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Historical Discussions: Raspberry Pi 4 (June 24, 2019: 2302 points)

(2410) Raspberry Pi 4

2410 points 1 day ago by MarcScott in 1524th position

www.raspberrypi.org | Estimated reading time – 17 minutes | comments | anchor

We have a surprise for you today: Raspberry Pi 4 is now on sale, starting at $35. This is a comprehensive upgrade, touching almost every element of the platform. For the first time we provide a PC-like level of performance for most users, while retaining the interfacing capabilities and hackability of the classic Raspberry Pi line.

Get your Raspberry Pi 4 now: http://rpf.io/ytraspberrypi4 #RaspberryPi4 Subscribe to our YouTube channel: http://rpf.io/ytsub Help us reach a wider audience by translating our video content: http://rpf.io/yttranslate Buy a Raspberry Pi from one of our Approved Resellers: http://rpf.io/ytproducts Find out more about the #RaspberryPi Foundation: Raspberry Pi http://rpf.io/ytrpi Code Club UK http://rpf.io/ytccuk Code Club International http://rpf.io/ytcci CoderDojo http://rpf.io/ytcd Check out our free online training courses: http://rpf.io/ytfl Find your local Raspberry Jam event: http://rpf.io/ytjam Work through our free online projects: http://rpf.io/ytprojects Do you have a question about your Raspberry Pi?

Get yours today from our Approved Resellers, or from the Raspberry Pi Store in Cambridge, open today 8am–8pm!

Raspberry Pi 4 Model B

Here are the highlights:

  • A 1.5GHz quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A72 CPU (~3× performance)
  • 1GB, 2GB, or 4GB of LPDDR4 SDRAM
  • Full-throughput Gigabit Ethernet
  • Dual-band 802.11ac wireless networking
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports
  • Dual monitor support, at resolutions up to 4K
  • VideoCore VI graphics, supporting OpenGL ES 3.x
  • 4Kp60 hardware decode of HEVC video
  • Complete compatibility with earlier Raspberry Pi products

And here it is in the flesh:

Raspberry Pi 4 memory options

This is the first time we're offering a choice of memory capacities. We've gone for the following price structure, retaining our signature $35 price for the entry-level model:

RAM Retail price
1GB $35
2GB $45
4GB $55

As always these prices exclude sales tax, import duty (where appropriate), and shipping. All three variants are launching today: we have initially built more of the 2GB variant than of the others, and will adjust the mix over time as we discover which one is most popular.

New Raspberry Pi 4, new features

At first glance, the Raspberry Pi 4 board looks very similar to our previous $35 products, all the way back to 2014's Raspberry Pi 1B+. James worked hard to keep it this way, but for the first time he has made a small number of essential tweaks to the form factor to accommodate new features.


We've moved from USB micro-B to USB-C for our power connector. This supports an extra 500mA of current, ensuring we have a full 1.2A for downstream USB devices, even under heavy CPU load.

An extra half amp, and USB OTG to boot


To accommodate dual display output within the existing board footprint, we've replaced the type-A (full-size) HDMI connector with a pair of type-D (micro) HDMI connectors.

Ethernet and USB

Our Gigabit Ethernet magjack has moved to the top right of the board, from the bottom right, greatly simplifying PCB routing. The 4-pin Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) connector remains in the same location, so Raspberry Pi 4 remains compatible with the PoE HAT.

Through the looking glass

The Ethernet controller on the main SoC is connected to an external Broadcom PHY over a dedicated RGMII link, providing full throughput. USB is provided via an external VLI controller, connected over a single PCI Express Gen 2 lane, and providing a total of 4Gbps of bandwidth, shared between the four ports.

All three connectors on the right-hand side of the board overhang the edge by an additional millimetre, with the aim of simplifying case design. In all other respects, the connector and mounting hole layout remains the same, ensuring compatibility with existing HATs and other accessories.

New Raspbian software

To support Raspberry Pi 4, we are shipping a radically overhauled operating system, based on the forthcoming Debian 10 Buster release. This brings numerous behind-the-scenes technical improvements, along with an extensively modernised user interface, and updated applications including the Chromium 74 web browser. Simon will take an in-depth look at the changes in tomorrow's blog post, but for now, here's a screenshot of it in action.

Some advice for those who are keen to get going with Raspbian Buster right away: we strongly recommend you download a new image, rather than upgrading an existing card. This ensures that you're starting with a clean, working Buster system. If you really, really want to try upgrading, make a backup first.

One notable step forward is that for Raspberry Pi 4, we are retiring the legacy graphics driver stack used on previous models. Instead, we're using the Mesa "V3D" driver developed by Eric Anholt at Broadcom over the last five years. This offers many benefits, including OpenGL-accelerated web browsing and desktop composition, and the ability to run 3D applications in a window under X. It also eliminates roughly half of the lines of closed-source code in the platform.

New Raspberry Pi 4 accessories

Connector and form-factor changes bring with them a requirement for new accessories. We're sensitive to the fact that we're requiring people to buy these: Mike and Austin have worked hard to source good-quality, cost-effective products for our reseller and licensee partners, and to find low-cost alternatives where possible.

Raspberry Pi 4 Case

Gordon has been working with our design partners Kinneir Dufort and manufacturers T-Zero to develop an all-new two-part case, priced at $5.

We're very pleased with how this has turned out, but if you'd like to re-use one of our existing cases, you can simply cut away the plastic fins on the right-hand side and omit one of the side panels as shown below.

Raspberry Pi 4 Power Supply

Good, low-cost USB-C power supplies (and USB-C cables) are surprisingly hard to find, as we discovered when sending out prototype units to alpha testers. So we worked with Ktec to develop a suitable 5V/3A power supply; this is priced at $8, and is available in UK (type G), European (type C), North American (type A) and Australian (type I) plug formats.

Behold the marvel that is BS 1363

If you'd like to re-use a Raspberry Pi 3 Official Power Supply, our resellers are offering a $1 adapter which converts from USB micro-B to USB-C. The thick wires and good load-step response of the old official supply make this a surprisingly competitive solution if you don't need a full 3 amps.

Somewhat less marvellous, but still good

Raspberry Pi 4 micro HDMI Cables

Again, low-cost micro HDMI cables which reliably support the 6Gbps data rate needed for 4Kp60 video can be hard to find. We like the Amazon Basics cable, but we've also sourced a 1m cable, which will be available from our resellers for $5.

Official micro HDMI to HDMI cable

Updated Raspberry Pi Beginner's Guide

At the end of last year, Raspberry Pi Press released the Official Raspberry Pi Beginner's Guide. Gareth Halfacree has produced an updated version, covering the new features of Raspberry Pi 4 and our updated operating system.

Raspberry Pi 4 Desktop Kit

Bringing all of this together, we're offering a complete Desktop Kit. This is priced at $120, and comprises:

  • A 4GB Raspberry Pi 4
  • An official case
  • An official PSU
  • An official mouse and keyboard
  • A pair of HDMI cables
  • A copy of the updated Beginner's Guide
  • A pre-installed 16GB 32GB [oops – Ed.] microSD card

Raspberry Pi Store

This is the first product launch following the opening of our store in Cambridge, UK. For the first time, you can come and buy Raspberry Pi 4 directly from us, today. We'll be open from 8am to 8pm, with units set up for you to play with and a couple of thousand on hand for you to buy. We even have some exclusive launch-day swag.

If you're in the bottom right-hand corner of the UK, come on over and check it out!

New Raspberry Pi silicon

Since we launched the original Raspberry Pi in 2012, all our products have been based on 40nm silicon, with performance improvements delivered by adding progressively larger in-order cores (Cortex-A7, Cortex-A53) to the original ARM11-based BCM2835 design. With BCM2837B0 for Raspberry Pi 3B+ we reached the end of that particular road: we could no longer afford to toggle more transistors within our power budget.

Raspberry Pi 4 is built around BCM2711, a complete re-implementation of BCM283X on 28nm. The power savings delivered by the smaller process geometry have allowed us to replace Cortex-A53 with the much more powerful, out-of-order, Cortex-A72 core; this can execute more instructions per clock, yielding performance increases over Raspberry Pi 3B+ of between two and four times, depending on the benchmark.

We've taken advantage of the process change to overhaul many other elements of the design. We moved to a more modern memory technology, LPDDR4, tripling available bandwidth; we upgraded the entire display pipeline, including video decode, 3D graphics and display output to support 4Kp60 (or dual 4Kp30) throughput; and we addressed the non-multimedia I/O limitations of previous devices by adding on-board Gigabit Ethernet and PCI Express controllers.

Raspberry Pi 4 FAQs

We'll keep updating this list over the next couple of days, but here are a few to get you started.

Wait, is it 2020 yet?

In the past, we've indicated 2020 as a likely introduction date for Raspberry Pi 4. We budgeted time for four silicon revisions of BCM2711 (A0, B0, C0, and C1); in comparison, we ship BCM2835C2 (the fifth revision of that design) on Raspberry Pi 1 and Zero.

Fortunately, 2711B0 has turned out to be production-ready, which has taken roughly 9–12 months out of the schedule.

Are you discontinuing earlier Raspberry Pi models?

No. We have a lot of industrial customers who will want to stick with the existing products for the time being. We'll keep building these models for as long as there's demand. Raspberry Pi 1B+, 2B, 3B, and 3B+ will continue to sell for $25, $35, $35, and $35 respectively.

What about a Model A version?

Historically, we've produced cut-down, lower-cost, versions of some of our $35 products, including Model 1A+ in 2014, and Model 3A+ at the end of last year. At present we haven't identified a sensible set of changes to allow us to do a "Model 4A" product at significantly less than $35. We'll keep looking though.

What about the Compute Module?

CM1, CM3, and CM3+ will continue to be available. We are evaluating options for producing a Compute Module product based on the Raspberry Pi 4 chipset.

Are you still using VideoCore?

Yes. VideoCore 3D is the only publicly documented 3D graphics core for ARM‐based SoCs, and we want to make Raspberry Pi more open over time, not less.


A project like Raspberry Pi 4 is the work of many hundreds of people, and we always try to acknowledge some of those people here.

This time round, particular credit is due to James Adams, who designed the board itself (you'll find his signature under the USB 3.0 socket); to Mike Buffham, who ran the commercial operation, working with suppliers, licensees, and resellers to bring our most complicated product yet to market; and to all those at Raspberry Pi and Broadcom who have worked tirelessly to make this product a reality over the last few years.

A partial list of others who made major direct contributions to the BCM2711 chip program, CYW43455, VL805, and MxL7704 integrations, DRAM qualification, and Raspberry Pi 4 itself follows:

James Adams, Cyrus Afghahi, Umesh Agalgave, Snehil Agrawal, Sam Alder, Kiarash Amiri, Andrew Anderson, Eng Lim Ang, Eric Anholt, Greg Annandale, Satheesh Appukuttan, Vaibhav Ashtikar, Amy Au, Ben Avison, Matt Bace, Neil Bailey, Jock Baird, Scott Baker, Alix Ball, Giles Ballard, Paul Barnes, Russell Barnes, Fiona Batchelor, Alex Bate, Kris Baxter, Paul Beech, Michael Belhazy, Jonathan Bell, John Bellairs, Oguz Benderli, Doug Berger, Ron Berthiaume, Raj Bharadwaj, Udaya Bhaskar, Geoff Blackman, Ed Bleich, Debbie Brandenburg, David Brewer, Daniel Brierton, Adam Brown, Mike Buffham, Dan Caley, Mark Calleja, Rob Canaway, Cindy Cao, Victor Carmon, Ian Carter, Alex Carter, Amy Carter, Mark Castruita, KK Chan, Louis Chan, Nick Chase, Sherman Chen, Henry Chen, Yuliang Cheng, Chun Fai Cheung, Ravi Chhabra, Scott Clark, Tim Clifford, Nigel Clift, Dom Cobley, Steve Cole, Philip Colligan, Stephen Cook, Sheena Coote, Sherry Coutu, John Cowan-Hughes, John Cox, Peter Coyle, Jon Cronk, Darryl Cross, Steve Dalton, Neil Davies, Russell Davis, Tom De Vall, Jason Demas, Todd DeRego, Ellie Dobson, David Doyle, Alex Eames, Nicola Early, Jeff Echtenkamp, Andrew Edwards, Kevin Edwards, Phil Elwell, Dave Emett, Jiin Taur Eng, Gabrielle England, YG Eom, Peggy Escobedo, Andy Evans, Mark Evans, Florian Fainelli, David Ferguson, Ilan Finkelstein, Nick Francis, Liam Fraser, Ian Furlong, Nachiket Galgali, David Gammon, Jan Gaterman, Eric Gavami, Doug Giles, Andrew Goros, Tim Gover, Trevor Gowen, Peter Green, Simon Greening, Tracey Gregory, Efim Gukovsky, Gareth Halfacree, Mark Harris, Lucy Hattersley, James Hay, Richard Hayler, Gordon Henderson, Leon Hesch, Albert Hickey, Kevin Hill, Stefan Ho, Andrew Hoare, Lewis Hodder, William Hollingworth, Gordon Hollingworth, Michael Horne, Wanchen Hsu, David Hsu, Kevin YC Huang, Pei Huang, Peter Huang, Scofield Huang, James Hughes, Andy Hulbert, Carl Hunt, Rami Husni, Steven Hwang, Incognitum, Bruno Izern, Olivier Jacquemart, Mini Jain, Anurag Jain, Anand Jain, Geraint James, Dinesh Jayabharathi, Vinit Jayaraj, Nick Jeffery, Mengjie Jiang, David John, Alison Johnston, Lily Jones, Richard Jones, Tony Jones, Gareth Jones, Lijo Jose, Nevin Jose, Gary Kao, Gary Keall, Gerald Kelly, Ian Kersley, Gerard Khoo, Dani Kidouchim, Phil King, Andreas Knobloch, Bahar Kordi-Borojeni, Shuvra Kundu, Claire Kuo, Nicole Kuo, Wayne Kusumo, Koen Lampaert, Wyn Landon, Trever Latham, William Lee, Joon Lee, William Lee, Dave Lee, Simon Lewis, David Lewsey, Sherman Li, Xizhe Li, Jay Li, John CH Lin, Johan Lin, Jonic Linley, Chris Liou, Lestin Liu, Simon Long, Roy Longbottom, Patrick Loo, James Lougheed, Janice Lu, Fu Luo-Larson, Jeff Lussier, Helen Lynn, Terence Mackown, Neil MacLeod, Kevin Malone, Shahin Maloyan, Tim Mamtora, Stuart Martin, Simon Martin, Daniel Mason, Karen Matulis, Andrea Mauri, Scott McGregor, Steven Mcninch, Ben Mercer, Kamal Merchant, James Mills, Vassil Mitov, Ali Syed Mohammed, Brendan Moran, Alan Morgan, Giorgia Muirhead, Fiacre Muller, Aram Nahidipour, Siew Ling Ng, Thinh Nguyen, Lee Nguyen, Steve Noh, Paul Noonan, Keri Norris, Rhian Norris, Ben Nuttall, Brian O'Halloran, Martin O'Hanlon, Yong Oh, Simon Oliver, Mandy Oliver, Emma Ormond, Shiji Pan, Kamlesh Pandey, Christopher Pasqualino, Max Passell, Naush Patuck, Rajesh Perruri, Eric Phiri, Dominic Plunkett, Nutan Raj, Karthik Rajendran, Rajendra Ranmale, Murali Rangapuram, Ashwin Rao, Nick Raptopoulos, Chaitanya Ray, Justin Rees, Hias Reichl, Lorraine Richards, David Richardson, Tim Richardson, Dan Riiff, Peter de Rivaz, Josh Rix, Alwyn Roberts, Andrew Robinson, Kevin Robinson, Nigel Roles, Paul Rolfe, Marcelo Romero, Jonathan Rosenfeld, Sarah Roth, Matt Rowley, Matthew Rowley, Dave Saarinen, Ali Salem, Suzie Sanders, Graham Sanderson, Aniruddha Sane, Andrew Scheller, Marion Scheuermann, Serge Schneider, Graham Scott, Marc Scott, Saran Kumar Seethapathi, Shawn Shadburn, Abdul Shaik, Mark Skala, Graham Smith, Michael Smith, Martin Sperl, Ajay Srivastava, Nick Steele, Ben Stephens, Dave Stevenson, Mike Stimson, Chee Siong Su, Austin Su, Prem Swaroop, Grant Taylor, Daniel Thompsett, Stuart Thomson, Eddie Thorn, Roger Thornton, Chris Tomlinson, Stephen Toomey, Mohamed Toubella, Frankie Tsai, Richard Tuck, Mike Unwin, Liz Upton, Manoj Vajhallya, Sandeep Venkatadas, Divya Vittal, John Wadsworth, Stefan Wahren, Irene Wang, Jeremy Wang, Rich Wells, Simon West, Joe Whaley, Craig Wightman, Oli Wilkin, Richard Wilkins, Sarah Williams, Jack Willis, Rob Wilson, Luke Wren, Romona Wu, Zheng Xu, Paul Yang, Pawel Zackiewicz, Ling Zhang, Jean Zhou, Ulf Ziemann, Rob Zwetsloot.

If you're not on this list and think you should be, please let me know, and accept my apologies.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

tiernano(3637) 1 day ago [-]

bastards! just bought 2 pi 3 model B+ a couple weeks back (still in their box too) and now this... Welp... back to ordering a few of these! man, thats some upgrade!

tiernano(3637) 1 day ago [-]

and the 4gb ones are already sold out...

stirfrykitty(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

I'm happy to see the 4GB RAM and better overall performance now available for a mere $55. I admin over a dozen RPis at work for signage and sometimes they barely keep up, but as a non-profit, we don't have the budget for much else. We can afford the new Pis, however, so I will likely be upgrading them this year.

I'll likely buy one for home to replace my aging Pi-hole.

ryacko(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Are you using web apps or presentation software for signage?

swebs(3872) 1 day ago [-]

Does anyone know if it can boot from USB? I know one of the last models was able to after changing some firmware settings and the Raspberry Pi foundation mentioned adding better support for that in the future. MicroSD cards are just too prone to corruption to be running your OS off of.

jamesfmilne(10000) 1 day ago [-]

From the Raspberry Pi 4 Boot EEPROM readme:

'Support for these additional bootmodes will be added in the future via optional bootloader updates. The current schedule is to release PXE boot first, then USB boot.'


megous(4111) 1 day ago [-]

What's the thermal story? Looks pretty terrible so far. The case has no holes. The board has no holes for the heatsink, so you'll have to glue it. Space for heatsink is small.

Is it made so that the board serves as a heatsink at the very least?

swebs(3872) 1 day ago [-]

Scroll down to the 'Power and Heat' section


ryanmercer(3601) 1 day ago [-]

>The case has no holes.

Uh, give it five minutes and there will be 13524 third party cases?

undersuit(4148) 1 day ago [-]

The Raspberry Pi 3 B+ was the exception more than the norm. Clocking the A-53 at 1.4GHz on 40nm really sucked down the juice. The processor used in the 4 is probably not running on the very edge of its maximum potential.

As for heatsinks, you've always 'glued' them, I even have a few I have permanently epoxied on instead of the included adhesive.

EDIT: I'm wrong, wrong, wrong, so wrong. https://medium.com/@ghalfacree/benchmarking-the-raspberry-pi...

intsunny(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The RPI4 w/ 4GB RAM is going to be a very welcomed upgrade in the emulation scene. N64, PS1, Dreamcast and PSP games will run so much smoother.

AnIdiotOnTheNet(3851) 1 day ago [-]

Does the 4 have a composite output, or is there a hat for it? My game room has a CRT and while I'd love to stick to original hardware, the price of getting it to read games from non-original media (which is getting harder and harder to come by) is pretty high. An RPi 4 could be reasonable alternative.

lawik(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Can't wait to try Nerves (https://nerves-project.org/) on this. Waiting for the US-based devs to wake up to find out what they think.

This is a stunning upgrade in my eyes. Going to evaluate how it would work as a dev desktop too. Just mount it behind a monitor. iHackintosh?

rgovostes(4146) about 11 hours ago [-]

The Raspberry Pi has an ARM processor, while macOS requires an x86_64 processor, so you could not build a Hackintosh. One could conceivably run iOS, as enough is understood to emulate the OS on similar hardware (see https://alephsecurity.com/2019/06/17/xnu-qemu-arm64-1/).

icefo(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I'm very happy about that !

I needed to build a low power Nas with ZFS and the only board that could do the job (gigabit Ethernet, sata IO, powerful 64 bits processor, 4GB of ram) was the rockpro64. Sadly I discovered after receiving it that it can't run regular Linux distros out of the box. I had to download an image from some guy on GitHub. He seemed reasonably trustworthy since it was linked from the manufacturer's page but there's still a small chance that my Nas is part of some botnet now. It's something that can't happen with major manufacturer's like raspberry.

amelius(876) 1 day ago [-]

> (gigabit Ethernet, sata IO, powerful 64 bits processor)

The RPi4 doesn't have sata.

leemailll(4016) 1 day ago [-]

You can take a look at odriod's x86 board

listic(4151) 1 day ago [-]

How exactly do you plan to connect hard drives to a Raspberry Pi? Use drives in external USB enclosures just lying around? Looks a bit hacky to me.

I am planning on doing a NAS to, but decide to forgo the low power aspect and use an older PC hardware. But not too old, apparently, as FreeNAS requires 64-bit and 8+ GB of RAM, nowadays, for the ZFS, apparently.

schappim(1691) 1 day ago [-]

I have a Raspberry Pi 4 Model B in front of me and have just run some benchmarks using the Phoronix Test Suite.

TL;DR: Prime CPU test; Pi4B: 60 seconds, Pi3B+, 80 seconds, Render test: Pi4B 27fps at 720p, Pi3B+ 16fps at 720p.

Zips of the test reports:

vardump(4152) 1 day ago [-]

Please run SD card benchmarks, assuming you have a fast card available.

marcani(10000) about 24 hours ago [-]

How hot does it get when in idle and how hot after about 10 min full cpu load? What are the prospects on overclocking?

bscphil(3923) 1 day ago [-]

Hi, thanks for running this. It's helpful information. Something strange is that in your cpuinfo the SoC is detected as BCM2835, while in all the spec sheets online it's supposed to be BCM2711. Do you know if you are possibly working with a different version of the hardware?

One reason this is important is that some of us in this thread are trying to work out what the video decoding and 4K HDMI capabilities are with this new hardware. In particular, the specs say the BCM2711 is supposed to be a VideoCore VI SoC, but your dmesg is showing that the vc4 driver blob is being used.

If you could add any information that would help that would be awesome!

harel(2085) 1 day ago [-]

Their site is inaccessible at the moment. I'm guessing you're all buying one right now...

marcosdumay(4153) 1 day ago [-]

Seems to be a larger problem:


mark_l_watson(2656) 1 day ago [-]

I only have a USB-C monitor on my desk. Since the Pi 4 has USB-C ports, perhaps they support non-HDMI video?

mirceal(4091) 1 day ago [-]

does not look like it. the output is still hdmi and the usbc is used for power

Drdrdrq(4146) about 22 hours ago [-]

Did anyone figure out what to do with failing SD cards and USB keys? I gave up trying to reinstall everything on my Pi after (almost) every power loss.

dguaraglia(4147) about 17 hours ago [-]

Huh, that's bizarre. We've been using Raspberry Pi in remotely deployed devices for ~2 years now. These devices reboot on a regular basis. So far, not a single one of the cards has failed.

schappim(1691) 1 day ago [-]

Wow the LAN improvements are wild!

I'm getting on our (https://piaustralia.com.au/) internal Gigabit network:

RPi4B Ethernet: 912mbps RPi3B+ ethernet: 294mbps

That USB 3.0 controller makes all the difference.

Fredej(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Looks like the ethernet is connected directly through RGMII - meaning the USB 3.0 controller is likely completely out of the picture. That would mean you can run full throttle ethernet without affecting the USB speed at all.

askvictor(4138) 1 day ago [-]

Can you benchmark the SD card performance for us?

h1d(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Genuinely curious what you'd want this for?

Cloud servers can be prepared in minutes, has decent performance, decent network, no upfront cost, can throw away or add at will and you don't have to take care of it physically. Also don't have to open up your local network.

jonathankoren(3963) 1 day ago [-]

It's original pitch is for an educational product, but some people use it as a very powerful embedded system.

SomeOldThrow(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I'd guess "spending only $35".

guilhermetk(4143) 1 day ago [-]

I have 2 use cases for my RPi:

-PiHole as a ad/tracking blocker -Plugging sensors to measure temp/humidity and control AC (on/off)

Still on my todo list: PiVPN to VPN into my home network

mempko(3932) 1 day ago [-]

If you have children, you would understand ;-) Or if you are just an adult child...

PakG1(3603) 1 day ago [-]

Gigabit Ethernet? I'm tempted to grab a few and try running Pi-Hole for my whole organization (~1200 users) and see how that goes. :) I know you can set up Pi-Hole on Ubuntu VMs. But there's something so attractive to me about running it separate from your hypervisors and closer to the core switch on very very cheap hardware.... Been curious about Pi-Hole on my bigger work scale for a while, this may very well tip me to trying it out.

dingaling(4016) 1 day ago [-]

Pi-Hole is a wrapper around dnsmasq, so you could just run that on your base OS with the same configuration files. Add gravity.sh if you want automated blocklist updating:


If you already have an available server there's no need to spin up a VM to host another OS instance just to run native software...

theandrewbailey(2026) 1 day ago [-]

> I know you can set up Pi-Hole on Ubuntu VMs.

I've been running Pi-hole on Ubuntu on bare metal for a few months. ('server' in my basement)

benn_88(1325) 1 day ago [-]

Yeah, for the first time it's true gigabit. Results from iperf:

Raspberry Pi 3B: 94Mb/s Raspberry Pi 3B+: 285Mb/s Raspberry Pi 4B: 930Mb/s


bin0(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This seems like it could start replacing cheap firewall hardware. I believe pfsense no longer requires aes-ni (?), so it seems like a good choice for that.

majewsky(3934) 1 day ago [-]

It shouldn't be a problem even with older Pis. Pi-Hole only answers DNS requests, which are comparatively tiny. The actual web traffic goes through your regular layer-3 network.

tamalsaha001(3727) 1 day ago [-]

How usable are these $35 - 1GB versions? I have never used one. Just curious.

swebs(3872) 1 day ago [-]

Depends entirely on how you want to use it. You're not going to be opening Slack, but it's more than plenty for a KODI player, home server, VPN server, seedbox, piHole, robot controller, home automation, etc.

vardump(4152) 1 day ago [-]

Useful enough to have total sales of over 25 million units. Counting all models ever sold.

mhd(3699) 1 day ago [-]

This looks usable for desktop tasks, does anyone have tips for a good display to pair with it, optimized for energy saving (in the 24', FullHD class)?

PkBuzios(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I was thinking the same. This is a great compact and low-budget desktop

Avernar(4073) 1 day ago [-]

Are there better options for $35? I'm fine with the seller being an unknown Chinese company.

rahuldottech(2963) 1 day ago [-]

There really aren't. There's a reason RasPi is so popular. The level quality and also that of the support out there is unmatched.

If you have a RasPi and are facing an issue, a quick web search will almost certainly find you the solution.

With an unknown low quality board? You're on your own.

phosphophyllite(10000) 1 day ago [-]

WOW, if USB3 and NIC are dedicated devices (not share one usb bus) this is amazing little machine!

Fredej(10000) 1 day ago [-]

According to the article the NIC is connected through dedicated RGMII - not through USB3.

monocasa(2785) 1 day ago [-]

Huh, the new cores are Spectre vulnerable for the first time for RPi.

Zenst(3792) 1 day ago [-]

ah, because of the out of order instruction processing with the SMP. Not thought about that, but the speed bumps all round will more than absorb any OS mitigation overhead.

gigatexal(4045) 1 day ago [-]

Has anyone had success using an ARM based system for local development in Linux?

rcarmo(533) 1 day ago [-]

Yes. I use mine for a lot of back-end development (I can run Ubuntu on them and Docker, and have a bunch of containers built for them as well, via a multi-arch pipeline[1] I have been adding to for a while and just cleaned up for re-use).

[1]: https://github.com/rcarmo/azure-pipelines-multiarch-docker

FlyingSnake(3968) 1 day ago [-]

Yes, I use my R.Pi3 as a development server.

I run Nginx -> Postgrest -> PostgreSQL on the R.Pi, and it has served me faithfully for more than a year. It is blazing fast ( _for my needs_ ) and I can quickly replicate and setup another R.Pi if needed in a jiffy. I can't wait to port my setup to the new ARM64 R.Pi4!

wrong_variable(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Depends on what you are doing.

onion2k(2295) 1 day ago [-]

I use a Pi3B+ for dev at home (working on nodejs, react, serverless etc). It's great.

thomasdd(3938) 1 day ago [-]

Is Wifi Antenna(Antena) part of the board? Or an external connector is used for Wifi or BT5. Cant find details in the specification.

filleokus(3654) 1 day ago [-]

On previous models it was integrated, so I assume it is now as well.

cyberjunkie(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Oh my! This is such a crazy upgrade. I've been using the RPI2 as my HTPC/NAS at my folks, and I'm so happy with it. I was itching to get the last one for myself.

USB 3.0! Gigabit Ethernet! WiFi 802.11ac, BT 5.0, 4GB RAM! 4K! $55 at most?!

What the!? How the??! I know I'm not maintaining decorum at Hacker News, but I am SO mighty, MIGHTY excited!

I'm setting up a VPN to hook this (when I get it) to my VPS and then do a LOT of fun stuff back and forth, remotely, and with the other RPI at my folks.

johnvega(4091) about 24 hours ago [-]

Feels like an exponential upgrade.

apple4ever(4155) about 24 hours ago [-]

I agree with your excitement! I've been waiting for this upgrade forever. I keep looking at the other options out there, but while their hardware is great, their software is terrible.

masklinn(3544) 1 day ago [-]

> I've been using the RPI2 as my HTPC/NAS at my folks

Could you provide some details? The USB-adapted ethernet & lack of wifi sounds limiting for a NAS.

equasar(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Do you have a good guide to setup a nice VPN server?

bcheung(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

TLDR; of cons from various sources:

- New SoC puts out more heat. Active cooling more important now.

- Video playback at 4K requires H.265

- Micro-HDMI cables now needed.

- Draws more power.

Other than that, looks like a major performance boost.

throw0101a(3542) 1 day ago [-]

> Gigabit Ethernet!

Does it have PoE? Having to deal with one less cable would be nice.

Especially given that the latest spec, IEEE 802.3bt from September 2018, now allows for up to 100W per port:

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_over_Ethernet

m463(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

I like the usb-c input.

The big shortcoming of the other Raspberry Pis I have is power. Plug anything into it and you risk undervoltage problems (even with the official supply)

  [   49.910905] Under-voltage detected! (0x00050000)
  [   76.949928] Voltage normalised (0x00000000)
  [  436.806032] rpi_firmware_get_throttled: 1 callbacks suppressed
  [  436.806038] Voltage normalised (0x00000000)
  [  438.886093] rpi_firmware_get_throttled: 2 callbacks suppressed
  [  438.886100] Under-voltage detected! (0x00050000)
  [  445.126338] Voltage normalised (0x00000000)
I hope the new power input will stablize things.
mtgx(148) about 23 hours ago [-]

Even so, A72 is a highly-inefficient chip (which is probably why they set such a low clock speed for it). Cortex-A73 would've been much better. But I guess there always has to be at least one obvious lacking in Raspberry Pi generations.

xorcist(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> I've been using the RPI2 as my HTPC/NAS

Using the Pi as a file server can be a bit flaky. The ethernet controller was an USB one, and was neither really stable or took load very well. The new PHY on a dedicated link is probably the single biggest improvement with this new revision.

The HEVC is a bit unexpected considering the high license fees and general uncertainties. Let's hope the documentation can be released as well.

inson(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Do you have a blog or something for us, mortals, to learn

dheera(3637) about 21 hours ago [-]

Excited too, but $55 + $13.95 shipping = $68.95 is inching closer to the $99 (free shipping) territory of the Jetson Nano.

venugopal113(10000) 1 day ago [-]


birdman3131(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I have a 10tb external hooked to my routers usb 2 port and have always been looking for something better. This looks like it.

robsalasco(10000) 1 day ago [-]
akavel(2052) 1 day ago [-]

Thanks! I was especially interested in the cooling situation with RPi, and the article you linked to seems to provide some valuable information & further links in this regard (section 'Heating and Cooling': https://blog.hackster.io/benchmarking-machine-learning-on-th...)

theknarf(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I'm a bit disappointed that they added type-D (micro) HDMI instead of just two more USB-C ports. If I need to use a dongle anyway (since I can't just plug inn normal HDMI) why not USB-C?

Preferably I'd like a version with 4 usb-c ports, 1 normal hdmi, and two normal usb ports. That way I could have it setup with just usb-c, but can still plugin legacy connectors when needed.

codefreakxff(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I don't disagree that 4 usb-c could have been more forward thinking. But, you don't NEED to use a dongle, you can buy an hdmi-to-micro cable.

alexisread(10000) 1 day ago [-]

microHDMI-HDMI is passive, as mentioned by another poster. The issue here is the software - two standard HDMI (electrically) ports can be really well supported by all the software, meaning that it can all be multi-monitor friendly. USB-C uses hardware so wouldn't have the support, see the issues with HDMI-VGA when the first pie came out.

As an aside, they probably went with microHDMI as they're smaller (and hence cheaper in cost and area) on the board, and put less force with heavy connectors. Lastly, many android tablets have the microHDMI connector so they're easy to get hold of (first world anyway).

hatsunearu(3860) 1 day ago [-]

Pretty sure you need extra silicon to allow for USB-C to carry HDMI.

gloflo(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Oh this is great. WiFi and gbit ethernet onboard is what I needed.

Is USB and network bandwidth still shared?

mixmastamyk(3445) 1 day ago [-]

Possibly, but usb3 is a lot faster.

slartibardfast0(10000) 1 day ago [-]

'The Ethernet controller on the main SoC is connected to an external Broadcom PHY over a dedicated RGMII link, providing full throughput. USB is provided via an external VLI controller, connected over a single PCI Express Gen 2 lane, and providing a total of 4Gbps of bandwidth, shared between the four ports.'

Better than one could've hoped!!

sofaofthedamned(4086) 1 day ago [-]

Nope, it's completely unfettered by USB this time.

Arbalest(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Nope, according to https://opensource.com/article/19/6/raspberry-pi-4

> The BCM2835-based chip in Raspberry Pi 1 to 3 provided just one native USB port and no Ethernet, so a USB hub on the board provided more USB ports and an Ethernet port. The 3B+ added a dedicated LAN chip, which gave it Gigabit Ethernet, but this was limited to USB2 speeds. The Pi 4 has dedicated Gigabit Ethernet, and because it's no longer throttled over USB, its networking speeds are much faster.

jokoon(4146) 1 day ago [-]

The only issue I have with the Rpi is the microSD lifespan. Of course you can make it read only, but at that point I would pay $10 more to have at least 1GB or less of quality flash memory on it. I've heard microSD will always die at some point. Of course you can also boot from USB too.

I'm also waiting for a new rpi zero.

lucb1e(2072) about 23 hours ago [-]

My microSDs indeed die after 2 years and a few months (warranty is 2 years), pretty universally. Teaches one to keep proper backups of photos.

eemil(10000) about 2 hours ago [-]

You can get industrial microSD cards for not that much money. Mouser has a couple models with MLC flash for under 20 EUR. E.g. SDSDQAF3-016G-XI

k_sze(4131) 1 day ago [-]

I really wish there's an official 64-bit build of Raspbian to go with it.

mkl(4065) 1 day ago [-]

There isn't?

Hm. It seems you are right. The linked article says

> New Raspbian software

> To support Raspberry Pi 4, we are shipping a radically overhauled operating system, based on the forthcoming Debian 10 Buster release.

which is ambiguous, but https://medium.com/pi-top/raspberrypi4-f38f12633345 says

> One slightly unusual point to mention is that despite the 64-bit processor, the kernel that supports the entire operating system is currently only 32-bit, for now. Raspberry Pi have assured us that this will be updated in future once things have settled down after the launch.

nsporillo(3637) 1 day ago [-]

Since the link appears to be down, you can find some good information here: https://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/raspberry-pi-4-b,6193.h...

I was also looking on Canakit and it looks like the 4GB version is in pre-order to be delivered in mid July.

aerophilic(3785) 1 day ago [-]

For those just wanting specs, here is a summary from the table from the article comparing it to RPI3 (left new):

CPU: 1.5-GHz vs 1.4-GHz (same cores)

RAM: selectable 1, 2, 4GB (depending on which version) vs 1 GB

Video out: 2 micro hdmi out vs 1 Max resolution 4K @60hz vs 2560x1600

USB: 2x3.0,2x2.0 vs 4x2.0

Ethernet: Gigabit vs 330MB

Wireless: Bluetooth 5.0 vs 4.1

Charging: USB-C vs USB micro

Power requirement: 3A at 5V vs 2.5A at 5V

Size/weight: 43g vs 50g

Note: somewhat skeptical on power draw, as RPI3 would occasionally spike higher than 3A, but we will see how it handles "brown outs".

Either way, pretty excited :)

grizzles(4040) 1 day ago [-]

This is the death knell for x86 PCs for the consumer market.

No regular user needs more than this. Developers and hardcore gamers will be the only ones left on x86. Intel will be a shadow of themselves soon. They have did such a bad job at diversifying.

rockyleal(4026) 1 day ago [-]

Intel NUCs are pretty neat

cafebabbe(10000) 1 day ago [-]

What? Even on low-profile distros, Raspberries are terrible desktop PCs. This one is certainly looking better but i don't expect a game-changing experience, in light of existing i7s CPUs and javascript-'powered' apps.

makomk(3623) 1 day ago [-]

This is probably less of a threat to the consumer market than the endless stream of cheap ex-corporate x86 desktops which are adequate for basic use has been when combined with the long useful lifespan of hardware in the post-Moore's Law era.

dlkmp(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I'm not so sure about this on a large scale but my first thought after reading this was to replae my parents' PC with a Pi 4.

theandrewbailey(2026) 1 day ago [-]

Until you launch an Electron based app, load Gmail, or go to an ad-laden webpage.

It might be a better idea to develop those apps on one of these, instead of using Macbooks + the cloud.

dandellion(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I think it's great to have more options and this is interesting, but I don't think it's that big of deal. Anyone who wants to do any video editing, sound, 3D modeling, etc, or anything that requires graphics or serious software won't have enough with this.

For browsing and basic everyday use sure, but in that space people have been switching to tablets for a while now. So this might help that trend but I don't think it makes that much of a difference.

inapis(4066) 1 day ago [-]

Hardware is not the only criteria to fulfill when an average consumer buys a device. There's software and the ecosystem.

So it's far away from being a death knell for the consumer market.

Robotbeat(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Have you tried surfing the web on a Raspberry Pi 3? Even if the 4 is 3 times faster, it'll be a frustrating experience.

Additionally, once you add in all the peripherals for a laptop, the cost is much higher than if you just bought a cheap netbook. 4GB of Ram Pi 4 is $55. $30 for a decent USB C power supply and cord, plus $50 for a display, $15 for keyboard, $15 for mouse, plus $15 for a decent SD card and/or hard drive... plus individual shipping and then you need a case.

AnIdiotOnTheNet(3851) 1 day ago [-]

> No regular user needs more than this.

These are words I've heard from arrogant techies for decades, yet they are continually surprised to find that people don't use the shit they condescendingly designed for them based on that premise.

Scene_Cast2(10000) 1 day ago [-]

So on one hand, I get the excitement. This is a very popular platform that has a ton of community support and does a bunch of stuff. On the other hand, it isn't great at anything (besides the community - which shouldn't be underestimated, sure). It's also using a pretty proprietary chip - if you build a project off of a Pi, it's hard to migrate to a custom PCB.

As a NAS, you probably would want ECC and a bunch of SATA ports (I'm using a Helios4 for this purpose). You can't use it as a router / pfSense without a second gigabit ethernet. As a media box, you'd want a SATA port and more display out options (and maybe beefier GPU).

But on the other hand, everyone including me has one. (I got one for flashing some SPI chips with Coreboot BIOS). Perhaps the versatility is the killer feature.

kingosticks(4149) 1 day ago [-]

> if you build a project off of a Pi, it's hard to migrate to a custom PCB.

Isn't that what their compute module is aimed at?

dspillett(4039) 1 day ago [-]

> Perhaps the versatility is the killer feature.

That is a thirst of it. There is little it does massively better than other options, in fact for everything I can think of there are better options, but it is powerful to do most things well enough.

An other third is the cost. There are not many options with a similar price/utility ratio, particularly when you count support (see point three).

The thirst third is support: up-to-date Linux builds supporting the hardware (a common complaint with other devices is old and/or buggy drivers that are a faf to build), community size & momentum, commercial add-ons, ...

> As a media box, you'd want a SATA port

Not for a media display box, which is what my currently active pair are used for. Local media storage is on the network in a box hosting many drives and doing other jobs too, and other media is remote anyway. And if you are using something for storage you want multiple SATA ports (I can't be the only one paranoid enough to apply RAID1+ to anything intended to survive the month!).

The Pi3 (and 2 for that matter) does admirably as a Kodi box, though it struggles with x265 (720p is fine though it drops frames on some encodes, 1080p is sometimes surprisingly OK in the winter but causes the thermal throttle to kick in after a while when the ambient temperature is higher) so I'm quite interested in the fact that the 4 seems to support this in hardware - I'll be keeping an ear open for news that Kodi supports its hardware support for that codec (and if it handles the commonly used format options well not just the baseline).

> router / pfSense without a second gigabit ethernet

You can use an external device, but yeah that does wreck the nice small form factor somewhat, adds to the cost, and you have the hassle of finding a reliable well-supported one. Though the main complaints I've seen for using simple SoC systems like this as a router (and one of the reasons why I've not got around to trying it myself yet) is not that 100Mbps is a limitation for most home users (anecdote: have ~76mbit down, ~17Mbit up, I know few here with much better) but that they don't have the umpf to keep up with that level of traffic, especially in both directions, with any degree of extra processing (i.e. being a VPN endpoint for a chunk of that traffic).

ars(2990) about 20 hours ago [-]

I'm using mine as an X terminal. x2go is too slow (not enough CPU) on version 3, but vnc works.

jdboyd(4153) 1 day ago [-]

I think that aside from versatility and community, the other big thing these have been great at is long term availability. Just look at how many other Pi 'killers' have come and gone pretty rapidly, or never ended up getting good OS support.

I will say, I suspect that for a media box, USB3 storage may be good enough.

ChuckMcM(606) about 21 hours ago [-]

Nice upgrade, I chuckled at the pricing of 1G, 2G, and 4G models as $35, $45, $55 (at least in the US). And that they are pushing it as a desktop. They might start looking like a computer company if they aren't careful.

At some point I think they really should consider offering an official case or something :-).

Zenst(3792) about 20 hours ago [-]

They already do official cases, though for some, this: https://hackaday.com/2019/06/21/grate-design-on-this-cutting...

itsfirat(10000) about 24 hours ago [-]

This thing can easily replace my laptop.

asark(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

For the 4GB model, my very usable if somewhat low-end IBM Thinkpad ~15yrs ago had about 1/10 as much memory. Probably similar on the processor—I bet one core on this is something like 3x as fast as the single-core Celeron I had in that thing. Video capabilities are so much better it'd be hard to even compare them. IO's much faster—5400RPM spinning rust on that laptop, the SDCard's probably a lot faster even, let alone the USB3. The only reason this thing might not make an excellent desktop these days is all the bloated web shit we use.

mvip(3162) 1 day ago [-]

...if they could only fix the storage. Using SD cards for this workload is a very bad fit.

stedaniels(3409) 1 day ago [-]

Why don't you just use USB3 storage?

shams93(4041) 1 day ago [-]

I'm super excited as well. I figured out the secret sauce to get a low latency kernel build I was able to get down to 20ms latency but I'm excited to see if this can't get down to 10ms even though 20ms is acceptable low audio latency, already with only 1 gig of ram on a pi3 ardour is usable for multitrack recording, excited to see how this does with 4 gigs.

Firerouge(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Do you have a write-up on what you did to achieve that low of a latency?

mixmastamyk(3445) about 23 hours ago [-]

I recently connected a midi keyboard to our Pi3 and ran Timidity for synthesis. It worked, but unfortunately the notes happen about half a second after you press a key, making it rather useless. Strange, since if you dump the midi events themselves to the console they appear to happen immediately.

I tried teaking alsa and pulseaudio settings, no luck. Also installed jack but never got sound from it. Eight hours on the weekend wasted with nothing to show for it. Any ideas on how to fix this?

bin0(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I'm going to fourth the below suggestion. I'd love to see some more about how you achieved this.

adontz(4153) 1 day ago [-]

I would like to hear more about this!

AnIdiotOnTheNet(3851) 1 day ago [-]

Forgive me, but isn't 20ms kind of a lot of latency? That's more than a frame at 60hz. I assume I'm missing some context here.

danShumway(4020) 1 day ago [-]

I would also love to see a writeup about low-latency kernels on the Pi, if you've got the time.

Just recently got into audio processing, and I'm finding this stuff really interesting.

anderspitman(1723) about 21 hours ago [-]

I played around with some Linux DAW stuff back in the day. That's awesome that you can achieve enough performance on an RPi these days.

ryuukk_(10000) 1 day ago [-]

so.. a cpu from 2015 and still shit memory for bad performances

oh, and load of paid fanboyz to advertise this scam

mav3rick(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Jeez don't buy it if you don't like it. What do you want for $30 anyway ? Don't post some obscure board from Alibaba.

scotty79(3163) 1 day ago [-]

I had a bad experience with Raspberry Pi. After few day it stops responding (I think sometines WiFi just dies) and SD card gets corrupted despite me doing my best to shut it down gracefully (made a switch for it that when pressed runs power off command) and despite swapping power supply to recommended for Pi and putting all peripherials on powered USB hub that's dedicated for Pi as well.

icebraining(3578) 1 day ago [-]

Maybe you have a faulty unit? While SD corruption can be a problem, I don't think it's that bad for most users. I only had that problem on my Raspberry (v1) when I accidentally cutoff power while I was apt-installing.

discreditable(1305) 1 day ago [-]

I wish they'd integrate PoE (without the hat). That chip they're using appears to support it. http://www.trxcom.com/Product/product/id/353.html

makomk(3623) 1 day ago [-]

It supports it in the sense that it provides the extra taps on the Ethernet magnetics for the actual PoE converter to connect to. That's all the onboard support they have, as far as I know - just the few extra connections required to feed the PoE hat which contains all the extra support electronics.

vardump(4152) 1 day ago [-]

I guess they needed to drop that and a lot more to hit $35 price target.

ksec(2066) 1 day ago [-]

I wonder why they don't price the 4GB model at $50. And get rid of the 2GB Model.

I know they are a Charity, but the pricing structure seems odd, would it be the case the 2GB and 4GB and making some money and 1GB being a loss leader?

I wonder how much is the actual BOM Cost for the $35 model.

And in terms of VideoCore, how does it compare to other commercial GPU like Adreno and Mali?

IshKebab(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I think you're right - 1GB is so they can still say it is $35, and I doubt they make much money on it (or maybe even a loss).

And I agree, 3 models seems like a lot.

jimpudar(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I'm so happy they haven't removed the composite video out in the headphone jack! If you didn't know, you just need a 3.5 mm TRRS connector - the pinout[0] looks like:

T - Left Channel Audio

R - Right Channel Audio

R - Ground

S - Composite Video Out

[0] https://www.raspberrypi-spy.co.uk/2014/07/raspberry-pi-model...

driverdan(1431) 1 day ago [-]

Why? What do you use composite video for? I think the last time I used composite video for anything was 10+ years ago.

xd1936(3965) 1 day ago [-]

Woah, I had no idea about this. This is great! Do they sell an official adapter?

jasonm89(10000) 1 day ago [-]

How would this perform as a linux desktop? I'm thinking about grabbing one for my Mom, who doesn't have a computer at home.

wesgarrison(4153) 1 day ago [-]

We've used a RPi 3B+ for a couple years as a home desktop and it's been great for general browsing, email, youtube.

Velcro it to the back of a HD TV and it can sit anywhere.

yumraj(3503) 1 day ago [-]

Cool. Mathematica would actually be usable now.

carlob(4102) 1 day ago [-]

Does it matter as much now that one can get Wolfram Engine + Jupyter for free on any machine?

kbumsik(1934) 1 day ago [-]

What a surprise! Didn't they say RPi4 is coming next year?

benn_88(1325) 1 day ago [-]

> In the past, we've indicated 2020 as a likely introduction date for Raspberry Pi 4. We budgeted time for four silicon revisions of BCM2711 (A0, B0, C0, and C1); in comparison, we ship BCM2835C2 (the fifth revision of that design) on Raspberry Pi 1 and Zero.

> Fortunately, 2711B0 has turned out to be production-ready, which has taken roughly 9–12 months out of the schedule.

lysp(3247) 1 day ago [-]

> In the past, we've indicated 2020 as a likely introduction date for Raspberry Pi 4. We budgeted time for four silicon revisions of BCM2711 (A0, B0, C0, and C1); in comparison, we ship BCM2835C2 (the fifth revision of that design) on Raspberry Pi 1 and Zero.

> Fortunately, 2711B0 has turned out to be production-ready, which has taken roughly 9–12 months out of the schedule.

According to their article they finished after 2 revisions rather than the predicted 4-5.

Mediterraneo10(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The addition of gigabit ethernet and USB 3.0 means that a Pi no longer feels like a bottleneck in one's home network. I know that the Pi was invented as an educational product, but thanks to the Linux distribution OSMC it is commonly used as a media center for playing films, music, TV, etc.

I have had gigabit internet for a few years now, and every day on average, I torrent a Blu-Ray image onto my main computer. However, subsequently moving the Blu-Ray to my Raspberry Pi 3 media center is always slow on two counts: 1) ethernet from the router to the Pi was limited to 10/100 speeds, and 2) the Pi could push large files to an attached hard drive only over a USB 2.0 port. Consequently, on a Raspberry Pi 1–3 it takes an hour just to move a high-definition file around one's home network! On a Pi 4, it looks like one can just put the torrent client directly on the media center.

KingFelix(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

I just put together a Plex server with the RockPro64 4gb ram, PCI3x4 with 2 sata ports. I booted it up with Dietpi and things are running smooth!

The board is a bit more expensive, but you can probably get it faster than the pi4 at the moment.

The Dietpi community seems to be pretty great, any issues I ran into were answered pretty quickly

morphle(4120) 1 day ago [-]

at 2-4 Gbps maximum because of shared bandwidth, slower than a single USB 3.0

mtw(3836) about 21 hours ago [-]

> Raspberry Pi 3 media center

Just read theverge review on how the Pi struggles to play a video full screen, even if resolution is 480p. How are then people using it as a media center?

bscphil(3923) 1 day ago [-]

I imagine the wait must be agonizing! Why not just have a NFS server on your more powerful computer for the Pi to stream the file from? 100 Mbps is easily enough to stream any Bluray.

josteink(3534) 1 day ago [-]

> The addition of gigabit ethernet and USB 3.0 means that a Pi no longer feels like a bottleneck

The model 3B+ already had this though.

tomxor(3464) 44 minutes ago [-]

> I have had gigabit internet for a few years now

Keep in mind that you are in a very small world there... most people alive today will never have internet that fast, personally i've never had a connection above 6 Mbits in the middle of a city, and I know that's likely above the median globally (keep in mind average is a poor metric due to connections like yours, SDL is still the primary type of endpoint for homes)

My point being, the previous generations USB based ethernet still has massive headroom for the vast majority of peoples internet.

peterburkimsher(3271) 1 day ago [-]

My first reaction to the specs:


+ USB 3: Very nice! Finally a pocket-sized, fast USB host.

+ Dual HDMI: Could be useful as a projector computer.

+ 1.5 GHz: Good, it might be fast enough for some real work.

+ Gigabit Ethernet: Excellent for those using it as a NAS.

+ USB-C for power: Not surprising, it's the standard now.


- MicroHDMI: Incompatible with the 800x480 HDMI 3.5' screen [1]. Also different again to the MiniHDMI on the Pi Zero (will there be a new Pi Zero soon? Who knows.)

- Power consumption! They recommend a 15W power supply, which means I'm pretty sure this won't run on batteries.

[1] https://www.aliexpress.com/item/New-3-5-inch-800x480-IPS-LCD...

rs23296008n1(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Just need a bigger battery. 15W is achievable. You'll add more weight obviously but you get the extras of the pi4. Tradeoff.

As for the screen you pointed to, isn't an adapter available?

mustardo(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Con for me is still SD storage :-( At least now an SSD over USB3 should be reasonably fast

downey(10000) 1 day ago [-]

For those building toy clusters out of Pis for fun and education that 4GB of RAM and gigabit ethernet for $55 is awesome!

rcarmo(533) 1 day ago [-]

Yep. Only yesterday I updated the scripts for my Pi 2 cluster (https://github.com/rcarmo/raspi-cluster), and getting https://k3s.io running on a cluster of Pi4s seems like a good way to upgrade that.

viksit(3892) 1 day ago [-]

I'm not very familiar with the hardware here but could someone elaborate on why this seems to be such a big deal that there are four versions of the announcement trending on the first page?

colechristensen(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Cost & usability.

Raspberry pi significantly lowered the barriers to entry for cost and complexity to own a useful Linux computer. The performance for price is really impressive to the point where it seems like the rpi 4 could be a decent daily driver for most people.

pmarin(731) 1 day ago [-]

They remove all the bottleneck from the previous generations making it more interesting for networking and desktop use.

cstuder(1147) 1 day ago [-]

It's a combination of an exciting and hugely popular device gettting a huge upgrade (RAM and networking speed has previously been really limited) and the completely suprise of the announcement: The version 4 was supposed to arrive in 2020, but apparently hardware development went quicker than expected.

(How often does this happen?)

ageitgey(2697) 1 day ago [-]

You can buy a pretty powerful full computer (networking, video, RAM, etc) that fits on a tiny card for $35. That makes it possible to build all sorts of fun things on next to zero budget - everything from robots to video game emulation systems and tv streaming boxes.

The previous 3 versions were already wildly popular, but there were starting to show their age and to be significantly outperformed by Nvidia's Jetson Nano. But the Jetson Nano is significantly more expensive (starting at $99). This fixes several of the performance issues people had and keeps the price at the original $35.

shauntm(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

For those wondering about using it for development, it can run Anvil's web IDE: https://anvil.works/blog/raspberry-pi-4-web-ide

esistgut(3722) about 22 hours ago [-]

I often see comments about this product piggybacking on other things' visibility here on HN. It is closed source too. Can you please put your ads somewhere else?

tsaoyu(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Every year we upgrade our autonomous sailboat controller to the latest Raspberry Pi. This year we face a situation to choose from Jetson Nano and RPi 4. Even the decision is hard to made, now is an exciting moment for robot makers.

snek(4086) 1 day ago [-]

Damn I remember back when the TK1 was the new kid on the block. The nano looks awesome, I'm gonna have to get my hands on one of these!

hlandau(3452) 1 day ago [-]

>Are you still using VideoCore?

>Yes. VideoCore 3D is the only publicly documented 3D graphics core for ARM‐based SoCs, and we want to make Raspberry Pi more open over time, not less.

This stated intention and rpi.org's actions are simply not isomorphic. If they want to make Raspberry Pi more open, firstly, why do they publish only abridged (read: fake) schematics? [1]

Secondly, why was rpi.org caught adding DRM chips to their optional camera addon board? [2]

[1] https://www.raspberrypi.org/documentation/hardware/raspberry... Note the nonsensical, incomplete nature of these schematics, and the complete absence of details such as the USB3 ports, and most of the SoC's connections.

[2] https://hackaday.io/project/19480-raspberry-pi-camera-v21-re...

HeadsUpHigh(10000) 1 day ago [-]

My understanding is that they mean open in software not hardware.

mojuba(3466) 1 day ago [-]

> This stated intention and rpi.org's actions

Please, never shorten or distort domain names... I went to rpi.org which turned out to be a spam trap.

KaiserPro(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> Secondly, why was rpi.org caught adding DRM chips to their optional camera addon board?

to stop counterfeit boards. There are many _other_ cameras that you can use for the rpi, so its not like they are trying to block out competition. its to stop people making illegal clones and ripping people off. (cough I'm looking at you amazon)

see semi official explanation here: https://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=149426

The people that make the raspberry pi are a not for profit, they use the money made to sponsor children learning to code. Its not like they hide their aims: https://static.raspberrypi.org/files/about/RaspberryPiFounda...


its to stop people making knockoffs, taking money from a foundation who are trying to educate an entire generation.

stefan_(4154) 1 day ago [-]

Citing the part with the VideoCore is just fully nonsensical. The Raspberry Pi is the only SBC out there with a fully open-source, production-level graphics driver.

pedroaraujo(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> This stated intention and rpi.org's actions are simply not isomorphic. If they want to make Raspberry Pi more open, firstly, why do they publish only abridged (read: fake) schematics?

Why do people tend to dismiss the openness of the RasperryPi with completely unrelated things? This is the classic case of Whataboutism[0].

Just because you can't replicate the entire product in your garage, it doesn't mean that it isn't quite open already.

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

somebodythere(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

Someone has published the HMAC key for the camera DRM module: https://gist.github.com/marcan/6dde73a9a0c917cd4fc9784a0a73e...

ben_w(10000) 1 day ago [-]

As a previous line manager one said to me "yes, and I want a pony". That they want to be more open does not mean they are currently fully open – in fact, it requires them to not yet to be fully open. Their primary goal (last I checked) is to be cheap, being fully open is at the very best their secondary goal.

Jonnax(10000) 1 day ago [-]

1) They make a low cost computer where they've put significant work into making it more open software wise.

Their revenue stream is through the sale of their hardware, why do they need to allow people to make clones?

2) Maybe it's to do with the terms in which they get the camera module?

I don't know but I don't see them selling the camera as interoperable.

Your comment just seems to exemplify the phrase:

'No good deed goes unpunished'

They do something good but freeloaders just turn up and demand more.

lloydatkinson(10000) 1 day ago [-]

It feels like every time I get round to doing a project with a Pi they create a new one with literally no indication or advertising. Suddenly out of the blue a new one appears.

jalfresi(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I hear you, just bought 4 rpi 3 b+ for a k8s cluster last week and this drops today. Urgh.

simonh(4055) 1 day ago [-]

Presumably they don't want to get Osborned.


zackmorris(3409) about 19 hours ago [-]

Does anyone have a link for building a Raspberry Pi cluster over gigabit ethernet? A quick search turned up some stuff:




Specifically, I'd like to find software that makes the cluster appear as a single memory address space and N identical CPUs/cores.

When I'm in that OS/VM/kernel, whatever you want to call it, I want to be able to experiment with running stuff like Elixir or Go and have the runtime handle the virtual memory and cache coherency stuff between the nodes. I don't want to deal with any manual memory management at all. I just want rules of thumb regarding rough latency between N nodes and M routers for whatever network topology it uses.

Icing on the cake would be if I could run something like IPFS (or another hash tree) and have data distribution handled under the hood and appear as a single directory structure.

The goal being to play around with stuff like neural nets and ray tracing without having to use any proprietary frameworks. It should just appear as say a 256 core computer with however many GB or ram and however many TB of hard drive space I give it.

zackmorris(3409) about 18 hours ago [-]

Just searched a bit more for MPI integration with various languages. I find things like this kind of heartbreaking:


It provides MPI bindings in Go, but they really should have provided an MPI layer internally so that the Go metaphors of things like channels and goroutines 'just work' with no special syntax.

I think this is where I'm getting stuck. So much cluster software provides interfaces to send/receive data and get the current thread's CPU id and total number of CPUs. But I'm not finding much info on doing this directly in the kernel or language runtime so that the client can be written in a topology-agnostic fashion.

Edit: there doesn't seem to be a Go-native MPI runtime (yet) https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/golang-nuts/t7Vjpfu0...

cesarb(3343) about 17 hours ago [-]

> Specifically, I'd like to find software that makes the cluster appear as a single memory address space and N identical CPUs/cores.

This is called 'single system image'. A couple of coworkers played with openMosix on our desktops several years ago, it was fun seeing bash processes moving on their own from one desktop to the other. But I haven't heard anything about that in a while, it seems single system image clusters have fallen out of fashion.

zxcvbn4038(10000) 1 day ago [-]

My young son got a 3B+ for Christmas and it has provided no end of entertainment. He discovered Minecraft early on and that ha led to him starting learning to code so I think that was a great investment, probably the best ever.

lawnchair_larry(2726) 1 day ago [-]

What does he do with it? From what I've seen, most people throw these in a drawer instead of find educational value in it. Would be interested in anecdotes where it led to something positive and what approach worked out.

sercand(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I don't use even one HDMI on RPI why second? Also, it's fricking micro-HDMI why not another TYPE-C?

whywhywhywhy(10000) about 2 hours ago [-]

Type-C are expensive, it's worth the extra cost for the power stability (bad power is what causes most of the problems with previous Pis) but would increase the price if they used them for displays too.

jonhendry18(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Maybe use cases like one HDMI hooked up to a large display, and one hooked up to a small display that acts as a control panel UI? Or where one display faces away from the console user?

jononor(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Digital signage.

Moxdi(10000) 1 day ago [-]

No normal sized HDMI sucks, I don't want to buy another adapter, aside from that this looks really cool, can't wait to get one

paulcarroty(3502) 1 day ago [-]

Apple style - just buy more overpriced adapters.

eemil(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I agree. No idea why they went with micro-hdmi, when mini displayport is more robust, more common, and royalty-free.

dijit(3559) 1 day ago [-]

C'mon, a mini-hdmi<->hdmi cable is 50kr ($5), surely you can just buy one and be done with it, no adapter needed.


mrnage(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Does anybody know if the ethernet controller supports PXE boot?

gsich(10000) 1 day ago [-]

yes. rpi3 could do it, 2 with bootloader on sd card.

bchanudet(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This blog post[0], says that it's not yet supported by the RPi 4, but that it's coming in a future firmware ugprade.

