Threads for Gracana

  1. 3

    Note the section “embedding mini applications.” Wow, very cool!

    1. 16

      I think what most impresses me about this meta-blog, besides it being funny, is that whoever is writing it has kept it up for five months so far (23 weekly “issues”), and is not skimping on actually reading the comments (at least for a few I spot-checked, the pithy summaries really do summarize the comments). I could see myself finding it funny to start a blog like this, but I doubt I’d have the dedication to hate-read / hate-summarize HN as an ongoing, months-long project. Maybe the author can’t help reading HN regularly, and writing this is their therapy.

      1. 5

        I don’t think hate is a requirement here. There’s lots of worthwhile stuff to read on HN, but at the same time it can be quite a bizarre and hilarious spectacle to behold. These summaries are just a humorously cynical take on it.

        1. 2

          There are quite a number of good articles, but most of the discussion is better skipped (except for those who want to amuse or horrify themselves).

      1. 2

        Did Google do the CPU design? Is Rockchip just doing the fabrication?

        Odd world to have Google poised to join Apple as the best mobile CPU vendors. Maybe they got sick of Qualcomm’s relatively lackluster performance.

        1. 2

          I’m not sure there’s any evidence for a Google-designed CPU; if it was happening, it’d be pretty hard to hide hiring a team of that size.

          1. 4

            Right. Looks like an ARM-designed CPU core for sure.

            Last October, a product page for the Plus, then branded the Chromebook Pro, was leaked, ID'ing the chip as the Rockchip RK3399. Some folks benchmarked a dev board with it. Some early announcements about it exist too, also tagging it as based on Cortex-A72/A53 cores and a Mali GPU.

            There’ve also benchmarks out there of another A72-based SoC, the Kirin 950.

            1. 2

              There’s reasonable evidence of Google ramping up at least more competence in chip design over the past 3-5 years than they traditionally had, which seems to spawn rumors of a Google CPU every time they hire someone. Anecdotally from the perspective of academia, they do seem much more interested in CE majors than they once were, plus a few moderately high-profile hardware folks have ended up there, which would’ve been surprising in the past. But I agree it’s nowhere near the scale to be designing their own CPU. I don’t know what they’re actually doing, but assumed it was sub-CPU-level custom parts for their data centers.

              1. 8

                CPU design is also a really small world; it’s almost all the same people bouncing between teams. You can trace back chip designs to the lineage of the people who made them; there’s even entire categories “pet features” that basically indicate who worked on the chip.

                1. 3

                  Pet features, that’s neat. Like ISA features or SoC/peripheral stuff? Can you give an interesting example?

                  1. 10

                    One example is the write-through L1 cache, which iirc has a rather IBM-specific heritage. It also showed up in Bulldozer (look at who was on the team for why). A lot of people consider it to be a fairly bad idea for a variety of reasons.

                    Most of these features tend to be microarchitectural decisions (e.g. RoB/RS design choices, pipeline structures, branch predictor designs, FPU structures….), the kind of things that are worked on by quite a small group, so show a lot of heritage.

                    This is probably a slightly inaccurate and quite incomplete listing of current “big core” teams out there:

                    Intel: Core team A, Core team B, and the C team (Silvermont, I think)? They might have a D team too.

                    AMD: Jaguar (“cat”) team (members ~half laid off, ~half merged into Bulldozer), not sure what happened after Bulldozer, presumably old team rolled into Zen?

                    ARM: A53 team, A72 team, A73 team (Texas I think)

                    Apple

                    Samsung (M1)

                    Qualcomm (not sure what the status of this is after the death of mobile Snapdragon, but I think it’s still a thing)

                    nvidia (not sure what the status of this one is after Denver… but I think it’s still a thing)

                    Notably when a team is laid off, they all go work for other companies, so that’s how the heritage of one chip often folds into others.

          1. 2

            One article–the originating report, which is well-written and gives a lot of information–is more than enough coverage here. We don’t really need pile-on talking heads or navelgazing.

            1. 55

              I really don’t like how you often try to speak for everyone here. I am not a part of your “we.”

              1. 6

                I really don’t like how you often try to speak for everyone here. I am not a part of your “we.”

                I can definitely see how the grandparent post could be grating, but I didn’t read it as speaking for others. Just stating his opinion about what is best for the community (“we”).

                1. 3

                  I’d venture that it is a pretty well-established convention when writing and speaking to an audience to prefer the first-person to the second. I’ve had no end of confusion and troubles when people have conflated my use of “you (the general audience)” with “you (particular person I’m addressing)”.

                  Sorry if that ruffles your feathers, but in my experience it’s the least unpalatable option.

                  1. 20

                    Why isn’t the least unpalatable option being direct (using “I” instead of “we”)? What you’re saying in the original comment is that you don’t want to see this kind of article posted here. (A reasonable opinion). You also think that the community at large would benefit from not having these articles posted. (Another reasonable opinion).

                    Those two statements come across very different from, “We don’t really need…”, which talks for the community instead of about the community.

                    1. 16

                      That’s where the phrase “I think that” comes in handy.

                      1. 2

                        That phrase is redundant whenever someone is talking about an opinion-based subject. Obviously that’s what you think; you’re saying it.

                        1. 5

                          I disagree. I think phrases like “I think …” or “In my opinion” are important delineations between something that is expressed as an opinion and something that is expressed as fact. I think it’s really important to know when someone is speaking about an opinion and when someone is speaking about facts. In my experience, facts often correspond to assumptions or context in conversations that are taken for granted as things that are true even if they aren’t.

                          (It’s not about what’s actually opinion or fact. It’s about what someone believes is opinion vs fact. If the language makes it easier to identify what a person believes, then communication becomes much easier in my own experience.)

                      2. 15

                        I suppose the line between writing conventions and dishonest rhetoric is very thin.

                        1. 3

                          People, as a rule of thumb, don’t want the unvarnished truth. They will, especially given the opportunity to do so anonymously (as is the case with our current flagging system), viciously attack anybody who points out their own failings, who questions whatever moral and cultural touchstones they hold dear, who talks repeatedly about something they don’t wish to hear, and so on and so forth.

