Re: New Media

1

I find your bullet points disruptive. Which is to say, effective. I still can't believe you haven't monetized this post. You're tremendously altruistic. Which is to say, a sucker.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:03 AM
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Turns out I kinda know one of the whatsapp founders. I am tired of people I hung out with in the '90s getting nine and ten figure payouts.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:05 AM
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Maybe I meant eight and nine figure payouts. OKAY YES MAYBE THERE'S A REASON I'M STILL IN COLLEGE.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:07 AM
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I wish the pretense that basic HTML coding was an arcane and difficult to master skill that merited a 6 figure salary had been maintained a bit longer. That moment in internet history was all too brief and I missed out on it.

Worse, I set up our lab webpage in grad school. It was a rude shock to learn what people were being paid to do what I had been doing for free.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:10 AM
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I never heard of WhatsApp until yesterday, but now I've seen several people I'm Facebook friends with commenting about how they're very heavy users of it. What does it actually do?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:15 AM
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I know, I'm just asking for a LMGTFY link.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:16 AM
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What does it actually do?

It sends text messages. That's it! But it lets you send to other users, regardless of what kind of phone they have, and using only data, not your plan's allotment of texts. Apparently, texting costs can be something like $150/yr in some poor countries, and WhatsApp costs a buck a year.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:19 AM
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I mean, I know it's some sort of text-messaging app, but phones already send text messages. What does it add?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:19 AM
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Oops. 7 to 8.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:19 AM
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2: I knew a dude in college who'se now retired (retired at 30, actually) and does nothing but play with his airplane and manage his charitable foundation all day. Not a bad life.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:20 AM
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I assume you're leaving out the time in the boom-boom room or whatever.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:21 AM
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8: Cheapness and not-paying-the-carriers-ness.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:23 AM
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13

Isn't this, like Instagram, a feature that FB already has?


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:26 AM
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From last night:

So FB just bought a messaging company for $16B. Relevant stat: 14M users per engineer. So Atrios' questioning of Twitter's manpower wasn't ignorant at all: he correctly identified that all those people were doing something other than making the service (qua service) work. Specifically, they were exploiting users in order to create revenue (the FB-acquired company charges users $1 per year and eschews ads).
Interesting.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:26 AM
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It also seems to let you send pictures, voice messages and do group chats. I am intrigued. What would be even more awesome and might get me to drop my text plan is if you could send messages to people who weren't signed up for the service.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:27 AM
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You know who didn't have a text plan on his phone? Hitler.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:29 AM
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There's a web mail service being developed for which you have to pay that is ad-free and offers encryption. It's not that expensive, and I'm intrigued. I am tired of ads.

I'm sort of tempted to set up my own @name so that it will look more professional and I can keep my e-mail address across providers.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:30 AM
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Specifically, they were exploiting users in order to create revenue

I have no idea what this means.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:30 AM
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18: sub "providing a profitable service."


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:33 AM
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18: Of course you do. It takes 50 employees to create a useful service for millions of people that doesn't make any revenue. It takes thousands of employees to find a way to turn it into revenue.

Whether that's true or not, I don't know.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:33 AM
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FB has a market cap that exceeds Boeing's. Boeing profitably sells at least 500 commercial airliners annually. FB's price assumes many years of continued rapid increase in both revenue and profit.

Google's price isn't based on an expectation of sustained rapid expansion.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:35 AM
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20: but... that's not at all what the twitter engineers are doing.

As far as I know whatsapp does create revenue, it just does it at a fixed rate per (long-term) user (it's free for the first year, isn't it?)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:36 AM
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I mean, I guess on a meta level twitters engineers are trying to find new ways to turn twitter's userbase into new sources of revenue. But... that's every publicly-traded web company?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:37 AM
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13: FB is a much more heavyweight app and interaction and setting up initial contact with someone you encounter in meatspace is harder; WhatsApp just uses the person's phone number.

