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The Website That Got Me Expelled (codeword.xyz)
639 points by Rudism on Sept 5, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 281 comments

As someone who is both a former student with authority issues and a former high school teacher, this story leaves me with a whole bunch of feelings. You would think that teachers have the maturity to be more or less immune to the impressions of teenagers, but it's actually quite a challenge to maintain face [1] as the instructional leader of dozens of humans. In my experience in Teach For America, it was a fashionable meme that it's the adults that make education hard, not the children. But I think that's not quite honest. While adults are ultimately responsible for everything that's wrong with education, on a day to day basis, you're put in very delicate and stressful situations with children, who are impulsive, emotional, and myopic. It's really, really hard to deal with adolescents at scale.

Yet, in this case, like so many others, it's very clear that at some point, some of the adults decided that it was appropriate to wage total war on the child who offended them. They allowed their hurt feelings to suspend their sense of empathy and proportionality. Even worse, as the role models for the school, they set a standard of absolutism and intolerance. I can identify with them, while also seeing how badly they failed to take the high road.

It's interesting how this same dynamic has played out in criminal justice as well. We struggle with the ability to treat the incarcerated in a humane manner, to hold police accountable for their excesses, to provide security without domestic militarization, and to fully rehabilitate and reintegrate ex-cons into society.

I guess it's probably an inherent tension in human society, when there is a boundary of authority. I just hope we can learn and progress.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Face_%28sociological_concept%2...

>While adults are ultimately responsible for everything that's wrong with education, on a day to day basis, you're put in very delicate and stressful situations with children, who are impulsive, emotional, and myopic. It's really, really hard to deal with adolescents at scale.

I'm not sure that this can truly be qualified. The statement that their job entails a stressful situation, does not (inherently) excuse them from inviting it. This is the same argument used by or on behalf of police officers who abuse their post(i.e. He had a hell of a day, witnessed two murders, so it's understandable that he just shot a minor suspect for fleeing). One might forget that they don't need to be a police officer or school teacher, that they made a free and conscious decision to be one and feel no shame for failing at it.

The problem is that individual teachers do not, on their own, have as much ability to make the situation a good one; it takes an effort from the entire system(from other teachers to headteachers to parents to politicians) to change the day-to-day reality, and so it seems as though the situation is "out of our hands".

I hope it's clear from my original comment that I 100% agree. My point was that from moment to moment, teachers are human beings. They're going to have human feelings and make mistakes. I can empathize with the initial hurt feelings and perception of loss of control. But I'm not justifying their behaviors in response, by any means.

Shooting a human is a mistake orders of magnitude beyond what I'm talking about. And in this story, it's inexcusable that some of the teachers and the principle were able to de-empathize with the author so much, due to their bruised egos and sense of authority, that they put on a prolonged Draconian push to expel the author. Reminds me of MIT and Aaron Schwartz.

Oh come on, I dropped out of grade 12 (did not complete) and went on to be very successful in college and then university. Getting suspended in high school is really no big deal. This is hardly war.

It's a shame that this got down voted because there is a bit of truth to it. After my son had an issue similar to this in his sophomore year of high-school he choose to simply drop out and get his GED. He wasn't invested in school activities, was a bit of a geek, and too bright for his own good. He also didn't need a scholarship in order to go to college. He got a six month break from school, passed the GED with perfect scores in three sections, scored high on his ACTs & immediately applied to the local university where he was accepted and carried a 3.8 GPA. For me this was a wake up call. I'd never taken school as seriously as my parents, my mom being a school teacher, but I did buy into this myth that high-school graduation was a necessary evil. It turns out that it really can be very optional for some. Once you have a semester or two under your belt at university no employer really cares about a high-school diploma, and for many employers, a non-traditional route can be attractive.

> Once you have a semester or two under your belt at university no employer really cares about a high-school diploma

This felt like a complete non-sequitur. You were talking about education, and suddenly you switch to employment? The purpose of an education is not to serve a boss.

These days, in this capitalist world, most of us do have to subject themselves to the will of an employer or another. So we do have to look good to them. Education as I understand it is supposed to help us out of this servitude, so we can be emancipated citizens and responsible adults.

Remember, an employee is not free. Better off than a slave or a serf, but still not independent.

>Remember, an employee is not free.

Free from what? I can choose to quit whenever I want.

You are speaking from a pretty privileged background pretending that employees don't have freedom.

Freedom doesn't mean you should be able to do whatever you want and have society be forced to support you in doing so.

> Free from what? I can choose to quit whenever I want.

Lucky you. Many people don't have that privilege. Some don't have any saving, so switching employers isn't an option. Even in a country with good unemployment insurance, you are generally denied the benefits if you just quit —you have to be fired.

And of course, there are some horrible places where there is only one employer, and your only choice is to work for him (sometimes risking your life or health in the process), or starve.

> You are speaking from a pretty privileged background

May I ask what do you think that background may be?

Not having savings doesn't mean you can't quit. A one employer town doesn't mean you can't quit. In both cases you just quit and immediately move or take any job you can find while you look for something better.

Being free isn't having someone feed you grapes with a silver spoon while you ponder on which industry you would like to support with your intellectual prowess.

Now who's talking from a privileged perspective… Searching for a job takes time, and quitting is risky. Sure, most of the time it will be fine. But sometimes you just end up searching for a job (any job) for more than a few weeks, and next thing you know your landlord is kicking you out.

When I say "no savings", I do mean zero. Nothing. Like "I can't buy food this week" nothing.

Then there's social pressure. Why quit your job in these times of mass unemployment? That would be crazy. Even prospective employers will not see that with a good eye: in white collar jobs, you can always say "it was time for me to go", or high-status non-explanations like that. But picture a cashier looking for a cashier job. The employer will want a real reason, and you'd better forge one that doesn't look too bad. (Disparaging the previous employer looks bad, mentioning material constraints often looks bad… following your spouse might not.)

Not so long ago, societies were structured to foster intellectual curiosity. Now, they are structured to kill any form of innovation. Just because you live in a broken, intellectually devoid capitalistic society, doesn't mean that's the optimal or even correct way to organize society.

If what you are saying is true, why is the US the leading tech innovator by a wide margin? The entire bay is centered on the concept of disruption via innovation.

Most of the technical innovation in the US is financed by military sources and state-sanctioned monopolies. Things like the internet and self-driving cars basically came from ARPA and DARPA fundings —at least initially.

Compared to those thing, the typical web startup we see in the Bay area innovates little and disrupts nothing. They're just facilitators and middle men. The likes of DropBox, YouTube, Twitter, Blogger, even Facebook… none are needed. They only compensate for our asymmetric bandwidth, without solving the real problem.

If you want real innovation, you need to finance fundamental research. You know, things that have no short term benefits, uncertain long term benefits, and uncertain monetisability.

In any case, the US is one of the most militaristic countries out there. It wages war all over the place for oil, and develops nice military devices to secure its supremacy. That's a pretty good drive for technical innovation.

Pretty feeble argument IMO. You restrict your analysis to companies you deem trivial and then you claim they aren't innovative. Yet you ignore the entire smartphone revolution that was started by Apple and Google.

Innovation and invention aren't the same thing. The invention of a technology is only a small component of its success. Combining it with other components to fulfill a good usecase is what makes it something useful. Google is the main player making self driving cars actually something useful,not DARPA funding.

You can continue to be apologetic for other countries being so far behind in tech innovation, but it doesn't change the point that it's happening in the US even though some ignorant commenter thinks the education system gets rid of innovation.

> Pretty feeble argument IMO.

I agree.

I want to stress however that there are many factors that drive innovation. The military setup is one. The economic system is another. Education is yet another. The mass media have substantial influence. Even if it sucks on some fronts, it may be compensated elsewhere.

Simply put, even if our economic system and our education system thwarts innovation, that's not enough to kill it.

I believe parent's point (which I am not agreeing with) was that employee's are not free because in a capitalist society you more or less need to work to survive

You need to work for someone to survive. The point is, there is a tiny minority of capitalists, who decide what to work on, and how. The rest of us hardly have a say. In terms of personal freedom, this is just as bad as a command economy (no more, no less). Also, remember that in some places, people can't even chose their employer. It's work in the mine, or starve. We westerners have it easy.

An independent contractor will still need to work to survive. But at least she's free from any boss… if she's really independent —that is, she can afford to turn down contracts.

Pensioners, or otherwise "financially independent" people are even free from lucrative work. They don't need to work for their continued survival. They can instead like look over their grandchildren or do some community work.

I'm sure there are higher attainable degrees of freedom yet. But let's work on the worst problems first. We more or less solved slavery and serfdom. Now there is employment. Next will be the need to survive. Next… I don't know, physical limitations?

This isn't correct. Look at the number of small business owners in the US. It's a minority, but it's not some tiny elite like your comment leads people to believe.

It doesn't take much for a regular person to start a business. If they provide a good the population likes at a reasonable price, they will succeed.

A link with the actual numbers would have helped.

> It doesn't take much for a regular person to start a business.

Generally in the order of 50.000€ for your average starting business —even a simple bakery. Not the end of the world for a Bay Area software engineer. A moonshot for minimum wage workers.

Sure, you could ask for a loan. But if you're poor, you will likely not get it.

You used to have to hunt to survive. In general you (for like a quadrillion values of "you") have to do something to survive and thrive, and it generally involves depredation or parasitism...comensalism...etc.

Especially because employees have to work for someone who tells them what to do.

I think you're mixing up education and credentials. Attending high school is an important part of most peoples' education in much of the world, but obtaining a diploma is not an education. In fact, getting expelled for publishing what other students have to say about the teachers is likely far more educational than completing the final two or three months and obtaining a diploma.

Consider this statement (which the author used to conclude his article):

That being said, I heartily do not recommend expulsion as a rite of passage for high school students. I’m fairly certain the extreme levels of stress and anxiety I experienced shaved a few years off my life.

I'd argue that your son is lucky to have you - you sound like the kind of parent who not only weathered the storm, but turned it into the best possible experience. If I'm ever in your shoes, I hope that my child comes out the other side looking as good as your son did!

Great work.

That's one of the reasons I share this story as often as I can. I've run into too many parents, mine included who thought that dropping out of high-school is the beginning of a downward spiral. We choose to not look at it that way and instead viewed it as an opportunity for our son to get a jump start on college. Our daughter wanted out of high-school for other reasons and took as many online classes as she could to get out a year early. Our youngest just skipped third grade after switching from a private school to the public school system and we are already preparing for her to drop out and go to college at sixteen. Honestly, I didn't have a good time in high-school, my older two children didn't have a good time in high-school, so I'm more than willing to explore more creative options.

The author closed the article with:

That being said, I heartily do not recommend expulsion as a rite of passage for high school students. I’m fairly certain the extreme levels of stress and anxiety I experienced shaved a few years off my life.

I went to a Catholic school with a noted hockey program where I was required to recite Jesus' family tree from Abraham through his parents and, in biology, had to remember to mention that evolution was more likely than creation, but God still started evolution (to this day, the words 'alpha and omega' hurt). Personally, I would have welcomed expulsion as between the hockey love and the jesus love, I was not exactly enamoured with the state of my education.