[0] https://blog.mythic-beasts.com/2019/06/22/raspberry-pi-on-ra...

mschuster91(3216) 1 day ago [-]

There are u-boot forks that support RPi ethernet. https://elinux.org/RPi_U-Boot

colechristensen(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Network booting is supported. I don't know if the architecture is similar enough to the x86 bios loading network card option roms that one could say the 'ethernet controller supports' it. Booting on ARM is different.


elliotpage(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Can't wait to buy this, boot it up, play with it for four hours, then stick it in the same desk drawer with the other Pis I have bought over the years.

(The upgrades look great, just my attention span is not so great)

mmsimanga(3568) 1 day ago [-]

I have to confess that I have never even booted up my Pi-3. Now I wonder if it is worth booting up the Pi-3 or should I wait till I get my hands on the Pi-4. That way I don't have to think of upgrading.

ryanmercer(3601) 1 day ago [-]

Right? The most use one has ever seen from me was about 3 hours of playing SNES roms until I realized it was distracting me from Netflix.

sixothree(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

I have a few in drawers, but I do have three running at most times in my house. One is literally just a print server. One is for hobbies. One is for watching movies.

agumonkey(961) 1 day ago [-]

That's why I switched to esp8266, smaller and 1$. Can fit a lot more in the same drawer.

Y_Y(3707) 1 day ago [-]

Don't forget to keep it powered while it's in the drawer so you could ssh and build something really awesome.

Maybe it's a personality flaw, but I get plenty of satisfaction from just reading blog write-ups if things I could have done with my tech junk, without all the associated time invested.

It's much easier to vicariously enjoy projects like these, which is why I think drawer-dwelling is an inevitable destiny for most of these widgets.

giarc(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

I sold a company and the hardware wasn't included. I have a bunch sitting idle, plus about 1500 RFID tags and 20 readers. Takes up space but I can't get rid of. Should sell them.

fpgaminer(4104) about 24 hours ago [-]

That's silly. RasPis are stupidly useful.

I've got:

* A Zero W hooked up to a PM2.5 to do air quality monitoring in the house. Just bought a couple more sensors for it (VOC, eCO2, etc), but haven't hooked them up yet.

* A 3B+ running the UniFi controller for my home network.

* One is running a custom Hue automation I built to shift the color temperature of the lights throughout the day.

* One is built into an internet connected dog treat dispenser I built as a gift.

* A rather dusty Pi is running CNCjs so I can have a decent interface to my cheap grbl CNC.

* And finally I have a Pi running OctoPrint for my 3D printer.

And that's just the ones currently running. I've got two more in progress. One to automate an exhaust fan based on inside and outside temperatures. Another is destined for the garage where it will replace the not-so-great MyQ 'smart' functionality of the garage door opener.

To each their own I suppose, but I've been consuming RasPis like candy. $60 all-in gets you a fairly beefy platform with almost all the I/O you could require and a vast ecosystem of software and HATs. Honestly their only downside is that at some point I'll have to reconfigure my home network when I start exhausting my current internal /24 with 200 RasPis.

franky47(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I can relate. However these days I have found a new life for those abandoned Pis: I install Pi-Hole [1] on them and set them up for family and close friends.

[1] https://pi-hole.net/

kbouck(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> with the other Pis I have bought over the years

My wife refers to this as the raspberry pile.

pb82(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I use one of my Pis as a PulseAudio network sink that lets me stream music to it from every computer in the house. Not the most creative use but maybe some inspiration.

flyinghamster(4137) 1 day ago [-]

Heh, I know the feeling. I have three retired Pi systems (two OG units and a 1B+), but I have three running 24/7 as well: first is a 2B+ running OSMC as my media center. The second one is a 3B with a sense hat, running rtl433 and MRTG to graph outdoor and basement temperature and humidity received from transmitters on-premises, barometric pressure from the hat (and also displaying data on the LED display). The last is a 3B+ running Home Assistant.

I've been - cross my fingers - lucky with MicroSD cards (usually Samsung, sometimes SanDisk), but having USB3 on the new model is quite the game-changer.

ETA: I do have rsync backing up my Pi setups, so losing a MicroSD would be merely annoying rather than catastrophic.

boromi(3673) about 23 hours ago [-]

Anyone have a good NAS setup guide using the Raspberry Pi? I've been wanting to get a Synology but gawk at the crazy prices for such limited specs. I'm thinking a DIY solution will be much cheaper.

mrmuagi(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

I use a synology NAS myself, but I am down to setup something with Pi 4 + OSMC as it was well recommended.

roboyoshi(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

Not for the pi specifically, but if you want a simple FileServer, then a debian (raspbian) samba setup is pretty much done in a few minutes: https://wiki.debian.org/SambaServerSimple Storage could be attached via USB3 or you can just use a big SD Card (maybe ~200GB)

iansowinski(3752) 1 day ago [-]

Curious how hifiberry will work with it...

kingosticks(4149) 1 day ago [-]

As in 'HifiBerry' the company producing a range of HAT sound devices? Since the relevant pinout is unchanged, why would any of their products work any differently to how they do now? Am I missing something?

laurieg(4075) 1 day ago [-]

This looks awesome! Does anyone know where I can buy one in Japan?

vmlinuz(10000) 1 day ago [-]

There are 4 official retailers in Japan listed here: https://www.farnell.com/raspberrypi-consumer/approved-retail...

leemailll(4016) 1 day ago [-]
tmikaeld(4020) 1 day ago [-]

Minimum 2x performance over previous gen(s) on every test with only ~1W extra power draw. That's seriously impressive!

vardump(4152) 1 day ago [-]

Missing: SD card performance benchmark. Previous models could only read about 20 MB/s or so, while the modern SD cards can do 10x (maybe even more) that.

Is there any improvement in this? It's pretty important as RPi usually boots off it.

bscphil(3923) 1 day ago [-]

> 4K!

I'm very excited about these upgrades too (especially GigE), but as far as I can tell nothing on this news page specifies whether the Pi will also support HDR output as part of the 4K upgrade. That's most of the practical benefit of 4K - that 4K releases tend to come with HDR10 or DolbyVision support.

Anyone know if we can expect HDR output to work? If I knew it supported that I'd be purchasing one right now to upgrade my media center from my current Pi 3 setup.

Even the tech specs page says nothing about 10bit decoding, which is required for most real world 4K HEVC video.

> H.265 (4kp60 decode), H264 (1080p60 decode, 1080p30 encode)


dharma1(2916) about 23 hours ago [-]

don't want to derail the RPi4 celebration, but for this specific purpose (media centre) I've been super happy with Nvidia Shield. You can often pick them up for $150 on a sale, less on ebay. 4k HDR, runs Android TV (some people have managed to get Ubuntu running on it too), VLC/Kodi work well, Moonlight works well for game streaming from another gaming PC with NVidia card. It's super zippy, too, and quite small (though bigger than RPi).

iruoy(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The Raspberry Pi 4 B uses ARM VideoCore IV. As far as I can find HDR will only come in the updoming VideoCore V. So no. No HDR yet.

djsumdog(1134) about 22 hours ago [-]

I haven't been able to get HDR working on my desktop amdgpu + X11. I don't think it's supported in Wayland yet either (let me know if I'm wrong) and the devs in #mpv on freenode said they don't have HDR10 output support either (although mpv can do HDR10 tone-mapping).

For HDR videos, I still play them via my Windows box. I think the current MacOS supports HDR too (and if not, it will get support soon as they have that crazy new $6k HDR screen).

sertsa(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

From Libreelec article on RPI4:

'The 4B hardware is HDR capable, but software support has a dependency on the new Linux kernel frameworks merged by Intel developers (with help from Team LibreELEC/Kodi) in Linux 5.2 and a kernel bump will be needed to use them. Once the initial excitement and activity from the 4B launch calms down, serious work on HDR and transitioning Raspberry Pi over to the new GBM/V4L2 video pipeline can start.'

Full article: https://libreelec.tv/2019/06/libreelec-9-2-alpha1-rpi4b/

elihu(4151) about 18 hours ago [-]

> The power savings delivered by the smaller process geometry have allowed us to replace Cortex-A53 with the much more powerful, out-of-order, Cortex-A72 core; this can execute more instructions per clock, yielding performance increases over Raspberry Pi 3B+ of between two and four times, depending on the benchmark.

Looks like the Pi 4 will be vulnerable to Spectre. That's unfortunate, since it seems like this is quite an upgrade otherwise.


> ARM has reported that the majority of their processors are not vulnerable, and published a list of the specific processors that are affected by the Spectre vulnerability: Cortex-R7, Cortex-R8, Cortex-A8, Cortex-A9, Cortex-A15, Cortex-A17, Cortex-A57, Cortex-A72, Cortex-A73 and ARM Cortex-A75 cores.

jacquesm(43) about 18 hours ago [-]

Yes, it probably is. But for many use cases that is totally unimportant.

morio(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Desktop performance my behind. What's the point of all that CPU power when IO performance remains in mid 2000s territory? It takes forever to boot, any time disk access occurs everything crawls to a halt. M.2 has been around for 5+ years now and would have easily fit on this design in its short length form factor.

No datasheet for the SoC either. Again.

There are vastly better SBCs out there.

voltagex_(1505) 1 day ago [-]

Vastly better hardware wise perhaps, but at least you'll be able to get a board until 2022.

Plus, the Pi 4 will have something approaching mainline kernel support and a large community of people working on it.

jamesholden(10000) 1 day ago [-]

As someone who is not familiar with the other options, what would you recommend? I want NAS/Video Streaming capability.

reallydontask(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> There are vastly better SBCs out there.

Can you provide some examples please?

Always keen to try out any alternatives

seszett(3431) 1 day ago [-]

> There are vastly better SBCs out there.

Which ones would you recommend for this price?

jonplackett(4116) 1 day ago [-]

Anyone know if you can connect dual 4K displays?

vardump(4152) 1 day ago [-]

Yes, you can. But dual 4K only at 30 Hz. If using only one display, 4K at 60 Hz.

NOTE: Take this with a grain of salt, though, can't be completely sure if this is correct.

talkingtab(4152) about 23 hours ago [-]

I bought an NVidia Jetson Nano 4GB memory- because I liked the Raspberry Pi so much, but the Pi 3 does not really work as a development machine. The Nano does really pretty well with the addition of a fan, swap space, a good power supply (adafruit). The BIG problem with the Nano is that it is arm64 and the availability of the Arm64 linux things (like Docker images) is limited.

I ordered a 4GB Pi4 which seems to have advantages, and I assume the availability of Arm64 images will sky rocket?

tootie(4155) about 23 hours ago [-]

That's interesting. Would be a cool use case to carry around a hi-res Chromebook for light use and plug in to a Pi or Jetson for dev work.

mschuster91(3216) 1 day ago [-]

Too bad the USB-C slot is only used for supplying power instead of being a proper Thunderbolt slot with support for acting as a USB device or attaching external PCIe cards. But well, that's a thing for the 4+ then I guess...

jamesfmilne(10000) 1 day ago [-]

It says the USB-C connector supports On The Go (OTG), which means it can act as both a host and a device.

I could imagine being able to power the RasPi4 and communicate with it over Ethernet using just a USB-C cable if the Raspberry Pi 4 supports USB Ethernet 'gadget' mode, which I'm guessing it will if that USB-C port is fully USB OTG compatible.

cerberusss(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Yaeh, it would be awesome if you'd be able to just plug in that RPi into a dock. We're not there yet!

Still I'm very glad to get rid of any and all USB except USB-C.

imtringued(10000) 1 day ago [-]

How is that different to the micro USB slot in previous iterations of the Raspberry PI? You could only use those for supplying power.

blablabla123(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Hm yeah, many people are still very critical of USB-C. (It obviously still takes some time to become as mature and well-adopted...) But I'm totally buying into this, all my new gadgets have USB-C and I totally love it.

neals(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Any suggestions or experiences with write-intensive applications? My SD-card fails every few months. Is there a more reliable storage option that's easy to implement?

elahd(4085) about 23 hours ago [-]

I have a Pi running Pi-hole, Home Assistant, Node Red, and some custom scripts. It uses a parts bin 2.5' laptop hard drive (via a USB to SATA cable) as the sole boot and storage medium. You can set most Pis to boot from USB and totally avoid touching SD cards.

It was easy to configure and sped up the Pi quite a bit. No reliability issues in about a year of use.

Boot from USB instructions are at https://www.raspberrypi.org/documentation/hardware/raspberry....

mirceal(4091) 1 day ago [-]

i don't know what your app is doing but what I've done in the past is to boot from the sd card and switch it to read only after and use an in-memory tmpfs after. I've hacked this together quite a few times that at some point I've put together a little project. maybe check it out: cattlepi.com

derekp7(4095) 1 day ago [-]

Look for as cards that are certified for dash cams. Either that, or make the write intensive volume a network share.

environment(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Suggestion: swissbit sd cards https://www.swissbit.com/products/nand-flash-products/micros...

I live in Norway and can recommend digikey or mouser for sensible price and shipping cost. Both suppliers are exceptionally professional, minimum order quantities of 1. https://www.digikey.com/ https://mouser.com/ I have experience with swissbit products, but not the sd cards.

Edit: A different trick is to run the bootloader on the sd card as usual, but the OS itself can be elsewhere, usb hdd, maybe network share.

jejones3141(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Thanks--there have been enough April Fools videos of supposed Raspberry Pi 4s that when I saw one this morning, I was suspicious.

seeken(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I fell for one of those videos last week... Didn't notice it was April fools until I went back this morning, confused. Guess I need to stop letting Youtube pick the videos I watch.

oblio(3281) 1 day ago [-]

Has anyone set up a Kubernetes cluster using several RPIs? How did it go? Got any recommendations for distributions, tools, etc.?

Fiahil(4056) 1 day ago [-]

I'm using Rancher's k3s[1] on a Rock64, and it works perfectly. I maxed out the capacity recently and I was looking to add more nodes to my cluster. Looks like the new Rpi 4 would be a good addition !

[1] https://k3s.io/

hyperpallium(2676) 1 day ago [-]

full specs anywhere?

- VideoCore VI graphics, supporting OpenGL ES 3.x - including 3.2? GFLOPS?

Does it support Android, Play Store etc?

Mindwipe(10000) 1 day ago [-]

You can install Android on it, and sideload the Play Store accordingly.

Not in a way supported by Google of course.

Medox(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Depending on the purpose, for example if somebody just wants a compact home cloud, the Odroid HC2 could also - still - be considered: https://www.hardkernel.com/shop/odroid-hc2-home-cloud-two/

- Half the RAM but double the cores. I'm waiting for some benchmarks to see if the RPi4 is faster and by how much.

- Also Gigabit Ethernet and it works great. My downloads are always at 108-111MB/s for the whole transfer.

- Not USB 3.0 but has 'oldschool' SATA through an internal USB-2-SATA adapter. It's at least more compact, otherwise the RPi4 with an external USB 3.0 drive will probably work even better.

- works with a normal 12V power supply, which could be lying around already, from older external drives.

Not to disrespect the RPi4, as I'll be getting one of them too very soon.

8fingerlouie(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The USB port on the Odroid HC2 is 2.0, but the SATA interface is connected to a USB3 but, as is the Gigabit Ethernet.

Furthermore, SATA and Ethernet are connected to individual USB3 busses, as opposed to earlier RPi designs where everything shared the same USB2 bus.

I haven't checked the RPi 4 specs yet, but i can imagine it's still the same layout, just a faster bus, which can be 'just fine' - it should be plenty fast to saturate a Gigabit ethernet as well as the SSD/HDD IO required to do that.

AnIdiotOnTheNet(3851) 1 day ago [-]

> compact home cloud

Can we just start calling them servers again?

tracker1(4134) about 21 hours ago [-]

To me, the RPi is the choice only because every other single board I've used had so much less support than RPi does... I have a 3B+ running retropie and it's doing okay, but if this one can also do a decent job with h265 under kodi, I'll be very happy indeed.

Ordered a starter canakit with a couple extras, and looks like I won't see it until August. :-( ... I'll probably forget I ordered it by the time it comes.

paulcarroty(3502) 1 day ago [-]

> the Odroid HC2 could also - still - be considered

Even don't think about it - shitty support from vendor. They don't care about updates in general.

StudentStuff(4153) 1 day ago [-]

The OrangePi 3 at $40 is also pretty neat, PCIe 1x, 8GB onboard eMMC, 4x USB 3.0, Bluetooth 5, Wireless AC (pretty sure they beat Raspberry Pi to the punch on this...) and it has mainline kernel support: http://www.orangepi.org/Orange%20Pi%203/

pizza234(4136) 1 day ago [-]

I had an Exynos 5422, and when it came out it was a great card, however, nowadays, it's old generation - it consumes more and it's less performing than the latest archictures (A7x).

'Double the cores' is not a valid consideration - 4+ core configurations typically have 2/4 cores (the 5422 has 4) with a high-powered architecture, and the remainder with a low powered one.

Compare for example the XU4 with the N2 - the N2 is more powerful, and yet, it has less cores (4 hp. + 2 lp.) and requires no fan.

The RPi is an interesting configuration - they have 4 high-powered architecture cores (4x A72) only. It seems it doesn't require any fan.

Of course if one requires specific chipset/components, we're talking about specific use cases, which is another story.

djsumdog(1134) about 22 hours ago [-]

I'd love to run something like this, but I recently switched to ZFS which recommends having a lot of RAM (my NAS has 4GB). It's what kept me from going the route of the Helios 4.

thachnb(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

I have been using Odroid XU4 for home server (home assistant), personal CCTV, controls IR blaster and other sensors for years, still running perfect without rebooting for months. I also have Pi 3 for Pi Hole, but honestly my Odroid XU4 is more stable than Pi 3.

lossolo(3760) 1 day ago [-]

I had ODROID C2, I don't know how things are now but I've returned mine as it hanged a lot and had lots of different issues. At same time I had 2x Raspberry Pi and it worked fine. This was couple of years ago.

KingMachiavelli(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I'm cannot determine if the HEVC hardware decoding is full 10bit or only 8bit. A lot of SDR content is encoded in 10 bit for the space savings (or so I've read).

bscphil(3923) 1 day ago [-]

I asked about this here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20261086

According to the response I've gotten so far, it will not support HDR or 10 bit. :-( However, the vast majority of SDR content is 8 bit. The few exceptions are mostly a few pirate groups who mostly encode anime.

Edit: this is apparently now in doubt.

andr(1388) 1 day ago [-]

I wish there were some improvements in the I/O aspect of the board. Having tried to use an RPi for a small automation project, I felt limited by the single ADC input and single PWM output. I was faced with using an Arduino daughter board to do the actual IO or going with a BeagleBoard.

tsmarsh(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Driving an arduino from a pi is still the way to go, which is a shame. I'd have liked to have seen more PWM too.

dxxvi(4141) 1 day ago [-]

What is an AMD/Intel CPU as powerful as this RPi4 CPU?

opencl(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Going by the '3x faster than Pi 3' claim it should be roughly on par with desktop CPUs from around 10 years ago (Core 2 Quad Q6600, Athlon II X4 600e) or the modern quad core Atom CPUs like say the x7-Z8750.

kyriakos(3704) 1 day ago [-]

RPI would be awesome for NAS if you could connect SATA somehow

tmikaeld(4020) 1 day ago [-]

The USB 3.0 ports should give 100MB/s (Benchmarks show up to +300MB/s), and you can mirror two disks for RAID-1.

With 4GB of RAM, you'd even be able to use ZFS.

hyperdunc(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I'm using an old SATA SSD with a USB3 adapter I got off ebay. Performance is significantly better than an SD card.

morphle(4120) 1 day ago [-]

Only maximum 4 Gbps shared by 1G ethernet, PCIe 2 and 2x USB 3.0? Thats even less speed than 2 harddisks.

MichaelMoser123(3956) 1 day ago [-]

The book 'kubernetes up and running' had a description on how to set up a kubernetes cluster out of raspberry pies. I guess a setup with the new pies would look a bit more real.

rarecoil(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I have a PicoCluster 3S [1] kit I bought to make a clean Kubernetes cluster. I just ordered 3 4GB RPi 4s for it. I'm very excited. I use an ODROID-C2 as a home server for most tasks, and while the ARM cores are sufficiently fast, with some work I run out of memory and swap a lot. I will test to see if one of these could be a suitable replacement vs. an ODROID-XU4/XU4Q.

[1] https://www.picocluster.com/collections/pico-3/products/pico...

odiroot(10000) about 24 hours ago [-]

I run a 4x RPi Kubernetes cluster at work. Took me about 6h to set up once I figured out newest version of K3S is borked.

We're gonna use them to deploy signage / dashboards all around the office.

k_bx(4136) 1 day ago [-]

I wonder, can it in theory be plugged in iPad and use it as a power source and external monitor somehow? That would finally make iPad able of running Linux. I'd be able to practice my Agda on it, for example.

fsloth(4138) 1 day ago [-]

You can use ipad to interact with linux using VNC...

Historical Discussions: Startup idea checklist (June 23, 2019: 1189 points)
Startup Idea Checklist (March 29, 2019: 3 points)

(1189) Startup idea checklist

1189 points 2 days ago by adrian_mrd in 1268th position

www.defmacro.org | Estimated reading time – 6 minutes | comments | anchor

I've been tinkering with different startup ideas and needed a good checklist to think through them. There are great templates for this already: The YC application, Amazon's internal press release, and Sequoia's Writing a Business Plan. I found myself mixing and tweaking these templates because they don't exactly match my model of the world, so I wrote up my own list.

I use this list both to develop ideas and filter them. If you adopt it, be careful about using it as a filter. Remember that in the early stages, good ideas are very easy to kill.


  1. Who are the users? <= 70 chars
  2. What is the essence of their dissatisfaction? If they read this answer, would they say "thanks, I wish I'd thought of putting it that way"? <= 240 chars @benedictevans: "The iTunes Store solved a user problem. So did the App Store. And so did Spotify and Apple Music, and indeed Apple News. But what user problem is solved by Apple's commissioning TV shows?"
  3. What are you building for them? <= 70 chars Peter Drucker: Is the product being designed for the customer, or at the customer?
  4. Write a tweet from a hypothetical customer explaining the product and how it eliminates their dissatisfaction. @BrianNorgard: No one cares about your product. Who built it, its features, the origin story — it's all superfluous. People only find value in what your product can do for them right now. Save people time. Save people money. Give people an escape. The selfish hand will always govern. Peter Drucker: Are you really doing the best you can to help the customer?
  5. Write a blog post title for your product launch. Is it surprising? Is it new? Will your target customers want to click on it? Will they want to share the link? Will they still share it the next day? <= 70 chars
  6. Write the first paragraph of your product announcement blog post. Include the product name, an explanation of what the product is, the target market, the main benefit, and the call to action. <= 240 chars
  7. What "metrics of goodness" do your target customers care about? Does your product dominate every available alternative on these metrics? <= 240 chars See also: The Rise of Worse is Better, Worse is worse


  1. Fill in the bottom-up market size equation: NUM_USERS * ACV = MARKET_SIZE. Are your numbers credible? Find a good reference class if you're building something completely new. See also: Shut up and multiply
  2. Which subset of your target customers are so constrained by the status quo, they'll welcome a buggy product? <= 140 chars
  3. List your first ten customers. <= 240 chars See also: Do Things that Don't Scale
  4. Which playbook will you use to get customers after the first ten? <= 240 chars See also: Five ways to build a $100 million business
  5. What would need to be true in 18 months for you to get essentially unlimited cheap capital? How will you achieve that? <= 240 chars


  1. Why now? What's true about the world that nobody else figured out yet? <= 240 chars
  2. What is the most ambitious achievable milestone for your company within a 25 year time horizon? <= 70 chars
  3. Is your product a credible advance toward this milestone? Yes/no
  4. What's the next credible advance toward this milestone? The one after that? The one after that? <= 240 chars See also: Tesla master plan, iPhone runs OSX
  5. How will you build a moat? <= 240 chars See also: How Competitive Forces Shape Strategy


  1. What would reaching your 25 year milestone mean for the world? Is this future really exciting? How many years of your life would you give up to teleport there? If you found yourself in this counterfactual world, would you want to go back? <= 140 chars
  2. If another company was working on this idea and not you, what would you think about it? Would you join them? Yes/no
  3. Imagine yourself standing in front of your team, investors, family, and friends. You've failed, and they're waiting for you to speak. What will you say? Are you willing to work on this problem given that failure is the default? <= 480 chars See also: Your intervention won't work


  1. What's your company's stock ticker symbol? @sama: "it's easy/fun to say every new startup you hear about is bad. you will usually be right. you will never be successful."

  2. Is it likely to be the most important company started this year? George Orwell: "Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible."

Thanks to Darryl Ramm for feedback on this post.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

hartator(3608) 2 days ago [-]

> Who is it for?

I hate this question. I think it's from the marketing from the past. Now you have one to one relationship with your customers. Who cares what marketing group they belongs to?

At SerpApi.com, we have this issue constantly from industry outsiders. If you have the need, you'll use us. If not, you don't and that's fine.

davidivadavid(4154) 1 day ago [-]

'Who is it for' can be answered through needs-based segmentation, i.e. exactly what you said. Who is it for? It's for people who need x,y,z. You still need to have a clear definition of that if you want to e.g. evaluate market size, or do any sort of marketing/sales afterwards.

maxlamb(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

Why do you assume this question related to marketing at all? A company founder should always have an idea of what kind of people would most benefit/need the product, and target that audience first.

djstein(10000) 2 days ago [-]

hey this is actually a really interesting product. thanks for posting it

lifeisstillgood(1630) 2 days ago [-]

>>> Why now? What's true about the world that nobody else figured out yet?

I have three ideas I am working on and the one i like best is ... not passing that test :-(

anderspitman(1723) 2 days ago [-]

Lists like this are models to help frame your thinking, not immutable laws set in stone. Maybe your idea can still work. If you want to do it, do it. Just proceed with caution.

rotten(4153) 2 days ago [-]

Is the only reason to create a startup to experience exponential growth and get really rich and have your own stock symbol?

Or, could someone create a lifestyle business and call that a startup? Where the goals might be simply to make a living doing what you love without working for some big company somewhere?

Or maybe could someone create a startup that makes the world a better place without concern for getting oneself crazy rich?

I am not a fan of the idea that the only driving motivation for establishing a small tech company is to make the VC's happy.

macspoofing(10000) 2 days ago [-]

>Is the only reason to create a startup to experience exponential growth and get really rich and have your own stock symbol?

No. But it is a huge motivator for almost every founder - and all who say otherwise are lying. It isn't hypocritical to be motivated by wealth AND by doing good.

When you start getting investment, then ... yes. The expectation is that your investors will make a 10x on their cash. You don't have to be VC-funded, and bootstrapping is certainly reasonable.

>Or maybe could someone create a startup that makes the world a better place without concern for getting oneself crazy rich?

Usually people with that attitude end up doing non-profits. Having said that, there is nothing quite like the burnout and disillusionment you experience after working for a nonprofit for a few years. I actively discourage working for or starting nonprofits because I've talked to enough people. Competition for funding (government or otherwise) is horrendous amongsts nonprofits, and pay is almost universally lower than market rate or downright abysmal. Typically the social good you're doing is not scalable and a band-aid over an existing social problem.

I live in a university town with a big startup culture and over the last few years I've seen many more recent grads enamoured with nonprofits than with traditional startups.

xwdv(10000) 2 days ago [-]

The only reason to work in a startup is for money, and the only reason to start one is for fast money. If a startup isn't getting you money, well, then there's not much else it's giving you.

People might say otherwise, but that's because they've been largely conditioned to react that way.

Startup is a word reserved specifically for exponential growth businesses usually juiced up with VC cash.

If that's not what you want to do, then just call yourself a plain ol' business. Or if you are on some world changing mission and don't care about money then be a non-profit. And if you have no real business and just want to work on your own stuff and maybe make money later then that's just a side project.

Of course, that's not as sexy as calling yourself a startup and not as likely to get you on the cover of entrepreneur magazines with your arms crossed and a smirk on your face.

weaksauce(3424) 2 days ago [-]

Those really aren't startups... those are lifestyle businesses or just businesses.

Zealotux(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I was just reading another excellent piece from Joel Spolsky on the subject: https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2000/05/12/strategy-letter-i-...

Almost 20 years old, but still relevant.

quadcore(4140) 2 days ago [-]

Is the only reason to create a startup to experience exponential growth and get really rich and have your own stock symbol?

Nope, the main driver is the feeling of being on a mission.

tachyonbeam(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It's the silicon valley mantra. Grow for multiple years at a loss so you can be the first and biggest player in your business segment and instigate a monopoly, giving nobody else a chance to establish themselves. They all want to be the next Google, Amazon or Facebook.

I remember seeing a silicon valley VC, in an interview, saying that he wouldn't invest in a startup if he couldn't see a path to a billion dollar valuation. Of course, this guy has the right to his own investment strategy, but it also seems kind of idiotic to suggest that every business that can't have a billion dollar valuation is worthless. There are plenty of niche business out theres that occupy smaller market segments that the tech giants will likely never come into. Personally, I wouldn't say no to owning a significant share of a 600 million dollar business.

dean177(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Whenever you see "startup" on hacker news, people are almost always referring to the aim for massive VC funding, exponential growth, get big or die trying types of companies.

Paul Graham wrote an essay which differentiated startups from other new businesses based solely on growth:


anovikov(4091) 2 days ago [-]

Lifestyle business is nice except the niches in which they can sustainably exist are really really scarce. Most of the time you either get big yourself, or pushed out of the market by someone who does.

edanm(3459) 2 days ago [-]

> I am not a fan of the idea that the only driving motivation for establishing a small tech company is to make the VC's happy.

I'm not either. But arguing over words is a pointless waste of energy.

Around here (and in most places in tech), startups are understood to be a form of entrepreneurship which aims to create innovative companies with the aim of being large tech companies, almost always fueled by VC money.

It's not by any means the only kind of company one can start (mine isn't that!), and I think it's a bad thing that many people don't realize there are other forms of entrepreneurship (in most contexts, an entrepreneur can be someone who decided to franchise a McDonald's!).

But it doesn't really matter that the word startup is used to mean something different. It's just a word.

pascalxus(4086) 2 days ago [-]

Almost all the low hanging fruit has been done, at least in software.

It's time to do hard stuff now

BjoernKW(3927) 2 days ago [-]

My personal definition of the term startup is 'A relatively new business in search of a business model.'

In many cases, this search requires venture capital but in some it doesn't.

A startup can very well be a lifestyle business. For example, I'd consider many of the companies listed on Indie Hackers to be startups. Only a minority of those has taken venture capital.

sah2ed(4066) 2 days ago [-]

> Is the only reason to create a startup to experience exponential growth and get really rich and have your own stock symbol?

The answer is yes, if your working definition of entrepreneurship agrees with the one used by Lori Greiner: 'Entrepreneurs are the only people who will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week [like everyone else]'.

People who believe in putting in twice the effort to reap exponential growth rather than (the less exciting) organic growth do so under the assumption that they can compress time.

For tasks that are amenable to time compression like running a startup, the only reliable way to compress time is to increase the number of man hours spent tackling the (perceived) opportunity, which of course means hiring people as fast as your war chest permits.

And because the size of your war chest determines the number of people you can hire per week or per month to allow you attain exponential growth, it is no surprise that a lot of founders seek out VC funding.

karmakaze(3404) 2 days ago [-]

This is very much my line of thought. I have come to use different terms for these:

- Startup is what I now call VC funded companies. A startup can and often does 'make the world better' for some definition of better

- A profitable side-business that could grow into a large stable company starts as a side-project/side-business.

This short Sam Altman 'How to Succeed with a Startup' video[0] plainly covers why this is so.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lJKucu6HJc

karmakaze(3404) 2 days ago [-]

The ordering of points can be very important:

  1. What are you building? 
     <= 70 chars
From the post I can tell the author is just organizing deeply considered thoughts. For a consumer of this checklist beware about thinking of the product first. By putting this as the first item, one can fall into the trap of shoehorning this answer into all the following points.

As I'm sure others here have mentioned, fall in love with a problem not a solution or product. Usually it's best to find a narrow set of users who have this problem and explore around the problem to get a better picture of it. This can often lead to a different product solving a more key problem.

Liron(3790) 2 days ago [-]

Yes, most founders still get the order of operations wrong and build too much before understanding a problem. I actually think [1] the term 'MVP' gives people a misleading idea of a lean startup, because you don't need a 'product' per se to serve your first 10 users.

[1] https://medium.com/bloated-mvp/the-lean-mvp-flowchart-add48d...

coffeemug(441) 1 day ago [-]

Author here. After rereading this (I haven't looked at the list for months), I agree. It should be 'who are the users? -> what is the essence of their dissatisfaction? -> what are you building for them?'

tyre(3498) 1 day ago [-]

I wrote something along similar lines[1] as the linked article, with questions in a deliberate order to address what you brought up.

[1]: https://maddo.xxx/thoughts/what-the-hell-are-you-doing.html

mojuba(3466) 2 days ago [-]

> Which subset of your target customers are so constrained by the status quo, they'll welcome a buggy product?

I understand this is just a mental test, but really... don't release buggy products. Don't create buggy products. Firstly, the line between forgivable bugs and unforgivable ones is too thin. Or sometimes N forgivable bugs become one big unforgivable show stopper.

Second, you will always have a competitor with more experienced engineers and a better choice of tools that they'll beat you at least at quality if nothing else.

BoorishBears(4127) 2 days ago [-]

If I had a dollar for every business that was killed by a buggier competitor, I bet I'd have a lot more dollars than if I got one for every time a business was killed by bugs.

People will put up with a lot of nonsense for a product that does what they want.

sah2ed(4066) 2 days ago [-]

I think the mental test could have been framed better using the IMHO far more intuitive framing used by Don Dodge in his 2008 article about how to assess a fresh batch of YC startups.

Is your product a vitamin (nice to have) or a pain killer (a must have to improve quality of life)?


koonsolo(4048) 2 days ago [-]

> Second, you will always have a competitor with more experienced engineers and a better choice of tools that they'll beat you at least at quality if nothing else.

Software development is always about trade-offs. You can churn out way more features if you don't need to take quality into account. I would welcome any competitor in my field who is super focused on quality, since they will waste a lot of time and money that could better be spent elsewhere.

For example, I'm not going to make some code bug-free, when there is a 50% chance that that feature will end up in the wastebasket 2 months later.

Besides, you talk about unforgivable bugs, but what are they to your early adopters anyway? I had users lose half a day of work because the save crashed right in the middle of it. They weren't even angry. They said is was inconvenient and just remade the whole thing. When I fixed it they were happy. They are still users now. That's how 'unforgivable' these are to early adopters.

So yeah, don't forget one of the bigger companies had a 'Move fast and break things' policy. In the end it's the market that decides. And according to my experience, early adopters are super forgiving.

carapace(3466) 2 days ago [-]

I hate it but you're wrong. (I agree with you, but I'm wrong too.)

I used to work for a small company that made it big (you've heard of them.) We went from ~25k to ~250k users while I was there and the VCs were lining up to pound money up the founders' asses. Limosine rides and $500 steak dinners to woo them, the whole thing. I left, they eventually went public, and last I heard the Walton family owns it now or something.


The front-end guy 'Chris' (not his real name) and the back-end guy were pals, and they would just push any old shit to production. The CEO had no clue, and I wasn't in a position to get them to stop. There was one other guy working remotely who didn't care or also had no clue.

So, 'Chris' (not his real name) would shit out some PHP, bang on the new feature or whatever for a few seconds, and if it worked even slightly at all he would push it.

Shit broke all the time.

The poor dumb users would be on the support forums telling each other how the heroic Chris was working furiously to fix it, and I'm sitting there fuming because Chris is the ruthless asshole using them as unpaid QA.

That fucker is a millionaire now. Go figure.

krsrhe(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Maybe if you are building rocket ships. But even SpaceX is doing pretty well with rockets that explode sometimes.

xmprt(10000) 2 days ago [-]

You know what's worse than a buggy product? No product. It's better to launch with a few bugs that you can fix and iterate on the final product design than making the perfect product that no one wants.

Also, the question could be reworded to refer to not just bugs but also features since a startup will often pivot in some way even after launching which users will have to deal with.

vincentmarle(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I've heard this complaint before (and it's usually from junior engineers who don't have much experience).

Here's my take: I worked on a project that arguably had the worst code I've ever worked on but still made $100 million dollars in annual revenue. And then I worked on an app with terrible UX that became a billion dollar company. In both cases we had terrible reviews and a huge customer support team to process thousands of complaints, but it worked for the majority of the millions of users.

And then I realized that terrible design and bugs don't really matter if you have true product market fit. And vice versa you can have the best design and flawless error logs but still fail if you're not creating something that people want, especially if it takes you extra time and resources to create that "perfect product" while your competitors bypass you with a shittier product, but with faster iterations.

jasonwen(4106) 2 days ago [-]

If the pain point you are solving is big enough, people will accept buggy and slow products regardless. Sometimes its better to ship, especially if you are testing product market fit. A bug free, slick, with awesome tech used, is worth nothing if no one is willing to pay for it/solves a big enough problem.

blodovnik(10000) 2 days ago [-]

There's a school of thought that you must only build things that solve a problem or ease a pain or fix someone's dissatisfaction.

This list seems very focused on that and seems to entirely miss asking questions like 'is this cool or fun or entertaining'?

vikramkr(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Cool or fun for who? The user or the startup? For the user, cool fun entertaining things solve a clear problem, boredom, and ease a pain, the fact that they aren't as cool as other people in their life, and the product can fix their dissatisfaction. Keeping up with the Jones's and boredom are very valid problems and drivers, and an early adopters desire to have the greatest and latest tech to show off is a real pain you can assuage.

dang(174) 2 days ago [-]

pg has written a lot about this, including that the best things often start out as toys.

One example is http://www.paulgraham.com/organic.html, but there are many others.

ThomPete(664) 2 days ago [-]

Thats because thats how you normally get people to give you money. Fun or entertainment is in the hits based genre with no way of knowing if its going to be successful, there is nothing to aim at.

RivieraKid(4064) 2 days ago [-]

Yes, it's one of the Silicon Valley, clichés: 'what problem does it solve'?

A common answer is that an existing product is great but it can be made even better or cheaper. It's weird to frame it as solving a 'problem'.

tchock23(4151) 2 days ago [-]

If you dig past the surface, entertaining products often solve the "problem" that someone is bored or there is something uncomfortable in their lives they are seeking to avoid.

phkahler(4011) 2 days ago [-]

All those future looking goals, who is going to benefit, how great will it be for them... what's your ticket symbol? I've been sitting on a possibly world changing idea that would be ruined by money. How do we foster those types of things?

kiliantics(4140) about 17 hours ago [-]

Build it as a co-operative where all the workers (and maybe even consumers) are also owners of the organisation, and have equal say in how it is run. Combine this with a clear mission and set of principles that all new members are taught so the organisation will stay on track for its initial purpose and keep democratic and equitable control.

rgoldste(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Potentially relevant article (soft-paywall)


mlthoughts2018(3080) 2 days ago [-]

I see a lot of businesses that don't create value, like Uber, or even destroy value in multiple senses, like Uber, that go relatively unpunished by markets and create huge financial windfalls for executives, investors and some employees. Similar things have happened with some cryptocurrencies.

Often a business is run solely to generate enough hype to externalize losses onto an acquirer or public retail traders or unwitting retirement plan holders, while creating space for personal profit for a small set of people.

randomsearch(4136) 2 days ago [-]

I see your point, thought I'd say "often" is not fair, we just see a disproportionate amount of coverage for these companies - for the problems you're alluding to. My post is for those who want to build a solid business

(I disagree with the other post above that startup = VC and hockey stick on HN - there's plenty of overlap between here and indie hackers, for example).

karmakaze(3404) 2 days ago [-]

When we're talking 'value' here for startups, we mean value to the user. If Uber didn't produce any value for the user people wouldn't be taking them. Or if there was no value for the drivers they wouldn't drive. Whether or not people get windfalls from the process doesn't change what the end-user gets in the transaction.

dang(174) 2 days ago [-]

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20254647 and marked it off-topic.

dandare(3738) 1 day ago [-]

These kinds of checklists may work for a product like Airbnb but will hardly work for something like Twitter or Instagram where the entrepreneur is rewarded for fulfilling a need that never existed before.

lelima(3934) 1 day ago [-]

>> fulfilling a need that never existed before.

Phone text messages existed before, Messenger in desktop, even forums that work very similar to twitter.

I might be wrong but I think the need was there, they improve a similar product with more features and Voila!

welfare(10000) 1 day ago [-]

You've been able to find properties to rent through craigslist since the beginning of the internet. Airbnb is not a new concept, but it's a revolutionizing UX.

macspoofing(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Almost every developer at some point will be approached by someone to work for free for some killer idea that that person had. In those cases, I found it useful to have them fill out a checklist list this, or put together a multi-page Executive Summary and a Business Plan. You'd be surprised how quickly you can get someone off your back and them off their idea, if they now have to go and do some actual work. And you never have to say 'no' and get that person offended.

randomsearch(4136) 2 days ago [-]

That's a great idea. Do you have a specific link you send them to?

meerita(4089) 2 days ago [-]

I dislike the idea of the startup for 'solving a problem'. Problems are very specific, personal and not so broad as other options.

In fact:

1. Not everyone has a problem.

2. Not everyone is aware is having a problem.

3. People bear problems. Even the worst ones (ex. health).

So, why build your startup around a problem. Why don't you better build it around a 'need'. A need would be much stronger usage driver than problems.

codingdave(10000) 2 days ago [-]

1. OK, They are not your target customer.

2. OK, They are not your target customer.

3. They bear problems when there are no solutions. So give them a solution.

xmprt(10000) 2 days ago [-]

A problem is tangible and can have a solution. A 'need' isn't something that can easily be put in words unless it's 'I need this problem to be solved.'

randomsearch(4136) 2 days ago [-]

One of the biggest mistakes nerds make is to build a project, not a business. Business have to create value. Most businesses do that by solving problems.

The difficulty with going for a 'need' that is not 'I need to solve this problem' is that you have to convince people that they have the need, and that your product best satisfies it. General needs (Maslow hierarchy etc.) tend to be vague and served by many different product types. Sure, there are exceptions, but most businesses solve problems and if you're not explicitly doing that then you're either taking a more difficult road, or you're not building a business.

inapis(4066) 2 days ago [-]

I think this is just words getting interpreted differently. We just can't have strict definitions of words when it comes to contemporary conversations especially when we have to allow for ambiguity and benefit of doubt because everyone's vocabulary varies. Only scientific, technical, legal etc texts (specifically where non-ambiguity is demanded) need a strict definition.

I'm building an alternative for Pocket/Instapaper because I find the current tools sorely lacking. No one needs it but it solves a legitimate problem in my life and hopefully those of others. Expanding onwards, no one 'needs' a mobile phone, television, reddit or even HN itself but these solve legitimate problems in life. By the strictest definition, no one 'needs' anything more than clean air, water, food and shelter.

So needs can be approximated to problems for the sake of conversation around startups, ideas, business etc.

vikramkr(10000) 2 days ago [-]

People need lots of things that they won't buy because they don't care. People need to eat healthier and exercise to avoid diabetes and stuff. But people don't. And asking what people need is a loaded question as well, since people don't 'need' anything. You might need things to live (you classic food water shelter), but some people might not want to live - think physician assisted euthanasia.

Ans as to points 1 and 2, those people are not your target customer.

Waterluvian(4050) 2 days ago [-]

It's amazing to me how effective it is just to write down these things.

I'm planning to rebuild my deck and I've been thinking and brainstorming for days. But just the act of writing down the step by step order of what is already in my head made me discover all kinds of holes in my plan.

There's a magic there. You can be convinced you know something intimately but if you write it all down I almost guarantee you'll find holes.

aaronm14(10000) 1 day ago [-]

You (and others) may enjoy Adam Savage's new book. He was one of the Mythbusters guys. In one of the first chapters he writes about his love of lists and checklists, and the impact it makes on the process of 'making.' I'm only a few chapters in so far but it's been a fun read so far.

It looks like there is an article talking about this specifically here on Wired if you want to dip your toes in: https://www.wired.com/story/adam-savage-lists-more-lists-pow...

xondono(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Maybe it's because I'm too negative, maybe it's the cynical engineer in me, or maybe my ideas aren't so good to start with, but every time I think I have a 'good' business idea, I tend to slaughter it through in a couple of days.

Not one of them has passed my test..

lquist(3844) 2 days ago [-]

Unfortunately the reality is that you will almost definitely not have a bulletproof idea from the get go. And even if you do achieve product market fit, you may (read: probably will) lose it after x months/years. Good enough is what you are going for here. And then just ship. My company is currently at tens of millions in revenue and we still don't have a bulletproof, defensible product. But we have the space and time to iterate towards it.

sovande(3874) 2 days ago [-]

One trait most successful founders have is not being overly analytical. This correlate with higher education as well, the higher, the more analytical. Creating a successful startup is basically a lottery and it almost does not matter what idea you come up with. In this metaphor, smart and analytical people will not buy a lottery ticket because the cost vs the chance to win is just too small. But if you don't buy a lottery ticket you most certainly cannot win the lottery.

toxicFork(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Check what assumptions you make when you kill the idea. Additionally, a lot of good ideas are a few tweaks away from bad ideas.

Tade0(10000) 1 day ago [-]

To turn this around I recommend Indie Hackers:


To half of the stuff there my reaction was 'people actually pay for this?'.

Your ideas might be better than you think.

Of course provided they aren't something like yet another time management app.

csmeder(3566) 2 days ago [-]

This is a good checklist for a much later date: the day your ready to raise capital.

This is a bad checklist to start with, because your right. 99.9% of ideas start off bad. The founders of Airbnb originally required each host to serve breakfast and expected each host to use airbeds in their living room. That was the original idea. They went to investors and explained the market size by counting the number of airbeds sold.

There is a good YC essay on building a toy. Start by building a toy that has meaning to you. Then if it morphs into a real business and you think your ready to raise capital: this form will be useful. Also, play with this form now. It will help you think about ideas but don't buy into it too early. Focus on meaning at early stages.

kromem(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Here's the thing:

Almost any startup idea can end up being successful with the right team behind it as long as they can avoid bad luck.

Very few startups manage to both assemble the right team and dodge bad luck.

papito(10000) 2 days ago [-]

That's common. What you will find is that venture capitalists actually don't try to 'kill' your idea - they will try to help you work through it. As an engineer, I guess, it helps to be skeptical in general. We are used to vetting technology, not business ideas.

vchak1(10000) 2 days ago [-]

No idea is good enough when you start off with it. Suspend disbelief, iterate on the idea. Do this with 20 different ideas, and you will narrow down on a few that are very viable. Also build up skill sets outside of engineering so your communication costs in a small team context are minimal.

inapis(4066) 2 days ago [-]

As an engineer, that is the biggest disservice you can do to yourself. Business needs a different mindset than engineering. Without actually putting it in the market and letting it stand for itself, you have no idea if it's ACTUALLY good or not. Or if it was just a fluke in your life.

Sometimes, what you think are, terrible ideas can be legitimately life changing for other people.

vikramkr(10000) 2 days ago [-]

The only test that matters is the market. The lean startup was the first book that sort of helped me understand that mindset, for any of its faults it is still a classic for a reason and at least helps in shifting perspective from 'create the perfect idea' to 'find any problem that needs to be solved and begin iterating to a solution'

idoubtit(10000) 1 day ago [-]

In many cases, customer ≠ user. The customer that buys the product may not be the one that uses it. The OP makes no distinction.

For example, hardware and software that help teaching are usually chosen by the school or the university. Teachers may have a word on this, but in my experience they rarely decide.

Another example is products for children: some of them (e.g. educational games) clearly target the parents or relatives. Others (e.g. food) focus on the children, hoping they will persuade their parents.

wanderingstan(4130) 1 day ago [-]

Yes, and likewise all ad-supported business models like Google or Facebook, where the paying customer is the advertiser.

codingdave(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> What would need to be true in 18 months for you to get essentially unlimited cheap capital?

I'd first ask, what would need to be true in 18 months to never have needed capital, and to be self-sustaining as a bootstrapped organization. Raising funds should be an option, but not the assumed path of all products.

punnerud(1290) 2 days ago [-]

Easier and cheaper to raise some capital when you don't need it (as backup and for scaling) than later.

LoSboccacc(4133) 2 days ago [-]

there are many alternative path to a successful strap, some that overlaps and some that are exclusive, this checklist seem geared toward ideas suitable for vc funding which isn't wrong per se but if you optimize for funding you end up with a diametrically different path that is usually not easy to bootstrap. it's something one has to decide early and influences the very shape of your startup, so that each one of those question would be invalid for the other path. corollary: I've got a checklist for bootstrapped startup, concerning the idea itself, and the line of questioning is really different

Historical Discussions: Facebook moderators break NDAs to expose working conditions (June 19, 2019: 1009 points)

(1012) Facebook moderators break NDAs to expose working conditions

1012 points 6 days ago by notinversed in 2795th position

www.theverge.com | Estimated reading time – 43 minutes | comments | anchor

Keith Utley loved to help.

First, he served in the Coast Guard, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant commander. He married, had a family, and devoted himself utterly to his two little girls. After he got out of the military, he worked as a moderator for Facebook, where he purged the social network of the worst stuff that its users post on a daily basis: the hate speech, the murders, the child pornography.

Utley worked the overnight shift at a Facebook content moderation site in Tampa, FL, operated by a professional services vendor named Cognizant. The 800 or so workers there face relentless pressure from their bosses to better enforce the social network's community standards, which receive near-daily updates that leave its contractor workforce in a perpetual state of uncertainty. The Tampa site has routinely failed to meet the 98 percent "accuracy" target set by Facebook. In fact, with a score that has been hovering around 92, it is Facebook's worst-performing site in North America.

The stress of the job weighed on Utley, according to his former co-workers, who, like all Facebook contractors at the Tampa site, must sign a 14-page nondisclosure agreement.

"The stress they put on him — it's unworldly," one of Utley's managers told me. "I did a lot of coaching. I spent some time talking with him about things he was having issues seeing. And he was always worried about getting fired."

On the night of March 9th, 2018, Utley slumped over at his desk. Co-workers noticed that he was in distress when he began sliding out of his chair. Two of them began to perform CPR, but no defibrillator was available in the building. A manager called for an ambulance.

The Cognizant site in Tampa is set back from the main road in an office park, and between the dim nighttime lighting and discreet exterior signage, the ambulance appears to have had trouble finding the building. Paramedics arrived 13 minutes after the first call, one worker told me, and when they did, Utley had already begun to turn blue.

He left behind a wife, Joni, and two young daughters

Paramedics raced Utley to a hospital. At Cognizant, some employees were distraught — one person told me he passed by one of the site's designated "tranquility rooms" and found one of his co-workers, a part-time preacher, praying loudly in tongues. Others ignored the commotion entirely, and continued to moderate Facebook posts as the paramedics worked.

Utley was pronounced dead a short while later at the hospital, the victim of a heart attack. Further information about his health history, or the circumstances of his death, could not be learned. He left behind a wife, Joni, and two young daughters. He was 42 years old.

On Monday morning, workers on the day shift were informed that there had been an incident, and they began collecting money to buy a card and send flowers. But some site leaders did not initially tell workers that Utley had died, and instructed managers not to discuss his death, current and former employees told me.

"Everyone at leadership was telling people he was fine — 'oh, he'll be okay,'" one co-worker recalled. "They wanted to play it down. I think they were worried about people quitting with the emotional impact it would have."

But the illusion shattered later that day, when Utley's father, Ralph, came to the site to gather his belongings. He walked into the building and, according to a co-worker I spoke to, said: "My son died here."

In February, I wrote about the secret lives of Facebook contractors in America. Since 2016, when the company came under heavy criticism for failing to prevent various abuses of its platform, Facebook has expanded its workforce of people working on safety and security around the world to 30,000. About half of those are content moderators, and the vast majority are contractors hired through a handful of large professional services firms. In 2017, Facebook began opening content moderation sites in American cities including Phoenix, Austin, and Tampa. The goal was to improve the accuracy of moderation decisions by entrusting them to people more familiar with American culture and slang.

Cognizant received a two-year, $200 million contract from Facebook to do the work, according to a former employee familiar with the matter. But in return for policing the boundaries of free expression on one of the internet's largest platforms, individual contractors in North America make as little as $28,800 a year. They receive two 15-minute breaks and a 30-minute lunch each day, along with nine minutes per day of "wellness" time that they can use when they feel overwhelmed by the emotional toll of the job. After regular exposure to graphic violence and child exploitation, many workers are subsequently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and related conditions.

Three former moderators for Facebook in North America agreed to break their nondisclosure agreements

My initial report focused on Phoenix, where workers told me that they had begun to embrace fringe views after continuously being exposed to conspiracy theories at work. One brought a gun to work to protect himself against the possibility of a fired employee returning to the office seeking vengeance. Others told me they are haunted by visions of the images and videos they saw during their time on the job.

Conditions at the Phoenix site have not improved significantly since I visited. Last week, some employees were sent home after an infestation of bed bugs was discovered in the office — the second time bed bugs have been found there this year. Employees who contacted me worried that the infestation would spread to their own homes, and said managers told them Cognizant would not pay to clean their homes.

"Bed bugs can be found virtually every place people tend to gather, including the workplace," Cognizant said in a statement. "No associate at this facility has formally asked the company to treat an infestation in their home. If someone did make such a request, management would work with them to find a solution."

Facebook executives have maintained that the working conditions described to me by dozens of contractors do not accurately reflect the daily lives of the majority of its workers. But after publishing my story about Phoenix, I received dozens of messages from other contractors around the world, many of whom reported having similar experiences. The largest single group of messages I received came from current and former Facebook contractors in Tampa. Many of them have worked closely with employees at the Phoenix site, and believe working conditions in Florida are even more grim.

In May, I traveled to Florida to meet with these Facebook contractors. This article is based on interviews with 12 current and former moderators and managers at the Tampa site. In most cases, I agreed to use pseudonyms to protect the employees from potential retaliation from Facebook and Cognizant. But for the first time, three former moderators for Facebook in North America agreed to break their nondisclosure agreements and discuss working conditions at the site on the record.

A hallway in Cognizant's content moderation site in Tampa, FL. Despite pressure to improve their scores, moderators here have never consistently met the 98 percent accuracy target set for them by Facebook.

Employees told me that pressure from managers to improve its performance has taken a toll on the workforce. Cognizant's contract with Facebook is coming up for renewal, and with the entire company struggling to hit the 98 percent accuracy target, there are widespread concerns internally that Cognizant will lose Facebook's business.

Contractors told me that Cognizant had lured them away from less demanding jobs by promising regular schedules, bonuses, and career development, only to renege on all three.

They described a filthy workplace in which they regularly find pubic hair and other bodily waste at their workstations. Employees said managers laugh off or ignore sexual harassment and threats of violence. Two discrimination cases have been filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission since April.

"We were bodies in seats," one former moderator told me

They said marijuana use is so prevalent that the site manager jokingly complained at an all-hands meeting that he had gotten a contact high walking in the door.

More than anything else, the contractors described an environment in which they are never allowed to forget how quickly they can be replaced. It is a place where even Keith Utley, who died working alongside them, would receive no workplace memorial — only a passing mention during team huddles in the days after he passed. "There is no indication that this medical condition was work related," Cognizant told me in a statement. "Our associate's colleagues, managers and our client were all saddened by this tragic event." (The client is Facebook.)

Utley's family could not be reached for comment. Employees who began working after he died told me they had never heard his name.

"We were bodies in seats," one former moderator told me. "We were nothing to them — at all."

Shawn Speagle was 23 and employed at an online education company working with English language learners when he visited a Cognizant job fair. A recruiter there described to him a role in which Speagle would primarily help businesses analyze engagement on their Facebook pages. He might have to do some content moderation, the recruiter said, but Speagle entered the interview believing he was about to embark on a new career in high technology — one that he hoped would eventually lead to a full-time role at Facebook.

Cognizant offered Speagle $15 an hour to do the job full time — a marked improvement over his previous job, which was seasonal. Only after he began training did he realize that the job would not, in fact, involve helping businesses with Facebook marketing. Instead, two weeks after Speagle was put onto the production floor, a manager told him he and a colleague would be reviewing graphic violence and hate speech full time.

"For our associates who opt to work in content moderation, we are transparent about the work they will perform," a Cognizant spokesman said in response. "They are made aware of the nature of the role before and during the hiring process, and then given extensive and specific training before working on projects."

But had his managers asked, they would have learned that Speagle had a history of anxiety and depression, and that he might not be suited well for the role. No one did.

Shawn Speagle worked at Cognizant for about six months, where he mostly saw graphic violence and hate speech.

"They just said me and [my colleague] were very meticulous and had a lot of promise to move up to the SME position," Speagle said, referring to the subject matter experts who make $1 more per hour in exchange for answering moderators' questions about Facebook policy. "They said Facebook is basically shoving all of their graphic violence content to us, that they didn't want it anymore. So they had to move more people to cover it. And that's all that we saw, every single day."

Speagle vividly recalls the first video he saw in his new assignment. Two teenagers spot an iguana on the ground, and one picks it up by the tail. A third teenager films what happens next: the teen holding the iguana begins smashing it onto the street. "They beat the living shit out of this thing," Speagle told me, as tears welled up in his eyes. "The iguana was screaming and crying. And they didn't stop until the thing was a bloody pulp."

Under the policy, the video was allowed to remain on Facebook. A manager told him that by leaving the video online, authorities would be able to catch the perpetrators. But as the weeks went on, the video continued to reappear in his queue, and Speagle realized that police were unlikely to look into the case.

Speagle had volunteered at animal shelters in the past, and watching the iguana die on a regular basis rattled him. "They kept reposting it again and again and again," he said, pounding the table as he spoke. "It made me so angry. I had to listen to its screams all day."

Cognizant's Tampa facility opened in a maze-like office park in the summer of 2017, about two months after the Phoenix facility came online. It operates out of a single-story building next to a pond fed by two storm drains. On most days, an alligator emerges from one of the drains to bask in the sun.

Before the office opened, the company began advertising work on Indeed and other job sites, using opaque titles such as "social media analyst." Initially, applicants are not told they will be working for Facebook — only a "large social media company."

Cognizant was not always straightforward with applicants about the nature of the work in Tampa. Marcus*, who worked in management, told me that a recruiter had persuaded him to leave a more normal job with the promise of a regular schedule, performance bonuses, and a good work-life balance. Once he joined, though, he was made to work nights, and the bonuses never materialized.

Find bodies wherever you can, ask as few questions as possible

Marcus was made to moderate Facebook content — an additional responsibility he says he was not prepared for. A military veteran, he had become desensitized to seeing violence against people, he told me. But on his second day of moderation duty, he had to watch a video of a man slaughtering puppies with a baseball bat. Marcus went home on his lunch break, held his dog in his arms, and cried. I should quit, he thought to himself, but I know there's people at the site that need me. He ultimately stayed for a little over a year.

Cognizant calls the part of the building where contractors do their work "the production floor," and it quickly filled with employees. The minimum wage in Florida is $8.46, and at $15 an hour, the job pays better than most call center work in the area. For many content moderators — Cognizant refers to them by the enigmatic title of "process executive" — it was their first real job.

In its haste to fill the workplace, Cognizant made some odd staffing decisions. Early on, the company hired Gignesh Movalia, a former investment advisor, as a moderator. Cognizant conducts background checks on new hires, but apparently failed even to run a basic web search on Movalia. Had they done so, they would have learned that in 2015 he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for his involvement in a $9 million investment fraud scheme. According to the FBI, Movalia had falsely claimed to have access to shares of a fast-growing technology startup about to begin trading on the public market.

The startup was Facebook.

An entrance to the main workspace for Cognizant's Tampa moderation site.

Movalia was eventually fired, but employees I spoke with believed his tenure exemplified Cognizant's approach to hiring moderators: find bodies wherever you can, ask as few questions as possible, and get them into a seat on the production floor where they can start working.

The result is a raucous workplace where managers send regular emails to the staff complaining about their behavior on the site. Nearly every person I interviewed independently compared the Tampa office to a high school. Loud altercations, often over workplace romances, regularly take place between co-workers. Verbal and physical fights break out on a monthly basis, employees told me. A dress code was instituted to discourage employees from wearing provocative clothing to work — "This is not a night club," read an email to all employees obtained by The Verge. Another email warned employees that there had been "numerous incidents of theft" on the property, including stolen food from the office refrigerator, food from vending machines, and employees' personal items.

Michelle Bennetti and Melynda Johnson both began working at the Tampa site in June 2018. They told me that the daily difficulty of moderating content, combined with a chaotic office environment, made life miserable.

"It smelled horrendous all the time"

"At first it didn't bother me — but after a while, it started taking a toll," Bennetti told me. "I got to feel, like, a cloud — a darkness — over me. I started being depressed. I'm a very happy, outgoing person, and I was [becoming] withdrawn. My anxiety went up. It was hard to get through it every day. It started affecting my home life."

Johnson was particularly disturbed by the site's sole bathroom, which she regularly found in a state of disrepair. (The company says it has janitors available every shift in Tampa.) In the stalls, signs posted in response to employee misbehavior proliferated. Do not use your feet to flush the toilet. Do not flush more than five toilet seat covers at one time. Do not put any substances, natural or unnatural, on the walls.

"And obviously the signs are there for a reason, because people are doing this," said Johnson, who worked at the site until March. "Every bit of that building was absolutely disgusting. You'd go in the bathroom and there would be period blood and poop all over the place. It smelled horrendous all the time."

She added: "It's a sweatshop in America."

Melynda Johnson and Michelle Bennetti (from left) worked for Cognizant for about nine months. Johnson calls the office "a sweatshop in America."

