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Notre-Dame came closer to collapsing than people knew (nytimes.com)
494 points by Luc 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 239 comments



> “You have a system that is known for its ability to detect very small quantities of smoke,” Mr. Corbett said. “Yet the whole outcome of it is this clumsy human response. You can spend a lot to detect a fire, but it all goes down the drain when you don’t move on it.”

It seems to me that the biggest issue with the fire system was the lack of a graphical display of the alarm... with all the security cameras and screens likely to already be in place, why not add one with maps of the cathedral, showing up in red when an alarm triggers? The need to understand shortcodes it waiting for disaster...


> It seems to me that the biggest issue with the fire system was the lack of a graphical display of the alarm

i agree that the lack of a graphic/synoptic display for the smoke detection system was a horrid flaw, especially when rapid response is needed.

However, i feel that the lack of an automatic extinguishing system was pretty grave too; given the excellent record of automatic fire sprinklers in containing -- if not fully extinguishing -- fires, well before the fire brigade arrives.

Of course, accidental activation is a serious concern, but this can be addressed, whether through the use of a double-interlock preaction scheme (where the piping is kept water-free with a valve that is opened only when the heat/smoke detectors signal a fire; and even once the pipes are filled with water, sprinkler heads need to be individually activated with heat) or using a gaseous clean-agent instead of water.


I've written a touch panel UI for a next-gen sprinkler system. The valves themselves used high-pressure mist to bind smoke particles and minimize liquid damage often associated with sprinklers, and could be individually shut off when needed. I think the rationale was that by minimizing collateral damage you could install sprinklers in places where they would be considered a liability.

I heard the largest end customers were shipbuilders and police stations; a few systems were installed in underground public spaces such as train stations.

(Don't ask if the police has ever used the water spray as a taming device in the cells. I don't really want to know.)


I doubt it would work. How is dealing with slippery wet angry prisoners an advantage over dry angry ones?


Totally off-topic, but this reminds me of a story from a psychiatric nurse I know. They apparently once had to deal with someone who decided to strip down, then cover themselves head to toe with some form of body oil they'd managed to get hold of. Hilarity ensued.


Honestly, oil and hilarity aren't too bad, all told. I've heard stories of prisoners and mental patients using blood, or poo.


I imagine the severity of the hilarity was dependent on whether or not one's job description implicitly included "preventing patients from using the corridor as an otter slide".


There are many accounts of police abusing people for apparently purely sadistic reasons. Their behavior is not always rational.


Water dries eventually.


First a disclaimer: I’m probably misinterpreting you, so I apologize in advance. I sincerely assume you have only the best intentions.

By my interpretation, your last paragraph seems to accuse police of very specific misbehavior, but without any evidence, and even with an explicit desire to avoid resolving your accusation one way or another.

I hope you agree that we should take every single accusation of wrongdoing extremely seriously: only then can we truly achieve accountability for bad behavior, while celebrating and rewarding good behavior.

Unfortunately, purely speculative accusations of specific wrongdoing like this compromises our ability in general to take accusations seriously! It also subtly harms the reputations of good people within the accused group, if the accusation is unfounded.

For example, imagine if I said out of the blue:

“I worked with <anilakar> through all April 2019. (Don’t ask me if <anilakar> ever stole a MacBook Pro from the Apple Store on April 5th 2019 at 3:45pm. I don’t want to know anything about whether that did or did not happen.)”

Hopefully this illustrates the potential harm of such comments.


If anilakar had a reputation for abusing their authority, then such a comment would not necessarily be out of place. Possibly rude and unneeded, but not out of place. Police as an organization routinely abuse their authority. I've personally suffered such behavior in jail.

anilakar worded their comment such a specific fashion as to avoid making any accusations. They are allowed to muse openly. Your comment is unnecessary.


> there was also a conservative approach to preserving the historic wooden structure in its unadulterated form. The designers were determined not to alter the attic with protective measures like sprinklers or fire walls.

> A willingness to sacrifice its pristine state for a compromise between what was possible 850 years ago and what is sensible today could have saved the spire, experts said...

> But the main reason to opt against fire walls, Mr. Mouton said, was because it risked “mutilating” the structure. “It’s true,” he said, that the idea had been floated at the time, “but it was discarded.”

> “It changes the appearance but also the elements, because to put up a partition you need to cut the wood. It’s mutilating,” Mr. Mouton said. Mr. Prunet added that sprinklers were not added because they would “drown the whole structure.” Instead, they said, the team had banked on prevention and detection. This was a conscious choice.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/19/world/europe/notre-dame-f...


> Mr. Prunet added that sprinklers were not added because they would “drown the whole structure.”

Waiting for the fire department to show up and start spraying the structure with high-pressure hoses in order to contain a fire that got much larger in the intervening time because it wasn't being mitigated by a sprinkler system, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have damaged the structure at all.

Hindsight really is 20/20.

It's also interesting that fire mitigation measures were discarded in the interest of historic preservation. The charpente being a part of the building that basically nobody ever sees, the question arises, "preserving it for who?" Or had the preservation become an end in and of itself?


And the roof was not part of the original structure, it had been completely rebuilt, yes a long time ago, but still completely rebuilt. My guess is that if they had access to modern materials at the time, they would have opted for that.

Also, the tall spire was added (historically) fairly recently. It was not an original part of the roof that burned. So apparently, earlier people were not "afraid" of altering it.


That was a bonus in addition to the restauration works that took place mid-19th century.


> drown the whole structure

My house has a fire sprinkler system. Each nozzle is heat activated, in that the heat from a fire melts a plug allowing the water to flow. Only the hot valves activate, not everything.

The contractor told me which would I prefer, a sprinkler spraying some water around, or a firehose through the window?


I don’t think that’s really contradictory though. I’ve lived through many cases of the sprinklers being set off accidentally (frozen pipe burst, rc-helicopter blade impact, and idiots using it as a clothes hook) and “some water” isn’t the phrase I would use. I think it’s more like if someone threw a bathtub from the ceiling every minute until someone could shut it off? That can be pretty costly to mitigate afterwards—but then I’ve also seen houses where nothing of it could be saved. As your contractor said, one of those is probably much better.


Mine are flush with the ceiling, there's nothing to hook onto. Just regular plumbing pipes can freeze, too. But the sprinkler pipes all run in interior walls - it's the ones in exterior walls that are likely to freeze. (I've had floods from frozen pipes in a non-sprinkled house - the pipes were in an exterior wall.)

