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Ask HN: What are some 'must watch' talks?
267 points by CSMastermind on Feb 5, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 77 comments

If you like the business of running software companies, these are probably my two favorite business-oriented talks ever:

Long Slow SaaS Ramp of Death (Gail Goodman): http://businessofsoftware.org/2013/02/gail-goodman-constant-...

Wide-ranging; covers why SaaS companies are brutally difficult to build and how ConstantContact very gradually achieved escape velocity while on the titular long slow SaaS ramp of death and eventually got to the fabled hockeystick growth land.

Designing the Ideal Bootstrapped [Software] Business (Jason Cohen): https://vimeo.com/74338272 Jason presents a framework for how to find a product which will get you to $10k in monthly recurring revenue.

(If you liked these two talks and just want More Like That Please go to the Microconf video page and queue up every talk by Rob Walling, preferably in order.)

And, on an entirely different subject, Developers, Entrepreneurs, and Depression (Greg Baugues): http://businessofsoftware.org/2013/11/developers-entrepreneu...

"Don't Talk to the Police" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-7o9xYp7eE This talk was an eye-opener for me and an indictment of the U.S. "justice" system. You can't presume you'll be treated fairly, considered not a suspect, etc.

And, as mentioned by keyanp, Randy Pausch's "Last Lecture". Vita brevis. Carpe diem.

Very surprised it hasn't already been mentioned, but Randy Pausch's "Last Lecture" is fantastic (although not technical):


Just rewatched this. I was thinking "I remember this having a major effect on me emotionally last time, why isn't it this time?", then I got to the end, and it reminded me. Oh boy. Still choked up.

thanks a lot for sharing this, really inspiring!

Such an epic lecture this!

Rich Hickey's talk on simplicity is a must watch.


And one of the most useful talks of all time for building organizations is by Ed Catmull (of Pixar)


I saw Simple Made Easy live, in person, in Saint Louis (where I live), back in Fall 2011. I remember the experience very well ~ forever changed the trajectory of my personal and professional efforts at software development.

I was so under-exposed to non C-family languages at the time that I asked the guy next to met whether the code used to demo the ideas "was Haskell or something else?" I felt embarrassed at the shocked look on his face; my grand exploration of Clojure (and other functional languages too!) began shortly thereafter. The previous evening, I'd accidentally had dinner with Dr. Gerald Sussman... what a conference, what an experience was Strange Loop 2011!

[+] https://thestrangeloop.com/2011/sessions.html

The Front End Architecture Revolution by David Nolen is one of my all-time favorites, and was probably the biggest single influence on the trajectory of my own development career: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/61483785

In a similar vein like the first one, maybe, but with the addition of some physicist's humor if you are in into that kind of thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKXe3HUG2l4

I'm a particular fan of Bret Victor's "The Future of Programming". [1] It's a great look at the amazing number of ideas that the CS world has come up with and how we might be able to improve the act of building programs, even from "old" ideas.

[1] https://vimeo.com/71278954

One of my all-time favorites as well. Pretty much any of his talks are legendary.

That was an absolute gem of a talk. Thank you so much for posting this.

Absolutely loved this! Thanks for posting.

Mark Fisher's talk about how capitalism makes it seem like the only game in town [0]

David Pearce on abolishing suffering [1]

Jurgen Schmidhuber "Universal AI and a formal theory of fun" [2]

Slavoj Žižek on "signs from the future" - also ties into [0] a bit because at one point he mentions how excess capital was found to actually reduce the efficiency of certain creative tasks [3]

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deZgzw0YHQI

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VCb9sk6CTc

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnbZzcruGu0

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nb-wbaSUMAY

Žižek on green consumerism is quite good as well, I find myself constantly thinking of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpAMbpQ8J7g.

Yes! I agree with him a lot that environmentalists today are too conservative - in the insistence that preternatural human effects on the environment can only be disturbing or jeopardize ecosystems. But, like Žižek likes to say: what if the opposite were true? What if we should instead aim for more radical reinterpretations of our relationship with nature, and to instead make ourselves more artificial, while also better stewards of nature - like Elon Musk's vision of humans as being a multiplanetary civilization, or getting people to realize that junk is not a disease, but a symptom of a system that enables mass rearranging of junk-substrate.

Is the Schmidhuber talk about his idea that benevolence and "fun" reduces to maximizing compression of sensory experience? I really wish he would stop peddling that.

The Birth & Death of JavaScript.

A talk by Gary Bernhardt.


His other talks are great too! My favourite is "A Whole New World". https://www.destroyallsoftware.com/talks

The man is funny :)

Guy Steele's talk, "Growing A Language", is very good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ahvzDzKdB0

Yes, essential viewing!

Mike Monteiro on the importance of a contract: "Fuck you, pay me."


Thank you for this. I am changing these three things:

1. Contract document signed first before any work is done (even free work)

2. Never appeal to emotions

3. Kill Phase clause

Great advice.

Got him to admit to me that he exaggerates for "effect" in the talk.

Personally, I see "exaggerating for effect" as dishonest. Manipulating facts in order to generate a response is manipulation.

It's a pep talk. Nothing wrong with that, IMO.

Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action - start with Why


Sir Ken Robinson's talk on Do schools kill creativity? Its worth watching.


I didn't like the conclusion that switching to a school was a solution that supports a specific kind of creative activities, because the example was not convinving. A Dance Carreer is famous for competition so much so it was featured as a storyline on the Simpsons. OTOH the school might just have been exceptional, but then it proofs nothing. Edit: Still, I like that the problem is interesting enough for the talk to become prominent.

While I agree with all of the above, I think the talk was masterfully crafted for success. I doubt it would've been nearly as successful without the mention of a mega celebrity or if it recommended unschooling.