                          What you consider “dishonest rhetoric” is something that is pretty useful when addressing problems, in forums or the workplace or wherever. If I have a problem, you may not be able to help and may not even give a shit. If we have a problem, there’s something that we can both work on and that we both have some stake in the resolution of.

                          Similarly, here, every time “I (angersock)” make a statement about how Lobsters should act, it’s easy to just see “okay okay angersock’s ranting whatever”. If it’s stated as “we (the Lobsters community subset that agrees with angersock)” it becomes both an acknowledgement that whatever is being pointed out may have interest beyond one user’s personal preference and an opportunity to discuss things for those not in the subset.

                          Plus, it’s just plain impolite to go on and on about “I this, I that, I the other thing”. One ends up sounding like a tinpot dictator or puffed-up jerk.

                          1. 9

                            It is only useful to you. Only you gain something from pulling the entire community into the problems you have with this post.

                            1. 3

                              He’s not all alone, I think.

                            2. 3

                              We definitely need more people using the “we need” form over the “I need” form. It shifts the discussion away from a conflict of interests to a conflict of beliefs and values. Or at least I believe so.

                              It is only useful to you. Only you gain something from pulling the entire community into the problems you have with this post.

                              Only because angersock has the interests of the community on his mind.

                      3. 13

                        I’m not sure I get your point even after you elaborated it. If you’re not interested in further discussion, why did you even post a comment, which also can be interpreted as “pile-on talking”? If you find this article boring, why does that make it inappropriate for lobste.rs?

                        1. 4

                          If you’re not interested in further discussion, why did you even post a comment, which also can be interpreted as “pile-on talking”

                          That’s referring to other articles saying the same thing or related things–our own commentary (mine here being somewhat meta in nature) is a different kettle of fish. :)

                          1. 4

                            Blogposts can contain comments about other blogposts too. I see neither a difference nor a problem. Arguably this submission isn’t particularly interesting or contains new points, but saying “we don’t need it” is speaking for other people (as /u/Gracana pointed out) and something the voting system is supposed to answer.

                            1. 8

                              The voting system is prey to all of the normal issues of democracy and mob rule, and unless people are willing to go out and occasionally make posts articulating policy alternatives and standards (even at the risk of downvotes and argument) one cannot expect any better outcome than “ooh shiny, upvote–oooh mean, flag–oh thing i don’t understand, ignore or random”. This has been borne out time and time again on other aggregators.

                        2. 11

                          The part of this post that seems to add something is the degree to which he shifts from discussing the specific allegation and rants about the industry as a whole and the way it protects bad people all the way up the food chain.

                          Agree or disagree, this does feel like it is adding on to the original report rather than repeating it. Naturally, to make such a rant stand alone, he has to introduce the subjet, which is repetitive at this moment when it is dominating the social media discourse.

                          1. 4

                            Why not?

                            1. 13

                              Assuming that you’re asking this in good faith, here are the basic problems I have:

                              • The original article was long and detailed problems that many of us may have and may yet experience in our work. For people who want to manage, it is an informative read on things not to do to reports. For employees, it is a solid example to point to if you start getting gaslit or made to feel uncomfortable. For business owners, it shows some interesting ways that HR can be used and how bad middle-management strife can ruin a culture. There’s a lot to be learned.
                              • In direct contrast, this sort of shallow talking point (summed up as “stop buying things from bad people, even though the SV culture has normalized their behavior. staaaaahp.”) isn’t going to really change our daily practices in any meaningful way beyond the villain of the week.
                              • Even the original article is basically hearsay until corroborated and sourced. If we have multiple submissions covering the same thing, it creates additional noise to whatever weak signal was already present. In an age where everybody is complaining about fake news, maybe we shouldn’t be part of the problem.
                              • Duplicate submissions on the same fragment discussion across multiple threads, increase cognitive load for users and mods (“Is this covering the same points? I’ll have to read it and find out ughhh”), and displace other stories that could be more useful to everyone else (not a huge problem here right now, but if you look at the constant churn of things on other sites where people submit the same news stories it most emphatically becomes so.)
                              • News submissions are the mindkiller, because their core value is in novelty (“Have you heard about <X>?!”) instead of quality, longevity, or actionability. Seldom, seldom, will news submissions either be downvoted (because they tickle the “oh hey nifty we should share” part of the nerd brain) or something that impacts our daily lives as practitioners (as an example here, because few if any of us work at Uber, fewer still in upper management, and generally it devolves into me-too me-too signalling “oh this is awful upvote for solidarity).

                              I’ve got various other reasons, but those are probably enough for you to get the gist.

                              1. 8

                                In direct contrast, this sort of shallow talking point (summed up as “stop buying things from bad people, even though the SV culture has normalized their behavior. staaaaahp.”) isn’t going to really change our daily practices in any meaningful way beyond the villain of the week.

                                What you’re trying to say here is “No ethical consumption under capitalism”.

                                1. 3

                                  Assuming that I parse you correctly as having this viewpoint, and further assuming that I’ll agree with it for discussions sake–my complaint becomes pretty obvious: there is no real way to opt out of capitalism in any meaningful way for the vast majority of us.

                                  1. 2

                                    Can you explain that further? Why can’t you opt out of capitalism? Capitalism doesn’t force people to engage with it just by virtue of the fact that it exists; you’re just usually better off if you do. You can feel free to join a commune or go live in the woods or something; your biggest barrier will be that the government might still expect money from you. If your answer is “because I want a high standard of living”, then yes, that’s why everyone else chooses to interact with capital markets as well.

                                    1. 2

                                      Capitalism is implemented as a universal/global system and is defended and further imposed by the capitalists themselves. At this point, capital controls (ostensibly) the whole world. Any state that attempts to opt out of capitalism also receives stiff retaliation and punishment, typically enforced by the United States.

                                      When kept under some form of social/democratic control, capital markets can be harnessed to better the lives of society at large. However, that benefit is only through collective intervention and not a property of capitalism itself.

                                      1. 1

                                        Any state that attempts to opt out of capitalism also receives stiff retaliation and punishment,

                                        It’s not really critical to my argument, but I’d like to point out that the language you’re using has connotations of voluntary withdrawal, despite the fact that a state “opting out of capitalism” involves forcibly preventing all of its subjects from freely engaging in market interactions. It’s also usually synonymous with drastically lowered quality of life, famine, etc., so there’s a very obvious humanitarian case for preventing states from “opting out” of the free market.

