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How I Ruined Office Productivity with a Face-Replacing Slack Bot (zikes.me)
657 points by wjh_ on Feb 19, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 74 comments

All you ruined was the fun of photoshopping his face into things.

Let me draw a parallel with a story of my grandfather, whom I never knew: Apparently a great hobby of his used to be to collect sayings from people. Whenever he'd meet anyone, let it be new or already known, he'd ask them if they knew any new sayings. He wrote all of them down in his little book of sayings. My father started picking up the hobby and they'd get excited when they had learned a saying the other didn't know yet. They'd do this at diner, around the fire place, you name it.

Then came my grandfather's birthday and one of the 'gifts' he received was an encyclopedia of sayings, within it were almost all the sayings in existence.

Suffice to say the fun of collecting new sayings was gone, the interest in sayings was gone and a great hobby got ruined.

So all I can see is that you took something that was a culture thing in your team and you took a nice fat automated dump on it.

The tech is very cool nonetheless :)

Vonnegut's Bluebeard:

I think that could go back to the time when people had to live in small groups of relatives—maybe fifty or a hundred people at the most. And evolution or God or whatever arranged things genetically, to keep the little families going, to cheer them up, so that they could all have somebody to tell stories around the campfire at night, and somebody else to paint pictures on the walls of the caves, and somebody else who wasn't afraid of anything and so on.

That's what I think. And of course a scheme like that doesn't make sense anymore, because simply moderate giftedness has been made worthless by the printing press and radio and television and satellites and all that. A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but world's champions.

The entire planet can get along nicely now with maybe a dozen champion performers in each area of human giftedness. A moderately gifted person has to keep his or her gifts all bottled up until, in a manner of speaking, he or she gets drunk at a wedding and tap-dances on the coffee table like Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers. We have a name for him or her. We call him or her an "exhibitionist".

How do we reward such an exhibitionist? We say to him or her the next morning, "Wow! Were you ever drunk last night!"

before the internet, there was real capital in knowing jokes, and the same for unusual facts. you wanted to know who was in that movie? you called your friend who knew those things. now just IMDB it.

i suppose that is part of the reason for the appeal in the seemingly recent interest in bar trivia nights. i think we are still working out the kinks in the things we lost due to the internet.

I thought that pub quiz nights were becoming popular because people were getting so much useless information from IMDB et al, and needed somewhere to use it.

Personally, I think the big appeal of trivia nights is very much the same reason for the resurgence of board games, it's an in person social thing to do. I can go out with some friends, have fun, and I have met some other people and made new friends that way too.

I have tried to do a lot of the online video games (even with friends), but to me, it doesn't have nearly the appeal of having friends over and we all play a game together For me, the Nintendo 64 was one of the best consoles to do this.

I think this is also why we see continuous growth in the Vinyl industry. People like the internet, but they also want the option to go offline with whatever they buy and have something tangible.

Continuous growth since the bottom, yes, but from a value that was asymptotically close to $0 in the prior decade:


So you're saying social-bonding hacks/disruptions sometimes ruin the fun. What about other situations?

Will gatherings be less fun when Alexa becomes the life of the party, cracking jokes and proposing toasts? Will Siri join in the dinner conversation (parent, friend or good-listener mode, with wit, personality and intelligence sliders).

Will fans be turned off when self-driving cars start winning the Indy 500? How about when the Boston Dynamics Red Sox win the World Series?

> social-bonding hacks/disruptions

First, honest question: is there some secret lease that needs to be signed before posting on HN that requires that every real-world phenomenon be framed using 1337 h4x0r terminology? For some reason, it really rubs me the wrong way, people trying to shoebox anything and everything into a faux-technological perspective.

Also, the reason Vinyls still sell is that there is a sense of occassion about taking a record out of it's cover, carefully placing the needle on it, sitting back to focus on the music and nothing else. Same reason the physical joy of playing a piano will always have a place despite being able to get nearly the same sounds out of a computer. I'd hate to watch two self driving cars competing against each other to see which has the best code. That sounds tedious as all hell. I'm not sure about the others, but fuck yeah I categorically do NOT want an AI cracking jokes at a party.