Yggles points out that this only makes any sense as an app relative to SMS because carriers have been in the habit of charging money for SMS just because they could. Betting that carriers will hold onto that revenue stream for as long as they can doesn't seem like a bad bet, which leaves the loophole open for WhatsApp.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:38 AM
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Also, is WhatsApp a "New Media" company?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:38 AM
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I have no idea how many of my text messages I use. Probably almost none, since a big chunk of my texting is with other people with iphones.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:40 AM
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WhatsApp is apparently free the first year, and a dollar per year after that. With 400 million users (so far), that's actually quite a bit of revenue.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:41 AM
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15: Maybe WhatsApp has some cool new features that Facebook messaging lacks, but it seems like the main point is to own the Next Thing, even if that thing is largely duplicative of the existing product. Social software is turning into a fashion, rather than an engineering, industry.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:42 AM
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I get unlimited text messages and my phone's account status thing always helpfully reminds me that I'm at 0% of my quota.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:43 AM
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24 & related: I wonder to what degree FB has been flailing on promoting themselves as a messaging service not because of implementational details but because they've burned off enough user goodwill that people aren't really interested in opening a new channel of information that flows through them?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:44 AM
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My worry, though, is that Facebook will do something with the telephone numbers it gets from whats app. I have carefully avoided giving my numbers out to e-mail services.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:45 AM
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Is there a dumbphone WhatsApp client? On a smartphone, Skype messaging seems identical and is free to Skype logins. Costs to connect Skype to a phone number (not much, but more than $1/year for normal use).

$50/user in India and thrifty Europe sounds pretty expensive to me.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:47 AM
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I'd say new media companies are definitely overvalued. It's hard to see how that changes any time soon. I don't see a '01-style comeupance imminent. It would probably require one or more of Google/Yahoo/Facebook crashing and burning.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:47 AM
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30: I'm annoyed with them, because they keep making it harder and more confusing for me to maintain my privacy settings.

29: I get unlimited text messages too. I used to get very angry when people sent me the odd text, because I got dinged fees. Now I use it quite a bit with my BF.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:48 AM
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Hasn't Yahoo already crashed and burned?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:49 AM
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One quirk of this latest "social media/tech companies are overvalued!" development is that the vast majority of the acquisition price is in Facebook shares. So it's less a case of this not hugely revenue generative business being overvalued, than of Facebook being (potentially) overvalued. The actual cash amount of $4bn isn't an outrageous multiple of earnings. And if Facebook is overvalued, it makes sense in principle for them to buy up other companies mainly using their own shares. Of course, they can still fuck it up by jamming ads and privacy violations into it and pushing users to the next app.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:51 AM
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35: Aren't they still acquiring companies at inflated valuations?


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:51 AM
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Yahoo is still the default homepage of a large percentage of Americans' computers. Also it's a conglomerate of other websites, people use it for finance and sports news, etc.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:53 AM
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They are.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:54 AM
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37-39: I know it is still around, but it is quite a bit off from its peak.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:56 AM
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Yggles points out that this only makes any sense as an app relative to SMS because carriers have been in the habit of charging money for SMS just because they could. Betting that carriers will hold onto that revenue stream for as long as they can doesn't seem like a bad bet, which leaves the loophole open for WhatsApp.

It does seem like a bad bet to spend $19bn* on, given that many carriers in some jurisdictions are moving to unlimited texts. I haven't cared about text message limits for the best part of a decade. If the carriers can't extract SMS rents anymore they'll just try to squeeze more out of data packages and throw in free texts as a marketing ploy.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:56 AM
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42

Oh hey I was tangentially involved in the situation in that last bullet point. That was a weird time.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:57 AM
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I have no idea what Google's price is based on. P/E ratio, I suppose, but it seems like the utility of the P/E ratio depends on the idea that the earnings will start to be paid back some day.

Not understanding this is why I don't hold on to any of my company stock.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:58 AM
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44

Oh, those earnings will be paid back when Google's robot army terrorize the populace.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 9:01 AM
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WhatsApp was useful for me because, though I get unlimited texts, I only get them when I'm in the UK - abroad I have to pay. And they're only free to other UK numbers.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 9:03 AM
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42 - Yeah, I know a number of people who were around for that. Good times! Where I mean "bad times for everyone involved".


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 9:04 AM
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47

You know a ridiculous app that I nevertheless love? TalkTo.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 9:28 AM
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48

It's really infuriating the way that nothing is a protocol anymore and instead is always a product gated to some company. It's almost surprising that gmail still lets you email people who don't have a google+ account.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 9:30 AM
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Good times! Where I mean "bad times for everyone involved".