                                        However, what I asked about wasn’t states, but individuals. Why can’t you, as an individual, opt out of capitalism? I’m willing to grant that government tax and bureaucratic requirements make it practically challenging, but that’s not capitalism’s fault.

                                2. 11

                                  I think that the OP’s comments linking Trumpism and Uberism are original and deserve discussion.

                                  Since Paul Graham’s mid-2000s essays Made Startups Great Again and convinced a bunch of well-intended, smart, middle-class nerds to pile into business programming not knowing that that’s what they were doing, we’ve had a win-at-any-ethical-cost business culture (Uberism) that has expanded beyond tech and taken over the whole corporate world. And, as that movement grows, we also see a win-at-any-ethical-cost political movement with no coherent ideology beyond “When you’re a star, you can do anything.”

                                  1. 5

                                    What is there to discuss in that novel point? That incentives don’t always lead to optimal results?

                                    Is that relevant to lobste.rs?

                            1. 27

                              Please go and fix this!

                              If you do not participate in any political movement or party, you are enabling these sociopaths. No amount of technology can fix bad policies. If this continues, more people will just plainly refuse to travel. Eventually, the very same sociopaths will prohibit encrypted cross-border digital communication. Then what?

                              1. 6

                                If you do not participate in any political movement or party, you are enabling these sociopaths. No amount of technology can fix bad policies.

                                I don’t intend to debate my vaguely anarchist/reactionary political philosophy on lobsters, but I just wanted to point out that it is reasonable to disagree with this. It seems to me that technology (in the software/hardware sense, or institutional/social/etc.) is more or less the only thing that can fix and prevent bad policies in the long term. I am extremely skeptical that most Western democratic processes can do the same; indeed, one can reasonably blame many examples of bad policies or poor governance on democratic process under universal suffrage.

                                I am very happy to remain passivist in most politics for exactly that reason - I believe that staying away from the fray and working diligently on technology is a far more realistic and peaceful method for effecting lasting positive change. If it’s “you’re either with us or against us”, then the only way to win is not to play.

                                1. 8

                                  I don’t intend to debate my vaguely anarchist/reactionary political philosophy on lobsters, but I just wanted to point out that it is reasonable to disagree with this. It seems to me that technology (in the software/hardware sense, or institutional/social/etc.) is more or less the only thing that can fix and prevent bad policies in the long term.

                                  Counterpoint: No amount of technology will save you from rubber-hose cryptanalysis.

                                  1. 3

                                    Do you believe that the typical lobsters reader’s contribution to a) politics or b) technology is more likely to reduce the incidence of rubber-hose cryptanalysis? Why?

                                    1. 10

                                      The point is that it doesn’t matter how you’ve hidden your data if you’re required by law to give it up. The typical lobsters' users contribution to politics may be small, but it is the only way forward.

                                      1. 4

                                        We need to create a society that supports people keeping their data encrypted. Direct involvement in politics is one possible way to make that more likely, but it’s at least conceivable that e.g. creating more usable encryption tools so that more people use encryption might be more effective.

                                        1. 1

                                          But without political support for encryption the tech can be rendered useless.

                                          Edit: I may have misunderstood your point. Do you mean that creating more usable encryption could be an approach to bringing it to the general public’s attention and from there it can gain mindshare?

                                          1. 1

                                            Yeah

                                        2. 2

                                          The point is that it doesn’t matter how you’ve hidden your data if you’re required by law to give it up.

                                          How do you figure? There are several obvious technological countermeasures to rubber hose cryptanalysis, including plausibly deniable encryption with different passwords unlocking “fake” or “real” volumes.

                                          1. 2

                                            If this ever gets to be a common practice, authorities are going to start seeing through it. In particular, if the data you’re protecting is your social media presence, it’s completely implausible to try to claim that you don’t have one. And it does seem that that’s a lot of what these searches are aimed at, right now.

                                        3. 8

                                          Do you believe that the typical lobsters reader’s contribution to a) politics or b) technology is more likely to reduce the incidence of rubber-hose cryptanalysis? Why?

                                          Politics (ok, real answer: that’s a false dichotomy. Do both. But if you insist that it’s one or the other, I think politics is the more important). At the end of the day, the only thing that stops the government from beating you to death with a rubber hose is making sure the government doesn’t want to beat you to death with a rubber hose.

                                          As long as future governments share the attitudes of the last several (in favor of torture, in favor of surveillance, in favor of compromising civil liberties, convinced that the ends justify the means), I think that even succeeding in making strong encryption ubiquitous would simply encourage them to double down on using detention, force, and intimidation to achieve what they can no longer achieve through passive surveillance. I do not believe that there is a point whereat these people will look at the state of technology and change their behaviors and desires. To paraphrase Swift, you’ll never be able to present them with a set of facts about technology that will cause them to reason their way out of a set of positions they didn’t use reason to reach in the first place.

                                          Couple this with the fact that we’re staring down the barrel of a jobless future which is going to make technologists very convenient scapegoats for an unemployed and desperate populace, and I think you have a recipe for Bad Things.

                                          We’ve seen a broadly ignorant coalition of people with a shaky grasp of reality and a stock of poorly spelled signs successfully takeover the Republican party and now the Whitehouse inside of a decade. Mass political engagement from the traditionally disengaged tech sector has a real chance at changing the people making decisions.

                                          It’s slow and tedious and not as nice as sitting at home and typing at your computer, but getting involved in local politics is an important and necessary act if we want things to change, in my opinion.

                                          1. 1

                                            I do not believe that there is a point whereat these people will look at the state of technology and change their behaviors and desires. To paraphrase Swift, you’ll never be able to present them with a set of facts about technology that will cause them to reason their way out of a set of positions they didn’t use reason to reach in the first place.

                                            Oh, I wasn’t expecting it to be a matter of reason. Rather a matter of getting people to love their crypto.

                                            1. 6

                                              I get your idea there – but I’m skeptical that ubiquity will achieve it. Anecdata: My mom has an iPhone. Its contents are pretty strongly encrypted by default. Her iMessages to me are encrypted. Etc. Apple, for all their faults, have been trying to make that stuff ubiquitous for people like her.