The work day in Tampa is divided into five shifts, and desks are shared between employees. Contractors I spoke with said they would frequently come to work and find their workstation for the day in dire condition — encountering boogers, fingernails, and pubic hairs, among other items. The desks would be cleaned whenever Facebook made one of its regular planned visits to the site. At other times, employees told me, the office was filthy.

Florida law does not require employers to offer sick leave, and so Cognizant workers who feel ill must instead use personal leave time. (They are granted five hours of personal leave per pay period.) Missing work is one of the few reasons Cognizant regularly fires its contractors. And so to avoid receiving an "occurrence," as the company calls unapproved absences, contractors who have exhausted their break time come to work sick — and occasionally vomit in trash cans on the production floor.

A manager saw that she was not feeling well, and brought a trash can to her desk so she could vomit in it

A worker named Lola* told me that health problems had resulted in her receiving so many occurrences she was at risk of being fired. She began going into work even when she felt ill to the point of throwing up. Facebook contractors are required to use a browser extension to report every time they use the restroom, but during a recent illness, Lola quickly took all her allotted breaks. She had previously been written up for going to the bathroom too many times, she said, and so she felt afraid to get up from her desk. A manager saw that she was not feeling well, and brought a trash can to her desk so she could vomit in it. So she did.

"Then I was crying at my desk," Lola said. "I was like, 'I can't go on.' My co-workers said, 'Just go home.' I said 'I can't, because I'm going to get an occurrence.'" She stayed at her desk and cried.

Employees told me about other disturbing incidents at the Tampa site. Among them:

  • An employee who used a colostomy bag had it rupture while she was at work, spilling some waste onto the floor. Senior managers were overheard mocking her. She eventually quit.
  • An employee who threatened to "shoot up the building" in a group chat was placed on paid leave and allowed to return. He was fired after making another similar threat. (A Cognizant spokesperson said the company has security personnel on site at all hours. "Our goal is to ensure that our employees feel assured that they work in a safe environment," he said.)
  • Another employee broadcast himself on Facebook Live talking about wanting to bash a manager's head in. Another manager determined that he was making a joke, and he was not disciplined.

In April, two women who work at the Tampa site filed complaints with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that they had been sexually harassed by two of their male co-workers. According to the complaint, the men regularly discussed anal sex in the office. When the women were not receptive to the discussion, one of the men said he "was going to start a YouTube channel and record himself shooting up the place," according to the complaint. On April 3rd, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office came to the site to interview the women. According to the officer's report, one of the men had been photographed following one of the women home.

"what am I going to see today? And am I going to make it home tonight?"

A Cognizant spokesman told me that the employee has been suspended while the claims are being investigated. But some workers say they are still concerned.

"Every time I get an email or a phone call from my clients, I worry that there's been a shooting — and I know that's their worry as well," said KC Hopkinson, an attorney who represents several current and former Cognizant employees in Tampa. "They go in there every morning asking, 'what am I going to see today? And am I going to make it home tonight?'"

Hopkinson told me that her clients who have reported incidents to human resources are generally either ignored or retaliated against, a claim that was echoed to me by several other employees there. In some cases, the site's human resources staff has followed workers who filed complaints to the bathroom, and questioned them about what they were doing for the few minutes they were inside. ("We take allegations such as this very seriously," a company spokesman told me. "Cognizant strives to create a safe and empowering workplace.")

"I wouldn't want my worst enemy to work there," Hopkinson said. "It's a terrible, terrible environment."

For the six months after he was hired, Speagle would moderate 100 to 200 posts a day. He watched people throw puppies into a raging river, and put lit fireworks in dogs' mouths. He watched people mutilate the genitals of a live mouse, and chop off a cat's face with a hatchet. He watched videos of people playing with human fetuses, and says he learned that they are allowed on Facebook "as long as the skin is translucent." He found that he could no longer sleep for more than two or three hours a night. He would frequently wake up in a cold sweat, crying.

Early on, Speagle came across a video of two women in North Carolina encouraging toddlers to smoke marijuana, and helped to notify the authorities. (Moderator tools have a mechanism for escalating issues to law enforcement, and the women were eventually convicted of misdemeanor child abuse.) To Speagle's knowledge, though, the crimes he saw every day never resulted in legal action being taken against the perpetrators. The work came to feel pointless, never more so than when he had to watch footage of a murder or child pornography case that he had already removed from Facebook.

In June 2018, a month into his job, Facebook began seeing a rash of videos that purportedly depicted organs being harvested from children. (It did not.) So many graphic videos were reported that they could not be contained in Speagle's queue.

"He just flat-out told me: 'I don't really know how to help you guys'"

"I was getting the brunt of it, but it was leaking into everything else," Speagle said. "It was mass panic. All the SMEs had to rush in there and try to help people. They were freaking out — they couldn't handle it. People were crying, breaking down, throwing up. It was like one of those horror movies. Nobody's prepared to see a little girl have her organs taken out while she's still alive and screaming." Moderators were told they had to watch at least 15 to 30 seconds of each video.

Speagle helps to take care of his parents, who have health problems, and was afraid to quit Cognizant. "It was tough to find a job down here in this market," he said. To cope with the stress, he began binge-eating pastries from the vending machines, and eventually put on a significant amount of weight. He sought out the on-site counselor for support, but found him unhelpful.

"He just flat-out told me: 'I don't really know how to help you guys,'" Speagle said. The counselor he spoke with had been substituting for the regular counselor, who had more training. Cognizant also offers a 24/7 hotline, full healthcare benefits, and other wellness programs. But the experience soured Speagle on the site's mental health resources. Other times, when he was having a particularly bleak day in the queue, a manager would hand him a bucket of Legos and encourage him to play with them to relieve the stress as he worked. Speagle built a house and a spaceship, but it didn't make him feel better.

Shawn Speagle holds the medication he was prescribed to deal with the effects of PTSD.

By last fall, Speagle told me, he was sleeping only an hour or two each night. The lack of sleep, coupled with depression, made it difficult for him to exercise. He began lashing out at his parents. Meanwhile, at work, he felt micromanaged by his team leaders, who pressured him to moderate more posts.

"I felt like I was trapped inside my own body," he said. "I couldn't, for the life of me, get up from my desk, or I would be yelled at to stay in my desk. So I was trapped at my desk and in my body. I was so scared."

Cognizant periodically purges large numbers of staff members in what have come to be known as "red bag days" for the red bags that managers give to the newly fired to collect their belongings. Sometimes the dismissals are related to job performance, and sometimes employees aren't given any explanation at all. Speagle was laid off as part of a red bag day last October.

In February, he went to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed him with PTSD. He is currently in treatment. Meanwhile, he has gone back to school to get his teaching certificate. Seeing so many children harmed on Facebook made him want to make a positive contribution to the lives of young people, he said.

"I really wanted to make a difference," Speagle told me of his time working for Facebook. "I thought this would be the ultimate difference-making thing. Because it's Facebook. But there's no difference being made."

I asked him what he thought needed to change.

"I think Facebook needs to shut down," he said.

Last week, I visited the Tampa site with a photographer. It had received a deep cleaning the night before I visited, according to two employees I spoke with, and the bathroom sparkled. As I walked the floor with the site manager and a Facebook spokeswoman, I noted that most rooms smelled of cleaning products.

Work stopped while we were there to ensure we did not see any Facebook user's personal information. Moderators, mostly in their 20s and 30s, chatted at their desks, or shot baskets in one of the miniature hoops around the building. The site's senior managers, who employees say are normally cloistered in their offices, made a show of walking the production floor and chatting with their subordinates.

Every few feet, a wall decal or poster offered an inspirational platitude. Exhortations to always try your hardest and maintain a positive attitude were punctuated with other signs that came across as slightly more sinister. "No news is good news," read one. "Our reputation depends on you," read another.

"That was a dog-and-pony show"

We saw an activity room where workers are invited to participate in yoga sessions, and a break room presided over by a small Buddha holding an electric candle. Across the room from the Buddha, coloring books were fanned out on a table beside windows overlooking the alligator pond.

The tour ended about an hour after we arrived.

"That was a dog-and-pony show," an employee named Bob told me over the phone the next day. "That was completely staged. We're out there playing games, and the senior management are out there interacting with people — it's all a facade."

Facebook sees a similar facade when it visits the site, he said.

The person responsible for managing Facebook's growing contractor workforce is Arun Chandra, whose title is vice president of scaled support. Chandra arrived at Facebook last November after a long career at HP, where he helped to oversee the company's global supply chain. In his new role, he told me, he hopes to gradually improve contractors' standard of living while also working to ensure they become more effective at their jobs.

Signage inside a stall of the women's bathroom at Cognizant in Tampa, FL.

"I'm trying to address the macro picture, and move the bigger things forward in the right way," said Chandra, who struck me as energetic and deeply sincere. "We'll never solve 100 percent, but I'm trying to show I can solve 80 to 90 percent of the larger problems."

Chandra has visited more than a dozen of the company's far-flung partner sites in the United States and abroad, and has plans to visit them all. When he arrives, he likes to pull rank-and-file contractors into rooms and ask them about working conditions without their managers around. He told me that in the Philippines, content moderation has become an attractive career track, and that everywhere he goes, he meets moderators who take great pride in their work. "The level of enthusiasm people have is amazing," he said.

This spring, Chandra organized a summit of around 200 leaders from content moderation sites around the world — an event he plans to hold twice a year, with another coming this fall. Up until now, vendors have had different policies and programs for promoting workers' mental health. At the summit, they agreed to share information about their approaches — effectively agreeing to stop competing on the basis of who does a better job taking care of workers.

While the raises will be a boon to a future workforce, the contractors I spoke to are unlikely to benefit

"We have to run a very large-scale platform. We have to take care of the community. And that means we have to get a whole lot of work done," Chandra said. "But that is not at the expense of [contractors'] well-being."

Chandra plans to launch a new audit program later this year to promote better working conditions. That will include more surprise visits — an effort to get around the dog-and-pony-show phenomenon I observed last week. He also plans to stop evaluating partners on the sole basis of whether vendors achieve a 98 percent accuracy rate — instead, he said, Facebook will develop a balanced "scorecard" approach to measuring vendors' performance. Chandra intends for worker well-being to be part of that score, though Facebook has not yet determined how it will be measured.

In May, Facebook announced that it will raise contractor wages by $3 an hour, make on-site counselors available during all hours of operation, and develop further programs for its contractor workforce. But the pay raises are not due to take effect until the middle of 2020, by which time many, if not most, of the current Tampa workforce will no longer work there. Turnover statistics could not be obtained. But few moderators I have spoken with make it to two years on the job — they either are fired for low accuracy scores, or quit over the working conditions. And so while the raises will be a boon to a future workforce, the contractors I spoke to are unlikely to benefit.

Nor will the many contractors who have already left the job. As in Phoenix, former employees of the Tampa site described lasting emotional disturbances from their work — one for which neither Facebook nor Cognizant offers any support.

I asked Chandra whether Facebook should hire more content moderators in house, rather than relying on big staffing companies. He told me that Facebook's business changes so quickly that it might not be possible. But he did not rule it out.

"I completely get the debate," he said. "If anything I'm very empathetic to the entire conversation, having spent a lot of time with these people. I don't think we have a better answer right now."

In the meantime, Facebook is building a "global resiliency team" tasked with improving the well-being of both full-time employees and contractors. Chris Harrison, who leads the team, told me that he aspires to build a wellness program that begins at the point of hiring. He wants to screen employees to gauge their psychological fitness — a move that might prevent someone like Shawn Speagle from being assigned to a queue filled with graphic violence — but says Facebook is still working to understand whether this is possible under employment law.

Harrison plans to make "resiliency" — the art of bouncing back after seeing something awful — a key part of contractor training. He helped to develop new tools for moderators that can automatically blur out faces in disturbing videos, turn them grayscale, or mute the audio — all things that can reduce the psychological harm to the moderator viewing them.

Eventually, Harrison hopes Facebook will offer post-employment counseling to moderators who suffered psychological harm on the job. "Of course we should do that," he said. But the idea is still in the earliest discussion stages, he said. "There's just so many layers of complexity globally. It's really, really hard to pull it off in a legally compliant way."

I asked Harrison, a licensed clinical psychologist, whether Facebook would ever seek to place a limit on the amount of disturbing content a moderator is given in a day. How much is safe?

"I think that's an open question," he said. "Is there such thing as too much? The conventional answer to that would be, of course, there can be too much of anything. Scientifically, do we know how much is too much? Do we know what those thresholds are? The answer is no, we don't. Do we need to know? Yeah, for sure."

"If there's something that were to keep me up at night, just pondering and thinking, it's that question," Harrison continued. "How much is too much?"

If you believe moderation is a high-skilled, high-stakes job that presents unique psychological risks to your workforce, you might hire all of those workers as full-time employees. But if you believe that it is a low-skill job that will someday be done primarily by algorithms, you probably would not.

Instead, you would do what Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Twitter have done, and hire companies like Accenture, Genpact, and Cognizant to do the work for you. Leave to them the messy work of finding and training human beings, and of laying them all off when the contract ends. Ask the vendors to hit some just-out-of-reach metric, and let them figure out how to get there.

At Google, contractors like these already represent a majority of its workforce. The system allows tech giants to save billions of dollars a year, while reporting record profits each quarter. Some vendors may turn out to mistreat their workers, threatening the reputation of the tech giant that hired them. But countless more stories will remain hidden behind nondisclosure agreements.

In the meantime, tens of thousands of people around the world go to work each day at an office where taking care of the individual person is always someone else's job. Where at the highest levels, human content moderators are viewed as a speed bump on the way to an AI-powered future.

In such a system, offices can still look beautiful. They can have colorful murals and serene meditation rooms. They can offer ping pong tables and indoor putting greens and miniature basketball hoops emblazoned with the slogan: "You matter." But the moderators who work in these offices are not children, and they know when they are being condescended to. They see the company roll an oversized Connect 4 game into the office, as it did in Tampa this spring, and they wonder: When is this place going to get a defibrillator?

(Cognizant did not respond to questions about the defibrillator.)

I believe Chandra and his team will work diligently to improve this system as best as they can. By making vendors like Cognizant accountable for the mental health of their workers for the first time, and offering psychological support to moderators after they leave the company, Facebook can improve the standard of living for contractors across the industry.

But it remains to be seen how much good Facebook can do while continuing to hold its contractors at arms' length. Every layer of management between a content moderator and senior Facebook leadership offers another chance for something to go wrong — and to go unseen by anyone with the power to change it.

"Seriously Facebook, if you want to know, if you really care, you can literally call me," Melynda Johnson told me. "I will tell you ways that I think that you can fix things there. Because I do care. Because I really do not think people should be treated this way. And if you do know what's going on there, and you're turning a blind eye, shame on you."

Have you worked as a content moderator? We're eager to hear your experiences, especially if you have worked for Google, YouTube, or Twitter. Email Casey Newton at [email protected], or message him on Twitter @CaseyNewton. You can also subscribe here to The Interface, his evening newsletter about Facebook and democracy.

Update June 19th, 10:37AM ET: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that a video that purportedly depicted organ harvesting was determined to be false and misleading.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

comboy(4121) 6 days ago [-]

> But as the weeks went on, the video continued to reappear in his queue (..) They kept reposting it again and again and again.

Seems like it should be pretty 'easy' to spot similar videos and audio (even after some modifications) given how great dataset all those moderators are providing.

I'm pretty sure there are some pretty smart folks working at fb, so it would mean that given accuracy standards it's still cheaper for them to hire humans to do the job.

dillonmckay(10000) 6 days ago [-]

No, that is only to protect IP rights.

Buttons840(4109) 6 days ago [-]

That part of the article says they allowed the video of animal abuse to remain visible so that law enforcement could do something about it. Of course, that's bullshit for many reasons.

Ban the user and the video, if the same video is posted again, autoban it. If the user is law-enforcent, allow them to see the details of all related content that was banned.

There are neat things called if-statemets that could do that.

SolaceQuantum(3121) 6 days ago [-]

'Conditions at the Phoenix site have not improved significantly since I visited. Last week, some employees were sent home after an infestation of bed bugs was discovered in the office — the second time bed bugs have been found there this year. Employees who contacted me worried that the infestation would spread to their own homes, and said managers told them Cognizant would not pay to clean their homes.'

This is utterly nightmarish, given how costly to one's life bedbugs are. (clearing out a home, including the replacing of all mattesses/couches, and bagging or hot-cleaning all clothing, sheets, towels, rugs...)

'A manager saw that she was not feeling well, and brought a trash can to her desk so she could vomit in it. So she did.'

This particular manager put their employees in danger of catching illness, especially given what appears to be the open office floorplan where airborne sicknesses can travel the entire room. I'm shocked and apalled, and this is the stuff I'm comfortable quoting from the article to be shocked and apalled by. The other stuff has convinced me to help inform friends and family to get off facebook rather than passively clean myself of it only.

awakeasleep(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This is industry standard in businesses with limited sick day or leave policies. Especially in call center type environments.

Once an employee has used their allotment, they receive a write up if they take off again no matter how ill. Too many write ups and you're fired. Managers have no discretion in this process, so they can only mitigate the impact by doing something like bringing the trash can over or buying hospital masks.

Not saying it's acceptable! But this isn't a facebook problem specifically.

b3lvedere(10000) 6 days ago [-]

'He watched videos of people playing with human fetuses, and says he learned that they are allowed on Facebook "as long as the skin is translucent."

Wow. Just Wow.

lazugod(4009) 6 days ago [-]

This sounds like a fantastic example of basing moral guidelines around what is easy for a computer to detect rather than what is actually moral.

We know that FB has nudity detection systems, due to their past problems with banning breastfeeding discussion groups.

arzeth(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I have a hotkey in i3wm:

bindsym $mod+backslash exec 'xcalib -i -a'

which inverts all colors (btw, I have to `killall redshift` because of a bug). When colors are inverted, I feel almost undisturbed at any gruesome content (for me it's like seeing screenshots of Quake 2 with buggy GPU drivers), yet I can still easily recognise whether the content is disturbing. And when it's a video, I play it at ≥2x speed so that it wouldn't feel realistic for my brain.

I wonder whether those moderators use these two lifehacks.

rock_hard(3644) 6 days ago [-]

There was a previous article a couple month ago that explained that this sort of stuff is already build into the moderation tools.

akerro(3936) 6 days ago [-]

They most likely can't change wallpaper on their windows XP...

bamboozled(4134) 6 days ago [-]

It seems like moderating audio is also part of the job and equally disturbing as the video.

Not sure how you get around that.

anon029102(10000) 6 days ago [-]

They wouldn't be allowed to.

theNJR(4003) 6 days ago [-]

What are you doing that requires this so frequently?

AnaniasAnanas(10000) 6 days ago [-]

NDAs and non-compete agreements should not ever be considered as valid contracts by the government.

dsfyu404ed(4027) 6 days ago [-]

I think you're painting with a very broad brush there.

NDAs and non-competes have their uses. It's when they become part of the default boilerplate that everyone signs to get a job that the problems start.

skybrian(1661) 6 days ago [-]

Some NDA's can be too broad, but this is a bad take. It needs to be possible to hire people that you trust not to disclose all your secrets, and your customer's secrets. This is what privacy regulations are all about. (At Facebook in particular, disclosing stuff about users is pretty bad, see lots of news stories over the last few years.)

The balance between protecting privacy and making abuses public is pretty nuanced and doesn't lend itself to one-bit thinking.

dec0dedab0de(4105) 6 days ago [-]

If there were no NDAs then companies would exploit patent, trademarks and copywrite even more than they already do. If they kept NDAs limited to trade secrets then there wouldn't be a problem

I think Non-competes should be limited to while youre actually working there

bloak(4154) 6 days ago [-]

Do any companies use something more like a blackmailer's NDA, which works without a legal system?

I'm not sure exactly how it would work, and perhaps it wouldn't work in practice, but I imagine it might involve paying the (former) employee a certain sum every month for their continued cooperation, and the employer would reserve the right to unilaterally cancel the arrangement: it would be 'discretionary' or whatever. So the employee has a motive to cooperate (unless they're terminally ill ...) but there's nothing to 'enforce'.

pjc50(1468) 6 days ago [-]

NDAs need to be heavily restricted, but it's a difficult distinction to draw between 'trade secrets of the job' (which arguably should be protected) and 'abusive working conditions' (which should not)

arethuza(3291) 6 days ago [-]

Just a warning - I found even a short description of some of the videos they had to watch fairly disturbing.

I don't think I could do that job for very long - let alone in a badly run, high pressure environment with low wages.

doctorRetro(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Thanks for that warning. It's appreciated. I had to take a break in the middle of the article before continuing.

cynicalreason(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I found it very disturbing .. I closed the video within a few seconds of the descriptions starting. Got a knot in my stomach and I feel very angry .. I could not do that job for a day

dsfyu404ed(4027) 6 days ago [-]

There's a lot of variance between individuals. Given the choice this sounds like an overall better job than working a busy McDonald's drive through (people are assholes when they're hungry) but I'm not the kind of person that's particularly bothered by graphic violence. My opinion of humanity is dark enough to accommodate it. I'm sure many people would prefer McDonald's though.

Some of the people interviewed were complaining primarily about the bad working conditions (and their complaints are valid as far as I care). I would wager these people are not as bothered by the content (though I'm sure they don't like it) as the ones who's primary complaints are about the content. They could probably do the job with less burnout if the rest of the job was made to suck less (i.e. it wasn't a shitty call center style job with all the accompanying baggage).

Edit: Why am I getting down-voted? Can people legitimately not fathom that some people would not be seriously bothered by seeing this content? People post violent content to Facebook. Shock and gore sites exist because some people actively seek out(!!) the kind of content that these moderators are being exposed to. It stands to reason that the subset of the population that at least finds that content not mentally damaging is substantially larger than the group that seeks it out.

Pigo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't see how an average person could be expected to witness some of the things mentioned in the article. I didn't have time to read the entire article, but do they have counselors on staff or something?

That one paragraph about organs was enough to ruin my day, and it was just text. I'm surprised such a 'rash of videos' wasn't in the news somewhere.

corey_moncure(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It makes me aware of a curious dichotomy about content moderation on Facebook. On one hand, they have publicly committed to stem the flow of 'Fake News', whatever that means, on their platform. Now on the other hand, we have this article about the suffering of contractors who's task is to block content that is too real. I guess this places Facebook's platform into a category with theme parks like Disney Land, where they aim at maintaining a precarious balance somewhere between the fake and the real.

save_ferris(3867) 6 days ago [-]

It's strange how quiet the pro-Facebookers become on threads like these. Yesterday, we saw a lot of energy around Libra on both sides of the Facebook spectrum.

I'd love to hear an argument from someone defending this company that isn't "everybody does it."

kodz4(3956) 6 days ago [-]

Every good story needs good villains. And the story of the 21st century is just getting started. We are in that phase of the story where the villains are pupating, given resources, and time to develop their own hyper efficient Amtssprache and narratives of self importance. Sooner or later destiny cannot be escaped and it takes everyone to a point of no return. And then the great war begins and the heroes arrive. The entire cycle would breakdown without good villains.

SpicyLemonZest(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Sometimes "everybody does it" is the appropriate response. I'm absolutely in favor of Facebook giving everyone more money and better working conditions and generally making their lives a pleasure. But when they sometimes fail to do that, in predictable ways that other companies also fail at, "Facebook specifically is evil and we've got to destroy it" is just not a reasonable reaction.

holidaygoose(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It seems like content moderation is just a crazy wicked problem. And the company is doing the best it can with a lot of constraints. Better communication with the workers sounds like it would help, but what else should they be doing realistically?

golergka(2533) 6 days ago [-]

Personally, I skimmed the article and failed to see anything particularly bad about it. Typical unskilled office job, with handpicked horror stories.

As usual, the author manages to make the employer responsible for employee's life situation. But aside from an impulse of assigning blame on the closest most powerful actor related to situation, I don't see any reason to see Facebook in any kind of negative light for this. They need a service performed, they found people who're willing to do that service for the money offered, they gave them this money. They didn't create neither the job situation, neither the lack of education, neither the whole life of choices that lead these people toward this point: they aren't even in a any condition to control the labor market.

And speaking of labor market, I really don't think that they would do anyone a favor if they pay significantly higher than the market going rate. In my experience, such an experiment creates a very unhealthy office politics: people realize that they won't get this kind of compensation anywhere else, and their concern for not getting fired becomes more influential than personal ethics or professionalism.

debacle(4111) 6 days ago [-]

The Libra discussion was strange, because it was mostly pro-crypto people who didn't grasp how not crypto Libra is, and anti-Facebook people, with a slice of 'hey this is probably illegal' people thrown in.

apanloco(10000) 6 days ago [-]

800 workers, 1 bathroom. Really?

dillonmckay(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Sounds like my current HQ.

I have worked for too many startups with inadequate bathroom setups.

It is a big red-flag for me now.

brundolf(2656) 6 days ago [-]

I think the most pertinent question is why don't they quit?

It says a great deal about how broken the United States' job market and social safety net are. If minimum wage were $15, they could find another job that paid their basic living expenses. If health care weren't left up to your employer, they wouldn't be out of luck while looking for a different job. If there were any alternative, they wouldn't stay in this hellscape.

They stay because this is the best deal they could find. Think about the kind of society that makes that the case.

baron_harkonnen(10000) 6 days ago [-]

In general folks working in in-demand areas of tech are pretty out of touch with how hard it is it 'just quit' a job. If you're an engineer or data scientist making $200k+ then you very likely have some moderate savings to cushion you between jobs and will have no trouble finding a new job and getting a slight raise. If you make over $200k, you are getting that much because your skills are in demand and employers need to pay that much.

If you're making $30K you certainly don't have any kind of buffer to hold you over between jobs, and don't have skills that are attractive to employers. Even basic things like interviewing are much harder. An engineer or data scientist can pretty much disappear from their desk for an entire day and no one will ask questions, you don't need time off for an interview, and if you do you likely have tons of leave. Someone making 30k most likely has to give notice of vacation many weeks in advance, if they even have leave benefits at all. And because your skills are less in demand your interview success rate is going to be much lower so you'll need even more time to interview.

It's likely very hard for these people to find new jobs even if they hate their current one, they are probably happy just to have income.

enibundo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Maybe they think that flagging shit online is easy and pays well to later find themselves with anxiety in the house. This kind of stuff is never easy to pin point

spamizbad(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It also sounds like they are sold on the empty promise that these jobs will get your foot through the door into the lucrative technology industry.

jm4(4042) 6 days ago [-]

I'm not following this logic. They can't quit a job that pays double minimum wage unless minimum wage is increased to the amount they are currently getting paid? If minimum wage was $15 there would be some other crummy employer paying more than minimum wage to incentivize people to take a shitty job. Would they be stuck in that one too because the alternatives pay less?

bena(10000) 6 days ago [-]

That is true, but a common theme among many of the stories is how much more they pay compared to other places.

These people are literally trading dollars for their mental health. That is the choice they are making.

zodiac(3448) 6 days ago [-]

> If minimum wage were $15, they could find another job that paid their basic living expenses.

Why is this necessarily true? Couldn't it be the case that minimum wage were $15 but they still couldn't find any other job?

dennisgorelik(2854) 6 days ago [-]

> If minimum wage were $15

... then low-skilled candidates would NOT be able to find any job at all, because if low skilled candidate's expertise does not support $15/hour salary, and employers who could, potentially, pay less (e.g. $10/hour) are legally prohibited from employing people at that lower rate -- then there are no other jobs available to that low skilled candidate at all. Which means forced and hopeless unemployment.

anon029102(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Guy Rosen and other execs within Integrity team continually skirt their responsibilities here. They claim they're doing better, but the second-order effects of crappy work conditions and demands keep cropping up. Zuck says one day we will hopefully be able to AI-away this integrity work (especially the most traumatizing), but he does not say a whisper as to improving working conditions or pay while the work needs to be done by humans. And I bet Zuck wouldn't be able to handle the content that these people have to view. Sheryl does not care. She keeps referencing the same standard schpiel about how contracting companies have to abide by a strict set of standards, and how they're ahead of the market in terms of pay and wellbeing. But it's still awful. The divide between contractors and full-time workers at Facebook is truly disgusting.

People who work at Facebook should be pushing for change. But they're numb to the schpiel. They're cushy and looked after and don't want to create a fuss.

Rosen doesn't care. Zuck doesn't care. Sheryl doesn't care. What DO they care about? Perception. Sit in any high-up integrity meeting and you'll see the only thing they seem to talk about is how 'x' would be received by users at scale. There's no comment as to the ethics or corporate responsibility. You can be talking about something pretty out there like how human rights intersect with takedown decisions and all you've got is a bunch of people umming-and-ahhing about lossy metrics and how Zuck wants this or that so we better hurry up. Or how awwesome it'll look on our PSCs if we ship this thing.

Broken company.

deusofnull(10000) 6 days ago [-]

You're right, Facebook is a broken company. Along that point, we should break it up.

ryanmarsh(3706) 6 days ago [-]

I read the bit about the children having their organs harvested while alive and didn't believe it so I did some googling and now I'm done for the day. I'm gonna go hug my kids.

kilroy123(3463) 6 days ago [-]

I'll take your word and skip on the googling myself. Seriously disturbing stuff.

r3vrse(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Dipping into whimsical analogies: this is a digital abattoir where the meat = content.

Now, as before, no-one wants to see how the sausage gets made. Especially those selling it.

Can't kill demand or bear the visceral truth. So instead we'll pretend the seedy underbelly doesn't exist. Paper over dissonance with ethical codes and platitudes.

Not new. Just a context shift in production of sustenance for the collective, insatiable gaping maw.

blablabla123(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Every web community has to deal with this, some types of communities are more prone to this than others. On HN this obviously works very well, also other 90s style web forums don't suffer these problems but that's probably also because those usually have a very close scope and attract only certain kind of people.

Facebook is really broad, so are also online news magazines which are sometimes full of horrible comments (only text of course). Usenet more or less ceased to exist because of that. So in reality this is not a Facebook problem but an online community problem - it just looks like a FB problem because that's the major online community.

I wonder if this could be solved with a 3rd party Facebook integration/startup :-). Anyway, Facebook also has more problems with that, another one being undesired unsolicited contacts which fall into the same category of not so nice stuff about Facebook. People don't see the meat production but the bad smell is really close which is why many leave.

Cthulhu_(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yup; bear in mind that pretty much ALL major user-generated content websites have to deal with this - think Google (and I now wonder if G+, Picasa, etc were shut down because they couldn't handle the inappropriate content anymore?), Dropbox (who may do a passive one where they only investigate if reported by law enforcement), Youtube (also Google), Discord, Slack, etc. It's a problem everywhere.

I also believe this is one of the reasons where Facebook's real name policy comes in - it discourages people from posting the worst of it. Animal brutality could just be kids fooling around on their phone, accidental, but produced child pornography is not, and the people making that shit know really well how they shouldn't put it on sites that require them to use their real names.

redm(3171) 6 days ago [-]

This story reads like a journalist trying to find some dirt on Facebook because its "hot" right now. Its the inverse of writing fluff stories when everyones excited about a startup. This story isn't even Facebook.

I worked tech support for Acer in the 90s and its a similar setup. If they took the time to have "relaxation" rooms, i doubt its as bad as the story makes it out to be.

rawrmaan(3848) 6 days ago [-]

You obviously didn't read the article.

Verdex(10000) 6 days ago [-]

So ... we all need to start flagging beautiful nature scenes, humorous comics, lists of health tips, and job postings for less stressful jobs that you could do if you're already qualified for being a facebook moderator?

At least that way they get a bit of a break from all the other horrible stuff.

panic(116) 6 days ago [-]

This is a great idea if you could get people to do it at scale -- it raises awareness, improves the lives of the moderators, and forces Facebook to deal with the increased volume of reports all at the same time.

luckylion(4155) 6 days ago [-]

There seems to be a very distinct difference between employee classes. Management and high value tech employees are treated very well while moderators, gig workers etc are treated as 'human resources', quite literally.

It seems to me that they put companies like Cognizant between them and the exploited workers to deflect criticism as 'we didn't know, we've been told by our partners that everything is great'.

And on a technical level: if true, how can it be that FB needs the same videos and pictures to be moderated over and over? Are they not using any form of content id? Is developing such a system more expensive than running content moderation sites and then swiftly firing the burnt out moderators?

At what point do you become complicit if you're working for Facebook?

jsgo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The only problems I see are that someone could potentially upload a lower resolution version of the video a moderator has seen and then perhaps bypass the content id system (I don't know how tolerant they tend to be for situations as that).

There's also the aspect of if we make it search out for distinct frames (like 'scene change' type things), there's the possibility that some safe things could become auto-moderated which would be another controversy. Perhaps if they could locate start/stop times for inappropriate elements of the source video and then check for videos containing any of those in a later uploaded video, but then instead of asking human moderators to discern 'is this video good or bad' we're now forcing them to get timestamps of when bad elements take place which would force them to really watch the video.

Dunno, I'm of the belief that it's just not an easily solved problem. I hope I'm wrong and they can toss money at the problem to fix it, but I genuinely don't know how they could.

bksenior(4141) 6 days ago [-]

You ever read Upton Sinclair's the jungle? It's a tale as old as time. Just publicly shame the company and ultimately they change or congress passes laws. This is a major reason the media works this way, it's part of American democracy.

pmoriarty(49) 6 days ago [-]

More apropos to this age is not the political climate in which Sinclair's 'The Jungle' led to pro-consumer reforms, but rather Jack London's 'The Iron Heel'[1], wherein when challenged, one of the captains of industry spoke these prophetic words:

'This, then, is our answer. We have no words to waste on you. When you reach out your vaunted strong hands for our palaces and purpled ease, we will show you what strength is. In roar of shell and shrapnel and in whine of machine-guns will our answer be couched. We will grind you revolutionists down under our heel, and we shall walk upon your faces. The world is ours, we are its lords, and ours it shall remain. As for the host of labor, it has been in the dirt since history began, and I read history aright. And in the dirt it shall remain so long as I and mine and those that come after us have the power. There is the word. It is the king of words--Power. Not God, not Mammon, but Power. Pour it over your tongue till it tingles with it. Power.'

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Iron_Heel

dang(174) 6 days ago [-]

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20223437.

president(4109) 6 days ago [-]

> Just publicly shame the company and ultimately they change or congress passes laws.

This just doesn't work in today's world. If it did, Equifax wouldn't be thriving the way it still does today.

revscat(3565) 6 days ago [-]

> Just publicly shame the company and ultimately they change or congress passes laws

This will not happen so long as libertarians and Confederates have political power.

sharkmerry(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I believe Sinclair's goal with the jungle was to expose the working condition for the benefit of the workers but the takeaway was how disgusting our food was

bagacrap(4153) 6 days ago [-]

There's a key difference there: the practices described in the jungle directly affected the population at large, by way of the food they ate. The kind of exposé in tfa requires the masses to have collective empathy.

martin1b(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The issue is not as much Cognizant or FB as it is the state of the public. The horrible acts posted online for entertainment by the public is the reason for companies like Cognizant. I hope these posts can forwarded to local law enforcement and the posts used as evidence against the poster.

britch(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Come on... don't let FB off the hook. Don't just stand up and blame 'society.'

Posting violent, hateful, evil stuff is as old as the internet itself. There will always need to be moderators. The question is how these people are treated.

Do you really think it is _impossible_ for a company as big and valuable as FB to treat these moderators well? Do they not have the money to pay them what they deserve, to give them sick leave, and to offer even basic mental health services?

Imagine if half or even a quarter the money and effort that has gone into their crypto debut had gone into helping build better tools and services for their moderation team.

cloakandswagger(10000) 6 days ago [-]

As evidence of what?

cldellow(4080) 6 days ago [-]

The article implies strongly that Facebook prefers to focus on the short term task of blocking offensive content and only pays lip service to the long term task of pursuing criminal charges.

I'd definitely believe that that is the case, as there's little economic incentive to play the long term game with its uncertain payout if you can just churn through low-wage content moderators instead.

Users of Facebook, but more realistically, employees of Facebook are the ones best situated to pressure Facebook to change that behavior.

toss1(4129) 6 days ago [-]

>> 'Speagle vividly recalls the first video he saw in his new assignment. Two teenagers spot an iguana on the ground, and one picks it up by the tail. A third teenager films what happens next: the teen holding the iguana begins smashing it onto the street. "They beat the living shit out of this thing," Speagle told me, as tears welled up in his eyes. "The iguana was screaming and crying. And they didn't stop until the thing was a bloody pulp."

>>'Under the policy, the video was allowed to remain on Facebook. A manager told him that by leaving the video online, authorities would be able to catch the perpetrators.'

Utterly disgusting and inhumane policy on facebook's part.

Continuing to display abject animal cruelty only lowers the bar for would-be imitators.

There have also been shown to be strong links between animal cruelty and human cruelty, including murder.

To be clear, the ONLY proper way to handle this is to immediately take it down and file a report with the relevant police agencies. Expecting the local police agencies to maintain the same staff of 30,000 people to monitor FB posts for crime is stupidly absurd.

This is at best depraved indifference on FB's part, and more likely a deliberate dishonest rationalization to keep posted something extreme that will get lots of 'views' and 'engagement'.

This is only one of millions of examples, including cooperating with the Russian / Cambridge Analytica / etc groups to corrupt elections in the US, England, and elsewhere.

Simply put, Facebook is deliberately poisoning society for profit, and far worse than any tobacco company ever did.

They need to be shut down. Now. There are far better ways to do everything FB claims to do.

(edit: add police report paragraph)

toss1(4129) 6 days ago [-]

At the very least, FB must be held to account as editors.

FB vigorously opposes this.

However, with 1) a staff of 30K++ screeners, 2) who knows how many moderators, etc, 3) many layers of management decisions and policy on what is and is not allowed on the platform and the reasons why/why not, 4) extensive human & algorithmic promotion and demotion of content, they are absolutely actively editing their site. This is arguably even more extensive editing than from any print or media organization.

The only reason FB wants to avoid the 'editing' label is so they can edit as they please. I.e., they want to edit for 'engagement' and profit, not for social responsibility.

This cannot remain out of control without consequences, which we are already seeing in society.

iBasher(10000) 6 days ago [-]

After trying to find the video I've found that iguanas are an invasive species in Florida and blunt force trauma to the head is the legal 'humane' way to kill the invasive species. Not sure if that's what's going on in the video, and if it took multiple swings it certainly wasn't done correctly but maybe look into it before assuming things.

james_pm(3636) 6 days ago [-]

There were many reasons that led to me deleting my Facebook account in May, 2018. The fact that the platform is a magnet for the absolute worst of humanity and then employs and exploits people in such an inhumane and cavalier way to filter the garbage out was high on the list. Get Zuckerberg to do the job for a few hours and see what he thinks.

lallysingh(4024) 6 days ago [-]

I find that I haven't missed anything outside of people I haven't actually talked to in 10-20 years. Which, frankly, is easier. It's nice to let my social past stay in the past.

close04(3627) 6 days ago [-]

> Florida law does not require employers to offer sick leave, and so Cognizant workers who feel ill must instead use personal leave time.

It seems that Facebook and Cognizant are not the only ones completely failing at protecting their people (employees, contractors, citizens).

save_ferris(3867) 6 days ago [-]

Lobbying plays a huge role in how legislative decisions like this are made.

The city of Austin recently passed a mandatory sick leave policy, only to be struck down at the state level after lobbying by employers.

It's not that companies like Facebook simply fail to protect their people, they're financially incentivized to undermine their rights. And since money == free speech in the US, it's perfectly legal for them to do so.

atishay811(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I imagine if Facebook could use its users to moderate content from others, say you are sign up for moderation, then have to moderate 20 posts from unrelated users to get 20 days of ad free Facebook. Facebook could employ a system like re captcha uses to identify users faking it.


dRaBoQ(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Facebook won't be able to install the necessary measures to prevent the moderators from saving the videos onto their own machines.

A lot of the bad content is highly desired by criminals and can even be profitable to sell on the dark web (e.g. child abuse).

cldellow(4080) 6 days ago [-]

This was a valuable article to read.

Facebook is enormously valuable. They made something like $15B in net income in the last four quarters.

Content moderators are a necessary condition for that profit. If kiddie porn, gore and animal cruelty flooded the network, it would cease to be a destination visited by people that advertisers will pay to reach.

And yet, there are two sets of entry-level knowledge workers at Facebook: engineers ($150k/year, benefits, upward career trajectory) and content moderators ($30k/year, no benefits, likely going to acquire mental illnesses).

I understand the arguments about supply and demand of labour, but I'd have more respect for Facebook if they demonstrated awareness of this issue. The article talks about moderators re-evaluating the same piece of distressing content that they've already flagged. Why? I suspect because the moderator is cheap, and so Facebook isn't putting in the effort to ensure that every judgment needs to be made the minimum number of times.

More so than salary, I suspect Facebook considers the moderator cheap in terms of reputation risk. By outsourcing to contractors located offsite from main campus, engineers aren't thinking daily about the absolutely horrible stuff moderators are seeing, and so the one group doesn't impact Facebook's ability to hire engineers. This is a guess - can anyone at Facebook speak to whether engineers are aware of the working conditions of moderators, and agitate to improve their lot?

ralusek(4142) 6 days ago [-]

I don't understand how this isn't a problem perfectly solved by the market. If it's a shit job that isn't worth the pay, people won't do it. If it's an okay job that isn't really worth the pay, they will have high turnover. High turnover has a cost, maybe it's worth it to them. If the turnover is so high or the job is so undesirable, maybe they'll axe the role. If the role is so important to the business that it can't be axed, but people aren't taking the jobs, they'll have to pay more for it. If they can't pay more for it because it cuts too much into profitability, but it's necessary for the company to operate, then they are no longer a viable company in the market. Or they'll have to innovate or adapt. All possibilities are fully encapsulated in very simple dynamics.

nswest23(10000) 5 days ago [-]

for the record the article states that cognizant, the contractor that FB deals w/for content moderation, does provide health benefits:

> Cognizant also offers a 24/7 hotline, full healthcare benefits, and other wellness programs.

sandworm101(4053) 6 days ago [-]

>> If kiddie porn, gore and animal cruelty flooded the network, it would cease to be a destination visited by people that advertisers will pay to reach.

Or the opposite. People flock to the internet to see this stuff, the material that isn't on TV or even dedicated commercial websites. They get to view it in the privacy of their homes, a secret between them an their trusted 'friends' on facebook. Facebook knows that if it really cracks down, if cops bust down doors over this stuff, that people will go elsewhere to share horrible material. So facebook does a poor job of moderation, one just good enough to avoid new regulation but not so good as to actually make a difference.

Advertisers care about eyeballs. They may claim to not want to be associated with X or Y content, but in reality they would rather be in front of an audience than not.

pawelmurias(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's knowledge workers vs unskilled labour.

ummwhat(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I've talked about this somewhere else. What you're seeing is just a manifestation of what I call 'the fundamental problem of user created content.' Said problem is that warehousing and distributing content scales insanely well but curation does not. Until we have strong AI, curation is a manual process. Moderators just aren't efficient enough at processing content for their output to pay for a full time salary. You can cut costs by making end users into moderators (the Reddit model) but results may vary.

This problem applies to other forms of sites and content as well. The app store gets hundreds of submissions in the game category per day. Hosting and distributing that content is easy. Only a tiny fraction of those games are going to be played and rated enough times to show up in a recommendation engine. The bulk of the incoming content stream isn't being matched to interested people at all (sorting by interesting is the same curation issue as filtering by offensive).

Literally every content platform is going to have some problem similar to Facebook. We can blame Facebook, but the reality is no one has a good solution. Not even me.

p1esk(2427) 6 days ago [-]

How about training a classifier to detect and remove potentially bad stuff, then let the users who uploaded it argue that the classifier made a mistake? Only in those cases have human moderators look at it?

deegles(320) 6 days ago [-]

I think all companies with user generated content should require every employee to moderate content for some amount of time. 1 hour per quarter would be plenty.

anon029102(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Can anyone at Facebook speak to whether engineers are aware of the working conditions of moderators, and agitate to improve their lot?

They are passively aware but mostly don't care. The engineers who express frustration are in the vast minority. Most engineers are just super happy about their own situations, very focused on PSCs, and try to keep to their own stuff. Any internal frustrations are channelled towards appropriate feedback channels where the anger is watered down.

meerita(4089) 6 days ago [-]

'If kiddie porn, gore and animal cruelty flooded the network, it would cease to be a destination visited by people that advertisers will pay to reach.'

I bet this can be done with ML and IA instead human power. Yet, FB uses their human cattle to censor conservative voices.

Bakary(4139) 6 days ago [-]

>This is a guess - can anyone at Facebook speak to whether engineers are aware of the working conditions of moderators, and agitate to improve their lot?

If you go work at Facebook as a engineer chances are you aren't too bothered by ethical questions

geggam(4151) 6 days ago [-]

150k a year in Silicon Valley is similar to 30k a year in the midwest...

Where are the moderators living ?

wrongdonf(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It says right in the article that the content moderators have full medical benefits

Miner49er(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Facebook won't do anything to help these moderaters unless the cost of the negative PR exceeds the cost of doing something. Engineers at FB could help achieve this by causing agitation, for sure.

Maybe the best solution is for the moderaters to unionize.

Shivetya(628) 6 days ago [-]

anyone who has done moderation for any active forum can tell you how nightmarish it can be. the more popular the platform the more problems you can have.

anecdotal, friend who streams on twitch also mods for a few streamers and they even have issues when a stream is in subscriber mode only. simply because anonymity and distance from those being affected empower people to do bad things

edit : I am really surprised there is/are not companies which would spring up to provide these services seeing how most of these activities are required by law.

however before bemoaning what they are paid, just go look at your local 911 operators who are government employees. just because we think it should be paid more doesn't mean others do.

krick(4132) 5 days ago [-]

> I understand the arguments about supply and demand of labour, but I'd have more respect for Facebook if they demonstrated awareness of this issue.

It is a very politically correct statement, which, as it usually happens with politically correct statements, really says nothing. I mean, what exactly do you propose they should do about it?

I am the last person to defend Facebook, but, seriously, they are running a business. That is, essentially, finding a way to do/own/produce some stuff while spending less on it than you receive for it. And cost management is all about supply and demand.

After all, it's not like Facebook wants to pay engineers $150k/year and for them to be happy. It needs good engineers and the only way to get them is to keep them happy, or else they stop coming. Engineers are not really special, they are not even exactly more necessary than cleaners, and loaders, and content moderators. The only difference is, demand for them is higher than supply.

And that would be tragic in a sense, if everyone would be randomly assigned a role and if you draw an 'engineer' you are lucky, but if you draw a 'content moderator' you are not. Or if we were talking about some factory in some giant village in Vietnam, where no matter how smart you are and no matter what you do, you'll be working much harder job in conditions far, far worse than described for $500/year and you really don't have any choice.

But we are not. No, this is Florida, $30K/year and these are people choosing the job of content moderator over a job of an engineer, either because they don't want to or cannot do otherwise. They while many of them may have stories that can be seen as tragic (because who hasn't, really?), they are no more victims than anyone else born into living a life on the Earth. And thus, hardly entitled to anything.

Let me be clear: I really hate Facebook and I find companies with a modus operandi like Congizant's distasteful to say the least. And I can see how Cognizant can be held accountable for giving somebody a false hope, luring into doing the job while promising something else. But what exactly do you want for Facebook to do? They want a service as cheap as possible, they get asked a given price, they agree. That's it. It won't save their reputation after an article like this (because, well, public relations...), but it seems just fair.

jfindley(4084) 6 days ago [-]

Given the description of the videos in the article, I'm not sure that merely paying the moderators more would solve it.

I think for most people that I'd want to be moderating content (e.g. not sociopaths) making them richer isn't going to do anything to deal with the real reason this is worse than a call centre - the content itself. I'd rather see facebook put more effort into protecting moderators from the content they're viewing. I realise this is a non-trivial problem, but here's a few ideas of things they could do which may help:

* Once a video is confirmed bad, fingerprint it and block future uploads.

* Provide colour-inversion buttons to help reduce visual impact

* Rotate people between areas, so they aren't looking at the same class of bad content constantly

* Use ML training to detect which content is likely to be the most severe and for this content, reduce minimum viewing interval to ~ 5 seconds, and ensure that a single individual doesn't get too many of these.

* Flag accounts who post bad content too often, and shadow-ban them so their posts are not visible by anyone else (this could go in stages, starting off by blocking re-shares of their posts or something)

scarface74(3824) 6 days ago [-]

$30k/year, no benefits, likely going to acquire mental illnesses

Why do you think they don't get benefits? Facebook contracts out to another company. The company they contract with still is probably providing some benefits

GoodJokes(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Are you telling companies exploit labor? Are you telling me meritocracy is a joke? Are you telling me a ton of software devs get paid WAY too much and aren't that "special." I think we have hit the nail on the headddddd

Cthulhu_(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Re: salaries, don't forget that there's also salaries working on the content moderation problem - taking the huge datasets that the content moderators are reviewing and applying machine learning and content ID and I have no clue what else more to automatically filter out a lot of the content, ideally with such a high certainty rate that the moderators don't see it in the first place.

I want to believe the content moderators only end up seeing the 1% of content that is dubious, or brand new content (not published and hashed earlier). I don't understand in that regard why the one video mentioned in the article (about the iguana) wasn't marked as 'ok' in the systems, or marked as 'on hold for law enforcement' so the moderators didn't have to see it again.

m463(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Stuff like this should be brought in-house. You can't outsource responsibility. Engineering and AI/pattern matching should be in the loop as a key ingredient so that a terrible image/video won't have to be viewed by human eyes at all, or worst case just once.

baud147258(3028) 6 days ago [-]

> cheap in terms of reputation risk

Also in terms of the reputation of Facebook: any issue with moderation failures and Facebook can easily says that it's the contractor's fault

nonwifehaver3(10000) 6 days ago [-]

How can kiddie porn, gore and animal cruelty 'flood the network' for people using Facebook? Don't you normally just see things from your friends, ads, and groups that you are a part of? If they post that, either call the cops, block them on Facebook, don't hang out with them irl, or leave the group as appropriate. Problem solved? I haven't used Facebook in 5+ years so maybe this is no longer accurate.

hashkb(4147) 6 days ago [-]

> Facebook is enormously valuable. They made something like $15B in net income in the last four quarters.

Their profit is not proof they are valuable, because they are willfully abdicating responsibility for the damage they cause, and, further, involving themselves in government debates over their own regulation.

Advertising businesses are inherently suspect, and when one is addictive and potentially enabling election fraud etc, we need to be extra careful in declaring its value.

Anyone participating in the debate should have to disclose if they are a daily user or if their company advertises on any social network. (I'm clean)

Edit: my opinion of course is that FB, Insta, etc (any advertising product with push notifications and/or infinite scroll) ought to be illegal. In 50 or 100 years we'll all recognize that social networks are like internet cigarettes.

RegBarclay(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I thought the same thing -- that once content is moderated, it should be trivial to block exactly the same content from being posted and moderated again. What a waste.

ralphstodomingo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm sure such scale requires heavy moderation. It pains me to realize the cost of enjoying the benefits of social media - if any, at all - that it makes me wonder whether we should have it in the first place at all.

I can imagine a world without Facebook.

aeorgnoieang(4097) 6 days ago [-]

It's sad to realize that the world is worse than we previously thought, but it's not obviously worse overall. Not having social media, or anything similar, and thus not having to moderate awful content, wouldn't (necessarily) cause all of the terrible behavior depicted in that content to not happen.

People can be awful. So can other organisms (independent of whether they're evil or just immoral). Not facing that fact, at all, isn't obviously best.

overthemoon(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This is what I keep coming back to. I don't think Facebook is worth it. I would personally extend this to most, if not all, social media.

the_duke(3457) 6 days ago [-]

Couldn't violence (both towards animals and humans) be detected in an automated fashion?

Especially screams in the audio should be fairly easy to find.

Then block those videos by default, with a manual appeals process that sends it to a moderator, combined with a big warning that submitting videos against the TOS will get you suspended. Of course this could lead to people submitting videos without audio, but this will always be a cat and mouse game.

Or is FB under legal duty to review potentially criminal content?

jsty(4050) 6 days ago [-]

> Especially screams should be farely easy to detect

I guess it depends how reliably it could determine between ordinary screaming (especially with children who scream at just about anything that makes them happy or unhappy), and 'terrible things are happening' screaming. Even most humans would probably struggle to tell the difference just based on a short audio clip of a scream, which is what your algo would have to work with.

dexen(3299) 6 days ago [-]

>Couldn't violence (both towards animals and humans) be detected in an automated fashion?

Even if it could (and parallel posters argue it cannot), there is a meta-problem: 'Who is allowed to post violent content?'. Violence is contextual, and also legality of posting it is contextual. Same goes for other objectionable materials (nudity, extreme ideologies etc.).

Point in case, if all users were subject to the same criteria, the big names in media would quickly get banned. And/or would enter war path with Facebook, accusing it of heavy-handed censorship against the freedom of the press.

Same for reportage of popular events with any degree of nudity. A news piece about a Femen protest, a Pride event, a World Naked Bike Ride, maybe even the No Pants Subway Ride would cause a ban.

Likewise, anybody documenting & discussing historical events, and anybody documenting & discussing present-day uprising, revolutions, civil wars, persecutions, etc., would quickly get banned, essentially sweeping a lot of abuse under the rug. Probably even discussion & documentation of domestic violence would have this problem.

As a lighter aside, cartoonish violence (video games & movies) could also easily fall prey to automated violence take-downs.

All in all, Facebook really really wants to give certain users (mostly press & historians) broad, sweeping exceptions to the general rules.

jdietrich(4143) 6 days ago [-]

It's a whole bunch more complicated than that - I'd highly recommend the Radiolab episode Post No Evil and the documentary The Cleaners for the full story.

Facebook doesn't have a blanket policy of removing violent content, for wholly legitimate reasons. Many users in Mexico very strongly want videos of cartel murders to stay on the site, because they feel that they are important reportage of something that the mainstream media is unwilling or unable to report. Many users in Syria very strongly want videos of IS murders to remain on the site, because they want the world to see the suffering that IS has wrought on their country.

If Facebook just delete all violent content, they're robbing the victims of violence of their voice - it doesn't feel like Facebook are protecting users of their platform, it feels like Facebook are complicit in covering up the crimes of drug cartels and terrorists.

It's not enough to identify that a video is violent - they need to know context. Is this particular video in this particular context a cry for help or a celebration of evil? Will removing this video silence the propaganda of a murderer, or will it help to conceal their crimes? Does this video show the death of an unidentifiable person in an ungoverned warzone, or is it vital evidence that urgently needs to be forwarded to the relevant authorities? For now, only well-trained human beings are capable of making that call.

This sort of dilemma points to the fundamental impossibility of moderating Facebook to the satisfaction of everyone. Some users complain about pornography, so Facebook make a policy to take down the porn. Other users complain that these policies are sexist and protest outside Facebook's offices to free the nipple. Facebook end up with several pages of rules that allow their army of moderators to consistently distinguish between pornographic and empowering nipples, but nobody's really happy with the outcome.

Facebook are doing a really crappy job of looking after their moderators, but that issue is fixable if we apply enough pressure. There are many other problems with moderating Facebook that are far less tractable and have far wider consequences.

mschuster91(3216) 6 days ago [-]

> Shouldn't violence (both towards animals and humans) be farely easy to detect in an automated fashion?

No. Already filters fuck up way too much and restrict perfectly legal content.

lemcoe9(4067) 6 days ago [-]

'should be fa[i]rly easy to find'

Nope. It's just not that easy. Why do you think the biggest companies on the planet struggle so mightily to reliably and un-controversially figure out what content to block.

hirundo(4061) 6 days ago [-]

> Nobody's prepared to see a little girl have her organs taken out while she's still alive and screaming.

On the one hand, of course you don't want to see this and of course you want it removed from your social media feed.

On the other hand, if it's hidden, it horrifies fewer people, and instead of rising social pressure to take action against it, it can fester in the dark.

So if we manage to replace a significant chunk of centralized, moderated social media with decentralized, unmoderated alternatives, many of us will be exposed to more of this kind of evil. But as a result more of us will be aware of it and motivated to fight it.

I'd rather participate in unmoderated media, even at a greater risk of being assaulted by this kind of crap. But at this extreme I can sympathize with those that want straight up censorship, even if sunlight is a better long term disinfectant.

behringer(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Not in a million years would most people put up with it. If I ever saw something like that on FB I'd immediately delete my account.

pjc50(1468) 6 days ago [-]

Context matters: it's this kind of thing that was used to promote the massacres of the Rohingya. Or consider the various things that are posted about Syria. Pictures of atrocities without clear attribution of those responsible just make the situation worse and provoke reprisals against the wrong people.

phosphophyllite(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Maybe censoring is not effective?

Why not to embrace any content and just make police raids when someone uploads questionable content?

Is censorship solves anything?

bilbo0s(4139) 6 days ago [-]


police busting down your door for uploading a video kind of is censorship.

But yeah, I'm now starting to see why more and more people are just wanting to go to the censor and police raid system. A lot of this stuff people are uploading just doesn't belong in a civilized society. What started off as maybe just content on making non violent jokes about blacks or gays has morphed into showing children being disemboweled and videos of little old black or jewish ladies being gunned down in their place of worship. It's just gone too far.

Probably just have to file it under:

'This is why we can't have nice things'

pjc50(1468) 6 days ago [-]

Can't police raid someone in another country. Not that the police are particularly interested:

> Under the policy, the [animal cruelty] video was allowed to remain on Facebook. A manager told him that by leaving the video online, authorities would be able to catch the perpetrators. But as the weeks went on, the video continued to reappear in his queue, and Speagle realized that police were unlikely to look into the case.

lazugod(4009) 6 days ago [-]

How does that change the problems in the article? You would still need people looking at questionable content to decide when to call the police.

dalore(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If they made engineers take turns working in the content moderation you would soon see all sorts of improvements (like the aforementioned ability to recognize duplicate content for starters).

They would hate it so much, that would make better tooling. But now they don't have to know about it, just send images to the moderation team over and over like they are robots.

joeblubaugh(4116) 6 days ago [-]

I knew an engineer who worked on news moderation tools - the stress was so high that he had a breakdown and had to quit.

I think if FB engineers had to actually interact with the bottom-bucket of the content on a regular basis, Facebook would have stricter rules, and perhaps even prior-restraint filters for image and video uploads.

Nasrudith(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Couldn't it be just done in a more pleasant and efficient way by simply tasking them on moderation assistance tools instead of misplaced retribution?

While putting themselves in the moderator's shoes may prove helpful they aren't comparable in skillsets. If they were given a command line interface for instance most mods would be puzzled. 'Produced for self' and 'produces for content moderators' are differing needs.

tomp(2328) 6 days ago [-]

The engineers would just make the filtering AI better.

End result: engineers paid $250k, moderators unemployed making $0k.

DannyB2(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> there are two sets of entry-level knowledge workers at Facebook:

> engineers ($150k/year, benefits, upward career trajectory) and

> content moderators ($30k/year, no benefits, likely going to acquire mental illnesses).

If Facebook could get away with paying engineers $30K/year, no benefits, believe me, they would.

meruru(4155) 6 days ago [-]

>likely going to acquire mental illnesses

I find hard to believe humans are so sensitive that some visual stimulation is going to give them mental illnesses. We evolved in an environment where violence was part of real life and a real threat to our own well being, seeing it on a screen will elicit emotions we may not be used to in modern life, but causing mental illness is a stretch.

H8crilA(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm sorry but who wouldn't? I would.

dang(174) 6 days ago [-]

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20222900.

unethical_ban(4117) 6 days ago [-]

I don't think that was debated by OP.

not_a_cop75(10000) 6 days ago [-]

A company that made 15B can't afford to raise salaries? What a ludicrous statement to make.

arethuza(3291) 6 days ago [-]

Maybe Facebook should make all of their own employees do 15 minutes of moderation per day - just to share the pain out a bit....

H8crilA(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Have you ever worked with mechanical turk or anything of this sort? You pretty much have to do at least 15 minutes of manual moderation per day. Training 'human workers', setting up rating templates, finding human mental 'bugs', i.e. things that raters/moderators get consistently wrong - it takes quite a lot of time.

Granted, not everyone does that, someone nibbling at the frontend or sitting deep in some distributed DB generally does not care much about data quality.

asark(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Make the users do a little every so often. Like Slashdot's 'hey, go moderate some posts' thing but forced to before they can use the platform anymore. That'd be fun.

Of course the real answer is that this sort of site is a bad idea and shouldn't exist. Wide-open signup and public visibility of content, or ease of sharing it with strangers. Bad combo, don't care how much money it's making them (and other, similar sites).

zhte415(2620) 6 days ago [-]

This makes complete sense. Why pigeon hole employees into, well, pigeon holes? Technology, Operations, Marketing, more. Each understanding more about each others' roles, challenges, solutions. A knowledge organisation is based on knowledge. I'd favour a scale that could be chosen, 5-50% outside of core role.

[Clarity: Am not a Facebook employee.]

rorykoehler(3498) 6 days ago [-]

All the devs would leave

mikeash(3736) 6 days ago [-]

Make the executives do this.

jokoon(4146) 6 days ago [-]

I would have thought they would have the best filtering AI and dataset the world has to offer, to avoid having those moderators to work like this.

daxterspeed(10000) 6 days ago [-]

From the descriptions of the work in this article it sounds like Facebook is actively choosing to have the same moderator re-moderate the same content over and over. At that point it almost seems like intentional malice from Facebook rather than a 'developer oversight'. Surely the first time a video has been flagged it should be trivial to identify further uploads of that video?

The only reasonable explanation I can imagine is that Facebook is doing everything they can to avoid having to implement a 'Content ID' system like YouTube. Now why exactly they don't want to do that can only be speculated.

Avshalom(3707) 6 days ago [-]

a lot of 'AI' is just poor people.

in general response to this article there was a thread on twitter with some good links https://twitter.com/max_read/status/1141336189800239107

britch(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Building an AI is expensive. It also means FB is on the hook for false classifications.

