1. 0

    If you are doing something somebody will pay for, then that means that whatever you are doing is good for that somebody, otherwise why would he pay for it. So the more money you make, the more meaningful your activity is.

    So the more money you make, the more meaningful your life is. Don’t trust your brain internal measure of meaningfulness, it was evolved when we were hunter-gatherers and it is incapable of correctly measuring meaningfulness of your activities in the modern world. Trust your bank accounts or crypto-wallets.

    Some people think that giving food to random starving children around the world is ‘meaningful’, but it’s not. You are just doing genetic socialism and propping up bad reproductive strategies that are proven to not work. In continuing to propagate the information embedded in the DNA of those starving children, you are actually allowing the bad strategy to be more widely implemented, and thus making the problem you are trying to solve worse. And what does your bank account say? It says you have less money. Brain: 0, Bank account: 1

    But that’s just one way of defining ‘meaningful’.

    In reality life in inherently meaningless. You have been lucky (or unlucky) to be born into a time and place of plenty that allows you to ask yourself a question with no answer. If you had been born in a pre-industrial farming community, then you only care about surviving the next winter. You have no time for such pointless thought processes as asking yourself what is a ‘meaningful’ life.

    You can try reading philosophies but those are just the rambling non-answers of those who came before you who asked the same question.

    You are just a robot who was built to replicate information embedded in DNA. You by accident was given a nervous system capable of asking questions like “What is the meaning of life?” and “How do I live a meaningful life?”. Those questions are just syntactically correct enough to convince you that they are meaningful questions, but they are not.

    Don’t worry though, sooner or later your children will come home from school and your neural “let’s make sure the children are well so they will propagate my genes” system will fire and you will forget about all these silly questions.

    Life is without meaning, and any attempt to find one is just your mind incapable of accepting the fact that you are mortal and small, and wanting to be large and forever.

    1. 10

      This perspective is vulgar:

      Some people think that giving food to random starving children around the world is ‘meaningful’, but it’s not. You are just doing genetic socialism and propping up bad reproductive strategies that are proven to not work.

      Social Darwinism is a sickness.

      1. -3

        Social Darwinism is a sickness.

        That is strange, when it is essentially impossible for natural selection to not apply to humans. If an all pervasive and always applicable by definition effect is a sickness, then the word sickness has such weak boundaries on its definition as to render it pointless as a word.

        1. 3

          What you might call a “sickness” is the tendency to over-simplify important and complex issues in the real world into a few convenient logical predicates and them arrive at serious conclusions, which if taken seriously, would result in actual people actually suffering.

          I also once were a robot like you, but then I realized that the real world is many orders of magnitude orders of magnitude more complicated than I could ever hope to analyze or even observe, so I’ve learned to trust my hard-evolved feelings to take care of the complexity, and I only use my logic to choose between the alternatives that feel right relying on the predicates that feel right. As a matter of fact, anything that involves people suffering has a very little chance of feeling right.

          1. 0

            Does it feel right to chase away a predator in order to save a cute prey?

            1. 1

              If I witnessed a wolf chasing a cute rabbit, I’d probably save the rabbit if I had the means. But if I had the means to save all rabbits from being eaten by all predators, I’d definitely not do it since it’d have a terrible impact on the environment. But then, if you came to me and convinced me, through logical arguments, that saving that one rabbit from that wolf will have a significant negative impact on anything I care about, my feelings about the former issue could change and I could let the wolf eat the rabbit.

              Now, hypotheticals aside, there’s no universe in which I could be convinced that children dying from starvation could be the solution to anything. Even if you made very good arguments about why them not dying from starvation would cause something very bad, I’d still try infinitely many ways to find other means of avoiding that very bad thing. But children dying from starvation is off the table. In general, convincing me to support the suffering of people would take far more that some juvenile arguments coming from an extremely simplified and naive interpretation of the very complex phenomenon that is evolution.

              1. 1

                Why is the wolf starving to death preferable to the rabbit being killed by the wolf?

                1. 2

                  You don’t get the point, I’m not pushing that wolf to starvation by stopping it from eating that rabbit. It has a whole forest to hunt. If the circumstances were such that me saving that rabbit means certain starvation for that wolf, I’d feel differently about the issue. To save you the trouble, you really should stop wasting your energy trying to come up with simplified dilemmas to draw logical arguments about complicated situations. And that’s actually my whole point. Logic is an illusion, it’s a tool our pathetic brains use to overcome our inability to conceive even a tiny fraction of the world around us.

                  1. 1

                    Logic is an illusion,

                    well if you reject logic, then what tool do I have to argue against you? My feelings?

              2. 1

                Since we’re really talking in metaphor, I wouldn’t just chase it away, I’d kill it. You have failed to understand the role and nature of social interaction. You will be discarded, just as you have discarded others unless you change.

                1. -1

                  So it’s okay for predator to starve to death because they are not cute?

                  1. 2

                    Survival of the cutest my friend.

            2. 2

              It’s funny given your ideas on genetics if you were right you’d be the defective one because failing to realize social implications is a pretty obviously material defect. Thank goodness you’re wrong because you’re totally uninformed about modern science. You can improve!

          2. 9

            I used to engage in this sort of nihilism and it was a sad and depressing way to live, so I sympathise, fellow robot. That’s the trouble with too much logic and not enough context (indeed, how robotic!). Once I learned that my conclusions hinged on blatantly false unexamined assumptions, I was able to shift my views to something more constructive.

            Having children doesn’t stop questions about meaning, by the way.

            1. 1

              Once I learned that my conclusions hinged on blatantly false unexamined assumptions,

              Now if only you would be so kind as to state those false assumptions and why they are false, I would be enlightened.

              But you chose not to.

              1. 6

                I thought it rather unlikely that you would be enlightened by a stranger on the internet. It was far more likely to result in a pointless argument.

                Anyway, for me there were two primary false assumptions:

                • That it’s all about me - my individual fulfilment, freedom etc. This is plainly against where the human evolutionary path led us - we’re a social animal, not a solitary one. Caring about others is essential to us.
                • That the meaning is to be found somehow. Clearly, the universe just is, as you also point out, so there’s nothing to be found, but that’s beside the point because we have the capacity to make up the meaning. When we have this capacity and the alternatives are so depressing, what’s the point of refusing to make something up?

                Once I got rid of these assumptions, it turned out that contributing to the sustainable future of the human race or ensuring that I personally see a continuation of my family is actually pretty meaningful if I let it be meaningful. Even better, it aligns well with what it means to be a human robot, as you suggested regarding DNA propagation.

            2. 4

              You are just doing genetic socialism and propping up bad reproductive strategies that are proven to not work.

              There’s something odd about someone calling themselves libertarian but espousing racial collectivism. Or is your username meant to be ironic or something?

              Life is without meaning, and any attempt to find one is just your mind incapable of accepting the fact that you are mortal and small, and wanting to be large and forever.

              This may be true.

              Don’t worry though, sooner or later your children will come home from school and your neural “let’s make sure the children are well so they will propagate my genes” system will fire and you will forget about all these silly questions.

              This is completely false.

              1. 2

                They aren’t a libertarian just like the nazis weren’t national socialists. It’s just a way for them to spout bullshit and hope naive libertarians will buy in to it without questioning the line of reasoning. While I do have reservations about libertarian ideology, this person is just a classist racist bigot and frankly has no place on lobsters. I’ve yet to see anything they’ve spouted to actually be libertarian anyway.

                1. -1

                  There’s something odd about someone calling themselves libertarian but espousing racial collectivism.

                  You are clearly projecting here because there’s nothing racial about my comments.

                  1. 4

                    You claim that starving children are starving because they are genetically inferior.

                    1. 6

                      This user probably isn’t worth replying to. Expect to be sealioned to hell.

                      1. -3

                        I never said they are inferior, but that the reproductive strategy embedded within their DNA has proven to fail by the very fact that they are starving.

                        You really are projecting.

                        1. 10

                          I intended to stay out of this but there’s nothing genetic about any of:

                          • being born into an unstable, grossly unfair, or failed nation-state.
                          • experiencing a famine or a natural disaster.
                          • being surrounded by a civil war.
                          • having your ethnic group despised and persecuted.
                          • not acquiring a useful education when basic needs are unmet.
                          • having children when birth control is unavailable or proscribed.
                          • being unable to emigrate or prevented from emigrating.

                          These are exactly the sorts of situations that produce the kind of human suffering that people respond to with generosity. You might argue that in some cases aid perversely subsidizes and supports corrupt regimes and allows the situations to fester that prevent these people from having a reasonable life longer than if there were no aid and the society/state collapsed (with an even greater degree of short-term misery) but it’s not “embedded within their DNA”.

                          Restating OP’s argument, “Fuck them, they’re unlucky. Let them die out of my sight and don’t you help them because they’re undeserving by virtue of being unlucky. Now go tend to your lucky off-spring.”

                      2. 2

                        Said the horrible racist. Get banned already please.

                    2. 2

                      Your ideas around genetics are outdated and wrong.

                    1. 25

                      The more I learn about the world, the less meaningful my work becomes. A narrow view is much easier to live with, in a sense.

                      For example, I currently help software developers learn via my books and courses. I’d like to think that it’s useful to some people, but I also know that the way we teach things is really ineffective, the technologies themselves are needlessly complicated and much too short-lived, and computing generally falls short of what I think is its true goal: augmenting human intellect. I do find it hard to see the point of it all sometimes.