Unfortunately, this didn't happen to you or me. It happened to someone who experienced a massive amount of stress as a result. And over what?? Some dipshit adults who decided to squander a learning opportunity in the name of showing how tough they were??

But then there's a difference in dropping out and being expelled, and as someone who was expelled from highschool, it can seem devastating at the time it happens, even if it has minor impact on your future life. Being ground through the wheels for school administration is a harrowing experience for any teenager.

Matter of fact, my little brother who also went through an expulsion has still not quite recovered. The school suspended him for months in middle school, and I think it has impaired his ability to function as a student. When we tried getting him into the German school system again, he failed his reentry exam out of anxiety (he most likely knew the answers, he just filled in nothing), and another year of schooling at a lower tiered school because he couldn't bring himself to fill in exams for the first half of the school year.

So I certainly would not discount the impact an expulsion can have on a student, and I think that school administrators should not use it lightly. It could work out just fine, or utterly demoralize a student that most likely is already marginalized.

I'm sorry - both you and your brother have been expelled, and you think the fault is with the system and not how you're being raised?

Well, in my case it was absolutely my fault. I angered some of the school administrators and i was academically underperforming. And in retrospect it was the right call. I got thrown into the K12 system in 9th grade from a German school, had a relatively weak academic track record before that, and the school was a private school looking to churn students into the Ivys. The 3 years I spent there were hugely eye opening in regards to what I could or could not do with my life, but ultimately, it was not the right place for me.

But for my brother, it's a little different. He was kicked out of a public school for altercations with another student, and I would say that the situation was not handled in a fair manner. The school claimed that the reason for the suspension was that the other parents didn't feel safe sending their children to the school anymore, which was bogus since my mother actually went and personally called every single parent in the grade. None of them had any concerns over the incident. I'm suspecting that the school was simply overly cautious since about 20 years ago one student (one of the pastors children) murdered another student by stabbing him on a staircase inside of the school building. Whilst I don't fault the school administration for overreacting and deciding to deal with the problem through sweeping it under the rug, I do think the issue could have been handled more gracefully than sending a 12 year old for police questioning AND a psychologist.

Also I was not making a point about whether my or my brothers expulsion was justified, I was commenting about the effects of expulsion, and how variable they can be depending on the student and their upbringing.

I believe that public school systems should act as an equalizer against how you're raised at home instead of compounding these problems.

> I believe that public school systems should act as an equalizer against how you're raised at home instead of compounding these problems.

That's a commonly held belief, and I think it's a lot to put on the public school system. As a teacher, when I wasn't busy, you know, instructing, I was a mental health first responder, surrogate parent, law enforcer, stenographer, and so forth. I agree that, in general, social services should provide a baseline so that every child has a shot, regardless of what life situation they happen to be born into. I'm just not sure it's fair for that to fall so heavily on the schools.

In practice, this is exactly what seems to happen. And I think this over-reliance is a big part of what brings down low income schools. Even within inner cities, there's effect where the most prominent and successful schools tend to scoop up the kids with the greatest relative advantage and the most challenging students are pushed down to progressively more impoverished schools. We end up with multiple layers of elective and systemic segregation. As Paul Tough put it [1], there are big distinctions within poverty, with those who are the very worst off -- in "deep poverty" in Tough's terminology -- often being the people least effectively served.

The neighborhood schools often serve as social glue within their communities, but they're measured academically against schools in more affluent communities that have the privilege of being focused much so on being good educational centers. When these neighborhood schools are labeled as "failing" for academic underperformance, they're closed down and it can be a very traumatic local event.

Now I'm not saying that schools that aren't educating effectively shouldn't be reformed, or sometimes shutdown. I'm just pointing out that the reality of the role they serve and all they're doing isn't typically acknowledged or supported.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/19/magazine/obama-poverty.htm...

I've always thought that measuring schools by student academic performance alone is an incredibly lazy way of measuring performance across the board because it doesn't take into account massive differences in the average student different schools get.

Measuring difference in student performance between two points in time would provide a better heuristic, and even using that as a measure for funding is silly as it creates a feedback loop. I'd rather see this data being used to identify and study top performing schools and the findings being applied to schools performing in the bottom percentile.

But then this entire problem hinges on how we as a society want public schools to work. Do we want them to act as an equalizer in the sake of social stability and mobility, or do we want them to amplify existing situations so that our top performers perform even better?

Whilst there is obviously already a deep relationship between teachers and their students, another method for taking weight off their backs in the regard of being mental health first responders could be having mental health responders on site, whether that be social workers or child psychologists which is how things are handled in Germany. At my previous school we had a psychologist that was shared across different schools in the area, who would be open to talk about any mental health issues a student might have.

Now in Germany we also have a 3 tiered system, where the lowest performing students go to a "Hauptschule", which focuses on putting students into trades, a "Realschule" which opens up moving into either higher reaches of the trades or moving into a "Gymnasiale Oberstufe", which is the conclusion of the "Gymnasium" that focuses on funneling students into universities to pursue further eduction.

Whilst this tiered system has its issues despite possibility to move into higher tiers later in your educational life, it also allows for dividing up certain problems. Students from a "Gymnasium" are usually assumed to come from a stable background, which means less social workers and stronger focus on academics, whilst students from a "Hauptschule" are usually offered more guidance in exchange for a less strict and more practice oriented scientific curricullum.

I didn't see anywhere where he said he was expelled, he only mentioned his younger brother.

I was expelled, or rather "denied re-admission", which means it doesn't go on your academic record but for all intents and purposes is the same thing.

I think it was the right call though, it was the wrong place for me. Much MUN and Community Service, but the CS classes weren't strong, and that was the only technical class offered. I went on to go to an ITG, which is short for "InformationsTechnisches Gymnasium" which is a highschool with a curriculum centered around stuff like OO and microcontrollers and UML diagrams.

It says 'expelled', not suspended. Totally different outcome.

How did you get in to college without finishing High School? I thought that was a pretty hard requirement for most programs.

It all depends. A number of colleges will let things slide in high school if the student shows promise. It's not uncommon for intelligent kids to be rebellious in high school from boredom etc., and so a number of colleges will take a chance on admitting such a student. I knew a guy who was clearly way smarter than the rest of us and when he was motivated to do so could easily pass any class. He got expelled from two high schools and proceeded to ace every class in college.

It's interesting, I graduated from that school in '92, and I was surprised when I read it. The faculty I knew, most would have encouraged such a project. My drafting teacher let me do a 3point of a x-wing for my final project. The school let me take 3 years of art in one year. I got caught smoking in the stairwell, and was just told to go outside. I did nudes, a controversial art projects that my college would have raised an eye to. This wasn't a bad school, or at least it wasn't the 5 years before this story occurs. So while I'm sure this happened, my own experience makes me believe that were not getting the whole picture.

The difference is that your experiences didn't directly challenge any member of staff. You might have challenged some abstract rule or social norm, but you likely did not personally and publicly attack a teacher. This guy named names and went personal, he crossed a much bigger line. His "crime" was not to lampoon the official magazine, but to personally attack school staff. I don't think any school, as good as it might be, would have tolerated that (although they could have handled it better, as he pointed out).

The difference is the teachers took it personally.

The crime was serious, but not expulsion serious. But authoritive figures often overreact when their very governance is questioned. Which, like the author, is a lesson I've had to learn the hard way (albeit I never landed myself in quiet as serious trouble as the aforementioned)

> The crime

"The crime"? Did we read the same article? What crime was committed? Making a low-tech version of ratemypreofessors.com?

I meant "crime" in a colloquial sense rather than the author literally having committed a criminal offence. But that said, deformation of character is a liable offence in the UK, so I assume the same would be true in Canada as well.

You can't equate a ratings site with an obvious satirical (at best) and potentially malicious outlet for angry students.

To the other two replies to the op, I think he meant "crime" in the figurative.

The author titled a section of the post, "My Crime".

Yeah, it's not a crime technically. Everyone is using the word figuratively, here.

> The crime

What crime!

I was really surprised by how it all went down as well. Up to that point, I had felt that the school, teachers, and administration were all very progressive and tolerant, which was a huge factor in my decision to go forward with the whole project and keep it going as long as I did.

As far as not getting the whole picture, I shared everything I could to the best of my recollection. I also had one of the friends who was involved go over it and it was his opinion that I have left nothing salient out as well. It did all happen close to 20 years ago, however, so it's entirely possible that we've forgotten something significant.

Fair enough, and my memories are 25 years old. So it's very easy that my brain is only remembering the best memories while forgetting the bad. My brain tends to do that with ex's I haven't seen in a while.

It's amazing to read that first-person account. I recall reading about it at the time. Or maybe it was the other case that you refer to. Thanks! I'm curious about your perspective on a few things, though.

What free-speech rights did Canadian students have then?

Do they have more rights now, or less?

Teachers are "public figures", right? Or is Canadian libel law more like English than American?

I'm pretty sure that a high school teacher would not be considered a "public figure" in the US.

I wouldn't underestimate the pride and power-trip of those teachers and administrators. The same thing happened to me at a middle school in los angeles, and our newsletter didn't have anything remotely libelous, only criticisms of school policies, dress code, etc. The most poorly-written column compared the school to a concentration camp, which is of course an offensive statement, but not a personal attack. Four of us were suspended and had some other minor punishments. The dean was level-headed and reasonable but others were out for blood.

What I missed both in the article and in the consensus that "you personally attacked and offended teachers", is drawing the important distinction between authoring those comments, and merely publishing them. Also, the issue of whether they were subjective but essentially honest, clearly humorous, or malicious fabrications.

In any case, I do not think that taking a personal offence is at all an appropriate reaction to someone merely facilitating an anonymous survey.

Which Winston Churchill is this? There are two in Ontario alone. I was unable to tell from the article or from briefly researching the author.

Good question. Since his friend put him in touch with the Calgary Herald in the article, I assumed the one in North West Calgary (Alberta).

Pretty much all of your post talks about art class. That's the way most art teachers are.

> I guess it's probably an inherent tension in human society, when there is a boundary of authority.

It's for that reason I think authority should be used as an organizational tool of last resort. Sadly it is the first thing many people reach for when they have a problem to solve.

Last resort implies it would mostly never be used. But do we have any reason to believe flat hierarchy could ever be effective in a 1,000, 10,000, or 100,000 person organization?

I'd also direct you to some of the discussions of the subversive hierarchies that evolved under the surface of 2nd wave femenist, supposedly flat, groups.

Maybe we should also have less 10,000+ person organizations. The note about informal hierarchies arising in the absence of formal ones is very true, but that doesn't mean we can't reduce the problem if we aren't naive about it.

... and isn't the best way to combat the problem of informal hierarchies, to put formal ones in place eliminating the power vacuum?

Well, not if your goal is avoiding hierarchies.

The most famous incident like this is "neverseconds".[1] This is the blog of a primary school girl in Scotland who, each day, took a picture of her school lunch and reviewed it. The school authorities threatened her and insisted she stop. That backfired on them, badly. Coverage on TechDirt. Coverage on the BBC. Worldwide press coverage. 10 million page views of blog. Complaints in Parliament. School authorities disciplined by national education minister. Public apology by town council. Girl wins several awards for fighting censorship.