Yeah, that was a megabummer all around.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 9:41 AM
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45: Yes. I think it might be useful for me to send them to Canada. I have a friend whose father is in Nigeria. It would be quite helpful for him.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 9:42 AM
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Spell this one out for me. I understand that Google and Facebook get their extremely high values because people understand that they are able to capture huge volumes of personal data about consumers and use that data in creative ways to sell information and advertising to other companies. Adding a $1/yr text messaging service with no advertising that does what a phone company does ... helps you get more information about people's location? Works NSA style to tell you about their social network? Somehow lures people into integrating even more of their life directly into Facebook, where Facebook can mine that information for gold? What is the theory?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 9:50 AM
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Values in that first sentence should most definitely be "valuations."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 9:52 AM
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51: I assume a lot of these aquisitions are defensive in nature.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 9:55 AM
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54

I assume so, too, but then why pay $19B? These guys just wouldn't sell for less? I'm clearly missing something here.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 10:00 AM
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54: Felix Salmon has a good explanation. Money (see what I did there?) quote:

The WhatsApp acquisition is a statement by Zuckerberg that mobile matters more than money. He's right about that. Without mobile, it doesn't matter how much money Facebook has. If you're asking whether Zuckerberg paid too much for WhatsApp, you're asking the wrong question. Zuckerberg is sending a message, here, that Facebook will never stop in its attempt to dominate mobile -- that no amount of money is too much.

Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 10:03 AM
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They chase userbase to some degree, probably. WhatsApp has a nearly Napster-like adoption trajectory. I think the defensive aspect is also probably not wrong. Nobody wants to be MySpace.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 10:03 AM
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They're scared to death that kids aren't using facebook, so they bought something that kids are using.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 10:04 AM
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Watching News Corp. buy MySpace for >$500M and sell it a few years later for $35M was gratifying to say the least.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 10:06 AM
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What does 55 mean? How does "it's not about money, it's about mobile" make any sense if you have a mobile application with no plausible means of making money?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 10:08 AM
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They chase userbase to some degree, probably.

Oh man, I remember when the first tech company I worked for got bought (by Yahoo!) and everyone was all excited because Y! was adding 6! million! users! to its userbase. Good times.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 10:08 AM
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If you're asking whether Zuckerberg paid too much for WhatsApp, you're asking the wrong question. Zuckerberg is sending a message, here, that Facebook will never stop in its attempt to dominate mobile -- that no amount of money is too much.

Whoa, no amount of money? The WhatsApp guys should have held out for $190B!


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 10:11 AM
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if you have a mobile application with no plausible means of making money?

Whaddya mean? Whatsapp makes money.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 10:11 AM
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63

I read somewhere that one key factor here isn't just WhatsApp's ridiculous adoption trajectory, but the fact that every one of those users has given them their credit card number. That's something that Facebook has, by and large, failed to do. They'd love to be able to get people to make lots of little micropayments using facebook credits or whatever, but nothing so far (aside from Farmville or whatever) has been worth the initial bother of typing in your payment details.

But maybe that's a silly theory. I dunno.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 10:12 AM
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59: What was Facebook's plausible means of making money from mobile at the time of its IPO? There wasn't one. Zuckerberg's betting that he can do the same thing to WhatsApp that he did to Facebook.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 10:14 AM
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63 is a really interesting theory. I think I buy it. Though then one wonders why google hasn't worked harder at extending their Android store beyond just Android aps.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 10:15 AM
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Here is my business strategy. My company sucks at making crackers, but does some other stuff well. I believe in the future crackers will be popular, although I am not sure how to make money from selling crackers. I have a lot of money. Therefore I will announce publicly that I will spend an absolutely limitless amount of money for companies that are in some loose way connected to the cracker industry, and will buy these companies at any price, even if they are likely extremely unprofitable and also have no way of making money, because ... crackers! Engineers! Lean in!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 10:16 AM
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62 - yes, but not even in the universe of enough to justify the acquisition price.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 10:17 AM
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63 actually makes sense in a way 55 really does not.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 10:18 AM
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Facebook stock may as well be free to Facebook. In theory there is a cost of equity, but given that Facebook stock is still just about in tight enough supply that current owners (=Zuck) don't experience perceptible dilution, and Facebook doesn't pay a dividend, it may as well be free. Therefore the $19bn figure may as well be hrair, as in Watership Down.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 10:20 AM
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Another take that is useful.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 10:21 AM
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Yes, 63 is not something I'd thought of but that makes lots of sense!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 10:21 AM
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Reading about this is the oldest-making thing I've experienced in a while.