Anyhow, at the time I did some research and found that nobody had died in a fire in the US in a room that had working sprinklers. It's pretty darn compelling.


> I’ve lived through many cases of the sprinklers being set off accidentally (frozen pipe burst, rc-helicopter blade impact, and idiots using it as a clothes hook) and “some water” isn’t the phrase I would use. I think it’s more like if someone threw a bathtub from the ceiling every minute until someone could shut it off?

That's why i specifically mentioned double-interlock preaction systems, where if someone hits the sprinkler and causes it to open, the only thing that comes out is compressed air (and a trouble/supervisory alarm sounds).


> However, i feel that the lack of an automatic extinguishing system was pretty grave too

Or perhaps wrapping or covering the wood in mineral/stone wool insulation:

* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bc_nPWMEdgs

* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgO7zw7NWLc

Rockwool is the most popular product, so you'll see a lot of videos (like above) featuring them, but I'm sure there are others.

Of course an extinguisher system can also be added, but a bunch of batts could be done quickly and inexpensively for a quick win.


These all seem obvious now in hindsight, but that's always the way of things. People, even educated, intelligent, and earnest people are very bad at user interface design. Good UI design comes from experience, not foresight.

For example, the aviation industry has standard terms for things. "Takeoff Power" means full power. Can you guess what happened? A pilot needed to abort a landing, and yelled "takeoff power" to the copilot, who promptly chopped the power, an accident ensued. This phrase was then changed to (I think) "Full Power".

The Air Force didn't learn from that civil aviation incident until it happened to them, too, then they fixed it.

It seems obvious, doesn't it? Everybody missed it.


For example, the aviation industry has standard terms for things. "Takeoff Power" means full power. Can you guess what happened? A pilot needed to abort a landing, and yelled "takeoff power" to the copilot, who promptly chopped the power, an accident ensued.

It takes an entirely different mindset to properly give, receive, and execute concise instructions in real-time. People who have not had considerable practice at this tend to mess it up horrendously. As seen above, even people who are accustomed to doing it will still mess it up, big time! (This is why submarine bridge crew speak to each other in the highly stylized way they do. Also, try playing Artemis with noobs, and you'll see why as well.)

Many people do not have short-term clocks in their heads! Those same people also can't properly add-up in real-time the time-intervals of the manual processes they're doing and about to do. Even if you tell them they are going to run down a deadline and mess something up, they can't properly process what you tell them. It's like telling a pitch-deaf amateur musician that they're out of tune. They're either confused by the input, or they think you're making stuff up to annoy them.

(I remember taking some friends into low security space for the first time in Eve Online. Some player-killers show up in our system, and I tell them, "Warp to me now!" The reaction? The husband starts in on this involved argument with me about it, saying, that would end up with us in the middle of nowhere! Arrgh! Yes, that would've been the point!)

The same thing also goes for medium and long term time frames, which is relevant to programming, business, and startups.


"Takeoff power" -> "Take off [the] power".

Interesting.



> UAL's Mr. Petty refused, writing back that the command would be confusing if a pilot by the name of "Max" was in the cockpit!

The reaction of a manager who's watched too many Simpsons episodes [0].

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSVms6cT9nk


Then use "Maximum"...


After the collision of two 747s on the runway at Tenerife, the term "cleared for takeoff" is now used only when the tower has approved the actual use of the runway for takeoff.

If also read of "Max Power" for the situation you are describing.


It all boils down to one of the simplest and most ignored truths:

Most people aren't great at their jobs, they're average or worse than average.


It's not possible for most people to be worse than average.


Only true where there is a normal distribution, the vast majority of people are less wealthy than the global mean of individual wealth for instance.

The vast majority of people have more than the mean number of legs per person.


The 10x engineer exists only because of the proliferation of .1x engineers.


Yes, that’s why I didn’t say that.


Depends on what's meant by 'average'.

True for median, (by definition) but false for mean and mode.


Colloquially, average only ever means mean.


I'm inclined to agree that's what most people mean, (particularly non-STEM people) but it seems that's not what the poster I replied to above meant.


> Most people aren't great at their jobs

Note that everybody missed the takeoff power thing. You can't fix it by hiring better people.


Everybody with power maybe. Who knows how many low level workers made a joke about it to their bosses and were chastised for not being team players.


Yes and no.

There seem to be multiple points of failure on the critical path. Yes the interface might be sub-perfect, but there is also a human on the critical path, who started work at 7am, meaning he's been working for 12 hours now. There is a reason regulation usually mandates limited hours for safety critical jobs.

Why not automatically inform the fire department, ensuring that there is not one single critical path but an alternate option? Relying on the presence and correct reaction of a single security guard sounds like a less than perfect idea.


> Why not automatically inform the fire department, ensuring that there is not one single critical path but an alternate option?

I think this was the most confusing part of the response to me. Even my home security system calls the fire department by default and my condo isn’t an 850 year old landmark. It made me wonder whether the system produced a lot of false alarms that would make an immediate default response impractical.


> Even my home security system calls the fire department by default and my condo isn’t an 850 year old landmark.

Non-residential buildings are often charged for false alarms, so standard procedure is to have a human confirm things first:

* https://gps-securitygroup.com/the-role-of-security-guard-reg...

If confirmation is not done in x minutes, there is an automatic call though (with the requisite charge back for false alarms).


That might be an issue. But then one might not need to send a whole fire brigade from t0. Maybe just send a single truck, or a single car.


This depends where you are, I suppose. Fire Brigades in urban areas typically dispatch two engines that take two different routes to ensure one route is not congested, and at least one engine is on a faster, if not shorter, path than the other. Even real-time route planning cannot mitigate an unexpected cause of congestion yet to occur.

Depends on area. Dense urban streets where contagion of fire may require this while a remote home in a rural may mean this route mitigation isn't necesary. However in both and all cases a rapid response is needed as lives are at risk.


I would guess no prioritization of usability ("it's just an internal tool, we can train people, it's cheaper anyway"). This seems like a common pattern on software projects, especially company-internal ones.


For an example see https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jul/13/margaret-...:

”I suggested a program change to prevent a prelaunch program being selected during flight. But the higher-ups at MIT and Nasa said the astronauts were too well trained to make such a mistake. Midcourse on the very next mission – Apollo 8 – one of the astronauts on board accidentally did exactly what Lauren had done. The Lauren bug! It created much havoc and required the mission to be reconfigured. After that, they let me put the program change in, all right.”


Is selecting a prelaunch program much worse than selecting an incorrect post-launch program? Or was there still a major risk of selecting an unsafe post-lauch program?