                                              Consequently, because it’s so ubiquitous and easy to use and on by default, it’s completely invisible to her. She doesn’t conceive of herself as someone who even USES encryption, and certainly not as someone who is emotionally invested in its legality. Presented with these facts, her response is along the lines of “I have nothing to hide, so I have nothing to fear”.

                                              Getting her, and the broad populace like her, to emotionally invest in the legality of encryption is an education problem, which is a subset of political problems rather than technical, in my view.

                                      2. 3

                                        Not just that, but most people in the world are not in the United States, and are not United States citizens. They have very little influence on United States politics (read none), but they can have an influence on the technology.

                                        1. 1

                                          They can not go there. It would take a pretty deep dip in tourism and very low or negative migration or hell freezing over before they revert most of these policies though. The main outcome they will see is people with brand new “empty” phones. I don’t know if the average TSA employee really cares though, “Hey, no bomb schematics or whitehouse plans, get out of my face!”.

                                    1. 3

                                      I suppose that archivists must view copy protection technology in about the same light as the librarians of Alexandria would’ve viewed portable flamethrowers.

                                      1. 4

                                        That’s one positive of the “warez” scene - pretty much all copy protected software ever has been cracked, making it easier to archive for posterity.

                                        1. 4

                                          Most of the popular software is cracked, but there are a lot of things that aren’t. Check out the work qkumba and 4am have been doing lately, there is a lot of software that remains to be properly copied and archived. Educational software is a big one right now.. It’s historically interesting, but in its day, it wasn’t the cool stuff to work on.

                                          1. 2

                                            Yes, very good point - I really was thinking of common gaming/application software on personal computers. Lots of areas of software are under-represented in archives - as you say, educational software, console games, enterprise software, etc.

                                          2. 2

                                            Are professional archivists making use of warez efforts? I’ve heard things like GoG are often found to be quietly distributing cracked executables (and apparently Max Payne 2 on Steam for a while), but it’s not like warez groups are likely to throw a hissy fit about having the copyright infringed on their copy prevention circumvention software. :)

                                            1. 4

                                              I’m not sure whether they’re making use of it, but they’re certainly treating the warez community as itself historically noteworthy, and archiving things about it: https://archive.org/details/warez-scene-notices-2006-2010

                                        1. 13

                                          It’s like kids these days never used VI from a terminal that lacked an escape key!

                                          1. 10

                                            They’ll get the opportunity with the new MacBook Pro! Maybe that was the intent all along?

                                            1. 1

                                              Why is it like that? I’ve known a bunch of special control code key combos for a long time, but I didn’t know why they were mapped that way.

                                              1. 1

                                                If you’re asking why the control characters have the codepoints they do, I’m not sure there was very much reason for it. At least in the case of ^C, I suspect the mnemonic (“cancel”) might have come before the official assignment, but I’m just guessing. There were a variety of ad-hoc practices before there was an ASCII standard, and I’m sure the committee’s main goal was to formalize them.

                                                I suspect that if information on the decisions of what control characters to include exists anywhere, it’s in old meeting minutes somewhere. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASCII#History has a good run-down of relevant standards bodies. This would be going back to the early 60s, so it’s a job for a professional historian, not an amateur.

                                                1. 1

                                                  I meant “why do you think people who used vi without an escape key would know anything about ascii codes, rather than just knowing ^m == CR, etc.”

                                            1. 7

                                              For the past 12 years or so, the largest customers of the companies I worked for were the United States Department of Defense and its various sub-agencies.

                                              Sometimes the projects contradicted my beliefs. Sometimes they didn’t. One of the more memorable projects was building a mumble tool to detect very specific types of intrusion into mumble systems. There were no offensive capabilities that I could think of. I have no moral qualms about defending my nation’s infrastructure, military or otherwise, so that didn’t bother me too much.

                                              Another time I worked on a very interesting tool dealing with embeddable high-speed event correlation and pattern detection. The work itself wasn’t classified, and I can and did talk about it freely. It was fascinating work (if I ever feel like revealing my personal information on this site, I’ll link to one of the papers published on it). Anyway, when describing what it did to my father, he asked me if it would be useful in catching whistleblowers….

                                              I had a moment of moral ambiguity there, but the tool was just a tool. It could be used to catch whistleblowers, but it was no more specialized for that than a car could be used to drive them to prison. Most technologies are neither good nor bad, and I have to remember that.

                                              One of my closest friends did end up turning down a job a few years ago, when he was told point-blank in the interview process that the technology he’d be researching would be used to better guide unmanned aerial attack vehicles.

                                              1. 15

                                                I had a moment of moral ambiguity there, but the tool was just a tool. […] Most technologies are neither good nor bad, and I have to remember that.

                                                You have to think about the context. Designing autonomous flying machines for dropping things is different if you work for a DoD contractor compared to working for Amazon. You can guess at how your tools are going to be used, and decide if you’re okay with it. If you just decide a tool is a tool, you don’t really have to worry about ethics at all.

                                              1. 2

                                                I’m not sure I get the point. If you want to write code for a tiny, resource-constrained CPU you’ve got the ESP8266 module sitting right there …

                                                1. 6

                                                  Apart from the “retro” factor, it is actually a very different experience developing for a Z80 compared to an ESP. You can really write code from scratch for a Z80, and also you will have to learn at least some basics about digital electronics like how to connect RAM, EEPROM, etc. For the ESP you surely will end up using a provided SDK and since it’s a SOC with everything integrated it “limits” what you can really do.

                                                  1. 5

                                                    You can also troubleshoot and test by observing and manipulating the signals on the bus, which I think is the greatest reason to play with an old microprocessor vs a microcontroller or modern SoC.

                                                1. 2

                                                  The reason I take the “step aside and let me drive” approach is often because the person I’m trying to help is diving into details that I have no idea about (maybe it’s code I’m not familiar with, or maybe it’s something new they’ve written so I haven’t had a chance to see it before), so I need to poke at it myself before I can talk to them about the problem or tell them how to solve it.

                                                  1. 3

                                                    This person’s lab practices terrify me. I’m surprised he hasn’t described any hospital trips.