Somethings are better when they are lower tech.

Smart phones kinda ruined chitchat a little bit for me. Someone states a fact and I have a strong urge to pull out my phone and check it out. Takes me out of the flow of conversation, so I have to make a major effort not to do it.

Some friends and I have a standing rule that Wikipedia, IMDB, and other such resources are banned while chatting at the pub. It used to be you could get a good 30-40 minutes of good natured argument out of two people disagreeing about a fact at the pub, whereas now there'll be a disagreement, then someone will pull out Wikipedia and immediately settle the matter. What are you meant to do for the next 35 minutes?

Berate whoever was wrong mercilessly, of course

Well the site is called Hacker News.

True, though neither word in that name is used to limit topic or language.

Vinyls also still exist because some people prefer analog sound. There might not be any substantive reason for this other than random bias.

Another oft-cited reason is because vinyls can't have a "brick-walled" dynamic range, as it often happens with new digital music thanks to the loudness war [1]. So audiophiles tend to favor it.

From the article:

As explained earlier, due to the physical limitations of vinyl, there are limits as to how loud you can press a record, and because vinyl is “for audiophiles” – there is less incentive for record companies to compromise the quality of vinyl releases. As a result, many vinyl records are mastered differently to the CD release with more dynamic range and at lower volumes.

[1]: http://www.soundmattersblog.com/vinyl-vs-cd-in-the-loudness-...

Is there any good reason why someone shouldn't simply listen to digital versions of the vinyl masters ? Lack of availability wouldn't make it impossible, in pre-internet days people ripped their CDs, and especially for vinyl that can literally wear out, it would make all sense to use a perfect recording even if you have bought the vinyls - at least so that you'd listen to that in your car instead of the CD.

>There might not be any substantive reason for this other than random bias

Vinyls do have a characteristic compressed warmth that subjectively a lot of people enjoy. The pops and crackles that come with vinyl are pleasing to many also.

Also people who dj. In fact, the most popular digital dj interface is serato which let's you use vinyl as an interface.

Oh absolutely. My DJ friends love using vinyl it seems

Did you just discover a new saying or phrase?

Yes to all of those questions. If people can't imaginatively project themselves into winning circumstances, then they become despondent because their escapist fantasies (which some people take seriously enough to make into real accomplishments) are now dashed forever.

This is something technologists and scientists largely don't get. People are always 'look at how many material comforts and and entertainment options you have now, are you not entertained?' Likewise scientists are often 'I spent years of my life and a small fortune learning to be expert about this obscure thing that you'll never be able to experience directly, isn't it awesome?' And people are entertained and they are awed - to an extent.

But they're also sad because the more the world is codified and quantified and parceled out for ownership. there are no new countries to discover, no more large exotic fauna to find, we're constantly reminded that religion and magic are illusory and that the economics of capitalism are inevitable, so there's nothing to look forward to in life beyond being ground up in the gears of the consumerist machine.

That's why there are so many movies about superheroes and rebellious people with psychic powers and so on. People need something to believe in other than the ultimately extremely boring prospect of working, raising a family, and retiring. They want 'adventure and excitement and really wild things.' This is why we now have an administration whose stated Big Idea is the construction of a giant wall* because at least that sounds like a project you could get absorbed in for its own sake, whereas preserving the earth for future generations feels nice but is never really done and so can't deliver any sense of adventure or accomplishment for more than a few people with the resources to get a PhD.

It's also why countries (soo to include the US) are apprehensive of war but develop tremendous enthusiasm for it once it's declared, because it provides a massive uncertainty that offers the possibility for drastic change, heroism, betrayal, defeat, victory and so on. I don't know how to articulate this better than by saying that capitalism is boring for most people, in the same way that if you are playing Monopoly there's a point at which you realize who's going to win and all the fun goes out of the game for everyone else in direct proportion to their declining odds of success.