The problem was that, with such limited memory available to the computer, it erased all the en-route navigational data to make room for the preflight data. So now you have a spacecraft on its way to the moon with no way to know where it is...


This was a great read, thanks!


Yes, it's really surprising that a system which "took dozens of experts six years to put together, and in the end involved thousands of pages of diagrams, maps, spreadsheets and contracts" didn't contain something that I've seen in nearly all the reasonably large buildings I've been in, some which have probably been there for many decades:

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/53ca9e5ce4b0bcaba3c71...


It's sadly often the cases for public contract here... Very much often, the contractor has no interest or incentive in doing a "quick and proper" job. Company that deal with public contract get really good at dragging the duration of a project, and its cost, way up. They know that the state will want to continue the project and will continue funneling money until its finish in any case.

And when a project has some incentive (often financial penalty when deadline are not respected), company will give unrealistic deadlines to win the contract and then just run the penalty has normal cost of the projects. I know some project that had years of delay and were still profitable for the private company.

Obviously it's not always the case, but having work for both a state owned company contracting private contractor and for a private contractor seeking public contract, it has certainly made me not optimistic about any projects funded by public money.


This is one of the reasons why in the UK, back in the early 1990s, it was recommended that construction projects (both public and private) switch to what is now called "NEC" contracts:

* https://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/NEC3

Most contracts are cookie cutter templates, so everyone is familiar with them and lawyers don't need to be called in to create bespoke solutions for every project. There are various options if fixed-priced or cost-plus is desired, and pre-agreed schedule is decided on so that payments only go out at specific milestones.

Can anyone from the UK comment on the pros/cons of the system?


NEC contracts are wonderful. I say this having worked on both the client and the contractor side.

Solves many, many problems and gets people working in collaboration. As a contractor I need to know the clients goals and as a client I need to help make the contract profitable.

All pros - no cons from me.


You could also be IBM and make lots of money while never delivering anything: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-01/canada-to...

Not directly related but comical to me, I recently heard from someone working with IBM that they are really upset over the calls from Washington to regulate big tech. Upset because they aren’t mentioned by politicians or the media as big tech. It’s almost like they don’t really matter anymore.


When I worked for a research department of the government years back, I was told that IBM contracts were banned in an officially unofficial manner from too many botched projects in the past.


> really upset over the calls from Washington to regulate big tech. Upset because they aren’t mentioned by politicians or the media as big tech.

To be fair, most of the calls concern American big tech companies. Not sure IBM qualifies anymore.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/28/technology/ibm-india.html


Or Sopra-Steria, or Cap-Gemini, even our national company have been really good at screwing up public projects :) .

There was even a project handle by Sopra-Steria that went so awry that even the Government said stop and went on to continue using their old solution. For them to do that takes a loooot of screwing up. Nevertheless, they were still contracted for other projects afterward :) .


I find this often happens with any decision by consensus type of things.

Everyone has a concern or an area they take over. There's a reason most power structures end up with a single person being the decision maker. For better or worse, it seems there needs to be one person who is responsible for busting everyone's chops and asking the hard questions.

I've seen this psychology play out even in small non-profits where everyone has good intentions.


I can see how that might be true in general, but would it really apply here? Even at my most cynical, I have a hard time believing a contractor would be so careless about Notre Dame, a major national symbol.


Firstly, calling Notre Dame a National symbol is a bit exaggerated. Honestly, for a lot of French not living in Paris, Notre Dame is just another Cathedral with a lot of advertisement because its Paris (France/French relationship with Paris is ... complicated).

Secondly, yes, most contractor focus on money, not really doing the best job they can (I mean, in many way, the fire is a proof of this). I work for, arguably, one of the most critical French industry. One that France rely on for security and, somewhat, energy. Some of the worker were proud of doing something for their country, but the decision from higher-ups were purely financial. And it is what is expected from them to be honest.


>Secondly, yes, most contractor focus on money, not really doing the best job they can (I mean, in many way, the fire is a proof of this).

I specifically said I wasn’t disputing the claim in general, only the extent to which a contractor would risk it like this in a high-profile case.


Was it a public contract? I thought the Archdioceses owned Notre Dame?


All cathedrals in France have been owned by the state since 1905. Smaller churches are owned by the local communes. This was done to remove the influence of the Catholic Church in French affairs by removing a source of income for them.


Small aside, there are / were no security cameras anywhere in the cathedral.


But that's really just an aside. You just need a 3D map of the cathedral with the position of the fire detectors marked, blinking red when a fire breaks out. After all they already had a unique ID, according to the article. That's not hard. But they had too many years and too much money to implement a usable solution.


Absolutely. The fire panels were banks of LEDs stuck on a wall in the guardian's house. As you say, presumably over the years the system was added to, and they hit a point where changing the entire system would have cost "too much", so they kept adding to a legacy solution..


Always a good idea isn't it? Someone somewhere was certainly applauded for this brilliant business case and decision making. Everybody pointing out the flaws not so much I would assume...


> they had too many years and too much money to implement a usable solution

Oh man, that hits home


> It seems to me that the biggest issue with the fire system was the lack of a graphical display of the alarm

The man monitoring the alarm, even though he had just started the job, says he did understand the code and where the alarm was and communicated that information to the guard. He does not claim that the problem was he didn't understand the code or there was anything wrong with the design of the alarm system. The guard on the other hand says the man monitoring the alarm told him the wrong location to go to.

Neither of these issues though are related to the subsequent decision to call his supervisor as the number of alarms going off increased, and then sit around and do nothing while waiting for a call back. Nor does this have anything to do with the design of the alarm display.


It doesn't even have to be graphical (although I guess that would be best), as long as the location is clear, or a map is on hand.


I do technical operations for a living. If I had a buck for every time I've seen an alert with unclear or non-actionable information, I would have retired ten years ago. This article describes a tragic situation, but it's not terribly surprising.

Other things I saw:

- people scared to talk about what happened because of blame issues - putting new employees in critical situations with only three days of training


The article understates the risk the team that went to the north tower undertook. It mentions that they might not have an escape path, but that really doesn't communicate how exposed they were.

It's not uncommon for a fire crew to advance into an exposed position to make an attack or search for victims. As was the case here, there is usually a hoseline or two set up in a defensive position, covering their escape path. The difference is, this is usually done in a comparatively small space (i.e. a crew holding the staircase of a house while a second crew searches the upstairs). If the defensive position starts to look at risk, the exposed crew can make it back within a minute or two.