                                                    1. 2

                                                      He sounds very smart and also very stupid.

                                                      1. 2

                                                        The lack of hospital visits sounds like it’s attributable to, besides a bit of luck, some pretty serious safety equipment in the post-high-school examples: full-body hazmat suit, respirator mask with faceplate, etc.

                                                      1. 3

                                                        The static screenshot doesn’t really do this justice. Somebody want to sneak into an Apple store, install this on a touchbar MBP, and take a video?

                                                        1. 2

                                                          A few hours after you made this comment the author made a video.

                                                          1. 1

                                                            Apparently there’s a simulator in xcode, so it could be recorded on that.

                                                          1. 35

                                                            I’ll give some thoughts on the matter. These are all just my opinion, and with that warning out of the way I’ll skip my normal niceties in tone and wording. These thoughts are about what Lobsters is to me, what I’ve learned in general, and how I think moderation should be shaped.

                                                            What Lobsters Is

                                                            Lobsters is a wonderful discussion forum for people working in computer- and electronics-related fields to discuss ideas relevant to our industry practices and culture. It is a place to teach and learn, and a place to compare notes on how to do things.

                                                            In bullet form, Lobsters is a place:

                                                            • …to learn about new programming and engineering techniques and ideas
                                                            • …to learn about weird software and hardware hacks in the old sense of the term
                                                            • …to learn about software and hardware history
                                                            • …for professionals to compare war stories and employment information
                                                            • …for somewhat established members to show other members their cool hacks and software projects (projects != products)
                                                            • …to reflect on the philosophy and culture of engineering and programming and how that relates to our professions
                                                            • …to debate/argue with other members on any of the above and to be able to do so civilly

                                                            For me, those are the core things Lobsters is.

                                                            What Lobsters is not

                                                            The thing’s Lobsters is not is even more important.

                                                            Lobsters is not a place:

                                                            • …for advertising and shilling new products and services from non-members or new members
                                                            • …for posting things whose value derives from novelty (read: news in most forms)
                                                            • …for posting political or politically-minded articles
                                                            • …for posting things whose value derives from outrage (read: most stories of unfairness or inequality)
                                                            • …for rabble-rousing and social calls-to-action
                                                            • …for making empty comments and stupid/low-effort jokes
                                                            • …for insulting and making ad-hominem attacks against other members

                                                            Those are all things that have caused other communities to go to the dogs. HN, Reddit, Youtube comments–all are better places to get that information. News and product marketing tend to clog aggregators and disrupt things, and political stuff leads to unmoderatable echochambers.

                                                            Moderation

                                                            So, with that in mind, where does that leave moderation?

                                                            I think the old system worked pretty well. We could possibly do with another moderator–I don’t know what their perceived workload is right now.

                                                            We do need to, as a community, take responsibility for aggressively flagging content that doesn’t match Lobsters. We need to take responsibility for tolerating posts that we disagree with but that are civil and reasoned.

                                                            And we need to make sure to downvote posts that aren’t good and explain why they are not good or ask for clarification. Even @Zuu’s hilariously silly “feminazi” ranting could’ve been avoided had they taken up the opportunity to calmly and civilly explain why they had a problem–but since they couldn’t, downvotes let us fix it.

                                                            What we don’t need is mindless feelgood upvoting. Maybe upvoting should require an explanation too?

                                                            1. 30

                                                              I have mixed feelings on this.

                                                              On the one hand, I really do like the idea of having a good site for technical + scientific topics that focuses on deeper and more interesting discussion. Issues of politics and inequality matter, but they end up causing two problems. The first is that on a personal level I’d rather this site be a place to go and hide from those things, rather than be constantly reminded of them (I get enough reminders in my own personal life…). And secondly, they tend to attract that certain type of tech bro who is extremely eager to argue about those topics and, to put it rather bluntly, shit up the entire site in the process. You can see this effect where certain political threads end up with a far higher comment-to-upvote ratio than anything else on the site.

                                                              I’ve always wanted a more “pure”, low-level, in-depth tech site, but inevitably, like you worry about, they’ve gotten ruined by political types and low quality posters (remember Slashdot?). We should probably try to avoid making Lobsters a site that seems attractive to people who are “looking for an argument”.

                                                              On the other hand, it’s tricky because everything has politics in it. Everything we do affects other people, and affects society. Where do you draw the line? Do other people agree with you on where that line is? And so forth. Is it possible to reasonably come up with a line at all?

                                                              And perhaps as engineers shying away from the social consequences of our technical choices isn’t always the best idea.

                                                              1. 14

                                                                I’ve always wanted a more “pure”, low-level, in-depth tech site

                                                                That’s something I’ve trying to find for a long time. A site without the derisive “why,” no billion dollar startup valuations, just people enthusiastic about the things they’re building/learning/exploring/doing.

                                                                1. 2

                                                                  I really do like the idea of having a good site for technical + scientific topics that focuses on deeper and more interesting discussion. Issues of politics and inequality matter, but they end up causing two problems. The first is that on a personal level I’d rather this site be a place to go and hide from those things

                                                                  I agree. It’s a site distinguished by the quality of technical submissions and commentary. It’s better to keep political threads off of here. Sites that do that are like a breath of fresh air to someone just wanting tech instead of political nonsense.

                                                                2. 11

                                                                  I mostly agree, except that the effects of technology on society are interesting to me, and such topics will always touch on politics. So i do think those kinds of articles have their place here.

                                                                  1. 6

                                                                    What we don’t need is mindless feelgood upvoting. Maybe upvoting should require an explanation too?

                                                                    I rarely comment on meta posts, but here goes a crazy idea:

                                                                    I think we should just get rid of “votes” altogether (I can see you enraging already, but stay with me), because they are badly defined. An upvote on a joke comment might mean “funny”. Or maybe someone took it seriously(!). An upvote on a thoughtful comment might mean “I agree”. Or maybe “I disagree but your comment is thoughtful and helps discussion” or something. Nobody really knows. Worse for downvotes.

                                                                    I propose we replace them with Github style “emotions” instead. They inherently carry meaning. I know this will be seen quite controversially, and you might have started typing “why add ugly orange lightbulbs to Lobsters' clean UI”, but I don’t mean we should copy the same funky UI as is. We just need a way to let people express their state of mind after reading a comment without writing it out as a reply, since we want to reserve comment area for material discussion and not “omg I completely agree!”.