* If you don't mind losing 2 hours on a bad movie. go watch Pacific Rim, a stupid science-fiction romp about giant robots vs giant aliens. It's stupid in the sense of not really caring about the science at all to the point o making jokes about how stupid it is - at one critical moment, someone 'solves' the problem of The System collapsing due to 3v1l h4x0rs but remembering that they have a nuclear-powered robot and exclaiming 'It's not digital! It's nuclear- it's analog!!'. The very badness of this movie makes it worth studying because the psychological symbolism is so thinly disguised. Almost all alien invasion movies are vehicles for conservative ideology, and it's not an accident that a political campaign for building a giant wall was anticipated by various movies involving the construction of giant walls.

I have to agree that our political contests are often escapist fantasies. We are encouraged, sometimes cynically, sometime idealistically, to project our hopes onto our chosen candidate. We are usually disappointed, particularly in the short term, although I do believe our choices do echo as the norms and values of the future.

That's why I'm voting for Siri over Alexa in 2024.

> That's why there are so many movies about superheroes and rebellious people with psychic powers and so on.

People have ALWAYS told stories of humans / Gods / Demigods with super powers. I agree that a lot of modern cinema / entertainment is VERY lame, but this is not a sign of the end times. I'm sure a few people rolled their eyes at stories of Zeus. People have told these stories for centuries.

pacific rim was a good movie (a stable 7 on a 4 year old movie). from what i can remember, most alien movies are liberal if not apolitical. the PHD, philosopher, or scientist somehow has keen insights on how to stop the alien juggernaut if it weren't for those stupid military people getting in the way. a bit ironic that you choose pacific rim and moved onto the topic of pro-walls, when that movie was very apposed to the idea of building a wall ;)

if you think capitalism is boring, try going back to pre-1990s russia. I bet you'd have an absolute ball! well they did have bears playing hockey, thats actually pretty exciting. but i digress, usually the quickest way to lose is to start comparing your odds because you'll quit before you begin. life is far too complex, dynamic, and full of resources to declare game over as if you were in a 4 sided monopoly game.

The more formulaic the movie, the more it becomes a vehicle for the novelty of its premise, precisely because the familiarity and shallowness of a formulaic film serve to focus your attention on the symbolism that distinguishes it from other formulaic movies. In this case it's destructive aliens, massive walls (albeit of limited effectiveness), heavy manufacturing, and nuclear apocalypse (for the bad guys). The actual plot of a movie is often a sideshow to the iconography the producers wish to put on display, and reflections of a film's ideological environment are often unintentional.

It's kinda like the way all zombie movies explore a basically similar political question about the relationship between small groups of resourceful individuals vs a hostile unthinking mob that threatens their survival.

Re capitalism, don't you think people have heard that argument already many times and that many of them have decided it's not going to work out that way? It's not lack of awareness that things are materially far better than under the alternatives, it's the disillusionment that sets in at the lack of a credible alternative. You're essentially arguing that people should forget the odds and play the game as if they didn't know them, which is absurd.

no, absurd is quitting.

> But they're also sad because the more the world is codified and quantified and parceled out for ownership. there are no new countries to discover, no more large exotic fauna to find

I think the problem isn't so much that we're running out of things to turn into consumables (that don't quickly bore us), but as you said, the parceling and abstraction of everything in the first place, that we turn things into consumables instead of ourselves into creators/gardeners of our lives and the world around us. I mean, there is still a lot of fauna to discover, and what's more, there's still a lot of living in peace with and appreciation of a lot of fauna we already know about to do. Heck, if we just let up a "little", new exciting things and interactions can occur. And one lifetime is not enough to learn about even just a small section of animals. It is possible for "humans knowing everything about lions", and me not ever even having seen a photo of one, if you know what I mean.

And then there are other people. Who could be fascinating mysteries, friends and enemies, instead of boring potential threats of resources. Of course, when the only way we relate to each other is "so what 'are' you?" (what are you mostly earning your money with at the moment), "do you know $reference, too?", "do you also dis/like $food/$music/$actor/$politician", having more billions of people with those knobs at various positions can not really help the boredom.