                      Even more broadly, is it really meaningful for anyone to learn yet another framework or language du jour, however nice it is, when there are so many urgent environmental problems, for instance?

                      I realise it’s an issue of perspective. It wouldn’t make sense for everyone to drop what they’re doing and instead attack climate change or plastic pollution. It’s also perfectly valid and useful to contribute to society in the area of your skills and expertise. It’s just that I personally find it hard to ignore the broader context once I’m aware of it.

                      1. 7

                        My approach to smartphones (and a lot of other technology) has been to hold off adoption as long as possible. I got my first smartphone around 2013 - it was an old iPhone 4S. I’m up to iPhone 5 at this point, and it still does most things I want. Since I haven’t used the fancy new phones, there’s nothing to miss! Sure, I’d like to try augmented reality apps, but I don’t think it’s worth buying a new phone just for that (especially since they’re unlikely to do anything particularly useful at this point).

                        I keep in touch with family via WhatsApp, and I email those friends I can’t meet in person. I guess it helps that all of my friends are used to email.

                        This year, I got rid of Facebook and stopped reading the Twitter timeline, realising that I hardly had any meaningful interactions there, I just wasted a lot of time. I don’t have notifications for anything, either on the phone or on the laptop (when I used Slack for work, I had notifications enabled, and I really disliked them). I also removed the badges with the number of emails etc. I still check my email too much.

                        1. 7

                          Very disappointing. It was one of very few projects that was aiming to push beyond incrementalism and advance computing in the spirit of Engelbart and Kay.

                          I think it was a fluke that it got funded even for this period of time. IIRC, they got some VC money. No matter what VCs say, they just can’t be interested in long term improvements without a clear way to make a profit.

                          1. 2

                            I think it was a fluke that it got funded even for this period of time. IIRC, they got some VC money. No matter what VCs say, they just can’t be interested in long term improvements without a clear way to make a profit.

                            VC investments are bets. And I can totally see betting on something that could be a very fresh approach to getting started with computing. Programming languages might not be a viable business, but programming environments on the other hand certainly are.

                            1. 2

                              Sure, I agree, but I think Eve was about inventing a programming paradigm, not even a language, let alone an environment (the environment was sort of a consequence). From what I gleaned from their blog, it looked very much like a research project: they went through heaps of re-implementations and changed the programming paradigm a couple of times. It’s tough to get a good return on a research project in a couple of years!

                              1. 1

                                While that might be true, I’m pretty sure they didn’t get funded for researching the paradigm. If they had succeeded, they would end up with a product.

                                The apparent problem for me is that interest in short-term gains and research don’t really mix.

                                1. 2

                                  The apparent problem for me is that interest in short-term gains and research don’t really mix.

                                  Short-term thinking dominates both tech and the larger business context it operates in. And that is a huge problem, because short-term thinking displaces dreaming, which is required for transformative technologies.

                          1. 12

                            I’ve changed my tune on Bitcoin recently for two reasons, despite still liking its ideals:

                            1. The government intervening in the economy is sometimes a feature, not a bug. In times of economic crisis, for example, the government has unique powers to help. Sometimes it is a bug, but Bitcoin seems to assume that any intervention by any centralized entity, at ALL, is malicious. In fact I intend to take an economics class to be better informed on this very issue.

                            2. The energy use is unconscionable. We’re already destroying the environment at a ridiculous pace and the Bitcoin space (to me, at least, bearing in mind that I don’t REALLY pay attention) seems to be full of anarchists who are determined to have their uncontrollable system at any cost, with absolutely no regard to seemingly unrelated consequences.

                            1. 13

                              The government intervening in the economy is sometimes a feature, not a bug.

                              If by “sometimes a feature” you mean “the only thing that prevents repeated economic collapse” then yes.

                              If you’re interested at all then definitely take a macroeconomics class. And history while you’re at it, especially pre-industrial and early industrial America.

                              1. 5

                                Sometimes == every time bitcoiners fall for a scam and lose money (and suddenly drop all the libertarian stuff and start crying for government help).

                                Look at /r/Buttcoin, the amount of fraud in the cryptocurrency space is beyond ridiculous.

                                1. 1

                                  I agree with your observation, but I think understanding the cause is more useful than poking fun at it. I’ve gotten the sense that falling for scams is an expected cost to a certain constituency, specifically the people who are using cryptocurrency as a medium of exchange for things the governments they live under don’t approve of. I don’t expect the prevalence of scams to scare that group away. People who don’t share that driving concern should take note and understand that it’s always likely to be high-risk.

                                2. 1

                                  Not that I’m in favor of Bitcoin at all (and I seriously agree with your first point) but I’ve also seen arguments that Bitcoin is used in some places (perhaps it was China?) to help mop up excess energy from renewable sources when they’re at peak output hours. I think the argument went that when the sun is high in the sky on a clear day, or when the wind is really blowing, energy companies will often turn off windmills or solar panels to avoid producing too much energy. In this case, Bitcoin can help use up that excess energy, and by turning it into cash, become a sort of renewable subsidy that makes it more attractive to build more renewable energy sources. I do know there are definitely places where a renewables-powered grid overproduces so much that energy prices become negative.

                                  Perhaps this isn’t true, but I think it illustrates that maybe the energy problem is a more complex issue than it appears?

                                  1. 7

                                    Sounds like some fairy tale told by miners implying they are not mining 24h/7d a week.

                                    1. 3

                                      Mm, that matches my understanding of how energy production works, but it’s also the case that that energy could go into other things. I think it was actually here on lobste.rs that I learned about kinetic energy storage (roll a ball up a hill, to roll it back down later… that sort of thing) and how it’s used to smooth out energy demand.

                                      There’s no way that Bitcoin miners aren’t making things difficult for grid operators. I agree with @isra17 that it’s an extremely self-serving claim.

                                    2. -1

                                      The energy seems like a fairly trivial cost to me. It’s a fraction of a percent. I’m willing to pay that price, and I’m also optimistic about the future of renewable energy.

                                      1. 13

                                        The per-transaction electricity cost was 215kwh back in November - that’s not trivial in the slightest. At market rates where I live it’s $7 or so.

                                        Credit cards processors use several orders of magnitude less per payment made.

                                        1. 1

                                          Well in dollars terms it either is worth it or its not. I’m not particularly concerned about the environmental impact.

                                          1. 9

                                            And whom do you expect to deal with the environmental consequences?

                                            1. 2

                                              whoever’s dealing with it for the other 99.9% of the environmental impact from non-renewable energy sources

                                              1. 7

                                                That would be your descendants.

                                                1. 1

                                                  o/ yo

                                                  1. 0

                                                    if their solution ends up involving defining standards for sufficiently useful computations, well, uh, godspeed

                                          2. 9

                                            A fraction of a percent of what? Energy use? Today Bitcoin is estimated to use as much energy as the country of Denmark. By 2020 is estimated it’ll use literally as much energy as we use in the entire planet today. I don’t particularly see how that’s trivial. Source: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/12/bitcoins-insane-energy-consumption-explained/

                                            1. 6

                                              Today Bitcoin is estimated to use as much energy as the country of Denmark

                                              That’s far out of date. Denmark consumes approximately 3.5GW; bitcoin is now at about 5GW, somewhere between Hong Kong and Bangladesh.

                                              https://digiconomist.net/bitcoin-energy-consumption

                                              By 2020 is estimated it’ll use literally as much energy as we use in the entire planet today.

                                              No credible extrapolation is possible, obviously. Energy usage will drop fast when the bubble bursts.

                                              1. 0

                                                Because denmark has like 5 million people? I’m about as worried about bitcoin as I am another denmark popping up (the world gains like 12x the population of denmark every year)

                                                edit: re 2020: https://xkcd.com/605/

                                              2. 1

                                                I know next to nothing about cryptocurrencies, but my understanding is that Proof of Stake means we don’t need to use this energy. Many coins don’t use this because they weren’t sure whether it was secure. But recently the IOHK team has proven a secure Proof of Stake algorithm for Cardano.

                                                Is there a downside to this approach?

                                                1. 4

                                                  The “Criticism” section on the Wikipedia article on Proof of Stake lists a few:

                                                  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proof-of-stake#Criticism

                                                  Note that Wikipedia is an ideological battleground when it comes to cryptocurrencies, so make sure to check the citations for a more comprehensive view.

                                                  1. 2

                                                    I can’t find the source for this despite having seen it just last night (sigh) but IOHK apparently makes you generate your own seed, which has resulted in lots of people using web-based generators that then steal your money. This is a really bad idea and it’s not that hard to read from /dev/urandom and then say “here write this thing down.”

                                                    So I wouldn’t really trust them to have done stuff correctly, including Proof of Stake. Obviously that doesn’t mean it can’t be done or even that they haven’t done it - just that I would like to see a lot of scrutiny from experts.

                                                    1. 2

                                                      So I wouldn’t really trust them to have done stuff correctly, including Proof of Stake.

                                                      The point is you don’t have to, they have proofs.

                                              1. 7

                                                I‘m not convinced that the current trend to put authentication info in local storage is entirely driven by the thought of being able to bypass the EU cookie banner thing. I think it‘s more related to the fact that a lot of people are jumping on the JWT bandwagon and that you need to send that JWT over an Authorization header rather than the cookie header.

                                                Also, often, the domain serving the API isn‘t the domain the user connects to (nor even a single service in many cases), so you might not even have access to a cookie to send to the API.