Her blog is still active, three years later. She encourages other kids to send in pictures of their school lunches, and it's a great site for seeing what kids have for lunch around the world.

[1] http://neverseconds.blogspot.com/2012/06/goodbye.html

That's crazy. She's just documenting her reality. I'm glad she "won" in the end.

My first thought was "school food is under NDA now"? That is indeed quite ridiculous.

Ah, the good old days. I remember in middle school when I'd set up my first webpage. I got my first and only in-school-suspension for going to that site during class. Just going to the website. I just wanted to see if it was up, since I had never accessed it from anywhere but home. My teacher's explanation was "It could have been anything! You can't go to websites I don't approve of!"

Now, this would normally have been something trivial I would have just shrugged off. But my computer partner also got in trouble for "not stopping me". What was he going to do, knock me out of my chair before I pressed enter? This kid was the stereotypical teacher's pet who always did his homework and was quiet in class, so I felt particularly bad for getting him in trouble. I even offered to serve two days of ISS instead of him getting in trouble - of course that request was denied.

To this day, I still cannot understand that woman's reasoning. How is "you could have done something bad," grounds for punishment? What kind of person feels the need to punish a child who's showing enthusiasm for a subject they're teaching?

Looks like the unreasoned fear of the technically inept. And I do mean visceral fear, like a sense of imminent danger.

I remember once in "technology" class where we were asked to compose a small document with Corel WordPerfect, with a clip art. Well, I mistook "graph" for clip art, and got a weird square where I should have had a pretty icon. And I didn't know how to remove the square (couldn't select it with the mouse, and I didn't think of trying backspace or undo at that time). So I asked for help.

The instant the teacher saw my document, she said "Ahh, he crashed my computer!", then promptly closed the document without saving it. (15 minutes of work, dammit!)

Simply put, she didn't have the slightest idea about what went wrong, and assumed the worst. I flipped the bozo bit at that point, and never trusted her again.

A good story, I think a lot of us have at least one story like that of interactions with the technologically-inept.

But I wanted to ask you about your use of the term "flipping the bozo bit". I've seen others use that as a derisive way towards people they think less of, but curiously the source of this expression is prescribing precisely NOT doing this behaviour:

> McCarthy's Rule #4 is "Don't Flip The Bozo Bit". McCarthy's advice was that everyone has something to contribute — it's easy and tempting, when someone ticks you off or is mistaken (or both), to simply disregard all their input in the future by setting the "bozo flag" to TRUE for that person. But by taking that lazy way out, you poison team interactions and cannot avail yourself of help from the "bozo" ever again. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bozo_bit

Well, retrospectively, I'm not sure I should have flipped that bozo bit. I just remember that I did, at least as far as computers were concerned. (My bozo bits tend to have 2 entries: a person and a subject matter.)

More generally, though, it was one of those unmistakable proofs that authority isn't always legitimate. This happened often enough that I now decide for myself who has authority over me.

The kind of person who got that job simply to be able to enforce arbitrary rules on victims who can't fight back, to feel more powerful.

How is "you could have done something bad," grounds for punishment?

Well, most of society seems perfectly fine with owning and using restricted "jailed" devices, whose existence is justified by the same reasoning...

>How is "you could have done something bad," grounds for punishment?

Unfortunately, this kind of thing pops up in the real world a lot as well too. "You're riding a bicycle after drinking a few beers? You could have crashed into someone! DUI felony charge for you!"

Driving under the influence is categorically different. You are a real danger to others and can maim or kill them. How is that even remotely comparable to navigating to a personal website in class?

We are literally talking about the thing that makes them similar. You are being punished because you could have done something wrong, not because you did something wrong.

No, they're still not the same.

> You are being punished because you could have done something wrong, not because you did something wrong.

No, with drunk driving, getting behind the wheel IS wrong, regardless of the outcome. If someone plays Russian roulette, and they live, do you just go, "oh, no big deal, I'm not going to be upset about something that could have happened"? No, you judge every decision based not in hindsight, but based on what is known at the time. Driving while impaired is wrong, full stop. If you repeat the drunk driving experiment 100s of times, you'll see accidents more often than sober driving, but you shouldn't just punish those who get into the accidents, since they've made the exact same decision as those who are lucky and happened not to.

In the "loading the web page" case, it's like getting made at someone for pulling the trigger of a known empty gun because it "could have" instead been a gun that had bullets in it. If the kid loads the webpage 100s of times it will always be the same web page, with no issue. It's not like sometimes it will be a page with a virus on it. So in that case getting in trouble for "what you could have done" doesn't make any sense.

IOW, you shouldn't punish people based on "what they could have done", but you should punish people based on "what could have happened".

Fair argument. I'm convinced.

No matter how drunk you are, it's hard to maim someone else with a bicycle. You might knock someone over, but you're really only a danger to yourself.

As a pedestrian I disagree. I've actually seen cyclists knock someone down (it was a pure accident, no drinking involved as far as I know) and they were pretty badly injured (ambulance, etc). Last thing we need is cyclists drunk, they're dangerous enough when sober.

Hell, they're even a danger to other cyclists when sober!

My girlfriend was injured a couple years ago when she was cut off recklessly by another student, also on a bicycle, and swerved to avoid him. End result was she wound up hitting loose gravel in a construction area, lost control, and ended up face-first into the pavement.

At university, I had a few near misses myself (as a pedestrian). I'd often park in one of the more distant lots and walk to class (one for the exercise, and two because it was nearly a two hour drive--I needed a stretch!), and the central thoroughfare was a wide, cement walkway that was mostly downhill. Most of the cyclists were cautious and traveled slowly, but there were always those (thankfully) few clowns who would race as fast as they could. I'm not sure if they were making a game of us as moving obstacles; regardless, I always kept an ear out behind me and kept far, far, far to the side near the grass!

I only have anecdotal evidence, but offer the heuristic that most "drunk enough to be dangerous" bicyclists can't ride fast enough to maim anyone -- and if they're riding down a hill, they're much more likely to be maimed.

There's an inherent barrier to entry that makes drunk biking difficult enough to limit those who can actually do it. Like how often do you see someone drunk on a road bike with clips? How many drunk people bike on busy roads where they're more likely to get killed than the guy in an air conditioned hunk of metal on wheels?

A reasonable person's analysis might conclude that it's better to say, "hey, let's bike to the bar" that's 4 miles away rather than "let's drive," because statistically you're as/more likely to fall down and injure yourself as if you'd walked, and will harm society much less than if you'd decided to pilot a machine that requires a fraction of the bodily coordination to get from A to B.

shit man, although you're correct you sound boring as hell. riding a bike around when your drunk is super fun.

Or any other vehicle that swerves out of the way to avoid you and anything they hit

It's too late to edit my post but let me clarify the point I was trying to make to the parent poster, who responded to "having a few beers and getting on a bike" with "driving under the influence can maim or kill people."

I'm not advocating RUI but I do not think it should be classified, legally or ethically, as a DUI. Neither is good but there's a huge difference in actual danger between the two. It's along the same lines as "public urination," which is distasteful but usually harmless in context, landing someone on the sex offender registry next to people who did much, much worse things.

if you sit in a parked car with the engine on.. to lets say keep warm, its "intent to drive" even if you have no intent to do so.

http://illinoiscaselaw.com/dui-sleeping-in-car-illinois/ but you can find more. Whats unfortunate is people are TRYING to be responsible and still get in trouble.

Loved reading this, I have a very similar story. Same year, 1997, I made a Geocities site and had teacher report cards just like in this story. I put the site up on the library computers home page and then it spread around the school immediately, kids were talking about in the hallways, teachers mentioned in class that they would find who did did it.

I also critiqued the school itself, some of the hypocrisies I saw and notably since it was a Catholic school they had a school rule against pornography even when you were at home. So of course I put up a very soft core nude photo as a sort of fuck you.

However, unlike this story I actually was expelled, but it's not very difficult to get expelled from a Catholic school, it was a regular occurrence at our school. Knowing this I kept it very anonymous and didn't tell anyone.

I got an email from the school saying they would sue me for libel unless I came and turned myself in. That made me pretty nervous and pretty soon after that a student who I knew emailed me saying he loved the site and wanted to help. I then told him who I was and it turns out it was actually a teacher impersonating a student.

My brother and I were both expelled, my brother didn't do anything but contribute a few of the teacher reviews, so it sucked pretty bad for him. For me too of course but I was kicked out halfway through my senior year so I was mostly done with high school anyway. Plus I had already applied to colleges so it the expulsion didn't show up on any transcript the colleges received.

My brother wasn't so lucky since he was only a sophomore when this happened, when it came time to apply for college he got accepted to none of the colleges he applied for. He appealed hard and finally got into one.

Similar story here, I still remember Mapleton.tk. I loved that the whole school was talking about it.

The killer feature was actually a forum where we could talk bad about teachers using pseudonyms. A lot of them deserved it too. Nothing made me happier than seeing how much everyone hated Mr. Peterson, the teacher somehow put in charge of the students who had skipped two years of math.

Did you ever find out how they targeted you at the first place?

Oh, I had an anonymous email account listed on the website so people could leave feedback or submit additional teacher reviews. So, they didn't know who I was but they could contact me.

I fucked up by outing myself to the teacher impersonating a student, but with a legal threat I guess it could have turned out even worse if I didn't out myself.

Huge drama at the time, my parents were pretty religious so they actually took the values of the school seriously and were so upset that they told me they wouldn't let me go to college.

That was a pretty easy fight to win though as there is no way they could have stopped me.

It's interesting. I don't suppose there is a way to protect your anonymity at the time. They would have got you either way. Using an email list might be a better solution... haha, use a free email for every weekly update. Never reply.

In the late 90s, there was no Tor, or VPN services. There were still pseudonymous remailers (penet.fi having gone down in 1996). I remember using Potato Idaho to craft Mixmaster remailer messages with reply blocks. That's how I posted to filtered cypherpunks :) But it was tedious.


It was just for fun at first and also to air some real grievances about the school itself. It was supposed to be religious but it felt like the school was more about money, there were some other specific issues that felt like they were important at the time as well.

I really didn't mean to hurt my brother or family, still feel bad about it. I don't think the teachers took it too hard as I heard that some agreed with what was said and I don't think I said anything too hurtful about any of them, just honest really.

I'm certainly writing here in a somewhat detached manner as it does still bring up feelings and I could better explain with an entire blog post like the original story here. Maybe I'll do just that.


Your first sentence crosses the line into a personal attack. Those are not ok here. The comment would be just fine without that.

I don't understand the down votes on my sibling post. I point out some hypocrisy (some people commended for violating community norms in another community, while I am criticized for violating HN norms) in a snarky way I find amusing. So call me immature and narcissistic, but get off your high horse.

Getting expelled from school is considered worse than being banned from HN, and therefore requires more justification.

Users here are averse to snark because it's closely related to being mean, unsubstantive, or both. Usually both.