    "All human evil comes from a single cause, man's inability to sit still in a room."
--Blaise Pascal

There is something to this, on many levels. We can hardly look each other and ourselves in the face: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1J6TFHCevg <-- that's just the tip of the ice berg, as we all know. The price of our "functioning" is to not think of these things. But when you think of them, really think of them, I say there is hardly anything as "exciting" as the idea that this is still going on, it doesn't need to, and it shouldn't.

> preserving the earth for future generations feels nice but is never really done and so can't deliver any sense of adventure or accomplishment

I still firmly believe that we for the most part actually do want to be able to look into the mirror and the eyes of our children and be more than fools telling hysterical lies, in hiding for fear of someone calling them out. Just look at the mental gymnastics of people either rationalizing their complacency as being actually the decent thing to do, or as them having no choice. It's not because they want to defend their being "bad", it's because they really don't want to be bad, and even just getting up in the morning and living the day as themselves is a struggle/achievement for some.

But you know, both many great scientists and philosophers and psychologists and so on, sometimes just "authors", have written and talked about alienation for decades if not centuries. Sure, hindsight is 20/20, but what is even worse is the people who think a fat salary and the fact that they are alive, while those greats are dead, somehow means they don't have to understand any of it. Calling them "technologists" is just about right. To what I would call thinkers and scientists they're like someone who realizes they can catch rain in a barrel instead of just holding their head back and mouth open, to drink at will -- and shows up in a Poseidon costume the next day. That's how little they know about how little they know. End rant :)

    The danger of computers becoming like humans is not as great as the danger of humans becoming like computers.
-- Konrad Zuse

Are we standing on the shoulders of giants, climbing even; or sliding down their backs?

Yes to all of those?

But making a saying doesn't take any source material. I'd imagine there's a lot of fun in giving this bot an image and seeing where it puts the faces and which "poses" it opts to use. Have a look at the examples where there are heads put in random places and some more obvious positions left out. The hilarity is in the imperfections.

How could a book possibly capture "all the sayings in existence"? That's a lot of sayings.

so says you!

Put it in the book.

I have to use Slack at work, and it is fun.

But when I'm trying to focus on programming, it is like being in an all day long meeting without an agenda.

It can be very distracting. My analogy is that Slack removes all meetings and emails. You instead have 1000 micro meetings and 1000 micro emails that you have to context switch in and out of all day.

My only recourse on some days is to shut down the app on my desktop, and let my iPhone ping me if I get a DM or mention. @here messes it all up, but I've found a way to at-a-glance determine if it's directed to me without losing much concentration.

Has anyone else gotten a good way to merge things like slack/email with Pomodoro or other focus hacks?

> The @here mention lets you notify just the team members in a channel who are currently active in Slack. @here is best for sending announcements relevant to team members that are currently working or available.

If anyone else had to Google it.

This involves that your channels are setup sanely, but I just selectively mute/unmute on a per channel basis, and try to encourage not using @here among my coworkers. I have a textexpander macro for the `/dnd 30 minutes` for my Pomodoro.

Slack does have a "Snooze" and "Do Not Disturb" setting, in case you weren't aware -> https://get.slack.help/hc/en-us/articles/214908388-Do-Not-Di... .

This alone makes Slack far more useful for me than HipChat.

Thanks for the reminder - I often forget to use those (or properly). Any good ways you've found to automate pomo timer set/rest/reset through bots?

Some days, HN is like a Twitter rehash: https://twitter.com/jasonfried/status/700314634939543552?lan...

Same situation for me. I disable notifications for everything but direct messages.

Sometimes I'll exit it entirely for an hour or two, but I don't want to look like I'm unavailable to help teammates.

I successfully convinced my coworkers to run Slack like old IRC where you just dumped to one channel and there is no urgency to immediately reply, instead whenever we have the time can go through the history and respond. Cut down on meme spam and other interruptions. It also relaxes junior team members since they don't worry about interrupting somebody to ask questions. If it's something catastrophic we can just call each other.

I use emacs-slack and dunst to display the notifications for just long enough to read them. No flashing, no beeping, just a simple text box. And I don't reply or jump into a conversation unless it passes a threshold of importance, or I need to step away from work for a few minutes.