                                                However, I totally agree with the article that storing security sensitive things in local storage is a very bad idea and that httponly cookies would be a better idea. But current architecture best-practice (stateless JWT tokens, microservices across domains) make them impractical.

                                                1. 4

                                                  Hey! You are correct in that this isn’t the main reason people are doing this – but I’ve spoken to numerous people who are doing this as a workaround because of the legislation which is why I wrote the article =/

                                                  I think one way of solving the issue you mention (cross-domain style stuff) is to use redirect based cookie auth. I’ve recently put together a talk which covers this in more details, but have yet to write up a proper article about it. It’s on my todo list: https://speakerdeck.com/rdegges/jwts-suck-and-are-stupid

                                                  1. 2

                                                    Ha! I absolutely agree with that slide deck of yours. It’s very hard to convince people though.

                                                    One more for your list: having JWTs valid for a relatively short amount of time but also provide a way to refresh them (like what you’d do with an oauth refresh token) is tricky to do and practically requires a blacklist on the server, reintroducing state and defeating the one single advantage of JWTs (their statelessnes, though of course you can have that with cookies too)

                                                    JWTs to me feel like an overarchitectured solution to an already solved problem.

                                                    1. 1

                                                      There’s a third use case: services that are behind an authentication gateway (like Kong) and whenever a user is doing an authenticated request then the JWT is injected by the gateway into the request headers and passed forward to the corresponding service.

                                                      But yes, a lot of people are using $TECHNOLOGY just because it’s the latest trend and discard “older” approaches just because they are no longer new which is quite interesting because we today see a resurgence of functional languages which are quite old, but I digress.

                                                    2. 2

                                                      you need to send that JWT over an Authorization header rather than the cookie header.

                                                      Well, you don’t need to, but many systems require you to. It’s completely possible — although it breaks certain HTTP expectations — to use cookies for auth² is after all quite an old technique.

                                                      1. 1

                                                        This is true – you could definitely store it in a cookie – but there’s basically no incentive to do so. EG: Instead just use a cryptographically signed session ID and get the same benefits with less overhead.

                                                        The other issue w/ storing JWTs in cookies is that cookies are limited to 4kb of data, and JWTs often exceed that by their stateless nature (trying to shove as much data into the token as possible to remove state).

                                                      2. 1

                                                        Could you point me to some sort of explanation of why using localStorage is bad for security? Last time I looked at it, it seemed that there was no clear advantage to cookie based storage: http://blog.portswigger.net/2016/05/web-storage-lesser-evil-for-session.html

                                                        1. 2

                                                          Just as the article says: if you mark the session cookie as http only, then an XSS vulnerability will not allow the token to be exfiltrated by injected script code.

                                                          1. 1

                                                            Are we reading the same article? What I see is:

                                                            • “The HttpOnly flag is an almost useless XSS mitigation.”
                                                            • “[Web storage] conveys a huge security benefit, because it means the session tokens don’t act as an ambient authority”
                                                            • “This post is intended to argue that Web Storage is often a viable and secure alternative to cookies”

                                                            Anyway, I was just wondering if you have another source with a different conclusion, but if not, it’s OK.

                                                            1. 3

                                                              I disagree with the author of that article linked above. I’m currently typing out a full article to explain in more depth – far too long for comments.

                                                              The gist of it is: HttpOnly works fine at preventing XSS. The risk of storing session data in a cookie is far less than storing it in local storage. The attack surface is greater there. There are a number of smaller reasons as well.

                                                              1. 1

                                                                Great, I would appreciate a link (or a Lobsters submission) when you’ve written it.

                                                      1. 2

                                                        I have a Pok3r keyboard, and have configured it to use the Caps Lock key as a function modifer for HJKL so I can move around like I do with NeoVim. I enjoy it so much that I had trouble typing on the regular keyboard when I was away from my desk. So I used Karabiner Elements to do the same mapping; with Caps Lock acting as an FN key and HJKL as the arrow keys.

                                                        It is wonderful.

                                                        1. 2

                                                          This is very convenient when working with code or text, thanks - except I set up IJKL to be the cursor keys.

                                                          1. 2

                                                            The reason they chose hjkl is that it is historical, and with good reason. You never take your fingers off of the home row.

                                                            1. 2

                                                              I get that, but I have 26 years of personal history with cursor keys in the shape of an inverted T. Besides, I only have to move one finger off the home row.

                                                              Actually, with HJKL you have to shift four fingers one key to the left from the touch typing position, whereas with IJKL it’s just one! Anyway, I’m being pointlessly pedantic here :)

                                                        1. 3

                                                          One of the things on my bucket list for 2018 is creating a small project and let it have at least 1$ in revenue. Not profit, just revenue. I’m creating a list of some ideas but they all seem pretty bland and hard to monetize. Currently I’m pondering to do something with a tool to help schools to automate some things. This is the first time I’m doing something like this and I must admit it’s harder than I imagined.

                                                          At $work it’s going to be a though week again, lots of things to do and unexpected issues will turn up again. I’ve been working there for almost 2years now and most weeks are still full of challenges.

                                                          For reading, I’m planning to start with ‘1984’.

                                                          1. 4

                                                            I would not recommend starting with an idea, however good it seems. I tried it, it doesn’t work. It’s much better to start with the right kind of research to find out what people will pay money for. This site has a lot of useful information: https://stackingthebricks.com

                                                            1. 0

                                                              Sites like that recommend a course of action that really smells a lot like bait-and-switch to me. It might not be technically a crime depending on your jurisdiction / industry, but it doesn’t seem particularly honest.

                                                              1. 1

                                                                Whatever do you mean? Have you read much of this particular site?

                                                                1. 1

                                                                  That one is actually the least like what I described in that particular niche, so I guess I sounded kinda dickish. Most those “start a business” information products are just instructions on pretending you have a bunch of products, and then somehow pulling the one that gets the most bites out of your ass in a month. I find the idea of advertising something I don’t have and probably will never build extremely distasteful.

                                                                  1. 2

                                                                    To be clear, I think it’s nothing like what you are describing, and it’s unfortunate that you chose to make the first comment, possibly putting @kamme and others off having a look, and (by association) casting me in a negative light with talk of crime and dishonesty. Please take more care next time!

                                                            2. 4

                                                              I’m trying to build some small profitable services too, I’ve been finding it tough indeed (but I broke $1).

                                                              1. 2

                                                                IIRC, the advice that startup factories like Y Combinator give on this issue is to identify something in a market segment that’s already painful or just could be better. You pick something you understand pretty well first. Then, you figure out how it could be done better where you or other people would enjoy. Then, you might try a startup idea based on that. They or whoever it was that I read said this leads to success the most often. Double true if it stays within domains you have a lot of experience in so you’ll avoid gotchas.

                                                                The schools is a good example of it. The people who already are in schools or deal with their IT functions have a good idea of what will or won’t fly in that market with buyers, teachers, etc. They’re the best people to do a business in that area. They’re also the best people to listen to if you want to get in it.

                                                                1. 2

                                                                  That’s why I’m thinking about schools, I know quite a few teachers of various age groups and different social and economical levels. Every time we have a discussion about their work I will find a couple of things that could be improved.

                                                                  The hard part here would be sales. Schools are not known to be flexible and teachers often have no saying in purchases. This means I would have to target principals and administration, and this is not going to be easy to sell as they often have very tight budgets.

                                                                  I’m leaning towards doing 4 or 5 smaller projects this year and probably target different audiences for each. I know this will not be Y Combinator approved, it’s an excersise to create a bit of a habit and learn different skill sets.

                                                                  1. 2

                                                                    This means I would have to target principals and administration

                                                                    Good point. Start reading up on their decision-making in acquisition. Talk to them a bit as a person that knows there’s issues with current products looking to find ways to improve things for both them and teaches. You get it straight from the kind of people you’ll be selling it to. You can also note what you’ve learned from teachers’ problems for effectiveness. I’m sure you were already going to do that, though.

                                                                    If budgets are tight, maybe SaaS model with an upfront discount on licensing where you tell them you’re just covering setup and support costs that year. This isn’t my area of expertise, though. I just know they would want minimum transition cost and/or offset. Watch out for lock-in, too, of anything that’s in an old system.

                                                                    “I’m leaning towards doing 4 or 5 smaller projects this year and probably target different audiences for each. I know this will not be Y Combinator approved, it’s an excersise to create a bit of a habit and learn different skill sets.”

                                                                    Oh yeah, I’m not saying go YC or anything. I was just saying experts warn to stay in stuff you have real-world experience with. Many looking for any money-making project make mistake of straying too far from that. You’re not. It’s good you’re aiming for a few projects for self-improvement with possible financial gain a bonus. Good luck on that for sure. :)

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                                                                I think the author has some good points, but I disagree with the narrative they construct out of them. Anyone who ever managed to get lost in a book for a few hours will realise that monochrome non-interactive text can be just as immersive as the flashiest “place”. I’d also say that mindfulness is about being in the present, not necessarily about awareness of being in the body, so I doubt that working in the terminal makes you more mindful.

                                                                There’s plenty to criticise about the unhelpfulness of the current UIs, the failure of computers as a medium, and the attention grabbing services, but practising GUI abstinence or interactivity denial is not the answer.

                                                                I think that working on a single task at a time might be a more fruitful change, and it would take care of the browser and the Google Music complaints in one swoop.