I agree. That is exactly why radical organizers like Martin Luther King or Evan Wolfson or Ed Snowden should learn to sit down and shut up. It is narcissistic, selfish, and immature of them to insist on speaking about issues society would prefer they stayed silent on. And the cost to their supporters and friends and those around them is quite significant.

Please, do not put this guy in the same boat as MLK or Ed Snowden.

Defending free speech doesn't always mean defending MLK or Snowden. Sometimes it means defending creeps. Actually, usually it means defending creeps.

Same here, I also did basically the same thing in 1997. I wasn't expelled but I was banned from my senior prom and served a lengthy in-school suspension stint.

The administration threatened to write to the colleges I'd already been accepted to and try to get those offers withdrawn, but as far as I know that was just a threat.

I was almost suspended at school eight years ago for using `net send` from .bat files and because I had Everest portable on my network drive (a tool that lists system specs, I was curious what hardware the PC's had).

The guy that managed the network at the time was almost personally offended and accused me of 'hacking' the network with dangerous tools. He got the school board involved, my parents had to go talk to the headmaster. My parents and I had to sign a contract which said that any other 'unauthorised' use of the school network would get me suspended for 3 days.

If you have one bitter person working somewhere and nobody knows enough about something to stop them, you can get these power-mad types. Probably happens a lot at schools with just one network administrator.

I must have gone to a great high school. I actually hacked our systems a few times.

We used a piece of software to lock down the PCs, IIRC, called Fool Proof. I'm not sure if it was supposed to be ironic, because it didn't take long to figure out that it kept the clear text admin password in swap. The machines didn't have BIOS passwords, so it was pretty easy to boot into a hex editor and dig it out.

When my teacher found out I did this, he praised my ingenuity and even got me involved in vetting alternative options, despite the fact that I had been handing the password around to friends like candy.

Did you have a clue as to where in swap the data was stored? Looking through a swap partition in a hex editor sounds mind-numbing.

Plaintext actually stands out pretty easily in a hex editor, just because everything else is basically gibberish.

And never underestimate the amount of time that a teenager, with all the time in the world, would dedicate to this.

The password preamble included the string `FOOLPR`. If I recall correctly, I just did a search for `FOOL` on a whim and it turned up only a few results.

The degree to which kids get fucked with before they're even allowed to enter society necessitates people like that exist. Working at a school isn't exactly esteemed. You were both smart enough to see through the situation and to... Not work at a school. We just keep putting the wrong people in the right place to exacerbate a negative feedback loop.

Haha, I did the same thing (with net send, which I'd forgotten all about till you said it) when our school got its first network - around 98 or so. I rigged up a QBasic program to use net send to create a school wide chatroom of sorts (I think I used it to sync a filename on a network share rather than send the actual chat though). Never got caught but they managed to disable the functionality and that was that. It's ridiculous how mad they all got about it though.

Chandler, perhaps? I attended a junior high school there which had this rickety chat system that functioned exactly like that. It was kinda functioning when I got there, but I took the app home and hacked it up considerably to be more stable, more colors for text, etc.

Ended up leaving the updated source on the machines one day before I left the school for high school. Quite fun days, indeed.

Nope, I'm in the UK. I think a lot of schools all jumped on the bandwagon and had a couple of miscreants who knew some QBasic though! :-)

I broke through our Novell's systems "defences" numerous times. Our IT coordinator hated me (somewhat rightly so), and came at me wanting blood... But luckily I was always a good student, and friendly with the vice principal (who had fielded questions about what I was doing on the PCs when I was in primary school, he was the principal then), so the last time I was banned from using computers on school grounds for year 12, and that was the end of it. My final sin? I gave Quake 1 with the Darkplaces engine to a friend, who promptly transferred it to every computer. The IT coord decided it was me who did it, even though I had no idea it was happening. Oh well, all worked out in the end :)

We had a lot of fun with net send at my all laptop school. IIRC there was even a shared address book file with everyone's hostname. It didn't bother the admins, but understandably the teachers.

Some sites require JS because they do weird things like rendering stuff clientside.

This site "requires" JS because... The opacity of the article is set to 0? Everything's there, everything's rendered, but they have a CSS rule (".use-motion .post { opacity: 0; }"). Only thing I can think of is that they do a JS fade-in or something and missed the unintended consequences.

(Speaking of which... Doesn't Google penalize sites that have an excessive number of hidden keywords? I wonder if the entire article being hidden qualifies...)

Today's web is ridiculous. It looks like if developers and designers are increasingly becoming a bunch of kids with delusions of grandeur and IQ around 50, living in total denial about reasonableness of their work.

Just imagine you're going to the newsstand to buy a newspaper, and instead you get a package containing blank sheets of paper, a microfilm scanner and a roll of microfilm, with instructions telling you to go home, scan the film and print the content yourself. You'd be on fire. You'd write to the publisher, asking them what the fuck they're doing. Even ignoring the additional time and money you'll have to spend printing the newsppaper yourself, it surely must be cheaper to print it all with industrial machines than making an equal amounts of goddamn microfilm and scanners for it! Economies of scale and stuff.

And yet this is normal on the web. Prepping content for client-side JS generation takes similar amounts of time (if not more) to just rendering the page on server. And then they have to send a) the content, and b) JS to render it, which takes more space than a rendered page, and then every client has to render it on its own. They're wasting electricity on every goddamn step of the pipeline, from servers through the network to the client. It's like electricity is free so they can all show everyone a giant fuck you, because hey, if it's free then let's waste it all.

Ok, I got carried away. But my point still stands. Dear JS-first website maker - I'm not willing to view your ads until you start covering my electricity bills for all the coal that got wasted on your idiotic client-side-rendering contraptions.

YES! There's no reason for websites that are just documents to not work with javascript disabled. For that matter there's no reason that they shouldn't work in text-based browsers (this one still might, since the opacity isn't going to matter in lynx). They work by default, and the only reason that they start not working is because people start adding too many gimmicks.

And with modern tools, there's no reason that anything — even a highly interactive app — couldn't be prerendered on the server.

I feel like I'm about to wander into a debate that's over my head, but I don't see why one computer (or one small group of computers) should be responsible for doing work that could easily be performed in a more distributed way by people's browsers, if only because it's cheaper to offload that work onto the client and leaves less ways to crash the server-side application.

I'm with you 100 percent when it comes to "I can't read this text document because it needs 45 JS libraries to render," that's stupid. But it's probably stupid because it's over-engineered, not because it uses the browser.

I feel like this is going to become a bigger and bigger debate in the coming years, and I'm eager to be proven wrong, or at least understand the other side. But if I'm building the next great web-based spreadsheets application (I'm not), my immediate and overwhelming success is going to be WAY easier to manage if the majority of my code is being executed on the millions of computers calling in to use it, not on the three servers running in my auto scaling group. Why WOULDN'T I pick that option?

> I don't see why one computer (or one small group of computers) should be responsible for doing work that could easily be performed in a more distributed way by people's browsers

For one reason, because that one computer can usually do it (or at least most of it) once, and instead you're forcing millions of people to redo the same computation themselves. That's just... wrong.

> But if I'm building the next great web-based spreadsheets application (...) Why WOULDN'T I pick that option?

Well, in this case this is the right way, because you need to dynamically interact with data entered by the user (in this case, people usually make another error - they send data to server that there is no need for; but that's another topic. [0]). You're writing a web application. But a web site, like landing pages, blogs with articles, etc. have exactly zero reasonable needs for rendering everything client-side. It's just making the same compute millions of times because someone was too lazy to compute it once.

[0] - actually, it's not. One could notice that most of the problems with current web come from two things: sending the code that should stay on the server to the client, and sending data that should stay with the client to a server.

I think we might agree with each other, but you are being more clear than I was. If we are looking at the web as the miraculous document-exchanging network that it was, yes, Javascript is may be literally ruining everything. If you can render something once, absolutely do it once, what a huge waste.

I was more disagreeing with the concluding assertion that "with modern tools, there's no reason that anything — even a highly interactive app — couldn't be prerendered on the server." There's no reason it couldn't be, sure, but it's way harder when the clients are just as capable -- and, once things start getting busy, probably even more capable.

Let me tell you a (probably-apocryphal) story:

There was a giant multinational hamburger chain where some bright MBA figured out that eliminating just three sesame seeds from a sesame-seed bun would be completely unnoticeable by anyone yet would save the company $126,000 per year. So they do it, and time passes, and another bushy-tailed MBA comes along, and does another study, and concludes that removing another five sesame seeds wouldn't hurt either, and would save even more money, and so on and so forth, every year or two, the new management trainee looking for ways to save money proposes removing a sesame seed or two, until eventually, they're shipping hamburger buns with exactly three sesame seeds artfully arranged in a triangle, and nobody buys their hamburgers any more.


I think I see the connection, but I think it jumped over one piece of my argument (if my statement could even be called that): In the burger example, removing sesame seeds is an act that makes the product objectively worse, just in a way that will hopefully not make it worse enough to affect demand.

I don't think it's analogous to a developer taking advantage of modern consumer hardware to do the work computers were designed to do, because it's not necessarily a worse product you're delivering. If your internet connection is spotty, it's likely a better experience in some ways. It just seems like people have these brilliant machines capable of executing all of this code (more or less) out of the box, but we're treating them as thin clients because... why? Because some people won't upgrade their OS/browser? Because the method of delivery is the same one that's used to inject banner ads and flashy video ad thingies? If that's the case, then it seems like the whole "server-side rendering" option is getting to sound pretty good for advertising, too. Then where are we?

Let me make the connection a little more explicit:

In {the burger case}, {removing sesame seeds} is an act that makes {the product} objectively worse, just in a way that will hopefully not make it worse enough to affect demand.

And in {this case}, {punting things from server-side to client-side} is an act that makes {power usage, wear and tear, security, battery life, bandwidth use} objectively worse, just in a way that will hopefully not make it worse enough to affect demand.

Ah! Now I see, thank you. I think some of this is debatable, though:

* Security: Yes, there's not too much argument that can be made for unquestioningly allowing arbitrary code execution on your computer. I think part of this will improve with browser enhancements, so long as they go more in the direction of sandboxing than in the direction of "Hey let's give Chrome access to everything in your computer right?!" Doing important stuff server-side is probably safer for users. That said, I'm bad at security. I just don't know enough about it, so I can't put up much of a fight.

* Bandwidth use: I'd actually be really interested to see some research on this. Needing to download a different version of jQuery/AngularJS/Backbone for every website you visit is certainly not particularly efficient, but I wonder how long you need to be on a website before they've sent you more HTML data than you would have had to deal with pulling down the Javascript and just pushing JSON data into it. For the mobile web at least, you win.

* Regarding power usage and wear and tear, I don't consider it a crime to make a computer do computing, which may be our main point of disagreement. If I've got a 2+ gHz processor and a few gigs of RAM, what else am I going to be using it for? Almost all of my apps are web-based, and I'd rather hear my fan rev up a little bit while Firefox renders a big graph instead of waiting for a server to generate a picture of one and just send it to me.

