: people have been working on it since at least Digital's Millicent over 25 years ago. There have been many proposals and startups, but nothing has really worked out.

Even if we could resolve payment's friction issues, however, we would still be stuck with the basic problem that some people have much more disposable income than others. Universal basic income would help, and I'm strongly in favor of it, but I don't think that's likely to be politically feasible anytime soon.

And so: ads. Funding the open web.

Or perhaps: better ads than paywalls

I don't want to be too easy on ads, though: there's a lot wrong with internet advertising today. For example, there isn't enough incentive for advertisers to limit their use of bandwidth or publishers to avoid annoying ad experiences. But the biggest issue I see people raising is the privacy impact of targeted ads.

Most products are a much better fit for some people than others. If you tried selling bicycles to fish very few would be interested, and you'd mostly be wasting their attention. This means advertising is worth a lot more when you can put the right ad in front of the right person.

One way to do this is to advertise in places where people who are disproportionately interested are likely to be. Model railroad ads on model railroading forums, sponsored products on Amazon, a booth at a trade show. This works great if you want to write a blog about cool new credit cards, but what about all those sites that don't have a strong commercial tie-in?

A large fraction of ads on the web today are targeted based on past browsing. When I was writing all those posts about cars I visited a lot of car sites, and then I saw a lot of car ads on other sites. I didn't end up buying a car, but advertisers were correct that I was much more likely to buy a car soon then a random person.

Historically, ads like this have been built on top of third-party cookies. When I visited one of those car sites they probably put a little bit of HTML on their page like:

<img src='https://adtech.example/cars'>
My browser sent a request for that image, and got back an invisible 'tracking pixel' with something like:
Set-Cookie: id=6735261
The vendor probably stored a record like:
  id       interests
  -------  ---------
  6735261  cars
Later on, perhaps I visited a site about flowers, and was served:
<img src='https://adtech.example/flowers'>
This time, my browser already had a cookie for adtech.example and so included it on the request:
Cookie: id=6735261
This lets the vendor update their record for me:
  id       interests
  -------  -------------
  6735261  cars, flowers
Sometime later I'm reading something unrelated on a site that contracts with adtech.example to show ads. My browser sends a request for ads, and my cookie is included. The vendor runs an auction, bidders are especially interested in paying to show me car ads (more profit than flowers) and I get an ad about cars.

This model has some major drawbacks from a privacy perspective. Typically, the vendor doesn't just get that you are interested in cars, they get the full URL of the page you are on. This lets them build up a pretty thorough picture of all the pages you have visited around the web. Then they can link their database with other vendors databases, and get even more coverage.

This started to change in 2017 when Safari announced 'Intelligent Tracking Protection'. The first of very many rounds of of iteration, it brought Safari to full third-party cookie blocking about a year ago. Firefox followed, and Chrome announced they would too.

Well, sort of. Chrome's announcement was a bit more nuanced:

After initial dialogue with the web community, we are confident that with continued iteration and feedback, privacy-preserving and open-standard mechanisms like the Privacy Sandbox can sustain a healthy, ad-supported web in a way that will render third-party cookies obsolete. Once these approaches have addressed the needs of users, publishers, and advertisers, and we have developed the tools to mitigate workarounds, we plan to phase out support for third-party cookies in Chrome. Our intention is to do this within two years.

The idea is, build browser APIs that will allow this kind of well-targeted advertising without sending your browsing history to advertisers, and then get rid of third-party cookies.

One of these proposed APIs is TURTLEDOVE. It lets an advertiser tell your browser 'remember that I know this user is interested in cars' and then later 'show this ad to users I said were interested in cars.' Because the browser stores this information, and is very careful in how it handles bidding, reporting, and showing the ad, it doesn't let the advertisers learn what sites you visit or sites learn what ads you see.

I've been figuring out how ads can use TURTLEDOVE, helping build an open-source plain-JS implementation of the API for testing and experimentation, and suggesting ways the API could be better (#119, #146, #149, #158, #161, #164). I think this is a lot of why I've been blogging less lately: writing up these ideas draws from a similar place.