This moderator labor is (relatively) cheap. It also allows FB to point to a third party if something goes wrong.

Look at their statements in the article. It's easier for them to distance themselves and point to 'bad actor' contractors than it is if these were direct FB employees.

neuro(4107) 6 days ago [-]

This seems to be the place

Cognizant Technology Solutions Woodlands2 7725 Woodland Center Blvd, Tampa, FL 33614

There's another big story here, it may get more horrific, from browsing their phone directory most of their 'employees' appear to be people of south Asian nationality. Given the circumstances and their predatory behavior, I imagine they are also taking advantage of H1Bs.

dRaBoQ(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Where do you see their phone directory ?

spunker540(4056) 6 days ago [-]

"But had his managers asked, they would have learned that Speagle had a history of anxiety and depression"

Should employers really be asking about mental health history during the hiring process?

mpclark(4131) 6 days ago [-]

Of course, if the job involves risks to mental health!

noisy_boy(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Maybe they should have checked his Facebook history.

My decision to delete my account from this toxic spider web of a platform is affirmed regularly by the frequent revelations of their immoral behavior.

mhh__(4111) 6 days ago [-]

> Should employers really be asking about mental health history during the hiring process?

There should be some disclosure of potential mental health risks in the job description. no? i.e. Screening for this at a later stage in the hiring process would be reasonable (No idea on the legality, however)

s_dev(2562) 6 days ago [-]

I live in East Wall, Dublin -- beside the Facebook moderator (The Beckett) building.

I wonder if this is true for them as well or if it's just N. America -- we've better employment protections and minimum wage in Ireland compared to the US.

anon029102(10000) 6 days ago [-]

AFAIK Content reviewers in the Dublin office work for Facebook as perm employees (are not contractors), and mostly deal with escalated cases from offsite contractors.

jdietrich(4143) 6 days ago [-]

The Irish Times recently published a similar story:


aboru(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I am surprised after reading a lot of comments here (not all), that I have not seen any discussion of Cognizant and their role. I am no fan of Facebook and I believe that they have significant responsibility here, but the contractor is, imo, the party directly responsible.

These people do not work for Facebook, and we don't know the nature of the contract in play. Are they paying per person, or a lump sum for some capacity at some accuracy rate. If Cognizant automated all of this would it be accepted under the contract?

Anyways, I don't want to shift focus away from Facebook so much as wanting to recognize the contracted call mpanies like Cognizant (which is what the whole article is about btw, with some comments referring to Facebook). Accenture and Cognizant really shouldn't escape the scrutiny just for being overshadowed by a bigger name.

danso(4) 6 days ago [-]

It's true that Cognizant has direct power to change things, but ultimately, the buck stops with Facebook, since they seem to be the vast majority of Cognizant's work and thus essentially have direct control of the purse strings. FB has the ability to change how Cognizant treats its workforce, and it's Facebook's choice to take a stand or to wash its hands of it. FB also has indirect say in demanding a certain standard ('98% accuracy target') for a given amount of money ($200M) -- though obviously if FB were to simply pay Cognizant more for the contract, there's no guarantee Cognizant would use that money for better worker pay/benefits (as opposed to giving bigger bonuses to executives, for example).

In the article, one of the contractors says that Cognizant puts up a 'dog-and-pony show' whenever FB executives visit. Again, it's ultimately up to FB to decide how much they want to push past the facade.

kshacker(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If the same article was about Apple and a subcon (not Foxconn) where do you think the limelight will be?

colpabar(4126) 6 days ago [-]

Cognizant isn't in the headline and unfortunately most people don't actually read things.

johnrbent(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Facebook is the entity creating this work, and is the root of the problem (by contracting a 3rd party to perform work that they very well understand the consequences of). The article is suggesting that Facebook should be held accountable for the detriment (trauma) that their work is causing. I think the article even argues that the contractors aren't equipped to deal with a problem of this magnitude/seriousness. Facebook is in the best position to rectify their moral accounts, but we all know that's not going to happen because they are evil and so forth.

hunter23(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Cognizant should be banned from the h-1 program for these type of employee abuses. If they were threatened with something like that, they would actually listen since thats how they make money. There should be some principle like 'if we believe you are a scummy employer, you can be banned from being granted h-1 visas'.

creaghpatr(3700) 6 days ago [-]

For the wage mentioned in the article, I'm surprised they don't have trouble finding people to do the job.

>Speagle helps to take care of his parents, who have health problems, and was afraid to quit Cognizant. "It was tough to find a job down here in this market," he said.

Tougher than watching graphic PTSD-inducing videos every day? It sounds like the job absolutely sucks but these contractors need to have a little bit of personal responsibility for their own mental health. I suspect they do but the article gives the impression they are all trapped there with no way out.

Tampa is a major call center hub so I imagine contractor positions are opening up all the time given general churn rates.

lallysingh(4024) 6 days ago [-]

It's not easy to self diagnose for this stuff. 'You just read Facebook posts and look at pictures? No customer yelling at you? Sounds easy.'

danharaj(3981) 6 days ago [-]

> It sounds like the job absolutely sucks but these contractors need to have a little bit of personal responsibility for their own mental health. I suspect they do but the article gives the impression they are all trapped there with no way out.

> Tampa is a major call center hub so I imagine contractor positions are opening up all the time given general churn rates.

What matters is that you've come up with a narrative that convinces you it's the workers' fault.

doctorRetro(10000) 6 days ago [-]

"I think Facebook needs to shut down.'

As I've spent the last few years pissing away absurd amounts of time on the platform, gotten in countless fruitless arguments, and seen the truly vile and toxic elements of my communities exposed and worn like a badge, this is an idea I've been thinking an awful lot about. After reading this article, I've never been more certain of that statement.

hvs(3442) 6 days ago [-]

'We have met the enemy and he is us.' https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/49/Pogo_-_Earth_...

Shutting down FB will just create this problem in the next popular social media platform. This is a problem that needs to be solved, and shutting companies down won't do it.

Historical Discussions: Swedish Couple Builds Greenhouse Around Home (June 21, 2019: 837 points)

(838) Swedish Couple Builds Greenhouse Around Home

838 points 4 days ago by rmason in 67th position

returntonow.net | Estimated reading time – 6 minutes | comments | anchor

Greenhouse keeps home in the 60's, even when it's freezing outside; allows family to grow Mediterranean fruit in Sweden

Marie Granmar and Charles Sacilotto literally live in a bubble, insulated from the cold and the harshness of the elements, while taking in the best of what nature has to offer.

Their house is built inside of a greenhouse, providing them free heat and free food in the winter.

In Stockholm, Sweden, where winter lasts 9 months out of the year, that's a huge asset.

The average temperature in Stockholm in January is below freezing. But step into Marie and Charles' bubbled-in "backyard," and you'll be much warmer.

"For example at the end of January it can be 28°F outside and it can be 68°F upstairs," says in the video below:

A normal family in Stockholm switches on their heater on sometime around mid-September, and doesn't turn it off again until mid-May or so, Marie says.

The greenhouse allows them to reduce the number of months they need to heat their home from 9 to 6 months per year, and reduces the amount of energy they use doing so. Any supplemental heat they need, that is not provided by the sun, is provided by a wood-burning stove.

Marie says she is more or less immune to the winter blues many of her friends experience during cold weather. Rain or snow, she can sit out on her balcony or her roof-top terrace and gaze at the stars, or any glimpses of sun she can catch.

Then, during the warmest parts of the summer, her glass roof automatically opens up when it hits a certain temperature, to let the heat out so it doesn't get too hot.

"It can get warm a few days in the summer," she says, "but that's not really a problem because we open the windows and we enjoy the heat. We like the sun!"

The family's favorite hangout is the rooftop deck. Since they built a glass ceiling, they no longer needed a roof, so they removed it to create a large space for sunbathing, reading, gardening or playing with their son on swings and bikes.

In addition to keeping their bodies warmer, the greenhouse also keeps their plants warmer.

The footprint of the greenhouse is nearly double that of the home, leaving plenty of room for a wrap-around garden. And since they've created a Mediterranean climate for themselves, the couple grows produce that typically isn't grown in Sweden, like figs, grapes, tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs. Outside the glass they have cherry and apple trees.

"Growing things here is not easy," Marie says in the video. "We need all the extra energy we can get."

On top of free heat, the couple has also installed a rainwater collection system for free water, and a composting toilet system that provides free fertilizer for their plants. Also, the plants that thrive in their home return the favor by cleaning the air and providing more oxygen.

It starts with a urine-separating toilet and uses centrifuges, cisterns, ponds and garden beds to filter waste water and compost the remains.

For the future, the couple is working on designing a system to capture excess solar energy during the summer and store it for the winter.

"If you want to be self sufficient, and not dependent on bigger systems, you can have this and live anywhere you like," Marie said.

"It's all a philosophy of life, to use nature, sun and water to live in a another world," Charles said.

Charles and Marie weren't the first ones to build a house-inside-a-greenhouse. Their idea was inspired by Swedish architect Bengt Warne who built the first "Naturhus" (Nature House) in Stockholm in 1974:

Since then a handful of others have been built in Sweden and Germany.











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All Comments: [-] | anchor

rv-de(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I wonder how much money it would cost to figure out whether you are allowed to build such a construction in Germany at all.

scraptor(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I've seen a similar construction in Germany so I assume it's allowed.

strooper(4129) 4 days ago [-]

Its an interesting project. I wonder how they keep earthworm or other insects out of home.

inflatableDodo(3809) 4 days ago [-]

I would imagine they try to encourage earthworms as well as many types of insect.

hello2(10000) 3 days ago [-]

they won't need the greenhouse for very long. in a few years it'll be warm enough to grow figs outside without the greenhouse

roel_v(10000) 3 days ago [-]

You're being downvoted, but there are places here in the Netherlands where figs are doing well where they didn't 20 years ago.

jpfed(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Sure, they reduced the heating bill. But the tradeoff is that they can't throw stones anymore.

vesky(10000) 3 days ago [-]

rolls eyes... take your upvote and go.

jorblumesea(10000) 4 days ago [-]

How much snow do they get? Seems like it would be serious work to make sure ice and snow didn't pile up or bring down the greenhouse.

otachack(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Does the warmth of a traditional greenhouse melt snow from the roof?

ceejayoz(2057) 4 days ago [-]

Several of our neighbors have rooftop solar panels. The snow tends to slide off easily due to the slippery glass surface.

moneytide1(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I have loved this concept ever since I discovered Michael Reynolds Earthship. I wonder if their exterior is glass or polycarbonate?

Moru(3882) 4 days ago [-]

According to the movie it's security glass, the type that if it breaks, it breaks in thousands of tiny pieces.

jhloa2(4152) 4 days ago [-]

I wonder if this has a negative effect on the amount of fresh air that they get

telotortium(2118) 4 days ago [-]

No reason a ventilation fan can't be installed - that's standard on modern air-conditioned and insulated houses (a 'whole-house fan') precisely in order to rotate the air.

ngold(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I wonder how much fresh air they get from all the plants pumping oxygen out?

BubRoss(10000) 4 days ago [-]

How does a house get fresh air?

pram(4123) 4 days ago [-]

I also wonder if the increased humidity increases the chance for mold.

sunjieming(4124) 4 days ago [-]

I wonder if the photosynthesis from all of the plants would make the air feel fresher

pvaldes(3925) 4 days ago [-]

Fresh air is created by plants and CO2 is taken from the air by plants, a greenhouse has plants so... probably a good amount of oxigen there

Molds are a problem and there is another, for rodents, mosquitos and cockroaches this is a dream made true. Spiders can take mosquitos easily, but the other two will need a plan

oftenwrong(418) 4 days ago [-]

This house was the subject of a Kirsten Dirksen video in 2015:


cwkoss(4150) 4 days ago [-]

I can't recommend Kirsten Dirksen's channel enough to people interested in architecture, energy efficiency, tiny homes, 'green' construction, etc. Literally hundreds of hours of high-quality content - I'm really curious how she is able to find all of these interesting people who are doing such cool things.



Some other favorites:

Baubotanik shapes living tree branches into building facades - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQdcfiLfgUY

Boeing retiree finds meaning inventing micro homes & high speed trikes - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdyR2zzjGWw

Extreme transformer home in Hong Kong: Gary Chang's 24 rooms in 1 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WB2-2j9e4co

Earth-cooled, shipping container underground CA home for 30K - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0oFJ2jbkDI

Yokohama narrow tiny house 'breathes' & attracts local nature - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Mzj63TJYn4

doctoboggan(3018) 3 days ago [-]

The whole article is basically a rehashing of the video with tons of screenshots from it.

RenRav(10000) 4 days ago [-]

So strange to see that channel recommended here. It's full of unusual and interesting things.

leemac(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Ah, I had a feeling I'd seen this before. Fascinating project, thanks for the link to previous video I had seen a while back!

fouc(4000) 4 days ago [-]

The human waste - grey water & composting system was interesting.

mikaelgyth(10000) 4 days ago [-]

How much would something like that cost?

chrisco255(4099) 4 days ago [-]

He claimed to have spent 80K euros on it 10 years ago. No idea what prices would be in the States. But I'm guessing that 80K figure is for the glass alone.

yason(3224) 3 days ago [-]

To me, that construction would seem like a hell over the six months that is actually quite warm at these latitudes. I basically already keep my windows open from spring to late autumn without a glass dome like that, and it still gets hot inside during the summer months because the air outside is hot and only cools down during night. Now, add a greenhouse around the house and you'd never get fresh air blowing directly indoors. Yeah, you can seal the house and add air conditioning and heat pumps but hey there goes any natural ventilation, and now you have that carefully controlled technology that needs to be kept running or you'll risk mould should one part of the hvac puzzle go defunct.

masklinn(3544) 3 days ago [-]

The openable panes of the greenhouse are probably way larger, and you can easily open the top panes to create a large updraft throughout the greenhouse.

Greenhouses don't stay unused in the summer, and heating up to unlivable temperatures would also kill the plantations. Therefore 'permanent' greenhouses (as opposed to the plastic tarps on struts you build up and take down at appropriate times) can be down-regulated to an extent (to not too high above ambient temperature).

vinni2(3980) 4 days ago [-]

Don't know if it the glass needs to be cleaned regularly

ptaipale(3649) 4 days ago [-]

Often it does, but people sometimes use self-cleaning glass that at least Pilkington makes.

etaty(3308) 4 days ago [-]

Great but they should avoid burning wood in highly populated area. Because it is generating a lot of small particules, worse than a car.

Max-q(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Not when using a modern burner that circulates the gasses until they are completely burned. If it is one thing we know in Scandinavia, it is burning wood efficiently.

tathougies(10000) 4 days ago [-]

You can burn wood quite efficiently with a gasification burner and filtering device.

ddmma(4075) 3 days ago [-]

This might work even on Moon or Mars with transparent solar panels and fertile soil

icebraining(3578) 3 days ago [-]

Probably not, because the lack of a magnetic field and atmosphere means the surface of Mars is much more exposed to harmful radiation and meteorites, respectively.

csours(3940) 4 days ago [-]

I've thought about building a house in a barn to save on heating/cooling (Texas, it's dadgum hot here). But this is much much cooler (or warmer, if you're in Sweden)!

OrgNet(3285) 3 days ago [-]

a pole barn with no walls should be enough?

theothermkn(3842) 4 days ago [-]

You might like Matt Risinger's YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/user/MattRisinger . He's a builder in the Austin area who does very energy efficient homes. He uses (a variation of?) this thing called a '100-year wall' system, the gist of which is that the entire envelope of the house is sheathed and sealed, basically turning the frame of the house into 'furniture,' in that it's in a conditioned space. The big insight is that the vapor-barrier-on-the-inside scheme came about in climates that were mostly dry outside, and mostly moister inside, whereas large areas of Texas (and tropical and subtropical areas) are the reverse.

berryg(10000) 3 days ago [-]

In The Netherlands 'kaswoningen' (Greenhouse Houses) have been build in 2002, 2005 and 2009 in the city of Culemborg. See: http://www.eva-lanxmeer.nl/over/nu/woningbouwprojecten/kaswo... (in Dutch)

qw(3708) 3 days ago [-]

The article mentions that a Swedish architect also built one in 1974: http://bengtwarne.malwa.nu/natureH.html

dustfinger(3908) 3 days ago [-]

This is my favorite one, built by the Hjertefølgers family in the Artic Circle:


gavia1(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I wonder how they control humidity inside the home and prevent mildew/mould? The air in the greenhouse would be very humid all year round I would have thought?

dagss(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I could be wrong but I think mould appears when humidity condenses to water drops. So you need both humidity and a temperature contrast (e.g., hot inside air meets a cold wall).

So as long as the inside and outside of the house has the same temperature, condensation in random spots should not happen?..

Condensation will be on the glass panels, where mould cannot grow.

war1025(4146) 3 days ago [-]

I am a little confused about this fear people have of mold and mildew in their houses. Up until very recently people's houses weren't far off from the outside environment. Generally in the summer the best they did was keep the rain out and provide some shade. Houses weren't uninhabitable mold pits back then, why would they be now?

DoreenMichele(211) 4 days ago [-]

Why would it be humid? Heat doesn't cause humidity. Deserts can be hot and dry.

(Edited are to can be for the pedantic people.)

alex_duf(4047) 3 days ago [-]

I suspect noise level might be quite high too, especially with children.

Still a cool house though, I like their water treatment

Too(10000) 3 days ago [-]

The walls of a normal modern insulated house are already completely air tight, first layer behind the walls seen from the inside is a plastic sheet to prevent humidity from indoor human activities to get into the insulation. After building a new house they literally try to inflate it like a balloon and measure the pressure to ensure there is no leakage.

Controlling humidity and air freshness is done through vents, usually combined with a heat exchange to not let out all the warm air you just heated up.

Condensation accumulating larger drops might be a bigger issue with glass though, but only if it's already humid on the inside.

Brakenshire(3968) 4 days ago [-]

I think heat exchange air ventilation systems are quite common in Northern Europe. Presumably you could just keep the windows of the inner house closed most of the time, and then have a ventilation coming from outside through the heat exchanger.

amacalac(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I always thought this would be an interesting experiment to do this over a whole neighbourhood

WalterBright(4058) 4 days ago [-]

There was a Stephen King story about that. Turns out it leads to the collapse of law and order and lots of people die.

mayormcmatt(10000) 4 days ago [-]

This reminds me of an apartment complex I saw last year, also in Sweden (north of Stockholm, in Norrtälje). Hard to see inside, but it's practically tropical, with palm trees and flowering plants, and all doors of resident's apartments let out into the garden.


unicornporn(2687) 4 days ago [-]

This is a current trend. Here's another one being built:


fit2rule(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Very nice - too bad its not a food forest, though ..

fastball(4073) 4 days ago [-]

Thought this was cool: streetview from a certain angle shows the property before the development.


johncoltrane(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Thanks, this looks pretty comfortable: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DJq6uCZw1k

tromp(3704) 3 days ago [-]

My wife lived for many years in this 'sandwich' of two apartment towers flanking an atrium:



arkitaip(3870) 4 days ago [-]
rlonn(3797) 3 days ago [-]

Those complexes are retirement homes. It's a very cool concept - they build a horseshoe-shaped apartment building and then glass over the central courtyard to create a huge indoor park for the residents. The apartments all face the indoor area, of course, which maintains a temperate/mid-terranean climate all year round. To the people living there it's like being on a permanent vacation in Spain. https://bovieran.se

aasasd(10000) 3 days ago [-]

There's an entire year-round indoor beach with bungalows and a small forest near Berlin: https://www.tropical-islands.de/en/

Better photos e.g. here: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2236995/The-worlds-...

I'm sure it needs plenty of energy, but I'd also bet the glass dome plays its role.

Found it online when was again thinking about how to live through the northern winter.

droithomme(10000) 4 days ago [-]

That's a ... really really large greenhouse.

They're about halfway to a workable Mars habitat.

d33(3506) 3 days ago [-]

If building two such big greenhouses was enough to live on Mars, we'd already have been there.

aidos(3682) 4 days ago [-]

Not as far as greenhouses go!

eecc(10000) 4 days ago [-]

And in Amsterdam - of all places, the capital of one the countries most threatened by rising sea levels - the idiots keep gas fired terrace warmers burning at full blast.

Cycling through the city feels like the deck of the Titanic.


WJW(4096) 4 days ago [-]

We'll build the dikes another few metres taller. Shrug...

Romanulus(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Imagine the flocks of dead birds around their house.

youeseh(4154) 4 days ago [-]

All natural source of animal protein. They've built a catch around the greenhouse.

andyv(4084) 4 days ago [-]

Yea, I was thinking they shouldn't throw stones...

estomagordo(4051) 3 days ago [-]

'In Stockholm, Sweden, where winter lasts 9 months out of the year',

according to what crazy-ass definition?

3.5 months is a common length of winter for Stockholm, according to the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute.

harperlee(3383) 3 days ago [-]

The (crazy-ass, yes) definition is in the article: the period the house needs heating.

2rsf(10000) 1 day ago [-]

You are using SMHI (The Meteorological service) definition of winter which is

> the daily average temperature is at most 0 degrees Celsius at least 5 days in a row

This doesn't work for the international reader, in many countries the temperatures in the winter never goes below zero

yesbabyyes(2420) 4 days ago [-]

Cool, I've visited this house! It's located just a few kilometers from where I grew up. Small correction to the article though: it's quite feasible to grow tomatoes and cucumber without a greenhouse in summer in Sweden.

danans(3626) 4 days ago [-]

> it's quite feasible to grow tomatoes and cucumber without a greenhouse in summer in Sweden.

Conversely, it's quite difficult to grow them in the City of San Francisco, especially the Western half, in the summer.

Some people have success with a special variety called a fog tomato, but in general, the northern California coastal fog zone ain't no place for a tomato growing, only tomato eating.

vinni2(3980) 4 days ago [-]

Depends on which part of Sweden isn't it?

(816) Verizon and a BGP Optimizer Knocked Large Parts of the Internet Offline

816 points about 19 hours ago by steveklabnik in 47th position

blog.cloudflare.com | Estimated reading time – 8 minutes | comments | anchor

Massive route leak impacts major parts of the Internet, including Cloudflare

What happened?

Today at 10:30UTC, the Internet had a small heart attack. A small company in Northern Pennsylvania became a preferred path of many Internet routes through Verizon (AS701), a major Internet transit provider. This was the equivalent of Waze routing an entire freeway down a neighborhood street — resulting in many websites on Cloudflare, and many other providers, to be unavailable from large parts of the Internet. This should never have happened because Verizon should never have forwarded those routes to the rest of the Internet. To understand why, read on.

We have blogged about these unfortunate events in the past, as they are not uncommon. This time, the damage was seen worldwide. What exacerbated the problem today was the involvement of a "BGP Optimizer" product from Noction. This product has a feature that splits up received IP prefixes into smaller, contributing parts (called more-specifics). For example, our own IPv4 route was turned into and It's as if the road sign directing traffic to "Pennsylvania" was replaced by two road signs, one for "Pittsburgh, PA" and one for "Philadelphia, PA". By splitting these major IP blocks into smaller parts, a network has a mechanism to steer traffic within their network but that split should never have been announced to the world at large. When it was it caused today's outage.

To explain what happened next, here's a quick summary of how the underlying "map" of the Internet works. "Internet" literally means a network of networks and it is made up of networks called Autonomous Systems (AS), and each of these networks has a unique identifier, its AS number. All of these networks are interconnected using a protocol called Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). BGP joins these networks together and builds the Internet "map" that enables traffic to travel from, say, your ISP to a popular website on the other side of the globe.

Using BGP, networks exchange route information: how to get to them from wherever you are. These routes can either be specific, similar to finding a specific city on your GPS, or very general, like pointing your GPS to a state. This is where things went wrong today.

An Internet Service Provider in Pennsylvania (AS33154 - DQE Communications) was using a BGP optimizer in their network, which meant there were a lot of more specific routes in their network. Specific routes override more general routes (in the Waze analogy a route to, say, Buckingham Palace is more specific than a route to London).

DQE announced these specific routes to their customer (AS396531 - Allegheny Technologies Inc). All of this routing information was then sent to their other transit provider (AS701 - Verizon), who proceeded to tell the entire Internet about these "better" routes. These routes were supposedly "better" because they were more granular, more specific.

The leak should have stopped at Verizon. However, against numerous best practices outlined below, Verizon's lack of filtering turned this into a major incident that affected many Internet services such as Amazon, Fastly, Linode and Cloudflare.

What this means is that suddenly Verizon, Allegheny, and DQE had to deal with a stampede of Internet users trying to access those services through their network. None of these networks were suitably equipped to deal with this drastic increase in traffic, causing disruption in service. Even if they had sufficient capacity DQE, Allegheny and Verizon were not allowed to say they had the best route to Cloudflare, Amazon, Fastly, Linode, etc...

BGP leak process with a BGP optimizer

During the incident, we observed a loss, at the worst of the incident, of about 15% of our global traffic.

Traffic levels at Cloudflare during the incident.

How could this leak have been prevented?

There are multiple ways this leak could have been avoided:

A BGP session can be configured with a hard limit of prefixes to be received. This means a router can decide to shut down a session if the number of prefixes goes above the threshold. Had Verizon had such a prefix limit in place, this would not have occurred. It is a best practice to have such limits in place. It doesn't cost a provider like Verizon anything to have such limits in place. And there's no good reason, other than sloppiness or laziness, that they wouldn't have such limits in place.

A different way network operators can prevent leaks like this one is by implementing IRR-based filtering. IRR is the Internet Routing Registry, and networks can add entries to these distributed databases. Other network operators can then use these IRR records to generate specific prefix lists for the BGP sessions with their peers. If IRR filtering had been used, none of the networks involved would have accepted the faulty more-specifics. What's quite shocking is that it appears that Verizon didn't implement any of this filtering in their BGP session with Allegheny Technologies, even though IRR filtering has been around (and well documented) for over 24 years. IRR filtering would not have increased Verizon's costs or limited their service in any way. Again, the only explanation we can conceive of why it wasn't in place is sloppiness or laziness.

The RPKI framework that we implemented and deployed globally last year is designed to prevent this type of leak. It enables filtering on origin network and prefix size. The prefixes Cloudflare announces are signed for a maximum size of 20. RPKI then indicates any more-specific prefix should not be accepted, no matter what the path is. In order for this mechanism to take action, a network needs to enable BGP Origin Validation. Many providers like AT&T have already enabled it successfully in their network.

If Verizon had used RPKI, they would have seen that the advertised routes were not valid, and the routes could have been automatically dropped by the router.

Cloudflare encourages all network operators to deploy RPKI now!

Route leak prevention using IRR, RPKI, and prefix limits

All of the above suggestions are nicely condensed into MANRS (Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security)

How it was resolved

The network team at Cloudflare reached out to the networks involved, AS33154 (DQE Communications) and AS701 (Verizon). We had difficulties reaching either network, this may have been due to the time of the incident as it was still early on the East Coast of the US when the route leak started.

Screenshot of the email sent to Verizon

One of our network engineers made contact with DQE Communications quickly and after a little delay they were able to put us in contact with someone who could fix the problem. DQE worked with us on the phone to stop advertising these "optimized" routes to Allegheny Technologies Inc. We're grateful for their help. Once this was done, the Internet stabilized, and things went back to normal.

Screenshot of attempts to communicate with the support for DQE and Verizon

It is unfortunate that while we tried both e-mail and phone calls to reach out to Verizon, at the time of writing this article (over 8 hours after the incident), we have not heard back from them, nor are we aware of them taking action to resolve the issue.

At Cloudflare, we wish that events like this never take place, but unfortunately the current state of the Internet does very little to prevent incidents such as this one from occurring. It's time for the industry to adopt better routing security through systems like RPKI. We hope that major providers will follow the lead of Cloudflare, Amazon, and AT&T and start validating routes. And, in particular, we're looking at you Verizon — and still waiting on your reply.

Despite this being caused by events outside our control, we're sorry for the disruption. Our team cares deeply about our service and we had engineers in the US, UK, Australia, and Singapore online minutes after this problem was identified.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

tssva(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

AS701 was the UUNET/Worldcom AS for the US and eventually the US/Canada network. Verizon bought Worldcom in 2006 and they became Verizon Business.

From the late 90s to early 2000s I worked for UUNET/Worldcom as an engineer in the network planning and design group. I worked in the international group but among other things we were responsible for the build out of AS701 into Canada, the exchange sites where AS701 connected to the various other international UUNET AS's and the PoP's where dedicated circuits for international customers who wished to connect directly to AS701 would be terminated. The point being that I am familiar with how AS701 was operated at that time.

UUNET's reputation at the time might not have been sterling due to the business decision to basically be a safe haven for spammers but from a technical standpoint the network was operated at a high standard. The basic BGP filtering referenced in the article was certainly in place at the time and if this had happened then heads would have rolled.

ikiris(10000) about 8 hours ago [-]

I for one remember UUNET being expensive transit, but rock fucking solid.

w8vY7ER(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

As they should, this is day-one BGP configuration stuff. Nothing advanced, nothing especially technical or time consuming. Speaks to a gross degree of professional negligence on the part of AS701. Really disappointing to see this degree of ignorance.

jedberg(2229) about 16 hours ago [-]

They most likely upgraded the equipment since the build out and never put the filtering back.

VectorLock(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

'Why is PagerDuty calling me before I've had my coffee?' Call declined.

avip(4048) about 16 hours ago [-]

Well, you just lost yourself a T-shirt Sir. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20269076

dang(174) about 19 hours ago [-]

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20262214 is the earlier thread on this.

jgrahamc(26) about 19 hours ago [-]

Thanks. And thanks for the help today updating the title on the original post as the real cause came to light!

munificent(1729) about 18 hours ago [-]

> All of the above suggestions are nicely condensed into MANRS (Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security)

Whoever came up with that name and acronym deserves an award.

mffnbs(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

Wow, thanks for pointing that out, I missed it on my once-over.

bogomipz(2455) about 15 hours ago [-]

From the post:

>'It doesn't cost a provider like Verizon anything to have such limits in place. And there's no good reason, other than sloppiness or laziness, that they wouldn't have such limits in place.'

Is 'sloppiness or laziness' really the only possible attribution here? I'm not a big fan of Verizon but I'm a big fan of civility and empathy, two qualities which your blog post lacks. Outages are a really unfortunate fact of life. We've seen them recently with Google, AWS, Dyn - all companies where technical competency is generally not questioned. It's quite possible the cause of of this outage was some 'perfect storm' scenario such as an eBGP router rebooted and came up with a stale or incorrect config. 'Perfect storm' scenarios even happen at companies with very rigorous engineering cultures as we saw with the most recent Google outage.

Your attempt to shame an organization without knowing all the details reeks of immaturity and pettiness. Ditto for your willingness to turn this into yet another Cloudflare marketing opportunity. Have you forgotten about your own Cloudbleed incident? How would you feel if it a security company took that as an opportunity to shame you for 'sloppiness or laziness'? Or some other company's CEO was offering to send people 'Cloudbleed Support Group' T-Shirts on HN as your own CEO is doing in this thread?

Lastly RPKI isn't a silver bullet, RPKI authorities can also be misconfigured and attacked[1][2]. This happened with the LACNIC incident in 2013[2]. It's also worth mentioning that RPKI potentially creates new threats[2]. But again it seems more important to you to use this as a marketing opportunity and promote yourself while throwing someone else under a bus while uttering pithy summations.

Also from your post:

>'And, in particular, we're looking at you Verizon — and still waiting on your reply.'

Although Verizon is the 400lb gorilla in the room, their NOC and network engineers are still regular people with kids and families and feelings. They are also people who have had a really shit day today. Why you can't extend just a bit of human compassion and feel compelled to try to shame is quite inexplicable.

You may think that your blog post was a marketing coup but I see it as a massive failure in in both leadership and civility.

As a thought exercise maybe Cloudflare leadership could think about how they would like the community to react the next time they are at fault.

[1] https://www.cs.bu.edu/~goldbe/papers/hotRPKI.pdf

[2] https://www.cs.bu.edu/~goldbe/papers/sigRPKI_full.pdf

shakna(3072) about 11 hours ago [-]

Cloudflare reached out multiple times in multiple ways to Verizon, to attempt to resolve the situation.

More than eight hours on, after utilising everything from what they were told was a Tier 1 support line to Twitter, they have nothing.

Even if we're kind to Verizon about the network failure, which was a global issue, they haven't done anything or said anything to suggest that Cloudflare should be treating them kindly in any way.

Not even a 'we're aware, we're handling it'.

Ghosting one of the world's largest (as in utilised) companies is not wise for administrative, technical or PR reasons.

Verizon have shown a complete lack of leadership.

lima(3995) about 6 hours ago [-]

Mistakes happen and CloudFlare's response to the memory leak was excellent.

jgrahamc(26) about 7 hours ago [-]

No one has forgotten Cloudbleed. It's something we talk about internally and every single day I look at a report that shows me status of software running around the world so that I never, ever again let a piece of software running on our edge crash and leak information.

MrStonedOne(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

It was gross negligence that leads to this. Nothing more.

Cpoll(10000) about 2 hours ago [-]

> regular people with kids and families and feelings.

This is just an appeal to emotion. No-one is even calling out any individual people. With a company of this scale and responsibility, individuals shouldn't even come into the discussion, and there should be multiple levels of redundancy. Verizon, collectively, is being shamed.

Verizon should be compared to a power plant, not a SaaS provider or some 3-person dev shop.

unethical_ban(4117) about 18 hours ago [-]

I am surprised that CF is as aggressive toward Verizon in public as they are. Once you start breaking the Internet for stupid reasons, though, you probably deserve it.

I know very little about BGP operations; I did not know that there was PKI and route validation like they described in the article.

linsomniac(3998) about 18 hours ago [-]

... Sometimes you just have to call a spade a spade. I know a little about BGP, having run it for a small provider in the distant past, and Verizon should have never been in a position to cause this.

eastdakota(3259) about 18 hours ago [-]

More details on RPKI if you're interested: https://blog.cloudflare.com/rpki/

fencepost(4153) about 17 hours ago [-]

They'd probably be less aggressive if they'd been able to reach anyone there or had received any response (none as of 8 hours after the incident). As noted above in this discussion the CF team thought they had appropriate contact information for all top tier carriers, and I suspect they do have what Verizon would call the appropriate contact info. Not much they can do if Verizon ghosts them, though.

I guess they could take steps to null route everything to/from Verizon to see if they could get someone's attention that way.

icedchai(4097) 32 minutes ago [-]

Almost nobody rejects invalid routes. RPKI is basically a research project given that 85% of routes don't even have ROAs. See https://rpki-monitor.antd.nist.gov/

kevinreedy(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

> The RPKI framework that we implemented and deployed globally last year is designed to prevent this type of leak. It enables filtering on origin network and prefix size. The prefixes Cloudflare announces are signed for a maximum size of 20. RPKI then indicates any more-specific prefix should not be accepted, no matter what the path is.

Does RPKI prevent Cloudflare from announcing additional /22 routes during an incident like this? Any network with RPKI implemented would reject the /22s, but those who ignore it should pick them up over the leaked /21s.

ikiris(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

And you believe the internet optimizer wouldn't have added /23s and /24s.... why?

eastdakota(3259) about 16 hours ago [-]

We could break our prefixes into smaller routes, but 1) the Internet's routers have limited memory; 2) we have a lot of routes; and 3) we want to be good Internet citizens.

If every network announced all their routes as /24s — the smallest route generally accepted over the public Internet — the routing table would be a giant mess and would overwhelm many routers' ability to store them.

That said, after today we are thinking about ways that, in case of an emergency, we could break the routes down to be more specific than whatever is leaking. Given how broadly peered we are, Cloudflare's network will be as protected as anyone's. However, that's not really a good solution for the Internet generally. Better that we all implement and enforce RPKI.

antihero(3974) about 17 hours ago [-]

Would this have affected stuff in the UK? All sorts of sites like MealPal were inaccessible this morning for a bit

ethbro(3803) about 17 hours ago [-]

I wouldn't be surprised if various other transit providers slurped the bogus routes up from Verizon (without filtering), so it's certainly possible.

qwerty456127(4131) about 17 hours ago [-]

Every time I see the BGP abbreviation it's about a huge fuck-up. Either somebody hijacks routes intentionally or something like this happens.

avip(4048) about 17 hours ago [-]

As any other critical underlying infrastructure of our lives, it's taken for granted and ignored until it breaks.

adambyrtek(1306) about 17 hours ago [-]

Not trying to defend a legacy protocol, but it's one of these cases where basic infrastructure is not newsworthy when it works just fine, like with plumbing.

qaq(4141) about 18 hours ago [-]

One would think Cloudflare team would have a direct line of communication to all tier 1 Internet providers.

eastdakota(3259) about 18 hours ago [-]

We thought we did. And tried both public and private lines of communication — without reply. Still waiting.

robbiemitchell(3384) about 14 hours ago [-]

Makes me wonder whether Cloudflare will start running quarterly drills with all their alerting peers.

OBLIQUE_PILLAR(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

I hope we remember this thread the next time Shady Russians or Crafty Chinese make a BGP mistake and are accused of Active Measures.

xen2xen1(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

This is an obvious mistake made by a steel company. The BGP 'errors' that make tons of traffic go to Russia or China OFTEN WORK COMPLETELY. Some have worked so well no one noticed for months. That's far, far different than an error, that a large section of a country's traffic being successfully hijacked to another country. Accidents usually break things. What Russia and China are too successful to be accidents.

dreamcompiler(3967) about 18 hours ago [-]

It's clear that Verizon broke the Internet this morning through incompetent BGP management, and they could do it again. Who holds them accountable?

fencepost(4153) about 17 hours ago [-]

Who holds them accountable?

Anyone working in their NOCs with thoughts of working elsewhere? Having a predetermination of 'stupid and/or lazy' because of your workplace can't help employment prospects.

Uehreka(3835) about 18 hours ago [-]

glances over at Ajit Pai


eropple(2851) about 18 hours ago [-]

Long ago, in the mists of time when I was a wee lad, the internet was a simpler place. There were seven buttons around the world, all pressed down by volunteers. If any four of them were released, the world would end. "The world" was defined as "the internet", and at the time that meant "the world" was defined as "men with beards and suspenders and real opinions about Star Trek", and so that wasn't so bad.

Today in 2019, "the world" is defined as "you know, the world", and there are seven million buttons being held down all over the world.

If any four of them are released, the world ends.

We have made mistakes, is what I'm saying.

(I once had call to explain to nontechnical people how and why the internet is the way it is and why my ops crews tend to be full of people who are a little too calm about things being constantly on fire. This was my best crack at it.)

ethbro(3803) about 17 hours ago [-]

You came up with this analogy when Lost was still airing, no?

Although BGP probably makes about the same amount of sense to most people.

inopinatus(3677) about 16 hours ago [-]

Back in that oft-forgotten age I was privileged to know, work, and chill with the brave volunteers (and, subsequently, paid RIR staff) holding down the buttons. It's worth mentioning that even back then there dwelt in the west a large ugly troll whose name was AS701 (AS701 was not alone, either, having two hideous siblings, AS702 and AS703, that lived in other climes). Everyone tiptoed around the beast, because when angered it would flap its routes and there would be a great wailing and severe packet loss. The brave volunteers tried many times to tame the awful creature and I'm very sorry to see that it is still fucking everyone's announcements even today.

csours(3940) about 17 hours ago [-]

There's no need to fear, for seven men with keys, masters of the universe, well versed universal programming linguistically... and if there is a big blackout.. up to 6 of them can back out!


camgunz(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

Verizon's lucky it's a blog post that doesn't mince words, rather than a lawsuit.

clvx(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

Can they get a lawsuit?. Has Verizon broken their SLA?. Is there a manual to mitigate all the edge cases? What about being aware internally this had to be improved but it was delayed due bureaucracy.

jboy55(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

Here's a shoutout to all the on-calls who woke up this morning to deal with 'someone else's problem'. I think everyone who woke up gets to, at least, order a 'fancy coffee' and send the bill to Verizon.

mabbo(3957) about 15 hours ago [-]

I needed to burn some vacation time before EoY when it expires, so I started taking Mondays off once a month. Today was such a day. But I was supposed to be on-call, so I traded a day with a teammate.

I went off-call at 8:30am EST. Then, while the internet burned down, I slept in and played video games.

zenexer(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

Woke up repeatedly this morning to PagerDuty after working late last night. Threw numerous wailing electronics at wall. Later, ordered several "fancy coffees". Will be sending bill to Verizon for two phones, a pager, a wall, and three fancy coffees.

Edit/Disclaimer: Yes, this is a joke. I woke up to several serious alarms just as the problem was starting. Luckily, I thought to check Cloudflare's status page from my phone around the second or third time PagerDuty called me. I saw a preliminary notice from them indicating that they were observing networking issues. At that point, I decided I'd rather watch the world burn from my bed than my computer, so I "scheduled" maintenance for a few hours and went back to bed. Our whole infrastructure had split by that point, but there was nothing I could do about it.

teejmya(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

Amen. We need a support group.

'Hi, I'm Teejmya, and I was on call last night'

djhworld(3787) about 18 hours ago [-]

Very interesting and easy to understand overview, thanks.

I'm not familiar with this side of networking, but it sounds to me the 'BGP Optimiser' product was left largely to its own devices and automated a configuration change without any explicit approval from a human operator (I could be wrong)

With the protocol being prone to problems like leaky routes and sloppy peers accepting them, is it really wise to leave these BGP optimiser products running without some level of supervision?

EDIT: of course I guess the human operator might wave the change through too without fully appreciating the problem...

kazen44(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

the issue is that, as stated by the article. Things like this could be prevented by doing proper IRR filtering.

linsomniac(3998) about 18 hours ago [-]

I think the reality of it is that these BGP optimizers really can't be human checked. There's just too much it is doing, and for them to be really beneficial they need to respond quickly to network path congestion. I would be surprised if overseeing such a system could be done with fewer than 6 full time people, as a WAG.

... Which is why you should be really sure that these optimized routes never leak! And on top of it, Verizon should never have accepted those announcements.

MBCook(602) about 17 hours ago [-]

Can someone explain why the optimizer would split one route into two? Wouldn't it be more optimized to coalesce routes whenever possible?

teraflop(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

If an ISP has multiple physical connections that it could use to reach Cloudflare's network, it makes sense to distribute the traffic that's addressed to different IPs across different links, instead of using a single route that sends all the traffic over one link and leaves the others idle.

empath75(2178) about 16 hours ago [-]

My favorite outage when I worked for a voip company was when one of our tech support people told a new customer that she needed to 'add our ip address to your router', meaning add it to the firewall whitelist, but she repeated that verbatim to the telco tech who misunderstood and then escalated her way up the chain at a major telco until some engineer with the wrong rights said 'fuck it' and updated bgp to route all of our traffic down her T-1 line.

That was a fun conference call, and listening to the lady on the phone I could see how the engineer got to that point.

kadira(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]


foota(4102) about 18 hours ago [-]

Amusing callout to pager duty in the screenshot of the call-log :)

cabaalis(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

Which is more interesting, philosophically? The internet had a problem due to a single issue, or that the internet's problem was fixed due to a single person calling various people on a cell phone?

(device interactions versus human interactions..)

woliveirajr(3456) about 18 hours ago [-]

> One of our network engineers made contact with DQE Communications quickly and after a little delay they were able to put us in contact with someone who could fix the problem. DQE worked with us on the phone to stop advertising these "optimized" routes to Allegheny Technologies Inc. We're grateful for their help. Once this was done, the Internet stabilized, and things went back to normal.

It's funny how we have to still use phone to help fixing some internet routing problem, even if phone doesn't literally means the old black curly-wire equipment

azernik(3781) about 17 hours ago [-]

Gotta have a channel that's out-of-band with the internet to fix problems with the internet.

Scoundreller(4150) about 18 hours ago [-]

I appreciate how sympathetic Cloudflare is to the root-cause party because they answered the phone and undid what they shouldn't have done.

(If my understanding is correct, they shouldn't have told Verizon about the better routing, while Verizon should have known better)

saxonww(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

I read this as Allegheny's fault, actually. DQE published to Allegheny (DQE's customer), who in turn re-published to Verizon (Allegheny's other provider). While most of the 'prevention' section talks about what Verizon didn't do, it doesn't seem to mention that Allegheny should not have re-published the DQE-published routes up to Verizon.

It's startling that Verizon doesn't appear to have any leak mitigations in place, but I feel like Allegheny is getting a pass here because they are small, or something.

laughinghan(3534) about 17 hours ago [-]

I don't think your understanding is correct. I think they're supposed to be allowed to 'optimize' the BGP routes that they advertise to their customer (Allegheny). I'm unclear on whether Allegheny should have relayed that advertisement to Verizon, but it's clear that Verizon should definitely not have then broadcasted that to everyone else.

cesarb(3343) about 18 hours ago [-]

> For example, our own IPv4 route was turned into and [...] The prefixes Cloudflare announces are signed for a maximum size of 20. RPKI then indicates any more-specific prefix should not be accepted, no matter what the path is.

Did RPKI help reduce the scope of this incident, by stopping propagation of these faulty routes earlier than otherwise? Or did it have no effect in this case?

symfoniq(3882) about 18 hours ago [-]

Anecdotal, but:

The article notes that AT&T has implemented RPKI, and a client mentioned to me that he wasn't having problems accessing Cloudflare-hosted infrastructure via his AT&T phone. The rest of his employees were having major issues though via the municipal fiber service provider.

betaby(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

It didn't. Virtually no major operator rejects invalids. However some do more-or-less strict prefix+ASN filtering.

hyperion2010(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

Over a decade ago one of my friends was banned from the Sheffield Uni network for playing around with BGP and knocking the whole campus offline. One kind of has to wonder whether Verizon can suffer the same consequences simply by collective action on the part of other affected parties.

azernik(3781) about 17 hours ago [-]

Nope - because said collective action would probably involve denying service to tens of millions of Verizon customers.

flatiron(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

I work from home in NJ and I knew something was screwy this morning. I wish there was a place I could have checked to see it was this issue. I rebooted pretty much everything in my house.

BonesJustice(10000) about 15 hours ago [-]

I'm in NJ and had issues this morning as well. Figured it was a local outage and promptly forgot about it after I left for work. I never expected it was something so serious. Crazy.

londons_explore(4139) about 16 hours ago [-]

Cloudflare managed to get an in-depth blog post, one which has incident details, points blame to other parties, and makes some really quite aggressive (for corporate blog posts) claims, all during an incident, and they did all that in 8 hours.

I'm impressed. At most other similar size companies, this would take 4 days. And in something like Amazon, it would be 2 weeks of approvals, editing, and review before a watered down version with all specifics removed is published.

jawns(1526) about 15 hours ago [-]

Regarding those really aggressive claims, I was a bit shocked by that as well.

Either Cloudflare has some pre-existing beef with Verizon and is using this as an opportune moment to dump on them ... or Tom Strickx (who wrote the blog post) had his beauty rest interrupted early this morning to deal with Verizon's screw-up and was not having it.

cortesoft(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

Blog posts are their speciality

kossTKR(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

I still get a Cloudflare 1020 error here: http://shadow.tech (my location : Scandinavia ) Are these sites waiting for some kind of propagation or cache busting? It's a pretty large gaming service.

judge2020(4134) about 18 hours ago [-]

Works from the ATL DC, what is the airport code that shows up on https://cloudflare-test.judge.sh/#shadow.tech ? Might be a local [maybe routing] issue with CF -> shadow's web server.

ziddoap(10000) about 18 hours ago [-]

Thank you for the summary.

And, a sincere thank you for not mincing words when it comes to something as important as this.

>However, against numerous best practices outlined below, Verizon's lack of filtering turned this into a major incident that affected many Internet services such as Amazon, Fastly, Linode and Cloudflare.

>IRR filtering would not have increased Verizon's costs or limited their service in any way. Again, the only explanation we can conceive of why it wasn't in place is sloppiness or laziness.

In an attempt to find any statement given by Verizon, I found that The Register was able to get this amazing statement:

'Verizon sent us the following baffling response to today's BGP cockup: 'There was an intermittent disruption in internet service for some [Verizon] FiOS customers earlier this morning. Our engineers resolved the issue around 9am ET.'' [1]


throw7(4145) about 16 hours ago [-]

Back in the suspender wearing neckbeards days, the answer was simple... blackhole all Verizon routes.

yingw787(3928) about 18 hours ago [-]

Verizon's response seems very non-committal and it appears this type of incident may happen again if they don't take any action. Are there ways for companies like Google or Cloudflare to work around ISPs like Verizon without affecting ISP customers, or is this a blocker? Was the 10% of the re-routed traffic from Cloudflare 100% of the traffic from Verizon to Cloudflare?

Historical Discussions: A janitor at Frito-Lay invented Flamin' Hot Cheetos (2017) (June 19, 2019: 779 points)

(779) A janitor at Frito-Lay invented Flamin' Hot Cheetos (2017)

779 points 6 days ago by andygcook in 1530th position

thehustle.co | Estimated reading time – 14 minutes | comments | anchor

On an early morning in the late 1980s, a group of the highest-powered executives at Frito-Lay — the CEO, CMO, and a platoon of VPs — gathered in a California conference room to hear what Richard Montañez had to say.

Montañez didn't share their pedigree. He wasn't an executive. He had no fancy degree. He had a 4th-grade-level education, and couldn't read or write.

Montañez was a janitor. But he was a janitor with an idea — an idea that would make the company billions of dollars and become one of history's most celebrated and iconic snack foods: Flamin' Hot Cheetos.

But first, he had to convince the world to hear him out.

Picking grapes

Montañez grew up in the 1960s in Guasti, California, a tiny unincorporated farming town 40 miles east of Los Angeles.

Under the sweltering Cucamonga Valley sun, his family — mother, father, grandfather, and 11 children — scraped together a meager living picking grapes, and slept together in a one-room cinderblock abode at the labor camp.

As a first-generation Mexican immigrant at an all-white school, Montañez had access to few resources and struggled to understand his teachers. "I remember my mom getting me ready for school and I was crying," he later told Lowrider magazine. "I couldn't speak English."

One day in class, the teacher went around the room asking each kid to name his or her dream job: Doctor... astronaut... veterinarian. When she called on Montañez, he froze.

"I realized I didn't have a dream," he says. "There was no dream where I came from."

The Cucamonga Valley region, in San Bernardino County, California, where Richard Montañez grew up (Image: Paul Hofer III)

Montañez soon stopped getting on the school bus and began boarding the work truck with his father and grandfather.

After dropping out of school, he worked the fields in 110°F heat and took on odd jobs slaughtering chickens at a poultry factory, washing cars, and picking weeds. With a 4th-grade-level education and few economic opportunities, Montañez saw no path out of poverty.

Then, in 1976, a neighbor told him about a job opening that would change his life.

"There's no such thing as 'just a janitor'"

Down the road, in Rancho Cucamonga, the Frito-Lay plant was looking for a janitor.

At $4 per hour ($18 in 2019 dollars), the job paid many multiples of what Montañez made in the fields. It represented a better life — insurance, benefits, social mobility.

Unable to read or write, the 18-year-old recruited his wife to help fill out an application. He journeyed down a dusty road, met with the hiring manager, and got the job.

When he broke the news to his family, his grandfather imparted a piece of advice that would always stick with him: "Make sure that floor shines," the man told his grandson. "And let them know that a Montañez mopped it."

Montañez decided he was going to be the "best janitor Frito-Lay had ever seen" — and he quickly made his presence known.

"Every time someone walked into a room, it would smell fresh," he says. "I realized there's no such thing as 'just a janitor' when you believe you're going to be the best."

The Frito-Lay plant in Bakersfield, California (via CLUI)

Montañez also developed the philosophy that "it's not about who you know — it's about who knows you."

In between shifts, he set out to make himself seen, learning as much as he could about the company's products, spending time in the warehouse, and watching the machines churn out crunchy snacks in the lonely midnight hours.

And eventually, his insatiable curiosity would pay off.

"I saw no products catering to Latinos"

By the mid-1980s, Frito-Lay had fallen on tough times. As a way to boost morale, then-CEO Roger Enrico recorded a video message and disseminated it to the company's 300k employees.

In the video, Enrico encouraged every worker at the company to "act like an owner." Most employees brushed it off as a management cliché; Montañez took it to heart.

"Here's my invitation... here's the CEO telling me, the janitor, that I can act like an owner," he later recalled. "I didn't know what I was going to do. Didn't need to. But I knew I was going to act like an owner."

After nearly a decade mopping floors, Montañez gathered the courage to ask one of the Frito-Lay salesmen if he could tag along and learn more about the process.

They went to a convenience store in a Latino neighborhood — and while the salesman restocked inventory, Montañez made a fortuitous observation: "I saw our products on the shelves and they were all plain: Lay's, Fritos, Ruffles," he recalls. "And right next to these chips happened to be a shelf of Mexican spices."

In that moment, he realized that Frito-Lay had "nothing spicy or hot."

A few weeks later, Montañez stopped at a local vendor to get some elote, a Mexican "street corn" doused in chili powder, salt, cotija, lime juice, and crema fresca. Cob in hand, a "revelation" struck: What if I put chili on a Cheeto?

Elote, the Mexican corn treat that inspired Flamin' Hot Cheetos (via Vallarta Supermarkets)

Introduced to the world in 1948, Cheetos — crunchy corn-based nuggets coated in cheese-flavored powder — were a flagship product of Frito-Lay. And while they were popular among California's growing base of Latino consumers, the company had yet to consider re-tailoring the product's taste profile.

"Nobody had given any thought to the Latino market," recalls Montañez. "But everywhere I looked, I saw it ready to explode."

So, Montañez heeded the CEO's words and "acted like an owner."

Working late one night at the production facility, he scooped up some Cheetos that hadn't yet been dusted in cheese. He took them home and, with the help of his wife, covered them in his own concoction of chili powder and other "secret" spices.

When he handed them out to family members and friends, the snacks were met with universal enthusiasm. He just needed a bigger audience...

So he called the CEO

"I was naive," Montañez later said. "I didn't know you weren't supposed to call the CEO... I didn't know the rules."

Finding Roger Enrico's phone number was easy enough: It was listed in a company directory. He rang the line, and was put through to the chief's executive assistant.

"Mr. Enrico's office. Who is this?"

"Richard Montañez."

"What division are you with?"


"You're the VP overseeing California?"

"No, I work at the Rancho Cucamonga plant."

"Oh, so you're the VP of operations?"

"No, I work inside the plant."

"You're the plant manager?"

"No. I'm the janitor."

The assistant paused for what seemed like an eternity. "One moment."

Richard Montañez (via Twitter)

Then, a voice on the other line: "Hello, this is Roger."

Montañez told the CEO he'd heeded the call to action. He'd studied the company's products, identified a demand in the market, and even crafted his own rudimentary snacks in his kitchen.

Enrico loved the ingenuity: He told the janitor he'd be at the plant in 2 weeks and asked him to prepare a presentation.

Moments after Montañez hung up the phone, the plant manager stormed up to him. "He said, 'Who do you think you are? Who let the janitor call the CEO?'" recalls Montañez. "Then he said, 'YOU'RE doing this presentation!'"

The birth of the Hot Cheeto

Montañez was 26 years old. In his words, he couldn't read or write very well and had no knowledge about how to formulate a business proposal.

But he wasn't about to give up.

Accompanied by his wife, he went to the library, found a book on marketing strategies, and copied the first 5 paragraphs word for word onto transparencies. At home, he filled 100 plastic baggies with his homemade treats, sealed them with a clothing iron, and manually drew a logo and design on each package.

On the day of the presentation, he bought a $3 tie — black with blue and red stripes — and had his neighbor knot it for him. As he gathered the bags, his wife stopped him near the door: "Don't forget who you are."

Hot Cheetos in action (Frito-Lay)

Montañez stepped into the boardroom. "Here I was," he says, "a janitor presenting to some of the most highly qualified executives in America."

At one point during the presentation, an executive in the room interjected: "How much market share do you think you can get?"

"It hit me that I had no idea what he was talking about, or what I was doing," Montañez recalled. "I was shaking, and I damn near wanted to pass out...[but] I opened my arms and I said, 'This much market share!' I didn't even know how ridiculous that looked."

The room went silent as the CEO stood up and smiled. "Ladies and gentlemen, do you realize we have an opportunity to go after this much market share?" he said, stretching out his arms.

He turned to Montañez. "Put that mop away, you're coming with us."

Feeling hot, hot, hot

Six months later, with Montañez's help, Frito-Lay began testing Flamin' Hot Cheetos in small Latino markets in East Los Angeles.

If it performed well, the company would move forward with the product; if it didn't, they'd scratch it — and Montañez would likely return to janitorial duties. This was his one shot, and some folks didn't want things to work out for him.

"It seemed there was a group of [executives] who wanted it to fail," he later told the podcast, The Passionate Few. "They thought I got lucky. They were paid big bucks to come up with these ideas... they didn't want some janitor to do it."

Montañez signs a young fan's Hot Cheeto bag (@daliaabbas9, via Deskgram)

So Montañez assembled a small team of family members and friends, went to the test markets, and bought every bag of Hot Cheetos he could find.

"I'd tell the owner, 'Man, these are great,'" he recalled. "Next week, I'd come back and there'd be a whole rack."

In 1992, Flamin' Hot Cheetos were greenlit for a national release. And in short order, the snack became one of the most successful product launches in Frito-Lay history.

From janitor to VP

Today, Flamin' Hot Cheetos are one of Frito-Lay's hottest-selling commodities — a multi-billion-dollar snack celebrated by everyone from Katy Perry to middle-schoolers on meal vouchers. There's even a rap song about them.

And Montañez is no longer sweeping floors: Over a 35-year career, the former janitor rose through the corporate ranks and is now the vice president of multicultural sales for PepsiCo America (the holding company of Frito-Lay).

Before Montañez joined the executive team, Frito-Lay had only 3 Cheeto products; since then, the company has launched more than 20, each worth $300m+.

Recognized by Newsweek and Fortune as one of the most influential Hispanic leaders in America, Montañez is a gifted speaker who often tours the country giving keynotes. And soon, his story will hit the silver screen: Fox Searchlight Pictures is currently working on a biopic about his life, appropriately titled "Flamin' Hot."

He still lives in Rancho Cucamonga, where he gives back to his community through a nonprofit he launched and teaches MBA classes at a nearby college.

Recently, a student asked him how he was teaching without a Ph.D.

"I do have a Ph.D.," he responded. "I've been poor, hungry and determined."

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All Comments: [-] | anchor

arkades(4119) 6 days ago [-]

This article ends right before the actual interesting part begins.

Janitor takes some food his company produces, adds spices, makes a shitty pitch deck and profit? Cool, but... this could have easily happened in a dozen different configurations and gone nowhere. This is more luck than anything else.

The interesting story begins after that. This guy didn't end his career there - so, presumably, he was't a one-hit wonder. We have an illiterate janitor who suddenly got swept into the orbit of the CEO, without any business or operational acumen. He somehow -how??- managed to learn the ways of the new tribe, learn business, learn to read and write, learn how to lead a business unit, and do it well. This guy came out of nowhere, and had to zero-to-sixty from manual laborer to - what? executive? What position did they put him in? How did he ramp up? What kind of support did he get, if any? What kind of education did they provide him with, if any?

There's a long, interesting story between 'janitor' and 'successful VP', and they neglected to tell almost any of it!

droithomme(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Good questions. Even if he really did drop out of school in elementary school, he would not be illiterate at that point. That aspect of the story seems reasonably questionable and is probably exaggerated for drama.

RandomBacon(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I guess we'll have to wait for the inevitable autobiographical book.

(Which I will look forward to reading.)

JetSpiegel(3268) 3 days ago [-]

The best part is how he fraudulently gamed the market test.

> So Montañez assembled a small team of family members and friends, went to the test markets, and bought every bag of Hot Cheetos he could find.

> "I'd tell the owner, 'Man, these are great,'" he recalled. "Next week, I'd come back and there'd be a whole rack."

dsfyu404ed(4027) 6 days ago [-]

>He somehow -how??- managed to learn the ways of the new tribe, learn business, learn to read and write, learn how to lead a business unit, and do it well. This guy came out of nowhere, and had to zero-to-sixty from manual laborer to - what? executive? What position did they put him in? How did he ramp up? What kind of support did he get, if any? What kind of education did they provide him with, if any?

When you get an opportunity like that not learning isn't a realistic option. You do whatever to take advantage of the opportunity.

southerndrift(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The point is that he is self-made. He didn't leave school because he was stupid but because he had to. The family caused the lack of education but they gave him the right values. They instilled the pride and curiosity that allowed him to execute and not to just fulfill orders.

To me, these parts of the article stand out, all beginning with his grandmother:

>When he broke the news to his family, his grandfather imparted a piece of advice that would always stick with him: "Make sure that floor shines," the man told his grandson. "And let them know that a Montañez mopped it."

He was prepared to execute because he knew the company, out of his own curiosity:

>In between shifts, he set out to make himself seen, learning as much as he could about the company's products, spending time in the warehouse, and watching the machines churn out crunchy snacks in the lonely midnight hours.

This is the key part: he actively sought the knowledge by himself. From my experience, that's a rare value that is far more important than any shortcomings in his knowledge. People help him without him having power. He already is a leader.

>After nearly a decade mopping floors, Montañez gathered the courage to ask one of the Frito-Lay salesmen if he could tag along and learn more about the process.

Finally, not being able to read must be an exaggeration. He just went to school for four years. This doesn't mean that he stopped reading afterwards. I would assume that he regularly went to the library and thus it came naturally to look there for help. Why would an illiterate seek help in the library if his manager was kind of supportive ('YOU'RE doing this presentation!') and at least would have told him the basics?

>Accompanied by his wife, he went to the library, found a book on marketing strategies, and copied the first 5 paragraphs word for word onto transparencies.

After all, being captain obvious, this is on HN because it is the startup tale: a young, ambitious man without the right education can become a business leader if he stumbles upon the right opportunity. At least for this story, I think the tale is true. There is no need to know more because whatever he learned at Frito-Lay is specific to Frito-Lay. It's his attitude that brought success.