The crew in the northern tower of Notre-Dame would have taken far longer than that to make it back through, and it's very likely that if the defensive position had been lost, it wouldn't have been recognized until it was too late, trapping the crew in the tower.


The operations commander purposely chose personnel with no children or spouse to go on the northern tower

The call was made knowing that there may be casualties among them


Damn hard call to make, cudos to the people, personnel that went upt as well as command crew on the ground, conducting that kind of ops.


Note that the Paris Fire Brigade is a branch of the Army [0] (and in this case, it shows).

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_Fire_Brigade


The only other military fire brigade is Marseilles "Marins pompiers"[0] that are a branch of the french Navy but I believe it to be standard practice in all fire brigades in France of which almost of all them are civilian.

Morals aside, it kind of make sense from an economical standpoint: a single guy dies, that's sad. A father of four dies, that's sad and the community has to support four orphans...

Controversial opinion: making that call to save living creatures is fine in my personal moral compass. Make that call for a building, be it symbolic and of rich cultural significance, not so much. As long as nobody is in danger, do everything to save it but if it burns to the ground, it can be rebuilt. A lost life and its consequences cannot.

I was, honestly, furious, when I heard the commander chose to send his men into the northern tower simply to save a pile of rocks....

[0]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marseille_Naval_Fire_Battalion


> I was, honestly, furious, when I heard the commander chose to send his men into the northern tower simply to save a pile of rocks....

No one entered that building against their will. Quite the opposite, I'm sure (speaking from personal experience), the crews on scene would have been frustrated had they been told they had to stay out.

If it helps, consider it an extreme sport (in fact, firefighting is quite a bit safer than many sports). Firefighting often amounts to people engaging in what is arguably "optional" activities, for reasons that aren't necessarily clear from a purely rational standpoint. The actual reasons are a combination of many factors. There is certainly a desire to preserve property (especially when that property is irreplaceable), but there is also the adrenaline rush of working inside a burning structure, the camaraderie among the crews, etc.


Historical context and original artifacts cannot be simply rebuilt. This is not an office complex or a scientific lab or some other property that has material value but consists of fungible parts. Original historical artifacts of this type are literally irreplaceable.

If they are destroyed, they are lost to every future human being from now until the end of the universe. Even with time discounting, that's a great cultural loss. Should we risk lives to preserve historical & cultural heritage? Yes, absolutely.


Or, perhaps cynically, being one of the most visited monument in the world, it has a non-negligible economic value for Paris and France. Is that worth a few lives?


>simply to save a pile of rocks....

If you're going to engage in reductio ad absurdum, at least be consistent and call the men "meatbags".


But a mission like that is going to be executed best by taking volunteers. So yes, in theory, they were under command authority, but in practice what happened was exquisite teamwork, with some members of the team accepting exceptional risk because of the stakes. The fire chief is an excellent leader to be able to quickly weigh the stakes and accept the risk, because the consequences of failure would have landed on him in a crushing way (professional ruin, personal guilt for the suffering of survivors, etc).

Thankfully the stakes are very rarely so high, and courage of this calibre is rarely called upon.


Their motto is "Sauver ou périr" (Save or Perish) so I guess you sort of have to know what you're getting yourself into when you sign up for a job like that.


Can't take mottos for granted, like for example "Protect and Serve", which a US court even ruled didn't actually count as a police officer's duties.


Time to update my emergency contact details in the company ERP system


Interesting that during the fire, the world was piling on the fire fighting efforts as being insufficient. As the true picture started coming out over the next few days and now with this article, it's clear that the fire fighters had a plan and executed it well, likely saving the structure.


I suffer from FOMO for news like that. I wish I could find a monthly reading for important events and an alert system for thing that really should be looked at when it happens.


I’ll admit I was one of those people who was very pessimistic about the firefighting effort. To be honest, seeing the fire at Notre Dame gave me flashbacks to 9/11 and seeing the towers burning. I thought in light of the enormous loss of life that the new policy might be to not send in a ton of people to a large structure in danger of collapse.


At least you can admit that your hot take was wrong. That's better than most people.


The world? IIRC it was pretty much just one person...


There were a _lot_ of armchair firefighters that day, questioning why there was so little water being (apparently) sprayed on the fire.

On reddit especially, I was downvoted heavily for explaining that they were likely making a defensive stand inside the structure (similar comments on HN were well received).


A lot of people on online boards (including HN) were critical of the firefighting efforts.


It's definitely interesting to go back and look at the conversation that day.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19666991


[flagged]


Just the stupid ones.


The part interesting for us:

“The fire warning system at Notre-Dame took dozens of experts six years to put together, and in the end involved thousands of pages of diagrams, maps, spreadsheets and contracts, according to archival documents found in a suburban Paris library by The Times.

The result was a system so arcane that when it was called upon to do the one thing that mattered — warn “fire!” and say where — it produced instead a nearly indecipherable message.

The message (assembled):

“Attic Nave Sacristy.” “ZDA-110-3-15-1” “aspirating framework”


The article makes it clear that the fire alarm system did warn "fire":

>The employee monitoring the smoke alarm panel at Notre-Dame cathedral was just three days on the job when the red warning light flashed on the evening of April 15: “Feu.” Fire.

and

>Finally, the guard radioed the fire security employee to call the fire department. It was 6:48, 30 minutes after the first red signal lit up the word “Feu.”

The message specifying the location of the fire could have been more clear, but the fact that the fire alarm was going off was clear. When you see "Feu" flashing red on the alarm panel, the correct course of action is obvious. The greatest failure was that the guards tried to go find the fire, wasting 30 minutes, instead of just calling the fire brigade immediately.

If a tsunami warning is being sounded, would you go down to the beach to try to spot it first, or would you run for the high ground?

If a warning of a bombing came, would you go outside with binoculars and try to spot the planes first, or would you run down into the air raid shelter?


That probably depends on the training and the frequency of false alarms.

If air-raid sirens (which we do have here in Switzerland) would start sounding, nobody would seek shelter, because everyone would consider an attack too unlikely.

Of course, in retrospect, it would have been better to call the firefighters first. But to make such consequential decisions three days into a new job requires proper training and clearly defined procedures.


> The greatest failure was that the guards tried to go find the fire, wasting 30 minutes, instead of just calling the fire brigade immediately.

This is actually standard procedure in many places. Security guards often have x minutes to see if it's a false alarm:

* https://gps-securitygroup.com/the-role-of-security-guard-reg...