                                                                1. 3

                                                                  Part 1 covers familiar ground for those who have been on Lobste.rs for a while and read Michael’s comments here. Part 2, however, is a broader analysis of the impact of technology on our society, and I thought it was great, especially the point about the flow-on effects of technologically driven unemployment on jobs without an immediate risk of automation. Everyone will be affected.

                                                                  However, having been in the business of automating people’s jobs, I’m not sure how I feel about it. Is there a way to avoid it without rejecting technology altogether? I think at this point it’s too late to revert to a low-tech civilisation, which is one way to avoid job loss and surveillance. We are locked into the use of technology by the magnitude and urgency of the environmental problems, and indeed, we likely need many further technological advances to fix the current mess.

                                                                  But how can technological development be directed to avoid negative social consequences (or even better, to have positive consequences)? The obvious answer is that that’s what governments are supposed to do, but just as obviously most of them have been doing a poor job over the last few decades.

                                                                  1. 1

                                                                    However, having been in the business of automating people’s jobs, I’m not sure how I feel about it. Is there a way to avoid it without rejecting technology altogether?

                                                                    I think we need to accept it. Two centuries ago, the majority of Americans worked on farms. Now, about 2% of the population is directly involved in food production. We adapted to this shift, although it was painful. In the US, we had the Civil War (over the fate of slavery in an industrial economy) and the Gilded Age (unregulated capitalism, late-Reformation squabbles reflected in our insistence on a conservative so-called “protestant work ethic”) and then the Great Depression (ill-managed prosperity, leading to poverty) and finally World War II (caused by many things, but one of them was the military mobility available in a food-rich world).

                                                                    But how can technological development be directed to avoid negative social consequences (or even better, to have positive consequences)? The obvious answer is that that’s what governments are supposed to do, but just as obviously most of them have been doing a poor job over the last few decades.

                                                                    Right. One problem is that the world’s wealthy can essentially pit governments against each other. If the US raises its taxes on the rich to a reasonable level, there’s a fear of capital flight. (More likely, the wealthy will stay here; if they can’t cheat legally, as they do now, they’ll cheat illegally… that doesn’t make the rules pointless.) In the 1950s, it was possible for the US to be a low-corruption, wealthy society with a large middle class, even while the rest of the world was stuck in squalor. It no longer works that way. Globalization is both desirable and inevitable, but we have to make sure it’s done right– in a way that lifts up the rest of the world, rather than one that plunders the OECD middle class for the benefit of the rich.

                                                                    I think some governments are doing a decent job of this: Canada, Germany, and the Nordic countries. However, you’re right that the bulk of them are not, and the 5 most important countries right now are the US, Russia, China, India, and Brazil, all of which have huge problems with government corruption and economic inequality. (Next, I’d argue, is Japan. Not a lot of corruption or inequality, but their work culture is a nightmare.) It’s also important to note that the EU is no utopia either. They have slow GDP growth, low salaries for technology workers, an increasing North-South divide (recall: Grexit crisis), and far more difficulty assimilating immigrants than we do. So, there’s a lot of room for improvement everywhere… but also a lot of opportunity for things to get worse.

                                                                    1. 2

                                                                      Japan has practically no unemployment, and the workers and their families are well taken care of for their troubles. It might even be blissful, depending on your personality, to focus on one thing only and off-load your woes and all else; be it long days on the farm and trust in God or long days at the office and trust in the management.

                                                                      The work is also made harder by employing people who drag the team down, who would not employed for long anywhere else. People also need to work things the West automated decades ago because people are inefficient and expensive. My understanding is that at the end of the day this is fine by “everyone” in Japan.

                                                                      To me it sounds like what a social democracy with strong unions would end up looking like, if they got their will, even here in the Nordics.

                                                                      1. 1

                                                                        Japan appears to me to be held together by strict archaic codes of behaviour, homogeneity, and conformity enforced by shame. It’s great for clean streets and un-smashed vending machines (and alcohol sales), not so great for human flourishing.

                                                                      2. 0

                                                                        I think we need to accept it.

                                                                        If we accept it, then I’m not sure there’s a good outcome even past the turbulent transition period. Once most jobs are gone, we arrive at the idea of universal basic income, but my concern is the word basic. The current social and economic order doesn’t encourage providing anything more than a minimal standard of living, even if machines could provide far more on the basis of an equitable distribution of resources.

                                                                        Some people think that new jobs will eventually emerge based on historical analogy, but my view is that (a) the change is happening far too rapidly for replacements to appear in a timely fashion and (b) this time is actually different because once both physical and knowledge and creative jobs are replaced, what else is there for us to do?

                                                                        Globalization is both desirable and inevitable

                                                                        I tend to think that automation is likely to have more impact than globalisation over the coming decades. Automation could even reverse globalisation in some industries because labour costs are no longer an issue. The trend towards localised energy production might also have an anti-globalisation effect.

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                                                                      Some of us miss native desktop applications that worked well. It’s tragic that desktop platforms are utterly non-interoperable and require near-complete duplication of every app. But at the same time not everyone is satisfied with the solution of “build them all as electron apps starting with a cross-platform browser base plus web technology for the UI”. I can sympathize with app developers who in no way want to sign up to build for 2 or 3 platforms, but I feel like berating dissatisfied users is unjust here. Try comparing a high quality native macOS app like Fantastical with literally any other approach to calendar software: electron, web, java, whatever. Native works great, everything else is unbearable.

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                                                                        I think people are just tired of seeing posts like Electron is cancer every other day. Electron is here, people use it, and it solves a real problem. It would be much more productive to talk about how it can be improved in terms of performance and resource usage at this point.

                                                                        1. 2

                                                                          One wonders if it really can be improved all that much. It seems like the basic model has a lot of overhead that’s pretty much baked in.

                                                                          1. 2

                                                                            There’s a huge opening in the space for something Electron-like, which doesn’t have the “actual browser” overhead. I’m certain this is a research / marketing / exposure problem more than a technical one (in that there has to be something that would work better we just don’t know about because it’s sitting unloved in a repo with 3 watchers somewhere.)

                                                                            Cheers!

                                                                            1. 2

                                                                              There’s a huge opening in the space for something Electron-like, which doesn’t have the “actual browser” overhead.

                                                                              Is there? Electron’s popularity seems like it’s heavily dependent on the proposition “re-use your HTML/CSS and JS from your web app’s front-end” rather than on “here’s a cross-platform app runtime”. We’ve had the latter forever, and they’ve never been that popular.

                                                                              I don’t know if there’s any space for anything to deliver the former while claiming it doesn’t have “actual browser” overhead.

                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                “re-use your HTML/CSS and JS from your web app’s front-end”

                                                                                But that’s not what’s happening here at all - we’re talking about an application that’s written from the ground up for this platform, and will never ever be used in a web-app front end. So, toss out the “web-app” part, and you’re left with HTML/DOM as a tree-based metaphor for UI layout, and a javascript runtime that can push that tree around.

                                                                                I don’t know if there’s any space for anything to deliver the former while claiming it doesn’t have “actual browser” overhead.

                                                                                There’s a lot more to “actual browser” than a JS runtime, DOM and canvas: does an application platform need to support all the media codecs and image formats, including all the DRM stuff? Does it need always on, compiled in built-in OpenGL contexts and networking and legacy CSS support, etc.?

                                                                                I’d argue that “re-use your HTML/CSS/JS skills and understanding” is the thing that makes Electron popular, more so than “re-use your existing front end code”, and we might get a lot further pushing on that while jettisoning webkit than arguing that everything needs to be siloed to the App Store (or Windows Marketplace, or whatever).

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                                                                                  But that’s not what’s happening here at all - we’re talking about an application that’s written from the ground up for this platform, and will never ever be used in a web-app front end. So, toss out the “web-app” part, and you’re left with HTML/DOM as a tree-based metaphor for UI layout, and a javascript runtime that can push that tree around.

                                                                                  Huh? We’re talking about people complaining that Electron apps are slow, clunky, non-native feeling piles of crap.

                                                                                  Sure, there are a couple of outliers like Atom and VSCode that went that way for from-scratch development, but most of the worst offenders that people complain about are apps like Slack, Todoist, Twitch – massive power, CPU, and RAM sucks for tiny amounts of functionality that are barely more than app-ized versions of a browser tab.

                                                                                  “Electron is fine if you ignore all of the bad apps using it” is a terribly uncompelling argument.

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                                                                                    Huh? We’re talking about people complaining that Electron apps are slow, clunky, non-native feeling piles of crap.

                                                                                    Sure, there are a couple of outliers like Atom and VSCode that went that way for from-scratch development, but most of the worst offenders that people complain about are apps like Slack, Todoist, Twitch – massive power, CPU, and RAM sucks for tiny amounts of functionality that are barely more than app-ized versions of a browser tab.

                                                                                    “Electron is fine if you ignore all of the bad apps using it” is a terribly uncompelling argument.

                                                                                    A couple things:

                                                                                    1. Literally no one in this thread up til now has mentioned any of Slack/Twitch/Todoist.
                                                                                    2. “Electron is bad because some teams don’t expend the effort to make good apps” is not my favorite argument.

                                                                                    I think it’s disingenous to say “there can be no value to this platform because people write bad apps with it.”

                                                                                    There are plenty of pretty good or better apps, as you say: Discord, VSCode, Atom with caveats.

                                                                                    And there are plenty of bad apps that are native: I mean, how many shitty apps are in the Windows Marketplace? Those are all written “native”. How full is the App Store of desktop apps that are poorly designed and implemented, despite being written in Swift?