For instance the services on the chart in the middle of this article. I barely know a thing about them much less use any of them.

In descending order of number of users:
WhatsApp
WeCat
Line
Viber
KakaoTalk
BBM
Kik
Snapchat

...promise to never turn off the blog. We're now like fucking ham radio enthusiasts or something, aren't we?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 10:22 AM
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I propose renaming the blog Onionbelt.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 10:24 AM
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74

As if. Ham radio operators can occasionally be useful.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 10:24 AM
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I have Viber, which I've used overseas and at a university with wifi but terrible cell service.

In addition to these services exploiting the crazy pricing for SMS, some are also exploiting that cell companies won't let you send your calls over wifi. Cell companies could shut them all down in a second just by not being annoying. Of course, betting on cell phone companies being annoying is a pretty good bet.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 10:29 AM
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The full Felix Salmon post is quite good, by the way, and makes the excerpt Josh posted make much more sense.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 10:54 AM
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77

Living in SF I feel like I've seen this movie 4 times already. It's getting tedious.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 10:58 AM
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...promise to never turn off the blog. We're now like fucking ham radio enthusiasts or something, aren't we?

I don't know about that. Most of those are
A) useful to people who need to communicate between countries
or
B) used in countries other than the USA
or
C) useful to youthful rich people in San Francisco

so why would we care?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 11:03 AM
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76 -- what? No it doesn't. Unless "I spent 19 billion for 20 engineers" explains a lot. And I usually like Felix Salmon. Of course if the 19 billion is funny money or 63 is right that could explain a lot.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 11:03 AM
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I mean even 20 petroleum engineers aren't worth that much, and $20 billion isn't even that much money in the oil and gas world.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 11:12 AM
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77: think how it would be if you knew the people getting these ridiculous amounts of money.

Fun fact: that dude (well, one of those dudes) hung out on the same irc channel as the Napster guys and a bunch of other hacker kids who have now started companies. Out of maybe 20 people who regularly lurked on that channel I think there are at ten reasonably successful companies. Sheesh!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 11:15 AM
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IRC, hangout of champions. Who would have guessed that?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 11:20 AM
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Right?!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 11:22 AM
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I do know them. Weird social dynamics were somewhat interesting the first time around, that "charm" evaporated a long time ago.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 11:22 AM
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If I add in another two or so channels I can get to probably a few hundred billion dollars in valuation, just from companies founded by people who killed time there in the '90s.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 11:23 AM
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I'm trying to think if there could have been a late 19th century robber baron analogue. Steampunk semaphore channel.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 11:26 AM
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Not that I hesitate to fish in those pools when fundraising for the non profit I'm on the board of!


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 11:27 AM
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I mean I don't know that I would exactly describe my friends as robber barons. For one thing, most of them could have done an enormous amount of literal robbing back in the day, if they had wanted to, and generally refrained.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 11:31 AM
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72: Word.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 11:33 AM
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72. Some of that is internationalization, not age. QQ is super-popular in China, Orkut in Brazil.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 11:36 AM
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Huh, longer comment held for moderation. Is there a banned word or phrase list?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 11:39 AM
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The banned word is "poop".


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 11:43 AM
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er: 63 Perqvg pneqf ner abg gung cbchyne va PM, qba'g xabj nobhg gur erfg bs rhebcr jurer JungfNcc vf cbchyne. Ner gurl cbchyne va Vaqvn? Vs abg, gura 63 qbrf abg nccyl V guvax.

Gur Pmrpu zrffntr obneqf gung V whfg ybbxrq ng qvq abg unir snibenoyr pbzzragf nobhg gur srr, be nobhg pbzcnevfba jvgu bgure nccyvpngvbaf. V jbaqre ubj znal bs JungfNccf hfref ner npgvir barf? Nyfb, gur cnlzrag bcgvbaf zragvbarq gurer (NccFgber, bgure 3q cnegl cnlzrag freivprf) qvq abg vaibyir tvivat JngfNcc crefbany cnlzrag qrgnvyf. Gur snibenoyr pbzzragf jrer nobhg na rnfl gb hfr raivebazrag sbe zrffntvat, jvgu ybgf bs fzvyrlf.