                                                                    1. 2

                                                                      That’s an interesting point. I was initially skeptical of it when I saw Facebook do it. I reserved judgment to watch it play out. The results were quite like you said: many BS comments shifted to emotional reactions that I could ignore or observe for curiosity of impact of the post on diverse audience. There were still nonsense comments. They just seemed lower in number. Facebook should run one of their mass studies on the comment data before and after that to give us an idea of what the technique achieves.

                                                                    2. 6

                                                                      I love all of this, and agree wholeheartedly. I don’t come to Lobsters to hear about new apps or businesses, or to hear about tech news. I can get all of that elsewhere. I come to Lobsters for deep and thoughtful technical discussions on things both inside and way-outside my area of expertise.

                                                                      1. 4

                                                                        I heartily agree too. Also, I’ve noticed over the months that really highly voted submissions tend to be product or social/political topics. Submissions with ~7-10 votes tend to more closely adhere to these guidelines.

                                                                        1. 3

                                                                          What we don’t need is mindless feelgood upvoting. Maybe upvoting should require an explanation too?

                                                                          I like the idea of upvotes for stories and comments requiring an explanation. That would balance out the downvoting system. There might be a slight decrease in the number of upvotes because of the extra step, but those that do make it through the filter will be more considered.

                                                                          1. 3

                                                                            …for posting political or politically-minded articles

                                                                            It is impossible to isolate technology from society in any historical context, especially today, given the current explosive rate of technological progress. We’re heading in a jobless future, most likely run by machines which we’ll have to program to make political decisions for us.

                                                                            …for posting things whose value derives from outrage (read: most stories of unfairness or inequality)

                                                                            Again, technology can create these issues in a much more aggressive rate and people have already started to notice. Unfairness and inequality is not subjects to be taken lightly. I don’t think any of us or our children would appreciate technology being faceless (and most probably dystopian).

                                                                            1. 2

                                                                              What we don’t need is mindless feelgood upvoting. Maybe upvoting should require an explanation too?

                                                                              I’m up for discussing that, too. Winding down tonight but I favor constructive comments over votes. Much less to intuit that way along with greater contribution.

                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                IMHO, it’s the nature of the internet’s million monkeys (no offense to anyone here) that sends communities to the dogs. HN was an awesome place at the beginning, so was reddit. Before checking lobste.rs daily when I quit HN because it was full of samples from the IS NOT list above, and useless opinions by the mass, I went back to slashdot that also had it’s eternal september, around 2000. Time is of the essence. Time is the essence. I’d suggest expensive voting (say you have to add a comment?), as well as length-based penalties (on the value of upvotes?) for a given comment past a certain length. This is not the place for long form. (Personally, I have little time for long form in my life, it has to be of the enlightening and positive category)

                                                                                Ce qui se conçoit bien s'énonce clairement, et les mots pour le dire arrivent aisément. Cheers. Lets keep productive, and keep together, balancing both in the daily timeline? :-)

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                                                                                but as others have pointed out, it was used to disagree with someone’s opinions rather than further discussion

                                                                                The only one I see agreeing with the claim that it happens is the guy who is sad he was “jumped by a group of feminazis”.

                                                                                I missed that downvote thread, but I think downvotes should be returned and “disagree” should be added to the dropdown without any of the clever proposed “no don’t do that” popup instructions. Some comments are wrong, not worth replying to, and bad to engage with.

                                                                                I think downvotes are also valuable for penalizing off-the-cuff popular responses like humor, snarkiness, and “but what about” hot takes that land early in discussions. They give light readers that two-second “hey, hah, yeah, that’s right, you tell ‘em” feeling and get upvotes (a positive feedback cycle, given the ranking) when just a few more seconds of thought shows they’re stupid, repetitive, cruel, irrelevant, equivocating, or off-topic. Posting more comments in reply to those is almost always counter-productive, you can’t argue with a joke.

                                                                                1. 23

                                                                                  Oh man, bringing back downvotes and adding a category for hot takes sounds really nice to me. I started using this site because it was a place for thoughtful, high quality, and usually longer-form discussions. I like that people take some time to post here, and that the discussions tend away from brevity.

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                                                                                    Oh hell, I’ve been downvoted “troll” more than a few times when I wasn’t trolling (and to be fair, a couple of times when I was!)–it certainly happens. That said, it doesn’t happen often.

                                                                                    I very much agree about upvotes encouraging off-the-cuff responses; light readers are too easy to game for anybody with even the tiniest bit of talent.

                                                                                    Compare the large critique I wrote about a Graham essay getting 62 karma, and the throwaway snark that got 20. That second comment has a massive effort/reward ratio compared with the first comment.

                                                                                    Now which of the two do we want to proliferate here? Which does the upvote-only system reward?

                                                                                    1. 8

                                                                                      I think snarky comments are going to proliferate with or without downvotes. A humorous 1-line reply hardly deserves a downvote.. maybe we should stop upvoting them instead. I can recall several times where a humorous joke from tedu (and the spiraling thread it generates) would cover insightful comments.

                                                                                      1. 11

                                                                                        Downvotes are meant to help correct for the fact that some people will upvote fluff. Telling people to just not upvote fluff does not work in larger communities, as it only takes a relatively small number of people doing it to drown out signal hugely. So if you remove downvotes (as has been done), we will need some other mechanism to get rid of fluff comments, like reporting or agressive mods or bans for fluff comments.

                                                                                        Also, while humerous fluff comments might not deserve to get massively downvoted, they don’t deserve to get upvoted either - so being able to downvote them down to zero still seems good to me.

                                                                                        1. 9

                                                                                          A humorous 1-line reply hardly deserves a downvote

                                                                                          No, it deserves many downvotes. Humorous 1-line replies kill good discussions.

                                                                                          1. 7

                                                                                            I seriously disagree. If there is good discussion to be had, it will happen regardless. Comment space is not finite, we have multiple comment threads for a reason - multiple trains of thought.

                                                                                            I never felt like there was an issue with the comment quality here. Quite the opposite, I really enjoy this place because of how it is and because it isn’t sterile.