But then again, he didn't become CEO or a regular manager, he is the token multicultural person of the executives:

>vice president of multicultural sales for PepsiCo America

thundergolfer(10000) 6 days ago [-]

thehustle.co as a publication is catered to young 'hustlers' who very much buy into the capitalist American Dream.

This is a hype-article for the 'anyone can make it' myth, a myth that fuels culture of overworked young people[1] struggling against structural changes they're told to ignore.

[1]. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/02/religion-w...

sophacles(3982) 6 days ago [-]

I suspect the movie 'mentioned' in the article will cover some of that, etc. (The casual mention towards the end of the article strikes me as the whole article being advanced marketing for the movie, by drumming up general interest in this story. That's not a bad thing but I suspect we'll start seeing more articles about Mr. Montañez before too long.)

w8rbt(3762) 6 days ago [-]

The point is that the CEO was open minded (he took a phone call from a janitor... and actually listened to him and then gave him a chance). He saw past this mans lack of education and experience and focused on his dedication and enthusiasm. There's value in everyone, everywhere (even the lowest employees). We need leaders who can put ego aside and see that. IMO, that was the point of the story. The subsequent success of this man is another story entirely (and a good one I bet). I'm just glad that someone recognized his talent.

Edit: Credit also goes to the secretary for putting the call through to the CEO and not acting as a gate-keeper. She could have ended the call. Thankfully, she was open minded too.

crankylinuxuser(3969) 6 days ago [-]

The days when someone can start as a janitor or in the mailroom and climb to the top is done.

Companies used to hire everyone in the company. Janitors were part of the company. So was mailroom staff. So were secretaries. Everybody was part of the whole.

Now, companies contract out everything but their core thing. Janitors come from a low-paid 3rd party service. Mailrooms are no longer a thing (there's no such thing as emailrooms, unless you count exchange admins). All those things that allowed somebody to start at the bottom rung in a company and climb up have been systematically destroyed and/or removed.

jameane(4152) 6 days ago [-]

So true! Now you are lucky is an IC on a team can be groomed to even be a manager.

danso(4) 6 days ago [-]

It might be that it's harder on average for the lower/lower-middle-income worker to work their way to the top in, but it may be also the case that the Internet and social networks (even amid the saturation of professional influencers and their ilk) provide opportunities for the lower-rung to get sudden and prominent recognition, albeit not from their own workplaces.

bredren(4113) 6 days ago [-]

FWIW, this is what pushes energy and opportunity into the entrepreneurial marketplace. You work in these companies as a contractor, learn about problems and start something new.

Crowdfunding and free marketing distribution platforms exist to aid your small venture.

Just as this old story may be less likely today, new stories of entrepreneurship continue to be written without the inclusion of PepsiCo. If anything these giants exist as acquirers.

Waterluvian(4050) 6 days ago [-]

I'm not convinced this is objectively bad. It may be that the benefits outweigh the costs.

But I do think this is one way in which the 'American Dream' was broken.

camjohnson26(4100) 6 days ago [-]

That's a fatalist outlook. The ceo in the article was humble enough to recognize a good idea when he saw it and not judge the presenter by where he came from. Most bosses would've laughed him out of the room when he held out his arms and said he thought they could win this much market share.

Credentials can only get you so far, at some point intuition is important. Leaders and recruiters need to pay more attention to drive, work ethic, and character than to where someone went to college or what their job title is. This is the way things used to be and they can be that way again.

sdegutis(3384) 6 days ago [-]

I'm not sure that's inherently a bad thing. Yes, loyalty should be rewarded, and employees should not be treated like resources but as people with inherent dignity. And I can see that its unethical to hire external workers to avoid treating them well. But if laws are made to protect and enforce their rights and dignity, then how is this kind of outsourcing system worse than hiring everyone as a full time employee?

Tiktaalik(2755) 6 days ago [-]

Games industry is probably one of the few jobs where you can work your way up to the top role from the bottom.

It's still not uncommon at all for executive producers that manage entire projects to have started as game testers that would have been paid a low hourly wage.

trefn(2781) 6 days ago [-]

It may just look different now.

At my company (Mixpanel), the modern equivalent is our support team, which is filled with smart, hungry people who want to get their foot in the door in tech.

Now, we have former support folks all over the company (sales, sales engineering, services, software engineering, product - just to name the departments I can think of offhand), who are often our top performers as ICs or who have grown into leadership roles. Some have left to start their own companies.

It's actually been one of our most effective hiring channels!

Johnny555(4107) 6 days ago [-]

Mailrooms are no longer a thing

They haven't completely died, my company has a mailroom with someone that delivers mail to each floor, receives packages (including larger shipments at the loading dock) and stamps outgoing mail.

starpilot(2860) 6 days ago [-]

My takeaway: there are huge potential markets in people who are not like me. The execs were probably completely unaware of this market, and it took an outsider to hold their hand and bring it to them. I love flaming hot cheetos and know tons of people who do, but there is no way I would have thought of taking the hot pepper / other spices from a traditional Mexican food (elotes, which I had in LA) and adapting them in this way. The fact that everyone I interact with forms an upper class monoculture (white/asian, college educated, 20s-40s, mostly US-born) means that I have huge blindspots. I wonder what huge businesses could be created catering toward senior citizens, for middle aged people working retail, recent Asian immigrants, working single fathers, and so on.

quickthrower2(1410) 6 days ago [-]

What, adding chili to a food? I reckon the monoculture cohort you talk of could have come up with that.

bluedino(2180) 6 days ago [-]

There were hot/spicy snacks before hot Cheetos. No white person could have put two and two together?

01100011(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The problem with being an engineer is, in general, you do not think like normal people. Case in point, Facebook. I know I've often discussed with other engineers how simple it would have been to implement with off the shelf technology in the '00s, but none of us would have ever wanted it. Often when I encounter problems I try to route around them, instead of developing productized solutions and marketing them to others.

m463(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Went to the east coast, couldn't find spicy chips/snacks of any kind in the grocery stores.

Finally found Takis at... Home Depot.

GuiA(419) 6 days ago [-]

Then again, there is the tale of dulce de leche M&M's - trying to tap into such a market, only for it to fail terribly.


news_to_me(4132) 6 days ago [-]

This is why diversity is so important! Not only in business, but in general — everyone has huge blind spots, no matter what background they have. Life is much larger and more diverse than people usually imagine. Interacting and learning from people with different backgrounds than yours is a fundamentally rewarding experience, although it can be hard at times.

ripvanwinkle(4151) 6 days ago [-]


I'd love to hear names of companies today where folks feel their work place culture might allow something like this to happen.

Frost1x(10000) 6 days ago [-]

For some reason, this story reminds me of Hamdi Ulukay and the story behind Chobani from his TED talk: The anti-CEO Playbook: https://www.ted.com/talks/hamdi_ulukaya_the_anti_ceo_playboo...

It gave me respect for a company I wouldn't think twice about. Both cases show solid longterm leadership strategy in a world chasing quarterly growth.

jonathlee(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I work at Nucor and know of several people who have done exactly this in the 20 years I've worked here. They started working in a entry level production position and worked their way up to department manager, division manager/VP, senior VP and even CEO in one case.

mentos(4089) 6 days ago [-]

Read the whole article but did not see any mention of if he was compensated at all for his idea?

rconti(4154) 6 days ago [-]

It didn't say anything about him being compensated directly for the idea. Presumably as he moved up the ranks he got compensated via profit-sharing. In the same way the highly paid guys who were SUPPOSED to be inventing new things like this (but didn't) were also compensated. And the same way they would have been compensated if they developed some hot new product (eg, at their same rate relative to the profit sharing of the whole org).

darkpuma(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I just wish they'd make them hotter. Takis are kicking their ass in the spicy snack aisle.

mffnbs(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I find the XXTRA flaming hot cheetos to be particularly hot. I'm the type of person that finds most 'hot' things to be rather mild, but these I have to pace myself with.

bluedino(2180) 6 days ago [-]

I have never found any flavor of takis to actually be "hot"

nathankunicki(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I tried the XXX Hot Flaming Cheetos a few months back. I like spicy foods, but my bodily functions were impaired for days.

Perhaps give them a shot.

rootedbox(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Frito Lay was a great place to work at because they did promote up, and they also hired the best. I would often be in meetings where one logistics manager went to MIT and the other logistics manager would be someone who started at a plant boxing chips.

legitster(4149) 6 days ago [-]

I worked for Frito Lay in college as a detailer. To this day I told people it was the best job I ever had. Just so chill. They trusted you and paid you.

chaosbutters314(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Not anymore... :(

Theodores(4121) 6 days ago [-]

His wife was playing the role of co-founder. She believed in him and helped him make the MVP.

Kudos to the guy for the initiative, but we are wrong to assume the janitor is in a weak and powerless position. You can work in a factory where you don't see any of the building apart from the walk to your station and the walk to the tea room. You just do your shift operating a machine.

The janitor isn't so intensively over-worked, not physically tied to a machine on a production line. There is scope to travel about the facility and time to observe. There is also scope to be on first name terms with everyone. But most managers would never hire anyone with an entrepreneurial brain into such a role.

Also by being outside any power structure the janitor has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

This story is also telling because of how people in America find it so inspirational. They are chips, a popular junk food item made of corn!!!

Some perspective is needed on that. No atoms were split. If you had two kids, one grew up to be the inventor of a new chips flavour, the other to be a foreign language teacher, which one would you feel best pleased with? Being happy and down to earth isn't good enough though, in America there has to be a rags to riches story for one to be deemed successful.

hanniabu(3864) 6 days ago [-]

That's the way to work in my opinion. I worked at a place where just because I had an engineering degree I was around 25 years old managing a manufacturing plant full of 40+ year olds that have been working the lines since they graduated high school. It makes absolutely no sense. The best I could do was just make sure they had all the supplies and everything they needed because they knew every machines and issue inside and out and there was absolutely nothing I could help them with in that regard. Would have made 100x more sense having one of our maintenance guys or line workers promoted into a managerial position.

polartx(10000) 6 days ago [-]

My dad literally went from putting the chips in the boxes when he was 23 years old, to overseeing the construction of a brand new manufacturing plant (and running it), to managing scores of plants at HQ in his 40's.

Frito-Lay however, is not immune from boneheaded decisions. After 20someodd years of employment, and a trophy case full of awards, he and some of his [white male] colleagues were laid off in favor of creating a more 'diverse' management roster.

Lacking the experience of those whose positions they took, performance tanked with the new management team, and the person who set it all in motion was fired.

At the end of the day, revenue-per-share is pretty indifferent to age, race, or gender.

irrational(10000) 6 days ago [-]

"I do have a Ph.D.," he responded. "I've been poor, hungry and determined."

Love that.

pbhjpbhj(3933) 6 days ago [-]

I hate it. I think it belittles Ph.D's and denigrates the people who don't have them suggesting that you need to deflect the question because you [sarcasm] couldn't possibly have a skill set that's of high worth unless you actually had done a Ph.D [/sarcasm].


FWIW my highest level of qualification is a bachelor's degree and I work in a position that doesn't require any formal training at all.

analog31(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I have a PhD, and I enjoyed the quote. Hats off to the guy. The PhD isn't a title of nobility.

bendbro(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Very impressed with the janitor's vision and the CEOs good leadership. A poor leader would have quashed the process when the janitor could not justify his idea. Being a good leader, the CEO came up with a solution to determine the viability of the janitor's idea.

The difference between seniors and juniors is experience, and that experience can partially be defined by your 'moveset'. A janitor would not know it is possible to run a limited trial, but the CEO would. I have found that managers are often amenable to ideas from their workers. But, if a worker does not have a full moveset, it will be difficult for the worker to pitch an idea in a way that is actionable, and he will be turned down.

spaceflunky(4148) 6 days ago [-]

Great comment. It takes a hell of a CEO to squash any ego they have and stop to listen to the janitor about what direction their business should take.

camjohnson26(4100) 6 days ago [-]

This is a fantastic story. There are a few ethical problems including Montañez plagiarizing parts of his presentation and having friends and family buy out the products in the test market, but overall he refused to accept imposed limits and accomplished something phenomenal.

One interesting thing is that Frito-Lay had no products targeting Latinos, and no one on the highly paid marketing team did anything about it. The janitor saw the problem immediately, but for some reason the entrenched interests were unable to see it. The CEO by contrast was humble enough to take Montañez's call, let him give a presentation, and overlook that presentation's weaknesses to see the good idea at the core.

Also interesting is the backlash he faced from those same executives, jealous that someone less qualified was being successful. As humans we hate to see others doing better than us and try to push them down. No wonder social mobility is so difficult.

WalterBright(4058) 6 days ago [-]

> plagiarizing parts of his presentation

I don't agree. He copied parts of it from examples in a book on marketing strategy. One writing a book with samples in it would expect someone to use those samples. It's the whole point.

Otherwise, it's a useless book describing things you can't use.

jackcosgrove(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> jealous that someone less qualified was being successful

He was less credentialed but was he less qualified?

ei8htyfi5e(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If you think buying your own product is unethical, you must love central banks and crypto startups.

This is a great story and a good read. Happy he exists. Lord knows I've eaten my share of Flaming Hot Cheetos.

rchaud(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Steve Jobs told engineers to hardcode a full signal strength indicator on the iPhone for his launch presentation, because the actual phone couldn't maintain full bars.

In the real world, speed, timing and practicality matter. I can't get too worked up because a janitor didn't use APA citations for an internal business proposal.

bonestamp2(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> having friends and family buy out the products in the test market

It is ethically wrong, however given the fact that he was facing an unfair fight within the organization (other executives trying to make him fail) I believe it was a fair way to combat that.

wutbrodo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

(Note that I reductively throw around cultural class labels like 'lower-middle class' in this comment for purposes of clarity: I don't mean to suggest that a person's social class is fixed, or well-defined, but it's just a brief way to get at the concept of different subcultures and their mannerisms, as well as the rough income bands that people tend to associate with them)

> Also interesting is the backlash he faced from those same executives, jealous that someone less qualified was being successful. As humans we hate to see others doing better than us and try to push them down. No wonder social mobility is so difficult.

This dynamic is far more dominant than most people realize. I grew up around lots of rich people, coming from a historically-wealthy family with little money[1] (yay scholarships!), so my default mannerisms signal upper-class pretty strongly. I've always been pretty disgusted with the notion of treating people differently based on their background, so I decided it wasn't a system I would personally participate in, and semi-consciously changed my diction and habits to be more déclassé over the course of my teen and college years (to my parents' minor annoyance).

Once I entered the professional and adult dating world, I noticed the degree to which even otherwise-decent people could't resist pre-judging you based on the class that your mannerisms signaled. Depressingly enough, I got by far the most friction from my lower-middle class friends for the mannerisms that I had retained from my childhood[2]. Note that I'm not talking about things like fussing over which salad fork to use (habits that I'm happy to have jettisoned when young), but often-minor differences in diction, habits, and manners (eg, when and how often I choose to thank you to service employees, how comfortable I am expressing how a piece of art or music makes me feel, etc).

After a certain amount of pushing against the tide, I eventually stopped trying to casualize my mannerisms, and over a fairly short period of time ended up reverting to communicating pretty much the way I used to when younger (adjusted for age, obviously). It's been simultaneously amusing and depressing to note the difference in how I've been treated, most notably with respect to female attention and my professional life. I won't even try to delve into the female attention side, but my best guess for the way the baseline of every professional conversation has shifted is that I went from 'scrappy & unusually talented' to 'bred for success'. Again, I find this pretty repulsive, but it's been pretty hard to argue with results. The differences are often hard to articulate, but it's almost like I start every professional conversation from an implicit position of power that I didn't have before.

I'm not really sure what to do about this: my initial thought that trying to change society to treat individuals like humans instead of branded cattle needed first movers, and I was happy to be one of them. But discovering the degree to which class distinctions are subtly maintained by _even those who suffer the most from them_ was enormously dispiriting.

People are weird.

[1] by which I mean, I grew up in a historically-well-off family that had little money growing up due to some severe mental health issues in my immediate family

[2] oddly enough, it's been my experience that the most zealous enforcement of class segregation in social contexts is from the bottom-up; I've never had trouble bringing random lower-middle class friends to hang out with friends who grew up with upper-class mannerisms. It's a rather dejecting thought that class segregation in a social context has so many (implicit) enthusiastic supporters among those being hurt by it the most

johnvanommen(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> One interesting thing is that Frito-Lay had no products targeting Latinos, and no one on the highly paid marketing team did anything about it. The janitor saw the problem immediately, but for some reason the entrenched interests were unable to see it.

In business, I think this is incredibly commonplace. People have a bad habit of looking at what the competition is doing and copying it.

That isn't a bad strategy if you're in an industry with big margins. For instance, Microsoft spent a lot of time telling people how SQL Server was competitive with Oracle. With their large margins, it made sense to go head-to-head with a similar product.

But if you're selling a commodity like potato chips? You gotta figure out some way to differentiate yourself from the competition, break out of the 'commodity' mold.

rb808(2931) 6 days ago [-]

> "it's not about who you know — it's about who knows you."

I've never heard that before, its an awesome quote.

michyous(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Whenever I hear 'It's who you know' my response is - and has been since my teens is - 'It's not about who you know, It's who wants to know you.'

I'm sure someone said it before me.

You can usually visualise the processing going on in the few seconds of silence that follows.

JimBrimble35(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The real hero of this story is the CEO who decided to take this guy _and_ his idea. He could have easily taken the idea and ran with it on his own, with Montañez spending the rest of his life mopping floors.

I wonder how likely this scenario would be in today's world. I have found personally that many companies are unwilling to take risks on employees who aren't formally qualified, even if they demonstrate the skills to operate at far beyond their current pay grade.

Second real hero of the story is his wife. How important is it to have people around you who will enable you do things you aren't qualified to do because they believe in you unconditionally? All of the importants.

jakelazaroff(3704) 6 days ago [-]

> The real hero of this story is the CEO who decided to take this guy _and_ his idea. He could have easily taken the idea and ran with it on his own, with Montañez spending the rest of his life mopping floors.

A practical question, and a moral one:

Would it be have worked out had the CEO tried to steal Montañez's idea, given Montañez came up with the spices himself?

Does someone merely not doing something unethical, at no cost to themselves, make them a hero?

whycombagator(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I partly agree. But I think the CEO is an equal hero, not the 'real hero'. The CEO accepted the call, listened, and entertained an idea from a janitor. That's part of what makes the story impressive to me

JamBramble35(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I didn't understand why this post was so controversial, but now I get it. If you undermine the idea that individual dynamism (the american dream) is solely responsible for individual success, you'll get downvotes.

weirdkid(4120) 6 days ago [-]

Credit is due the executive assistant who informed the CEO of the call instead of triage-ing it to the bit bucket.

cortesoft(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I feel like this comment buys into the assumption that so many people have that 'ideas' are the valuable part. The idea wasn't the valuable thing Montañez contributed... it was the whole execution.

A CEO isn't going to 'execute' on an idea by himself... it isn't like he was going to steal the idea, and go into the kitchen himself and create the cheetos. He needs someone who can drive an idea forward to execution, and that was the real thing he was selecting Montañez for... the idea was the easy part.

dom96(1696) 6 days ago [-]

This is a great story. I'm surprised to not see Ketchup Cheetos[1] mentioned in the linked timeline[2], those are by far my favourites so I wonder what the story behind them is.

1 - https://americanfizz.co.uk/image/cache/catalog/european-prod...

2 - https://www.timelinemaker.com/blog/featured-timeline/history...

FreeKill(3829) 6 days ago [-]

I've always found it interesting that ketchup flavoring on frito lay products were not a bigger thing. In canada, ketchup flavored chips etc. are a very popular flavor and have been around for decades. Just never seems to really have caught on elsewhere until somewhate recently.

z3t4(3869) 6 days ago [-]

> "How much market share do you think you can get?" 'I opened my arms and I said, 'This much market share!''

Brilliant answer for a stupid question that was probably meant to put him down.

> Frito-Lay began testing Flamin' Hot Cheetos in small Latino markets in East Los Angeles. If it performed well, the company would move forward with the product; if it didn't, they'd scratch it

So Montañez assembled a small team of family members and friends, went to the test markets, and bought every bag of Hot Cheetos he could find.

Also brilliant, as such a 'test' would certainly fail due to no marketing, likely intentional by the exec's and politics.

11thEarlOfMar(1644) 6 days ago [-]

This was the same CEO who took a call from a janitor. It wasn't a put down. This was an interview, and the question was open ended on purpose to see how he responded.

spacedog11(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Very interesting.

JimBrimble35(10000) 6 days ago [-]


debatem1(4139) 6 days ago [-]

That's an incredible story and props to the guy, but let's not tapdance around the fact that this is incredible specifically because social mobility on this scale is extremely rare. It took both exceptional determination and unbelievable luck to make this happen. How many others have the doggedness and skill, but not the luck? How many of them are still mopping today?

whenchamenia(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Just because there is 'mobility', does not entice all to seek a different 'status'. Many are content to be a happy human, and think those terms are silly at best.

Macross8299(10000) 5 days ago [-]

>because social mobility on this scale is extremely rare

Rare only works as a qualifier when comparing it to some other probability of social mobility, either in an ideal or real system. The US has higher social mobility than most actual countries in the world and is pretty much middle of the pack in social mobility when it comes to developed (OECD) nations [0]

If I recall correctly, there was another case of a janitor working her way up to becoming a C-level executive at Microsoft and HP. Capitalism with a social safety net is what affords this social mobility because it doesn't matter what your credentials are if you can find a market for a novel product like Montañez did. You can argue about how much of a social safety net is required to prevent the poor from staying poor forever, but it's still capitalism that provides the impetus that lifts people up to where they don't need the social safety net anymore.

Compare this to a society where you're hooped if you're born into the wrong caste or without party connections and US social mobility doesn't seem that rare anymore.

[0]: https://www.oecd.org/inclusive-growth/inequality-and-opportu... figure 2

WalterBright(4058) 6 days ago [-]

I love this story. It's not about how Montañez 'got lucky' - it's about how he, in several key spots, set himself up so luck would find him.

It's a great American success story.

axiom92(3991) 6 days ago [-]

Also from the article:

> Six months later, with Montañez's help, Frito-Lay began testing Flamin' Hot Cheetos in small Latino markets in East Los Angeles.

> If it performed well, the company would move forward with the product; if it didn't, they'd scratch it — and Montañez would likely return to janitorial duties.

> So Montañez assembled a small team of family members and friends, went to the test markets, and bought every bag of Hot Cheetos he could find.

> "I'd tell the owner, 'Man, these are great,'" he recalled. "Next week, I'd come back and there'd be a whole rack."


greghatch(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> "It hit me that I had no idea what he was talking about, or what I was doing," Montañez recalled. "I was shaking, and I damn near wanted to pass out...[but] I opened my arms and I said, 'This much market share!' I didn't even know how ridiculous that looked."

>The room went silent as the CEO stood up and smiled. "Ladies and gentlemen, do you realize we have an opportunity to go after this much market share?" he said, stretching out his arms.

Huge smiles from me here.

This really amplifies the willingness of this CEO to listen and promote good ideas. I don't have a ton more context but I can relate to this janitor in many ways and this reaction from the CEO would be incredible.

I'm so glad it happened this way and that it came from the janitor's perspective.

coupdejarnac(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I would have loved to work for a CEO like that.

elicash(4153) 5 days ago [-]

That quote is missing some context that I think makes the story even more impressive.

So, this was before the Hot Cheeto idea. Montañez was looking for ways of advancing inside of the company and had asked a salesperson if he could trail him as he did his routes. This was on Montañez's day off work, so it was unpaid. The advantage to the salesperson was an extra set of hands for unloading.

He saw the shelf or whatever the terminology is and how much FritoLay product they were selling in the individual stores. That's what he had in mind when he used his arms to say how much market share. The question scared him (apparently he and his wife hadn't gotten to the 'market share' chapter in the book they got from the library) until he remembered that day following the salesperson and so the punchline is that he thought he nailed the answer.

Historical Discussions: Use YouTube to improve your English pronunciation (June 19, 2019: 768 points)

(768) Use YouTube to improve your English pronunciation

768 points 6 days ago by interweb in 3026th position

youglish.com | Estimated reading time – 2 minutes | comments | anchor



  • • English
  • • French
  • • Spanish
  • • Italian
  • • Portuguese
  • • German
  • • Chinese

Use YouTube to improve your English pronunciation. With more than 30M tracks, YouGlish gives you fast, unbiased answers about how English is spoken by real people and in context.

Examples: power, courage, coup de grâce, how's it going (Advanced search)
  • or any mix of them. More information here.

Youglish for: English French Spanish Italian Portuguese German Chinese Choose your language: English Français Español Italiano Português Deutsch HOME ABOUT CONTACT PRIVACY & TERMS SETTINGS DEVELOPERS BROWSE CONTRIBUTE

All Comments: [-] | anchor

sandworm101(4053) 6 days ago [-]

If you want to learn to speak english well, watch those programs that use English properly. Blackadder. Archer. Sherlock. Even some of the marvel movies (GOTG) are very careful in how they pronounce and articulate words. Then watch every Brian Cox and Attenborough documentary. You might come out with a bit of a British accent but that is far far better than any youtube-derived accent. Better you sound like Stirling Archer than [insert random youtube person].

kochikame(4010) 6 days ago [-]

So you're equating using English 'properly' with British (specifically, English) English? From a linguistic point of view, you couldn't be more wrong.

No variety of any language is superior to another

sundvor(3466) 6 days ago [-]

Agreed. I grew up watching 'Yes Prime Minister' and anything Monty Python in Norway. Has served me well in Australia.

Further to this, I've also worked on my diction using a number of available resources such as https://www.audible.com.au/search?keywords=get+rid+of+your+a... .

I could never fully appropriate the Australian accent, but something more akin to British becomes non-determinate and easier on the ear (ref: how people prefer speech synthesis in a different English region to their own).

It kind of surprises me that more non-native English speakers don't do the same; I have worked with people who I've really struggled to understand. But I can't really tell them 'can you please work on your accent', as much as I wish I could and I knew it would serve them well.

sailfast(10000) 6 days ago [-]

So you would also recommend watching Archer and H. Jon Benjamin animated series? (Bob's Burgers) I'd certainly recommend them though I'm not sure he's a canonical example of the language.

By watching Archer you might also perhaps, better understand when things are phrased inappropriately?

groks(4063) 6 days ago [-]

A bit of Fry and Laurie, on language:


Mindless2112(3979) 6 days ago [-]


Not exactly English, but it's in the dictionary. I don't know if I should be impressed that the first result actually sounded pretty reasonable or disappointed at how bad some of these pronunciations are.

Of course, the whole thing is gonna be 'results may vary', I suppose... https://youglish.com/getcid/25032799/electrophoresis

NeedMoreTea(3450) 6 days ago [-]

If it's in the dictionary it is English. Or do we start throwing out everything we got from Norman French too?


reaperducer(3956) 6 days ago [-]

I hope that some YouTube publishers start using this. It's always jarring when some tech vlogger puts up a video with blatant mispronunciations.

Sometimes it can be attributed to regionalisms (8-Bit Guy uses Texas-isms in addition to his usual set of mispronunciations). Sometimes it's just not paying attention, like one video game blogger who mispronounced 'Imagic,' showed an old Imagic TV commercial where the name was pronounced correctly, and then mispronounced 'Imagic' immediately after. But some simply aren't bothering to look up the correct pronunciation of things.

/Former broadcaster, trained in pronunciation, and in correcting the pronunciation of TV news anchors.

unixhero(3863) 6 days ago [-]

Some other guy being so nasal he can't pronounce monsters and it comes out as bonsters.

maerF0x0(4047) 6 days ago [-]

very cool!

next features: 1) Find the videos that most agree with eachother and 2) Add other languages

bhelkey(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The site appears to support 7 languages in the rather hard to see dropdown near the youglish logo.

mjlee(3997) 6 days ago [-]

How do you leave feedback for what is just a bad pronunciation? The options I can see are: This is not english!

Wrong caption?

Wrong accent?

Poor sound quality.

Poor video quality.

Crude/shocking content.

I don't think any of those fit what I'm hearing for https://youglish.com/getcid/3905773/coxswain

hathawsh(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I agree there's an issue; 'mispronounced' should be one of the feedback options. The third video for 'especially' pronounces the word as 'ekspecially'.


Love the site, though! Great work.

georgeam(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I would also like to see a feedback option for wrong word (same spelling). For example I searched for 'melee' meaning (close to) 'chaotic fight', and one of the entries referred to a person called 'MeLee'. It should be possible to flag this and either automatically or manually review the entry.

remedan(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Maybe the idea is to be strictly descriptivist? The way people actually pronounce the word _is_ the correct way. That's why you can listen to multiple examples and see what the common pronunciation is.

adpirz(4034) 6 days ago [-]


Roughly 60 / 40 short u ('tupple') vs long u ('toople').

autoexec(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Is the short u 'tupple' wrong despite it's popularity because if so I've been lying to people...

umvi(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's like gif (ghif) vs gif (jif)... even among native speakers it will be heavily polarized

calibas(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Here's a good one:


Every person pronounces it differently.

noja(4068) 6 days ago [-]

These people pronouncing just that word pronounce it the same: https://forvo.com/word/triskaidekaphobia/#en

333c(3944) 6 days ago [-]

I wouldn't normally point this out, but considering the site is about learning languages, the mistake on the homepage:

> (Advance search)

is glaring. That should be 'Advanced search' as in 'click here to perform an advanced (adj) search,' not as in 'click here to advance (verb) [a] search,' which is nonsensical.

mnw21cam(3727) 6 days ago [-]

Okay, context makes you mostly right. But. Advance is also a adjective, as in 'Advance booking', which is a booking in advance. Lots of people incorrectly write 'Advanced booking' instead, which is a technologically superior booking, and probably not what they meant.

theLotusGambit(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Awesome site! This is infinitely more useful than any other pronunciation site I've seen.

Two questions:

I'm guessing the site uses the YouTube API to build a database from video captions, but which videos does it pull from? All of them or a subset? Querying the word 'the' yields about 12 million results which seems low to me.

Also, is there any way to prevent the site from modifying my YouTube watch history? I noticed after clicking around a few times and then going back to YouTube's home page that my recommendations had been updated based on the random videos I'd been fed. Clearly this isn't desirable behavior, but I don't know if there's any way around it. For the time being for other users, I recommend using an incognito or private window.

sundarurfriend(3507) 4 days ago [-]

> my recommendations had been updated based on the random videos I'd been fed. Clearly this isn't desirable behavior

Oh, it very much is desirable behaviour for me, I see it as an opportunity to get out of my filter bubble and remember YouTube's content variety. Especially given that the videos here are constrained to be from the UK, having captions and hence likely not 'funny viral clips' or random vlogs.

gdw2(4032) 6 days ago [-]

As a user, open the page in a private window.

MRD85(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm not actually sure how I feel about this. Australian English is distinct, and one of its key features is heavy use of shortened words and dropped letters. For example, the word 'going' becomes 'goin'.

hombre_fatal(10000) 6 days ago [-]

You chose an example that is ubiquitous in USA, like 'gonna'.

avinium(4084) 5 days ago [-]

I'm Australian, and I would never recommend that someone learn English by listening to one of my countrymen. We are lazy, nasal, slurred speakers. Standard English or American are much more preferable.

godelski(4119) 6 days ago [-]

My intuition (and complete guess) is that ML is pretty far away from distinguishing slang words. Maybe it can understand it, at least to some extent, but categorizing it by country (well you really even need region) is harder.

romseb(10000) 6 days ago [-]

You can choose between US, UK and AUS.

sys13(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Got a message, 'you have been banned from this site'

autoexec(10000) 6 days ago [-]

What words were you looking for?

godelski(4119) 6 days ago [-]

All right everyone! We're ALL wrong! GIF is pronounced: https://youglish.com/search/gif/all

cardingggg(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't know if different people see different video queues, but I had 2 subsequent videos of the same person pronouncing GIF as `GIFF` and `JYFE` :-/

wonnage(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Apparently every English student in China learns the following exchange: How are you doing today? / I'm fine, thank you, and you?

I've had trouble explaining why this is a weirdly formal response that native speakers would probably never use. So it was somewhat amusing to find zero search results for this! (not counting partial matches). It seems like the first phrases you learn in any foreign language reliably turn out to be phrases nobody actually uses.

ghostDancer(3813) 5 days ago [-]

I remember many years ago in Spain the most used book to learn English the first sentences were pretty much those and in one of the first lessons there was a sentence that became widely known: 'My taylor is rich', it was synonym with studying English.

weinzierl(408) 5 days ago [-]

Every English student in Germany too. At least it was like that when I learned English in school.

This seems to be so common that there are even a bunch of Youtube videos out there about this topic, for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_53mo10_Mbk

trosi(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Can you elaborate a bit on why it's a weird response? What would be more appropriate? Non-native speaker here

ptah(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I guess they would only use English in formal situations like when you go to shops etc. in those cases that is a normal exchange in UK english

pacomerh(4141) 6 days ago [-]

hehe, I had to try the words I know are pronounced wrong. 'Paella' it's pronounced paeya, not payeya. Also half the population says ecsetera instead of etcetera

dennisgorelik(2854) 6 days ago [-]

Only about 1 in 8 speakers uses incorrect 'excetera' pronunciation:


Even 12% -- is far too many for my taste. But at least I can use 'et cetera' pronunciation as a quick 'literacy level' test.

jfk13(3641) 5 days ago [-]

Try 'February', and cringe....

> 'Here are 4 tips that should help you perfect your pronunciation of 'February':

> Break 'February' down into sounds: [FEB] + [YUH] + [REE] ...'


adriand(2249) 6 days ago [-]

This is also an amazing tool for anyone making electronic music that is looking for samples! I've been looking for something like this for quite some time: a tool to find audio clips on YouTube that match a particular phrase. Nothing like 'lose your mind, get out of control' [1] to enhance a techno track!

1. https://youglish.com/search/lose%20your%20mind/all

zubspace(4029) 5 days ago [-]

Don't want to rain on your parade, but the next passage comes straight out of their TOS:

User acknowledges sole responsibility for obtaining required licenses. YOUGLISH.COM grants you permission to display, copy, distribute and download the Materials on this Site provided that: (1) both the copyright notice identified below and this permission notice appear in the Materials; (2) the use of such Materials is solely for personal, non-commercial use; and (3) the Materials are not modified in any way.

jalgos_eminator(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Wow, this seemed to work very well for all the words I typed in. I would love to try something like this for German, as it can be hard to pronounce those massive compound words they have.

The one criticism that I have is that many of these videos are from ted talks or speeches by politicians. During speeches people will inflect words differently than in everyday conversation, especially politicians. I got one Theresa May speech and the rest were Americans.

Baeocystin(10000) 6 days ago [-]

German is one of the languages available in the dropdown menu. I just gave it a cursory try, but it seems to work well.

godelski(4119) 6 days ago [-]

Not me. Rural was particularly bad and is a terribly difficult word for non-indo-european speakers. The video (I found this in a few words) starts RIGHT on the word (autocracy did this as well). Most of the time this doesn't happen though. I did wish it would default to a specific pronunciation too. Default to US or UK when selecting 'All'. Router I got UK, Aluminum I got US. Epoch I got (it says US) some weird bastardization of US and UK[0] (though with ML becoming really popular it seems that everyone is defaulting to the UK pronunciation - probably because the spelling - so maybe this should default to UK?).

There also seems to be a bias for Ted Talks. I definitely agree with the parent's point about how speeches are different. But I'm not sure that's necessarily bad. The intonation changes people make when in speeches/talks is one of over pronunciation rather than the under pronunciation that we do in everyday speak. This may be better for learning. Maybe both could exist though. A 'proper' and 'casual' one. I'd say the casual should bias towards things like videoblogers and probably twitch streamers would be a good/plentiful resource. Might want to filter some of the latter though (stick to good streamers and big things like GDQ). Sports events would also be a good one.

That being said I'm not trying to discourage this effort and honestly I really like it (and wish there was one for Chinese, is there?). English isn't easy and there are a lot of pronunciations (I picked out words that are edge cases). I have already recommended it to a friend.

Good job!

Edit: Friend (native Chinese) already knew about this (extra good job!)

[0] How it should sound https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epoch (You can now tell all your ML friends that they are saying it wrong and win that great sense of superiority. Never mind that language is what is spoken, the dictionary is always right!)

video it linked: https://youglish.com/getcid/19634402/epoch

elil17(4129) 5 days ago [-]

They have a German version - click on "in English" to get a drop down list of other languages

interfixus(4132) 5 days ago [-]

My German really isn't up to scratch, but orthograpically/phonetically it is by far the most straightforward and consistent language that I know of. Those compound words may take some time to pick apart, but once you've done, their pronunciation is generally unambiguous.

SilasX(4016) 6 days ago [-]

Seconded. I still can't tell apart the first a's in Ratte vs Rathaus, and Germans assure me they're different and the difference breaks any attempts to make puns based on the two (Rathaus=city hall, but to my ear feels like Ratte-house/haus).

thorwasdfasdf(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If German listening and speaking practice is what you want, give this a try: https://eardoor.com

it's got spaced repetition practice, plus lots of listening material and no sign up required. its free, and there's no annoying app to download.

lone_haxx0r(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> many of these videos are from ted talks or speeches by politicians.

I think that's a plus, but it depends on your needs.

suyash(3552) 6 days ago [-]

lol I tried the same :) It is totally ignorant of the context which makes it funny.

bloak(4154) 5 days ago [-]

I'm going to rant here... I hate the way some people seem to think that a recording is a good way of explaining the pronunciation of an English word. In my (bigoted) opinion the only good way to explain the pronunciation of an English word is with a phonemic transcription into IPA. This is because even within England there are are lots of different pronunciations of the same sound. What you want (or at least I want) to know is whether the first vowel in 'Malcow', say, is the same as the vowel in 'hawk' or the vowel in 'trap'. A recording of a particular person saying just the word 'Malcow' doesn't necessarily give you that information, and certainly not in an accessible way.

(Also, a lesser consideration: there are some native speakers of English who can distinguish certain sounds in their pronunciation but cannot, or cannot easily, hear the difference between those sounds. I would guess that either they learnt to speak partly by watching people's lips or their hearing has deteriorated as they got older.)

None of the above is specific to English. If I wanted to know how a French word is pronounced I'd prefer IPA to a recording just the same, if not more so.

Admittedly not everyone loves IPA like I do (perhaps some people think it's a kind of beer). The online Oxford English Dictionary provides IPA transcriptions of both the British and American pronunciations and you can click on them to hear a recording. Perfect.

Broken_Hippo(10000) 5 days ago [-]

A recording is a good, though, in the same way as hearing native people speak improves your own pronunciation over time.

This even happens without you realizing it.

If I really can't get a word down through pronunciation, it honestly helps to see it typed out phonetically in English.

For example, 'Hygiene' is spelled the same in both english and Norwegian, but pronunciation differs.

So while in english we might say, 'Hi-Gene', in Norwegian I say 'Hee-gee-inne'. It doesn't work for all words, especially with vowels and sounds that aren't in english.

Had I only had IPA symbols, that takes even longer because of the time it takes to learn the symbolism. I think if it were truly a better way to learn, it would be taught to new immigrants instead of the immersive adult learning that I had, which focused vocabulary on repeating sounds and lots of listening, and the very occasional visual aide to know how to shape our mouth and where to put our tongues.

Not that my pronunciation is perfect, mind you, but I'm passable even if I retain a strong English accent when I speak Norwegian. Most of the time, I'm understandable and the spouse is nice enough to point out rough spots if I slip up too much.

ramblerman(3147) 5 days ago [-]

Seem to think?

hear and repeat is pretty much how we all acquired our mother tongues. IPA is nice in the absence of a tutor, or a native speaker, but it's definitely not superior.

Forgetting the fact people need to be trained in understanding how to interpret IPA before they can even use it, it still misses some subtle inflections.

dghf(4105) 5 days ago [-]

> (Also, a lesser consideration: there are some native speakers of English who can distinguish certain sounds in their pronunciation but cannot, or cannot easily, hear the difference between those sounds. I would guess that either they learnt to speak partly by watching people's lips or their hearing has deteriorated as they got older.)

It may also be down to the conceptual buckets into which we place sounds when learning languages, especially our native languages. For example, many English speakers would be surprised to learn that 'p' has two distinct pronunciations in English, aspirated (as in 'pin') and unaspirated (as in 'spin'). Similarly, the 'l' at the start of 'late' is not the same as that at the end of 'wool', the so-called 'dark l' sound. (Caveat: IIRC, some varieties of English do not make the latter distinction, and I wouldn't be surprised if some don't make the former one, either.)

A couple of personal anecdotes:

- I have a friend who pronounces the word 'hook' with a long 'oo' sound, whereas I pronounce it with a much shorter vowel (we have very different regional accents). When I pointed this out to him, he could not at first tell the difference between our pronunciations. It was only when I compared it to the difference between 'pull' and 'pool' -- which he did pronounce slightly differently -- that he grudgingly acknowledged the distinction.

- A Northern Irish colleague expressed incredulity at the southern English habit of pronouncing 'poor', 'paw' and 'pour' the same, when in his part of the world they were, to his ears, said quite differently. When he spoke those words, I could hear that difference too -- but only just, and it took concentration.

azangru(10000) 5 days ago [-]

As Daniel Jones wrote in his The Pronunciation of English (I am paraphrasing from the 1962 edition, because I do not have it at hand), it is impossible to learn the sounds of English from phonemic transcriptions alone; you need a living teacher, or, in absense of them, good recordings of representative sounds (he went on to reference certain good-quality authoritative recordings of the time). Youtube can be regarded as one source of such recordings.

mkl(4065) 5 days ago [-]

I'm not sure I understand. A single word may have many different IPA transcriptions for different regional accents, so IPA won't necessarily tell you what you want to know.

iiv(4102) 6 days ago [-]

Interesting. I found one problem, though. (Or is it a feature?)

All examples I listened to of 'coup de grâce' pronounced it /ku də ɡrɑː/, while the 'correct' way (if there is such a thing)is /ku də ɡrɑs/.

This kind of thing must come up in more examples. I'm not usually on the prescriptive side of things, but I think it's important to know the 'right' way to do things, at least when you're learning a language. On the other hand, hypercorrection will probably never disappear, so why not embrace it?

rahuldottech(2963) 5 days ago [-]

Off-topic, but looking up '/ku də ɡrɑː/' on Google now brings up this thread as one of the top results due to your comment. This comment of mine will only make it worse.

playpause(3531) 5 days ago [-]

I agree with embracing hypercorrection (or at least, not getting upset about it), but it's also worth accepting that mispronounced loanwords can never really 'win' while the original language still exists, so there will always be a tension. 75m native French speakers will always win any argument about how to pronounce 'grâce'.

jedmeyers(10000) 6 days ago [-]

"Coup de grace" caught my attention as well. It showed a speaker with a very notable RP pronouncing this phase with a very fake sounding French 'r' and no 's' in the end, when the s sound is clearly present in the French and modern English pronunciation. Some might say that he butchered it.

sovande(3874) 6 days ago [-]

> coup de grâce

'Funny' that they have a french word and a french statement as the second and third example. But maybe not and it is intentionally, 'whois' says Registrant Country is FR. In any case, very cool and works impressively AFAICS. Wonder how long it will stay up until our Google overlords sends a cease and desist

jonwinstanley(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Unless you want to know how to say 'Notre Dame'.


hathawsh(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If you're talking about the University of Notre Dame in Indiana USA, the most common pronunciation is /noʊtrəˈdeɪm/ or /noʊtərˈdeɪm/ (NOH-tər-DAYM). Simon Whistler's video uses both the American and French versions appropriately:


13415(10000) 6 days ago [-]

You can switch to French.

fniephaus(2772) 6 days ago [-]
rkuykendall-com(4066) 5 days ago [-]

One clip was so intriguing, I had to go back and watch the whole thing, and it was really good:


I'm a native English speaker but this could actually be a very cool discovery tool. I typed in my own (relatively rare) last name and found cool graduations and community organization videos.

XCSme(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This is amazing, not only for learning english but also for quickly finding videos of a subject you are interested in (which is quicker than YouTube search as this is almost a 'Feeling lucky' search).

news_hacker(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Exactly! This is amazing. I can search for esoteric words/ideas like 'soulcraft' and instantly find a niche of interesting videos etc. to further my ideas. This is a gamechanger.

overthemoon(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This is very cool.

I looked up words that have always tripped me up, including banal, brood, indefatigable, preternatural, conch, niche. Indefatigable, banal, and conch had some conflicting ones but the 'correct' one occurred enough times that I got the idea. ('Brood' probably isn't commonly mispronounced, I just got it mixed up early in life and never quite got it sorted it out. :)

The results for 'niche' are consistently mixed up though, which means that word will continue to drive me insane. Neesh or nitch!? I mix it up when I use it without any rhyme or reason.

learnstats2(10000) 6 days ago [-]

see also: 'clique'

The first four pronounce it like I think it is pronounced then the following five pronounce it as 'click' (ignoring mis-subtitled cases of cliché and claque)

It doesn't seem to be consistent in either British or American pronunciations.

johnnycab(10000) 6 days ago [-]

>Neesh or nitch!?

I only heard the latter pronunciation fairly recently via a YouTuber, who would say 'There are riches in nitches' as a mantra. At first, I put it down to a form of colloquialism and it took me a while to figure out, that he meant 'niches'.

justnotworthit(10000) 5 days ago [-]

When you get inconsistent answers, there might be a deeper reason.

Banal was pronounced like anal, but people got embarassed sometime in the 20th century and started starting saying canal. I like anal.

Variations of indefatigable and preternatural are probably from people who have read it but never heard it pronounced (a. The funny/common example is hyperbole/hyperbolic. It's the stress that is most butchered, which cascades into vowels being pronounced differently. Heurstics in this matter can be internalized and improved.

Niche is one possible outcome of anglicization, which is complex and has different results, mostly depending on how common the word ends up. The more foreign-like (French) is neesh. The more anglicized is nich. Neither are worthy of ridicule (which usually comes from the ignorant, and is another topic altogether). Just avoid mixing the two: Never 'neech' (like Nietchze) or 'nish', which will make me laugh.

mc32(4095) 6 days ago [-]

Words which are derived or introduced from foreign languages (common in English) can have varying pronunciations. Some people tend to pronounce it close to how it sounds in the original language, others pronounce it with a more native English (be it American, Australian, British, etc.) accent. 'Croissant' 'Chic' 'Bouquet' 'Renaissance' etc.

Then other words which are more native English words (even if they have Latin, Old French, Greek or proto Germanic roots) will have regional variations.

For example 'Tuna' and 'Tuner' can have their pronunciations switched in some parts of the US.

hathawsh(10000) 6 days ago [-]

GIF is another curiously undecided word. I'm also reminded of 'gigawatt', which was widely mispronounced following 'Back to the Future' in 1985, but is now generally pronounced correctly. I attribute the change to the introduction of gigabyte hard drives.

josteink(3534) 6 days ago [-]

> Neesh or nitch

I've literally only ever heard one person saying nitch. And he was ridiculed for it.

So yeah, for me that pronouncitation seems fairly niche.

jgtrosh(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The pronunciation of niche has to do with french not pronouncing ch differently from sh. This is somewhat problematic for french people pronouncing Asian words transliterated in Latin alphabets; they will consistently pronounce ch exactly like sh (« konishiwa », ...) (Pikachu is mostly pronounced correctly though.)

williamdclt(4155) 6 days ago [-]

> The results for 'niche' are consistently mixed up though, which means that word will continue to drive me insane. Neesh or nitch

Pretty sure it comes from French, so 'neesh'

RugnirViking(10000) 6 days ago [-]

When english results are split in engish it is usually american english vs british english (which is often also spoken in australia and india)

I can't say if that is the case here, but that is what I would suspect. As a british person I have usually heard it and used it as 'neesh'

selune(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I always used forvo.com for this kind of thing.

Edit: It's a 'pronunciation dictionary'. Ppl just record how they say words and indicate their geography. Super useful for languages like English where there are a lot of regional varieties. And you can contribute too to the dictionary of your language. :)

I'm no affiliated w/ it btw, just really love this website, have been using it for years.

noja(4068) 6 days ago [-]

Is the American pronunciation of 'communal' correct there? https://forvo.com/search/communal/en_usa/

clarkmoody(3565) 6 days ago [-]

I wonder if language pronunciation will drift less over time, given the technology to record the spoken word and play it back at a much later day? Any linguists on HN thinking about vowel drift in the digital age?

elliekelly(3697) 6 days ago [-]

I also wonder if technology could have the opposite effect of expediting the adoption of "new" pronunciations only among certain demographics. It's not linguistics (or maybe it is?) but the number of 20-something women speaking with vocal fry seems to have increased thanks to pop culture/the Kardashians.

quadrature(4065) 6 days ago [-]

Love it, does anyone know of a similar service for chinese ?.

sideral(10000) 6 days ago [-]

There is Chinese in the dropdown list.

richrichardsson(10000) 5 days ago [-]

'Improve your American pronunciation'.

Search term : Aluminium

Result : American saying Aluminum

Search term : Solder

Result : American saying 'sodder'

taejo(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. You can argue that 'aluminium' and 'aluminum' are two different words, each pronounced the same way in Britain as in the US, but with the former being common in Britain and rare in the US and the other vice versa.

But there is only one word 'solder', and in most of the US it's pronounced like 'sodder' would be, if that were a word at all.

lone_haxx0r(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Am I the only one that uses Google Translate 'listen' option for learning pronunciation of weird words?

personlurking(3275) 6 days ago [-]

I recommend forvo.com (like another commenter mentioned), as GT doesn't work that great for certain languages (ex. Catalan is just a robotic voice).

Historical Discussions: Give Firefox a chance (June 23, 2019: 691 points)

(723) Give Firefox a chance

723 points 2 days ago by dtroode in 10000th position

dev.to | Estimated reading time – 2 minutes | comments | anchor

We live in the era of browser monopoly. Google occupied the whole web by its Chrome. Chrome has more than 50% of users: Safari is on the second place just because of macOS popularity.

Now, most of the developers choose between Chrome and Firefox. And in 2017 Mozilla released their updated version of Firefox — Firefox Quantum with new customization settings, better extensions support, privacy and what's more important — speed. 2x faster than old Firefox and faster than Chrome.

Firefox using their own new engine with new Quantum CSS and Quantum DOM rendering. A lot of explanations here. And Chrome uses a lot of memory, Firefox — less.

Also, Firefox has a lot of useful features like showing useless CSS rules and supports prefers-color-scheme: dark media rules, that Chrome supports only in beta now.

Do you scare about extensions? Now, most developers write their extensions for both Chrome and Firefox.

And the final reason — stop the monopoly. Give a chance to other companies that smaller and you can see how frontend develops.

Move all your bookmarks in Firefox for one week and try.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

andai(4134) 2 days ago [-]

Is there any way to select multiple tabs and drag them around in FF like you can in Chrome?

Edit: Holy smokes, it works now! How long has that been a thing?

Shift will select the tabs between current and clicked, while Ctrl will select / deselect clicked tab.

kenniskrag(10000) 2 days ago [-]

use the shift key while selecting the tabs.

lewiscollard(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Ctrl + click the tabs you want to move and drag em around to your heart's content :)

aduitsis(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Even as we are headed for a monoculture where the only existing browser will be for all intents and purposes controlled by one or more very big companies, one can read various complaints on HN regarding Firefox battery usage, font rendering, development facilities, etc.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, and of course people have the right to complain about whatever they wish.

But, can we please all of us stop pretending that we care about freedom, privacy, etc? Because if we did care, we'd put our proverbial money where our mouths are and try to cope with these defects, just to make sure that a higher purpose is served.

(Genuinely don't want to offend anyone nor do I dismiss anyone's problems with Firefox, especially on macosx)

iamdamian(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I wish HN did a better job of celebrating when companies ship something that we've been asking for (e.g., Apple's new privacy features, companies that are embracing more end-to-end encryption) rather than focusing on the negatives (e.g., how they fall short of being a perfect solution).

ben509(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I think a person pursuing a privacy agenda would still want to raise those other complaints, though. The reason is that while a technically inclined person probably has the means to cope with them, the point of a privacy agenda is broader: it wants to make privacy something everyone does and expects, to hit a critical mass. And technical barriers to adoption of privacy-enhancing technology are the obvious obstacles.

> Genuinely don't want to offend anyone

I think you worded it just fine. Since there's always room for improvement, the 'let's stop pretending we care' might be recast as, 'what we're saying doesn't line up with what we're doing,' which is a bit more factual and avoids claims on anyone's inner motivations.

Lazare(3059) 2 days ago [-]

I switched to Chrome from Firefox years ago because Chrome has a better UX (faster, snappier, cleaner UI). A couple years ago I tried to switch back to Firefox (right after the Quantum project landed, and Firefox was meant to be a lot faster), but found FF to still be bloated, slow, and painful to use.

A couple weeks ago I made another try to switch back to FF, and I have found the experience to be very pleasant this time; desktop FF on both Windows and MacOS are, for me, better than Chrome. I recommend others give Firefox a try.

(There are a few reasons why you might want to: Privacy, fighting mono-culture, recent decisions by Google to neuter ad blocking addons, a general aversion to the power of the largest tech companies, just chasing the latest and fastest browser, a fondness for novelty or contrarianism. Some of those reasons may resonate; others may not, but if any of them do, give it a shot!)

esalman(3358) 2 days ago [-]

Containers and privacy are the main reasons I'm hooked to Firefox now. Maybe chrome will get containers too, but there's no point if they are tracking users across containers. But as they are on par in terms of performance I see no reason to switch back to chrome.

nullwasamistake(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Firefox is great now, especially on mobile. Having all my desktop extensions on mobile is worth it alone. I've also done some rough measurements that Firefox uses about 1/3 the battery life of chrome at idle with my normal 'work' tabs open. This is on both Android and MacOs.

On some sites FF is slower, but these tend to be Google properties or giant Enterprise shitshow behemoths (jira)

edraferi(4149) 2 days ago [-]

I had the same experience. Switched to Chrome from Firefox years ago, tried and was disappointed by the initial Quantum release, tried Firefox again with the "Chrome is killing uBlock Origin" announcement, very pleased this time.

My main gripe with Firefox at the moment is Sync. It just doesn't sync everything you need. My Firefox profile is highly customized, with a lot of extensions that all have their own complex config. Sync will keep the actual extensions synced, but not their settings. You have to rely on manual import/export features provided by the extensions themselves. Some first party extensions (eg Containers) don't even give you that option.

You can get some of that by syncing your profile folder directly, but it's very fragile. It hasn't played nice with the generic folder syncing tools I've tried.

I think this is painful because Firefox really encourages customization, and it's really useful! I just don't want to have to keep track of that customization on every device. I trust Firefox Sync's security model and want to do more with it.

Mikeb85(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Firefox is fast, not noticeably faster though as Chrome seems to be a bit more aggressive with caching, and Chrome has better UI. I also prefer Chrome's autocomplete and search bar. Firefox is good, maybe even technically better these days, but Chrome is still more pleasant to use.

PatrolX(3475) 2 days ago [-]

Firefox 67 is switchworthy. I've used nothing but Chrome since forever and I've never been a fan of FF until 67 came out, it's definitely worthy of trying it out for a week.

I haven't used Chrome since FF 67 and I'm not missing it.

chapium(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Edge Canary is line the best of both worlds. Nice speed and decent ui.

giancarlostoro(3311) 1 day ago [-]

The funny thing is a lot of what makes Chrome seem faster are subtle hacks. They show an empty window while it all loads so does Firefox now. Firefox used to only show the window once everything rendered. Firefox was a lot faster at rendering web pages from my experience before they changed this. I am sure theres other subtle changes out there.

I remember after Quantum pages would render HTML so fast and asynchronously the CSS hadnt loaded just yet. Then a split second would occur where the CSS would kick in and the page would be styled.

zamalek(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I've been on FF since quantum (Windows and Android), and I've been mighty impressed by the continual improvements.

Some websites just don't work on FF, so I have a chrome installation. Even a bare-bones (only 1Password and uBlock O) Chrome feels much slower than FF. Page loads in FF are near-imperceptible, but Chrome has blatantly obvious page-blanks during loading.

It really has come a long way, and I'm really looking forward to servo.

chank(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This kind of post comes up every few weeks here on HN. I also revisit FF every once in a while, last time being when all the news went about Chrome possibly breaking ad-blockers. Chromes UX is still better than FF, IMO.

idoubtit(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Not much content in this article. A single benchmark which shows nothing of real-life cases. Two minor technical features, one of them already in Chrome beta. Lastly, an appeal to fight Chrome's monopole. Surprisingly, not a word about privacy.

I do give Firefox a chance, but it gets tiring.

Many years ago, I dropped Firefox's ancestor for Opera 6. The UI and the features were miles ahead (e.g. Mozilla had no tabs). Yet I wanted to support free software so, once in a while, I tried to use Mozilla/Firefox again, but so many features where lacking, and the reactivity was really bad. When Opera dropped their engine and UI to become a new Chromium derivative, I switched to Firefox. I tried to get used to it, but for the past year my main desktop browser has been Vivaldi, a Chromium derivative.

I still use Firefox, but I'm getting more and more irritated against it. I had to search the web in order to change the tile of empty tabs (no buttons, no context menu, only drag-n-drop from bookmarks). Who designed such an unguessable interface?

I can't stand horizontal tabs in my brower. The Tree Style Tab extension was a strong point of pre-quantum FF, though its CPU usage was noticeable. Unfortunately, it's been a pain since I upgraded to Quantum, with many bugs and slowness.

Another example: my last FF ESR upgrade introduced a calamitous rewrite of the download interface. It's inconsistent, error-prone and ridden with several bugs. For weeks, I duplicated many downloads because the notification is absurdly small and quick. Now I've learned to click on the FF icon to check if the download started.

A last example: this morning, I selected 5 finished downloads and removed them. No reaction for 2 seconds, so I pressed the key again, just as the suppression begin, in slow motion. It took FF 3 seconds to remove 6 entries from the log.

With uBlock against tracking, DDG+Qwant for search, and a custom cookie handler (no third-party, white-list for those that persist after a tab closes), I don't think FF has anything to offer me on privacy. So the only reasons that keep me interested in Firefox are Free Software and Web diversity. I'm afraid these moral incentives don't weight much against many practical reasons.

latexr(4068) 2 days ago [-]

> Not much content in this article.

I could say that of every dev.to article I've ever encountered. I have no idea why that's the case — I could understand it if they were all by the same author, but they're not. Maybe I've been unlucky and unlikely amount of times.

> Lastly, an appeal to fight Chrome's monopole. Surprisingly, not a word about privacy.

I have the feeling the author is rehashing arguments they've read without fully understanding them. They're curious about Brave[1], which goes against the stated goal of decreasing Google's dominance (being based on Chromium).

[1]: https://dev.to/dtroode/comment/c89l

juststeve(3740) 2 days ago [-]

try FF nightly. I'm on debian as my daily driver, but nightly works well for me.

eitland(3914) 2 days ago [-]

All your points against Firefox are mine against every other browser: I have tried to but never managed to switch to Chrome or Opera because there are just so many weird limitations and so much weird behavior - for me.

> I still use Firefox, but I'm getting more and more irritated against it. I had to search the web in order to change the tile of empty tabs (no buttons, no context menu, only drag-n-drop from bookmarks). Who designed such an unguessable interface?

The people who design unguessable interfaces are usually called ux designers. Removing every trace of help , including but not limited to hiding the menu, removing tooltips on hover, keyboard shortcuts, getting started wizards etc etc is what they do it seems - all in the name of usability I guess.

I recently got myself an iPads and while I love it, googling even the simplest things is getting a habit.

Feel your frustration on this one, but I guess it is just 'modern' and you happened to move from one modern thing that worked your way to another modern thing that worked in someone elses way.

That said: I think Mozilla really messed up when they cut the old APIs before the new ones where ready.

Edit: in defense of modern ux designers and other designers - some things work so much better now that we don't need manuals for everything longer and many things do look better ;-)

dtroode(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Yes, this article is short, but it's just a few reasons that moved me from Chrome. And people need to try themselves

lkbm(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> I still use Firefox, but I'm getting more and more irritated against it. I had to search the web in order to change the tile of empty tabs (no buttons, no context menu, only drag-n-drop from bookmarks). Who designed such an unguessable interface?

Whenever I hear people complain about the settings being impossible to figure out, I always open them up and try.

So I opened settings, which has a search input at the top, and search 'new tab'.

It has an option to choose 'Firefox Home (Default)' or 'Blank page' for new tabs, in the section titled 'New Windows and Tabs'. (With windows, you can choose 'Custom URLs' as well).

But you don't want blank. Hmmm. So I open a new tab. Every section has a dropdown menu with a 'Remove Section' option (it also has 'Manage Settings' links that takes me to the preference page I was on initially.)

Drag-and-drop from bookmarks, though, is stumping me. For what it's worth, it's also stumping me in Chrome. I don't think I've ever tried Vivaldi.

For the most part, basic customization seems intuitive and straightforward. If there is a way to customize by dragging your bookmarks onto the page, though, it isn't intuitive and straightforward. Not sure if that should fall under edge-case customizations (which I expect to be hidden).

It is annoying when things I consider obviously the correct design are treated as obscure things few would want, but I recognize that some of them truly are.

EDIT: I will say, though, that it seems really strange that 'New window' has a custom URL option, but new tab doesn't. I guess they're concerned about people setting slow new tab URLs and then being frustrated.

nashashmi(3968) 2 days ago [-]

I switched to Firefox after the adblock debacle. My biggest problem is with cookie management on desktop. Chrome allows me to block certain cookies or keep them just for sessions. In Firefox cookie management is hard. If I want to list up all the cookies I can't do it.

xf86alsa(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Perhaps Cookie AutoDelete could help? https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/cookie-autode...