                                                                                    Is the web bad because lots of people write web apps that don’t work very well?

                                                                                    I’m trying to make the case that there’s value to Electron, despite (or possibly due to!) it’s “not-nativeness”, not defending applications which, I agree, don’t really justify their own existence.

                                                                                    Tools don’t kill people.

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                                                                                    we’re talking about an application that’s written from the ground up for this platform, and will never ever be used in a web-app front end.

                                                                                    I’m really not an expert in the matter, just genuinely curious from my ignorance: why not? If it is HTML/CSS/JS code and it’s already working, why not just uploading it as a webapp as well? I always wondered why there is no such thing as an Atom webapp. Is it because it would take too long to load? The logic and frontend are already there.

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                                                                                      I’m referring to Atom, Hyper, Visual Studio Code, etc. here specifically.

                                                                                      I don’t think there’s any problem with bringing your front end to desktop via something like Electron. I do it at work with CEFSharp in Windows to support a USB peripheral in our frontend.

                                                                                      If it is HTML/CSS/JS code and it’s already working, why not just uploading it as a webapp as well?

                                                                                      I think the goal with the web platform is that you could - see APIs for device access, workers, etc. At the moment, platforms like Electron exist to allow native access to things you couldn’t have otherwise, that feels like a implementation detail to me, and may not be the case forever.

                                                                                      no such thing as an Atom webapp

                                                                                      https://aws.amazon.com/cloud9/

                                                                                      These things exist, the browser is just a not great place for them currently, because of the restrictions we have to put on things for security, performance, etc. But getting to that point is one view of forward progress, and one that I ascribe to.

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                                                                                I can think of a number of things that could be done off top of my head. For example, the runtime could be modularized. This would allow only loading parts that are relevant to a specific application. Another thing that can be done is to share the runtime between applications. I’m sure there are plenty of other things that can be done. At the same time, a lot can be done in applications themselves. The recent post on Atom development blog documents a slew of optimizations and improvements.

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                                                                              It’s tragic that desktop platforms are utterly non-interoperable and require near-complete duplication of every app.

                                                                              It’s a necessarily sacrifice if you want apps that are and feel truly native that belong on the platform; a cross-platform Qt or (worse) Swing app is better than Electron, but still inferior to the app with a UI designed specifically for the platform and its ideals, HIG, etc.

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                                                                                If we were talking about, say, a watch vs a VR system, then I understand “the necessary sacrifice” - the two platforms hardly have anything in common in terms of user interface. But desktops? Most people probably can’t even tell the difference between them! The desktop platforms are extremely close to each other in terms of UI, so I agree that it’s tragic to keep writing the same thing over and over.

                                                                                I think it’s an example of insane inefficiency inherent in a system based on competition (in this case, between OS vendors), but that’s a whole different rabbit hole.

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                                                                                  I am not a UX person and spend most of my time in a Terminal, Emacs and Firefox, but I don’t think modern GUIs on Linux (Gnome), OS X and Windows are too common. All of them have windows and a bunch of similar widgets, but the conventions what goes where can be quite different. That most people can’t tell, does not mean much because most people can’t tell the difference between a native app and an electron one either. They just feel the difference if you put them on another platform. Just look how disoriented many pro users are if you give them a machine with one of the other major systems.

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                                                                                    I run Window Maker. I love focus-follows-mouse, where a window can be focused without being on top, which is anathema to MacOS (or macOS or whatever the not-iOS is called this week) and not possible in Windows, either. My point is, there are enough little things (except focus-follows-mouse is hardly little if that’s what you’re used to) which you can’t paper over and say “good enough” if you want it to be good enough.

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                                                                                  It’s tragic that desktop platforms are utterly non-interoperable and require near-complete duplication of every app.

                                                                                  There is a huge middle ground between shipping a web browser and duplicating code. Unfortunately that requires people to acknowledge something they’ve spent alot of time working to ignore.

                                                                                  Basically c is very cross platform. This is heresy but true. I’m actually curious: can anyone name a platform where python or javascript run where c doesn’t run?

                                                                                  UI libraries don’t need to be 100% of your app. If you hire a couple software engineers they can show you how to create business logic interfaces that are separate from the core services provided by the app. Most of your app does not have to be UI toolkit specific logic for displaying buttons and windows.

                                                                                  Source: was on a team that shipped cross platform caching/network filesystem. It was a few years back, but the portion of our code that had to vary between linux/osx/windows was not that big. Also writing in c opened the door for shared business logic (api client code) on osx/linux/windows/ios/android.

                                                                                  Electron works because the web technologies have a low bar to entry. That’s not always a bad thing. I’m not trying to be a troll and say web developers aren’t real developers, but in my experience, as someone who started out as a web developer, there’s alot of really bad ones because you start your path with a bit of html and some copy-pasted javascript from the web.

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                                                                                    There’s nothing heretical about saying C is cross-platform. It’s also too much work for too little gain when it comes to GUI applications most of the time. C is a systems programming language, for software which must run at machine speed and/or interface with low-level machine components. Writing the UI in C is a bad move unless it’s absolutely forced on you by speed constraints.

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                                                                                    It’s tragic that desktop platforms are utterly non-interoperable and require near-complete duplication of every app.

                                                                                    ++ Yes!

                                                                                    Try comparing a high quality native macOS app like Fantastical with literally any other approach to calendar software: electron, web, java, whatever. Native works great, everything else is unbearable.

                                                                                    Wait, what? I think there’s two different things here. Is Fantastical a great app because it’s written in native Cocoa and ObjC (or Swift), or is it great because it’s been well designed, well implemented, meets your specific user needs, etc? Are those things orthoganal?

                                                                                    I think it’s easy to shit on poorly made Electron apps, but I think the promise of crossplatform UI - especially for tools like Atom or Hyper, where “native feeling” UI is less of a goal - is much too great to allow us to be thrown back to “only Windows users get this”, even if it is “only OS X users get this” now.

                                                                                    It’s a tricky balancing act, but as a desktop Linux user with no plans to go back, I hope that we don’t give up on it just because it takes more work.

                                                                                    Cheers!


                                                                                    PS: Thanks for the invite, cross posted my email response if that’s ok :)

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                                                                                      Wait, what? I think there’s two different things here. Is Fantastical a great app because it’s written in native Cocoa and ObjC (or Swift), or is it great because it’s been well designed, well implemented, meets your specific user needs, etc? Are those things orthoganal?

                                                                                      My personal view is that nothing is truly well designed if it doesn’t play well and fit in with other applications on the system. Fantastical is very well designed, and an integral part of that great design is that it effortlessly fits in with everything else on the platform.

                                                                                      “Great design” and “native” aren’t orthogonal; the latter is a necessary-but-not-sufficient part of the former.

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                                                                                        “Great design” and “native” aren’t orthogonal; the latter is a necessary-but-not-sufficient part of the former.

                                                                                        Have to agree to disagree here, I guess. I definitely can believe that there can be well-designed, not-native application experinces, but I think that depends on the success and ‘well-designed-ness’ of the platform you’re talking about.

                                                                                        As part of necessary background context, I run Linux on my laptop, with a WM (i3) rather than a full desktop manager, because I really didn’t like the design and cohesiveness of Gnome and KDE the last time I tried a full suite. Many, many apps that could have been well designed if they weren’t pushed into a framework that didn’t fit them.

                                                                                        I look at Tomboy vs. Evernote as a good example. Tomboy is certainly well integrated, and feels very native in a Gnome desktop, and yet if put next to each other, Evernote is going to get the “well-designed” cred, despite not feeling native on really any platform it’s on.

                                                                                        Sublime Text isn’t “native” to any of the platforms it runs on either.

                                                                                        Anyway, I feel like I’m losing the thread of discussion, and I don’t want to turn this into “App A is better than App B”, so I’ll say that I think I understand a lot of the concerns people have with Electron-like platforms better than I did before, and thank you for the conversation.

                                                                                        Cheers!

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                                                                                    This is a pretty nice justification for the whole conventional belief system that leads to “abstraction”, “coupling vs cohesion”, “SOLID”, etc. But that whole memeplex is dangerously misguided. It has a kernel of truth, but it’s incomplete, and it’s dangerous because the vast majority of programmers seem to get brainwashed by it until they’re blind to anything else.


                                                                                    To see how it’s misleading, let’s focus on this sentence:

                                                                                    ..a triangle is actually very highly interconnected for the number of nodes it has..

                                                                                    This is a telling sentence, because it highlights that this entire notion of ‘complexity’ is really about density of complexity. Which means that if you just took your triangle and started spliting the vertices into lots of nodes, so that it has lots of nodes along each edge of the triangle, the whole would seem a lot less complex. But you haven’t really made the whole any less complex, you’ve just spread the complexity out into a smooth thin layer. The inherent complexity of the system remains. It’s just harder to find; randomly selected nodes/modules seem simple, and you have to jump through a lot of hoops to find the ‘complex node’ that invariably gets the lion’s share of updates.

                                                                                    The whole thing takes me back to my childhood years, when I would shove my stuff into my closet to try to convince my mom I’d cleaned up my room.

                                                                                    Abstraction is useful, and it’s useful to think about the right places to draw module boundaries. But as a rule of thumb, mistrust anybody who tries to pontificate about the difference between simplicity and complexity merely by making reference to module/interface boundaries, without any attention to what the system does.