Posted by: yj | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 11:48 AM
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92: And it's the safe word as well.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 11:48 AM
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Do WhatsApp or any of the other services listed in 72 allow you to text or message someone from your computer?

It would be great to be able to send someone a text without having to pull out my phone while at work.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 11:48 AM
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cbbc


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 11:50 AM
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V'z fher gung 93 tbg ebg13'q vagragvbanyyl, ohg V yvxr gb vzntvar vg'f fbzr fgenatr vagrearg svygre gvrq gb zragvbaq bs cerfhznoyl uvtuyl qnzntvat Pmrpu rzbgvpbaf.


Posted by: Fvsh Gjrrgl | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 11:52 AM
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I know kids, let's put on a show build a message service based on Rot13!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 11:58 AM
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iMessage certainly lets you use your computer to send and receive texts. I'd be surprised if the other competitors don't allow something similar.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 12:09 PM
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I'm pretty sure gmail will let you send a text. But I've never tried it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 12:10 PM
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Not understanding this is why I don't hold on to any of my company stock.

Ah, the good old days of coworkers thinking I was a madman for unloading my telecom startup stock as fast as I could. Three months after we got a bunch of tuition balances paid and into our house a bunch of us got laid off and the implosion was on.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 12:19 PM
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whatsapp is really clumsy to use from a computer. it's my one complaint. I use it to talk to my son in Hong Kong, but when he's texting most busily I keep a Bluetooth keyboard by the phone. it just to confusing to switch constantly between a real keyboard and the phone screen


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 12:33 PM
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I'm pretty sure gmail will let you send a text. But I've never tried it.

I have sent an e-mail to a phone (as a text), but I had to look up the format for what their carrier expected as a format for [phone number]@[carrier].com


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 12:43 PM
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Somebody told me that they can deposit checks with their phone, but I don't believe them.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 12:48 PM
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105

It's important to remember that Mark Zuckerberg is a human being and not a profit-maximizing abstraction. Maybe the acquisition is financially -EV to some degree, but he gets pleasure out of running the world and being in charge of applications with 450 million users. He wouldn't be the first billionaire with an ego.

That said, I'd also be very willing to believe the acquisition is financially +EV. Human attention is an increasingly valuable commodity these days, plus 63 makes sense too.


Posted by: dz | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 1:00 PM
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WhatsApp
WeCat
Line
Viber
KakaoTalk
BBM
Kik
Snapchat

Has anyone here used any of these services other than WhatsApp? If so, what are your thoughts?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 1:09 PM
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Snapchat is awesome. It's a temporary photo-sharing service: you take a silly picture of yourself or a friend, draw a moustache on it or do some other crude alteration, send it to someone else with Snapchat, and then it disappears from their phone after some short interval* so it can't be used against you when you run for president**. Kind of like automated Burn-After-Reading.

*Not that there's any real proof Snapchat isn't saving all Snapchats everyone's ever sent, though they deny it of course.

**Kind of - technically the person you send it to could take a screenshot or take a picture of their phone screen with another camera so Snapchatting your penis is still unwise to the degree you don't trust your Snapchat partner absolutely.

I've never used or even heard of any of the other items on the list, and I'm currently getting a PhD in computer science, which surprises me at least.


Posted by: dz | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 1:15 PM
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I'm surprised that I haven't heard of them despite the field I work in, not surprised that I'm getting a degree. People have been telling me I would end up with a PhD since I was in middle school, to a point that it almost made me not go to grad school at all to prove that I wouldn't be a part of their system.


Posted by: dz | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 1:18 PM
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I'd like it if someone gave me a surprise PhD.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 1:18 PM
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106: I've used Line briefly. It's great for sending emoji to your friends.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 1:18 PM
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BBM is just blackberry messaging, which you can now do not on blackberries.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 1:18 PM
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I like surprise pwning less.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 1:19 PM
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In theory I could use something like WhatsApp. But now that its owned by Facebook, I will not.