Honestly I'd rather have 5+ million people or whatever the view count get exposed to thinking which puts school structure into question than have a talk providing better solutions.

Aaand... 2 hours gone watching all Ken Robinson's talks. Brilliant stuff!

Yes, I forgot about this one but it's a TED Talks classic.

"The Mess We're In" by Joe Armstrong: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKXe3HUG2l4

"Normal Considered Harmful" by Alan Kay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvmTSpJU-Xc

John Cleese's talk on creativity is both funny and inspirational, and it's become a key part of how I approach creative projects and how I encourage people to explore their own creativity:


Steve Jobs commencement speech


Mike Acton's Data-oriented Design is definitely a must. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rX0ItVEVjHc

"Black History": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUtAxUQjwB4 -

Probably the best, most eye opening talk on any topic, but especially on the roots of institutionalised racism, and perhaps the cause of a lot of issues today.

It is by "Akala", an English rapper, poet, and journalist at the Oxford Union and is is a shining example that you can gain a great amount of knowledge, if you are only willing to.

If you liked the Netflix documentary "13th" you will like this.

Richard Hamming: You and Your Research https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1zDuOPkMSw

(All the recordings from "Intro to The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn" are amazing)


Alan Kay: "OOPSLA 1997 - The computer revolution hasnt happened yet"


and +1 to anything by bret victor

Noam Chomsky on Power and Ideology and the Myth of American Exceptionalism https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_X5czMVKT8

Transcript: http://www.democracynow.org/2015/9/22/noam_chomsky_on_the_my...

Hans Rosling: The best stats you've ever seen.


David Heinemeier Hansson at Startup School 08 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CDXJ6bMkMY

"7 minutes, 26 seconds, and the fundamental theorem of Agile Software Development", by JB Rainsberger. It's short and straight to the point. https://vimeo.com/79106557

Linus Torvalds on git https://youtu.be/4XpnKHJAok8

May be this question's answers help you - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12637239

Amazing - thank you.

What Makes Us Uniquely Human? by Erwin McManus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BdgVfhciSw

Richards Cooks How complex systems fail from velocity a couple of years ago https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2S0k12uZR14

and the paper that's the basis for it is also nice to have handy http://web.mit.edu/2.75/resources/random/How%20Complex%20Sys...

Dan Ariely: "Predictabily Irrational" https://youtu.be/VZv--sm9XXU

This changed my perception of stress and pressure, and then, in consequence, my life as a dev.


It's worth listening to if you're in a high pressure environment, or struggle with stress.

Good one

Ben Orenstein - Refactoring from Good to Great (Aloha Ruby Conf 2012)


This really changes the way you look into your OOP code. Please watch even if you're not a Ruby programmer.

Neil Gaiman's commencement speech at The University of Arts. Intended for arts students, but it's by far the most inspirational speech I've ever seen


These are interesting sources of inspiration from which I learned a lot about marketing:

- Building the minimum Badass User (make your users awesome) by Kathy Sierra: https://vimeo.com/54469442

- Start with the Why? by Simon Sinek (then How? and finally What?): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPYeCltXpxw

- Good design doesn't sell itself by Mike Monteiro: https://vimeo.com/121082134

Grit: the power of passion and perseverance | Angela Lee Duckworth


The computer revolution hasn't happened yet by Alan Kay https://youtu.be/oKg1hTOQXoY

J.B. Rainsberger — Integrated Tests Are a Scam: https://vimeo.com/80533536

The call to learn by Clifford Stoll https://youtu.be/Gj8IA6xOpSk

Hacker Fundamentals and Cutting Through Abstraction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSuq3Ry9PLQ

Not an earth shattering talk or anything (and the title isn't super accurate) but the idea and message that is being presented is something I think people in our world need to be reminded of.

Jim Carey's 2014 commencement speech at the MUM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V80-gPkpH6M

Jim reveals his depth in this talk. Here's one of the gems you'll hear:

"You can fail at what you don't want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love"

Dan Pallotta's Ted Talk on charity - "The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong"


Wildly changed my worldview with regard to charities.

Developing Expertise: Herding Racehorses, Racing Sheep :: https://www.infoq.com/presentations/Developing-Expertise-Dav...

Talk by Dave Thomas which gives a interesting look at software engineering expertise.

Robert Sapolsky on depression.

Fantastic talk on both the biological-neurological and the psychological side.

Supplementary question: which of those "talks worth watching" have a transcript?

Sandy Metz has a few great talks on OO programming.

I highly recommend Nothing is Something but all are great.


Probably his last lecture at MIT http://mashable.com/2013/07/14/amar-bose-dead/

David Heinemeier Hansson - How reliance on luck can undermine productivity? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ISOSyr_dMU

David Heinemeier Hansson - How to create a profitable startup company? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CDXJ6bMkMY

Nell Shamrell's talk on regex https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TMV3LrNG6-w

You know you want to know how it works ;)

This is what happens when you reply to spam email by James Veitch https://youtu.be/_QdPW8JrYzQ

Conal Elliott on denotational design: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmKYiUOEo2A

Computer Architecture Essentials by James Reinders https://youtu.be/yOa0WpMwzWk

The mind behind Linux | Linus Torvalds


I didn't expect to like it. But despite his slight nervousness, his simplicity and his brutal honesty and self-criticism resonated well with me.

Really good, no-nonsense talk. Good watch!

Does anyone have a link to the talk something along the lines of ~'the power of stupid ideas' -- the beginning was about this shop that petitioned the London bus authority to move the bus stop closer to this shop to create a virtual wall. I only saw half of it and I'd like to see the other half.

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