                                                                                    So much for tearing down somebody else who in fairness wrote very elegantly indeed. Can I be constructive instead? I’ll suggest an alternative memeplex for thinking about complexity that gets a lot less attention than it should. Complexity comes from the state space of inputs a system needs to handle, and the number of regimes this state space gets broken down into. (Imagine something like the characteristics of a transistor.) The more regimes a state space has, the more intrinsically complex the domain is.

                                                                                    If we could demarcate this state space, and make the regimes in the state space explicit in our representation of the system – rather than implicit in lines of code as happens today – I think we’d make far larger strides in controlling complexity than any number of attempts at redrawing internal boundaries between sub-systems. In particular, we’d be able to detect over-engineering and architecture astronomy: they would be situations where a code has significantly higher complexity than the domain it’s trying to address.

                                                                                    I think such a representation has to start at (no surprises for people here who’ve heard me ranting before) tests. Tests are great because they’re like a Fourier transform applied to the conventional representation of a program as code. Instead of focusing on what to do at each point in time for a program, looking at a program as a collection of tests tells you how the entire trajectory of processing needs to go for the major regimes in the input space. Tests allow you to get past what your current program does, and think about the essential things any program has to do to achieve the same ends.

                                                                                    (I’ve written about this idea before. Hopefully this latest attempt is clearer.)

                                                                                    1. 2

                                                                                      I’ll add the state space is my favorite way of looking at complexity because it’s actual values/actions of your software. Different implementations will have different state spaces to assess complexity. Different techniques for reducing complexity can show they do with the state space reductions. Either actual reductions or what it lets us ignore in an analysis for correctness.

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                                                                                        I like the idea of thinking in terms of a state space! I have a couple of questions:

                                                                                        • Aren’t there really three spaces/sets involved: the set of inputs, the set of possible programs that handle such inputs, and the set of internal program states?
                                                                                        • I noticed you say in the linked post that tests are the only way to delineate boundaries in the state of programs. What about formal verification methods?
                                                                                        1. 1

                                                                                          Sorry I thought I’d responded to this. I’m glad to see more thinking about state spaces of different stripes.

                                                                                          I overstated my case. Formal methods may well be an alternative. I just don’t know much about them.

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                                                                                          Can you define what you mean by “regime” here?

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                                                                                            It’s meaning 1b at Merriam -Webster:

                                                                                            a regular pattern of occurrence or action (as of seasonal rainfall)

                                                                                            I see now that the figure of transistor characteristics I linked to above refers to active and saturation “regions”. I seem to recall learning them as regimes in undergrad in India.

                                                                                            Basically it’s a subset of the input space for which the program behavior is the same. How you define “same” is flexible. One definition would be identical control flow paths through the program. Alternatively you can think of timing attacks on encryption schemes as exposing regimes in the underlying algorithm.

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                                                                                            Whether the triangle has three nodes, or many along each edge, it still has the same number of loops: 1. That’s perhaps a more important observation. A graph that’s easy to color is probably a graph with few loops.

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                                                                                              Loops might be part of it, but imagine a ‘necklace’ of loops. Each loop can be 2-coloured, and you can join the links at points with the same colour, so you can have as many loops as you like and still only need 2 colours.

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                                                                                            I’m in the ninth year of remote work now (wow!) and I’ve experienced remote work both from a contractor’s side and the manager’s side. Even though the article is spot on, I’d have trouble going back to an office, especially as offices tend to be set up as totally unproductive environments these days. Besides, it would be difficult for me & my wife to manage my daughter’s pickup/dropoff and various activities if we were both stuck in an office all day.

                                                                                            @lorddimwit’s idea of working with a friend for a day is great, but I don’t have any friends who work remotely in my city.

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                                                                                              I’ve worked part-time for about six years of my career. I started it because I’d repeatedly burned out of full-time jobs. Working 3 days/week was great for me, far more rewarding than the added salary I passed on could have been. Aside from lower work anxiety, I had time to write two books, give three conference talks, get engaged, get married, take up several hobbies, and enjoy life thoroughly. My work has been overwhelmingly better: I stay out of rabbit holes, I recognize deep patterns, I prioritize ruthlessly, I deliver the things my users didn’t realize they need. It’s not magic, it’s just downtime for my unconscious to noodle around with problems without pressure.

                                                                                              I think working part time is a hugely valuable experience for anyone who doesn’t have a pressing need for dollars in the door (eg to pay off US medical bills or student loans). There are plenty of blogs out there on frugal living + investing (I recommend MrMoneyMustache and Bogleheads wiki), so developers can easily live comfortably and still save significantly towards retirement.

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                                                                                                I’m trying to pull back my working to part-time as well. Unfortunately many companies seem to want full-time or nothing. I’ve switched over to consulting to give me more freedom, we’ll see how that goes. I’m taking around 1.5 months off from work right now which is great. For the first few weeks it felt awkward to have no reason to do anything at any particular time, but after awhile it’s become really pleasant.

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                                                                                                  About a year and a half ago I stopped working full-time, and it’s been really wonderful. I found I can work 2 months on a SF salary and live for a year in Berlin pretty comfortably. Sometimes I pick up more consulting work when I want structure, and sometimes I think about moving back to NYC where I would have to work a little more regularly, but I wouldn’t change anything about how I’ve spent my time up until now. I’ve been able to dive really deeply into a bunch of things I would never have had the time or energy to pursue if I were still a wageslave. The things I’ve built in my free time have also turned into tons of job opportunities, and I’ve stopped doing technical interviews now that people can just look at work I put on github and stuff. So, it can lead to lots of nice career things, too. I don’t want to stop engineering, but I am quite happy to live life outside of a shitty startup office a bit more.

                                                                                                  Almost no jobs will appreciate it when you tell them you’d like to work less. But if you go into a new thing with clear expectations set, I’ve found it to be much easier.

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                                                                                                    This is awesome! How do you go about getting consulting work - do you look for clients, or do they approach you? Did you have a ramp-up period before you felt comfortable that you’d have enough consulting work when you need it?

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                                                                                                      I think most opportunities come my way because I genuinely enjoy talking to people about systems and engineering, and when I don’t have a full-time job I can spend more time communicating about those things. It’s networking, but for something that doesn’t feel gross to me. I am lucky to have this alignment between my personal interests and what businesses currently value. My current gig came from a comment I made here on lobste.rs ;)

                                                                                                      A key to being comfortable is having enough runway where I know I will be OK for a while if I don’t find any work. This means being careful about burn rate. I consider potential purchases and recurring obligations in terms of how much life without work I’m giving up to have them. When my friends from work were increasing their rent to keep up with 30% of their salaries (or more) I was building the buffer that would keep me calm without work. They are worth a lot more money than me now, but I’ve been able to grow in ways that I’m extremely grateful for. Also after quitting my last full-time job I went through a period of intentional “unlearning of engineer-in-a-fun-city spending habits” which gave me a lot of peace of mind, by tripling my runway.

                                                                                                      When I decided to stop working full-time, I didn’t know if it was going to just be a long break or a whole new arrangement. After getting over burnout from the SF startup I was at, I cold-emailed a company doing interesting work to me, and they enthusiastically agreed to a 10 hour/wk contract. That showed me that I might be able to keep it going.

                                                                                                      When you pay 1/7 the rent, even a small trickle of engineering work feels like a geyser.

                                                                                                      1. 1

                                                                                                        Thanks, this is an excellent approach.

                                                                                                  2. 3

                                                                                                    Unfortunately many companies seem to want full-time or nothing. I’ve switched over to consulting to give me more freedom, we’ll see how that goes.

                                                                                                    While this is true, as Mike points out in the interview it’s possible to convince some companies some of the time to hire you part-time anyway. It’s much more effort, and you need to be willing to push back much harder. But it can be done. Since it’s not the default, you really want to only mention part time bit after company has committed to hiring you.

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                                                                                                  The advice I’ve always given applies now more than ever: use a hardware wallet. Besides dumb shit like this, there’s also the risk that any keys you keep in RAM get swiped by the new set of side-channel attacks.

                                                                                                  Electrum has good hardware wallet support too! It’s just like normal except you have to approve transactions on the device before they go through. I’ve tried both the Trezor and the Ledger. They are highly cross-compatible and both good designs.

                                                                                                  1. 12

                                                                                                    Then you have to trust the hardware vendor’s security design - oh look, here’s someone breaking into a Trezor.

                                                                                                    Or that the guy you buy the hardware from isn’t just a crook.

                                                                                                    The more general problem is that cryptocurrency security is vastly harder than any normal user can be expected to achieve - because every mistake or theft is utterly irreversible, by design. “Be your own bank” means be your own financial institution Chief Security Officer, with deep system knowledge.

                                                                                                    The solution we use in the wider world is division of labour, and financial institutions that are trusted but regulated in law. This turns out to work usably well for running a modern economy, in a way that “everyone has to know everything in depth or LOL too bad” doesn’t.

                                                                                                    When someone in the Philippines got my credit card number and attempted to spend £600 on it, the first I knew about it was when my bank called me to ask about it. I verified it wasn’t me, and the charge was reversed and they sent me a new card. This is a ridiculously better level of service than I could ever get using a cryptocurrency, and the level of service that normal people in society expect from their financial services vendors.

                                                                                                    (I know you personally don’t think that level of reversibility is important, but I think you’re incorrect on this one.)

                                                                                                    Unfortunately, trusting centralised institutions - exchanges - with your crypto hasn’t worked out so well either in far too many cases. There’s reasons the conventional currency system went to insured banks with a lot of regulation.