Non-residential buildings are often charged for false alarms, so the landlord may wish to first confirm if the fire brigade is actually needed. If you work in an office tower, or live in an apartment or condo, you'll often have multi-stage fire alarm system: you don't actually evacuate unless either (a) it's a confirmed real incident, or (b) the confirmation timeout has been reached.


Given that we now know that it was well-known to experts and people in charge that the attic was a tinderbox, and that the roof and vaulted ceiling would prevent firefighters from spraying water to extinguish a fire in the attic, and that there were no sprinklers installed there, it would make sense to treat any fire alarm as an actual emergency, as the consequences of even a slight delay in the event of a real fire were high.


> it would make sense to treat any fire alarm as an actual emergency

They were using a industry standard operating procedure (SOP) in a non-standard environment. Sometimes it's hard to know the situation is non-standard until after the fact.


Makes you wonder if the millions of euros and years (decades) of construction delay caused by the fire alarm system at the BER airport will, in the end, be worth the effort [0].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Brandenburg_Airport#Con...


That's an astonishing list of failures.


> An 11 October 2016 committee session found that motors used to open and close windows do not operate above 30 degrees Celsius and they need to be exchanged. Three thousand smoke detectors went missing, but were later found. Technical issues involving the electric doors became public on 18 January 2017. It was discovered that 80% of the doors would not open, which created concerns around venting of smoke in a fire. The sprinkler system has sustained failures in the south pier. The sprinkler heads were replaced for increased water flow, but the pipes are too thin to withstand the increased water pressure. The roof needs to be opened and the pipes will get exchanged. On 5 March 2017, the transformer station exploded.


Imagine how many more they'll find when they throw actual human passengers at the place.


Wonder why the system didn't call the fire department itself. Why bother with the human element of the guard at all? This is Notre Dame we're talking about.


Most major monuments in France have resident firemen, for this reason.


Too many false alarms?


One sensor detecting a fire can be a false alarm. More than one sensor detecting a fire is very rarely a false alarm, and really ought to call the fire department.


Most automatic alarms are false. As far as I remember it's more than 90% in Denmark.

Accepting an error rate at 98% for Notre Dame should be a no-brainer.


There's a cost for deploying firetrucks, both in dollars and opportunity cost -- when you send 5 trucks to Notre Dame twice a week just in case the alarm is real this time, those trucks and firefighters aren't available to respond to a real fire


I dunno. Do you want fire trucks sirening through the city blocking traffic every day?


That's already a fact of life in every large city I've ever been in.


Do we know this to be true? If the alarm is going off for a good solid few minutes it might be worth a checkup.


That's really a textbook example of software projects going horribly wrong. It's often a good idea to take a step back and analyze whether you're overcomplicating things. Often when working on a concept, you're too deep in to see the simple solutions anymore.


> That's really a textbook example of software projects going horribly wrong. It's often a good idea to take a step back and analyze whether you're overcomplicating things.

The question is what to do about it. Simply taking a step back and analyzing is not enough. Most of us have been on the projects that were overcomplicated and knew they were overcomplicated and knew a simpler solution and yet didn't have the power to do anything about it. The ultimate power is to be able to walk away form the project but how many people can afford that?

So, I believe the problem is not technical but rather socio-economic.

I am not sure how to solve it.


I've been in projects like this, where I asked 'shouldn't we show this in human readable text?" The response would be that everyone knows the codes, so no. In those cases it was the client deciding a less than optimal solution even though I as a developer proposed something that, I think, was better.


Next time you can cite the Notre Dame fire


Or the cost of a support call when a clear and human readable error would likely allow the user to help himself or be patient.


Beer testing has never looked saner than when faced with monstruosities like that.

Been using it since I learned of it on HN and it's impressive the number of times it makes you take a step back and realize you were getting lost between you and yourself.


"Beer testing" - usability testing after consumption of quantities of beer??


Take your project, whatever it is, on a laptop. go to the nearest pub or bar, not the drunken kind but the calm almost Starbuck like.

Find someone in the range of who your average user is, and offer to pay them a beer if they agree to use your interface to do some simple task on it for five minute while you take notes and record the screen. It's a sort-of game for them, short enough that it won't be a hassle, and they get a free beer out of it 'it's inexpensive for you and will reveal some obvious issues faster than a team of dedicated qa tester can ever hope to be.

Here it would be a simple "here is the alarm you get, identify what is the problem and where it is". Given parent post, 5$ and ten minute of beer testing would have told them how terrible it is.

Works fine with group too, ensure one person is the dedicated user, and offer to pay their drink tab.

Be ready to engage with them if they have question and do not be timid about keeping their drink coming if they so desire, as long as they provide valuable input.

It's so obviously stupidly simple, but the result are insane, it's very cheap and you get a perfect case of "how will average person x understand and deal with my software in that situation".

(first learned of it on a hn post years ago, adopted it for fun, kept it because it works too well)


Apparently, it is a different thing.

What I thought of was:

- State the problem

- Get drunk

- Find an answer

- Sober up

- Study the problem again

- If you came to the same conclusion as when you were drunk, you are OK.


Basically how the Persians used to debate: "In Herodutus’ discussion of the Persians, he wrote (Book I, chapter 133) that they decide upon important issues by first getting drunk. Once drunk, they start the debate and then come up with a decision. The next day when they are all sober, they decide whether they want to go through with the decision made. If yes, they go through with it. If they decide against it, they drop it and go back to square one which starts by getting drunk again."

[1] https://historydaily.org/drunks-debates-ancient-persia


What is beer testing?


Take your project, whatever it is, on a laptop. go to the nearest pub or bar, not the drunken kind but the calm almost Starbuck like.

Find someone in the range of who your average user is, and offer to pay them a beer if they agree to use your interface to do some simple task on it for five minute while you take notes and record the screen. It's a sort-of game for them, short enough that it won't be a hassle, and they get a free beer out of it 'it's inexpensive for you and will reveal some obvious issues faster than a team of dedicated qa tester can ever hope to be.

Here it would be a simple "here is the alarm you get, identify what is the problem and where it is". Given parent post, 5$ and ten minute of beer testing would have told them how terrible it is.

Works fine with group too, ensure one person is the dedicated user, and offer to pay their drink tab.

Be ready to engage with them if they have question and do not be timid about keeping their drink coming if they so desire, as long as they provide valuable input.

It's so obviously stupidly simple, but the result are insane, it's very cheap and you get a perfect case of "how will average person x understand and deal with my software in that situation".

(first learned of it on a hn post years ago, adopted it for fun, kept it because it works too well)


> Often when working on a concept, you're too deep in to see the simple solutions anymore.