I use it to set which site I'd like to keep cookies for multiple sessions for, and which I'd like cookies to be forgotten for as soon as I've left. It doesn't have per-cookie granularity however, if that's what you're looking for.

vehemenz(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I've given Firefox multiple chances, but we've had no progress with the MacOS performance issues for years. Also, no pinch-to-zoom? 2007 called, and it wants its browser back.

BozeWolf(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Energy usage on MacOS is another problem, especially compared to safari.

I am using safari for a while now, but every now and then you just have to admit chrome does some things much better, like tab management and the dev tools are more user friendly. Which, i realize, is the case for firefox btw. Ff tab management and dev tools are quite nice.

vardump(4152) 2 days ago [-]

Lack of pinch-to-zoom has also ended all my attempts to move back to Firefox. Just too used to that.

It's equally useful both on Windows and macOS.

criddell(4094) 2 days ago [-]

My big Firefox problem is the lack of media key support. I like to hit play or pause on my keyboard and have my streaming music start or top. It's probably the one big thing that makes me run Chrome all the time.

bonsai80(4144) 2 days ago [-]

If you haven't already, please fill out the feedback form here: https://qsurvey.mozilla.com/s3/FirefoxInput/

jfroma(3529) 2 days ago [-]

I used it for 6 months and gave up few weeks ago for this reason.

xvf22(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Firefox will still often call for the dedicated GFX card (boosting battery usage) and then refuse to let it go even if you close the tab. I generally switch to Safari when I'm trying to maximize battery life.

orpheline(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I'm apparently one of those rare people who never switched off Firefox - it's been my default browser on Mac and Linux for years. Open source, good plugin ecosystem, and does everything I need (not a web developer, so the dev tools were never a strong selling point for me).

I've used Chrome here and there through the years, but the more invasive Google became about data collection, the less inclined I've been to use their tools. The latest moves to block ad blockers, coupled with nearly every other browser using their engine, had only reinforced my decision to stay with Firefox.

Diversity makes for a healthier ecosystem.

Ayesh(3788) 1 day ago [-]

I didn't switch to Chrome at all either, and I am a web developer too.

I liked the Firebug for web development, and the built-in dev tools that came later was good for me too. Sometimes even better than Chrome's.

In a comparison today, Firefox dev tools still are better with a nice profiler, font tab, CSS layout helper, etc. The only few things I use Chrome's dev tools are for their CSS/JS code coverage tools and accessiblity tester.

megaremote(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I use all 3, but prefer firefox for most of what I do.

chungy(3766) 1 day ago [-]

I never switched from Firefox either. I always felt the UI has been vastly superior (especially bookmarks) on this side of the browser ecosystem.

pirogen(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I've been using Firefox as my default and only web browser on Windows and Linux since it was called Firebird and Phoenix before that (or was it the other way around?). When Chrome first came out, Google's aggressive attempts at shoving it down my throat on what seemed like every single page of every single Google service, made the contrarian in me really, really not want to try it, and I never did. Never felt like I was missing anything, either.

clairity(4068) 1 day ago [-]

yup, i've been a user since v0.3, when it was called phoenix. chrome's been handy for dev/testing but not as a primary browser, as google's ambitions/intentions became evident with gmail's debut.

dontbenebby(3975) 2 days ago [-]

I'm the same way. I tried Chrome when it was new but at the time it didn't have a NoScript equivalent so I went back to FF.

bin0(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Proud firefox convert. I used chrome for quite a number of years, but their quantum update convinced me to move (though I've seen other posts mentioning it was seriously buggy at first, I didn't switch right away). As others have mentioned, containers are a bit of a killer app. Plus, firefox is going to keep ad-blocker support. It's not perfect, and chrome is probably more stable. I've gotten memory leaks, crashes (mostly on mobile), and one weird resize issue on i3. However, none of them are critical, and I'm willing to put up with them to avoid google's cancerous garbage.

Also, I never thought I'd say this, but good on Apple for maintaining webkit. It's a darn good engine, and I'm happy to have a third player. Plus, it's easier to wrap it with your own custom browser (see surf).

There's one piece of feedback; I wish people could do with firefox what they do with chrome. Maybe then the next cool browser could be based on firefox.

godelski(4119) 1 day ago [-]

I'm in that boat. I use FF but I do face weird bugs. I also realize I'm on Linux. Weird bugs: things that use Google fonts sometimes make the text white on a white search or form box. Anytime I get a Google survey this happens or like when using tends. But not in the Google search bar. Send tabs I love but for some reason I can't send to my Pixel 2. Though I can send from it. Another is that I work in graphics and if I hit my GPU hard then FF will crash. It also won't recovery after the program releases GPU allocation.

These are super minor problems though. I don't need to see what I'm typing so I don't need it and it happens only a few times a month. I would like to send stuff to my phone but more often I'm sending the other direction. Battery life? Who isn't almost always plugged into their charger.

wtmt(4142) 2 days ago [-]

Not a lot of details compared to what many others have said before. The developer tools enhancements in Firefox are interesting.

> Safari is on the second place just because of macOS popularity.

Shouldn't this be "iOS" instead of "masOS"?

tsjq(10000) 2 days ago [-]

yes. macOS, iOS, tabOS (or is it padOS now?) , etc everything.

grecht(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I recently tried Firefox on a Windows machine, and noticed that the font rendering was much, much worse than in Chrome or Opera, it looked almost bold and was hard to read. I guess it's got something to do with subpixel hinting. Has anybody else noticed that?

yoasif_(3996) 1 day ago [-]

Firefox uses your Windows font settings (Chrome does not). Have you tried playing with Cleartype tuner?

bgdnyxbjx(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Yes. Font weights are all messed up, and colors too. I've seen fonts that are barely readable on FF because the contrast ratio between the font color and background color is tiny, however it looks correct on all other browsers.

JansjoFromIkea(4118) 2 days ago [-]

Chrome on iPhone is so restricted by Apple's rules that I found switching from it to be extremely easy.

Working on moving to Firefox on desktop, it's my default browser and whathaveyou, but I must admit any time I get confused by something I instinctively flip back to chrome. With that level of a struggle, I can only imagine how hard it'd be to get more casual users to switch over.

Anyone able to tell me how much of a difference there is between Chrome and Firefox on Android? Is it a swap I could get friends to do without it being much of an adjustment?

Jonnax(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Currently there's a rewrite in development for Firefox Android:


The difference between the nightlies of this and the current Firefox Android is night and day.

Perhaps wait until it's out?

ZuLuuuuuu(10000) 2 days ago [-]

99% of 'you should switch to Firefox' articles focus on the speed of the browser. I used Firefox since it was beta till Edge came out when everyone around me was asking 'why are you not using Chrome?', and the thing is, I never had much problem with the speed or the crashes, so I never felt the need to switch to Chrome. Until WP died and I bought an Android phone. Then I switched to Chrome so that I get perfect synchronization of my passwords, contacts, locations etc.

I think the reason why majority of people are using Chrome and Safari is not because of speed, it is because of synchronization, because of integration of ecosystem. IMO, if Mozilla provided a suit of paid services with built-in privacy like mail, contacts, maps, they might have a better chance that people would also use Firefox as their browser. Nowadays, Microsoft follows that approach; they provide Android launcher, Edge browser, mail, and pretty much every other service you need. I am actually considering to give Microsoft ecosystem on Android a try, at least their main income is not selling your data. But it would be even better if Mozilla launched a similar suite of services.

hcal(4146) 2 days ago [-]

Firefox Lockwise and firefox sync are really good synchronizing tools. Between the two services, they do a good job of keeping my desktop, laptop, iPad and Android phone in sync. Since lockwise integrates with Android and ios' built in password manager systems it works everywhere including in apps. I don't feel like I am missing anything over the first party options.

I've been a Firefox desktop user for years, but I just switched to the Firefox mobile apps. On the iPad it's fine. It's basically safari with Firefox sync. On Android it feels like someone finally made a full powerful browser for mobile. You can run standard browser extensions and that is a big win for me.

TazeTSchnitzel(2079) 2 days ago [-]

> I think the reason why majority of people are using Chrome and Safari is not because of speed, it is because of synchronization,

I think most people use Chrome simply because they switched once and never looked back, especially when "lol other browsers use Chrome" is pretty much a meme.

Firefox Sync is great and I don't think it's lacking some key feature Google offers.

tstrimple(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> and Safari is not because of speed

The main reason I stick to Safari on my Macbook is that I still get significantly better battery life from it than either Chrome or Firefox. Chrome has also switched to a UX breaking requirement to hold cmd+q to quit instead of just tapping it. I'm sure I could configure it back to what literally every single other app on my Mac uses, but it's incredibly annoying that they think they are special enough to deviate from the OS design.

iamleppert(4152) 2 days ago [-]

The firefox devtools are painfully slow and clunky in the latest release. Until those are fixed I won't be switching.

hrktb(4149) 2 days ago [-]

I always wondered how many devs don't use multiple browsers, even just to split work and personal accounts.

I guess it's a pain for people who hate switching context, or don't have a hard line between the two.

Chrome dev tools are definitely great, I keep Chrome basically for that for sites I dev. Everything else is in firefox, and anythting private in Safari for synching.

The only issue is battery life, but as long as there's Chrome there's no way out anyway.

latexr(4068) 2 days ago [-]

I'm tired of seeing "change to Firefox" arguments that never address its faults. Particularly on macOS, Firefox is unusable for many users — read this thread and any others on HN where Firefox is the topic, and you'll find the same complaints:

* Lack of AppleScript support (my main complaint, every other was lifted from other comments).

* Lack of other basic features such as pinch-to-zoom.

* Poor Keychain support.

* Slow.

* Resource-hungry.

And this article comes out just after reports of a 0-day exploit of Firefox on macOS[1].

If you want people to give Firefox a chance, make it good. For many of us it isn't, and shouting over and over that it's good doesn't make it so. Fine if it works for you, but it doesn't for many.

[1]: https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2019/06/poten...

hrktb(4149) 2 days ago [-]

I think the rethoric is targeting Chrome users. Users fully satisfied with Safari won't find that much to bite by going to firefox.

bgdnyxbjx(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It's also really rough for me on Windows too. I try it every months a new release comes out and I don't last a day.

Sites render badly (names colors and fonts look wrong on Firefox but look the same on Edge Chrome and Safari (macOS))

It hangs multiple times a day

Some heavy JS sites are much slower in FF than Chromium

It takes dev tools minutes to become responsive on the site I work on, while in Chromium they load up very quickly.

gavinpc(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> make it good

Are you arguing that Firefox is not even 'good,' or just not perfect?

(I use Firefox on a Mac all day and the only kind of 'resource hunger' I've observed can be pinned to the web pages that it's running.)

kevingadd(3717) 2 days ago [-]

Keep using Chrome on your mac, then (though be aware that there are 0-day exploits found for Chrome on a somewhat regular basis too), or even better: Use Safari. At least it's not Chrome. Fight the monoculture.

The vast majority of computer users are still not using MacOS and those people can also do some good by using Firefox even if you can't.

When it comes to 'slow' and 'resource hungry' the Firefox devteam is very responsive to bugs. I've had approaching a dozen performance issues I personally reported get fixed.

TazeTSchnitzel(2079) 2 days ago [-]

> And this article comes out just after reports of a 0-day exploit of Firefox on macOS

Chrome also has regular zero-days.

dtroode(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Sorry. Don't know about these issues on macOS. I wrote this note based on my case (using Ubuntu and Windows)

eb0la(3655) 1 day ago [-]

I can't trust chrome. For me Firefox is not a choice but a necessity.

I have to login into too many systems with different credentials and I need NOT to be remembered by the browser even if I happen to forget to put it into private mode.

The only time I had to use chrome recently was because I had to login into google cloud and my company just don't support Firefox as a browser option and cannot install firefox.

mkl(4065) 1 day ago [-]

You can turn off remembering of credentials in Chrome - I always have. It's called 'Offer to save passwords' in settings.

baggy_trough(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Firefox needs native support for Chrome's persona/people menu. A game changer for home/business users.

Also, the Firefox UI for the main window / tabs looks terrible on macOS compared to Chrome or Safari. Really non-native and ugly.

hiroshi3110(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Agreed. Only reason why I'm using Chrome is the People menu.

dallen33(10000) 2 days ago [-]

If you're on a Mac, just use Safari. Feels better than any other browser on the Mac.

iamdamian(10000) 2 days ago [-]

How does Safari's third-party cookie blocking compare with Firefox containers from a privacy standpoint?

Scarbutt(3685) 2 days ago [-]

No decent adblockers.

weystrom(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It doesn't perform well on my Mac. No hw accelerated video (and still kinda slow) when I run Linux.

I've tried multiple times, and as much as I like what Mozilla is doing for privacy on the web, I keep coming back to Chromium.

floatboth(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It's not like upstream Chromium has accelerated video on Linux..

blunderkid(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I am a web dev and react debug console matters a lot to me but on FF it does this weird scroll to the top thing every time I switch file tabs. And it's in general buggy. Now it may have to do with the plugin dev but if you want to be a viable platform, dudes need to be writing good software on top. I love the promise of FF and would want to make it my dev browser but using Chrome out of sheer necessity.

mch82(3844) 2 days ago [-]

Could be worth documenting this issue in Bugzilla so the Firefox project team can work in improving react debug support.


ancientgallery(10000) 2 days ago [-]

The adblock-related thing pushed me to Firefox, and I've been using it for about a month.

The only problems I have are regarding PDF files:

1) Dark mode (via dark reader) won't work on PDFs.

2) The Print-to-file (Ctrl + P) save location defaults to '~/mozilla.pdf' and there seems to be no option in preferences to change this default (titles often are multi-word long and copy pasting is a huge pain. Chrome just picks up the title of the webpage and the default downloads directory as the location, which IMO is the sensible thing to do.)

In my experience, Chrome is really better at handling PDFs (even better than the native reader, Okular, in terms of fine-grained zooming, dark theming(again via the Dark Reader extension.)) and I'm mulling over switching back, because I use pdfs a lot. (As for other stuff though, like lagginess, I don't find any noticeable difference.)

nashashmi(3968) 2 days ago [-]

I did the same. Pdfs are probably the easiest thing to switch. If you download a pdf reader, you can switch PDF renderer easily. Firefox supports browser plug in viewers where Chrome does not.

And Firefox was the first browser to use js to render PDF. A complete miracle really.

dgellow(638) 2 days ago [-]

Interestingly enough, Windows 10 replaced the pdf reader by Edge (which is based on Chrome's engine), and the experience is really neat.

dtroode(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Yes. Have the problems with the PDF too

needle0(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Vertical. Tabs. For my usecase, nuff said. Chrome developers WONTFIXed requests for this a long time ago, so keep using Firefox I will (that and doing my part to preserve web engine diversity).

Additionally, I've begun trying out Brave/Vivaldi/Opera to see if I can uninstall Chrome from my system entirely; They all run Blink, so I assume I can open the occasional compatibility-issue pages on those.

stonewhite(3693) 2 days ago [-]

I have gone Vivaldi and after a month, I don't see myself reverting to either FF or Chrome. Needs some tweaking in the settings, yet it is fast and neat the in the end.

I don't see myself going back with my current experience.

ramraj07(4054) 2 days ago [-]

What plugin allows this feature in Firefox now?

mgkimsal(3959) 2 days ago [-]

I do give it a chance, regularly, but it's never enough to be 'default'.

Pins. Loved the idea. Unfortunately, they often go missing. Loading the browser, about 15% of the time, I get the 'oh this is embarrassing' screen, with 'restore your session'. If I don't restore right then, all pins are gone. For good. Forever. I've lost way too much time recreating those over the last couple of years.

Have never had this happen ever in Chrome. I can't say it never happens in Chrome ever - maybe for someone it has - but not for me. However, I don't even know how to report this. 'My pins get lost'. If they're just special tabs, and tabs are known to get lost, is this even a 'bug'? Or just... 'I'm doing it wrong' (as in, expecting pins to be more useful than they are?)

TazeTSchnitzel(2079) 2 days ago [-]

The "restore your session" shouldn't be regularly appearing when you start the browser and indicates it's crashing on shutdown or otherwise failing to save state. That is a bug.

WaltPurvis(4120) 2 days ago [-]

In Chrome, a pinned tab will close when you hit Cmd-W, which is never what I want to happen. E.g., I have Gmail pinned, I open several more tabs, then at some point type Cmd-W several times to close those tabs, but if I type one extra Cmd-W my Gmail tab goes away (and the window closes). Again, I never want pinned tabs to be closed that way. The whole idea of pinning something is to make sure it stays in place. That's what pinning means.

It's really irritating (as you can probably tell).

archey1(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Firefox is absolute garbage on any OS that isn't Windows. I think that's probably the biggest thing for the power user crowd...but as a someone that finds dual booting too inconvenient, so I virtualize instead, and will never touch an Apple product..works great for me and most family members and friends I set up with it are pretty satisfied.

The new built-in tracking protection is pretty great, and the only extension most people really need is uBlock Origin.

JaggedJax(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I recently switched to Firefox as my default on both Linux and Android. Things work great and I have not noticed issues. On Linux it's working perfectly. On Android it's also very nice, but I subjectively feel it may be slightly slower than Chrome.

floatboth(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Firefox is excellent on FreeBSD :P

Improvotter(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I've switched to Firefox over the last few weeks. It definitely feels faster on my desktop PC which runs Linux, also no problem in Windows when dual-booted.

Though there are two big issues imo:

- When running Firefox on my late 2013 Macbook Pro, it doesn't feel as fast as Chrome or Safari, it feels very sluggish. I am forced to use h264ify to force YouTube to use h264 instead of VP8/9 as it makes my Macbook Pro turn into a steam engine. Besides the fact that this is Google's fault and its 'monopoly?', it all around just feels slower elsewhere as well and it takes more power compared to even Chrome it seems to me.

- Lastly it does not sync all of my settings that I want. Why does it not do that? I run Firefox on Linux, MacOS, and Windows and I have to change my settings everywhere every time I make a change and it's a pita. Google Chrome just syncs all of my settings across all of my devices except for extension settings (which is a bummer).

stevenjohns(4087) 1 day ago [-]

I just moved to a new OS and was somewhat surprised my Firefox configuration didn't come along with my extensions.

Out of all the data they can collect about me, what I'd be least worried about is how wide I'd like the width of the address bar to be.

ctvo(10000) 2 days ago [-]

These constant pleas to get me to use Firefox for some other motivation than features and performance won't work. I'll switch back in a day.

- Battery life on both iOS and macOS is poor compared to alternative (Safari)

- Dev tooling is poor compared to alternative (Chromium)

floatboth(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> Dev tooling is poor compared to alternative

Really? Other than the websocket thing everyone keeps bringing up, I find Firefox devtools ahead of everything else. Especially for CSS layout.

illumin8(3928) 2 days ago [-]

Firefox has way better privacy controls than Chrome, however, their track record on security is abysmal. In fact, a 0-day was just found last week targeting Coinbase employees.

I wish I could switch to Firefox for privacy reasons, but good security is table stakes and Firefox just doesn't have nearly the security credentials that Chrome does at the moment.

This definitely could change in the future, and I hope it does, but for now, I'm stuck in privacy hell because I can't compromise on security.

spappal(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> Firefox just doesn't have nearly the security credentials that Chrome does at the moment

I think this claim deserves a justification. Not saying you're wrong but I'm interested in how to compare browser security.

(Counteranecdote: the HN-popular article [0] which explained the Firefox zero-day, mentioned in it's last paragraph a Chrome zero-day from March 2019.)

[0] https://www.zdnet.com/article/mozilla-patches-firefox-zero-d...

K0nserv(3554) 2 days ago [-]

> Firefox has way better privacy controls than Chrome, however, their track record on security is abysmal. In fact, a 0-day was just found last week targeting Coinbase employees.

All complex codebases, especially web browsers, will suffer from 0-days and other critical bugs. You cannot use the occurrence of 0-days as a measure of security maturity. what matters is how such occurrences are handled, incidentally Mozilla handled the last 0-day well.

In between Google crippling Chrome users ability to control the code that runs on their machines and Mozilla's investment in security innovation at the lowest levels(Rust) I am pretty happy as a Firefox user.

yoasif_(3996) 1 day ago [-]

>In fact, a 0-day was just found last week targeting Coinbase employees.

And this happened to Chrome last month: https://www.zdnet.com/article/google-reveals-chrome-zero-day...

iamdamian(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I want to move on from Chrome, and Firefox's Containers have made Firefox an easy decision for me. But I am a huge fan of Chrome's aesthetic and don't want to give that up for the sake of privacy.

I am not one to do extensive tweaking to my machine, but this is important to me, so I spent an hour experimenting. And I have to say, I am pretty satisfied. Even though it isn't straightforward, Firefox actually can look nice and uncluttered.

If you're like me and want both privacy and aesthetics, here are some pointers:

  - Switch to the light theme.
  - Hide everything you can in the address/nav bar by clicking through the UI. Some settings are obscure, but you can get rid of a lot.
  - Hide even more using userChrome.css [0], including the outdated blue bar at the top of an active tab.
My userChrome.css looks like this and works like a charm: https://gist.github.com/iamdamian/9efc271208bfb5ca52dc51572b...

Now we just need Mozilla to come up with a more modern-looking logo.

[0]: https://www.userchrome.org/

Chirael(3435) 2 days ago [-]

I don't know that web pages would have have access to user chrome settings but I still have to ask, do any of those changes make browser fingerprinting easier?

dtroode(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Wow. Interesting thing. Going to try this CSS customization

TheArcane(4077) 2 days ago [-]

Your css also hides the container colour bars. I need the container colour bars!

mevile(4146) 2 days ago [-]

I tried your changes. Your userChrome.css breaks containers though, as it hides the container color from the tabs. Your changes also breaks all the privacy controls you can get from Firefox on a per site basis. I think if someone tried your css and chose very strict privacy options they're not going to have any way to see that privacy control options may have broken a page. Those things in the address bar are vital.

I highly recommend people to not use this css unless they feel comfortable editing it to unbreak things and don't want any of the per site options. This UI change reduces the usability of Firefox to the point I would consider it broken.

If you don't like the container colors in the tabs, you can edit them to be colors you prefer.

kabwj(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Doesn't want to use Firefox because the logo is old. Go figure.

sorenjan(4151) 2 days ago [-]

> Now we just need Mozilla to come up with a more modern-looking logo.

You're in luck: https://blog.mozilla.org/press-uk/2019/06/11/firefox-the-evo...

arthurfm(3672) 2 days ago [-]

> Now we just need Mozilla to come up with a more modern-looking logo

Like the one Mozilla announced last week? :)


They have been working on it for almost a year.


allenleein(394) 2 days ago [-]

You need to give Brave a chance. I switched to Brave from Chrome and Firefox months ago. No regret.


CondensedBrain(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I'm going to pass on the browser part owned by the chairman and cofounder of Palantir. I don't trust it for that and other reasons. I don't have the skills or interest to audit and compile every release myself. I don't do it with the browser I do use, but the threat model is different for its maintainers.

rb666(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Splitting up the market more won't do us any good, better support Firefox (even if you somehow prefer Brave) so there can be true competition, if there's just Chrome and 10 tiny others, there will only be Chrome.

bredren(4113) 2 days ago [-]

I've tried twice to switch back to Firefox since this chrome add-on code change issue, including setting it my default browser. I had it beach ball on me a few times and crash twice in just 8 days.

Chrome almost never beach balls, and very very rarely crashes. I painfully gave up on firefox again for now. Its gotta be stable and fast and it just wasn't for me.

lscotte(3988) 2 days ago [-]

Beach ball? What does that mean?

mevile(4146) 2 days ago [-]

Curious, I haven't had this experience. Firefox has been very stable and fast for me. I'm on an older Macbook Pro (mid 2015).

swixm(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I switched to Vivaldi a few months ago. It's not as polished as Chrome or Firefox but it was made by the people who made Opera, and it shows.

Just having tabs laid out vertically makes it worth it.

onetom(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I don't think that's an excuse. As mentioned in other posts, there is an Add-on for vertical tabs: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/tree-style-ta...

It can't hide the horizontal tabs though because of the strict rules imposed on FF extensions, so you have to hack around it yourself as described here: https://github.com/piroor/treestyletab/wiki/Code-snippets-fo...

signal11(10000) 2 days ago [-]

If anyone from the Firefox team is reading this: containers are a great idea (I love them), it's just that currently they're too much work. Even on AMO, there's now a bunch of site-specific container addons (Facebook container, Twitter container, Google container, etc) which clearly isn't scalable.

A little bit of UX work is clearly needed to make them more mainstream and a first-class feature in Firefox.

nextos(3484) 2 days ago [-]

I agree they need a bit more polish. But to be fair, they are also more powerful than in Chrome. You can e.g. request that every subdomain opens in a new temporary container. That's really good isolation.

edraferi(4149) 2 days ago [-]

Have you tried the Temporary Containers[0] add-on? It has an "Automatic Mode" that makes links open into fresh containers by default. Then you can create rules to dial that back as needed for usability.

I use this in concert with the Multi-Account Containers[1] Add-on. I create names containers for things where I need persistence ("work" "personal" "LinkedIn") and then everything else is isolated by default.

The main challenges are:

1) I have complex rules defining a whitelist on Temporary Containers. I have to sync this manually with setting import/export because Firefox Sync doesn't handle this for you

2) Multi-Account Containers doesn't expose its settings AT ALL, so I'm constantly hitting unnecessary "always open site.com in Personal container?" modals.

[0] https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/temporary-con...

[1] https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/multi-account...

agumonkey(961) 2 days ago [-]

Also there are semi-bugs. Sometimes opening urls linked to containers put the tabs in weird places, and sometimes.. I think I lost the tabs, if that makes sense.

dontbenebby(3975) 2 days ago [-]

>If anyone from the Firefox team is reading this: containers are a great idea (I love them), it's just that currently they're too much work.

Also it's hard to export them... it's my understanding they don't travel with sync, you have to manually set them up on each machine.

I have a pretty complex setup, so that frustrates me.

UglyToad(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I've long regarded the calls to switch to Firefox as tinfoil-hatted crankery but Chrome's behaviour with respect to ad-blocking caused me to finally make the switch. At the time I didn't use ad-blocking at all and didn't have any plans on it but I think this represented unacceptable overreach by Google so I switched to Firefox (and DDG for search).

I still miss bits of Chrome, the Chrome UX is still better, especially suggestions for sites you've already visited in the omni-bar and FF's 'Top Sites' logic seems a bit screwy, it includes pages I've visited once and leaves out pages I use every couple of hours but I think it's incumbent upon people to send a message to Google that their behaviour as a virtual monopoly is unacceptable by switching to a non-Chrome browser.

(I also started using an ad-blocker once I switched to Firefox, wow the web is a lot better without adverts!)

tssva(10000) 2 days ago [-]

What Chrome behaviour regarding ad-blocking caused you to make the switch? Installing an ad-blocker with Chrome is just as easy as installing one with FF.

petepete(2569) 2 days ago [-]

I switched back to Firefox from Chrome earlier this year, and the experience has been very positive.

It performs well, feels snappy, the dev tools are on par with Chrome's and everything feels right.

The only negatives are that container tabs are still taking a bit of getting used to (why can't I have a 'Work' window in which all the new tabs are 'Work' tabs by default?) and the initial migration of passwords was a bit of a pain.

However, I'm glad to be back.

ArmandGrillet(2470) 2 days ago [-]

> why can't I have a 'Work' window in which all the new tabs are 'Work' tabs by default?

Same. I've tried Firefox last month and it is the only no-go I've no. With Firefox profiles being a thing, I wonder if a front-end to manage them like in Chrome is in development.

bad_user(3116) 2 days ago [-]

For passwords the browser's built in management is inferior to password managers.

I use 1Password (most polished) and there's also Bitwarden (hosted, but open source) and others. And I use my password manager every day, so if there's a cost associated, it's worth it.

jarvl(4080) 2 days ago [-]

> the initial migration of passwords was a bit of a pain

I had a similar issue on MacOS. After doing some research I found that exporting passwords from Chrome was literally impossible. It definitely worsened the experience of switching. Luckily I have most of my passwords in LastPass, and if I need a password that is only stored in Chrome, I'll add it to LastPass from Chrome on the fly.

pnelson(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I launch my browser with profiles instead of using containers. I have three at the moment:

firefox --no-remote --profile '$XDG_CACHE_HOME/firefox/home' --class='browser-home'

firefox --no-remote --profile '$XDG_CACHE_HOME/firefox/work' --class='browser-work'

firefox --no-remote --profile '$(mktemp -d)'

igetspam(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I use FF as my daily driver. I am forcing myself to do it because I value privacy. Unfortunately FF doesn't make it easy. Chrome may be a memory hog but FF gets OOM killed multiple times a day and every night. I'm not a light user but I'm also not a tab junky. The big consumers are the 3-5 gmail tabs and the 3+ slack tabs. Other than that, it's normal browsing. Chrome ate all my memory but FF just dies.

krzyk(3734) 2 days ago [-]

Are you using any addons that might cause that mem usage?

I am a tab junky (regularly > 200+ tabs, sometimes 1000+) and Firefox never died, and it is used on a laptop that has also IntelliJ + java apps which use quite a big chunk of memory.

You might consider reducing number of processes used by Firefox, I set it to 3 even when I have 4 cores available, it helps reduce memory usage.

Linux with 16GB of RAM.

yoasif_(3996) 1 day ago [-]

If Firefox is using an unexpected amount of RAM, report a bug by following the steps below:

1. Open about:memory?verbose in a new tab.

2. Click Measure and save...

3. Attach the memory report to a new bug: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/enter_bug.cgi?product=Core&comp...

4. Paste your about:support info (Click 'Copy text to clipboard') to your bug.

> If you are experiencing a bug, the best way to ensure that something can be done about your bug is to report it in Bugzilla. This might seem a little bit intimidating for somebody who is new to bug reporting, but Mozillians are really nice! http://dblohm7.ca/blog/2014/08/14/diffusion-of-responsibilit...

kevingadd(3717) 2 days ago [-]

Gmail and slack tabs are real monsters, yeah. My one slack tab for work will easily eat up a gig of ram over the course of a day (or less), and gmail tabs work up an appetite too. Twitter is also bad and I've occasionally seen a twitter tab eat up a gigabyte. I still run Slack in a Firefox tab though, since the native Slack.exe client has a habit of allocating 40GB of heap and paging out all my other applications.

It periodically gets worse when site authors make changes, and in practice a lot of these are site bugs. I file reports on Bugzilla when I see FF leaking memory on these sites and it usually doesn't turn out to be an FF bug. Maybe worth making reports on bugzilla though, the team is very responsive and they might be able to figure out a workaround for its memory usage in your scenario.

fiblye(3618) 2 days ago [-]

Oh man, I've having the opposite problem. I recently switched and no crashes yet (Chrome would freeze and die fairly frequently), but good god is FF a memory hog. I've got 5 tabs open, only text (some short programming docs and HN), and it's eating 3.5GB.

Chrome would reach about 150 MB a tab, in my experience.

I have plenty of memory to spare, but still.

syockit(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Is the OOM problem still there even after Quantum release? This was the main turn off factor for me with FF long ago, and when the OOM fails to even trigger, the famous swap thrashing occurs.

I tried again with Quantum, but then there were still stability problems causing the whole browser to lock up (just like Edge. But same problem existed in FF since long ago too), so I've never tried it anymore since then. Twice bitten, thrice shy.

jmull(10000) 2 days ago [-]

If you're on MacOS, also consider Safari.

ur--whale(10000) 2 days ago [-]

The reason I walked away from Chrome a couple of years ago is because of the amount of information it sends to Google.

I'm curious to know where Safari stands in that regard: how much and how often does it 'call home'?

Oh, and also : how much of it is Open Source? In my experience, Apple is particularly good at OpenSourcing lots of pieces while keeping the juicy bits proprietary. Can Safari be 100% rebuilt from source?

ElKoji(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I left Chrome for personal usage a long time ago, however I am forced to use it at work. I use Safari all around for my personal usage, I find Safari with content blockers and DuckDuckGo as search engine to be a very good alternative.

bad_user(3116) 2 days ago [-]

Safari is a good browser due to it being the most battery efficient on MacOS.

However its content blockers are inferior to what's available on Firefox. It's also not portable, so if you use various devices (Android, iOS, Windows, Linux, MacOS) it's pretty cool having your history synchronized.

Firefox is really good for privacy. For example you can sandbox Facebook with Firefox's containers extension such that they can't follow you around the web.

Firefox is probably the best for power users. I usually use it with more than 100 tabs opened. Its tree-style tab extension and the Awesome Bar makes it painless.

Firefox is also good as a development browser. It lags behind Chrome in some areas but is ahead in others.

At work I only use Chrome for testing our web interface, but I use Firefox most of the time, even on my iPhone (nice UI plus the sync).

CryptoBanker(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I switched back to Chrome from Firefox. FF was slow, bloated, used all my RAM,no add on support (even for those add-ons who had an an FF product)

Mobile sites, especially HN just don't work properly on HF. The simple act of collapsing posts often seems to overwhelm the browser on my Pixel.

Not to mention there's this bug where videos create notifications on FF Android, and these notifications keep your phone alive from the background, burning through an entire battery in 30 minutes.

OH, there's also the issue where mobile videos don't play in window, instead opening a new window to play... Highly annoying

Oh, and that thing where FF videos often don't show a bar for your time if the video is playing vertically

And maybe this is just my brain, but FF doesn't seem to detect the back button too well, necessitating many double clicks

Oh and the fact that it can't open Google maps links straight from the browser, yuu have to right click

So yeah, I've tried it and it's just not as good, not even close TBH

have_faith(4099) 2 days ago [-]

I use Firefox at home and Chrome at work daily and I barely notice a difference apart from UI. It's rare I have to complain about something with either. I also use Firefox on my phone (iOS) and it works ok but I don't recommend it as quickly.

I can't remember the last time any modern browser felt 'slow'. I don't even know what that means any more with regards to browsers, on a fast internet speed they all seem pretty fast.

dtroode(10000) 2 days ago [-]

On mobile, I am using Safari and article just about desktop version. I should have mentioned this >_<

yoasif_(3996) 1 day ago [-]

Have you tried Firefox Preview? It may work better for you. You can download builds from https://github.com/mozilla-mobile/fenix/releases

snazz(3520) 2 days ago [-]

I can see most of your points as anecdotal (of course someone will come around with a contrasting anecdote, but neither means anything), except for

> no add on support (even for those add-ons who had an an FF product)

Assuming we're talking about Android here, what do you mean by this? Mobile Chrome has no extensions, whereas Firefox supports the full suite of desktop addons. I can use uMatrix and even developer extensions on my phone with Firefox.

Also, I think the point of the "videos creating notifications" thing is so that you can continue listening to the audio after turning off your phone, like on iOS and iPadOS. Apple got the battery thing better in general. Maybe Firefox should stop playing videos in the background after a certain period without user intervention?

Some of the other things can be chalked up to bugs (it would be nice of you to submit something to their Bugzilla!), while some I have never seen myself (especially the videos thing... for me they've always played in window, with the bottom UI, correctly; it could be a problem with your favorite video site?)

CryptoBanker(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Cannot cancel downloads either

p2detar(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I tried using FF for a while on my MBP. I could hear the fans turning on after I open a 4th tab. What's up with that? I don't want to use Chrome, but FF seems so slow.

onetom(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I switched about a year ago and I was also pleasantly surprised, UNITL I've realized that it's eating up several GIGABYTES!!! of memory, even when I just have a handful of tabs open. What's worst, it doesn't releases all the memory when I just close the tabs! When I restart FF and cycle thru the tabs to make sure they are loaded, it uses a lot less but still in the GB range.

I compared the same set of tabs in Chrome and it consumes about half or 2/3rd of the memory. (Tested under macOS only) While I work on machines with 16GB & 32GB, I find it unreasonable to waste so much memory usage on the browser windows. I'm looking into alternatives. I think most pages would be better viewed by just extracting the text content and the links, like Reader View mode...

I've checked out pretty much all active projects on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_lightweight_web_... and https://qutebrowser.org/ seems to be the most usable one which consumes even less memory than Chrome, while still supporting JavaScript and video playback. Or maybe I shall switch back to Opera/Brave/Chromium? I've tried so many...

I'm already used to keep closing tabs manually which I don't need, like web.whatsapp or gmail and the like. I even came across the Tab Wrangler extension, which automatically cleans my tabs up. I can highly recommend it to conserve memory!

So other than the memory usage issue, I'm satisfied with the current FF. It's web developer console is almost as good as Chrome's. It supports Ctrl-Tab jumping to the MRU (Most Recently Used) tab. Has built-in reader view. The Multi-touch Zoom add-on even brings 'zooming by 2 finger pinching' capability to FF, which is almost as good as the auto-zoom by 2 finger tap.

phaer(3088) 2 days ago [-]

Do you have actual memory usage issues? Is a lack of memory causing problems for other applications?

I am asking because RAM is meant to be used, high allocations to Firefox on a (mostly) idle system isn't too interesting as a metric on its own and should automatically decrease if others need it.

mrkeen(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Every time the Firefox v Chrome debate comes up I feel a little crazy when speed gets discussed.

They're the same speed, right?

Web pages on the other hand... 2 seconds to bring in the bulk of the content. Another second spent firing ajax requests to all the trackers. 2 seconds for me to click through all the Cookie notifications, GDPR violations, and bald-faced lies that the site values my privacy. What's a ballpark figure for the actual render bit? 10-50 ms?

What sites are you guys using which are fast enough to notice slowdown in the browser?

weystrom(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Just opening a new tab, when you have a lot of tabs open, is slow on Firefox.

Chrome is also much better for web video. Sites like Youtube and twitch.tv perform better on Chrome. I don't have any benchmarks on hand, but that's how I feel after switch between two browsers for a while. I think I'm sticking to Chromium.

lovetocode(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I left Firefox because of its memory consumption on MacOS. Have they fixed it?

timothevs(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Memory, and CPU on a retina MBP in my case. The bug is still open, with no signs of being fixed anytime soon. I really do want to switch back, but this is a deal breaker.

bradleyjg(4075) 2 days ago [-]

I switched several months ago from Chrome to Firefox (don't remember exactly when, think it was when the articles about logging into gmail would turn on sync came out).

Unlike many here I'm not a browser power user--few to no plugins, no sync, and no customization. I'm not a web developer, so I rarely use the dev tools.

It's fine. The only annoying thing is that there are a few webpages here and there that just don't work. Reminds me of when IE was dominant and sometimes you had to use it to got to a bank's website.

derefr(3616) 2 days ago [-]

I wonder if Firefox (or a living fork thereof) could be built with a "Chromium compatibility mode" where it boots up a Chromium-based renderer for a known blacklist of pages. Sort of like Edge with its IE compatibility mode.

There's no technical problem with the idea; but I would worry that smoothing over the problems some pages have when rendered with anything other than the Chromium renderer, would just cement Chrome's hegemony, since nobody would have any incentive to fix Chromium-renderer-only pages any more.

Perhaps it would still make sense specifically for enterprise use-cases: if the whitelisting (blacklisting?) of sites to trigger the compatibility mode on was only ever manual, or due to GPOs/MDM profiles, but never by predefined compatibility lists or extensions or auto-detected, then it would only get used in practice by enterprises who needed it for their legacy Intranet sites. Corporate Intranets are certainly where most IE-only websites reside these days—but is the same true of Chromium-renderer-only websites?

stockkid(1952) 1 day ago [-]

It is indeed sad to see the market share of Firefox declining. At the same time, I understand why; even though I use Firefox, I constantly notice that there are many useful areas in which Chrome works far better than Firefox. Those areas include profiling, debugging service worker, etc. Although I want to support Firefox by switching to it 100%, it is simply impossible when I want to get jobs done.

st3fan(2214) 1 day ago [-]

Regular users don't use any of those features. Chrome is eating everyone's market share because they are literally spending billions of dollars on it.

nottorp(3914) 2 days ago [-]

Interesting that the adblock thing is finally nudging people away from Chrome. I've found it disrespectful of its users long ago.

The last straw for me was when it started to prevent my computer from sleeping because some unspecified page had active WebRTC connections. There is no option to disable WebRTC in Chrome.

I don't understand: why do they dare prevent my system from sleeping just because some page is doing some p2p stuff in the background? Why would a page even be allowed to do p2p stuff in the background?

Anyway, these days i use Safari (with its nice battery related optimizations) as my main browser with Firefox as a backup. Not missing Chrome in the least.

Edit: I just noticed i had a Chrome instance (with no pages) open and pressed cmd+Q to close it... and it told me 'hold cmd q to quit. What the hell Google? Why do you think you're so special?

hombre_fatal(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Safari is so good performance-wise on OSX that Firefox/Chrome feel like a mess. One way to perceive this is if you use something like iStat Menus to show your CPU usage in the global status bar. Safari barely affects the meter yet Firefox/Chrome put up some impressive numbers just idling.

techntoke(4154) 2 days ago [-]

There is no adblock thing. Chrome isn't disabling adblockers. They are changing the API to speed it up and extension developers are whining because they have to make some changes which will give users better performance.

Historical Discussions: I just had over a thousand Euros stolen and Revolut is siding with the thief (June 24, 2019: 665 points)

(674) I just had over a thousand Euros stolen and Revolut is siding with the thief

674 points 1 day ago by jstanley in 1230th position

www.stavros.io | Estimated reading time – 9 minutes | comments | anchor

Using Revolut? You should stop if you like having money.

UPDATE: Revolut has refunded me, I will update the post with more details soon.

MORE UPDATE: I had filed an official complaint with them, expecting it not to go anywhere, and I just received a reply to that. I don't know if this post had anything to do with it, I'd like to believe that it didn't and they were going to rule in my favor anyway, but who knows. They told me that ruling against me was a mistake and that they are taking measures both to not repeat the mistake and to improve the UI with my suggestions. They also offered me one year of premium as a gesture of good will.

Unfortunately, I don't think I will keep using them, because it has been an extremely stressful four days. The timing was doubly unfortunate because it fell on my birthday, and stressing over theft is not how I wanted to spend the day. I would like to hope that they will improve and that my experience doesn't befall anyone else, because they're very convenient otherwise.

Thank you all for your support and comments, I have certainly learnt a lot during this process.


So I'm extremely careful about my financial security, yet I just had over a thousand Euros stolen and Revolut is siding with the thief.

In case you don't know, Revolut is one of a new generation of banks that are app-only: You open an account with them by downloading the app to your phone and ordering a card from that, they have no physical branches. I've been using them since 2016, and I referred many of my friends to use them as well.

I also use them as my main debit card, because I (mistakenly) thought that the immediate notifications and safety limits would keep me safer in case of fraudulent transactions. Instead, they made me less safe. Here's how:

I use a virtual card on Revolut so I can revoke it if there's fraud. I also set limits on all my cards, which sometimes causes recurring bill payments to fail because they bump up against the limit. I am extremely careful not to share my cards or let people see them, especially the virtual ones.

Six days ago, on the 18th, I saw a familiar (and super helpful) notification from the Revolut app:

Thank you, Revolut, for telling me exactly the merchant and charge.

"You have reached your monthly spending limit", with no information at all as to transaction, merchant or amount. It didn't even mention which card this transaction was on, just no trace.

Thinking it was a recurring bill payment that's getting declined, I started looking into my cards, disabling and re-enabling limits. I half-thought this was a Revolut bug, because I couldn't see a declined transaction in the transactions list anyway. In retrospect, I think their UI hadn't updated, so the declined transaction wasn't there, baffling me, and fraud didn't even enter my mind since I'm extremely careful with my cards.

To clarify, removing the limit is a thing I routinely do, because I intentionally set the limit low to avoid large charges. In retrospect, all that did was train me to remove the limit without thinking, so it was a bad decision, but I don't think that should mean that the theft is my fault.

While doing this, I see the charge come through, a charge for 945.81 GBP on a travel site. I initially thought I had booked a trip on some site from work and they were using my details, or something similar, since I thought it was almost impossible for anyone to have stolen my card details.

Reporting fraud immediately to no avail

I look at the transaction, verify that I've never been to the site making it, click the "I don't recognize this transaction" at the bottom and begin talking to Revolut. Meanwhile, I completely cancel the virtual card this transaction was made on and call the merchant for a refund. The merchant tells me that they can't do anything about the charge due to "data protection laws" and that I should contact my bank for a chargeback.

Revolut tell me that the charge is currently pending and I need to wait a few days for it to go through and then file a chargeback. I ask for information about where the card has been used, since you can't get a list of payments through the app itself. The support person doesn't seem able to get that list either, so they kind of look around manually and find a payment. They can't even give a list of all my data under the GDPR so I can see myself, which seems illegal.

In the end, I went through the list myself, and these are all the vendors that ever saw my card:

Revolut telling me to wait seven days for the fraudulent charge to 'take'.
  • Aegean Web
  • Cineplexx Entertainment
  • Cosmote
  • Gensace.de
  • Shopify
  • Lime
  • Litmus Email Platform
  • Papaki.gr
  • Steamgames.com
  • Taxibeat
  • Transavia.com
  • Uber
  • Virgin Trains
  • www.hetzner.de
  • www.tch.gr

So either one of those vendors leaked the card or was compromised, or Revolut themselves were.

Besides that, I would think that if someone contacts the payment processor and says "this pending transaction is fraud, I didn't do it, please revert it before the merchant gets the money", you would want to revert it as soon as possible. Revolut wanted me to do the exact opposite, wait for the merchant to get my money and then politely ask for it back, which seems crazy to me. I guess they have their reasons.

I contact Revolut a few more times about it in the next few days, they tell me again to wait and then file a chargeback, which still sounds odd, but I wait. Two days later, the charge goes through, and I file for a chargeback. On the 22nd, I receive a response from Revolut.

"You made this transaction yourself"

The person who contacted me from the chargeback team told me that I made this transaction myself and am lying about it. I don't really understand the rationale, why would I not just go to the site and get a refund there right after the charge was made? Regardless, that's the official position from Revolut.

Meanwhile, the fraudulent transactions keep happening, long after I canceled my card and told Revolut it wasn't me. However, this wasn't proof enough for Revolut, who apparently still think I'm the one making the transactions, knowing that they will be declined because I canceled my card.

The fraudulent transactions keep piling up, apparently I keep making them.

They seem to think that I stole money from myself and now I'm trying Revolut to take it from me and give it to me. They also seem to think I'm in India while I'm trying to book tickets for myself, even though they can see my location from my IP.

The Revolut representative telling me that I stole my own money.

The representative told me that I "ignored the notification about suspicious activity", when no such notification ever appeared. The only notification I ever got was "You have reached your monthly limit", which I routinely get because of the aforementioned low limits I set for "security". The only "ignoring" I ever did is to contact them immediately when I saw a charge I didn't recognize.

The aftermath

I don't really understand why Revolut won't refund me. Even if the notification showed the full transaction details and the user allows it to happen, shouldn't they get the money back by notifying the processor right away? I wasn't negligent in allowing my card to get stolen, I was just confused by crappy UX and mistakenly changed something which allowed the charge to happen.

This tells me two things:

  1. You can never rely on banks to give you your money back, since they want their fraud statistics to remain low, even if that means refusing you your money.
  2. Never use any kind of security, as disabling it at any point gives the bank an excuse to deny you your rights. If I wasn't using a limit at all, they would have given me my money back.

I have filed a complaint with the EU Ombudsman and the UK police, to maybe get the payment refunded on the merchant, but I don't have much hope.

And that's the story of how I'm 1057 Euros short, for thinking that Revolut had my back if a fraudulent transaction occurred. A costly mistake, for sure, but maybe you can learn from it.

Revolut doesn't have your back. They don't give a damn about you. They only care that they get you out of their hair as soon as possible, hopefully without giving you any of your money back.

I don't know what to do to keep myself safe any more, and I sure as hell don't know what to do to keep my parents safe. If I couldn't prevent someone from stealing my money, my dad doesn't even stand a chance, and it's clear that the bank is not on my side.

If you have any ideas, please comment below. You can also Tweet or toot at me, or email me directly.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

anilakar(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I was under the impression that banks were required to know their customers, which at least until this point has basically required you to visit a physical office with a passport and answer the standard anti-laundering questionnaire. This pretty much has meant that these online-only banks have been illegal to operate. Apparently the 'FinTech' boom has resulted in a new low...

AdrianB1(10000) 1 day ago [-]

They require a passport photo. The anti-laundering part is in the requirements for proof of income, but only for significant amounts in the account or transactioned. For a couple of hundred euro per month they don't ask that.

matthewmacleod(3115) 1 day ago [-]

No physical presence is required to meet those standards; online-only banks have existed for absolutely ages. The Monzo process for example involved a picture of your passport and a short video.

packetpirate(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Why the hell would you even use a 'virtual' card? With the rate at which personal data is being stolen day after day and companies as large as Equifax being breached, why would you trust your money with an all-virtual bank? Especially one that is so new? It's just asking for trouble. I've had the same bank since I was 17 and they have literally never let me down, and the couple of times I had a fraudulent transaction occur, they automatically flagged it and called me to ask if it was legitimate.

tooop(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Virtual card is a disposable card that you can use X times (or whatever you set it up). For example, i use virtual cards for services that require CC info in order to register for trial, this way i don't have to remember about my trials expiring and getting charged (because i set the virtual card to be used only once / delete it right after i have used it).

AlexandrB(4036) 1 day ago [-]

Bitcoin and some of the financial startups seem like efforts at educating the public about why regulation exists.

icebraining(3578) 1 day ago [-]

My physical bank charges quite a bit for international payments on my credit card (even all in Euro). Revolut doesn't. That said, I avoid keeping money there, even if that means waiting a day or two for the SEPA transfer to clear before I can use it.

I also keep money in two different 'regular' banks, since I don't trust those much either.

literallycancer(10000) 1 day ago [-]

'Virtual card' is a thing in their app. You still have a physical card. The virtual card is for shady shops and such, so that you can delete it afterwards with a single click.

rchaud(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Fintech companies market their products specifically towards people who see themselves as 'rugged individualists' who don't need the nanny state to look after them, or millennials who are untrusting of big banks after 2008.

I fall into the second category, but I'm also aware that what little I have in $bigBankCo is covered under depositor's insurance, and I'm good as long as I don't sign up for their usurious lines of credit or things like that.

And I've seen way too many smarmy startup dudes promising customers the earth, moon and the stars if they join their revolutionary 'non-bank'. No thanks.

grenoire(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Another PayPal, another decade.

StavrosK(564) 1 day ago [-]

PayPal almost always sides with the consumer, at least. Revolut's treatment was inexcusable. I've been a customer for three years and use them every day, I did not expect to be treated like this in a million years.

This would also never have happened if the message said anything more than 'you've reached the limit'. Even the mention of amount would have made me immediately suspicious. As it happened, I just didn't think of fraud, or know which card hit the limit, so I just went absent-mindedly fiddling with them.

thomersch_(4093) 1 day ago [-]

'How hard must being a bank be, it's just a few numbers in a database.'

After all those new-ish, app-based banks are for people with too much time on their hands. You mostly can't talk to anyone, and when they answer it's just a copy-paste from their FAQ. They also lack features, e.g. Kontist doesn't support international bank transfers. Support will tell you 'well it could work, but we can't give you any assistance'. I don't have six months until your development team understands and implements some protocol!

madeofpalk(3806) 1 day ago [-]

For what it's worth, Monzo seems to be the only 'challenger bank' that's getting this right. They have the 24/7 in-app chat support that's super helpful, but then also a phone number you can call if you're into that. My every interaction with them as a customer has been fantastic.

JumpCrisscross(48) 1 day ago [-]

> You mostly can't talk to anyone

No phone number should be a dealbreaker for banking. 99% of the time, you don't want to talk to a banker. But that 1% of the time can make or break you for months or years.

These start-ups (e.g. Bank Simple, Revolut, et cetera) prey on consumers who have only experienced the 99%. You don't want to have a 1% event, like fraud, or an issue overseas, or a liquidity crisis, with a service you can't talk to. (It's also bad enough when it's your first time with an issue. You don't want to be banking with someone who's (a) never solved that problem before either and (b) not available to talk to.)

StavrosK(564) 1 day ago [-]

UPDATE: Revolut have emailed me in response to my official complaint (possibly after seeing my post gain attention, I can't say for sure). They admitted it was a mistake to decline my chargeback and have refunded me the purchase.

They also said they would take measures to avoid this from happening again, hopefully they make good on that promise.

Thank you all very much for your help and support, I hope this doesn't happen to anyone else.

sagebird(4140) about 23 hours ago [-]

It's disgusting that you had to raise a shitstorm on their internal support, then on twitter and then hacker news to get your chargeback.

Will others be savvy enough to raise this attention? I would rather that a regulator went to bat for you and slapped them with a large fine. Because as it stands they can do the same thing to everyone else, only give refunds when someone raises attention and perhaps this only accounts for 1% of the cases.

They are going to take measures to swat stories down quicker before they create bad press, but there is likely a good reason for their behavior so expect no uniform change.

toomuchtodo(2039) about 23 hours ago [-]

It of course will happen to others, who will have no recourse when they don't have the same platform to seek redress. It's your own fault as a Revolut customer if you continue to use them for holding your funds after being made aware of their behavior. Use a real bank!

Dayshine(10000) 1 day ago [-]

It feels like the 'unique' part that makes this something novel about this is that they claim you authorized fraud when you raised your limit, accidentally letting a transaction you couldn't see through.

So the scenario is roughly (numbers made up):

1. You set a £500 monthly card limit

2. Your card is stolen and somebody charges £1000

3. You get a notification saying you have hit your limit

4. The failed, fraudulent, transaction is not listed

5. You increase your monthly limit to £1500

6. The fraudulent transaction goes through

7. You can now see the transaction

8. You cancel your card and report the fraud

9. You're told by raising the limit you authorized the fraudulent transaction that you couldn't see before you raised the limit

That's insane...

yani(4083) 1 day ago [-]

Why would you raise the card limit? Panic?

StavrosK(564) 1 day ago [-]

It's even more insane because I set the limit to 200ish, so bill payments routinely give me that error message, so I didn't really think anything of it.

Also, apparently the declined transaction shows up, but it takes a while. It didn't show up on my list even though I got the notification, so I thought it just doesn't show and I went to the limits to raise them.

JumpCrisscross(48) 1 day ago [-]

> you authorized the fraudulent transaction

I don't know European banking law. But in the U.S., this isn't Revolut's call to make [1]. They can issue the chargeback and then cancel your account, if they think you're being screwy. But they can't deny the chargeback unilaterally.

OP should reach out to their national financial services regulator.

[1] https://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/supmanual/cch/efta.... Liability of Consumers for Unauthorized Transfers—12 CFR 1005.6

ajdlinux(1909) 1 day ago [-]

FWIW - having to wait for pending transactions to post before filing a chargeback is how traditional banks have treated me, and I'm guessing is probably just part of the Visa/Mastercard dispute resolution process (someone who knows better might correct me here). Though you'd think a next-gen mobile-only bank would be able to put some additional automation around the process so that they would contact you again on the day the transaction posts to confirm you want to go through with a chargeback, or something like that.

The rest of the story looks really, really bad for Revolut - I have never had a traditional bank speak to me like that before.

exidy(10000) about 6 hours ago [-]

Visa/Mastercard use a DMS or dual-message system that is basically a digitisation of the paper-based 'click-clack' machines, possibly with a phone-based pre-authorisation.

The first message is the auth which comes online. This can only be accepted or declined. Once it has been accepted the value of the transaction is reserved against the credit limit but no movement of funds takes place. The issuing bank can remove the auth manually, but this just releases the credit, it has no impact on what happens next.

The transactions are posted to the account in overnight batch, during which the card system will attempt to match the pending auths and remove them. Some transactions (such as recurrent ones) will have no matching auth. There is no opportunity at this stage to 'reject' a transaction, the batch is applied or it isn't. The issuing bank will typically get or more batches per BIN.

The dispute process at this point involves the issuing bank (Revolut) issuing a chargeback against the acquiring bank, which triggers a process during which each bank has certain timeframes to reject or accept the chargeback. So from this standpoint Revolut is basically following standard process.

StavrosK(564) 1 day ago [-]

> having to wait for pending transactions to post before filing a chargeback is how traditional banks have treated me

Yeah, I guess they have a reason for doing that, though I don't know what it is. Still, I would have thought they can cancel it in cases of fraud? Maybe it's so you can't 'dine and dash' or similar.

Peroni(1064) 1 day ago [-]

Revolut's CFO recently 'resigned' from the company in light of claims that Revolut switched off an anti-money laundering system that flags suspect transactions.

Revolut cited 'personal and health reasons' for the CFO's resignation. Whatever those personal and health reasons really were, they clearly passed quite quickly as within the space of a few weeks, said CFO has joined another FinTech company as their new CFO.

The company quite literally has the words 'get sh*t done' in giant neon letters on their office wall. They live by the mantra of move fast and break things. That mantra is inevitably going to cause problems when your entire business is dealing with real money owned by real people in one of the most heavily regulated industries in the world.

jacquesm(43) about 18 hours ago [-]

> personal and health reasons

That could easily be a way to say that he got threatened to leave that anti-money laundering system switched off 'or else'. Keep in mind that as soon as you create a way for organized crime to do their thing on your service and you are making money of them that they will happily consider you to be in their debt. It happens in the movies, and sometimes it happens in real life.

Someone I know peripherally had something like that happen to him because of a series of movie theaters. Not good, even if you are not aware that such things are happening.

This is why casinos, online gambling, bitcoin related stuff and payment systems as well as two-sided market places always require extra care, before you know it you have a bunch of criminal coat tail riders on board.

dgellow(638) 1 day ago [-]

> The company quite literally has the words 'get sh*t done' in giant neon letters on their office wall.

That has become one of my red flag. I want to deal with people and companies focused on the quality of their products and businesses, not on doing 'shit' (taking their motto literally).

anthonybsd(4104) about 18 hours ago [-]

>Revolut's CFO recently 'resigned' from the company in light of claims that Revolut switched off an anti-money laundering system that flags suspect transactions.

Revolut's CEO[1] is the son of the top bureaucrat of Russian Gazprom, which has been implicated as the main channel of - you guessed it[2], money laundering for Russian oligarchs [3].

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

[2] https://panamapapers.sueddeutsche.de/articles/56fec05fa1bb8d...

[3] https://www.ft.com/content/2ebff9ee-38f6-11e9-b856-5404d3811...

bezoisevil(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

Ahhh move fast and break things, good ol agile.

dubliner2077(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

And use candidates to your job offers so they do free marketing campaigns for you. Basically.

To be honest, fuck Revolut, so use them with little money.

Something is not right with these freaks.

C1sc0cat(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Maybe there was an argument and the CFO was against turning off the money laundering and lost out and left over that.

glogla(3704) 1 day ago [-]

Also Revolut CEO's father is CEO of Gazprom (or some division, I'm not sure I understand their structure). And it got it's money from DST Global incubator, which has Kremlin ties.

Meaning, despite their London HQ, Revolut is Russian owned and Russian managed pseudo-bank.

Giving them more money might not be great idea.

catacombs(2729) 1 day ago [-]

> Revolut cited 'personal and health reasons' for the CFO's resignation. Whatever those personal and health reasons really were, they clearly passed quite quickly as within the space of a few weeks, said CFO has joined another FinTech company as their new CFO.

Just waited for the golden parachute check to be cashed in.

noisy_boy(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Maybe I'm just old but I would never put my money in an institution where I can't go to their branch/office and talk to a human. Typically this is hardly needed with all the digital convenience but when things go wrong, it is truly worth it.

chimen(4103) about 21 hours ago [-]

I'm with ING here in Romania and one day I went to a 'human' there and took out some cash that I wanted to deposit. They got scared that I took out money in front of them. Banks are not the same.

icebraining(3578) 1 day ago [-]

That's not a guarantee anymore; in some banks here, the person behind the desk is just a glorified form filler. Everything has to go to the central offices anyway.

Shivetya(628) 1 day ago [-]

The story is just bizarre and I do not understand how the card issuer/bank can act like that in good faith, of course we only have one side here. Still it really comes off as an organization who acting in a space they are not qualified to be in. Let me guess, they started out to disrupt this space?

anecdotal+ As for his comments about banks not wanting to act on fraud, I have had two fraudulent CC transactions in one year and both times I felt as in my bank and Visa did very well. I also had two issues with Ebay where they and PayPal reacted quickly in my favor. I think for the most part those who are experienced in this arena are quick to act to preserve their reputation because that is what people see, they don't see their 'fraud' reports.

StavrosK(564) 1 day ago [-]

You do have one side, but I can show you the entire conversation. They don't have a phone number you can call, so that's literally the whole story.

C1sc0cat(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The traditional banks have been getting a lot a negative press over large frauds criminals pretending to be solicitors in house purchases and making off with large sums.

The banks are claiming GPDR for not disclosing the fraudulent accounts criminals set up to receive £

aginovski(3743) 1 day ago [-]

Btw, there is a procedure in all banks called dispute request (chargeback request). None of the banks will give you the money back to your debit card without the knowledge of the seller. Imagine how many free items or service you can get if that's possible. So it's not about Revolut.

To open a dispute the transaction needs to be settled. After that Revolut or any other bank can give you the option to fill the form and start the dispute procedure where the seller can place their arguments against it.

After you submit a dispute the card issuer will review both arguments and make a decision (it depends on the bank). Most of the times when the seller doesn't submit evidence against the dispute you'll receive your money back.

luckylion(4155) 1 day ago [-]

> Btw, there is a procedure in all banks called dispute request (chargeback request). None of the banks will give you the money back to your debit card without the knowledge of the seller. Imagine how many free items or service you can get if that's possible. So it's not about Revolut.

When my wallet was stolen years ago, the thieves immediately used my VISA to buy clothes worth ~700 euros. When I realized it was gone, I informed by bank who disabled my cards. I was told to just wait for the statement, mark all sales that I didn't do or authorize. I did that and faxed them a copy, the money was back in my account the next day.

You can 'get' free items this way, but you'd commit fraud, and if you get caught, you're going to jail. You can also get free money by robbing a bank, but it's not recommended for similar reasons ;)

mikl(4087) 1 day ago [-]

News flash: No corporation cares about you.