What I really want is a piece of of open source software that can run on my own goddamned server and handle this crap for me, and a select group of my peeps. Blogging was awesome because it was built around tools like that, in a properly decentralized manner.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 1:26 PM
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113.2: Ah, the Web we lost. Unfortunately I don't see any way back at this point.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 1:35 PM
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I'm puzzled that skype's not on the list, that's what I use to chat most often.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 1:36 PM
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Sort of on-topic, Matt Taibbi is leaving Rolling Stone for Glenn Greenwald's new joint.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 1:42 PM
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What I really want is a piece of of open source software that can run on my own goddamned server and handle this crap for me, and a select group of my peeps.

IRC? And then as a bonus you will eventually be a billionaire who can taunt Sifu.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 1:54 PM
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115: Apparently whoever wrote the article did not consider it a "cross-platform social messaging app." If it were on the list I think it would just after Whatsapp (or at least the number I can find for Skype is 300M users--Skype went for $8.5B) Of course, believing almost anyone's numbers on the list is fraught: all users vs. "active" users, lying companies, who knows what. Presumably Facebook got a pretty thorough look at Whatsapp's data.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 2:07 PM
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Maybe Facebook will buy the analogy ban from Ogged. Surely the visionary Zuckerberg can appreciate what that will do for FB comment threads.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 2:08 PM
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Monetizing the analogy ban is the new immanentizing the eschaton.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 2:11 PM
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Used to be that "social messaging apps" were called "messaging apps."


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 2:20 PM
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117 is true.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 2:30 PM
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IRC?

I guess it wouldn't be implausible to hook up IRC to a mobile notification service like Amazon SNS. I guess that would cover most of the WhatsApp functionality. Or at least cover my needs as far as overseas texting goes.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 2:44 PM
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Kik

Someone I went to high school with posted something on FB about her company just releasing their new social media gaming environment deployed on the Kik platform, or something. People play games over text messaging now? Messaging apps are platforms? I'm confused. I'm sure it's all very disruptive or whatever. Off my lawn, etc.

(Somehow I feel like a lot of this Silicon Valley stuff makes me write comments that I would tend to associate more with parsimon than with myself.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 2:44 PM
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Here's a question: if you wanted to build cool new old web tools, or alternatives to the walled gardens, what coding skills would you need?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 2:53 PM
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I love that WhatsApp is written in Erlang. Sure, why not.


Anyhow, if I was going to do that I'd try to be up on python, the python frameworks that snarkout tells me to check out, jquery aws, and hadoop just in case. That seems like an okay default route for almost anything that doesn't require massive kinds of performance.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 2:56 PM
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126 is literally meant like what I, specifically, would do, so it might not generalize.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 2:56 PM
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the python frameworks that snarkout tells me to check out

I'm wounded.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 3:16 PM
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126: Wasn't Erlang designed to build very large chat services?


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 3:17 PM
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125: I'm not sure I understand the question. You want to build new, open, alternatives to the walled gardens? Or new tools built on top of the old protocols and standards?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 3:18 PM
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Jake!

Also, yeah, that seems like a totally reasonable thing to use Erlang for.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 3:20 PM
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You want to build

It's not like I have a plan, but I was curious: suppose you want to build the next generation awesomeness; what would you code it in? I'm getting the sense that it depends on what your awesomeness is going to be.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 3:22 PM
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129: Apparently it was developed by Ericsson (!) in 1986 (!) for basically that purpose, yeah.

Also: Jake!


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 3:22 PM
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nosflow! Josh!


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 3:26 PM
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I am surprised that Josh did not already know that about Erlang.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 3:30 PM
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132: it depends, sort of. You can write software in almost any language, the critical skill is being able to understand how your technology of choice works or fails to work.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 3:32 PM
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If you need to scale, Java. If you don't, Python. Java also gets you the ability to run things on Android, although html5 an javascript can get you that and more. And if you are going to be doing heavy javascript anyway, Node.js becomes a reasonable choice on the server.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 3:32 PM
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132: Python or Javascript. Maaaaaybe Go or Ruby. If it gets big enough you'll almost certainly end up reimplementing parts of it in C or C++.

But there are all sorts of other choices you have to make. What are you going to use for persistence? Which hosting infrastructure will you go with? What kind of messaging infrastructure are you going to use to distribute tasks? I could keep going.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 3:33 PM
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135: I may have known it in the past and then forgotten about it. Despite my love of programming trivia the only real niche language I've ever gotten very far into was Jython.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 3:36 PM
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Also holy crap is that a lot of money.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 3:37 PM
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And as far as choice of tools go, I thought this post (by one of the big names in the Python community) was excellent. I'm sad to see him go, but I totally understand why he's doing it.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 3:38 PM
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you'll almost certainly end up reimplementing parts of it in C or C++

So why don't people just use those? (I realize these are annoying questions.)