Advertising is how we fund a web where you can freely browse from site to site, and my main work is helping figure out how to move ads onto less-powerful more-private APIs. While I think the vast majority of my altruistic impact is through donations, I don't think my work in advertising is something harmful to offset.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

blakesterz(10000) 5 days ago [-]

  The question is, what is the alternative? I see two main 
  funding models:
  Paywalls. You pay with your money.
  Ads. You pay with your attention.
I guess That question seems good, but with ads, I don't feel like I'm paying with my attention, I'm paying with my personal data. I'm paying by sharing what I'm doing with a seemingly infinite number of companies who turn around and buy and sell all that data and build profiles on me that are then bought or sold. I'm paying with my privacy, not my attention.
jefftk(10000) 5 days ago [-]

You might be interested in the second half of the post, starting with 'But the biggest issue I see people raising is the privacy impact of targeted ads...'? Browsers are getting rid of third-party cookies, and Safari, Edge, and Chrome all have proposals for how ads can do many of the same things they do today without cross-site tracking.

amalcon(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It's also important to realize that with ads, you also pay with your money, when you later buy some product (whether due to the ad or not). Your attention and personal data are only valuable in this context as a way to access your money. The amount of money you pay with is unclear and varies from person to person, but you still do pay.

angarg12(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I work in ads, not particularly because I like the domain, but because it's a great tech challenge. I got the chance to work in large scale systems and solve hard problems using fun technologies. As an engineer, it's my favourite job so far.

Beyond that, people who ask such things are just taking the moral high ground.

aridiculous(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Perhaps they are. Or perhaps they're just taking a moral position at all.

beloch(10000) 4 days ago [-]

The crux of his justification for what he does is that, he argues, people wouldn't want to pay a monthly fee for services like youtube bundled with complete respect for their privacy.

First, users do not currently have that choice. Sure, you can pay for some things (e.g. youtube premium), but it does nothing for your privacy. If you buy youtube premium you'll very likely see more ads for youtube premium (if you're not already blocking ads).

Second, The real benefit of ads is that it lets small sites that might get a single one-time visit from a user monetize that visit. A blog with a trending post is not going to be able to sell micro-subscriptions to one-time users, but they can get some ad revenue. The only current alternative here is begging for donations. That takes some effort and can piss off readers.

Ironically, although Kaufman mentions that micropayments are hard, Google is one of the few companies currently situated to implement them in a way that would actually improve user privacy. e.g. If a user paid a 'Premium Internet' monthly fee, Google Ads could have a flag that turns it's data collection/sharing off and replaces it with micropayments to any site that user visits that are running Google Ads.

Of course, it does seem a little bit like a mafia protection racket for a company devoted to invading user privacy and selling their data to turn around and offer to stop doing that if paid by users!

robbrown451(10000) 4 days ago [-]

'First, users do not currently have that choice. Sure, you can pay for some things (e.g. youtube premium), but it does nothing for your privacy. If you buy youtube premium you'll very likely see more ads for youtube premium (if you're not already blocking ads).'

This doesn't make sense. I mean, you might see ads for YouTube premium on other sites, but you aren't seeing them on YouTube. You're paying to remove ads on YouTube, not the whole web. (Nor does it prevent people from stalking you IRL)

jefftk(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> If a user paid a 'Premium Internet' monthly fee, Google Ads could have a flag that turns it's data collection/sharing off and replaces it with micropayments to any site that user visits that are running Google Ads.

It's not exactly what you're describing, but they've tried several (unsuccessful) approaches along these lines with https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Contributor

(speaking only for myself)

mssundaram(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> If a user paid a 'Premium Internet' monthly fee, Google Ads could have a flag that turns it's data collection/sharing off

That would be horrible! Data collection and sharing should be off by default, and I never want to see a 'Premium Internet' experience.

summerlight(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> First, users do not currently have that choice.

Have you thought about the possibility that there actually was a choice and it just miserably failed. Or we can call it a 'natural selection'. One example would be https://contributor.google.com/, which never has gained enough traction since publishers don't like it. This is simply a hard problem. You can build another big tech if you can provide a meaningful, scalable alternative.

joefkelley(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> If you buy youtube premium you'll very likely see more ads for youtube premium

Really? I have youtube premium and I can't recall seeing ads for it. Why would they advertise a product to people that already have that product?

> Google Ads could have a flag that turns it's data collection/sharing off and replaces it with micropayments to any site that user visits that are running Google Ads.

FWIW, this flag already exists, except you don't have to do micropayments: https://adssettings.google.com/

I guess you still see ads with this setting, they're just not personalized. Hypothetically you could imagine a 'stronger' setting that doesn't just do away with personalization, it does away with ads altogether by allowing the user to 'outbid' any advertiser. But I suspect there will be some surprised users who get a bill for hundreds of dollars by doing some particularly high-value searches like 'personal injury lawyer' or 'mortgage' or something.

And if it were a flat rate, my intuition is that the fee would have to be much higher than most would expect or be willing to pay.

annoyingnoob(10000) 4 days ago [-]

The collection, cataloging, and storage of personal data is the issue. We can have effective ads without constantly looking over everyone's shoulder and documenting what they do. But obviously, the author sees this data collection as beneficial, I respectfully disagree. I left advertising because I didn't like what I could see on the backend.

andrepd(10000) 4 days ago [-]

This ubiquitous and ever-growing surveillance is a catastrophe. But to be honest I'm against ads altogether.

rpicard(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Just wanted to mention I appreciate seeing a different perspective here.

