In times past, Hacker News was a great place to discuss software, the software industry, and startup culture. You could get great links to great tools and libraries and frameworks. Developers would post their things there and people would look at them.
CEOs of startups would ask for advice, famous engineers would pass on and people would share stories. It was a pretty good community that focused on knowledge, getting things done, and above all else, sucking Paul Graham’s dick.
I get it, he’s a cool dood and he has a group that gives people money and advice. That group was at one time fairly selective, so of course, a culture of sucking up would prevail. I’ve met Paul, and he reminded me of most rich valley doods that people actually respect for engineering reasons (AKA, not just some rich asshole like Thiel). IE: he seems like the kind of guy with 20 unfinished engineering projects in his garage, all of them exciting, none of them ever getting full focus for long.
That’s fine and besides the point, but it does touch on a personality quirk I notice in successful people like him who have a sort of support system around them. That support network invariably spends its time trying to catch the central figure in the right mood to get the proper response. In Hollywood, they wait for the manic state. In the Valley, they wait until the central figure is reading a relevant book, touching some relevant tech, or has some sort of specific whim related to what needs to be discussed.
I suppose a better way to say it is that Hollywood manages moods to get things done, the Valley manages whims of fancy.
About two or three years ago, I began to feel like Hacker News just didn’t get it anymore. It’s become a place that is filled with entrepreneurs who happen to also be in the software business, rather than software developers who happened to be entrepreneurs.
As a result, the site has almost no humanity left. There’s still engineers showing their things, and people getting advice, but mostly, I feel like that all gets lost under a thin veneer of greed.
Maybe it’s just because my grumpy comments don’t get upvotes as much as they used to. Maybe it’s that when I do comment, almost all of the replies are humorless autists pointing out that “the 3rd screw from the right on a 747 black box’s top left panel turns to the LEFT, you ignorant fuck, but yes it’s a shame people died in that airliner accident.”
There’s no room left there for nuance. It’s become a hive mind. It’s like Reddit, where everyone just assumes everything at the start, and that’s it for the train. It’s loaded and leaving the station.
I experienced the same phenomenon when I worked with a bunch of 12-year-olds to build a Minecraft rendition of Oakland. The kids used Google Maps as their model for the city, and thus, they built things out using the names of buildings that they found on Google Maps.
At the time, in 2013, Google Maps incorrectly labeled a city building that would eventually house a wine bar as the city police HQ. The Police HQ was, in fact, 7 blocks south of that location. But the kids building the city did not believe me when I told them this. They insisted that Google was always right. And in the end, it didn’t matter: the building looked the same in Minecraft, and what the building really was only mattered when discussing who would build what.
But the experience sat with me. And I am getting this feeling a lot, recently. I expect this is what it felt like in 1930’s Germany: it’s very clear that there is some truth here that others refuse to acknowledge. This only exists on Hacker News as a vague “It used to be better” feeling. But in the real world, the COVIDs have put this feeling into over drive.
Because, if there is one unchanging, immovable and unflinching aspect of this fucking virus, it’s the rate at which it spreads. It’s spread through the nose, so boogers, snot, air… the same EXACT way the flu is transmitted. It’s far worse than the flu, but for god’s sake, we KNOW how to stop the flu from transmitting between people, and the EXACT same tactics should work here; wear masks, stay home when yer sick, and for fuck sake, don’t go to school or get on a plane!
But here we are having this absolutely retarded “Discussion” about doing all of these things! We reopened colleges! The bastions of thought and understanding, and lots of them were like, “Meh, whatever, we’ll be fine!”
And it’s not even been a month since colleges in NC and Alabama opened, and they’re absolutely littered with infections, with student parties spreading it, with sick teachers. And everyone is looking around shrugging, like “OH MY GOD THE HUMANITY, HOW COULD WE EVER HAVE KNOWN! ? THERE WAS NO WAY WE COULD HAVE PREDICTED THIS! THIS WAS A BOLT FROM THE BLUE!”
Holy shit, could this country be any stupider. Because, we were already been REALLY good at lying to itself about things. I mean, we lie every day in every way. We lie to ourselves and tell ourselves the poorest among us are the problem. We lie by saying guns are the only way to stop guns, so we can never not have guns! We act like our health care system makes any kind of sense at all. We lie about death panels and politicians choosing who lives and who dies if we have socialized medicine, when right now, as I write this, politicians are deciding who lives and who dies in non-socialized medicine.
And we lie to ourselves and say that building this new startup is gonna fix the world and solve everything. The entire tech community has been lying to itself for years, it’s time to face facts. We’ve masked this by saying we were all just dreamers, optimists who had nothing but the best of intentions.
But we’ve created a world of horrors. Why? How? Well, the Internet is actually just a big network of people. And the absolute worst thing in the world is human beings. Having managed humans professionally, and having run a retail business, I can tell you without hyperbole, humans are the absolute worst part of every business.
They’re the worst part about running a restaurant. About running a museum, about running a business or trying to run a non-profit, or buying real estate or just even dealing with real estate in general…. Sooner or later, no matter what yer doing, no matter your industry, some human will show up and try to kick down your sandcastle.
It just sucks even more when the people kicking down your castle are also all a part of a big gang that has decided they are correct from first principle.
Or maybe I’m just a grumpy old asshole.
Or maybe it’s both.