                                                                                            I feel like some small group here is grumbling and shaking their fists in pursuit of an utterly mailing list style discussion on every post. That’s not what I want. We’re already worlds better than Reddit and HN.

                                                                                            Simply put, I don’t see a problem.

                                                                                            The few instances of spiralling troll threads can be taken care of by a mod.

                                                                                            1. 6

                                                                                              In my experience, humorous 1-line replies have created more discussions than killed. When I said “and the spiraling thread it generates” referring to tedu’s jokes, it wasn’t of other 1-line replies. Rather, people expanded on the joke and discussed on it (ie. Why is it funny? What issue does it make fun of? How could it be solved?).

                                                                                              1. 3

                                                                                                I’d downvote this

                                                                                              2. 8

                                                                                                I agree with this approach to lightweight jokes - just don’t upvote them to begin with.

                                                                                                They’re funny, but they’re noise, not signal, and I really don’t ever want to get to a Reddit-like situation where users who have something important to say make sure to lead with a one-liner so it will actually be upvoted.

                                                                                                1. 6

                                                                                                  Ok, no more funnies.

                                                                                                  1. 1

                                                                                                    tedu pls

                                                                                                2. 3

                                                                                                  Vote counts can’t really be compared across different discussions. Your critique was on a submission that got 12 votes, and the snark was on a submission that got 78 votes. How much higher/longer was each submission on the front page (granted there’s a penalty given to meta submissions); did more users see it and vote on it? Does more votes on the submission mean more people read the comments and voted? Do people tend to vote more freely on meta discussions than technical ones? Etc. There’s too many different factors involved.

                                                                                                  1. 2

                                                                                                    Your critique was on a submission that got 12 votes

                                                                                                    That isn’t a good metric for thread popularity in this case. That got 12 upvotes because most people who read the article disagreed with it or thought it was off-topic, not because nobody was reading the discussion. It was on the upper half of the front page for at least 12 hours.

                                                                                                  2. 2

                                                                                                    “Now which of the two do we want to proliferate here? Which does the upvote-only system reward?”

                                                                                                    I thought that was a success story given what an indepth comment did vs the other one. You appealed on other one to the popular vote, intentionally or otherwise. Human nature dictated it would get upvotes. The other you earned with some combo of reason and intuition by the readers. Our discipline should just be to overlook that popular stuff will get upvotes by simply acknowledging it will happen and moving on. I mean, aren’t you assessing bias like that anyway to get more honest assessments of Internet comments?

                                                                                                    This kind of reminds me of the Crash article about trusting automated systems too much. Some want a system that maximizes everything they like and some that minimizes everything they hate. Quite foolish in light of Internet experiences in general plus article’s point that automated systems miss corner cases. They’re incredibly important in our field or areas of discussion. Things that aren’t are the well-trodden or even boring stuff basically. So, we will have to rely on our own judgment to assess what we see regardless of the method. So, I had to decide what direction to shift things if we’re augmenting rather than replacing human review on a forum like this. I chose anti-censorship as primary goal given we’re good at filtering out crap and machines don’t spot golden connections as well as we do. We should do the part we’re good with machine assistance rather than thinking this site’s algorithms can protect us from “bad” things without hurting us by denying us good things.

                                                                                                    1. 2

                                                                                                      The thing that appealed to me about lobste.rs in the first place was that there were both. Neither would be as good alone.

                                                                                                    2. 14

                                                                                                      “Downvote for hot take/low effort/etc” is something that feels necessary sometimes.

                                                                                                      One example of this recently that might serve as a good example: there was an article about how Facebook’s ad-targeting-by-race was illegal in certain cases (housing, jobs) that had federal regulations prohibiting this.

                                                                                                      … but most of the comments seemed like they hadn’t even read the article. Discussion quickly drifted away from the actual topic (“digital ad targeting and its interaction with fair housing/labor laws”) to nebulous debates of the morality of racial targeting [in the general case, not in the specific case]. It was fairly clear none of the threads were going anywhere interesting at this point.

                                                                                                      It feels like a common problem where initial hot takes on a topic drag people into tangential debates at the expense of interesting discussion. Though I’m not sure if there’s really any technical solution to this.

                                                                                                      1. 8

                                                                                                        I disagree. The tangents had useful information. Showed numerous biases worth keeping in mind. Productive tangents are a sign of a good forum. Many of my greatest lessons, learned or taught, started that way.

                                                                                                        1. 5

                                                                                                          It was fairly clear none of the threads were going anywhere interesting at this point.

                                                                                                          Clearly the people participating in the discussion disagreed. Did you just assume your opinion regarding a thread’s interest to you is somehow universal to everybody?

                                                                                                          1. 5

                                                                                                            My comment in that thread was one of those heavily downvoted. It was expressing disagreement with the assertion by another poster that racially-targeted advertising for housing is fine–a position contrary to the law in every developed country. Was it “low-effort?” Sure, because I was responding to an equally low-effort, and grossly offensive, comment, which did not deserve a more substantive response. That comment got 15 upvotes, I got numerous “incorrect” downvotes and several “trolling” downvotes (I wasn’t trolling. I posted because I think it is dangerous to allow racist comments to stand unchallenged, which the parent comment was at the time I posted.) The level of downvoting I received is really demoralizing. A community which rallies around open defenses of racial discrimination is not one to which I want to belong.

                                                                                                            1. 5

                                                                                                              Your comment was literally 2 words. “It’s not.”

                                                                                                              It should have been down voted simply for being low effort. if you want to discuss something, put some thought into what you write so other people have a chance to consider a view different than their own.

                                                                                                              I think the point of having a defined scope for mods is to help with issues like what you describe though. If you have some ideas for what tools could be added to the site to assistance with that, it would be great to discuss those.

                                                                                                            2. 1

                                                                                                              The specifics in that thread were boring.

                                                                                                            3. 8

                                                                                                              How about adding “disagree” and “low effort” as reasons to downvote a comment?

                                                                                                              1. 7

                                                                                                                People should never downvote because they disagree–that public decision on HN by Graham basically destroyed the value of discussion there.