Some might look good, but that is not because they care about you. It's because doing good things make their customers and employees happy, and thus keeps the money flowing.

mcherm(4071) 1 day ago [-]

Look, if your response to encountering terrible customer service is to declare that everyone has terrible customer service then you were likely to continue to receive terrible customer service.

If, instead, your response to receiving terrible customer service where to say 'this company is awful!', and take your business to someone else with better customer service then perhaps the companies with better service will thrive.

onli(3147) 1 day ago [-]

Sigh. Corporations consist of people and it is absolutely possible that a corporation (that is not too big) cares deeply about an issue. The whole improve the world stuff can be bullshit, but it can also be true.

Besides, it does not matter here. Even if it's about doing good things to make customers happy it is noteworthy when a company stops doing that. Amazon had the best customer support ever and now screwed me over, Revolut does what looks like criminal fraud enablement just for screwing with Stavros (probably to enable the power trip of someone in that company) - those things matter regardless whether it's because of the absence of prior real care for the customer or the absence of prior proper treatment out of business reasons.

AlexTWithBeard(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I'll tell more: nobody cares about you except yourself (terms and conditions apply) and your parents.

yaseer(3848) 1 day ago [-]

Thanks for posting this.

I haven't yet got on the 'challenger bank bandwagon' mainly due to laziness.

This has made me a lot more hesitant to do so. Certainly not with revolut, who are now notorious for a broken growth-first mindset.

rchaud(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I'll get on the bandwagon once these companies do something that puts money in my pocket. Orange back in the day used to offer a savings account with 4% interest. That's how you build market share.

All I hear from these upstarts is how easy their app is to use, and how frictionless my payments will be. These are utterly meaningless platitudes. Show me the money.

ForHackernews(404) 1 day ago [-]

I've been using Transferwise for a while now, and at least on the face of it, they seem quite boring and sensible. They're the first non-bank that's been granted direct access to the UK's faster payments network.

Daniel_sk(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Get an account with a reputable bank. In my bank I have a personal banker that I can contact (phone, email, message) in case I need anything (you will get this privilege after a certain amount of income per month, but it's easily reached if you work in IT). I was even able to get money back after I paid for something that I never received (simple debit card). And also many people forget that you may need a larger mortage or loan in the future and I don't think Revolut will help you with this. And in the case of my bank they have a modern mobile and web application, I am not missing anything (Face ID, Touch ID, virtual card generator, retrieve money from ATM with a generated code from the mobile app, open account from mobile app...).

StavrosK(564) 1 day ago [-]

Unfortunately, banks in Greece aren't in good shape or very convenient. I also just didn't think this could ever happen.

ipython(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I find it weird they accused you of lying, considering every time I purchase airline tickets the bank receives the full ticket information including the PNR (name information and ticket number) for the issued ticket.

For fraudsters wouldn't that be a huge risk ordering tickets in your own name? Or is there another dimension I'm missing here?

greatpatton(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The 2 times I had fraud issue with my credit card it was people buying plane ticket. One time it was on Easyjet for a ticket a few hours later and it was clear that the name was completely made up (strangely it appeared on my credit card statement).

It seems that travel/air ticket are a major source of fraud.

luckylion(4155) 1 day ago [-]

> For fraudsters wouldn't that be a huge risk ordering tickets in your own name? Or is there another dimension I'm missing here?

There was a scheme with the German federal train operator Deutsche Bahn last year where they'd buy tickets, cancel them and get a (transferable) voucher for the amount. These vouchers weren't tied to the original transaction, so when the payment was denied later on, the fraudsters still had the 'clean' coupon, which they then sold with a margin.

StavrosK(564) 1 day ago [-]

Seriously! I have no idea, I assume they can just call the merchant up and ask whose name the tickets were purchased in. I'm pretty sure they won't be in mine, what would be the purpose of that? The scammer just wasted a bunch of tickets if so.

I don't know why they don't just call the merchant and get the details. I tried but they wouldn't give me anything or revert the transaction.

Also, I just realize there's yet another, even larger declined transaction in the GBP tab (after I canceled the card). So the fraudster actually tried to buy even more travel stuff.

chx(798) 1 day ago [-]

There is a simple yardstick that made me stay far, far away from Revolut: they deal with bitcoin. I will never trust a single cent of my money on such a company. So far the conduct of Bitcoin exchanges didn't impart the impression of responsible companies. Oftentimes you have downright conmen running them. This is not to say Revolut is cooking the books but touching bitcoin by a fiscal company carries a stench, one that I don't want close to my money.

StavrosK(564) 1 day ago [-]

They don't actually deal with cryptocurrencies (like, you can't buy BTC with them). They just added tickers and let you gamble with the price.

AdrianB1(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Before I signed up for Revolut I did a bit of research and found some incidents that made me more cautious than usual. Unfortunately at the end of my analysis I found no better option, so I signed up. But knowing what I do, I have 2 rules:

- don't keep a significant sum there; not more than what I can afford to loose if things go wrong

- keep unused features disabled at all times, activate and deactivate features or card only when I want to use it. Practically my card is blocked until I want to use it and blocked again as soon as I paid.

My balance today is ~ $35. I will top up when I need to pay more, it is enough for a coffee, a snack or to fill in gas (I ride a bike, even with expensive European gas it's still ~ $25 for a full tank).

st1ck(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

With all this effort, cash seems much easier option.

sschueller(2657) 1 day ago [-]

I had good luck with tranferwise.

Lucadg(4054) 1 day ago [-]

I used to like them but then this happened:

- they froze my account.

- they required documentation.

- the chat was broken. There was no way to contact them and send the documentation.

- I found them in Twitter, someone from Revolut passed my issue along. No one called me.

- They kept messaging me in the chat. I could see the numbers piling up but the chat was 'opps something went wrong' and a blank page.

- I tried all: cache, restart etc...I didn't want to uninstall.

- after two weeks I took the big risk and uninstalled the app. It was very tense...I installed it again (it worked luckily) and I could finally chat again. Problem solved.

They never called me, I could not call them, the problem was on their end but I had to find a way and take the risks.

Never again.

Fintech is just banks with a sleek interface and no experience after all.

[EDIT: formatting]

rkangel(4052) about 17 hours ago [-]

Fintech has good products and bad products, just like every other sector.

Monzo, for instance, is excellent.

tshanmu(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Under PSD2 this is illegal - sadly the implementation date is in Sep 2019. Appalling treatment and Revoult has been getting some bad press recently - you should complain to Financial Ombudsman - https://financial-ombudsman.org.uk (assuming you are dealing with Revolut UK, and they have not switched to Revolut Payments UAB for EU customers)

StavrosK(564) 1 day ago [-]

I already filed a complaint with them, but apparently Revolut can just refuse to reply and that's that. They also told me as much, they said I have to file a formal complaint with them first. They said something like 'we will refuse to process any other complaint until the formal complaint process is complete', but since they're judge, jury and executioner on this, I don't have much faith.

Lucadg(4054) 1 day ago [-]

don't use their insurance. Recently I was in Istanbul and the insurance didn't activate. Their app did not register me as in Turkey. All permissions were ok, Google Maps worked and I purchased a cappuccino with the Revolut physical card in Istanbul. Still, according to them I was not in Istanbul and there was some problem on my end.

So, I was uninsured. Imagine if this happens when you are in the US and you get sick. This is serious stuff, it's just too risky to let them play with it.

spuz(3561) 1 day ago [-]

How do you know the insurance wasn't activated? Why does the insurance activate based on location rather than date?

nerder92(10000) 1 day ago [-]

From the way in which the CEO of this company treats he's own employees you can imagine how he will treat he's clients. This company is just toxic, there are other better options that solves the same problem, N26, Monzo etc check them out

codedokode(4145) about 23 hours ago [-]

No sources, no links, nice comment. Aren't you working for a competitor?

thefounder(3734) 1 day ago [-]

Credit/debit cards are outdated and should be replaced by flexible and safer methods that allow fine-grained control over the payment (i.e one time payment, recurring, limits on recurring etc).

Everyone with your card number can take money from your account. How stupid is that? Like giving the user/pass of your online banking.

StavrosK(564) 1 day ago [-]

Exactly, I don't understand why we can't do 'push' money transfers and we have to do 'pull'... Cryptocurrencies have a much better use case when it comes to the transaction UX. I also think some countries like the Netherlands have a 'push' system that seems convenient.

codedokode(4145) about 23 hours ago [-]

I hope they will be replaced by cryptocurrencies without passports, sudden account blocking and other stupid bureacracy.

sam_lowry_(4146) 1 day ago [-]

Looking at the headline of the author 'Greek. Amateur F1 driver. Technology enthusiast. Single parent. Liar.'

The word Liar stands out.

StavrosK(564) 1 day ago [-]

Really? 'Amateur F1 driver' didn't? I'll have to add 'Mars coloniser' then.

teddyh(2446) 1 day ago [-]

As he's a Greek, I assume he's making a joke about https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epimenides_paradox

raxxorrax(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Everybody lies as studies have proven. So who is the more honest person? The one that denies it or the one that confirms it?

Maybe people that say that they do lie are the most honest people to be around.

hsoc(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Yeah, he lied about lying though.

_petronius(3634) 1 day ago [-]

This is why I will always bank with the old-school banks. Being able to reach someone on the phone -- or even turn up at a branch -- makes it a lot harder for them to ignore you when there is a major issue that needs resolving. But then, my 'traditional' bank has a very good app, and treats me extremely nicely, even when I've had all of a few euros (or less than zero euros) in my account.

noir_lord(4062) 1 day ago [-]

Even the old school banks have their issues, HSBC and money laundering for cartels comes to mind.

Money is power and power corrupts seems to apply too often with this stuff.

Dirlewanger(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Yup. For all their flaws and bureaucratic inertia, big banks still have the largest coffers for providing a well-rounded product. Given how backend vendors like Fiserv can be hacked and have 0 repercussions doled out to them, I simply could never recommend banking with local mom-and-pop banks. Just avoid HSBC and Wells Fargo, and you're good.

ForHackernews(404) 1 day ago [-]

> You can never rely on banks to give you your money back, since they want their fraud statistics to remain low, even if that means refusing you your money.

Isn't Revolut explicitly not a bank? I thought it was some kind of non-bank pseudo-gift card FinTech thing?

I've never had any problems disputing transactions with my normal regular boring bank that doesn't have an app.

xorcist(10000) 1 day ago [-]

They seem to be, as per last December:


zakk(10000) 1 day ago [-]

And that's why you should get a credit card from a real bank, rather than a debit card. With a credit card, in case of fraud, the bank will most likely side with you.

(Talking about Europe, not sure the same applies outside Europe, for instance the American banking system is quite different...)

tluyben2(3664) 1 day ago [-]

EU as well and anecdotal; I have 3 dutch bank accounts with CCs, Spanish one with Debitcard and Revolut debit card. Chargebacks on the Spanish are the easiest; I mail my bank and they refund whatever I ask them no questions asked. Revolut does so as well but they ask questions. The Dutch Cc ones are the worst; they require a lengthy process and sometimes they still do not side with me even though it is rather obvious. However, if they detect them themselves (the fraud transactions) then they do reverse without issues: I am talking about the ones I report (over many years; it does not happen often, and only in countries that do not use chip and pin for most transactions like US, some places in HK etc).

s_dev(2562) 1 day ago [-]

I'm with N26 -- tried signing up with Revolut as I heard they had some cool features I didn't have with N26 e.g virtualized cards and crypto currency support.

Signed up with my Passport and transferred €50 to the newly created Revolut account. I wait a week still no money in the Revolut account -- contact support. They explain I'm not registered and that I have to register first -- I'm at a loss as they could issue me an IBAN and I'm still not 'registered' -- apprently I have to present a passport that isn't American because 'they don't accept US passports' even though they did during my onboarding -- since I didn't have another passport available (my Irish one) I asked them to return the money and close the account. It took them 8 weeks to return the €50 with me chasing them everyday for the last two weeks.

I don't understand why N26 accept US passports and Revolut don't.

peteri(10000) 1 day ago [-]

FACTA might be the answer.

greatpatton(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Because Revolut dones't want to have to manage FACTA and other US extraterritorial laws. Here is Switzerland having a US passport is a good reason to be banished from your physical bank very quickly. US passport holders are seen as a liability and not as a customer. That's also one of the reason that make renouncement of US citizenship quite popular in Switzerland if you have dual citizenship.

StavrosK(564) 1 day ago [-]

N26 have been pretty solid for me and they have a number I can call if I need something. N26 is where I keep my money and Revolut is what I use for day-to-day stuff, but I still had enough money that the fraudster managed to steal 1k :/

I have switched to N26 now.

literallycancer(10000) 1 day ago [-]

They only let you buy and sell crypto, you can't send it anywhere.

sschueller(2657) 1 day ago [-]

Their crypto support is a joke. You can only buy and sell with them. You can't transfer in or out. So in effect, you don't have any crypto. You are just paying them to convert money into something you can't use.

novaleaf(3645) about 22 hours ago [-]

He's using a debit card, not a credit card.

Non refundable debit card purchases isn't a problem unique to Revolut.

If this happened with a bank of america debit card, you'd face the same problem. This is why I explicitly refuse to carry debit cards. Only ATM cards and credit cards.

If you use DEBIT cards, you don't get the same kind of protections you get with CREDIT cards.

awinder(4154) about 21 hours ago [-]

Yes, that, and credit cards also have +30 days of float essentially built in. So when you run into billing errors or fraud you have time for it to unwind itself / you won't have actively lost money until you need to settle up.

literallycancer(10000) 1 day ago [-]
StavrosK(564) 1 day ago [-]

This is great, thanks, I plan to. I was going to file with the UK small claims court because I didn't know which jurisdiction, but this is perfect, thank you.

Historical Discussions: Slack Is Going Public at a $16B Valuation (June 20, 2019: 651 points)

(651) Slack Is Going Public at a $16B Valuation

651 points 6 days ago by lgats in 3079th position

www.npr.org | | comments | anchor

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All Comments: [-] | anchor

askafriend(3065) 5 days ago [-]

Slack is great. The valuation makes sense and I wish them continued success.

All the integrations, and workflows that Slack has enabled for our company make us more productive.

I would hate to go back to what came before it.

IRC is complete trash and I don't know why anyone would use it in the same sentence as Slack. UX matters. It matters A LOT.

lostjohnny(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> IRC is complete trash

We'll talk about it 10 years from now when Slack is gonna be 'old cruft' while IRC still gonna be there rocking.

konspence(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Slack is one of the most bloated apps on my computer, and my smartphone.

On both, it takes seconds to boot, and that's just to load the local cache. Syncing with the main server takes a few more seconds.

It has some good UI patterns. But overall, it's heavy and slow. It takes longer to load than the previous chat clients I used.

beatgammit(10000) 5 days ago [-]

What's wrong with the UX of IRC? IRC is a protocol, not a specific client, and it supports a wide variety of server and client plugins. We had a really nice IRC going productively for a year or two, but we scrapped it because only our software developer used it and other people in the company preferred something else (they used a mix of email, Google chat/hangouts, and text).

The nice thing about IRC is that everyone can use whatever client they like and it will just work. I preferred command-line UX (irssi) because most of my job is based around the terminal, others prefer desktop clients, while others prefer web clients, and all were available for our IRC server.

Our problem was that management wanted everyone on the same thing, and neither side (IRC vs Google chat) wanted to switch (they liked integration with web Gmail, we liked extensibility, and had already built useful plugins, like 'run a build'). In the end, they didn't like our 'less professional' plugins (Chuck Norris facts, gifs, etc), and we ended up compromising on Slack (we rebuilt some of our custom integrations).

We went through a year or so of adjustment, and now we're reasonably productive with it. However, morale is a bit lower, and I think we're a bit less productive than before, but that's really hard to judge. Honestly, I just wish there was some nicer looking IRC client. I don't like trusting Slack and would prefer the tried and true protocol that we can tweak and just pay for a flashier client for those who like such things. However, it's better than the previous situation where teams just didn't communicate in text because they couldn't agree on a medium, which led to more interruptions than the annoying Slack notifications (non developers tend to always @ the tech lead instead of letting it be answered by whomever happens to be looking at the channel).

I think it's wrong to blame IRC here. The UX of IRC is fine, it just doesn't have a flashy client (pidgin is really easy to use and available everywhere, but it's kind of ugly).

senorjazz(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Slack is great.

debatable. It is just a chat app after all. Don't get me wrong, it is alright, but I am not sure I would ever call a chatapp 'great'

> The valuation makes sense

16billion? To me it doesn't. It is just a chat app. People and businesses can move off it when the next chat app comes along with a new UI

netwanderer3(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Why are we comparing Slack to IRC, a product that came out in 1988?

ken(3681) 5 days ago [-]

> IRC is complete trash and I don't know why anyone would use it in the same sentence as Slack. UX matters. It matters A LOT.

To me, that sounds exactly like someone defending AppleTalk, AOL, ICQ, or Minitel. Focus on usability, not interoperability. That's what people want, right?

When it comes to communications, what matters even more than user experience, in the long run, is being compatible with everyone, even your competitors. There will always be customers who don't use your system, so lacking compatibility or federation will be a thorn in your side for as long as you exist. I've run out of fingers to count the incompatible proprietary chat systems I've seen die off.

Even Google has killed off a few of their own, and Hangouts is next. Just being a young smart agile tech company does not make you immune.

In 10 years, I bet people will be communicating over email, IRC, POTS/SMS, plus 4 or 5 new tech startups created by people who are in elementary school right now. Nobody's arguing that $(proprietary_system) doesn't make you more productive today (that's the point!), but they always have a sell-by date.

skribbj(10000) 5 days ago [-]

You have every right to think that Slack is amazing and that IRC is 'complete trash' (although I completely disagree) - but please don't attribute it to UX.

UX isn't just graphical design, it's also feeling responsive, fast, and accessible. Something that Slack, in my opinion, gets horribly wrong.

kashyapc(10000) 5 days ago [-]

'Complete trash'? Please.

I realize I'm feeling (objectively?) 'defensive' as an everyday professional IRC user for the last 10-ish years. That said, having tried many of the recent obese chat tools (which do have some nice properties), I still maintain the stance that IRC's clutter-free nature brings a certain tranquility and clarity.

Sure, IRC absolutely has its problems. However, as noted elsewhere[1], despite its flaws, IRC's strengths still shine with great luminence, when it comes to plain text-based communication.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20119407

    - - -

It reminds of something I recently read in an essay called Coon Tree (written in 1956) by the inimitable E.B. White:

'Many of the commonest assumptions, it seems to me, are arbitrary ones: that the new is better than the old, the untried superior to the tried, the complex more advantageous than the simple, the fast quicker than the slow, the big greater than the small, and the world is remodeled by Man the Architect functionally sounder and more agreeable than the world as it was before he changed everything to suit his vogues and his conniptions.'

I didn't quote the surrounding context (which itself is quite enjoyable) for brevity. But do read the full essay if you can.


pcurve(4114) 5 days ago [-]

Even after nice runup in recent months, Atlassian with its diverse portfolio of products is only worth $32B.

Which one is overvalued?

iamtheworstdev(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Probably Atlassian. It's not the quantity of products so much as the desire to use them and their establishment as the product to use for a given purpose. Slack doesn't have that many competitors that are as useful. Whereas Atlassian has a lot of products no one has ever heard of and a lot of competitors other people have heard of.

leshokunin(4136) 6 days ago [-]

Congrats to them. I used to be an avid user (loved the way some integrations could help productivity), but since then moved on to Discord, which feels superior in every aspect, especially since it's free.

I'm not sure how I feel about the valuation. I'd like to see how the user base, especially the ratio of paying users, has been growing. It feels likely that most of the companies that would have been easy to convert have already been converted. I expect CAC to go up and payer conversion to stagnate at best. I don't see how they can 2-3x their revenue this year (unless there are drastic, risky changes).

In addition, the slow iterations on the mobile and desktop clients, and the meteoric rise of Discord are enough cause for concern. I don't see how this investment would have legs.

fpvracing(4018) 6 days ago [-]

How is Discord superior? I haven't really used it but my first impressions are that it seems very tailored to the gaming community. I have used Slack extensively and it appears more professional. And if Discord is free, how do they make money / keep the lights on?

I do worry about Slack's pricing since there is a vast chasm between their free plan and their paid plans. I use Slack to run some open source and hobbyist communities with thousands of members and if for any reason we were forced to switch to a paid plan (at $x per user) we'd be forced to go elsewhere immediately.

firecall(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Shout out to FlowDock, which has far superior threading!

We waited for ever for threading to come to slack... and when it landed we were so disappointed.

vhiremath4(4132) 6 days ago [-]

I'm guessing the answer is 'yes', but have you taken a look at their S-1 filing? There is tons of addressable market out there for them, and their paying cohorts (year-by-year) have been accelerating in next-expand ARR (page 68):


I do agree that product iteration has been slow. That's been a big problem for Slack, and it's my biggest speculation on their valuation. As someone who has seen inside the company (don't work there), their engineering teams have a ton of technical debt they've been making their way through and trying to set right.

davnicwil(3916) 6 days ago [-]

My gut feeling, without doing much proper analysis, is that further growth will come not so much from adding more paying users as selling more services to the existing, extremely locked in, userbase.

It's a platform - I can see a world where almost everything in the workplace is embedded into Slack or integrated with it. They can take their cut of all of that.

buboard(4007) 6 days ago [-]

They can buy discord

farahday(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I think you missed this line in your post.

>Disclosure: I work/am a shill @ Slack.

whenchamenia(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Downvoters, how is this not relevant? I value knowing who has a vested interest when talking about efficacy.

not_a_moth(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The obligatory 'but they have massive losses',

> For the fiscal year ending January 31, 2019, the company reported losses of $138.9 million on revenue of $400.6 million. That's compared to a loss of $140.1 million on revenue of $220.5 million the year prior. [1]

[1] https://techcrunch.com/2019/05/31/slack-first-quarter-financ...

I don't understand valuations.

cobookman(3571) 5 days ago [-]

Plus the rev to valuation makes no sense 40x ratio of Valuation to Rev. Compare this to Alphabet with a 8x, Amazon with a 13x...etc.

These valuations just seem nuts.

askafriend(3065) 6 days ago [-]

I'd say you don't understand how revenue growth at scale works. That's the thing being valued.

Doubling revenue without increasing losses is a great sign.

fiblye(3618) 6 days ago [-]

My question is where the hell is that money going?

That money is all the cash flow in some entire minor industries. It's the GDP of some minor lower/mid-economy nations' cities. Their losses are equal to half the entire GDP of Palau.

Maybe I'm detached. But I don't understand the cash flow in chat apps today. It's absolutely bizarre amounts of money for something that can and will easily be replaced in a few years, as always happens.

6cd6beb(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Is this another one of those companies whose S1 says 'We're not profitable and may never be'?

Why is that the right time to go public? Once the company has an obligation to move towards profitability, doesn't that expose its investors to the risk of another startup subsidizing the same product or service with VC money, undercutting the new established brand?

Like if slack wants to become profitable they probably need to push more people to the paid version of the app, but then won't another company just make a clone and convert some VC cash into a runway with which to poach slack's userbase, and eventually file an S1 saying 'we're not profitable and may never be'?

I'm struggling to understand why this keeps working, because no one seems to have a problem with it at all.

kortilla(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Has it occurred to you that some companies do become profitable?

zknz(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Teams bundling will hold back wider adoption by the large co's who use office365. How will the userbase continue to grow?

debatem1(4139) 6 days ago [-]

There is no way Slack is worth $16 billion dollars.

That's over 40x current revenue for a company that lost almost $400,000 a day last year.

lallysingh(4024) 5 days ago [-]

Dude, when you see the valuations of other unicorns you're gonna be soo pissed...

mstaoru(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Next >$16B opportunity: bring something close to Slack, but that actually works, to China.

China is chat-first culture, but neither DingDing, nor Wechat Work achieved the status that Slack has in the US/EU.

Problems with Slack in China: it's often blocked, it's unbearably slow, the apps are not in the stores, it's Chinese search is lacklustre, it's UI is centered on 'longer' messages but Chinese language is very short so it could be optimized somehow.

biztos(4029) 5 days ago [-]

You'd probably need it to be very efficient in order to run on some of the cheaper mobile devices, and of course only a Chinese company would ever be allowed to succeed at that scale in China.

I could easily imagine a Chinese company coming up with Slack-but-fast-and-easily-monitored, making that >$16B in Asia, and then coming at the US/EU markets with it.

scarface74(3824) 6 days ago [-]

They will be "successful" once they become profitable. Until then, they still haven't proven that they have a business model where they can charge customers enough to cover expenses.

markmark(10000) 5 days ago [-]

They could be profitable tomorrow by decreasing their advertising spend. Their current customers are absolutely profitable, they're just choosing to use some of that money investors are throwing at them to keep growing.

duxup(3903) 6 days ago [-]

>net loss of nearly $139 million

Even that seems like a lot to spend, and that is just the loss...

I wonder where the money goes.

Granted it is a big impressive product but still it would be interesting to track expenses for a company as they approach unicorn status.

trimbo(3281) 5 days ago [-]

> I wonder where the money goes.

Cost of Revenue: $51M

R&D: $157M

Sales & Marketing: $233M

General & Administrative: $112M

[Source: their S-1]

gumby(2726) 5 days ago [-]

Maybe now they have some money they can finally afford make video chat work on mobile.

We ended up switching to zoom for video chat because it worked on phones as well as computers and handled slow connections (US<->Australia) much better than Slack's electron chat.

enonevets(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I believe they announced a partnership with Zoom rather than competing against them.

dfischer(2879) 5 days ago [-]

Just moved to Workplace by Facebook from Slack. Love it. Async communication via posts is way better than incentivized real-time for everything.

edit: lol, this is downvoted? nice.

whenchamenia(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I am not sure exchanging one walled garden for an even higher walled garden is good practice.

emtel(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Anybody who thinks they know for sure that slack can't possibly be worth $16B should go back and read some threads from around the Facebook IPO (like this one https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4320585). It's very easy to write reasonable sounding things - making accurate predictions about the future is much harder.

raldi(561) 5 days ago [-]

Yeah, I'm going to go out on a limb here and venture a guess that Slack is going to do very well for itself, though it may dip and swoon over the next couple years before it reaches that point.

An even more applicable comparison is the HN thread about the Dropbox announcement. 'What? This is just [IRC|rsync] with gimmicky bells and whistles.'

Dirlewanger(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Not really comparable. Facebook has been a full-blown ecosystem for end users even before their IPO. Slack is a productivity tool that your tech job forces you to use. I envisioned Slack's exit being a Microsoft/Amazon acquisition.

Grue3(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Well, I've been saying Snapchat can't possibly be worth $29bn when it did IPO. And surprise, it lost most of this value. Snapchat is a lot like Slack - it's a feature, not a product. Once Facebook copied the feature, Snapchat was doomed. Same will happen with Slack (in this case I think MSFT will be its undoer).

golergka(2533) 5 days ago [-]

In 2010, when I heard that Milner's DST is investing in Facebook at $10B valuation, I thought, with a complete certainty, that incompetent russian investors were getting defrauded.

Since then, when I think that some startup has a blown-up valuation, I recall that moment.

ngold(10000) 5 days ago [-]

So slack sells ads that you can target down to what toothpaste you use and how racist you are? Since that was the last major innovation in stealing user behaviour since google. Also what is their russian state mafia stake in slack? That was a big win for fascists investing.

air7(3724) 5 days ago [-]

I really love reading threads like that (or dropbox launch etc). It's really humbling.

dillonmckay(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I miss Screenhero.

That was an amazing implementation of an application.

fisherjeff(2252) 5 days ago [-]

And now they're dropping its functionality from Slack!

Would LOVE for someone to buy Screenhero back from Slack and bring it back to life. Truly a shame as it is.

jsherwani(3410) 5 days ago [-]

Screenhero cofounder/CEO here. I'm working on a successor to Screenhero as we speak! Sign up for the beta here: https://scrn.app

ngaut(626) 5 days ago [-]

Mattermost raises $50 million to advance its open source Slack alternative


astrange(3753) 5 days ago [-]

Here's another one.


You don't even need a client because you can read https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc2812 and then use telnet. Just remember to respond to PINGs.

ourcat(4152) 5 days ago [-]

Mattermost is a fantastic open source alternative to Slack, nicely integrated with Gitlab.

We used Slack on a few projects, but the thought of using a third-party to host corporate development discussion was an absolute no-no in the long run.

It's staggering how fast people are to pay for something when there's a cheaper (or free) alternative out there, these days.

ahartmetz(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Mattermost is actually open core. Rocket.chat is similar but fully open source.

r32a_(4097) 6 days ago [-]

Slack can eat into Zoom very easily. Massive room for growth

chime(2903) 5 days ago [-]

Zoom works perfectly every single time. I've managed to make Slack's audio call feature work only rarely. I wish Slack had decent shared whiteboard, screenshare, and audio/video conferencing but that is a hard problem and they are currently not able to deliver. Zoom does flawlessly.

mullingitover(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It's pretty hilarious that first Stewart Butterfield tried to make an MMO (Game Neverending), failed at that, and ended up making a fortune on the spinoff, Flickr. Then he tried to make another MMO (Glitch), failed at that, and ended up making a fortune on the spinoff, Slack.

I hope he tries to make another MMO.

oliyoung(3895) 5 days ago [-]

Guy Raz's podcast How I Made This does a whole episode on it, it's excellent https://www.npr.org/2018/07/27/633164558/slack-flickr-stewar...

ricklamers(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I think this might actually be a really nice insight: they adapted by shifting their focus based on user/customer feedback/learnings to the extent of completely changing the core of what they are doing/making.

This level of adaptability might explain part of their success. Rather than naively sticking to your original vision, identifying where you have the opportunity to create value and changing direction based on that insight.

mettamage(3749) 5 days ago [-]

I feel naive for asking: how would you come up with Flickr as a spinoff for an MMO? A chat application, yea seems fair, but Flickr?

I am seriously withholding my urge to spam question marks on this page as they are dancing around my head.

nstart(3140) 5 days ago [-]

I just want him to set aside a fund for remaking glitch. The most ambitiously cooperative mmo I ever played. I miss it everytime I think about it :(

antirez(891) 5 days ago [-]

Happy for the people that built it, with the idea of improving what the chat was. Sad for the internet, because we were better in the 1980s with an open standard like IRC, and gradually the internet community lost the ability to adapt their old open protocols for the future.

simonh(4055) 5 days ago [-]

I'm a big fan of Pythonista. When I do a search for a topic Google often takes me to a post on the user forums. There's also a Slack channel, but Google can't see it so anything useful in there is much harder to access hence I don't use it. I don't want to encourage content migrating to a proprietary silo. That's why I don't mind Reddit, for all it's faults it's at least still an actual web site.

austenallred(498) 5 days ago [-]

We still have IRC for those that choose to use it

avip(4048) 5 days ago [-]

Is it not an inevitable result of federation and decentralization as governance? A camel is a horse designed by a committee, as the saying has it.

Shorel(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I think Discord is more a replacement of IRC than Slack could ever be.

Slack is enterprise and workflow-oriented, Discord is community oriented.

bytematic(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Twitch.tv uses it

Sahhaese(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The death of the protocol.

People no longer release protocols, they release products. The open net, the open web has truly died.

I wonder sometimes what we're missing because the conditions that let the web grow out of the internet have disappeared. What next leap are we missing?

mlrtime(3517) 5 days ago [-]

Seems like there are 16 billion reasons NOT to choose IRC. From Slack's perspective (and you could argue most of it's users) this was a good choice.

FWIW, I've been using IRC for over 20 years.

bouk(3965) 5 days ago [-]

IRC has terrible UX, and Slack beat it because the experience is better.

dredmorbius(226) 5 days ago [-]

MLP's 'On Port 80' hits on much of the 'why': Firewalls increase friction of new protocol development.

There's moe to it, but this is definitely a factor.


kashyapc(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I'm truly hoping the Matrix protocol takes off.

(FWIW, /me has been using Matrix-based chat clients for group and individual chats at conferences. Quite happy with it.)

HHalvi(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I think Slack is a bit undervalued more than over valued. The market is big enough for Slack + Microsoft, Amazon Chime, G Suite and so many other players to coexist. Also Slack to me feels like a good enough messaging apps. P.S: I hate it's knock-knock chime when engrossed in work and the fact that i have to keep the app running to get notifications.

efficax(10000) 5 days ago [-]

You do know you can change the chime?

mamon(4138) 6 days ago [-]

Venture capitalists are cashing their investments by IPOs - sure sign that the next financial crisis is starting soon :) Dotcom Bubble 2.0 is ready to burst.

EDIT: I do not imply that venture capitalists poses some insider knowledge. It is not necessary. It's just the fact that when bullshit companies with bullshit product, that generate losses instead of profit get valued at $16B (other recent examples include Lyft and Uber) it means that economy is in crazy state, and it does not take much to induce panic. My guess is one of these unicorns will fill for bankruptcy soon, thus pushing the market over the edge.

jjeaff(4057) 6 days ago [-]

This is the m.o. for most VCs all the time. Doesn't seem to indicate a market peak

It does, however indicate that the VCs think that the company in question has peaked.

Unless the argument could be made that somehow, going public is going to really boost Slack's business going forward and was the only way to do so.

sambroner(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I keep hearing this take!

Yet, I have no real evidence that points me to its truth. The thinking seems to be predicated on VCs having inside knowledge or excellent speculative skills. That might be true, but presumably they're not the only strong speculators.

Are we seeing other major players move out of tech? We're certainly not seeing massive liquidation in general.

hanniabu(3864) 6 days ago [-]

I'd wager it's because they're peaking so best to dump the stock on the market before it goes downhill

stevehiehn(4001) 6 days ago [-]

Crazy, sometimes I picture the creators of HipChat laying in bed staring the ceiling mumbling: 'but, but, we did thi..'

hombre_fatal(10000) 6 days ago [-]

We tried HipChat for a whole day before bouncing. It was so bad. Had hilariously poor UX, using commands like \code to get a single line of monospaced text, iirc.

lone_haxx0r(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Forrester analyst Michael Facemire says it's hard for people to understand why the platform is more useful than other chat applications without trying it for themselves.

It isn't.

I know Slack probably needs to justify its valuation in front of some people, but Slack is not different from Facebook and Instagram in this regard: They offer nothing unique or technologically superior. The whole point of their business is hoarding users to the point that it's the 'default' app in their given context.

I'm not saying it's bad. If they didn't do it, someone else would have done it anyway.

luckylion(4155) 5 days ago [-]

Eh, maybe I'm in the minority here, but I've been forced to work on MS teams for a project and it's atrocious compared to Slack. Not to mention the lack of a client for linux, their web app doesn't work in chromium for no reason (it does in chrome), and the UX is just shit.

Slack just works and their UI/UX is on point, everything is intuitive. Their client is slow and eats RAM, but I totally see that it's more useful than other chat applications.

thallavajhula(4083) 6 days ago [-]

For those curious, their symbol is $WORK

partingshots(3446) 6 days ago [-]

Stealing WeWork's thunder... A smart move, though perhaps a little painful for all the existing plans the WeWork marketing department had.

durdleturtle(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I love the software, though this kind of feels like the Dot Com bubble all over again.

acchow(4071) 6 days ago [-]

Companies didn't even have revenues back then.

paxys(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I don't think people who say this were even around at the time of the dotcom bubble. There were public companies adding 'tech' to their names and seeing their values rise 10x in a day. THAT was a bubble.

patio11(936) 6 days ago [-]

I would encourage people to read the Pets.com 10-Q to understand what the dot com bubble was like from a corporate finance perspective, because there are deeper lessons than 'Some companies with substantial Internet operations IPOed.'


Pets.com paid $10.5M for pet food then sold it for $8.7M, while needing $23M to keep the lights on that quarter.

Compare to https://sec.report/Document/0001628280-19-004786/ :

Slack, unsurprisingly because it sells software, has positive gross margins rather than negative gross margins; they're healthy at ~80%. They appear to be able to turn $1 of sales and marketing spend in Year 1 into > $1 of software revenue in year 2. Their churn rate on a dollar basis is 43%. Excuse me, -43%; a cohort of SaaS customers paying $100M in year 1 will pay $143M in year 2 due to growth in number of seats more than offsetting churning accounts.

There is no price at which a rational person should want to own Pets.com. There is, very clearly, a price at which a rational person should want to own Slack.

biztos(4029) 5 days ago [-]

I like the human story: Stewart Butterfield co-creates Flickr, revolutionizing online photo sharing; sells it for what at the time was 'real money' but quickly discovers he could have held out for a whole lot more; burns through some VC failing at games; and then has that Eureka! moment when he realizes the Enterprise will eat any damn thing you feed it, and he hatches his plan to join the nine-zeroes club he missed out on in 2005, software quality be damned!

orcdork(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It's like software quality is sometimes irrelevant to monetary success or something.

Roritharr(3961) 6 days ago [-]

Well deserved.

Their product-vision was clear, their execution focused on what mattered... and they didn't need to bend or break laws to succeed.

It's easily my favorite unicorn of the past decade.

einpoklum(10000) 1 day ago [-]

It's IRC with auto-linkification. Well deserved? Pro-capitalists are crazy.

geodel(2684) 6 days ago [-]

> and they didn't need to bend or break laws to succeed.

I agree. There is no law against half-assed, bloated Electron based desktop software that can bring even recent hardware to its knees.

baby(2277) 5 days ago [-]

Agree. About the breaking the law thing though: it's a B2B. Most 'breaking the law' companies seem to be B2C.

not_a_cop75(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Am I wrong in being skeptical at believing something that is essentially a messaging platform is worth 16 Billion?

archiepeach(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I think the whole argument of 'unicorns exploiting legal grey areas' falls victim to Hanlon's razor. I don't really believe these companies set out to bend or break any laws, it was more a case of the legal system not catching up fast enough. Uber started as a service to hire limousines, not a platform company.

If governments weren't so concerned with party politics, infighting and staving off populist surges, we'd probably have a proper definition for a 'gig economy' worker by now. A definition that would allow them to keep the flexibility that they appreciate so much, whilst still having proper worker protections for sick pay, holidays and all the rest.

bborud(3810) 5 days ago [-]

You are not wrong :-). In fact, your second line is completely correct. However, Slack has lowered the standards for desktop software by being a really terrible piece of software. Which means that the professional in me wants to see a decent client before I'm happy.

What's more worrying is that we are rapidly moving away from an Internet based on open standards and into walled gardens.

mehrdadn(3316) 6 days ago [-]

I don't know about 'well deserved'. They did it by holding people's data hostage. It's one thing to make your messages unsearchable or otherwise available in the UI until your pay, but holding your data completely hostage until you pay up isn't exactly a noble way to go about things. Even Facebook isn't this obnoxious about getting you a copy of your message history.

fasteo(3689) 5 days ago [-]

>>> More than 88,000 Paid Customers, including more than 65 companies in the Fortune 100; and

>>> We had 575 Paid Customers >$100,000 of ARR as of January 31, 2019, which accounted for approximately 40% of our revenue in fiscal year 2019.

If my math is right, 40% of their revenue is concentrated in <1% of their paid customers. Is this normal in the corporate SaaS market ? I can only think of this as a huge risk.

I also saw that this is a direct listing and not an IPO. Again, I can only see this as a risk, basically because no underwriter will push the stock to investors. Is this so ?

pdovy(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Regarding the direct listing, I wouldn't view that as a negative - sounds like they had no need to raise additional capital, but wanted to provide liquidity to their investors and employees.

They've raised a _lot_ privately, and some of those rounds IIRC were described as just 'opportunistic' by the founder - i.e., raise money while it's cheap. Also given that they have a VC arm it sounds like they have more capital than they can actually deploy in their core business.

tomnipotent(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> I also saw that this is a direct listing and not an IPO.

A direct listing is an IPO. Underwriter's are not a requirement, as Spotify profitably demonstrated.

notjustanymike(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Most of the places I worked had 2 or 3 whales. 55 whales is actually pretty good.

bkrishnan(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Can someone please explain how a valuation of $16B is arrived at? I mean, from the math above, they have approximately 250K ARR?

sureaboutthis(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I predict that, one year from now, few people will be talking about Slack and, two years from now, Slack will be teetering on insolvency.

squaresmile(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Again, I can only see this as a risk, basically because no underwriter will push the stock to investors.

They don't need the cash but want to make it easier for stockholders to sell. Now also seems to be the time for tech IPO.

tpetry(3017) 5 days ago [-]

Think about thousands very small customers you simply take the money from and have no effort but they are not the target of your sales team. The numbers sound good to me.

vishnugupta(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> 40% of their revenue is concentrated in <1% of their paid customers. Is this normal in the corporate SaaS market ?

Speaking from my experience of 6 months at a SaaS company this is about the norm.

Besides the usual 80/20 rule it gets more skewed at the top. And so even the product development was optimised to keep the top 1% happy. A ton of custom built features with hundreds of feature flags..

loeg(3740) 5 days ago [-]

It's just crazy to many of us that a reinvented IRC is suddenly 'not dead' and in vogue again. Not unbelievable, just kind of surprising how quickly text chat on a channel format was cloned, rebranded, and valued for billions.

Eldt(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Yeah, you have to consider more than just the technical aspect

bredren(4113) 5 days ago [-]

My cofounder at gliph was convinced of the same and I do not blame him for it. We were in the heart of secure messaging / starting group chat when we ran out of money pursuing a marketplace. Justin Roiland even hosted his official Rick and Morty group chat with us.

I think to many highly technical people Slack is a "reinvented" irc. But I was ok IRC stealing mp3s from bots in the 90s. And I'm on Usenet now.

Slack is nothing like IRC.

twblalock(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Slack is not just reinvented IRC, just as Dropbox is not just reinvented rsync and Docker is not just reinvented cgroups.

If the basic tech behind those products met the needs of business users by itself, these companies would never have succeeded.

It's not about just the technology. It's about wrapping that technology in a good user experience for end users and an easy management experience for business customers. That is really difficult, and Slack deserves credit for doing it so well.

solidasparagus(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Slack didn't clone text chat. They took the best parts of text chat, Facebook (reactions), Reddit (threads, edits) and terminals (simple UI for applications) and merged them into a single tool. I'm currently using HipChat and the difference is night and day. Slack makes large, busy chat rooms coherent in a way that just isn't possible with other text chats. And because of that, it opens new completely new possibilities (channels to support customers, channels to use as long-term references, etc.)

boomlinde(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I can't say that I'm a fan of Slack, but in a sense, what they did to IRC (and associated tools like logging bouncers) is what Dropbox did to rsync. Take something that works for people willing to give it time and effort, centralize it, make it a bit flashier and minimize setup to make it accessible to more people.

The user experience for both these tools haven't been great for me, but streamlining them for casual computer users evidently has a lot of commercial value.

nabla9(622) 5 days ago [-]

Productization - The act of modifying something, such as a concept or a tool, to make it suitable as a commercial product.

Making big money requires productization. Sleek UI and interface that the end users see, plus marketing and selling.

Even when someone is the first with tech and prioritization, it does not mean they succeed in the long term after the field matures. I don't have high hopes for Slack in 5-10 years. Neither do I see Dropbox or Netflix justifying current valuations in the same time period.

ganzuul(10000) 5 days ago [-]

That just shows how much IRC is worth.

henning(558) 5 days ago [-]

I never understood what Slack did better than Hipchat, and not in a nerd sense of 'well Dropbox could be replaced with rsync, a VPS and some shell scripts, m'glayven'. I never understood how they killed Hipchat, IRC, or anything else. I don't know if they have a strategy to deal with things like Microsoft Teams that is very attractive to companies who already work with Office 365/Active Directory or if they can really do anything about it. So, I congratulate them on their success but I, too, am utterly mystified.

sureaboutthis(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I hear people mention Slack once in a while on various forums but I have no clue what it is. I do not know anyone who uses it so it's not something I, or anyone I know, feels a need for--otherwise we would be searching it out. And therein lies a problem. $16B for something few people need or want? I guess I have to look up Slack and see what it is.

EDIT: So I looked it up and it looks like something useful for a lot of remote workers that need constant, instant contact with people working on the same stuff at the same time. To me that's a pretty niche market. If I thought the phone or email wasn't good enough, I might pay $5/month for such a service. But irc works pretty good still today.

IRC isn't worth $16B

OkiiEli(4154) 5 days ago [-]

Your comfortable paying $5/no for it? I have a clone that's worth 0 because ideas are useless unless well executed. Slack team executed it very well and that's why it's worth $16B(Rwanda annual budget)

Kudos(4025) 5 days ago [-]

There's a venn diagram with an intersection of people who use Hacker News and people who don't know what Slack is, and it's literally just you. It's bizarre to me that you feel the need to share your opinion on the valuation of something you knew nothing about a half an hour ago.

That said, $16B seems to be about 4x more than I would have expected.

AznHisoka(3509) 6 days ago [-]

Is 16B really too high of a valuation when Atlassian is double the market cap at 32B? Both have similar products (collaboration/productivity) and are extremely sticky.

philwelch(3773) 6 days ago [-]

Atlassian products are more mission-critical. Most companies actually need some tool that does what Jira or Bitbucket does. They don't really need Slack.

logariya(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Slack has a broader userbase inside enterprises.

statictype(3343) 6 days ago [-]

Atlassian was already profitable weren't they?

There's a disclaimer these unicorns put in their S1s - "we are not profitable and may never be" - Atlassian probably didn't have to do that.

That should count for something right?

theturtletalks(4149) 6 days ago [-]

Atlassian has a wider suite of products. I would say HipChat is the Slack alternative. Slack has nothing like Jira, BitBucket, or Trello. And Atlassian is more developer centric whereas Slack is monetizing enterprise users.

lern_too_spel(4152) 6 days ago [-]

This valuation depends on the continued incompetence of Google and Microsoft, who both offer Slack competitors as part of their productivity packages that most of Slack's paying customers already subscribe to. Their offerings are so bad that people pay money to Slack not to use them.

pgm8705(3698) 5 days ago [-]

This has been my experience. Every few months or so we sign in to Google Hangouts Chat in hopes it has made some progress so we can stop paying for Slack, but it is always a disappointment.

gtfratteus(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I use Hangouts every day at work. It's works fine. I have no complaints. What could Slack possibly be doing to make it worth paying extra to use it?

Seems like the bureaucracy of most companies just hasn't caught up to the fact that Slack isn't really necessary.

chx(798) 5 days ago [-]

Slack usability has steadily been decreasing over time.

On desktop I am not getting the 'unread' grouping but mobile I do.

The drafts feature is on both and can't be disabled.

Both of them break habits of where my channels are. It is terrible UX.

The 'threads' feature on the sidebar allows you to reply to a thread but if you get a counterreply you need to click to see it. A better flow can be found if you click the channel name on top of the thread -- there's no indication like a timestamp or anything this jumps you to the thread in the channel -- and then click the thread link in-channel and then answer in the sidebar -- now the conversation flows without further clicks. Do I need to mention how terrible UX this is?

mkobit(4016) 5 days ago [-]

I agree that the usability has been declining.

The threads feature is pretty close to useful, but it still buries information and it isn't clear to other users in a channel when a thread becomes 'live' again unless they explicitly follow the thread or make a comment. Both of those actions require excessive clicking on the desktop client (at least for Ubuntu).

The most frustrating part for me is that keyboard navigation for threads is nonexistent, and it forces you to weave in and out with your mouse.

wayoutthere(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I agree they're a great product org, but not sure I agree they're a $16B company — messaging apps tend to be cyclical, so I'm not sold on their long term viability. It's just too easy for new IM platforms to take root inside a company once the old one gets too noisy.

Given the growing grassroots backlash against the entire Slack Way, I'm not convinced they have a long enough runway to pivot to a stickier product before something shinier comes along.

kemiller(4105) 6 days ago [-]

They are stickier than you think. Especially with shared channels.

sjg007(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Messaging apps are cyclical. I remember icq! Slack should become part of Google.. that would help Google widen its user base and perhaps a robust video conferencing system can piggy back on top of it.

hn_throwaway_99(4039) 5 days ago [-]

While messaging apps have tended to be cyclical, I'd argue Slack has become much more than a simple messaging app at many large companies with their integrations and bots, and they are intrinsic to many teams' workflows (e.g. 'ChatOps' is a real thing).

I see Slack as more akin to something like Excel, where people who really depend on it (in a way much more than person-to-person chat) go beserk if it's taken away.

pierlu(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Basically M$ is pushing hard to switch off Skype For Business (SFB) in favor of Teams, especially when still on-premise. The new features are being developed only for Microsoft Teams and the user base is a click away from a decent Slackish app. Another killer feature of Teams (inherited from Lync and SFB) is the trunking possibility with a legacy SIP PBX (so called Microsoft Team Direct Routing, or some form of similar creative name from Redmond market intelligence). So, I think that the future of Slack is probably the same as the future of Spotify, both like the article says incidentally direct-listed at the NYSE (and not via a formal IPO). Both will have a trusted user base, a better interface, but motivated tech giants competing into the same market.

Kiro(3725) 5 days ago [-]

I haven't seen any backlash outside this tiny circle. HN is not a good yardstick.

colechristensen(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Companies switched to slack because hipchat didn't work very well. Slack works pretty well. It would be much harder for there to be internal political motivation to change unless someone does something significantly better which I cannot imagine.

Spooky23(3588) 6 days ago [-]

What backlash?

The product is compelling enough that Microsoft is trying to position their clone as the lynchpin of everything in O365 that isn't mail.

It's a platform that is attractive to all sorts of players. Apple has a huge enterprise business that they completely ignore. Google, Cisco, other enterprise plays are easily imaginable.

Roritharr(3961) 6 days ago [-]

Their moat is sticky enough and they know it. They can decide what verticals they want to compete it, but their company mission to make business-communication more effective is still as open a field as it was when they were founded.

They may have to acquire their Instagram equivalent some time in the future, but I can easily imagine that their Enterprise Customers are here to stay.

theturtletalks(4149) 6 days ago [-]

Their valuation stems from MAUs and majority are on the generous free tier. Do investors really think they can monetize the free users?

dexterdog(4033) 6 days ago [-]

And how many of the free users are the same people? I am active on 7 or 8 slacks (all free) with at least 5 or 6 different emails. Sure they can easily link my from my device, but do they when they can inflate numbers?

The thing that drives me nuts is the pricing model. Why don't they just let users pay for themselves? Then I could be paid on all of the slacks that I use for $10/mo or whatever they charge.

fpvracing(4018) 6 days ago [-]

I've said this elsewhere in the thread, but Slack could already be making money off me if they offered an attractively priced plan for open source and hobbyist communities and gave workspace owners an easy way to forward that monthly subscription fee onto the users. But at the moment I use Slack a lot and pay them nothing.

zild3d(10000) 6 days ago [-]

2018 revenue was $400 million, ~doubled the previous year - Slack isn't a company with just a ton of free users and no monetization

warp_factor(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Congratulation to them. I think what they did is absolutely amazing and will be seen retrospectively as one of the biggest fads of history.

- They managed to disturb millions of worker to an attention-driven work culture in which everything needs to always be synchronous and immediate.

- They managed to change chat from a set of open protocols to a single closed app terribly written in JS.

- They managed to make a lot of people absolute convinced advocate of Slack so that a lot of hyped startups have now to use Slack de facto or risk mutiny and have people create Slack channels on behalf of the company without any oversight.

So yeah I don't blame them but I blame every company that falls for this. I'm convinced that we will see Slack retrospectively as something that destroyed productivity. I will agree that Slack can be useful when used correctly but I never saw a place that used it without it becoming that 'attention driven' growing monster.

todd3834(3717) 5 days ago [-]

An alternative perspective:

- Chat apps have been around for a while but now that Slack has been so widely adopted working remote has become a lot easier.

- Screen sharing for pair programming where everyone has the client installed and we don't have to convince anyone to pay for it is great. (I'm very sad Slack is shuttering this service though)

- When I'm in the office I find that people who used to interrupt me by walking up to my desk and completely detailing my work are more polite with a Slack message now. That is much easier to delay even if only for a few minutes when needed.

- large meetings where it is tempting to completely tune out can still be productive if I can interact on slack.

Your points are all valid for some but it's only one side of the coin.

vhab(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> They managed to disturb millions of worker to an 'attention driven' work culture in which everything needs to always be synchronous and immediate.

I see where you're coming from. But anecdote time.

The immediate communication fixed something for us which would previously be a more disruptive tap on the shoulder, or alternatively an only once a day processed e-mail. Slack gave our devs time to finish their thought, write out that line of code, before tabbing to Slack to see what's up.

Because you see, I love my team, but they're not perfect. Just like the vast majority of people they're imperfect beings working with imperfect information. And in order to get them to output quality code (as in, does what it needs to do, bug free, without incorrect assumptions about data) they need to communicate to each other and me. We can't wait until a PR to catch they didn't fully understand these data models setup by another guy. Nor can we wait until a PR to realize someone took the wrong approach trying to fix a problem.

Someone getting disrupted might mean someone else can progress with their task. What I'm trying to get at, I need my team to communicate and communicate often. We have plenty of issues, just like any team, but most of them come from the lack of communication. Slack, or any other similar platform allowed to strike somewhat of a happy medium where the barrier to communicate isn't too high nor too low. It's less formal and faster than an email. And keeps a better log than an in-person conversation would.

Added bonus, it also helps us to have a more liberal 'work from home' policy.

codesushi42(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The world deserved an upgrade to IRC, embracing openness.

Instead we got Slack.

At least its success made developers take Electron seriously for desktop apps.

nautilus12(4110) 5 days ago [-]

Slack is a giffen good for me in terms of attention. I have to pay so much attention to it that now it's all I pay attention to

Al-Khwarizmi(10000) 5 days ago [-]

As a long-time IRC fan (I found many important persons in my life there!), I'm also a bit salty that open protocols didn't triumph and so many people salivate about features of Slack that were already in IRC in the nineties. But I don't get the horror stories about Slack poisoning work culture, I haven't experienced them.

At my workplace, we are a team of 7 (in a research project, it's academia but I don't think our way of organizing things is too different from a small startup), we have been using Slack for like a year and we have a sane relationship with it. Yesterday I think there were like 2 or 3 messages in our Slack, no more were needed. At other points (with looming deadlines, etc.) there is more activity, but it's always activity related to work that needs to be done, and my feeling is that it mostly reduces the amount of email, and sometimes also substitutes private messaging that some of us were using for work-related issues. Which is a plus for work culture, because we keep work and leisure separated. And as there are no notifications outside working hours, I think it has actually been positive for work-life balance, compared to using email or other messaging systems.

I don't know if it's a matter of team size (I can imagine that Slack may be more prone to becoming a behemoth in a huge team?), the personalities of the people using it, or that companies/teams where Slack is problematic already had a problematic work culture in the first place. Maybe it also helps that we don't have the paid plan at my team, so since logs are not stored, we use it for immediate teamwork and we instinctively shift to email or other means for important stuff that needs to be on record or consulted later. But for whatever reason, for us it hasn't become a growing monster. I'm curious about the factors that make it a blessing or a curse.

thatfrenchguy(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Let's not forget how it helped this « we need to be connected to work all the time » BS culture.

czechdeveloper(10000) 5 days ago [-]

As remote developer, I must disagree.

There has always been distractions in office. Colleague would just walk over to you.

Now you get message. You can choose what you check and when. And reaction that is not immediate is usually fine. At least at my company.

And best of all, I don't have to be in same office to be able to communicate. I'm not even in same country, yet we can work realtime with team.

zubspace(4029) 5 days ago [-]

We're a small team of a bit more than 10 people and slack has definitely improved our lifes. It's easy to use, has lots of integrations, looks good, is free to use without the unlimited archiving of messages and works on desktop an mobile. Everyone can use it, developers, marketeers and managers alike.

Before there was always someone moving around to talk to someone else or internal E-Mails which are bad, too.

We use slack sparingly and only have a few channels with many people. Most things happen in private channels. We always 'idle-ping' other team members first and do not expect an immediate response.

The result is a much calmer office. People move around less and there is less chatter. And we still have the option to use group chat if required.

We even added a channel where new commit messages are automatically posted. A wonderful thing to keep informed about what's going on and you can take immediate action if you see something strange.

I think this all falls apart if our team size would increase. But I believe for teams with less than 25 people slack is perfectly fine. Above that size notifications probably start to be annoying.

avip(4048) 5 days ago [-]

>They managed to make a lot of people absolute convinced advocate of Slack

That's interesting. Any idea how could they possibly do that?

dtech(3704) 5 days ago [-]

> They managed to disturb millions of worker to an attention-driven work culture in which everything needs to always be synchronous and immediate.

I experience quite the opposite. With in-person communication, people barge in, demand you drop what you're doing now and answer their question/conversation.

With slack, you can answer them when you need a break or have finished something up.

hn23(10000) 5 days ago [-]

So what is the difference to Skype for Business?

yzmtf2008(4007) 5 days ago [-]

> So yeah I don't blame them but I blame every company that falls for this.

While I understand where your complaints are coming from, I encourage you to think about the fact that so many companies are 'falling' for them.

You and I might care about disturbances, 'attention driven' work culture, open protocols, etc., but not everyone is a software engineer. The world is bigger than that. Clearly, some people quite enjoy Slack. I'm not saying it's the most optimal product, but perhaps being optimal is not as important as it seems.

nothrabannosir(4150) 5 days ago [-]

I see this complaint a lot, and I'm very sensitive to dopamine addiction myself so perhaps a few of my tips can help someone else make Slack less frustrating:

1. use /mute judiciously. especially on the main chats. only unmute important '#500' style channels. People immediately learn to @you when relevant.

2. disable notifications for everything on mobile: DMs, @here, @channel, @yourname, anything. No notifications whatsoever.

3. Put 'Notifications disabled -- in case of emergency, please call me: <phone nr here>' in your status. I've had one person call me ever and it was completely justified. He saw the status, called me and said, 'sorry I'm calling but it's an emergency and your status said to call.' Great.

4. Disable all notifications on your desktop app, as well. On Mac OS X, don't even have the red app button show up for unread messages. Just check Slack once an hour (or what you want) and deal with any DMs / @mentions / outstanding chat. In reality, you'll automatically check whenever you have mental downtime, or during a conversation. This just allows you to stay in the zone when you are.

This has significantly reduced my Slack-stress. I enjoy it far better now, on my terms.

Most importantly: if someone is frustrated by your poor response time, explain! 'I'm very bad with distractions, I need this to cope. If it's an emergency, please call :)'. People are good people, they understand.

I hope this helps anyone :)

wonnage(10000) 5 days ago [-]

1. you don't have to reply right away 2. chat being a set of open protocols has been a pipe dream of nerds for ages, the reality is that slack is your universal protocol now and everything preceding it forgot that actual humans had to use it 3. you seem unable to comprehend that people actually...like Slack???

jakubp(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It's not just productivity. It can also damage quality of relationships and introduce unnecessary conflict - as any written communications tool does - because people also fall for using Slack to discuss tough issues. It doesn't replace actual in-person conversation, but especially younger workers and managers don't know that and suffer a lot due to lack of emotional fidelity of actually using their bodies to talk.

dstaley(4062) 6 days ago [-]

It's still crazy to me that a $16B company can't make the financials of a true native app for Windows and macOS work. Microsoft has some real soul searching to do to fix up Windows development and make it easier and more attractive to companies. Thankfully it seems like both Microsoft and Apple are at least trying to make things easier. Apple will probably do the best with Project Catalyst (I mean, they already got Twitter!), but Microsoft is investing in React Native for Windows which could prove really interesting. Hopefully Microsoft doesn't settle for just making Electron better.

scarface74(3824) 6 days ago [-]

Slack is a $16 billion dollar company on paper but still not profitable and showing no signs of profitability. It's not like Slack is printing money.

marcrosoft(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Maybe because the real future is web apps and has been for more than a decade now.

carlosdp(4152) 6 days ago [-]

I think the pure-web play will end up being a better decision in the long run tbh.

narag(3990) 6 days ago [-]

Do Microsoft and Apple really want native apps? I've got the opposite impression: they've tried very hard to herd desktop apps into Apple Store model. Third party vendors, like Adobe, are also forcing clients to adopt subscription schemes.

reitzensteinm(2428) 6 days ago [-]

I don't even think they need to make a native app; I use plenty of Electron apps day to day, like VSCode, Atom, GitHub Desktop and they're all fine.

Slack however is borderline unusable. Ghost processes, background workspaces silently closing and not delivering notifications, processes pinned at 100% CPU, silent crashes, pauses while typing, and even sometimes character drops.

I've tried it on three laptops from two vendors all with 16gb of memory, 100% SSD and an i7.

I've got Mac user friends that tell me they've never had any of the above issues, and I believe them. I've used it on a Mac, though not as a daily driver, and it's fine.

It just feels to me like Windows is a second tier platform for Slack, where they're fixing the bare minimum to not lose market share.

jillesvangurp(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The pain of forking development into multiple separate teams with completely different technology stacks, bugs, and coordination overhead is just not worth it for most startups. It slows you down when you need to be able to adapt quickly. A lot of unicorns in the past would have addressed this by simply focusing on one platform initially but for an application like this that is not feasible. Even Linux support is not optional for a company like Slack since a lot of the decision makers on stuff like this tend to be in the IT department which in many companies would include at least a few Linux users. By going all in on Electron, they ensured access to all relevant platforms from day one.

The reality is, that most of their user base is completely fine with performance as is, which I agree is not ideal. But it's good enough. My guess is that they will gradually fix issues by benefitting from Electron improvements, swapping out bits of js for more efficient WASM based stuff, etc.

Mostly native app strategies are an extremely bad idea for small start ups these days. You triple the cost (or worse) of your development and inevitably you are going to do better on some platforms than others. I know people obsess about native on platforms like IOS but I find it interesting that there are quite a few unicorns out there succeeding with glorified electron/react native code bases. Slack is basically shipping a web app packaged up as an electron app on Android, IOS, Mac, Windows, and Linux. You can run the thing in a browser pretty much without loss of functionality.