                                                                                                    Pervasive irreversibility at all levels was the fundamental design decision of cryptocurrency - and it’s turned out to be a bad one.

                                                                                                    1. 3

                                                                                                      oh look, here’s someone breaking into a Trezor.

                                                                                                      Manually sideloading a custom firmware isn’t even remotely in the same realm of vulnerability as “exposed unauthenticated RPC port”

                                                                                                      the guy you buy the hardware from isn’t just a crook.

                                                                                                      If someone’s dumb enough to dump $34,000 into someone else’s private key, they’re definitely dumb enough to lose their money in more traditional ways.

                                                                                                      When someone in the Philippines got my credit card number… This is a ridiculously better level of service than I could ever get using a cryptocurrency

                                                                                                      The “level of service” you get with a cryptocurrency is that some random dude in the Phillipines can’t just go and steal your money in the first place. It seems insane to me that you can interpret this story in a positive way. As a counter-anecdote, the only unauthorized transaction I’ve ever had was when the government took money from my account due to a paperwork error and Wells Fargo charged me a “legal fee” for this privilege. Someone else should not be able to take my money without my permission, full stop. If I have to lose the ability to bust transactions in exchange, so be it.

                                                                                                      We had basically the same argument last time; you’re of the opinion that financial systems should cater to the lowest common denominator, and I just want a system that doesn’t suck. These are both at least somewhat reasonable but they’re inherently incompatible.

                                                                                                      There’s reasons the conventional currency system went to insured banks with a lot of regulation.

                                                                                                      Yes, there are valid historical reasons, but “boy, I sure hate non-repudiation” isn’t one of them.

                                                                                                      and it’s turned out to be a bad one.

                                                                                                      You can say that as much as you want, but (as of now) over $800,000,000,000 begs to disagree.

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                                                                                                        $800,000,000,000

                                                                                                        That’s $800B. I wondered where that number comes from, and actually googling “800,000,000,000” gives this link, which states

                                                                                                        Its official, total market cap now over 800,000,000,000 dollars! (sic)

                                                                                                        What does that number represent?

                                                                                                        It’s simply this algorithm:

                                                                                                        • For each coin/token listed on Coinmarketcap.com, take the latest price listed
                                                                                                        • multiply the price with outstanding tokens
                                                                                                        • add them together

                                                                                                        Anyone who believes that $800B represents real, actual money is, in my opinion, delusional. As an example of magnitude, the government income of Sweden, an industrialized country of 10M people, was $128B last year.

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                                                                                                          For comparison, what was the “market cap” of the Beanie Babies market in July 1999? Where did all that value go when it crashed? Nowhere, it was an illusion.

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                                                                                                            Not quite an illusion but perhaps a representation of the volume of funds transfer from one set of people to another set? At the point of crash, many people lose their money but there are many other people who have cashed out prior and effectively got that money from the first set.

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                                                                                                              Nope, not even that. It represents only (last transaction) * (total number of tokens). This is not money put in, money you could get out, money you would pay to take it over (which is meaningful for a stock but not a crypto), etc. It is a meaningless number that looks good in headlines.

                                                                                                              (I basically need to write a blog post on why “market cap” of a crypto is a completely bogus measure.)

                                                                                                              1. 0

                                                                                                                Where do you think the last transaction price comes from?

                                                                                                                Please do, I’d love to read it.

                                                                                                            2. -1

                                                                                                              Where does the value “go” when Apple drops 0.4%? The answer is that you’re asking a nonsensical question. There’s no such thing as conservation of value - it can be spontaneously created and destroyed. It’s disappointing that someone can comfortably profess opinions about economic value without this being apparent.

                                                                                                            3. -1

                                                                                                              How do you think market cap is normally calculated? I’m not really sure what you’re trying to express with your insinuation that this figure is “not real” - it is, in fact, the total value of all instances of the asset as determined by the market. Multiplying volume weighted price by number of units is only a first order approximation, but it’s usually reasonably close.

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                                                                                                                I am aware how market cap is calculated in the common usage of a stock. The question is, can you equate a cryptocurrency token with an equity stake in a company?

                                                                                                                If someone buys all the stock in a company, they attain legal rights to everything pertaining to that company: employees, physical assets, patents, etc etc.

                                                                                                                If someone buys all the bitcoins, what do they gain?

                                                                                                                1. -1

                                                                                                                  If someone buys gold bars, what do they gain?

                                                                                                                  1. 2

                                                                                                                    A hunk of metal?

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                                                                                                                      I think @wyager is suggesting that buying either gold or Bitcoin is speculation in a market driven mostly by group behaviour, so it sounds like you are in agreement. (Whereas buying stocks is different, as both you and I have suggested in this thread.)

                                                                                                            4. 3

                                                                                                              You can say that as much as you want, but (as of now) over $800,000,000,000 begs to disagree.

                                                                                                              Maybe you can help me understand what exactly people are investing into? I’m trying to understand this, but so far I haven’t been able to figure it out from reading and talking to a couple of people.

                                                                                                              From what I understand so far, people aren’t investing into an asset (since Bitcoin doesn’t have intrinsic value), and they can’t be investing into the potential of Bitcoin to replace the traditional financial system (transaction fees are high, there’s apparently a hard limit on the rate of transactions, the interface to traditional currencies has issues with trustworthiness). So what is it that they are investing into? And can Bitcoin scale to replace a country-sized or world-sized financial system?

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                                                                                                                Most cryptocurrencies have the potential to be used in the black market (online drug sales, illicit/illegal digital goods such as carding and CP), as well as for more legitimate privacy-enhancing goods, such as VPNs. This represents, in my opinion, a base value for crypto in general (not specifically Bitcoin, this use case is relatively fungible).

                                                                                                                The rest of the valuation is speculative.

                                                                                                                To be charitable, people are working on proposed solutions to the issues that Bitcoin is facing right now - the latest fad is the “Lightning network”, that adds a layer on top of the BTC blockchain. This would transform BTC into literal digital gold and give rise to a new class of institutions working to provide services based on its value.

                                                                                                                1. 2

                                                                                                                  Thanks for the information. I read a little bit about the Lightning network. It sounds like it might alleviate the scalability issues, but I still don’t understand how it makes the blockchain a replacement for gold. The blockchain is still a distributed transaction database with nice properties rather than an asset with its own commonly accepted value. Do you think you could clarify this further for me?

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                                                                                                                    I’m a card-carrying Bitcoin skeptic.

                                                                                                                    Apart from the above “real usage”, I don’t believe there’s any value in the currency at all.

                                                                                                                    “Blockchain” as a tech is mildly interesting in a distributed database kind of way, but the currency form is rooted in outdated economic theories bolstered by wild conspiracy theorizing.

                                                                                                                    1. 2

                                                                                                                      Got it, thanks :)

                                                                                                                2. 0

                                                                                                                  since Bitcoin doesn’t have intrinsic value

                                                                                                                  This is a dogwhistle for economic confusion, and “not even wrong”. There’s no such thing as “intrinsic value”. Nothing derives its economic value from any intrinsic property. All value is extrinsic. For example, where is the “intrinsic” values of dollars, or abstract financial instruments?

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                                                                                                                    I’m certainly not an economics expert, which is why I’m asking.

                                                                                                                    I think I have a distinction in my mind between investing (eg into shares) and speculation/trading.

                                                                                                                    I’d say that nobody “invests” into currencies or, say, derivatives, but people trade/speculate with them instead. Eg currencies are not expected to keep going up in price indefinitely.

                                                                                                                    Shares, on the other hand, are an income-generating asset (via dividends), have a soft lower bound on price (net asset value of the company), and their price has some relation to the company’s activity. Buying shares or bonds is what I call investing.

                                                                                                                    So I guess you’re saying that people who buy Bitcoin are traders/speculators. Fair enough, but in that case, my question is: why do they think the price will keep going up? What drives the upward trend in price, other than a lot of people piling on cash?

                                                                                                                    1. -1

                                                                                                                      Good point. No one invests in currencies because they’re a bad investment - by design. Current institutional economics de rigueur mandates that currencies should be inflationary. This is a policy decision, not an inherent property of currencies in general. If the policy were different, people might treat currencies more like government bonds.

                                                                                                                      On the other hand, people (and institutions) actually do invest into derivatives. One could argue that ETFs (generally considered the best choice for passive investors) are a kind of derivative, although mostly for PR reasons ETF providers reject that classification. Typically people mean some nonlinear contract on an underlying, like an option (also a perfectly reasonably investment depending on your goals).

                                                                                                                      Gold doesn’t issue any dividends, but people (and companies, and governments) still invest in it. Where does its value come from? I’ll leave that to you to think about.

                                                                                                                      Bitcoin is interesting because it has some properties of both commodities (like gold) and currencies. It arguably has most of the beneficial propterties of gold, as well as the property of (nominally) being substantially easier to handle and transfer.

                                                                                                                      1. 2

                                                                                                                        Aside from having some sort of a lower bound on price because it has uses as a metal, the difference with gold is that it has the benefit of being widely (practically universally) accepted as something of value. Presumably it also has relatively low price volatility (I’m not sure).

                                                                                                                        Is the idea then that Bitcoin will also become universally accepted as an “investment” akin to gold, and have a somewhat stable price? Is that at odds with multiple competing cryptocurrencies in existence, especially in the situation where new cryptocurrencies can be added without limitation? Do you think there will be a small number of “investment grade” cryptocurrencies?