I've seen at least as much stakeholder or designer (backed by stakeholder) ego keeping UX-harming crap in, while plenty of people on the project are very aware of it, despite its being pointed out to them repeatedly. Sometimes they even make you spend more time (money) doing things the wrong way. It's bizarre.


TBF, often times people at the top are there as the result of rejecting others' advice many, many times, and so rejecting advice does not set off alarm bells to them the way it might to most other people.


The thing is: usually there's a fire plan - firefighters arrive at the building, read the code and look it up in the plan where exactly the trigger (or inlet for the aspiration tube) is. They do this insanely fast as they have been trained for this - while that security guard and the overtired technician were not.

This is a lack of training and a procedural failure - the usual configuration/process is that any alarm either automatically calls firefighters/police or via procedure the guard manually does this - immediately, not after 30min.


It's a very, very vague error, and totally understandable that the new guard sent his colleague to the wrong place.

We'd expect a phrase to provide more granularity: (or YYYY-MM-DD), and as such, you'd read it exactly as: fire in the attic of the sacristy. The "nave" text is a bit weird, as the sacristy doesn't have a nave, but at the same time, the nave doesn't have a sacristy.


In the article, it says that the area was divided into four zones — my reading of this message: fire in the nave attic in sacristy zone. The bunch of numbers is an id of fire detector.


From the article: "First it gave a shorthand description of a zone — the cathedral complex was divided into four — that read “Attic Nave Sacristy.”"

So the entire zone is called "Attic Nave Sacristy", and from that all you know is that there's apparently a fire somewhere in that zone -- could be on the floor of the nave, could be in the cathedral attic, could be somewhere in the sacristy building (even in the attic of the sacristy).

The irony is that you've made a version of the same mistake that either the security employee or the cathedral guard made -- assuming a specific location within that zone. Yours ("the nave attic") happens to be correct; one or both of them assumed it was "the attic of the sacristy building".


Attic nave sacristy is a location


But the nave doesn't have a sacristy, and the sacristy doesn't have a nave.

Sacristy seems to give the location of where in the nave, which considering that the cathedral is cardinally aligned, is a rather poor choice.

"Attic nave south" would have been a perfect description.


It really meant something more like "the part of the cathedral complex containing the cathedral's nave, the cathedral's attic, and the sacristy building".

The real problem was that both the main cathedral and the sacristy (a separate building adjacent to the cathedral) had attics; either the security employee got confused and told the cathedral guard to check the sacristy's attic, or the guard got confused and decided to do that.


Perfect unless the guard didn't know which way was south and went to the wrong place. Then maybe the HN elites would be saying, "why not use the location of something unambiguous instead of 'south', like the sacristy building" ;-)


As someone who has written software that interprets signals from fire alarm panels, I can tell you that it's decipherable if you're trained on the panel model.

I suspect the employee, having been on duty only a few days, was not.


Ok so the UI or procedures sucked but what's really aggravating as a tax payer, at least to me, is the lack of foresight and proper funding where it matters. Though to be honest it's not different from most work environments...

Fire is not something new for historical monuments.

I heard on the radio right after the collapse an architect saying at least half of fires starting on historical monuments happen during renovations. And quickly searching shows an insurance company saying it could be close to 3/4 of them (https://www.cahiers-techniques-batiment.fr/article/notre-dam...).

Sure that wouldn't have fixed everything but now instead of adding a couple of dozens or hundred millions to fund the fire warning system, we're now most likely looking at a cost of multiple billions...


> Fire is not something new for historical monuments.

I worry about the great libraries being consumed by fire. I do not understand why there isn't a larger effort to digitize them.


Isn’t part of the problem here copyright, so Congress would need to make it legal? I thought that’s what killed the Google Books effort anyways.

That said, I thought the Internet Archive is still engaged in an ambitious project to scan many books (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_scanning).


Things like the Vatican Library, which are full of old manuscripts that are centuries out of copyright and nobody even really knows what's all there.


> Sure that wouldn't have fixed everything but now instead of adding a couple of dozens or hundred millions to fund the fire warning system, we're now most likely looking at a cost of multiple billions...

But was lack of funds really the root cause of the problem? If anything, the overcomplicated nature of the fire warning system seemed to have all the hallmarks of having too much money thrown at it and too many "cooks in the kitchen" designing it.


Amazing read, goes to show that fighting fire is not just about pointing a hose to the fire. There's a lot of strategic decision that has to be made. When you have multiple fire, which one do you point the hose at, where you position yourself, in what order do you fight them? You can't just look at the fire, but everything around it. Timing matters, I suppose SRE's can relate. But I believe developers can also learn from this by doing a lot of introspection.


Relatedly... I have a foot in both worlds (part-time firefighter/paramedic, full-time dev/ops/SRE/etc). For the better part of a year now I've been kicking around the idea of a conference talk about the transferable lessons between the two.


Fantastic idea. When firefighters screw up, people die. So we have a large set of very practical guidelines and most of them exist because somebody died.

I'd love to see outages (for example) managed with the Incident Command (IC) system. Maybe some companies do this already, IDK. But IC works very well in any "WTF is happening?" emergency situation.


Yeah, topics like that have already been covered fairly well. I'm more interested in "tactical" level discussions. Avoiding (or accounting for) tunnel vision, having muscle-memory level familiarity with your tools, the importance of pre-planning, etc. Specific things that can be meaningful to an individual or small team.


For Google that's the standard way to manage incident: https://landing.google.com/sre/sre-book/chapters/managing-in...

(I assume it's the case in many other places)


Look up Brent Chapman's work on applying the principles of incident management to IT operations.


So apparently it's not a new idea. Good, and thanks.


Have you given a talk at a traditional dev/ops conference?


No, that's why I've been mulling it over for so long ;)


Stop mulling over it and just do it, it will be a great talk!


You can’t just send helicopters and dump water on it?


Not on a fire like this, no. That amount of water all at once would just finish destroying the structure. It also wouldn't be terribly effective, since it can only hit fire that exposed to the sky (which isn't the fire that actually matters... if the fire is visible from above, it has already burned though whatever it is you're trying to save).

Aerial operation would also require evacuating the area completely, which would end all other firefighting operations (so you'd actually be reducing the overall firefighting capacity on scene).


You may or may not be aware, the parent comment you're replying to, is a reference to a certain President's (idiotic, unhelpful, and uninformed) tweet at the time.

Thanks for providing a real explanation though.


As always it's important to /s sarcastic comments online because text does not convey sarcasm well without something like /s or the new cAmEl CaSe which does really well.