> I wonder how long you need to be on a website before they've sent you more HTML data than you would have had to deal with pulling down the Javascript and just pushing JSON data into it. For the mobile web at least, you win.

I was talking to a young person that sometimes buys her mobile data plan in 20MB prepaid chunks, complaining how fast Facebook eats through that data.

Now I don't have Facebook (or a data plan, my ISP has "hotspots" all over town), I was curious and asked her how much Facebook does 20MB buy you, anyway?

She said sometimes when she does a full reload of the page it costs 3-4MB. I told her, did you know that's enough data to fit the entire LotR trilogy, or the bible? (either of them are about 3-5MB, zipped plaintext).

I agree that the things you say could potentially save a lot of bandwidth, but the reality is, in practice they really really do not, not by far :-)

> I'd rather hear my fan rev up a little bit while Firefox renders a big graph instead of waiting for a server to generate a picture of one and just send it to me.

You are not me. (Not to mention I am not against doing most things client-side. I am specificially against Turing-complete languages being required on the client side. Things like charts are fine.)

I do not see why things should be done multiple times when they can be done once. You're offloading visible costs to places where they are hidden and then calling it gone.

Thanks for humoring me, this has been really helpful.

I hate this story, because its clearly actually about people failing at designing studies, and everyone glosses over that.

Well yeah, you're right that you don't necessarily want every interactive app to use server rendering. TeMPOraL's reply gets the point across pretty well. What I was trying to convey is that with tools like react, where you can share your view code between the client and server, and do the same work on the client and server without doubling the required development effort, you can reasonably do it.

Whether or not to take this approach is to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Some tools are too interactive and have too tight a feedback loop to make any sense without javascript. A spreadsheet is an example where I'd probably choose to break support for no-javascript, but it's less clear-cut than, say, a CAD application. An example where I'd opt to support clients without javascript is a todo-list application, or a twitter-like.

> I don't see why one computer (or one small group of computers) should be responsible for doing work that could easily be performed in a more distributed way by people's browsers, if only because it's cheaper to offload that work onto the client and leaves less ways to crash the server-side application.

Of course, this has always already been the case! That's why we don't stream our webpages as images (or video, if you need to scroll), but instead offload the work of rendering a graphical representation of the symbolic HTML representation to the client-side browser.

It's a pretty solid idea (apart from the Browser Wars), and one of the ideas that made the WWW viable.

The ridiculous part, however, is where people somehow decide that we should wrap more and more and yet another layer of abstraction onto it.

It's not that web servers have grown less powerful and therefore need to offload more work onto their clients. The demands on web servers are higher today, but they've also grown more powerful, and we came up with some pretty clever scaling technologies to deal with those higher demands. But offloading code execution in the form of client-side JS is not really one of those, in practice.

Yes, the idea could technically be used to accomplish that and make less work on the server side, but really, take a look at this page, or any (bloated) page like the problem we're describing; That's not what's going on here, it's about the same amount of work on the server side, nothing's being offloaded, just more work on the client side.

At least the Flash-only-interface websites that plagued the web 10 years ago offered us UI elements that weren't possible in HTML back then (for better or worse), but today's JS bloat truly doesn't add anything that can't be done in a much leaner, less client resource-intensive way.

Even your spreadsheet example. Sure, run the calculations client-side, that only makes sense, no need to throw out JS with the bathwater. But what sort of calculations are we talking about, realistically? For a medium spreadsheet, a few hundreds of summations and multiplications. Nothing of the kind that should make a 5-year old computer even blink. But whatever these types of apps are actually doing they manage to crawl the jankscroll already even on an empty document, let alone when you try to use it.

It sounds like you're in favor of sending pdf's around. Or probably more accurately, large bitmaps.

PDFs are about the worst thing out there if you're frustrated about documents with embedded Turing-complete languages.

And large bitmaps are rather bandwidth inefficient, and inaccessible to boot.

I don't mind markup. I mind tech that doesn't include fallbacks, and I mind people using Turing-complete languages for things that can easily be done using a less powerful language. (Turing-complete languages tend to get abused by people to the point that people want them to be executed quickly and with little memory use (which means that the language implementation gets complex, and hence buggy {simple laws of probability}), and almost any vulnerability can generally be exploited by a suitable script in a TC language, and TC-languages can be used to do unexpected things.)

HTML is decent. HTML+CSS is worse than HTML (for the same reason that COMEFROM is worse than GOTO). Markup is better than HTML in many ways, or rather most formal specifications of Markup-like languages are better than HTML. (Unfortunately, most variants of Markup aren't specified beyond "do what I do")

I've been tempted for a while to write a Markup browser. (Mop? Markup-Over-tcP? )

So, I'm replying mainly to his assertion that any interactive app can be prerendered on the server given current technology. Given webapps span the range from "dynamic forms" to browser video games, I can think of no way of implementing the full breadth of what are modern web applications other than essentially video streaming and polling input on the client, which yes, is bandwidth intensive.

That's the entire reason why js and html and friends have become so popular. You essentially have full applications that have been developed by people who recognize that the bottleneck wrt to a networked application's responsiveness is not cpu cycles and memory in 2015 but internet latency. It's sufficient here to send a small text file and have the client fill in the gaps and have the client ajax for updates than have the server do the heavy work. I think you argued elsewhere, this is a waste of processor time redundantly rendering content, and thus, a waste of energy needlessly (as in real energy, from electrical into waste heat). As a tree hugger, I have to admit I find that argument somewhat compelling. I think a balance needs to be struck between user experience and use of resources. It might be your balance line lies further towards the "saving of resources" than mine's does.

Again, there is a (massive) distinction between Turing-complete languages and non Turing-complete ones in terms of how often they are exploited (and in terms of how severe said exploits tend to be). I don't mind non Turing-complete languages being run clientside, but do mind Turing-complete languages being run clientside, for mainly that reason. (Also, because Turing-complete languages tend to end up abused in terms of resource use).

And you can do most of a thin client, if not all, while keeping sane bandwidth use. (Note that almost all cases where bandwidth use would be excessive for a thin client in a web setting, said bandwidth use would also be excessive for a fat client in a web setting.)

It's mainly that current tech has settled on the brute-force approach of "let's stream every pixel and then try to compress it" as opposed to saner approaches (vector graphics, remote compositing, that sort of thing). But note that there are, for example, remote desktop protocols that work well (for most things) over a dial-up connection!

Umm... no. That sounds absolutely awful in several ways. I just believe the web is about choice, and users shouldn't be expected to use the exact setup that the service providers demand. You can avoid a huge class of vulnerabilities by disabling javascript, not to mention all the privacy benefits of doing so. With javascript disabled, all trackers can collect is a timestamped log of when you made what request — which is sensitive information, but not as bad as also having your cursor movements and scrolling and everything else logged. Disabling javascript can also massively improve performance.

That doesn't mean that websites shouldn't use javascript — I'd not want to use a todo list application that forces me to reload the page on every click — but it's still useful to support that functionality, because some day I might need to access my todos from an environment where I can't use javascript for whatever reason.

People claim that it's too much work to support something so niche, but if you architect your application well, using progressive enhancement, you get support for no-javascript environments, plus a ton of other stuff like server-side prerendering for latency reduction, accessibility, SEO, text-based browser functionality — all virtually for free.

Not that this should be applied everywhere dogmatically, it's not worth supporting no-javascript environments or scrapers in your browser-based photo editor.

It would be even better if servers would return raw data in xml format, with a linked xslt transform to convert it to a structured document, and css to manage the presentation with javascript to control the interactivity, but that idea died long ago, but some modern applications are finally replicating most of the good parts of that system.

I think you have something here. I'm only a noob web hacker, but from what I gather and read, I think that separating content from the application has been one of the things web developers strive for. It isn't always easy, however (which no, is not always a good excuse but is probably often used). This separation is essentially is what html, and even pdf, is supposed to be for.

I was more wondering what you meant by prerendering things, because even when one opens an html page in your browser which is on your local drive, the client is doing rendering (typesetting, and such). That is an extreme...so, it sounds like you were asking for a return to the pre-ajax internet, which you say here that it doesn't fit everything.

So I think we don't really disagree here, I could have misunderstood you?

On a related but no quite note, I've got a personal vendetta against sales pages that think buzzing and zipping jQuery is anywhere near to being a sensible idea.

<rantyrant> So from a personal standpoint, if I'm on your sales page, I want to know what you're offering, and why I should be intrested in what you are offering. I'd be fine with that being a plain html site with nothing but a few paragraphs and some bullet point lists. Maybe a table or two as well, and a link to somewhere I can give you money.

Now the last thing I need is for that part of the page to zoom in, wiggle around or do any other bogheaded things a designer with just enough jQuery to be dangerous could think of whilst they're being "creative" with it.

Now from a marketing perspective, this is incredibly stupid. A sales page is a machine for turning prospects into customers. There's a single design purpose if there is one. If someone come over and tried to paint flowers on the tip of my soldering iron, I would cut them. If someone decided to replace my PSU with a music box because the music box looks a lot better, I would not be pleased.

So why did it ever become a thing to do that to one of the most essential parts of your business? The part you point your advertising money at. The part that can very well be the difference between you going the way of the ipod or the way of the zune. Go nuts on your About page if you really have to keep your designer busy, have your faces zoom into it and spin and put the text into maquee tags and what have. But please, for the love of god, don't, don't ever do that to your sales page, because you're wasting my time and your money on that.

I blame marketing professionals with an IQ of 50 and designers with delusions of grandeur, CSS3 on the holster, jQuery in their hands, trigger happy on anything customer facing, spreading more $ signs through the site than the rap business.


When the percentage of users using IE6 was lower than a few percentile, we started to ignore those users and came to expect that the web would be somewhat broken for them. Likewise, the web is becoming somewhat broken for users that have JavaScript turned off.

The separation of back-end and front-end, via the exposure of APIs on the backend, has led us to a world where the front-end requires a bit more thought, on how to represent and transform the data to render the content and theme correctly.

Why? Modularisation & de-coupling = greater maintainability + rule of single-responsibility is better applied. This will become more and more the case with the widespread adoption of microservices.

In this specific case, we could argue against the few lines of JS that provide a nice effect upon entering the page, but you can't argue about de-coupling and breaking down the mammoth codebase.

I'm not arguing about decoupling, exposure of APIs, etc. But decoupling doesn't mean you have to push all work onto the client. Have a backend server and a frontend server, the latter consuming APIs of the former and rendering content. You have to write that rendering code anyway, and opting to put it all in the browser is saving yourself a small electricity bill by passing it onto consumers, multiplying it millionfold on the way.

(Once again, I'm writing about web pages, not web applications (and no, a blog is not a web application).)

Modularization, decoupling, "rule of single-responsibility", etc. are meant to produce simpler, more maintainable code and better, slicker software. But instead, they're taken out of context and abused. Modern web codebases are getting more and more complicated, not less. What people are doing today is not good engineering. It's the architecture astronautics' equivalent of Kerbal Space Program.

I agree entirely with your frustrations about today's web, but don't forget that yesterday's web was filled with ridiculous Flash-only navigation sites.