I know there's a lot of negative reaction to it, and I can empathize with that because there's a long history of negative behavior by the advertising industry. But there's no doubt that there are benefits too, and seeing some nuance on HN is always a win.

andrepd(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I see advertising as intrinsically immoral. So it's not only the privacy abuses (which are the most serious part) but advertising in general.

SyzygistSix(10000) 4 days ago [-]

>But there's no doubt that there are benefits too

There most certainly are doubts that there are any benefits. Online ads aren't any more beneficial than billboards.

I think we would do well to follow the example of Sao Paulo.

omginternets(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I'm always surprised that someone would go through the trouble of justifying their involvement in something prima facie unethical -- in writing, no less -- and fail to address the actual ethical issue. As other have noted in comments, the problem is not with advertising in general, but with the specific way in which Google advertises.

I have a hard time believing the author is unaware of this, so I'm left wondering: why? What was the point of this exercise? The result is closer to a self-indictment than an apology.

crazygringo(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> something prima facie unethical

Citation needed.

You're criticizing the author for not addressing the 'actual ethical issue', yet you yourself are failing to even state what you think it is.

There is absolutely zero societal consensus that advertising is unethical, in the way there is a consensus that fraud or murder are.

To the contrary -- there is vast disagreement around the ethics of online advertising, delicately balancing concerns around societal good, access to information, funding, factuality, bias, tracking, privacy, and consent. The incredible complexity of the issues involved is pretty much proof that there is nothing merely 'prima facie' at all.

dmayle(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I think the problem probably lies with the difference between your point of view versus his.

Advertising is not 'prima facie' unethical. It's actually a societal good. I know this is an unpopular opinion, but if you can set aside your emotions with regards to the discussion, and view it from a distance, it's not too hard to show.

To start off, I've never actually met anyone who doesn't want advertising at all (despite their claims). They just use the term advertising to refer to those kinds of advertisements they don't like, or find too intrusive.

Advertising is, at it's base, finding a way to deliver a message to someone who is doing something else. Thus, getting rid of advertising means no more signs on buildings (yes, being forced to read the name of a store as you walk down the street is a form of advertising). Even if you were willing to accept how difficult this would make it to discover businesses (life harder for the end user), this would make it nigh impossible for new entrants to any market. That means that pretty much all commerce would be funneled into a few catch-all stores, and not only would the economy suffer, but consumer power would be greatly diminished.

Advertising indirectly improves the quality of life of people who have more time than money. (Generally the less money you have in total, the more advertising benefits you.) This is because advertising as a source of revenue is a useful tool to amortize the cost of a product over many users. Free-to-watch TV would be mostly non-existent without advertising, not to mention all of the internet services like search and news; also consider free newspapers like the Metro or 20 Minutes.

That doesn't mean that I don't understand what people really get worked up about. Let's forget spam and obnoxious blinking signs, or having to punch the monkey. It's like how knives are great in the hands of chefs, but not murderers. Crime is crime, and someone like the poster of this article is not trying to defend those kinds of practices.

Let's get into what people tend to get really worked up about: customized advertising. However, it's not the customized advertising that really bothers people, it's the fear of abuse of tracking. In a world where customized advertising was perfected, you would see 95% less ads. Why? Every ad you see that isn't a match is a waste for everyone involved. The business doesn't want to pay, because you aren't interested, and the user doesn't want to see it, because it's distracting and wastes your time.

But still, tracking, that bothers you, right? You don't want an advertiser to know your kink, right?

Well, what if the advertiser is the store that happens to serve whatever your kink is? People shop in adult stores, and they have no problem letting the store know that they're interested in their wares, so clearly it's not just the stores learning that is the problem. The problem is the abuse. People want to choose who they trust to share information with, and don't wish to risk. But... if you're clicking on an ad from some store that delivers your own brand of kink, you're okay sharing that with them, so what's the problem?

Well, as an example, maybe if you're a teacher you don't want your community to know that you like buying purple teddy bears because it might cost you your job. You're okay shopping in a purple teddy bear store... but if the purple teddy bear store had advertising that only targeted teachers, suddenly someone knows that you're a teacher that likes purple teddy bears, and you consider that dangerous.

So yes, abuse is a problem. This is why advertisers actively engage in trying to solve the abuse problem. This is why the advertising industry is looking for ways to move forward.

Yes, they also fight the change, because in their own eyes, they're trustworthy (to at least their own standards), and change is hard and expensive. But that doesn't make advertising unethical, 'prima facie' or otherwise.