Doubly so when meant to mock something that was already unironically said by someone else.


> or the new cAmEl CaSe which does really well.

aT tHe eXpEnSe oF rEaDaBiLiTy


It's when the mocking and sarcasm is more important than the message. A lot of times it's used to just parrot back whatever the person you're mocking said anyways so readability doesn't have to be perfect.


rEaDaBiLiTy


Have they figured out how the fire started?


According to TFA, no, but they are nearly certain it was accidental. Top candidates include faulty electrical wiring and cigarette butts.


Given the prevalence of construction-initiated fires and the risk of fire in that space, I'm really surprised they even allowed smoking there.


They didn't; it was strictly forbidden. But, also according to TFA, they nonetheless found cigarette butts on the scaffolding.


Sometimes people break rules.


Almost invariably they break rules, that’s why sane systems have redundancies and contingencies for “what do we do when meatsack A fails to follow the rules?”.

Sometimes the answer is nothing (the result of the rule break may be minor) other times not.


This will be an example to for future fire systems that will be updated in many historical sites


I saw a TV report today and they still don't allow people under the part of the roof that collapsed.

Currently they are clearing the rubbles there using remote-controlled robots.


I didn’t see any mention of basic testing happening.

I’d hope that they were doing constant readiness drills.

Every couple of weeks they should have sent someone up to trigger a sensor and see how long it takes for someone to show up.


I don’t know what they meant by closer than people knew. I heard the news, saw the pictures, and went to bed assuming it would be completely gone by the morning.


Can I just take a moment to praise the article's presentation?

This comes up every time a NYTimes interactive comes out but wow, the narrative flow on this one really is incredible. The animations smoothly transitioning to full text, the collage of socal media posts... It feels much more like watching a documentary than reading an article.

I hope this catches on, it's what I've been promised with this whole hypermedia shebang!


"Snow Fall" was, I think, the NYT's first serious effort at a multimedia article:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow_Fall

Similar comment at the time:

> The NYT just kinda blew my mind. A newspaper article just blew my mind. This is, by far, the best multimedia storytelling I think I've ever seen. Kudos to the team involved in putting this together, you've shown me the future of media and the internet.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4951041

I don't really understand how the same paper does these incredible articles and then totally whiffs on other attempts such as:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/06/07/arts/dance-da...


This has nothing to do with the quality of that NYT avalanche reporting, or the technology -- but I was more than a little surprised how they dedicated that much staff time, resources, and production to that story.

After all, this was a story about how people engaging in a purely _voluntary_ (and mind you, luxury) sport were causing and encountering avalanches. Hardly the most exposé-of-power, human-nature-revealing, check-on-society pieces of journalism. Just stop hiking off trail to go snowboarding on unstable mountains! Sheesh.


Imagine piloting that format on a serious story, and the ensuing backlash if the format was ill-received.

Doing this work on a "low-stakes" story means that you have more room to experiment.


Well, that's a good point. And I'm sure the journalist writing the story had tons of material he/she was eager to see "in print". Let a writer fill up 10,000 words and he will.


We were hosting a family Christmas party and doing the associated prep work, and I remember really having to force myself to stop reading Snow Fall half way through! Such a great read to such a tragic incident.


NYT seems to be very much experimenting with a lot of different approaches.

Personally I like that we get to see it and they get to try it out in production.


They also deserve praise for achieving this without using scroll hijacking (at least not the egregious kind).


Yes, and for respecting the Page Down key (unless that's what you meant)


Well it's similar. I had a look and they basically tie the entire state of the page to the scroll position, but quite a lot of the page just scrolls normally.

So while they do use the position on the page they're not trying to override the default behaviour, they just add to it. The only real change to scrolling behaviour are the few elements that remain in screen for a short while, which is fairly nonintrusive, and doesn't really feel unfamiliar (although it might have if they didn't cleverly overlay a few boxes that scrolled normally).


Yeah, props to the NYT! They must be the only ones so far who managed to make scrolljacking useful to the reader and not annoying.


That's because they are not scrolljacking, just using waypoints or something similar.


I worked at a startup where the goal was to build a tool to create stories similar to NYT without needing a coder. We got quite far, and the articles done with it are already quite impressive. The task is really difficult though - performance is hard and responsiveness is super tricky. I’m proud that we didn’t end up with scrolljacking and it fells quite web native. https://info.graphics is the current soft launch and has some cool stories of anyone is interested.


Scrolljacking - first time I heard that word. Is this about those one-page-websites where you scroll two lines down and then without any control it goes down one page? The person who invented this should be banned from the internet for at least a year.


yes but maybe for ten years. The inventor didn't own a mac, probably had Windows XP with an old or bad touchpad and decided that his JS will help fix smooth scrolling that is missing on many browsers. Since then browsers have caught up, but idiotic wordpress templates are still including scrolljackers because, the WP template designers, are long out of the WP business and no new templates are available...


I know you don't work there anymore, but that really doesn't feel "web native".

Front page images load several seconds after they're scrolled into view. I looked at the moon story and it was frozen for about 10 seconds before a start button appeared. In the story I can scroll, but it's about 5fps, and the blue dots and the secondary map are glitching on/through the moon.

I am using a relatively new smartphone, a galaxy s8, something with more power than most average consumers have (most people have a cheap budget phone, not the latest iPhone).

The format definitely was interesting tho, I can see the potential of these types of tools.


Currently the stuff is hosted in AWS Frankfurt, maybe that? Normally it should load pretty fast, the lazy loading is just an optimisation for the users. Yes, I have to admit, that loads pretty slow and the performance is not good. The problem is - I can try to make the performance as good as possible, designers still tend to want super high res textures / high fidelity 3d objects as they tend to put visual quality over performance. They have beefy machines and so don't really notice.


What do you consider scrolljacking? I opened the breakfast article and saw some scrolljacking right away.

Is my understanding mistaken here?


That story feels like scrolljacking because there is a mismatch from the scrolling and the background animation, it's a pretty free tool, so the designer decided to have easings like that. But you're still scrolling normally, the background is just animating. Normally we have html text boxes, where you feel that you're scrolling normally. Not in this story though.


Absolutely, this article is stunning. And I'd never seen that picture at dusk of the fire with the Eiffel tower in the background. Amazing all around.


Makes you actually want to pay for a subscription.. who am I kidding, anyone have the copy paste for a text or a mirror url?