SomeOldThrow(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Of course they can, they just won't.

kareemm(386) 6 days ago [-]

Maybe the lesson is that a decent solution to a painful problem and great sales and marketing are a good recipe for success.

perfunctory(3016) 5 days ago [-]

Off topic. Didn't know NPR had text only version of the site. https://text.npr.org

baybal2(2599) 6 days ago [-]

It makes no sense for me. It's just a web frontend on top of an irc chat. $16B for that is a complete insanity.

This is an insubstantial business, doing an even more insubstantial product, with a sole criteria of it being a 'big thing' being some smart banker analyst saying so — that's a hello from dotcom bubble era

At such valuation, it will take them ~100 years just to earn its price from ads sales

hilbertseries(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Slack made 140m in the first quarter of this year, their valuation is based on how fast they've grown their business and how fast it continues to grow. They don't sell ads, they sell seats, they're a SAAS company. 16B is not insane for a company that has grown revenue at their pace and continues to grow revenue.

axaxs(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I agree, but in a less disparaging manner. I'd say rather, the barrier to entry is super low, many competitors exist, and some arguably better. I don't feel they have runaway velocity like say, FB achieved early on when in a similar boat.

zild3d(10000) 6 days ago [-]

obligatory 'Dropbox is just a trivial ftp server plus SVN'

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8863

jensvdh(10000) 6 days ago [-]

What a complete nonsensical comment. Is Facebook just a frontend on top of a user DB?

matchbok(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Crazy. I can't stand the software.

Experiment for slack fans: Start talking about something in a channel with ~20 people. Then ask a friend to ask another question in the same channel. What happens? A mess. You now have 2 conversations modeled with a single stream of single-line messages, with no context. One someone starts a conversation in a channel every single other user in that channel now has to wait. (or risk being pushed up past the fold, which people never scroll to)

Chat just isn't how work gets done. Or how knowledge is transferred and, most importantly, retained.

garrett_oh(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Isn't this what threads are for?

huis(10000) 5 days ago [-]

To me the succes of Slack also shows how invaluable it is.

Companies jumped to it very easily. Everybody just started using it. And the moment something better comes along Slack will be forgotten.

I think this is different from Facebook. Company employees come and go so they don't value what they put on Slack very much. And for companies the history on slack is also not very important.

Well that's how I see how Slack is being used inside different companies.

CoryG89(3783) 5 days ago [-]

I don't necessarily think Slack is worth $16B any time soon, but I actually do feel like my searchable Slack history stretching back ~5 years is one of the most valuable resources I have at my fingertips on a dailt basis. The search quickly pulls up stuff from years ago even stuff from before we changed the subdomain for the org.

notatoad(10000) 5 days ago [-]

>shows how invaluable

Invaluable means very valuable. From the rest of your comment, I'm not sure that's what you meant?

starchild_3001(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Slack is a great product (vs email or public chat alternatives). I wish them the best expanding their user base.

Are they worth 16B? None of the armchair investors here know their financials (addressable market size, user growth rate, expected ARPU etc). Until a careful analysis done, I would caution you against coming to a quick conclusion.

barefootcoder(3288) 6 days ago [-]

Why do you say that it's good vs email? In my mind they're for different purposes.

Slack for urgent matters, email for asynchronous communication that isn't quite as urgent. Email is also better for things that the recipient may want to refer back to in the future.

Regardless, I wish that my co-workers would stop sending a message only saying 'hi, name' and then waiting for me to stop working to respond before they type their actual question. 'not only am I going to interrupt you, but I'm going to make you acknowledge the interruption before making you wait while I SLOWLY type the actual incomplete question'.

<Grumble, grumble, I hate when people misuse Slack>

tjpnz(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Just throwing out there but has Slack genuinely improved the work lives of anybody? I've used it for my past two jobs and have yet to find a way of using it that doesn't destroy my productivity or make me genuinely afraid of receiving a message and being thrown off what I was doing.

dsc_(4111) 6 days ago [-]

Don't forget, it is YOUR choice to have Slack open. Nobody is forcing you to. It might be an unspoken rule to do so, but I value productivity more. In the event someone has something important to say (rarely the case), come up or call me (or PM me on IRC).

count(3771) 6 days ago [-]

Yes. Working in a fully distributed team, irc+pictures is great.

It's on you to manage your interruptions (it's easy to kill them totally, or to customize what you see). If you just take it all, then yeah, I can see that being a living hell. So like, don't do that.

lostlogin(4041) 5 days ago [-]

Having broken things sent a webhook to an #alerts channel is so very excellent. Various channels for home and work and they have been great. I'm sure there are better tools out there, but this has really changed things for the better for me.

collinf(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yeah it's a total hog of attention. At the company I just left, you could walk through our office and 90% of people were just talking on Slack. What a waste of engineering time.

We were pretty invested in ChatOps which I thought was great. Being able to issue commands in any sort of war room situation with a group of people was definitely helpful for that sort of triaging. Of course, the downside being that depending on Slack to be up to do effective operations isn't super appealing to me.

Of course people have been doing this with IRC forever, but Slack is a definite improvement on this front over Skype.

SpicyLemonZest(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Absolutely. It's allowed my 10 second questions to take 10 seconds, instead of 10 seconds of talking after 10 (non-contiguous) minutes of trying to guess when the person will be at their desk.

I definitely don't feel pressure to answer Slack messages when I'm actively working on something, though. I imagine it'd be pretty bad if we had that kind of environment.

irascible(4134) 6 days ago [-]

Slack is what allows me to work from home, spend more time with my family.. avoid a 4 hour commute each day.. and be able to use my own high end computing equipment for work.

I mentor other people in my field via multiple slack channels.. and I have seen the results of that turn into new opportunities for work and new opportunities for my employer.

Slack has its problems, but what it enables for me is incredible.

flomo(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I find Slack to be a good incremental improvement over whatever AOL/MSN/Yahoo/Google IM front-ends we used in the old days. Otherwise nothing new.

dingo_bat(3938) 6 days ago [-]

It is about 1000x better than Skype for Business.

burgerboy(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If you can't handle using a chat program you are a moron

ineedasername(4127) 5 days ago [-]

Honestly I feel the same way about email. I work in an office culture where rapid email replies are strongly encouraged. But as a project-based worker, that kills my momentum. I've generally gotten away with semi-ignoring it by checking email morning, mid-day, end of day, and strongly encouraging people to call me in the interim with anything truly urgent.

BurningFrog(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Is Slack the real problem, or are you just blaming the messenger?

Salgat(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Without slack I couldn't work full remote.

thrw374747(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I really like IRC, I can customize it exactly the way I want. Slack is garbage.

ryanstorm(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Here's a small tip for others that might help this problem:

Don't use the application versions of any of your apps. Instead, open up the web version of all of them and keep all their tabs in one browser window.

For example, my 'notification window' includes my gmail, slack, outlook, and the web client for my mobile texts. I keep the window minimized until I have a need for it, and keep the vibration off on my phone during work hours.

zubspace(4029) 5 days ago [-]

We're a small team of a bit more than 10 people and slack has definitely improved our lifes.

Before there was always someone moving around to talk to someone else or internal E-Mails which are equally bad.

We use slack sparingly and only have a few channels with many people. Most things happen in private channels. We always 'idle-ping' other team members first and do not expect an immediate response.

The result is a much calmer office. People move around less and there is less chatter. And we still have the option to use group chat if required.

We even added a channel where new commit messages are automatically posted. A wonderful thing to keep informed about what's going on and you can take immediate action if you see something strange.

I think this all falls apart if our team size would increase. But I believe for teams with less than 25 people slack is perfectly fine. Above that size notifications probably start to be annoying.

kelnos(3775) 5 days ago [-]

I don't really get this.

Some people at my company get interrupted by slack all the time, and they complain about it.

I disable all notifications except for @-mentions and DMs (and then I only have desktop notifications; mobile is disabled). If I'm expecting to not want interruptions at all, I go to DnD mode for a bit.

And yet, when I tell people this, they just somehow claim they can't do what I do for some hand-wavy reason, and continue to complain.

Cyclone_(4005) 5 days ago [-]

Set standards on when people use the group notifications is a start. But in general just having standards that people agree upon for channel message priority is the way to go.

randomdata(4152) 5 days ago [-]

Maybe no more than any other chat application (Slack has been the nicest of those which we have tried though), but my workplace, which was born around office messaging, has recently started to push towards more voice communication and I feel like that has brought a decrease in productivity.

Having an automatic transcript of all discussion was the most amazing resource. Now I, along with everyone else, have to rely on faulty memory, which leads to more meetings to continually check that we understand each other, and longer meetings as it takes a lot longer to convey ideas. Quite frankly, it is a disaster, in my opinion.

But perhaps in both of our cases we are simply resistant to change.

jingalings(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Not specific to Slack (we use MS teams) but the concept of a channel/group/team is great for white noise comms, these types of comms are going to happen (e.g happy birthday) and if it reduces email load (which means the email channel can then be kept for higher priority comms and record keeping especially for later searching), it's a good thing IMO.

asoo(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Use DND. If i'm being productive i always pause notifications.

megaremote(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Oh, yes. 100%. I can't imagine how we would work in the last two major companies I worked at without it. Everyone is on slack, great place to ask simple questions, create a channel to discuss an issue, add images and video, and provide feedback when you are ready.

matchbok(10000) 5 days ago [-]

No. It's a mess.

emtel(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Yes. I really like it. Since roughly 1998, I've done work chat on IRC, hipchat, MOOs, and a web-based chat app I built with a friend. Slack is the best of any of them.

ddlutz(10000) 6 days ago [-]

So they are worth $1,600 per user? I don't understand how that is possible at all.

asdfman123(4151) 6 days ago [-]

I do post a lot of gifs on slack.

johannes1234321(4020) 6 days ago [-]

It's not about current user, but potential user growth.

nwallin(10000) 6 days ago [-]

My company is in the middle of switching from Slack to Microsoft teams. The water cooler talk is that we're paying Slack $1000-$2500 per year per user.

It sounds like their business model thus far is that of p2w mobile games. Nearly all of your users are minnows, but some are whales.

I don't know if any of this is true. It doesn't really sound believable that we're paying that much, tbh.

neumann(4142) 5 days ago [-]

Does that mean Zulip is worth $16B? Cos it is awesome and self-hostable if you want it to be.

theturtletalks(4149) 5 days ago [-]

Rocket.chat and Mattermost are also great open source alternatives. I was surprised I couldn't find an open source plugin for live chat with Slack. Rocket.chat has that built-in and I host it on a VPS.

keyle(1669) 6 days ago [-]

I wish them all the best. But I do hope they stay small in spirit and nimble.

One of my favourite things about slack is /feedback and the fact that someone will get back to me within 24hrs. There is no product of this scale that has such a low barrier to feedback/questions/bug report.

city41(3113) 5 days ago [-]

Except in my experience they don't actually fix the bugs. For literally years the Slack app would get into a zombie state if your network changed in any way: switched WAPs, got on/off the VPN, switch from wifi to ethernet, etc. The app would still think it had a network connection but it actually didn't. The only way to fix it was with a hard refresh. To this day I still reflexively do a ctrl-r whenever my network changes. Because after reporting this bug to them over and over and over I got fed up and just moved on. I honestly have no idea if the bug has actually been fixed, ctrl-r has just become complete muscle memory for me now.

Historical Discussions: Open-sourcing Sorbet: a fast, powerful type checker for Ruby (June 20, 2019: 614 points)

(614) Open-sourcing Sorbet: a fast, powerful type checker for Ruby

614 points 5 days ago by abhorrence in 3561st position

sorbet.org | Estimated reading time – 3 minutes | comments | anchor

We're excited to announce that Sorbet is now open source and you can try it today. Sorbet is a fast, powerful type checker designed for Ruby. It scales to codebases with millions of lines of code and can be adopted incrementally.

We designed Sorbet to be used at Stripe, where the vast majority of our code is written in Ruby. We've spent the last year and a half developing and adopting Sorbet internally, and we're finally confident that Sorbet is not just an experimental, internal project—we're ready to share Sorbet with the entire Ruby community. In fact, we've had more than 30 companies beta test Sorbet and provide feedback.

Today's release includes:

  • The core static type checker
  • Tooling to create new Sorbet projects
  • Tooling to gradually adopt Sorbet in existing projects
  • A runtime DSL for writing type annotations
  • A central repository for sharing type definitions for Ruby gems

... and much more. We're excited for you to play around with Sorbet, integrate it into your codebases, and share your feedback. We've received immeasurable value from the Ruby community already: this is our way of giving back.

Getting started

We've put together a number of resources to help you get started with Sorbet:

  • Adopting Sorbet: In just a few quick steps, get started using the Sorbet gem to type check an existing codebase.

  • Gradual Type Checking: Sorbet is a gradual type checker. What does that mean, and how can we use it to our advantage?

  • Docs: Check out the documentation to learn all about Sorbet's features.

For a round-up of recent changes you can read State of Sorbet for Spring 2019. And of course, feel free to browse the source on GitHub to learn how to build Sorbet, read the source code, report bugs, and contribute fixes!


We know that releasing an open-source project is the just the first step, and we're excited to continue building Sorbet with our community. Stripe is committed to growing the Sorbet project as a robust part of the Ruby ecosystem. Here's how you can ask questions, report bugs, and share your experience reports:

  • Ask us questions on Stack Overflow: We'll be actively monitoring Stack Overflow questions with the sorbet tag, where you can ask questions you have while adopting Sorbet in your codebase.

  • Chat with us on Slack: We've been using Slack to communicate with collaborators and beta testers; you can join our community to chat with other Sorbet users.

  • Report issues on GitHub: Sorbet is still very young—if you find and can reproduce bugs in Sorbet, please share them!


Sorbet is the product of a large community of supporters, and we're deeply appreciative for their work. You can see the complete list of contributors who helped us in the process of open sourcing Sorbet. And of course, we'd also like to thank the dozens of beta testers who braved the rough edges of Sorbet in its early days. 🎉

All Comments: [-] | anchor

maxfurman(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I'm having trouble finding the implementation of `sig` - could someone please point me to the right file? Thanks. I'm very curious how they pulled this off.

jade12(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Here it is:


As you'll notice, `sig` doesn't actually do anything.

FpUser(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I've never understood the so called advantages of dynamic typing. To me it looks like a land mine in one's project waiting to blow at run time. And what for? Do developers code so fast that the time spent on typing something like 'int i' will provide any real savings? Now vendors are trying to patch those with bolted on top syntax extensions/derived languages that need to be transpiled. What a mess.

jeremycw(10000) 5 days ago [-]

When you're consuming JSON that has deep nesting, arrays that contain multiple types, etc. Something that may be two lines of code in a dynamic language could be as much as 100 lines in some static typed languages.

mberning(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Most people fixate on the terseness that it can afford in a language. I suppose I do like that but for me it is not a huge deal.

What I think is more important is the flexibility that it brings to express design patterns that in other languages, like Java for example, can become very cumbersome. I can't tell you how many times I have been in the bowels of some Java code and found some method that takes a concrete implementation of something that could or should be an interface when I really want to pass in something different. Then you are like "let me extend and fix this class" and then you end up just extending and fixing 1/2 the code base to get done what needs to be done. In a language like Ruby I would just pass in an object that responds to all the needed methods and it would happily work. Ideally you wouldn't get into these type of messes in statically typed languages because people would follow good design principles all the time. But people are fallible and in reality messes are everywhere in statically typed languages.

So I think the approach of adding type enforcement if desired is a nice approach considering there is a large amount of code out there that probably doesn't benefit much from it.

camjohnson26(4100) 5 days ago [-]

Sometimes I do code that fast. When you're messing around just trying to find out if something is possible you want to write as much code in as short a time as possible, and Python shines for that. Every second wasted typing is a second that could have been spent moving forward.

Of course the problem is that the prototypes are terrible to maintain and eventually need unit tests and typing. But you don't want to waste time adding those things if you're not even sure your idea will work. I use strongly typed languages in production and couldn't imagine using Python for that.

mruts(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Type checking isn't really related to typing "int." Many languages infer types. In fact, Hindley Milner type systems should be able to infer all types without explicitly specifying any of them.

SomeOldThrow(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It makes unit testing much easier. That's the best explanation I've found. Rapid prototyping too, but that just means you're backloading tech debt so that's at best neutral in pure technical terms. In a startup context backloading tech debt is deeply desired.

battletested(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I really don't like the current movement of introducing static typing in dynamic typed languages. Why did we create dynamic typed languages after all? Because we know the pain of having to type everything and especially the pain of converting one type into another.

In C you mainly need static types because you cannot put 32 bits into a 16 bit CPU register, or you cannot do pointer arithmetic on values of different types, etc.. But that is not the reason why we want types in dynamically typed languages. We just want to prevent passing incompatible types as argument to a receiving method for example. And by adding static typing to dynamically typed languages we actually invalidate these languages entirely, full circle. First we create a dynamically typed language, then we change that into a statically typed language that transpiles back to a dynamically typed language, which is terribly inefficient, why would you want that? I have never been able to convince the proponents, they appear to be in some kind of higher state, having found the holy grail.

Almost all the benefits of static typing added to dynamic languages can be achieved by a better and smarter IDE. All these new 'typed' languages with all their own issues are only temporal I expect. We keep changing and rewriting while thinking we're doing it 'the right way' now.. Like Typescript, how long will that live? Flow is deprecated already. The very best thing of the C language is that it is still C, and that is fucking awesome for C developers, after all those years they can still write in the language they master.

jldugger(4115) 5 days ago [-]

> Almost all the benefits of static typing added to dynamic languages can be achieved by a better and smarter IDE.

That does what? Typecheck things? You'd probably want a tool or library to do that, so it's pretty fortunate that Stripe bothered to provide those to us.

> We keep changing and rewriting while thinking we're doing it 'the right way' now..

Humanity has yet to rescue type inference from the forges fire on Mount Olympus. After Milner tricked Hindley in a lunchtime debate about tabs versus spaces and code quality, Hindley punished us mere mortals by placing type inference in the fires of heavily recursive forges mortals dare not touch.

mbell(3984) 5 days ago [-]

I wonder what the reason for not supporting structural typing is. It seems like a very natural fit for Ruby.

ptarjan(3798) 5 days ago [-]

We believe that the main goal of a typechecker is to give you nice error messages. We've found giving names to things makes it easier for folks to reason about their errors, and introducing names for interfaces isn't that onerous at Stripe or with our beta testers.

We aren't opposed to eventually support it, but we'd like to see how it goes with the current form first.

castwide(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Coincidentally, I announced the beta version of a Ruby type checker in Solargraph two days ago: https://github.com/castwide/solargraph/issues/192

It has a few overlapping features with Sorbet, with one major difference being that Solargraph type checking relies on YARD documentation instead of annotations.

brigandish(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I wondered why no one had tried this instead. It's certainly a (much needed!) incentive to document methods.

I'm going to give Solargraph a look-see.

hit8run(2675) 4 days ago [-]

Love the work you're doing on Solargraph! Thx for it.

sebastianconcpt(3791) 5 days ago [-]

I still wonder what problem exactly static typing fixes. Is is only me that I'm too used to dynamic tech without correctness issues?

sebastianconcpt(3791) 4 days ago [-]

Dude, I asked a genuine question and I get downvotes? WTF? Downvoters, I didn't asked anything off topic, can you elaborate why the downvotes?

lacampbell(4147) 5 days ago [-]

I tend to think in terms of static types, so I prefer it, but a lot of people seem to be very productive with dynamic typing.

What's your workflow like? Strict TDD? Runtime contracts? How do you feel when you need to use a statically typed language?

SmooL(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Well one thing: when you work on enough code for long enough you start to forget what's/what. Static typing let's you jump in and immediately know the shape of your data at any point in the code, without having to re-trace execution manually

itake(4125) 5 days ago [-]

The 'Getting Started' link at the bottom of the page is broke


ptarjan(3798) 5 days ago [-]

Great find! Fixing now, thanks.

imhoguy(3936) 5 days ago [-]

Excellent work! I wonder if somebody already tried to run it against Rails codebase.

dwheeler(10000) 5 days ago [-]

While we're on the topic of static analysis of code that uses Rails... I suggest also using other static analysis tools as they make sense. I lead the Railroader project, an open source security static analysis tool for programs built on Rails. It doesn't guarantee finding all security problems, but it can help. More info here: https://railroader.org/

ksec(2066) 5 days ago [-]

Both Shopify and Kickstarter are on Rails.

I wonder why Github didn't join the private Beta?

darkdimius(3658) 5 days ago [-]

Companies that use Rails have also started working on https://github.com/chanzuckerberg/sorbet-rails, worth checking out!

darkdimius(3658) 5 days ago [-]

Yes, join the slack! While Stripe doesn't run rails all other companies in private beta did!

hdoan741(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Original author of sorbet-rails here. I tried and it did take some work to integrate with Rails, because how dynamic Rails code can be.

But it's pretty useful once setup. It can know when an attribute is nullable or non-nullable, which is a big deal. We even use Sorbet to limit the usage of some dynamic Rails API so that it's more sane.

simplify(4149) 5 days ago [-]

A fascinating part about Sorbet is it did not have to introduce any additional syntax to Ruby (unlike TypeScript, for example). This really speaks to the expressiveness of Ruby. Very cool.

est31(4039) 5 days ago [-]

Was that additional syntax in TypeScript actually neccessary for type inferrence? Or is it rather to avoid API hazards when you change some internal code and suddenly the API of your library breaks because the inferred type has changed.

SomeOldThrow(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The type signatures are pretty noisy to read, though, some syntax can definitely help. Maybe with Ruby 3?

jtms(4151) 5 days ago [-]

Though I haven't yet used it for anything in production, I think if I were starting something greenfield and wanted "Ruby with static types" I would go with Crystal. I really enjoy writing it and the performance you can get is quite a significant boost over Ruby.

sickcodebruh(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I'd still go Ruby. A language's ecosystem and community are as much factors in why someone should choose or avoid it as its syntax. Both of those things are fantastic for Ruby — I'd argue that they're some of its best features, in fact. Crystal? Not so much.

poorman(4122) 5 days ago [-]

I've used contracts any time this type of thing was necessary. https://github.com/egonSchiele/contracts.ruby

wpride(10000) 5 days ago [-]

We use Contracts too and are in the process of transitioning to Sorbet. In addition to the same runtime type checking as Contracts, Sorbet offers static type checking (and will re-use your runtime signatures in its static analysis).

the_duke(3457) 5 days ago [-]

It's been funny to watch how more and more static type systems are getting bolted on to dynamically typed languages in recent years.

Typescript (with stellar adoption), native type annotation support in Python, Sorbet, PHP 7, Elixir + Dialyzer, ...

I wonder why there isn't a popular gradually typed language that natively allows writing both dynamic and type-safe code, allowing quick prototyping and then gradual refactor to type safety.

I guess in part because it's a big challenge to come up with a coherent type system that allows this, the bifurcation in the ecosystem, and often a somewhat leaky abstraction. Eg in Typescript you will often still run into bugs caused by malformed JSON that doesn't fit the type declaration, badly or insufficiently typed third party libraries, ....

Google's Dart is the only recent, somewhat popular language (only due to Flutter) that allows this natively - that I can think of right now.

I do think such a language would be very beneficial for the current landscape though, and projects like this show there is a clear need.

Edit: just remembered another option: Crystal. Also Julia, as pointed out below.

rapind(4145) 5 days ago [-]

I prefer how this evolves organically if / when there's a need. Once the need is proven by adoption numbers (say this ruby w/ type checking gets popular) you'll have a good idea of what people want (and any issues they might have with this implementation).

yellowapple(4117) 5 days ago [-]

> I wonder why there isn't a popular gradually typed language that natively allows writing both dynamic and type-safe code, allowing quick prototyping and then gradual refactor to type safety.

Popularity aside, Perl 6 supports exactly this.

resynthesize(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> Eg in Typescript you will often still run into bugs caused by malformed JSON that doesn't fit the type declaration, badly or insufficiently typed third party libraries

there's a fantastic typescript library, io-ts (https://github.com/gcanti/io-ts), that provides the ability to declare runtime types variables that you can infer compile time types from that solves exactly this problem. it's deifnitely work taking a close look at if you want to ensure type safety at runtime for data coming from third parties.

zeckalpha(3022) 5 days ago [-]

Haskell, with deferred type errors and runhaskell, is quite a dynamic language.

robacarp(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> a popular gradually typed language that natively allows writing both dynamic and type-safe code, allowing quick prototyping and then gradual refactor to type safety.

You mention it in your edit, but Crystal has been exactly that for me. A rubyist for a decade I found Crystal to have the type system I was expecting all along.

im_down_w_otp(4100) 5 days ago [-]

Erlang/Elixir + Dialyzer?

p4bl0(312) 5 days ago [-]

I'll add Racket and its variant, Typed Racket, to the list. See https://docs.racket-lang.org/ts-guide/index.html

z1mm32m4n(3165) 5 days ago [-]

Have you seen Julia?


The first three selling points on their home page are Fast, Dynamic, Optionally Typed.

slushy-chivalry(10000) 5 days ago [-]

here's one more (not so popular) one: https://inko-lang.org I'm also a fan of clojure.spec, though not a substitute for a proper type system, is extremely helpful in achieving the same goal.

pjmlp(319) 4 days ago [-]

You forgot two of the very first ones in this regard, Lisp and Basic.

Also Dart 2.0 is strongly typed with type inference, they rebooted the type system.

munificent(1729) 5 days ago [-]

Dart isn't optionally typed any more. It's now a fully statically typed language, that also has a special 'dynamic' type. That puts it in the same boat as C# and Scala, among others.

Optional or gradual typing does seem like an obvious brilliant idea from the outside. Start out dynamic when the program is small, layer in types when it grows to the point where you need them. Capture the union of both dynamically typed and statically typed users. Everyone wins!

In practice, we found ourselves in an uncanny valley where we were too typed for the dynamic typing folks, and too unsafe for the static ones. We couldn't deliver the user experience either camp expected. We learned, the hard way, that a statically typed language is not simply a dynamically typed language plus some type annotations. Everything about how you use the language is different.


The way you design APIs is different

Python's tuple type has a subscript operator to return an element at the given index. That's a perfectly reasonable, simple, clean API in a dynamically typed language. If you want to have statically typed tuples, that API doesn't even make sense:

   t = (1, True, 'three')
   x = t[datetime.datetime.today().weekday() % 3]
What is the static type of x?

Another example: Python's list type has a sort() method. It takes an optional 'key' argument that is a callback that converts each value to a key of some time and then sorts using those projected keys. If you pass a key function, then sort() needs to be a generic function that takes a type parameter for the return type of the key function, like:

    sort<R>(key: (T -> R))
But if you don't pass the key function, the R type argument is meaningless. Should it be a generic method or not?

An even gnarlier question is 'What kinds of lists can be sorted at all?' The sort() method works by calling '<' on pairs of elements. Not all types support that operation. Of those that do, not all of them accept their own type as the right-hand operand. How do you design the list class and the sort() method such that you ensure you won't get a type error when you call sort()?

To handle this kind of stuff, the 'best practices' for your API design effectively become 'the way you would design it in a fully statically-typed language'. But those restrictions are one of the main reasons people like dynamic languages.

You can mitigate some of this with very sophisticated type system features. Basically design a type system expressive enough to support all of the patterns people like in dynamically typed languages. That's the approach TypeScript takes. But one of the main complaints with static type systems is that they are too complex for humans to understand and too slow to execute.

This makes that even worse. TypeScript's type system is very complex and type-checking performance is a constant challenge. In order to let you write 'dynamic style' code, TypeScript effectively makes you pay for a super-static type system.


User expectations are bimodal

Once you ask people to design their APIs such that they can be statically typed and then let them start writing type annotations, we observed that they very quickly flipped a mental bit and expected the full static typing experience. They expected real static safety where certain errors were proven to be absent. They expected the performance of a statically-typed 'native' language.

But most optional or gradually typed languages are unsound in order to allow typed and untyped code to intermingle. That means type errors can still sneak through and bite you at runtime. It means you get none of the compile-time performance benefits of static types. Sorbet asks you to write your code with all of the discipline, restrictions, and cognitive effort of a statically-typed language. In return, it gives you the runtime performance of... Ruby.

Worse, actually, because it is checking your type annotations dynamically at runtime. It basically turns your type annotations into assertions. So you get even more potential runtime failures.

This was how Dart 1.0 worked. I used to joke that we gave you the best of both worlds: the brevity of Java and the speed of JavaScript. And then I cried a little.


This sounds like I'm criticizing this approach to languages. I actually think TypeScript, Flow, Sorbet, and others are a really smart solution to a very challenging problem. If you have a very large corpus of dynamically-typed code that you want to keep extracting value out of, they give you a way to do that while getting some of the benefits of types. If I was sitting on a giant pile of JS or Ruby that I had no plans to rewrite, I would absolutely use one of these tools.

But for new development, I think you're much better off choosing a modern statically typed language if you think there's a chance your program will grow to some decent size. By that, I mean C#, Go, Swift, Dart, Kotlin, etc. Type inference gives you most of the brevity of dynamic types and you'll get all the safety and performance you want in return for your effort to type your code.

If you're going to do the work to make your code typable, you should get as much mileage out of it as you can. So far, no one I know has figured out how to do that with an optionally or gradually typed language.


This is, of course, just my personal preference. And I'm biased because I've already walk the long painful educational road to understand static types. One of the real large benefits of dynamic types is there is much less to learn before you can start writing real code. For new users, hobbyists, or people where programming isn't their main gig, this is huge. I love that dynamically typed languages exist and can serve those people.

But my experience is that if you're a full time professional software engineer writing real production code eight hours a day, it's worth it to get comfortable with static typing and use it. The fact that basically every large software shop that had a big investment in dynamically typed languages is trying to layer static typing on now probably tells us something. Google with Closure Compiler and Dart. Microsoft with VB.Net, TypeScript, and Pyright. Facebook with Hack and Flow. Apple with Swift.

cmpolis(4089) 5 days ago [-]

Thanks for bringing up Dart (underrated IMHO). The built-in optional typing helps with productivity and readability. There is also a great official style guide which goes over when static/inferred/dynamic typing are preferred: https://dart.dev/guides/language/effective-dart/design#types

lillesvin(10000) 4 days ago [-]

> I wonder why there isn't a popular gradually typed language that natively allows writing both dynamic and type-safe code

Unless I'm misunderstanding something, PHP7 can do exactly that.

With regards to the general trend you mention about adding static-ish typing to dynamically typed languages, the opposite is also happening to some extent. I work in a medium sized company that does mainly .NET and I see C# devs use `var` a lot (in order to let the compiler infer the type instead of having to declare it explicitly). I'm not sure if the `dynamic` type is also seeing increased use, but just the fact that it was added to the language in v4 says at least a little.

I think what is really happening is that the more popular languages will sort of naturally converge as development progresses and more and more people request features. So while Mr. PHP-dev-turned-to-C# will maybe want more dynamic-ish typing in C#, Mr. C#-dev-turned-to-PHP will request more static-like typing in PHP.

zem(3655) 5 days ago [-]

stanza [http://lbstanza.org/] is optionally typed and compiles to native.

pbiggar(2111) 5 days ago [-]

I'm actually working on solving this problem at the moment with https://darklang.com. Our approach is to allow the quick prototyping of python via tooling built-into the editor, within a language that has strong static types (similar to Haskell or OCaml).

As an example, you never change types in Dark, you only make new types and switch over to them, so if you want to test out a type change for just one HTTP route, you can do that.

Dark also doesn't have nulls or exceptions because they're hard to reason about. The usual tools to replace them (Result and Option/Maybe types) require you to handle all the cases when you write code using them. We're allowing you to write code that doesn't handle these cases (again, using editor tooling). Instead it tells you exactly what errors can happen at every point in your code. Once you have your initial prototype/algorithm figured out, you can use that information to handle all the edge cases.

tptacek(78) 5 days ago [-]

For whatever it's worth and without wanting to start a language war (I like Python just fine), I think Python/Ruby-style typing is a false economy for prototyping. There are a lot of things that make Go slower to write than Ruby, but mandatory typing isn't one of them. Rather, Ruby's total lack of typing makes it harder to write: you effectively end up having to write unit tests just to catch typos.

I wonder whether the perception that type safety slows down Ruby (or ES6) development comes from the fact that the type systems are bolted on after the fact.

brightball(3763) 5 days ago [-]

I've found Elixir to be exactly that.

didibus(3791) 5 days ago [-]

As I understand, Racket seems to be the gold standard in that area.

agumonkey(961) 5 days ago [-]

waves and roundabout

keithlfrost(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Clojure allows one to start with essentially untyped code, then add type declarations for efficiency and safety.

darpa_escapee(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> I wonder why there isn't a popular gradually typed language that natively allows writing both dynamic and type-safe code, allowing quick prototyping and then gradual refactor to type safety.

With the addition of `var`, I think Java is that language.

nullwasamistake(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Type inference is where it's at. Everybody loves types when there's hardly any overhead. Typescript is the best example of this.

My theory, the first languages of most tend to be untyped. Over the years you get tired of dealing with type errors and move to more complex languages with strong typing. After a while you get tired of typing a bunch of useless crap because the compiler isn't smart enough to figure out the type for you and land in Typescript or similar

loxs(4036) 5 days ago [-]

Fast prototyping without types? Meh! I need types to be able to prototype and change things really fast, knowing that it won't break.

I feel a lot more confident to prototype in OCaml/F# and then 'downgrade' to an 'ordinary' language that needs more people to understand what is written, than the other way around (prototype in Python and move to something 'real' later)

I think that recent movement to put types in dynamic languages is just because of the need to fix existing projects, people are finally 'getting it'.

TypeScript is awesome in this regard. Almost makes JS bearable.

kyllo(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Groovy is one language that is dynamic but also has an optional statically typechecked compilation mode.

_hardwaregeek(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Unless you've used a language with a high level of strictness, i.e. OCaml/Haskell/Rust, it can be hard to see the sheer power and utility of typechecking. If someone has only used Java, they may not understand the true power of types. But if you've familiar with OCaml/Haskell/Rust, why bother writing dynamically typed code? Sure there's some niche usecases where it's more powerful, but generally you can do as much with say, Rust, or even more pragmatically, C# 8/Kotlin.

While if you've only used dynamic languages or badly typed languages, then having to deal with this stupid naggy compiler is just annoying. A big part of learning a strongly statically typed language is learning that the compiler is your friend, and that errors are good. I've noticed that a lot of people new to TypeScript try to get the compiler to shut up, often resorting to any or @ts-ignore, while more advanced users will see it as a dialogue. The compiler complains? Okay, something's wrong: Let's find the root cause here.

TypeScript took off because people had no choice but to write JS, so any benefit was better than no benefit. Sorbet was also borne out of an existing codebase. But a new language wouldn't have this lock in factor.

PopeDotNinja(4117) 5 days ago [-]

Dialyzer is an Erlang thing, and it's been around a long, long time. That doesn't change the point your are making, and am just clarifying it a bit.

rlander(2812) 5 days ago [-]

Just to be a little pedant, Dialyzer (an Erlang success typing lib) precedes Elixir and the other static typing efforts you mentioned by many years, way before this so called "static typing renaissance".

anonova(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> To enable static checking with srb, add this line (called a sigil) to the top of your Ruby file:

> # typed: true

Isn't this called a directive/pragma? A sigil is a symbol on a name.

Either way, I'm excited to see this finally out after seeing the past presentations on it.

cperciva(203) 5 days ago [-]

The terms all overlap a bit, but I would interpret 'directive' or 'pragma' to indicate that it's conveying meaning to the Ruby interpreter. This is exactly the opposite -- it's a comment as far as the Ruby language is concerned while conveying meaning to an external tool.

ptarjan(3798) 5 days ago [-]

Thanks for pointing that out. It can be called all of those. We liked sigil from its connotation:

> Google defines sigil as, "an inscribed or painted symbol considered to have magical power," and we like to think of types as pretty magical


hderms(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I'm interested in whether `.rbi` files are going to be the only official route for typing in Ruby, and if so, how that would end up impacting Sorbet?

hirundo(4061) 5 days ago [-]

It'd be nice to have an option to put that data inline.

poorman(4122) 5 days ago [-]

The dependency on bazel is very off-putting to me. After having tried it for other projects and watched as rapid breaking backwards incompatible changes were made to the tool, I'm opting out of anything requiring it.

darkdimius(3658) 5 days ago [-]

We only use it at build time, as for a user, it should be invisible for you

hartator(3608) 5 days ago [-]

Awesome work.

    sig {params(person: Person).returns(Integer)}
    def name_length(person)
Not sure if I dig the syntax. Furthermore arguments seems to be the official names for method arguments, not parameters. eg, `ArgumentError`. `params` also feels like it's linked to Rails `params` variable in controllers. It can be confusing.

Something like this will also feel more Rubyist:

    def name_length person: Person, return: Integer
But it probably requires a deeper hack or a change in MRI.
ptarjan(3798) 5 days ago [-]

Thanks for the idea.

We used `params` because Method#parameters was what they called it in the standard library. I actually had it as `args` originally until someone pointed this out. https://ruby-doc.org/core-2.6.3/Method.html#method-i-paramet...

As for the syntax change, we are actually on our 8th iteration of the syntax. We really wanted this to NOT be a fork of Ruby so finding something compatible was very important. For example that's why it has the weird `sig {` syntax too, we didn't want to have to cause load-time and cyclic dependencies from adding type signatures.

ljm(10000) 5 days ago [-]

That might work in .rbi files because they could be parsed independently of Ruby itself (basically giving Ruby the C-style header+impl split).

As far as ruby goes, though, it would conflict with keyword arguments.

pbiggar(2111) 5 days ago [-]

Dont know if this applies, but my understanding is that in functions, a parameter is the name of a declaration which when called will receive an argument.

matharmin(4148) 5 days ago [-]

I'm not sure how consistent it is with everything in Ruby, but parameters is technically the correct term here. A parameter is a variable definition, while an argument is the value that is passed to the parameter.

ArgumentError is still consistent with this definition (it's an error with the value you passed, not with the definition). However, params in a Rails controller does violate this definition.

kentor(3645) 5 days ago [-]

My view is you define methods with parameters, you call methods with arguments.

`ArgumentError` is consistent with an error during call time.

kazinator(3758) 5 days ago [-]

In computer science, 'formal parameters' is the name for those named variables that are established on entry into the function and immediately receive external values. 'arguments' are the values that they receive. A function has only one set of parameters, but a new set of arguments in each invocation.

bakery2k(3888) 5 days ago [-]

Does anyone know what Matz thinks of Sorbet? He has previously been opposed to adding type annotations to Ruby [1].

This is in sharp contrast to Python, where Guido has overwhelmingly embraced type annotations.

[1] https://bugs.ruby-lang.org/issues/9999#note-13

baroffoos(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I saw some news saying that ruby 3 would have types built in.

mark_l_watson(2656) 5 days ago [-]

Thanks for this. Major contribution to the Ruby community!!

ptarjan(3798) 5 days ago [-]

Thank you! Ruby has been kind to us, we'd like to be kind back.

whycombagator(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Related, Square wrote a great article: 'RubyKaigi and the Path to Ruby 3'[0]. The section titled 'Static Analysis' high level compares Sorbet to Steep

[0] https://developer.squareup.com/blog/rubykaigi-and-the-path-t...

sickcodebruh(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It's my understanding that the Sorbet team is involved with bringing types to Ruby 3. I'm unclear on whether it will be Sorbet itself or if it's elements of it. Can't dig up the source right now, maybe someone can corroborate this?

Historical Discussions: The internet is an SEO landfill (June 23, 2019: 568 points)

(586) The internet is an SEO landfill

586 points 2 days ago by itom in 10000th position

docs.sendwithses.com | Estimated reading time – 3 minutes | comments | anchor

I have a product that can be explained in one or two sentences. It is fairly well documented. Yet i'm being asked to write 4,000 word articles describing and comparing my product with the competition. Why? Because SEO.

I'm being wooed by a couple of 'SEO Consultants' who claim their expertise is guaranteed to get me on to the first page of a Search Engine's results. They claim a 'multi-pronged' strategy. First they check my website to make sure it has all the appropriate tags, keywords, descriptors. That taken care of, they have a bunch of blogs where they will write articles about my product. Then they will get a bunch of 'paid-influencers' to write articles about my product. Simultaneously they have a team that posts questions about my product (and the answers) on Quora and other social media forums - basically seeding a link of my site on as many other sites as they can get hold of.

All these and one final trick of trade. That is to set up an ad account and pay the Search Engine to show my site at the top of search results. Why? Because there's so much competition in my line of business and i need the initial paid traffic. The logic peddled is once i start paying the 'search tax' more people will start clicking my link, and in a few months my site will start to show up organically in the first page of search results. Of course, it's never just a few months. I must pay to stay.

Why do all this? Simple. To trick or treat the Search Engine into assuming my product is popular. With many different people (and sock puppets) writing and talking about my product, the Search Engine assumes my product is popular and slowly starts bubbling it up in search results. Does this work? ABSOLUTELY - according to the SEO Consultants. They present their proof. I'm blown by their confidence.

I like to think search ranking algorithms are not as complex and machine-intelligent as they're made out to be. They just bubble up the most gossiped links. Search Engines need some kind of validation to decide what's popular. What better validation than gossip.

And that's what the internet has become. Full of gossip, junk content, paid posts, con articles, click bait links, sock-puppetry, spam, regurgitated spam, free e-books, self aggrandizement, fake followers, fake news, - all designed to achieve one thing - con the Search Engine - and you.

Don't the makers of Search Engines know this? Of course they do. It's just not in their interest to bring clarity.

SEO Consultants are an unpaid army of evangelists who channel billions of dollars in ad revenue to Search Engines. Why would a Search Engine want to disown the evangelists when so much money is at stake!

SEO is easy money. It attracts the bottom feeders of the tech world. It's easy to make a livelihood off of SEO. Why? Because it requires little skill. The startup costs are little. There's a huge and easy market ... lots of entrepreneurs who will grab at any straw of hope that promises to make their product more visible.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

oconnor663(4137) 2 days ago [-]

> Don't the makers of Search Engines know this? Of course they do. It's just not in their interest to bring clarity.

Because they're in a perpetual arms race against spammers. The search engines don't have a choice about any of this.

zo1(3419) 2 days ago [-]

I reckon that arms-race only exists because the web is fundamentally broken due to having/allowing some level of anonymity.

If you could perma-ban a spammer's real world identity or that of his company (or any company they're a part of), then there would be no need for the arms race. Just a continual 'negotiation' whereby bad behavior is informed and requested to stop. And if that entity decided to ignore such a request they'd get the nuclear option of being permanently banned from the platform. You could argue that such a system would not be that different to real-world licensing requirements/restrictions as applied to lawyers and doctors.

Just follow the identity like you would the money, and you could solve a good chunk of this issue.

buboard(4007) 2 days ago [-]

If it s an arms race they are quite the losers. Google s image search is basically unusable for free material. Bing or yandex are way better

dheera(3637) 2 days ago [-]

It would be awesome if Google had up/downvote buttons like Reddit and use them to eliminate all the fluff in search results, even if on a targeted community basis. For example if a recipe has no pictures, too many ads, not clear instructions, or no equivalent volume measurements (e.g. '4 grams sugar (about 1 tsp)') I'm likely to downvote it, and those properties can be learned from multiple downvotes.

spiderfarmer(4136) 2 days ago [-]


spectre256(4121) 2 days ago [-]

Its a really nice idea, but I wonder if it would work in practice:

1. Would a significant amount of real humans who actually cared about the content cast a vote (up or down)?

2. Would it be even remotely possible to protect against fraudulent voting at Google scale? (remember they can't even prevent fake business listings on Google Maps, which is at least theoretically closer to verifiable from, for example, business records)

encoderer(3778) 2 days ago [-]

They essentially do.

Bounce rate is a key ranking factor. Going back to the search results too quickly is a negative signal.

highace(3559) 2 days ago [-]

This already exists. If you navigate back to the search results then that counts as a downvote. If you don't navigate back, that's an upvote.

franky47(10000) 2 days ago [-]

But then a lucrative business of selling upvotes would be created for people willing to pay (usually businesses) to promote their content. And that's SEO all over again.

I initially believed the 'O' in SEO was misleading, as this kind of promotion is not optimisation (at least not for everybody), It turns out it's another letter that's misleading: 'S' should be for Sales, not Search.

brianpgordon(4005) 2 days ago [-]

I would love for that to work but I'm skeptical that there would be a lot of signal in that sea of noise. We're talking about well over a billion monthly active users; for every HNizen annoyed with the state of the modern web, there are thousands of ordinary people that probably don't mind J. Peterman-esque recipes laden with product placement and somehow incorporating a listicle - as long as they get their recipe.

And once you open the floodgates of allowing user feedback to influence search results, the arms race begins, with every major news site checking the referrer for Google and begging you via popover to upvote their search result, and armadas of malware-controlled botnets being launched to generate authentic-looking feedback, and so on.

prepend(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I fear that would be worse as it would just get super-SEOd with paid upvotes.

This would be good if you could filter using only votes from people you know. Then you could mix in maintained lists like "all active HN users" from various communities.

brute(10000) 2 days ago [-]

then SEO would turn towards having an army of bots upvoting your product and downvoting the competitor. And if you have something in between to detect bots, users wouldn't want to use it (who would solve a captcha to help optimize search results?) and SEO would find ways around it

bemmu(177) 2 days ago [-]

They A/B tested this as an experiment at least once. I recall there was another try too, but couldn't find info about it.


dreamcompiler(3967) 2 days ago [-]

The Internet needs a good non-profit search engine that has no conflicts of interest. It could be funded by a foundation like Wikipedia or by the government like PBS, but the world sorely needs this resource.

hedora(3852) 2 days ago [-]

Most people forget (or never realized) that the main benefit page rank had over previous search engines was that it briefly bypassed pay for placement.

At this point, if search results are dominated by SEO paid placement, then Google search should be as ripe for disruption as the search engines it replaced.

I think a non-profit, curated index is a good first step to disintermediating this whole shady (and spammy) industry.

erikpukinskis(3009) 2 days ago [-]

Do nonprofits really lack conflicts of interest? Mozilla for example? I have no idea.

albertgoeswoof(4082) 2 days ago [-]

I don't think it's searching for things that's the problem, it's creating things of value. There's no reason to create a great piece of content if no one sees it. To get people to see it you need to fill it with fluff for google.

x0x0(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I don't think it's a conflict of interest; we're just seeing sites tuning themselves to rank highly in google. I also think google doesn't actually like the extreme SEM optimization, but rather can't figure out how to discourage it.

shripadk(3968) 1 day ago [-]

It is a well known fact that Wikipedia has bias in how articles are moderated[1]. It is a really bad example to emulate. The last thing you want is search to be controlled by a non-profit organization with bias towards the content. I rather the bias be towards money rather than towards content. The former allows for competing views while the latter doesn't. The former is also highly regulated. The latter isn't.

[1] https://evolutionnews.org/2017/12/wikipedia-co-founder-calls...

bdcravens(1014) 1 day ago [-]

I don't think the problem is lack of conflicts of interest. The issue is that content creators have far different needs than content consumers. I'm not convinced that Google isn't incentivized to address this, or that a non-profit would have better results (at least not without heavy, expensive curation)

habnds(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Wouldn't that be 'optimized' for as much as any other? Seems like google wants non-SEO results as much as us, if only so that advertisers are forced to spend their money directly with Google.

cottonseed(2310) 2 days ago [-]

I just wish search engines would let me block sites. There are maybe a dozen SEO land grabs in my domain that are trashing my search results and provide no value.

tlack(3362) 2 days ago [-]

I'm trying that, and upvoting, on my little search engine project: https://glorp.co

jacques_chester(3008) 2 days ago [-]

Google used to do this, but removed it at some point. As others have noted the same effect is achieveable with browser extensions.

jpindar(3682) 2 days ago [-]

There are browser add-ons that do that.

GraemeL(4068) 2 days ago [-]

I use a user script called Google Hit Hider by Domain that adds this functionality to pretty much every major search engine. Can't imagine searching without it these days.

bartimus(4119) 2 days ago [-]

> Why? Because there's so much competition in my line of business and i need the initial paid traffic.

So this in itself is a problem. Why would your business be more relevant if there's much meaningful competition?

It really depends on what you're searching for. Taking the bike example. No search engine could ever give a meaningful result when just searching for 'bike'. You need to get more deep into the material and search with specialized terms. 'bike internal hub' looks pretty fair in Google.

dmerrick(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I checked out his product and I can see his predicament... a lot of other services do the same things. He's just doing it in a simple way (with what appears to be a very sane pricing model).

corodra(4141) 2 days ago [-]

Question, and seo is not my field of expertise at all.

Doesn't it seem odd that an seo consultant says to pay for search result ads? In my mind, the point of seo is not to pay 'per click'. You may pay for a great article to be written, and pay for it to be on a site, which is fair to me. But I then expect it to be noticed because of it's own merits, quality of writing and quality of 'publisher'. If you also have to pay for an ad for it, why bother with the publisher or even 'seo quality' writing? Just write quality while ignoring seo tactics, put it on your own domain and pay for the ad yourself.

Again, I'm no expert and I have no skin in this game. Anyones two cents? Especially if you own an ecommerce site of some sort.

toast0(10000) 2 days ago [-]

If you're paying an SEO consultant, you are probably wanting more traffic, SEM is going to get you more traffic, possibly at higher cost, but also in a much easier to count way.

Way back when, I worked at a travel information site that put a lot of effort into SEO and SEM. For SEO, it was mostly trying to make sure important terms showed up on the page importantly, and making sure our internal linking was using useful links, and some light link exchange with quality sites. We were never able to pinpoint any changes with results, though.

SEM was pretty much pure arbitrage -- find the pages that make the most $/pageview, find keywords that are relevant, bid so we make whatever margin the corporate overlords require. This was all easy to track and very actionable -- if keywords did well, increase the spend, if not, turn it down. We presumably got some non-trackable benefits from exposure, assuming some people who clicked through our pages would come back and use our site some more later.

nickserv(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I'm not an expert but have worked with some, developing seo tools.

What I've seen is that Google or FB ads are used by big clients that can afford it as a quick and easy way to get visits.

An seo 'expert' whose main recommendation is to get Google ads is no expert at all.

They can be part of a marketing campaign but are by no means the most cost effective way to getting good rankings, and users are more likely to click on organic search results than ads.

schachin(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Users perceive a brand to have more authority if it ranks on page 1 at the top with an ad.

That being said that is a rare thing for an SEO to recommend and I think he might be saying that Ads help you rank -- which is a complete untruth. Ads CANNOT help you rank.

alvah(4152) 1 day ago [-]

SEO can take months to move the needle, especially on a new domain. If the client needs results faster than this, the standard advice seems to be PPC & SEO for the first 6 months, then reduce / eliminate PPC as the organic traffic & conversions from the SEO campaigns increase to the desired amount.

sova(3448) 2 days ago [-]

It's a strong observation, now what do you propose we do about it?

swayvil(4038) 2 days ago [-]

Filter out all commerce-related results. It would be the same as a spam-filter, right? A pattern-identifier.

This seems obvious and doable.

sametmax(3858) 2 days ago [-]

Just because you observe a problem doesn't mean you have a solution. That doesn't remove the value from the observation, as long as it's not a way to just regularly complain at everything without a goal.

nullwasamistake(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I blame Google. They could easily derank sites with paywalls, interstitials, and 4mb of trackers but this goes against their core business. When paywalls stopped being considered 'cloaking' I knew the free web was done for Google search.

I'm not sure if there's much research on the subject, but in my experience a huge majority of 'slow' sites are directly caused by tons of tracking and ad code.

hombre_fatal(10000) 1 day ago [-]

But paywalls, interstitials, and trackers don't mean the website isn't what the user is searching for.

swayvil(4038) 2 days ago [-]

What would be a good name for a commerce-free search engine?

smt88(4143) 2 days ago [-]

Wikipedia is basically an information search engine without commerce or social media.

The problem is that your results page is the article itself, and you need to scroll to the bottom to get to an external site.

It's theoretically possible to change the UI or analyze Wikipedia to make a pretty solid search engine powered by millions of person-years of curation.

orkon(4150) 2 days ago [-]

I kind of agree, and I think nowadays it's hard to promote a product on the Internet or even get noticed without putting a lot of effort. When the Internet was smaller, I guess it's been easier.

Off-topic: the author's product seems similar to my open source tool https://github.com/justcomments/newsletter-cli which allows sending emails via AWS SES

prepend(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I think it's possible, it just doesn't get a lot of attention because the scale is small.

I have friends who run small businesses and just have simple sites and blogs about their customers and they have more business than they can handle. Granted it's just a living, but it's almost all traffic through google through organic results.

Interestingly, their competitors frequently have these bullshit, SEO sites that come in below and able their organic results. They come and go but my friend has been around for 10 years.

Customers do mention that they like a "real" site.

agumonkey(961) 2 days ago [-]

I wonder if the web will saturate and clog, start to cost more to keep up and maintain and lose users that feels walking around and talking is simpler.

joshwcomeau(3716) 2 days ago [-]

Great intro, but where's the actual article?

(Also it's pretty harsh to say that it takes "little talent" to become an SEO expert. Like all industries, there are charlatans selling snake oil, but there are experts who have invested a lot of time in developing their skill sets, and it's not nice to be so dismissive.)

bdcravens(1014) 2 days ago [-]

I don't even think the author is talking about charlatans. I think the point is the barrier to entry is pretty low, and how do you define what is an 'expert'? 'SEO expert' is just a few letters you stick on your LinkedIn profile or business card; some will be experienced, ethical experts that get results for sure. I see it the same way I see network marketing: yes, some turn Mary Kay or essential oils into viable careers, but that doesn't invalidate the common criticisms.

walshemj(4049) 2 days ago [-]

If it requires so little talent why in 2019 is the quality a lot of websites so poor?

some examples is why do sites still misuse H tags or have problems like creating a simple xml site map that handles escaping characters when required

luckylion(4155) 2 days ago [-]

From my personal experience with SEO people: the experts make large sums of money running their own sites. The non-experts run around with lofty promises and 'consult' for other's sites.

shripadk(3968) 1 day ago [-]

'but where's the actual article?'

There isn't. It is another article that will end up in the SEO landfill the author is complaining about along with other 'spammy' articles that already exist in the landfill.

In essence, this is another 'spammy' article to promote his product cleverly disguised as an anti-spam/anti-SEO article.

I suspect an SEO agency actually told him to write this article to generate conversation (people who resonate with the intro will share it on all social circles and cause it to go 'organically' viral). As they say, all publicity is good publicity.

This is as meta as it gets!

nunez(4095) 1 day ago [-]

Lol when I thought I got to the actual content, I was one paragraph away from the article ending

tardo99(10000) 2 days ago [-]

This is all made worse by the fact that search is a monopoly.

bdcravens(1014) 2 days ago [-]

Further cemented by the fact that the company also has a lion's share of browser (about 70%) and mobile eyeballs (about 75%)

jormungand(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Unfortunately SEO ruins great, witty and brief marketing texts.

jacques_chester(3008) 2 days ago [-]

> Unfortunately SEO ruins great, witty and brief marketing texts.

SEO content marketing is basically a descendent of direct marketing -- the stuff you used to get in the mail, in two-page spreads in Reader's Digest and so forth.

Direct marketers have known for a very long time that long-form copy sells better. They had the numbers to prove it long before 'analytics' was a common idea -- the very term A/B testing refers to the 'A' and 'B' sides of a newspaper print roller being able to print two versions of an advertisement.

Source: Tested Advertising Methods by Caples. A fascinating, if depressing, read.

schachin(10000) 1 day ago [-]

No it doesn't it has nothing to do with that. However, if you think an article should be a paragraph long then you probably didn't have anything worth creating the page for anyway.

Plenty of ecommerce sites ranks with very little text on their pages. What you are saying is just wrong.

hiccuphippo(10000) 2 days ago [-]

But why is that? Do search engines rank better when a text is longer? Or is it that with more words there's a higher possibility that one will match with what the user is searching? And doesn't it all just make users waste more time searching for something concrete?

Maybe there's space for search engines that can summarize a page if it's long and give the user what they want.

blunte(4136) 2 days ago [-]

Indeed most of the content on the web is SEO fluff or veiled attempts to push an affiliate link.

Worse, almost every site has a cookie "preference" popup (when everyone knows the preference is just the minimum necessary cookies), a newsletter signup popup, and a browser notification request popup.

Add to that the autoplaying videos that will pop out into their own overlay if you scroll away plus the rotating ads of different sizes which cause the page content to shift up and down... oh and the fancy morphing page headers that hang down over the content you're trying to read if you don't scroll enough at first.

The web is currently a shitshow of comic proportions, the likes of which not even the most cynical comedians accurately predicted.

The desktop app situation isn't as bad, but it follows a similar trend of demanding more from the hardware and user (and network) while providing less.

It might actually be better overall if mobile and desktop performance had not increased in the last decade. I swear the end user experience hasn't on average improved even a fraction as much as the hardware capability has.

What a dismal road we are on.

shthed(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Is there an adblock which removes these sites from search results?

pdimitar(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I still remember to this day the experience I had with the Miranda IM messenger -- I was signed it to at least 6 services (ICQ, AIM, Yahoo and a few others). 40MB of RAM during the time when 1GB RAM on an average PC became the affordable norm, no lag ever, instant rendering, everything works instantly, plus a lot of possible customisation -- themes, emoticon packs, you name it.

Same with web. Search for something, get 7 useful results on the first page, get your work done in minutes. No banners, no ads, no consent popups, no constant nagging for signups. Just content and some personal expression -- which, while comical at places, is still vastly preferable to the crap show we are enduring today.

Fast forward 12-15 years forward and I am absolutely amazed how awful the state of the desktop and the web is. Things are only getting worse with time.

alt_f4(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I agree that paying for SEO is probably pointless; unless you're just paying for some Google ads yourself.

But the problem with your product isn't SEO, it's that anyone who knows what SES is, also knows how to use it for the thing you're selling, without paying an additional fee.

ajonit(4082) 2 days ago [-]

That is an incorrect observation. There are people making a living out of selling exact similar scripts as the OP. (Sendy comes at the top of my mind)

beefield(3824) 2 days ago [-]

I guess if google was willing to do no evil for a moment and actually think what would make both their search better for the user and www better place overall, they would put a big button next to each search result saying roughly 'Hey, dear google. Every thing I have ever seen in this domain is full of crap. Please do not ever again show any page from this domain in my search results' And then use the information from this button to lower the search score for any domain with high level of users willing to ignore a domain completely.

shripadk(3968) 1 day ago [-]

This functionality can be misused by your competitor(s)! There already is the issue of companies fraudulently clicking on search and display ads just to damage the advertising budget of competitors. This would only open up another dimension for abuse.

pandapower2(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Hiding a domain for just you is fine but this isnt a good idea.

>And then use the information from this button to lower the search score for any domain with high level of users willing to ignore a domain completely.

Its trivial to game and becomes just another service for SEO consultants to sell ie having some mix of botfarms and humans in low cost of living countries flag your competitors sites.

progval(1854) 2 days ago [-]

While I would personally love such a feature; there's the issue of computer illeterate people who accidentally click on it for a domain they care about, forget about it, and then have no idea why the google is broken

luckylion(4155) 2 days ago [-]

Won't work: SEOs already send user signals by literally paying normal, average persons to once in a while do a search for something and click on each result until they arrive at example.tld.

The thinking is that Google tracks keywords + clicks, and if people search for 'keyword' and aren't satisfied with the info on domain1, domain2 and domain3 (demonstrated by clicking on the next result) but are satisfied after visiting example.tld (demonstrated by not clicking on any other results), Google will rank example.tld higher.

It's not cheap, and I consider it to be more Voodoo than proven fact, and most SEO people are generally more the religious type than the scientist, so they won't run tests. They do it, see that they rank well and continue to do it. I've suggested sacrificing chickens, but nobody listens to me (or they won't admit that they do).

syphilis2(4150) 2 days ago [-]

I'd love a search engine comprised of everyone's bookmarks.

panic(116) 1 day ago [-]

Please bookmark our site for a chance to win $100!

simonswords82(2759) 2 days ago [-]

At least one firm already tried that:


jonex(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It started off strong, nicely illustrating the background leading to this mess, but then the conclusion falters, in particular the accusation of: 'Don't the makers of Search Engines know this? Of course they do. It's just not in their interest to bring clarity.' without any suggestions on what they could be doing to achieve that clarity.

To me, it sadly seems like a losing war between the SEO-spammers and the search engine developers. There's no law of nature making it possible to separate fake content from true content. If The spam is good enough, I'm not even sure a human can do it.

Maybe the concept of trust-less content distribution will have to come to an end at some point and we will start ranking searches based on more or less manually maintained trust graphs?

saagarjha(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> If The spam is good enough

"Good spam" is just real content.

gk1(126) 2 days ago [-]

And yet, this site had two pages made — I suspect — primarily for SEO purposes: Mailchimp Alternative and Sendgrid Alternative.

Organic search is the highest or second-highest source of traffic for every startup I know. Yes there are too many SEO charlatans, but to ignore such a large traffic source is not smart.

jacques_chester(3008) 2 days ago [-]

> And yet, this site had two pages made — I suspect — primarily for SEO purposes: Mailchimp Alternative and Sendgrid Alternative.

The author opens with exactly that gripe:

> I have a product that can be explained in one or two sentences. It is fairly well documented. Yet i'm being asked to write 4,000 word articles describing and comparing my product with the competition. Why? Because SEO.

scarface74(3824) 2 days ago [-]

Not every startup. I've worked for 3 small B2B SASS companies that have a sales team that went after only "whales" for revenue.

I much prefer that model instead of leaving your business's future in the hands of Facebook/Google.

hollerith(3260) 2 days ago [-]

The internet is fine (as far as I can tell). The web is an SEO landfill.

buboard(4007) 2 days ago [-]

More precisely 'the web shown in the front page of google results'

caiocaiocaio(4077) 2 days ago