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Why we made this site (ycombinator.com)
166 points by pg on Feb 20, 2007 | hide | past | favorite | 58 comments



Paul, can we play with arc, go on, please, you know you want us to really, go on mate, have a heart. <smile/>


Steve Yegge hinted about the next big language. I think he meant javascript. Arc has some serious competition. http://steve-yegge.blogspot.com/2007/02/next-big-language.html


Since community-building is part of the goal of this site, could you include an optional "location" field in the profile? I'm interested in getting in touch personally with other people in my area.


If I bought yspace.com would you use it?


You've filled a hole reddit was starting to dig(g) in my life. Thanks!


HaHa! Yes thank you Paul, I was just about to swear off of Reddit for good, and this is the tipping point. I will probably still visit there to get my inane fun for the day, but I wont spend time looking through 4-5 pages of backlogs for the good articles.


Yes everyone I know has bailed from reddit. Too many alarmist political , Bush bashing, boring articles. Not enough interesting tech links.


'... everyone I know has bailed from reddit. ...'

what about 'programming' or 'joel' sub-reddits?


Yah, I think alpha geek crowd is getting diluted. It's beginning to reflect the tastes of the broader population. I think they need to work on their recomendaton engine to cater for individual preferences


So the basic premise of your writeup is you are trying to judge how smart people are based on what they submit to this site and the content of their comments. I am not so sure I agree with that. It seems to me that starting a company requires dedication, technical smarts and technical vision. All that a good comment or submission tells you is that the submitter spends a lot of time surfing the web and is articulate. Unless you have solid reasons to believe that the two sets of qualities are strongly correlated, I am not so sure you should be even consider using this as a metric. Having worked in Silicon Valley for some time now, I can say that some of the smartest people around here have inadequate language (and by implication -- commenting) skills. Quality of people's resumes are likely to provide a stronger indicator.


Interesting. Perhaps they should be performing traffic analysis to see who's busy, and who's not?

I love to debate (reddit has saved my wife a regular earful), but I can't imagine surfing when I'm really "in the zone". I tend to do more directed documentation queries and explicitly avoid sites like reddit where I'm likely to become mired.

So yeah, for me posting frequency is inversely correlated with how busy I am. On the other hand, all of that reading, researching and debating generates a lot of new ideas.


I hope we can tell the difference between people who are smart and those who are merely articulate.

(We all have a lot of experience dealing with hackers, after all.)


I think the problem is that there are a lot of very smart people who are good at talking and generating ideas, but not so good at implementation.

If they're not regularly "going dark", they may not have the focus to succeed at a startup.


I'm extremely excited about this site. Startup stuff has always been by far my biggest interest in Reddit since it launched. As Reddit has grown my interest has faded considerably. Long live YC News!


Out of curiosity are the passwords kept hashed?


I up-voted a comment by mistake and there doesn't seem to be a way to remove my vote. One of the main reasons I was visiting Reddit in the beggining, was the high probability to find start-up articles and a place for discussion. So, this site is defenetely going to be my new point of reference, and for lots of others too.


>I up-voted a comment by mistake and there doesn't seem to be a way to remove my vote It'd also be nice to have ajax for voting, so we don't have to re-scroll to find where we left off.


'... I up-voted a comment ...'

don't up-vote *before* you commit a comment. News wipes the contents of the edit box.


I take it this place is basically startup/tech entrepreneurship-related stuff rather than being like programming.reddit. Great, another social news site I'll check compulsively.


Paul cares about his users. He makes stuff we want. He always replies to emails. His influence reaches far beyond the Americas, across the pacific, to the island continent that I call home. Thanks mate, you changed our worlds!


Damn it Paul, you beat me to it. I slapped together a reddit clone last summer in reaction to its diluting startup content, but I went on to travel for a month and have been procrastinating from finishing it up ever since. Nevertheless, I really appreciate that you are opening this to public.


Please, may we have a mashable feed of some sort? RSS probably wouldn't work, but a JSON object would....


Fairly awesome! Thanks for the unique resource. If I could I probably would like to put most of these links in my personal bookmark. Nice interface. Nice change. It's good to hear that Arc is coming along also. :-)


Thanks for the rationale. I'm most interested in the ARC aspect of the site.


Really? I was most interested in the role that news.ycombinator.com is going to play in their application process. I think that it's an absolutely great idea and not only helps Paul but start-up-would-be's as well.


Yes, really. That's not to say I'm uninterested in the role that news.ycombinator will play in their application process, too. Once word gets out, it will be very interesting to see what kind of traffic is posted and how the signal/noise ratio changes.


This comment added through the comment page of a new news story. Note: If you came from the news story, click comment up above. : )


OK, here's the question, pg, is this site actually running on a lightweight webserver written in ARC, or did you tie ARC into apache or something for the application logic and storage? Or did you use ARC as a markup language? Just curious.


The server's written in Arc too. I wanted to learn how to write one.


I thought you might have written the server, since their isn't too much fat in the HTTP headers :) You should add a Server header for bragging rights though.

Congrats to you and your team on launching the first Arc app regardless of how much of the stack is written in Arc.


Can you tell us what kind of editor you're using to write Arc (and Arc code).

Is Arc suited to writing its own IDE?


editor: vi, ide: repl


I'm having trouble using drakma to hit the site. I'm pretty new to Lisp so I'm still learning what I'm looking at, however it looks like something in the stream from the server (possibly while reading headers?) is messing up CHUNGA:READLINE which Drakma uses.


in that case, I _am_ excited about Arc's progress ;)


Do you find mzscheme plays well with pthreads, or have you another concurrency approach?