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 3:40 PM
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142: Because they suck to develop in. You use them because you have to, because they're faster or because they give you access to things you can't get to in other languages (system level programming, for example).


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 3:43 PM
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Node.js becomes a reasonable choice on the server.

Back in 2001 or so someone friended me on Livejournal who was a math grad student but seemed mostly like a slacker (and also couldn't write very grammatically). After dropping out of grad school he blogged about doing nothing much but smoking pot all day and bumming around Europe. The. He started writing about a little thing he was coding up in his spare time called Node.js....


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 3:47 PM
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ogged you should totally learn rust, it's going to be the new hotness for sure.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 3:52 PM
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Especially once they add higher-kinded types, I mean can you even imagine?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 3:52 PM
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144: "then he". Phone.

Other much more with-it people I knew then achieved much less than that guy.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 3:53 PM
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C and especially C++ offer strong typing and up-to-date libraries. Knowing how to use these libraries helps a lot. For most programming styles, also good debugging and performance assessment tools.

I've found scripting languages to be susceptible to run-time as opposed to compile time errors. That said, I've seen large collaborative codebases done in Python.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 3:58 PM
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Node.js was one of those things I had the idea for a month before I ever heard it existed. I had the thing all designed out. I even called it "Node".

Sometimes, ideas are in the air.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 4:03 PM
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(Somehow I feel like a lot of this Silicon Valley stuff makes me write comments that I would tend to associate more with parsimon than with myself.)

Me, too.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 4:04 PM
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I've found scripting languages to be susceptible to run-time as opposed to compile time errors.

Yeah, that's the tradeoff you make. OTOH IME runtime errors aren't as big a deal as compiled/static-language fans make them out to be, particularly since exception handling is so much easier. And half the time the type mismatches a compiler would bitch about don't actually matter (hence the popularity of duck-typing).


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 4:06 PM
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C and especially C++ offer strong typing

C most certainly does not offer strong typing.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 4:08 PM
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Honestly I mostly feel like the complaints about static typing and oh runtime errors aren't so bad etc. are mostly signs that you haven't used a language with a remotely modern type system.

To be honest!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 4:09 PM
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I can't tell if 153 is directed at me or not.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 4:13 PM
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suppose you want to build the next generation awesomeness; what would you code it in?

StackOverflow - one of the last truly awesome web-based applications - was built on a .NET platform. Not what I would have chosen, but it seems to do the job.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 4:14 PM
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It's obliquely directed at you, yeah.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 4:14 PM
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156: It's a fair cop! (Although I didn't mean to complain about static typing. I understand why people like it, it's just not anything I've ever felt much of a need for.) But I'm interested as to what you mean by "a remotely modern type system".


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 4:20 PM
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152. User-defined data types.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 4:21 PM
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You know, that Hindley-Milner shee.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 4:25 PM
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Today's moment of Wikipedia Zen:
A kind is sometimes confusingly described as the "type of a (data) type", but this is a triviality,[clarification needed] unless one considers polymorphic types to be data types.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 4:28 PM
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I'm not sure what 158 is driving at.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 4:30 PM
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I'm not sure what 159 is driving at.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 4:41 PM
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You know, like in ML.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 4:44 PM
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160: explain it to me like I'm 5.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 5:04 PM
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wow. such social. very tech.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 5:06 PM
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I'm in complete agreement with 153 and following. It's a lot harder to reason about dynamically typed code. Good type inference lessens what I find to be the greatest value of dynamic typing, which is quick prototyping. I await the glorious future when the most popular languages are the descendants of OCaml and Haskell.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 5:24 PM
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Strong typing FTW! Plus, automatic type inference is just cool.

what would you code it in?

Rebol, the hipster programming language.