                                                                                                                        1. 4

                                                                                                                          the difference with gold is that it has the benefit of being widely (practically universally) accepted as something of value.

                                                                                                                          Fun fact! In The Silk Road Valerie Hansen talks about how trade worked along (drumroll) the silk road. Merchants and armies would use both notes and gold as a medium of exchange. However, in more remote areas or areas in economic or military chaos, everybody used dry food or bolts of cloth as a medium of exchange. There’s a relatively thin band of instability where fiat currencies are not accepted but gold is. Usually you either can buy and sell currency anyway, or nobody wants your gold anyway.

                                                                                                                          Presumably it also has relatively low price volatility

                                                                                                                          Gold swings pretty wildly.

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                                                                                                                            There’s a relatively thin band of instability where fiat currencies are not accepted but gold is.

                                                                                                                            Compared to the silk road days, I wouldn’t be surprised if the band has gotten even narrower, since USD in many places now serves as a kind of universal backup currency in preference to gold. It’s quite common for people in countries with political and/or economic unrest that’s led to a loss of faith in the national currency to turn to black-market dollars for day-to-day trading, while turning to gold for that purpose is pretty rare.

                                                                                                                            1. 3

                                                                                                                              I agree that the ability of gold to be a fallback currency is very questionable. Considering the price swings, I’m not sure how comparing Bitcoin to gold presents Bitcoin in a positive light.

                                                                                                                              So what I’m left with is that both gold and Bitcoin speculation is entirely driven by group behaviour dynamics.

                                                                                                                          2. 2

                                                                                                                            No one invests in currencies

                                                                                                                            Depending on how one uses the words “invests” this is not actually true. Currency speculation happens with fiat just like it does with cryptos. It’s probably not popular with the retail market in USA, but it happens elsewhere

                                                                                                                            1. 3

                                                                                                                              That’s exactly the distinction I was drawing: investing vs speculation. Currency speculation is of course done a lot.

                                                                                                                    2. 2

                                                                                                                      I’d like to have edited my comment below, but it’s not possible any longer.

                                                                                                                      Anyway, current total “market cap” is now $684B, a “loss” of $116B compared to the high water mark of 800B.

                                                                                                                      Why?

                                                                                                                      Because Coinmarketcap.com decided to remove South Korean exchanges from their calculations.

                                                                                                                      1. 1

                                                                                                                        This is a fair complaint; a more accurate notion of market cap accounts for regional liquidity limits and sources of friction. This occurs in any region with capital controls, and isn’t unique to cryptocurrencies.

                                                                                                                        1. 2

                                                                                                                          True. A big issue in cryptocurrency in general is the interface (i.e. exchanges) between crypto and nationally-backed fiat currencies. This is where the scamming, fraud, and dishonest trading happens.

                                                                                                                1. 2

                                                                                                                  The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse.

                                                                                                                  Set in the 23rd century, ‘The Glass Bead Game’ is the story of Joseph Knecht, who has been raised in Castalia, the remote place his society has provided for the intellectual elite to grow and flourish. Since childhood, Knecht has been consumed with mastering the Glass Bead Game, which requires a synthesis of aesthetics and scientific arts, such as mathematics, music, logic, and philosophy.

                                                                                                                  The game itself is more of a backdrop rather than the main subject of the novel. It’s an extremely thought provoking book.

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                                                                                                                    After reading some of Alan Kay’s comments on media (in a broad sense), I went with some instantly actionable resolutions: quit Netflix, quit Facebook, stop reading the timeline on Twitter, block some distracting web sites.

                                                                                                                    It’s partly to facilitate my goal of creating more time for undistracted work and reading, partly because I got tired of being manipulated into being a media consumer, and partly because I need to set an unambiguous example for my daughter - if I don’t want her to get sucked into this stuff, then I shouldn’t be either.

                                                                                                                    1. 4

                                                                                                                      Do it. After a month you feel super weird and you realise that despite not being connected to the fire hose the world carries on.

                                                                                                                      Also, it makes you appreciate the things you do give your time to a lot more when you do, like a new movie, etc… I was starting to just not be excited by anything anymore because I could just watch whatever I wanted, when I wanted. Now when I see a movie coming out I really want to see I actually feel really excited about it. You become more selective. Nowadays I honestly only look at doc web sites, lobste.rs, and occasionally hacker news and the reddit home page. There’s nothing else I consciously open in a browser. You become more invested in the things you do decide to give your time to. You also lose the whole incessant feeling like you’re not keeping up with everything pretty quickly.

                                                                                                                      I don’t think I’ll ever go back as it’s been over a year now.

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                                                                                                                        This is the sort of results I’d like to get. The never-ending torrent of information and content created negative feelings for me, in addition to being a time sink.

                                                                                                                        This actually carries over into the real world as well in the form of too many consumer choices. Luckily, where I live (New Zealand) the choices are limited, and I’m often grateful for that.

                                                                                                                      2. 3

                                                                                                                        A book I recommend along these lines is definitely Deep Work by Cal Newport. Highly recommended.

                                                                                                                        1. 1

                                                                                                                          Thanks, I’m going to read it.

                                                                                                                        2. 2

                                                                                                                          because I need to set an unambiguous example for my daughter

                                                                                                                          I don’t think it would work as simple as that. You daughter is going to be exposed and sucked in. Given that it takes conscious effort and discipline to go against the natural tendency to fall for the infinite-scroll, just seeing your dad not doing it won’t be enough. It’s still better than seeing your dad doing it, though.

                                                                                                                          1. 2

                                                                                                                            I totally agree, and the point is for me to have a leg to stand on with regards to enforcing boundaries. It’s much easier to point out that mum & dad don’t do it either than to create some sort of justification for why we can do it and she can’t.

                                                                                                                          2. 2

                                                                                                                            Good luck! Mind sharing links to some of those comments?

                                                                                                                            1. 2

                                                                                                                              It’s a bit hard to point to a specific comment. He touches on it in this interview: https://www.fastcompany.com/40435064/what-alan-kay-thinks-about-the-iphone-and-technology-now

                                                                                                                              He also made some comments in HN discussions:

                                                                                                                              https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15269014 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11944999 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11945066

                                                                                                                              I wouldn’t say that these comments changed my perspective, but rather that they nudged me when I had some time to think about how I want to spend my time, which made me make the little bit of effort to ditch social media and Netflix. The point is, I’m not sure that Kay’s comments are the best source of information if you want to understand the manipulative nature of modern media (although I’m not sure what other sources to recommend).

                                                                                                                            2. 2

                                                                                                                              I quit facebook and other centralised social media a few months ago. I use mastodon and have been pretty happy with the level of discourse and interaction. Though it can still be distracting.

                                                                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                                                                Distraction is the primary concern with regards to media for me, so I think I have to stay away from Mastodon too. I enjoy thoughtful and thought-provoking discussions which are not biased towards quick responses, but I haven’t really found any online media that facilitate this sort of interaction (other than email).

                                                                                                                            1. 7

                                                                                                                              I like reading detailed reviews like this. It seems that GAE is another half-abandoned product with terrible support, like many other Google products.

                                                                                                                              It’s like Google’s approach to products is to avoid talking to customers at all costs both before and after release, under no circumstances dedicate any resources to marketing, then get bored and move on when the product doesn’t take over the world immediately after release. It’s almost a caricature of engineers doing business, except in this case they somehow managed to snag enough revenue from ads to keep on doing this without going bust. It’s a pity because it wastes a lot of resources on the part of customers who get duped into using Google products, only to have a terrible experience.

                                                                                                                              On the other hand, I did have a good experience with Google support once when working with Google Maps, but that was under the aegis of a giant corporate account that was probably costing some hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. So for giant corporations, Google products might be OK, and for everybody else AWS or Heroku or something else is likely a better choice. Or perhaps I’m overlooking all the great Google products?

                                                                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                                                                It seems that GAE is another half-abandoned product with terrible support, like many other Google products.

                                                                                                                                I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion off this single review, especially given GAE backs products like Pokemon Go, Khan Academy, and Spotify.

                                                                                                                                1. 1

                                                                                                                                  I guess this is in line with my suggestion that things can work well for large customers? Actually, large customers get better treatment everywhere, but it just seems far more extreme with Google.

                                                                                                                                  1. 1

                                                                                                                                    and Spotify

                                                                                                                                    Do you have a reference for this? AFAIK, GAE does not back anything user-facing at Spotify.

                                                                                                                                    1. 3

                                                                                                                                      No GAE, AFAIK, but plenty of GCP.

                                                                                                                                      (I worked there for 7 years and it’s public information.)

                                                                                                                                      1. 1

                                                                                                                                        I stand corrected!

                                                                                                                                  1. 2

                                                                                                                                    I got this recommendation from a podcast and was pleasantly surprised. There is so much in the book that I’ve enjoyed it and connected a lot of small dots for me.

                                                                                                                                    Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari, 2011

                                                                                                                                    1. 2

                                                                                                                                      I enjoyed Sapiens too. Relevant to the suggestion Harari makes about the shift to agriculture being a net negative, I recently saw an interesting critique of studies that concluded pre-agriculture humans worked a lot less than humans in later societies. Basically, it seems that a whole lot of food processing work that happened after collecting raw ingredients wasn’t accounted for. Once it’s accounted for, the amount of work goes up to ~35 hours per week IIRC. I wonder if that puts a dent into Harari’s argument.