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A few nights ago, over a liberal quantity of beers, my friends and I came up with our latest nonsensical conspiracy theory. Google was started by some of a group of time travelers who were sent back in time from an apocalyptic future bringing advanced technology with them. They would use just enough of the tech to make vast sums of money, then use that money to invest in the tech that destroyed their future world.

By investing in tech they already know would work, they would vacuum up all the resources and talent around that technology so that nobody else would bother (because who could come in cold and compete against a titan like google?) and then some time later kill all of the projects very publicly in order to make us all think that these technologies were nonviable.

Except instead with every piece of world changing technology they killed, they were buying their future Earths freedom from the apocalypse they were fleeing from, even if that future they were creating destroyed their own and left humanity in a just post-agrarian stage of development.

This group has been infiltrating our timeline for decades, first with blimps, then Atari, then Xerox, now Google.

Their motto is "save us before we destroy us"

I think my conspiracy theory is more likely to be true:

>I've speculated for a long time that basically anything interesting Google says they're doing is essentially meant to be a jobs program to keep employees from leaving, PR for external stakeholders like investors, media, being attractive to potential employees, etc. They seem to have lots of formal ways to keep employees from leaving/close as well including investments off of Google's balance sheet (not GV or Google Capital) into ex-employee startups and just flat out paying people not to leave (which is the arrangement I'm guessing that Matt Cutts is under). It all seems very Microsoft of old.


Matt Cutts now works for Defense Digital Service....

While on leave from Google. He's one of many Google employees working directly with our government.

As Peter Thiel put it, Google has more power in the Obama administration than Exxon had under Bush.

Question the source.

I just liked his comparison. We have plenty of better sources than Peter Thiel though.

Then please cite the better ones...

Tornadoboy's source is good, but primarily focuses on the amount of heavy communication between Google and government, so I'd prefer to add this source specifically, on the strong revolving door effect:


Campaign for Accountability's page, above, has an interactive chart where you can see which employees, by name, moved between Google and the government during Obama's term, and what positions they held on each side. Beyond the "Read more" link is also a significant amount of specific detail about some of the more notable transitions.

I wonder what terrible things were averted by killing off Google Reader.

On a sidenote, what exactly did Google Reader do that was so great? I'm not knocking it, it's a real question.

I ask because a lot of things Google has killed is hard for us to replace. Eg, i don't want to try and build Wave, or continue with Apache Wave, etc. It's a big, complex problem. But a personal content aggregator like what i thought Google Reader was seems quite easy to implement.

In other words, why haven't we (public or startups) built the core functionality of Google Reader that so many appear to love? It seems like an eager and easy to reach market. What am i missing?

My favorite feature of reader was:

You go and add a feed, and then you don't just get the latest 20 posts. Instead you get all the posts since the beginning of the feed, since google saw it then during a crawl and decided to watch it ever since.

That is something that is a fair bit harder to provide by any competitors


> 10 April 2007

> As feeds move beyond merely announcing new content on somebody's blog and into organizing data, you can easily find situations where you don't want your feed to include all of the available data. This tip shows you how to create an Atom feed that lets users page through it using "next" and "previous" links or button.


> Creating this functionality in PHP doesn't require any special skills or modules, just a methodical approach.

Nuff said?

edit: why downvote? It'd be trivial for most site to make ALL past items available, without having to offer one huge feed with all those items in it, and any reader would be free to read all those items when subscribing to a feed. There, done.

Couldn't you (gently) use the wayback machine for this? Or just start crawling feeds with something like scrapy? There isn't enough RSS, I feel, to make this prohibitive.

Feedly does this, it's what I have used after Reader was shut down.

It's a cloud-based RSS and ATOM reader that frequently updates, has unlimited storage duration, is cloud-based, and free. The UI is also a plus - GMail-style, you can read a thread, read by time, see all unread fairly easily.

In the 5 years or so since Google Reader's demise I'm yet to come across a decent feed aggregator. I'm currently using Feedly but it sucks compared to GR.

I use Feedly too, but the lack of other decent feed readers or aggregators suggests that there really isn't a user demand for RSS. OTOH, many sites and news organizations post to Twitter as a rudimentary RSS feed. Google probably could have adapted Reader into the social platform they wanted.