                                                                                                                If downvotes don’t signal disagreement, then a low-rated comment is probably malicious or poor quality. If downvotes signal disagreement, then a low-rated comment could be malicious, poor quality, worded in a way that annoys some people, or just plain out of step with the hivemind. We cannot allow that dilution of signal.

                                                                                                                An option for “low-effort', though, seems perfectly reasonble–it’s usually pretty easy to point out when a comment was just off-the-cuff.

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                                                                                                                  People should

                                                                                                                  But people will. On every single site that uses vote buttons, they do. That’s what the design of the system encourages. It’s easy to click the button, there are lots of opportunities to do so, it’s easiest to click when you’re reading a comment in a conversation you’re engrossed in, and it’s hard to step back and think objectively. So people are gonna click the button that matches the way they feel at that moment. It’s not an issue of rules, it’s just an issue of humans being humans.

                                                                                                                  1. 4

                                                                                                                    That’s what I liked about Schneier’s blog all these years. We didn’t have votes. We had people’s opinions and ability to report to the moderator. Brought in lots of interesting comments with occasional periods of stuff that makes one roll their eyes. Put buttons on there & suddenly people are just pressing instead of writing much of the time. If button wasn’t there, those who were writing would still be there. Worst case, I’d like a personal button for hiding stuff I didn’t care for.

                                                                                                                  2. 6

                                                                                                                    For me the loss of downvotes has destroyed the value of discussion here. I have stopped reading comment threads, and will probably stop coming here at all unless I hear they’ve been restored.

                                                                                                                    1. 4

                                                                                                                      I rarely see high quality comments on HN downvoted, so I disagree that HN downvoting has destroyed the value of discussion there.

                                                                                                                      1. 3

                                                                                                                        I agree - is it feasible to have “disagree” as a completely different field so that you can upvote or downvote based on quality and have another “disagreement” count below it. It seems that every site with upvotes and downvotes conflates quality and agreement and they suffer for it.

                                                                                                                    2. 2

                                                                                                                      Happened to me once or twice. It was dark and I didn’t see who did it though. Notably I then got upvoted a lot. A moderator told me that there were a lot of up and down votes for that particular post. And that post was a general observation on the absurdity of life, fairly apolitical.

                                                                                                                      1. 1

                                                                                                                        “it was used to disagree with someone’s opinions rather than further discussion”

                                                                                                                        I got that plenty on Hacker News from the beginning. I noticed anything disagreeing with a popular person, tech, etc immediately got hit with enough downvotes to grey out my comment. As I did on Schneier’s blog, which doesn’t have voting, I included references for about any claim I made. I watched votes go up, down, me and my opponent greying or whatever. Point being quite a few threads that were subject of significant disagreement by writers and readers nearly disappeared due to popular downvote with my evidence-based approach likely being only reason they kept surviving the process. I get it way, way less on Lobste.rs but it seems to happen occasionally for similar reasons.

                                                                                                                        The real question to me, if we’re talking up and down votes, comes to which of two tradeoffs we want: (a) increased amount of crap near top due to unnecessary upvotes; (b) total censorship of ideas due to too many downvotes. I imagine a community like this are experts at mentally filtering out crap that might float to the top. I know for a fact they aren’t as good at finding rare nuggets of wisdom that get drowned out by the crowds. That’s simply a lot of work. And luck. So, I prefer whatever system is adopted chooses tradeoff of protecting dissent even if some unworthy posts benefit from that.

                                                                                                                        Note: A similar concept underlies the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Not that I’d push it on any international audience that rejects concept of no censorship unless provably harmful. Just saying there’s similar considerations between why U.S. went with that model and the “Vote Against Others' Freedom of Speech” debate here.

                                                                                                                      1. 1

                                                                                                                        Doesn’t do anything on Windows 7 in these browsers:

                                                                                                                        IE 11.0.9600.18204

                                                                                                                        Chrome 54.0.2840.71 m

                                                                                                                        Firefox 49.0.2

                                                                                                                        Screenshot?

                                                                                                                        1. 1

                                                                                                                          Runs in Chrome 50 here on Debian. It is slightly interactive so a screenshot wouldn’t do it justice.

                                                                                                                          1. 1

                                                                                                                            D'oh. Well, I looked at the source images and it seems like it’s probably amusing.

                                                                                                                            1. 1

                                                                                                                              I just tried it on Chrome 54 on Windows 7. Works fine. It may be a scaling issue. Play with the body height attribute.

                                                                                                                        1. 3

                                                                                                                          mips64el… neat!

                                                                                                                          I looked to see what they’re targeting. They have a bunch of these octeon iii machines:

                                                                                                                          https://db.debian.org/machines.cgi?host=mipsel-sil-01

                                                                                                                          http://www.rhinolabsinc.com/rhino-sdna7360-networking-appliance/

                                                                                                                          Plus some loongson quad core thing that I couldn’t find info on:

                                                                                                                          https://db.debian.org/machines.cgi?host=eberlin

                                                                                                                          1. 5

                                                                                                                            I used an HP Pro X2 410 running Ubuntu at a cybersecurity competition a year or two back. I didn’t get to use it for a long time (just the weekend or whatever), but I had to do a lot with it that time. Web browsing and text editing and working with lots of terminal windows and such. It was great. i5, SSD, some decent amount of RAM. Nice screen, nice keyboard, tablet-part comes off of-keyboard part, keyboard-part has extra battery and USB ports. The keyboard<->tablet dock/lock was pretty solid. I considered buying one at the time, but balked at the price. They might not be so bad now.

                                                                                                                            1. 1

                                                                                                                              The company I work for (a meat processing and packaging equipment OEM) recently decommissioned our aging MRP system, GrowthPower, which was written in BusinessBasic and ran only on the HP 3000. I’m pretty sure the machine we used was one of the later (late 80s, early 90s) PA-RISC based 3000s, but I’m not sure. The machine was tucked in a room that I didn’t really have access to, but I could look in and see the amber phosphor terminal that connected to it.

                                                                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                                                                Oh, how could I forget? I also have an HP 16700A, which is a PA-RISC based logic analyzer. It runs HP-UX, I’m not sure of its year of manufacture, but it says 1996 in the boot messages. I just compiled vim 74 on it so I’d have a familiar text editor. It worked perfectly. Amazing job, vim devs.