There seems to be a force that always pushes technology to crud up with bogus features until the brink of usability.

Probably caused by the fact that developers tend to develop on above-average machines, and therefore will always target slightly above-average requirements, dragging everything upwards.

Author of the original article here.

I chose this template for my blog because I liked the clean, simple layout. I've been meaning to remove some of the JS functionality and fix some styling stuff for a while now. I didn't realize the fade-in thing rendered the site completely unviewable without JS. I'll be fixing it soon.

Thank you kindly!

And again, the fade-in (although I don't like said effects personally) isn't the problem. The problem is that said fade-in is done via JS with no fallback. (Note that you can generally do fade-ins via CSS, IIRC, or just add a noscript tag that overrides it to full opacity)

I suspect that there is other functionality that I'm missing without JS (No sidebar? Buttons to the side that do nothing?), but it's kind of hard to tell.

The template you have picked now is harder to read than the previous. With all the JS complains, etc., I never had a problem--and pretty much liked--the previous (NexT) theme.

Harder to read in what respect? The new theme is actually the one I had planned to use all along, I was just too lazy to make the necessary modifications for code highlighting which is why I went with the other one.

I find a good way to unfuck those sites is to use something like uMatrix or Web Developer to disable CSS (in uMatrix's case it can't disable inline CSS and needs a page reload, but of course it does a ton of other things and this probably isn't an as important use-case). Also works well when text doesn't properly wrap when the browser window is narrow or when broken menus and bars obscure the content, etc.

I find it rather... ironic, shall I say, when CSS actively hurts the readability of a site.

This being one of those cases.

In what way? I find this website perfectly readable, and the font size and line height were appropriate enough.

I was speaking in the context of with JS disabled.

There's a JS-based fade-in on page load (or at least there was; the author mentioned that it'd be changed at some point) that doesn't bother to have a fallback. And as such there's a CSS rule that sets the post opacity to zero (making it unreadable).

There are many many many websites that don't work without JS that work if you disable both JS and CSS. This being one of them.

That being said, even other than that there are a number of things I don't like about the website. All personal preference, however. (Namely: 85-85-85 font on 255-255-255 background isn't the best, contrast-wise (I have a laptop and am often outside - readability trumps fashion for me); I don't like the trend of narrower and narrower line widths (It looks bad enough on my laptop, on a 2k screen 700px width would just look ridiculous); Ditto, I don't like the trend of higher and higher line heights - 1.2 is plenty, 1.5 is overkill, this site is 1.7; Continuing on the trend of "why do you put so little on the screen", I find the paragraph separation also overkill (1 line between paragraphs or equivalent is fine, and maybe two between sections)))

> I don't like the trend of narrower and narrower line widths (It looks bad enough on my laptop, on a 2k screen 700px width would just look ridiculous);

The line length (measure) on that page is about 60 ems. This is much longer than the optimal value for readability, which is 30 - 40 ems.

> Ditto, I don't like the trend of higher and higher line heights - 1.2 is plenty, 1.5 is overkill, this site is 1.7;

As the measure increases, leading (line height) must also increase for legibility, because it's harder to track longer lines with the eye when 'returning' to the start of the next line.

A leading of 1.7 ems doesn't seem unreasonable to me for such a long measure.

For me, type on the web is a lot better than it used to be: tiny type on ridiculously long lines. There are some holdouts though; Hacker News for example.

Again: I prefer longer lines and shorter line height. I am aware that I am in the minority on this front.

I just wish that HTML had a sane way to allow client-side preferences (Like, say, line height and width) to be expressed.

1.2 is too little, 1.5 is just right.


When I click a link and see no content, most often I close the tab and forget about it. Is it really that hard to display simple content without JS nowadays?

I saw this comment before reading the article completely, and thought it was about being expelled for using JS. I wouldn't be surprised if, to someone who knew only HTML, JS looked like "hacking".

oh come on.

It's 2015, not 1999. If you don't have javascript enabled, do you honestly expect to be able to read half of the internet?

For me, the utility of reading some random blog post that requires JS is far less than the potential consequences of enabling JS for every random blog post, given that most browser exploits require JS.

As such, when the only reason that a site requires JS to be readable is sloppy coding, yes, I call them out on it.

I enable JS only for things that require it for a good reason, and where I am reasonably sure that they won't be exploited. Doing a fancy fade-in on load (which, by the way, can easily be done accessibly) is not a good reason, and I am not reasonably sure that some random blog won't be exploited.

Even in 2015 I expect to be able to read text centric articles without javascript, on slow internet connections and or with low spec hardware. I don't have js disabled on my laptop, but i find it extremely annoying, that a large part of the “first world” internet is practically unusable if you don't own a current generation high end smart phone just because of unnecessary javascript shenanigans. I'm not referring to this site in particular, it works well after loading.

For privacy and security I do the same. Requiring javascript to just view a blog article is insane.


Please don't be personally abrasive in HN comments.


"modern website"

The text is in plain format in the source file. What does the JS add besides actually showing the text. Nothing.

In 1999 the Web had aligned text, fonts, and hyperlinks. In 2015 we need JS to do this!?


As I said: it's a trivial fix.

> There's something to be said for supporting accessibility, and I completely endorse that, but if you turn javascript off because you want to, don't complain when you can't read or use a modern website.

> The web uses javascript. Get used to it.

There's absolutely no reason to require the execution of potentially malicious code in order to read an article. Yes, web apps require JavaScript (and I don't use very many of them, for precisely that reason), but a web page, that is a resource fetched via HTTP (the hypertext transfer protocol) and encoded in HTML (hypertext markup language), simply doesn't and shouldn't.

The Internet is about communication; it's about the exchange of information.

Don't be myopic: accessibility standards do not require JS.

It's 2015, not 1999. If you don't have javascript enabled, do you honestly expect to be able to read half of the internet?


too bad I guess. /shrug

Too bad? The overwhelming majority of pages work without javascript.

> It's 2015, not 1999. If you don't have javascript enabled, do you honestly expect to be able to read half of the internet?

Yes, I expect to be able to read data without having to execute code.

And, FWIW, the Internet was pretty great in 1999. In many ways (but not all, of course) it was better than what we're stuck with now.

>It's 2015, not 1999

That gives you 16 years to learn how to make a simple, efficient, portable web page.

Disabling javascript makes Chromium eat less memory and makes pages load faster. Also all sort of annoying popups, effects, ads and social tracking buttons do not work without it while page content is usually readable. That's why I have JS enabled only for trusted websites like Youtube and disabled everywhere else. It just makes browsing the web more comfortable.

It's sad that Chromium doesn't have a way to disable CSS on a per-domain basis (and browser extensions are potential backdoors so I'm not going to install them).

> trusted websites like YouTube



Completely sidestepping the question of if the grandparent comment is correct, they are trying to imply that YouTube shouldn't be trusted.

I use NoScript, and allow only the scripts that I need to see what I want on sites. All trackers are blacklisted.

When I alt tabbed to the site there was a slow fade-in on the menu.

Sidestepping the question of if that actually adds anything to the article - they couldn't be bothered to do the fade-in correctly?

Isn't the effect identically achievable using the `transform` css property?

Why would anyone use JS in this case?

I've become addicted to the reader mode button in Firefox. Allowed me to totally ignore it and keep JS disabled. There are quite a few sites I don't even try to view in Chrome anymore, I just drop them into Firefox and use the reader button.

Whilst I totally agree with you in general about the javascript abuse issue and about websites vs webapps... Check out Firefox reader mode.

Reminds my of the first program I ever wrote, in 10th grade, painstakingly assembled one IBM card at a time, output onto green bar paper.

I changed the school motto from "Gateway High School, Hats Off to Thee" to "Gateway High School, Pants Down to Thee" surrounded by an ascii generated toilet.

The principal took away half my card deck (which would have taken weeks to reproduce), promising to return them only when my father signed my output.

My father reproduced my output by hand with his signature and a label: "Functional Specifications".

The principal returned my cards and never said another word.

Dude you must have gone to an elite high school

I wish the post had gone into more detail about how the author was caught. Did another student rat him out? Was there some forensic evidence he didn't consider? I did much worse at my high school, but I was never caught. Chalk it up to trustworthy friends, knowledge of computer forensics, and a little luck. Even if I had been caught, I doubt there would have been any real consequences. A suspension? It's going on my Permanent Record? Pfft, who cares?

If there's one piece of advice I can impart to students, it's this: Don't worry about getting into trouble. Unless you're committing an actual crime, the consequences are entirely forgettable. Even in the author's case, a clear and disproportionate overreaction, he's glad to have had the experience. So don't be cowed. Have fun.

I never really found out how they caught me. I suspect the guy in the states who started hosting the site after the initial shut-down told them my name when they contacted him, but who knows.

Haha, this brings back memories. Starting in Jr. High some friends and I ran a website which started out as just some crudely drawn absurd comics, but later added a section called "Anarchist Times" where we would vent mostly about school in a news-article-esq manner, but also often politics which looking back we knew nothing about. We would let anyone who wanted to write and At its height we had something like 14 kids regularly providing content. A reoccurring theme was to mock the principals son, who was in our grade and acted like a prince. To my knowledge no one ever got in trouble, we did however get blocked by the schools IT department whom I went to and protested until it was resolved.

There was also some hijynx when we tried to enter the website for class president and were told a website wasn't eligible, so we ran a write in campaign and plastered the school in posters, which the school promptly took down.

This was how I learned PHP and MySQL, which has made me my living the last 10 years!

After high school it fell largely into disuse, but I have paid for the domain every year since then. I've ported it from host to host, and it still lives on my Nginx digital ocean server. Even done a few small upgrades like making the audio of our band "The Medium" playable through the site (html5). Lol, it's at the poorly chosen http://oasisband.net if anyone was curious.

A few people have asked me to change their names which I have obliged. People say some stupid things in highschool, I know I did.

>A reoccurring theme was to mock the principals son, who was in our grade and acted like a prince.

Err, cyber bullying?

Meh, it was all in good fun. He was well aware of the site and gave us crap back. It was never mean spirited.

It's not just regular bullying... cue ignorant middle aged schoolteacher gasp chorus IT'S CYBER BULLYING!!! cyborg bursts through the wall and grabs nerd by the collar

Please don't do this here.

Public schools are often filled with petty tyrants. I'm lucky I was not more harmed by the sadist VP that ran my middle school.

> Public schools are often filled with petty tyrants.

If you think that's only public school you're deluding yourself. My secondary education was in private schools (in the US sense of the word) and I have no issue whatsoever seeing this scenario unroll there (I can even cast the parts).

Petty tyrants is what you get when petty people get access to any sort of power to lord over others, the exact nature of that power has little relevance. The concentration of petty tyrants is only a function of how easy it is to be granted power by the environment.

Maybe spacemanmatt didn't want to disparage institutions he had no experience with.

If I thought it was only public schools I would have said only public schools.

When you add artificial specificity, people assume you did so for a reason. Like if you say "women are [X descriptive property]" people will assume, rightfully, an implied "women, as opposed to men, are ..."