RSS (in the sense of using a reader to track a personally curated set of RSS feeds) is pretty niche these days. One audience is journalists who really do want to discover news from a variety of sources faster than someone else does.

Most people are fine though with just using social. If it's noteworthy enough they figure they'll learn about it soon enough. Personally, I do have Feedly configured but I confess I don't use it systematically any longer.

I'm still a bit puzzled about Google shooting Reader. Keeping it would have been a tiny effort and it doesn't seem much removed from a mission of selling ads (excuse me, organizing information). But, then, Google has largely walked back/de-emphasized pretty much all their information curation projects other than straight search.

You want theoldreader.com. Very similar to GR without the social features.

I use it to, it's nice and clear.

They nearly collapsed under the load a few years back when Google cut GR, nearly shutting down. But now it's solid, and they seems to have got financial backing.

There are few limitations (100 feeds max) with a free account, but for me, it's enough.

I've been using Digg Reader. I have never used Digg for anything (is it more than a news aggregator), but the Reader replacement is really good.

I use NewsBlur. It also isn't as good as GR, but it gets me by.

Try inoreader.com. I think it came closest to what GR was.

Try bazqux.com

There are already quite a few replacements around that are better in my opinion (like inoreader), but people seem to like complaining about Reader as if Google killed off their firstborn for some reason.

Plain decentral RSS is being used and has been all the time since like 1999-2001.

If you're missing a big-time "disruptive" announcement on HN, let's run a story about RSS so that it becomes a thing again in people's minds. We can pepper it up with JSON support and call it RSS 3.0 (but please let's not go down the Atom rabbit hole).

I'm one of the people who really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the hassle-free nature of it, and it basically did what I expected to in a decent interface.

Most other solutions that I've found make some assumptions about what I'll be reading or how I'll read it and try to force me into that, claiming it's for my own benefit.

In the end, I ended up self-hosting "Selfoss". I have to keep it up to date and occasionally fix a bug when it won't read a stream properly, but it basically does what I want otherwise.

check out TheOldReader.com its just like the old Google Reader :)

Google Reader was Gmail for blog feeds.

I used to follow the feeds of over 100 blogs. I know follow about a dozen or so and I have to click bookmarks or manual enter URLs to read them.

Why not simply run an RSS reader application?

Application. It has to be a cloud service, so you have access to it from home, from work, from transit on the phone.

1. Social aspect of it - I would find "human filters" that shared very high quality content on different topics - art, programming, medicine, architecture - and that was very transparent for them - they just kept interesting articles for themselves, but I also had access to them. 2. Search 3. Archives

As of now I think HN/reddit/twitter serve the same purpose (poorly - twitter more and more tailored for person with thousands of subscriptions and not for someone who's carefully organizes his "human filter" collection; and none of services provides subscription for content - hell, I have dilbert as email subscription now)

It was a one-stop shop that had all your content in an easy to read format sans ads and tracking. I think Google realized that if everyone went with Reader their cash cows of ads and tracking would disappear, so they killed it.

Its probably trivial to replicate, but RSS/Atom wasn't very popular to begin with and this move just motivated others to give up on it. Webmasters didn't want to have that weird RSS icon that no one understood and designers probably didn't like that their hard would went away with RSS.

On the flip-side ad blockers and things like Firefox's and Safari's reader mode help a lot. I think its not a big coincidence Chrome is late to the reader mode game either. Google wants you to load that ad tracking .js file because that's their bread and butter.

I disagree that RSS wasn't/isn't popular. However, RSS's use case intersects with that of news aggregators such as HN which are even more popular.

The well-informed masses. ;) Can you believe that people think Twitter is a real replacement for aggregating news? RIP in peace, Google Reader.

That would not qualify as one of the products because Google never bought it. They created it out of fun, and it was used by the masses.

The lack of business model had it floating on air. And the because it never went mainstream it removed all excitement from the product.

Otherwise, it could have had great vision ... Google Media, Inc., similar to the company that owns Digg.

Sounds vaguely like the plot to the show Continuum.

Or, more recently, Netflix's Travelers.