It's HipChat where I work, but the end effect is the same. I've gotten myself trained to ignore the HipChat noise to the point that now when someone does message me about something important, I sometimes miss it.

> like being in an all day long meeting without an agenda.

By far the best summary of the "slack effect" that I've come across.

can't you just close/mute it when you're trying to focus? i thought that was the whole point of slack

I'm so happy right now. There really are hackers(In it for the lulz) left in the world :')

About 15 years ago, I remember Zikes offering to let me borrow a web development book he had finished reading.

I turned down the offer, thinking I had little use for such things.

Fast forward 10 years and I end up going back to school for programming and slapping myself for not getting into it back then.

Can definitely see the difference that experience makes.

Oh wow, 15 years ago? Did we go to school together?

Yeah, I'll send you an email and we can catch up.

Excellent. This shows simplicity, good research, capable coding, and creativity. Even the write up shows an appropriate level of detail.

+1 would hire

"I turned the face manipulation code into a runnable binary, which I intended to wrap with a Slack bot."

So you turned your Python program into a single, statically linked executable? May I ask how you did that?

> So you turned your Python program into a single, statically linked executable? May I ask how you did that?

I think the author's application was written in Go which as I understand it does static linking by default.

However, creating standalone executables from python is called freezing and can be done using various tools[0].

0: http://docs.python-guide.org/en/latest/shipping/freezing/

This kind of stuff fits the Hacker News bill perfectly!

Side point, but what is going on with the scrolling on that page? Anybody else find it caused performance issues?

That aside, great article!

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the article.

Sorry about the scroll problems, I really hate scrolljacking so I don't have any JS for that on there, but I imagine that fixed background image could be causing some problems. Would you mind sharing your OS/browser info so I can investigate?

I can confirm that it is at least something to do with the fixed background on #main-wrapper as removing it solves the problem here. [1]

[1] http://www.whatsmybrowser.org/b/O5BEERJ

No worries, Windows 10 Professional, Chrome 56, no issues on Edge/Firefox, maybe it's a weird bug with this particular issue Chrome?

Got a nonstandard resolution maybe?


It's one of the social norms on HackerNews that "low-value" comments like "Love it!" and "THIS IS AMAZING" are discouraged. Although such comments are polite to the poster, they add nothing but noise for all the other readers of the thread.

Instead, it seems to be preferred that you simply upvote the post without replying.

I don't know why you foto downvoted. I had exactly the same thought!

Now i'm going to make a telegram bot of this!

Saving the world.

Cool idea. Anyway, I am glad that "Scientists have detected a major change to the Earth’s oceans" is higher on the front page, at least right now.

I don't understand this sentiment. And, I am surprised to see it on HN this often too. It's saying - I care about X, till problems with X are all solved, any effort on anything else is snarked upon with judgement of wasting effort.

It used to be only on threads discussing an accomplishment of a space agency of a poorer country, and a popular sentiment was if a fraction of their GDP should be spent on science and technology till poverty is eradicated. Same thing here, why one person should spend time on a personal project until we resolve climate change. I understand prioritizing bigger problems with more time, effort and money. But, ridiculing others for spending time and effort on making/discussing something you think is not the most important is something else.

I don't see where I ridicule anyone with my comment.

It's a backhanded compliment that implies that silly hacks aren't worthwhile.

Do you think that a silly hack is only worthwhile if it appears on the front page of HN?

Well, it's #1 right now and the ocean one is #18!

Basic formula is that "controversial" posts get a nudge downward in placement. Climate change posts attract trolls that get downvoted and flagged more frequently that normal stories, and AGW deniers downvote the story and downvote/flag many comments. Has the net effect of pushing those stories off the front page quickly.

That said, credit where credit isdue: this is a nice hack from the submitter. Facefinder looks fun.

"Denier" is an offensive term that simplifies the arguments. We don't call the other side "agreeers." Science always has more than one viewpoint.

Don't upvote this!

Yes, please don't, just expressed a personal feeling and not related to the topic at hand.

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