Can you tell us what kind of editor you're using to write Arc (and Arc code).

Is Arc suited to writing its own IDE?


I don't think the fact that the site is written in Arc makes the site itself any more interesting. Arc is interesting, as is the fact that it's to the point where it could be used to make this site.


'... I don't think the fact that the site is written in Arc makes the site itself any more interesting. ...'

I do. I'm pretty sure the site, layout & idea have been inspired by the defection from lisp to python ~ http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/rewritingreddit

As the site progresses it proves a point. That "Reddit" could have continued in Lisp had they persisted and that "Lisp -like languages", can still cut it.


It does in a sense, because it makes it faster to add new features.


To take over the world? Well this will help out y-combinator and the whole startup community for sure.


Why don;t you make this invite only - if it truly reflects the values of Y's and their friends who are starting up why not do that. That way you preserve the signal to noise ratio. I'm only on here cos Kulveer and Harj are doing Y combinator - meaning that other UK young entrepreneurs who are good can get on it.


Making the site invite-only would be the opposite of what we want. One of the goals of this site is to discover smart people we might not otherwise notice when they apply for funding. Doing things through connections works well in the VC world. Because of the large investments they make, they're more conservative. But in the seed funding business you need to be aggressively democratic.


Paul, in that instance as a way to identify smart people it makes a lot of sense for it not to be invite only.

But it has triggered my thinking about how to create dense communities around diverse knowledge areas. So it would be cool to do this with scientific papers and get people to register with university email addresses to generate trust and preserve fidelity. I know digg and reddit are pretty mainstream but allowing people to create specific knowledge networks on this platform would be cool. Where its an industry group or networking organisation it would be a great way to pool knowledge and if need be preserve the value of the information by requiring users to be trusted by at least one person.


It is interesting to point out that Reddit already tried this platform for comments on scientific papers. arxiv.org has long been acknowledged as a forerunner to scientific e-publishing and is in fact a one-stop-shop for many subfields of physics, computer science, and almost all of mathematics. We thought it would be the perfect place to try to do something like what you suggested: to use a Reddit-like interface to collect comments and discussions on scientific literature. So Reddit set it up at arxiv.reddit.org.

As you can see, there is not much happening. In fact, the main lesson learned here was not that a reddit-like platform is not ideal to this type of knowledge pooling, but that the scientific community is in general skeptical about this type of information sharing. We did not require email address validation for logins (hence the spam you can see up there), but we did talk about it with a lot of people and there were good arguments on both sides. I talked with physicists, biologists and mathematicians about using this type of site, and the replies were mostly those of insecurity about sharing incomplete ideas: both because they might be wrong (and not many scientists like that), and because if they were right, they would rather keep it to themselves and publish it.

Actually Paul Ginsparg, the creator of arxiv.org, kind of warned us before we launched that it would take mostly a huge grass-roots effort to get scientists going on something like this. He was right, and from listening to some of his stories about how he started arxiv.org, it apparently took him over 5 years of grass-roots convincing before it took off, despite being clearly a very good idea.

If you are interested in scientific knowledge sharing, with an eye towards collaboration, check out openwetware.org, which uses the mediawiki wiki platform. Note that they actually do require account authentication, so have a lot less spam issues at this point. It seems like a wiki platform is more easily adopted for scientists (although still hesitantly), as the subreddit oww.reddit.com, which we tried to push to the openwetware community, has not taken off (this time because of concerns that Reddit is a company.)


Maybe you should make it so you don't have to log in to read comments? Some people might not realize how easy it is to create an account...


That was a bug, not a design choice; I just fixed it.


I think the purpose of this site is (partially) to get a better idea of who to invite to things like Startup School and YC interviews. Making it invite only would be contrary to that goal. I think the S/N ratio will stay pretty high simply due to the nature of the people YC attracts.


I love the idea of a founder/soon-to-be-founder based community, awesome!


comments on relevant sites is a good way to validate a persons ideas, domain knowledge, and thoughtfulness, but my main contribution's have been to TC, AVC, Flickr, and others, so I get no benefit from that here. Maybe a hot idea for a simple web 2.0 startup would be an aggregation tool of all comments by a user across the sites they use. Could work well with OpenID.

Maybe I'll add that to the question in the application that asks for "any other ideas you've considered" :


Just a little bit of graphic design wouldn't hurt, really. In any case, congratulations on the launch and I'm sure it will become an interesting hub.


Yeah, I know. The site is at least simple and functional, but we should (and will) make it look better soon.


Please don't. I vote for the simple, straightforward design you currently have.


It's possible to make a site simpler and more straightforward for users by making it prettier. Really good web design is very subtle; things like giving small but definite visual cues for where posts begin and end, or making the "reply" link a slightly different color from the post so it doesn't look like part of the post -- these small changes do more than look pretty, they also lower the cognitive load on the user and make it feel simpler. A lot of what Reddit has been doing to their interface has been tiny changes that make it feel simpler. Good web design is something to be appreciated; great web design makes you forget that it's even there.


I second that, I love the minimalist approach. Reddit was much like that in the beginning.


There's minimalistic and then there's insufficient. I'm all for keeping it simple and functional, but a little aesthetic snazz can contribute to the end goal.

I couldn't find the 'Reply' link for a moment -- and I'm not even THAT blind. ;) Looking forward to that update!


We won't clutter it up. Look how minimal the YC site itself is.


It'd also be a plus to have the page jump to your newly submitted comment after the fact instead of ending up at the top of the page.


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