Posted by: torrey pine | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 5:46 PM
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I liked it more when I hadn't heard of it.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 5:53 PM
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More time and energy has been expended on:
a) Unfogged.
b) Developing and operating WhatsApp.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 6:13 PM
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Yeah, I don't really care about static vs. dynamic typing, either way. Both options are fine. Groovy is nice, because it lets you use both.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 6:14 PM
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Five or six years back, I briefly tried Groovy at my job since we write in Java and it seemed like it'd be good for writing scripts that can interact with the JVM. I ran into this, which is a bizarre design decision for a scripting language.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 6:22 PM
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165: Ha ha. Enterprise social media. What a disaster.

My organization has been trying very hard to get people to use something based on Connections, which is IBM's social media platform. Consider how bad IBM is at designing user-facing software, and then think about how terrible their enterprise social media offering must be. Its the Lotus Notes of social media websites.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 6:22 PM
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172: mine has been pushing lynx


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 6:29 PM
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171 is pretty ugly.

I haven't actually used it much as a scripting language - I have Python for that. What I have used quite a bit of is the Grails framework, which is pretty strong because it basically brings you all the power of Spring/Hibernate without you having to remember how to use Spring/Hibernate.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 6:32 PM
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172: mine has been pushing lynx

The text-based web browser from 1992?


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 6:34 PM
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lync. tyvm aurocorrect


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 6:35 PM
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174: That sounds nice. I don't do much enterprisey stuff so I'm massively ignorant about Spring/Hibernate, beyond that they seem very complicated.

I was really hoping that either 175 would be true, or that you meant that they were handing out Atari Lynxes. Unfogged is pleasant in Lynx.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 6:38 PM
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Hibernate isn't bad, but Spring is basically sorcery.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 6:53 PM
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Lync. Ha. What a piece of shit. The damned thing has been busted for me since this past August when my organization did a major mail migration. ydnew & I bitched about Lync at the con.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:33 PM
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173: Government? At my rarely visited office, it is not possible for me to close Lynx.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:48 PM
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Pretend I spelled that right.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 8:48 PM
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173. Mine is government. Lync is from MS and hooks into Exchange. Someone made money selling those licenses.

I somehow got it stopped from auto-launching. The normal controls that ought to close it don't (like some damned spam pop-up). But you can close it from an internal menu. I'll look at it tomorrow and post the cheat.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 9:05 PM
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It's like Skype. If I want to open you, I'll open you.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-20-14 9:07 PM
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There's a decent chance I'm the only non-programmer in this hotel.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 12:19 AM
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Also, I thought flickr started to revive in the past year or so.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 12:20 AM
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I actually quite like the 2013 version of MS Office, especially with the cloud stuff; it's probably the best thing they've done since, what, Windows NT 4.0. I mean, I wouldn't use it by choice, but as a workplace tool it's rather good and it has brought the holy gospel of version control into the darkness of our company.

Then I tried to organise my calendar for Mobile World Congress in there. Hoo boy. epic pain in the arse.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 4:09 AM
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I'm trying to think if there could have been a late 19th century robber baron analogue.

Marconi, alas.

Also, I thought flickr started to revive in the past year or so.

My understanding is that Flickr is the preferred site of some serious photography nerds, for various technical reasons. ttaM?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 5:31 AM
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Flickr is the preferred site of some serious photography nerds because it records a bunch of metadata about the camera being used etc. and it attracted a community of serious photography nerds when it was the only game in town. (500px is the only other site I know that's making a real play for the serious photographer market, but obviously as Flickr's reach shrinks it becomes less appealing.) There's some other stuff that makes Flickr appealing -- the Creative Commons search, which is awesome; Flickr Commons, which is absolutely amazing (the UK National Archives, the US National Archives, NASA, the Smithsonian, the Getty Museum, the British Library, etc.) -- and Yahoo has at least sunk some more money into getting it up to the standards of a photo sharing site in 2014, but I think it's permanently going to be a niche site at this point.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 8:08 AM
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I was just passed by three Google buses and a limo. It really is another world down here.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 6:12 PM
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Also saw three Microsoft buses but they turned before reaching where I was standing. No Whatsapp buses.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 6:22 PM
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I haven't been watching any of the Olympic coverage, but I just turned on the TV and saw Bob Costas speechifying about Putin's Russia and felt like he was working really hard to ape Rachel Maddow's mannerisms, or at least a particularly MSNBC sort of this-is-serious-journalism vibe. He didn't always talk that way, did he?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 6:23 PM
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191: Been doing it for years, but not always


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 6:26 PM
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