And of course when I say "when you add artificial specitivity," there is an implied "when you, or anyone else, adds artificial specitivity," totally contradicting the rule. This is English, not Aristotelian logic.

picky, picky

The difference with private schools is the parents have a lot more clout, since they're paying the bills.

Everything below is just my experience of it (anecdotal) and nothing more but

As far as I've seen parents have way more clout in public schools not only do they also pay the bills (via taxes) but public schools are part of the wider political systems (local politicians, local PTA equivalent) through which parents can reach the school and its administration with consequences.

While parents do pay the bill in private schools said schools tend to consider the right to pay them a privilege (for the parents/pupil) and act accordingly with respect to complaints. And parents paying the school directly tend to dislike "seeing their investment wasted".

That wasn't my experience at all. Where I grew up the teachers union controlled the school board. There really wasn't any counterbalance - the union was willing to finance candidates and nobody else was, so at most you would have one or two outsiders on a board comprised of people who put the bureaucracy before the parents. If your child was being treated badly you basically had no recourse unless enough other children were receiving the same treatment that it became a political issue. I can't remember a political issue that ever resulted in someone losing his job. Most people just don't care who's on the school board because they don't have kids in school.

The private schools were different because the parents knew each other. If something bad was happening word spread quickly, and parents who were paying thousands of dollars to provide their kids a better experience than public schools would yank them in a heartbeat if it looked like their money was wasted.

I think it is only a matter of time until MOOCs start eating into high school and even middle school-level education. Considering that many adults do not remember their high school experience fondly it will be a welcome alternative.

Snake oil salespeople jumped into moocs and have pushed their ascendancy back by years. They, presently-generally work great for a specific set of people, but don't yield sufficiently effective results for broad groups. Check out the research thus far. It's not as engaging and lacks the habit-forming that drives people to complete and compete for high marks in areas which aren't in alignment with the interests of the student.

For mature learners focusing on a topic of interest, great. For young learners build a general foundation, not so much. Now, it's a different conversation to cover curriculum, but that's not of MOOC's concern.

And, to wit, "adults not recollecting fond experiences" is double-edged. There are few other times in people's lives where they are essentially forced to rub shoulders with such a cross-section of their culture. These experiences do afford experience in cross-pollination which have positive benefits as much as they cause angst for participants. If parents are able to shield their kids from "others" a certain solipsism is a consequence. During formative years, there is a value to broad cultural experience that should be balanced with providing a safe and nurturing environment for the primary task of learning.

How would one go about designing a "how to learn mooc"? I'm serious.

If you think about it, a lot of why employers require college degrees is that it vets many life skills around being organized and having it together enough to earn a degree. Factor that out and you have MOOCs for the knowledge * the life skills. So the life skills themselves (such as meeting deadlines, working in groups, showing up on time regularly, learning how to learn, etc.) would have to become some hybrid of MOOC for study habits and a long-running college-experience LARP for the social interaction.

Good point on personal management being something employers value generically by someone completing a degree. Then again, I also know enough people who don't have all that together even with a degree.

If the question is more along the lines of how can a MOOC be part of the effective development of a desirable, hire-able person, then this is a big discussion.

There are all sorts of areas needing review. What's a cost-optimized way to get to a balanced personal portfolio that looks good on paper (resume)? Do resumes matter when performance can speak volumes (your github repo, your stack-exchange + hacker news profile, your start-up you did in high school?

Beyond that, are those things true indicators of appeal for hiring HR/recruiters, managers, peers during interviews?

Is all of this actually helpful in estimating the likelihood of positive performance? It's all very hazy. Each thing bodes well, in ways, for the total, but most people are flawed, to some degree, if measured by other people. Myers-Briggs type personality profiling is rough pigeon-holing, but there is an underlying truth somewhere that different people will just resonate or "dissonate" with each other. Maybe one of the most effective things a person can develop, beyond their fundamental knowledge and technical acumen, is the ability to empathize with other people; to be able to bridge those personality divides.

That brings me back to how there are few better environments, potentially, to get hands-on experience in navigating personality and culture difference than well-integrated schools.

I gotta say that EdX and Coursera are amazing - so many things to learn (often for free, but even the paid courses are relatively cheap). Stuff that is better than what our best schools/colleges/unis provide. I'm really grateful for what they're doing.

> Public schools are often filled with petty tyrants

This American Life devoted an entire episode to covering one of them...


That guy was a major tyrant, I mean he got decades in prison for his behavior, after all.

I must be about the same age as the author. This certainly brings back memories!

Oh for the days when we could just uncomplicatedly assume that anyone who knew anything about technology was also an instinctive anti-authoritarian, too.

I had a really similar experience when I was in high school, though I didn't get expelled. I made a website with photos of students (and their first names) giving the finger to the camera. People of course set this as the home page on library computers.

Unhappily, this was right after Columbine, so the administration was super paranoid and I was a little X-Files-obsessed black-trenchcoat-wearing weirdo... so I got a week's suspension.

What the hell is this guy doing as a coder - he should be running a media empire by now!

Everything he reported doing in high school is fantastic grassroots marketing and PR, and the content he created was great even back then. The teacher review is one of the best ideas, ever. He got everything down - content, distribution - even on slips of paper - the works.

This is exactly what you read in a media billionaire's bio: expelled from a prestigious high school for running an underground school newspaper, which printed students' uncensored teacher reviews. Oh yes.

More recently - even our HN title is clickbait! Yet his write-up is fantastic, 100% true and a great read! This guy knows how to press people's buttons.

And remember, he got free hosting because some guy thought his writing was so hilarious.

OP, get into media, stat.

Oh, and OP? You are hilarious. No rose-tinted glasses about it.

The author clearly writes:

"I was a pretty stereotypical “nerd” in high school. A debilitatingly shy and socially awkward computer club member who spent the vast majority of his time on the internet and listened exclusively to music by “Weird Al” Yankovic.".

could you elaborate on what you meant by that?

I can imagine several scenarios:

* Being very introverted he hates doing the "people stuff" that is necessary to run a media empire

* While he is good at PR, he loves computer programming more

* He did PR in a way that worked quite well at a high school, but doing it professionally requires different/additional skills (say, people skills)

* While he has all the necessary competencies to run a media empire in principle, our society has some strong expectations how such people have to be (say, more extroverted, less nerdy).

* He has a very anarchistic way to run PR, which succeeded in its own way at the high school (see article), but does not work in a professional environment, where a different style is excepted, where he's not good at.

well, I disagree. you have some good points, but my impression still leans toward my former post. zuck isn't the most social person either :)

anyway, until OP tries it we'll never know :) thanks for elaborating on your reasoning for me though.

I also had a similar story. It was also early 2000s and our high school had a calendar system for each student so they could look up in which room they would have what class. So a friend of mine and I have setup a proxy server which would modify rooms randomly, or randomly cancel classes. In order to "test out" our code, we ARP+DNS spoofed the the whole school network, so anyone visiting the site internally would end up on our site. Most students thought it was super fun that their classes were "cancelled" but obviously teachers didn't approve :-)

It was also a couple of months away from our graduation, and we did get into pretty big trouble, where we got suspended, and had to write a letter of apology to the principal so they would allow us to graduate.

I got expelled from several schools for the crime of knowing more about computers than the teachers, having an interest in computer security, and having a website. I was also used as a scapegoat by a network admin who couldn't fix his networking issues. After the first school, every other school assumed i was some kind of dangerous delinquent. It's part of what prompted me to drop out.

I remember when I was on the school newspaper my junior year (long time ago, before the internet) we all decided to put a fake ad on the back cover of the newspaper just for fun. It was a picture of a girl in a bikini with a headline about her boyfriend loves her because she knows Calculus (or something I forget exactly). Students of course thought it was hilarious, the school did not, and actually fired the journalism teacher (who was female). The next year we were basically locked down and could do nothing without prescreening. Thankfully my family moved a few weeks into the year and I didn't have to deal with it much.

Be sure to read the comment below about how another student got into similar trouble for messing up with the school's unsecured network, but was able to blackmail his way out. (The school had committed insurance fraud.)

Funny how people change their attitude the second they realise they do not have the upper hand after all.

my self and 4 of my friends got banned from using the computers at our school for ~5 weeks. We were the geeks in the computer class.

Showing my age, but the class had 12 Apple IIs and a networked Corvus hard drive connecting them all for storage. The system had accounts. Each student got some space on the shared hard drive to save their work and could not access each other's storage areas. The teacher of course could access everything and used it to read students' programs for grading.

One time the teacher had logged in and then stepped away to deal with something or a student. One of my friends took that opportunity to do a binary save of a large chunk of memory on that machine, the part where OS/state extra was. Turned out if you loaded that save back into memory you'd become the teacher. He gave us all copies of the file.

We never used it for any kind of mischief but a few days later the teacher noticed one of us doing something we shouldn't have been able to do. The teacher wrote our parents letters and said we were banned from using the computers till the end of the quarter.

IIRC only one set of parents were actually upset. I think the rest were actually kind of proud. It didn't affect our grades. We also liked the teacher. I just thought it was his way of appropriately punishing us to make it clear even though you can do something doesn't necessarily mean you should.

Like many commenters, this post brings back memories of similar experiences...

My experience with being silly on school computers was mainly in middle school (age 14) where friends and I would find more inventive ways to wreak havoc on the network. One of the favourite tricks was to hack open the command line (using accessibility options in XP) and remote shutdown other student's machines towards the end of a lesson before they'd saved their work... rather cruel to think back to it now. Another more daring guy sent a string of offensive messages to the principal on a LAN-chat type application that caused pop-ups on the receiver's screen. Come to think of it, there were so many 3rd-party administrative 'tools' that could be run trivially without root access on XP, such as drive-encryptors (rendering machines essentially useless) that it was easy to perform a whole manner of tricks.

Personally, I was only called into the deputy's office once, regarding a server-wide DOOM game installation. They confiscated my memory stick due to it holding the DOOM installation files. However, I somehow managed to get it back the next day without them checking it; thankfully they didn't, because there were so many 3rd-party executables and 'network guides' on there it would've been far worse. I can relate to the stress the author felt in that sense, because going home that night knowing they had my memory stick was one of the most gut-wrenching feelings of my teenage years.

Thankfully, all that was required of me was a meeting with a sysadmin trying to explain why I had filled an obscure part of the server's shared area with DOOM and COD sprites...

My highschool brought me in to a meeting with the principal and police officer when I wrote the name of my boyfriend on my ticket to senior prom. They "convinced" me that I could not go to prom with a guy. End of story.

I love how the police officer was deemed necessary

> Our plan was to surreptitiously allow our fellow students to grade and leave anonymous comments about their teachers, which we would collect and publish.

So... ratemyprofessors.com ?

IANAL, but near as I can tell, it's still up in the air if (in the US) students have a constitutional right to be free of official retribution for off-campus speech.

There is some evidence that if the speech is truly off-campus and if it doesn't cause a substantial disruption to school functions (see Tinker v. Des Moines), students are protected. Even the famous Supreme Court "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS" case was partially decided based on the speech being at a school-related event.