Continuum was a good show. I particularly liked the whole "Corporate Congress" motif - seems eerily realistic these days.

Or sort of Fringe. (best series evah) One day we'll go off to find Walter.

watch travelers last week. Decent show. I also thought it sounded a lot like travelers.

Travellers, as well as Continuum, makes me a bit nostalgic for the old show Time Trax.

Well the obvious time paradox would prevent them from taking this approach. By destroying their own future they would never come back to save it.

There must be another explanation.

Just assume that every jump back in time is also a jump into a parallel universe and you don't have a paradox.

Then what would it help to do such a thing?

Experience is subjective. If you teleport to another location you're not the same person you were before you left, you're a similar set of molecules reconstructed in the same fashion. In all actuality, "you" died and another "you" took your place. But to you and everyone around you, it seems like nothing has changed, so you carry on with your life.

Likewise, if you travel back in time and change the future, you're not helping the people in the future you left, you're helping the people in the past avoid that future. But to you, it looks the same. It looks just like the past you're familiar with, and it develops into some semblance of the future you were expecting. So for all intents and purposes, from a subjective viewpoint you're avoiding the paradox and helping your ancestors. It doesn't matter if the people you left are still suffering, subjectively they don't exist anymore.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBkBS4O3yvY - 1 minute time machine.

Sounds like what you are saying.

Incredibly relevant. Also entertaining. Thanks.

This is the exact explanation used in the anime Steins;Gate. Okabe (the main character) is capable of 'moving timelines' which is treated as jumping between different parallel worlds.

He leaves his friends behind in a world where WW3 breaks out over world powers fighting over research for a working time machine. In a way, he is leaving his friends to die in a post-apocalyptic WW3...but that doesn't matter because he's saving them in his 'current' timeline. The other worlds, from his perspective, "don't exist" anymore.

>In all actuality, "you" died and another "you" took your place. But to you and everyone around you, it seems like nothing has changed, so you carry on with your life.

In the show they call this power "Reading Steiner" when he "replaces himself" in a new timeline. Since he is capable of remembering what happened in the other timelines (nobody else does - as from their perspective these other timelines never existed).

Time travel is fun to think about. :P

In the Star Trek universe, where the matter is converted to information, transmitted and then converted to matter, then your statement may be true. But, in other universes where the matter is actually translated in a dimension then it will not be. Also, we don't actually know what "you" is and whether it would be included in the Star Trek mechanism.

My point really, is that there are varying fictional universes but in ours, we don't currently have a way to do teleportation. So, as you say, experience is subjective.

Ah I forget that I'm back in the timeline that doesn't have physical teleportation... I have to start keeping notes on which universe has what.

you're in that superset of worldlines that require an Ellis Drainhole held open with a counter-rotating exotic matter "collar".

If we accept physicalism i.e. that the world just consists of the physical, then the two methods should be identical except for a possible time delay.

If you stay in the "new" past, you can just enjoy the fruits of your labor. If you jump back to the future by conventional means, like hibernation/cryogenic sleep, you will wake up in the same changed universe, including altered versions of the loved ones you left behind (if you are lucky [or unlucky if they change in a bad way]).

If you jump back into the old universe, nothing will have changed – so that is pretty much the only place you should stay away from.

There won't be a future where people knowingly will have experienced the results of your heroic deeds, which might be sad to some, but you can just tell/try to convince them of what good you did. Maybe take some videos or other proof.

I dunno... maybe saving a whole worlds worth of lives...

They must be maintaining some form of communication with their future and results are being reported back to our time. So there must have been some sort of flying drone rebellion forming so they had to be stopped from existing.

There are countless workarounds for that explored in fiction, pick any you like.

qntm on time travel models: https://qntm.org/models

If you assume the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, no paradox would be created. Merely time-travelling at all forks off a brand new universe with it's own future from that point on.

That said, you do lose the drama surrounding the possibility of "destroying the future" via making gross (killing Hitler) or subtle ("butterfly effect") changes, as none of the consequences ever affect the universe you travelled from (other than the fact that you've left, never to return).

The most common out here is that sending something back in time breaks causal links for the thing you send.

Google Wave and Google Buzz - were they dangerous products or merely decoys?

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