On the other hand, "disruption" is defined rather loosely sometimes, perhaps even lowering the bar to content that is viral, as long as it is also insulting. See, for instance, SJW v. Lee's Summit.

The initial reaction of the head of English was what surprised me the most in this article.

Shouldn't the English department be happy that their students have understood satire and 1984, without taking a personal grudge? Glad it worked out well.

I was surprised, too. I thought my reference to animal farm (some animals are more equal than others) was particularly clever.

It's possible that the head English teacher was the one who wrote the original Winston's Way, however, and may have taken it more personally as a result. I'm not sure though.

People are people. I worked for 20 years as a programmer and then, for a variety of reason, decided to move to Japan and teach English in a high school (originally for only one year, but loved it so much that I stayed for 5).

Several things surprised me. I think the biggest was that being a good teacher is much harder and requires more talent (and good judgement!!!) than programming. Sure, there is never a time as a teacher that you have to concentrate the way you do as a programmer. However, the decisions you have to make, under intense pressure, are very, very difficult. The consequences can also be severe if you get it wrong.

Students usually ("usually" is a vast understatement) do not see the big picture. Often they feel they are being picked on, or unfairly treated, when in actuality they are being lovingly treated by a teacher who is trying to help them.

Teachers take enormous abuse every day. It was a surprise for me to have students actually hate me (for years!!!) because I wouldn't let them rampage through the class, ruining things for other students. And like I said, you are doing your absolute best, but because the student can't differentiate between behaviour that works well for the group and behaviour that doesn't, they can resent your interference. And they convince all their friends to do so as well. One small discipline issue in a class can result in 10s of people literally hating you for years (or even for ever!)

And teachers make mistakes. The job is really, really, really difficult, so you are bound to make a ton of mistakes (especially when you first start out). I made a point of apologising for my mistakes (sometimes publicly), because I believe strongly that improvement starts with the ability to acknowledge failure and I wanted the students to gain the courage to admit failure. Some students respected this. Some students despised me for it.

One student in particular was so offended that I had given up the teacher-like air of infallibility that he completely lost all respect for me. I was stubborn and decided that the student was entitled to his opinions, so I took his (very unfair) criticism without comment. My colleagues were not so tolerant and took the student aside (for several hours) to explain the hurt he was causing. In the end, that discussion with the student helped him a lot and he did much better in school after that.

As a teacher, you are used to this kind of thing. It is an every day occurrence. Students irrationally (and occasionally rationally) flip between loving you and hating you. You make mistakes and have to just swallow the consequence that probably a group of students will hate you forever because of it. You just try to do better the next time (knowing that given the complexity of the decisions there is a good chance you are going to fuck it up again a few times before you get it right).

Occasionally students are cruel (whether knowingly or unknowingly). One of your jobs as a teacher is to help the student know that there are real people, with real feelings on the other end. It is a difficult lesson for both parties. If you fail to communicate this (as I did with that one student) they may go through life thinking that other people's feelings are not relevant to their own internal sense of justice. As a teacher you would be very irresponsible to allow that to happen.

It's a difficult job....

I'm back in the same area of Japan as I was when I was teaching. I'm doing contract programming now, though. One of the things that makes me very happy is meeting my former students on the street, or at a bar. They often call me over and chat with me. It reminds me why I loved that job.

I have read several stories like this from the US. It baffles me how many Americans seems to think their country is the bastion of freedom of speech. Having it in your constitution apparently doesn't mean shit.

You don't get these freedoms as a student. Or at least, the school is free to discipline you (or kick you out) however they see fit for basically whatever reason. You'll notice that there was no mention of police in the article. Our freedoms exist only in respect to the law.

I actually do think that the American civil liberties are quite strong. I can go protest in front of a government building with an ISIS flag with no (legal) repercussions if I want to.

The USA identifies ISIS/ISIL as a terrorist group [0]. There is a good chance that you will at-least be detained for questioning if you carry out said activity.

[0] - https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/07/06/remar...

"I can go protest in front of a government building with an ISIS flag with no (legal) repercussions if I want to."

Oh, there will be repercussions. You just won't know about them right away. Repercussion #1. You will be on a list. Have fun flying or leaving the country any time soon. You might eventually do it, but it won't be fun.

Immediate repercussions are almost preferable.

> You don't get these freedoms as a student.

Exactly. As soon as money enters the picture, all civil liberties tends to be thrown out. Yet, students should IMHO be encouraged to exercise their freedom of speech and assembly. How do you teach a society democracy if not through activities like this?

And this is reflected in the low voter turnout.

> I actually do think that the American civil liberties are quite strong. I can go protest in front of a government building with an ISIS flag with no (legal) repercussions if I want to.

Using this as an example of "strong" freedom is so sad. Really. That should be a basic requirement for any civilized society. Yet, as another poster mentioned, it's probably not even true.

This particular story takes place in Canada though.

The US stories plays out the same way, though.

In high school, I made a WScript that prompted user "Network timed out on line #6. Please re-enter password:" and would surreptitiously record it. I put this on a floppy, popped it in when someone in the library went to the printer, waited, came back and said, "sorry forgot my floppy; can i get it, excuse me". Didn't use it maliciously; usually would just modify the folder settings on their home drive on the network to have repeating images of Pokemon as a background image. I suppose this all sounds quite devious in writing.

That sucks that your creative high-school gag was met with such hostility by the administration. I'm three years older than you and did something similar in high-school. A friend and I made a MS Word clone from scratch of the formatted template the school used for report cards. Then we filled it up with teachers' comments and grades for us, but in total sarcasm. It was hilarious. The teachers found out about it, and... they had a good laugh also. No harm done. I guess it just depends on your environment.

In highschool I made a website (in like 50 lines of web.py, easily the best framework for small sites) with the twitter API that allowed students to post anonymously to an account I ran. It was before YikYak came out, and I'm not mature enough yet to not admit that it was a LOT of fun. ~400 followers (from a school of ~1100).

There was admittedly a lot of cyberbullying, but I got the feeling it was mostly friends making fun of friends and nothing was too nasty. It was more along the lines of teasing each other with embarrassing inside jokes than anything, and I made a strict rule that anyone would be banned if they used anyone's real name so none of this would ever come back and prevent someone from getting into school or getting a job.

It was like 4 months before graduation and my favorite teacher asked me to take it down, so obviously I did. Friends were upset with me, but ultimately we had our fun and I was happy to put it behind.

To relate this to the HN crowd, I have to say that I think YikYak sucks for an anonymous platform. YikYak is so dumb because it's college kids posting either unoriginal jokes or things about buildings on their campus.

The YikYak killer is the YikYak that is only somewhat anonymous. The YikYak where you interact with your friends anonymously, not anonymously with strangers nearby you and your city of 40k people.

I was taken to the principles office after they found out I had access to the camera systems of the schools.

I used it all the time to look for friends and check the lines for some bathrooms.

Ah, school. I was suspended three times for various failure to comply with authority, got straight As anyway. College, high-paying tech job, no problems :).

Awesome story!

In college we ran a website called "The No More Bzzz Bzzz Hun Hun" about the professors at the University of Geneva, in Switzerland. It was hosted in Sweden with X-Force (mrsaint.net), a pirate group. Similar idea, but you could vote for the most boring teachers (bzzz bzzz is the noise that a fly makes in a boring classroom and hun hun is something to do with "fly f---ing", a term in French that means saying things that are boring and useless). You can see its remnants in http://dblock.github.io/nomorebzzbzz. They never found us, but I was definitely scared about getting expelled from college at some point. Unfortunately I no longer have the poll data :(

http://dblock.github.io/nomorebzzbzz/faqs.html is priceless.

My messing around in high school was comparably minor. Our network ran Novell NetWare and I managed to discover that there was an unsecured Website that had a number of interest. Most of them were read-only with pretty boring info. However, there was also a messaging function that allowed you to send messages to any machine on the network that would appear as a popup. A couple friends and I messed around a little and I promptly forgot about it.

Turns out someone else had found out about this and decided to make use of the much more dangerous broadcast functionality. I can't remember the message that was sent, but I believe it involved some profanities against our principal. Of course they didn't think such a message could be tracked but it was. I think this person was only suspended for a few days, but the admin learned his lesson and secured things after that.

Your website now doesn't render text unless javascript is enabled. This is bad design. Stop it.

Really interesting how lack of anonymous hosting prevented the student's public critique of their teachers.

Related: http://voidnull.sdf.org/ (unafilliated)

I would hardly call it 'critique', it was just straight up gossip.

This reminds me of when i installed key-loggers on all the library computers at school :) Got a lot of interesting info during those weeks. Then my idiot-friend logs into a teachers email account using credentials we found and sends a recommendation to some university for himself... He got expelled, i explained exactly how the key loggers worked etc, and was tasked with 40hours of computer support as a "penance". I just skipped all my classes and completed the "penance" it in less then a week lol. Sometimes i miss those days :)

Forgot to mention that i was the unofficial network and system admin for the school since i was about 14. I had access to everything except an old 286 with green/black screen that they used for grades. I still wonder if they kept it on that system because of me. I know they upgraded it 1.5 years after i graduated.

Ah, young people. You can't equate students rating teachers to teachers grading students. Unless teachers are allowed to say things about students like: "She was a total bitch".

I am sure they do say such things in the teacher's lounge. The difference, of course, is that they are not doing it in public.


Could've been me if my HS administrators had a lick of savvy.

I have to say that it was perfetly written. I was hooked.

I really liked your article and it made me remember that no matter what someone (an authority figure in your case) says, there is always a way.

This is another good example of the complete and pervasive misunderstanding of what free speech is. Unfortunately law, ethics and morality cannot be reduced to a bumper sticker.

Churchill high school kids come from one of the richest school districts in the country practically defining the term 'privileged'. He undoubtedly could have found a more productive and healthier hobby.

This reminds me of the time I attempted to use an article from The Onion as part of current events assignment back in high school. Of course it just resulted in a fail and was nowhere near taken out of proportion as OPs stunt but taught me that certain people just can't appreciate humor.

You have to say these sort of anonymous reviews should be formalised and teachers questioned if their class think they are bad at their jobs. Or hungover in class.

Of course, I also think teachers should be the highest paid people in society (when I'm king), so take what I say with a pinch of salt.

Highest paid is fine, but accountability is equally important.

Wow schools stray so far from actual education. To punish kids with the threat of lack of education for airing their opinion on their own education experience is so strange to me. It seems more like some sort of totalitarian experiment than education.

I find it immensely entertaining that Rudis created his own federal reserve inside his school and immediately abused the monetary system to "buy all kinds of sweet stuff." You should have gone into politics @Rudism. You would fit right in.

Free speech is important but for some reason this story does not make me feel much sympathy for the author. I'm not sure why. Maybe because it seemed like the newsletter was posting borderline defamatory comments anonymously.

Yes. It's sad how so many here romanticize being a dick in high school. No, not all teachers are saints but I have some sympathy for them too. If this guy created a revenge porn site or a gossip site where other students were being harassed, he wouldn't have had quite as nice a reception here.

Says the person with the freedom to publicly disagree with the article behind an anonymous account on a website.

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