For real though, as someone who's finally starting a full-time job tomorrow for the first time in four years, the NYT is one of a handful of papers that I'll be subscribing to even though I know all the tricks to getting past the paywalls. I don't believe that I'd benefit from the disappearance of professional journalism, and I'd rather support them directly than indirectly via advertising middlemen.


It was NYT's work on Ergodan's bodyguards beating up protestors outside of the White House (with Trump's blessing, it seems) that made me subscribe. That kind of reporting is what we need from journalism.


Open it in incognito mode.


But seriously. Anyone?



For future confused readers, on mobile it's just an article + static images, but on desktop it's more interactive


the BBC sometimes have similarly well animated and formatted articles. Would be nice to have a list of some of these compiled.


It's also pretty cool that despite all that, the whole article is still readable on terminal web browsers like elinks and w3m. Even the captions in the animations is present.


Yeah this is gorgeous

I wonder how much it costs them compared to a regular article


I work on the dev team who do the equivalent for The Telegraph in the UK - each interactive longform will usually cost £3-£4k in dev time.


Did you develop in-house tooling to expedite the process or do you mostly begin from a blank slate each time?


We have in-house templates pre-built (in Vue.js) with an array of different components available for us to use, so this drastically reduces dev time.


At that price they must be using tooling.


Do you have any examples of articles like these from the Telegraph?



Seconded. I've complained before about websites that try to get too magazine with their articles and how it ruins the narrative. But this? This is done really, really well.


They did a great job. I was telling myself the same while scrolling through the article. This is really well done. Congrats NYT!


> Can I just take a moment to praise the article's presentation?

I would disagree. It feels irritating to me when some some parts of article content are scrolling and some parts are still (unless still parts are some irrelevant borders).

Also the CPU load is big, which causes my computer fan to run full speed during scrolling.


We buy CPUs which can perform so many quintillions of operations per second, I don’t get upset when a program tries to utilize all that computation power for a cutting edge user-serving purpose.

If nothing ever spins up your fan, you wasted a lot of money on a new computer.


You should try noscript


>Paris has endured so much in recent years, from terrorist attacks to the recent violent demonstrations by Yellow Vest protesters.

Seriously? Putting the terrorist attacks in the same context as the Yellow Vest protests? One is an attack on civilians by extremist foreign groups, the other is those citizens protesting against a government decision that hurts them, which is a constitutional right in both France and the US... And this right to protest is what arguably made France a republic in the first place and led many other countries to follow on its steps. And labeling the protest as violent is dishonest at best, the police were violent and started throwing tear gas grenades at people, which made many protesters lose a hand or an eye (only the ones I saw, I'm sure there are many others who weren't recorded and put on Youtube).


Please don't react to the most provocative thing in an article by bringing it in here to have an off topic flamewar. That just starts a different kind of fire.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20457706.


Then it must have been the police that broke into the Dior and luxury stores on the Champs Elysees and looted them...or that set fire to buildings. Or it was police that spray painted "the gilet jaunes will win" on the Arc de Triumph.

This behavior forced the city to endure blockades every Saturday and holiday for months. Small businesses near the riot areas were closed and had their windows shattered or spray painted by protestors. Ordinary citizens and their kids couldn't do errands and in some cases leave their apartments for on one out of two days off a week for months on end.

The protests were violent. Who started it you can debate, but against tons of news articles, photos and videos of people fighting hand to hand, getting gassed or throwing cobblestones, lighting buildings on fire...you don't really have much of a factual foundation to say Paris didn't suffer months of violent protests before the ND fire.


I don’t they meant yellow vest , as in the people with the yellow vest doing all the violence. Rather, the whole series of protests, violence, shop destruction, streets in flames, police throwing tears gaz, etc happening for months and months every single saturday.


Event if you think the protests were justified and French will benefit from it, in the short term it hurt Paris (many destructions to street furniture, monuments, banks, restaurant, shops) and affected negatively the life of the Parisians (burnt cars, closed shops, tourism industry affected etc.)

That is only what is meant here, of course these are 2 different things.

They could also have added the Algerian African Cup victories "celebrations" that turned into riots and looting (we'll see what happen next Friday).


By attacking, looting, and setting fire to shops that have nothing to do with the government?


>Seriously? Putting the terrorist attacks in the same context as the Yellow Vest protests?

Um, yes? People died in protests, and many terrorists were from France or Belgium.


Yeah, seriously. Yellow vest protests were a fine example of "I want more without doing more, without losing anything I already have (and french citizens have plenty), and I will take everybody else in the country including visitors as hostage and eventually even burn the place down just to get it, and screw the rest of the population/world".

They do NOT represent common french people, they are in one way or the other extremists, doing what extremists usually do - wreak havoc left and right, and don't give a nanofraction of a fk about others and consequences. How do I know - I have tons of french colleagues, actually roughly 50% of the workforce, and every single one of them was annoyed as hell with them. Initial sympathies for protests against additional 10% diesel tax vaned very quickly as annoyances mounted. Utter disregard for any environmental issues was obvious - the reason for the tax, constant burning of crap in barrels on yellow vest posts, day long revving of engines in centers of the towns etc.

Maybe I missed it, but where were protests about true french issues - bureaucracy that is a far cry from properly functioning western democracy and is a proper drag on economy (it took a colleague 1.5 years to change his driving license and story is beyond ridiculous), messed up "me-first" mentality so common there, or rampant corruption on all levels on society? Where was something about making government slim, effective? Those actions could bring lowering of taxes, some real benefits to everybody. No, those wanted to keep everything as it is, comfy stable jobs with 10 weeks of paid vacation and tons of other perks, just somehow magically have more money.

rb666 7 months ago [flagged]

The french have an overly large fondness of protesting. If they would save it for things that actually matter, the rest of the world wouldn't find it so laughable. The Yellow Vesters are even protesting AGAINST climate action (higher fuel taxes). I wouldn't call it terrorism, but it's certainly not helping anyone.


People earning enough to live decently is not "worth it"? They are protesting against stupid climate actions that are mostly taken to give the impression the government is doing something, while in reality, it is just a way of getting a little more money out of tax payers.

France barely emits 0.1% of world's CO2, how is it fair to tax fuel for cars (note that air traffic is left alone)? How is it fair when nothing is planned to help people live and work without their car?

Edit: so far, all responses conveniently avoid the part where the government is taxing gas more and more, without making the investments to provide citizens with other means of transportation. Not all of France is Paris or Bordeaux or Lyon. Just like not all the US is NYC and SF. The majority of the population has no access to reliable public transportation to even consider not using their car.


> France barely emits 0.1% of world's CO2

Sure, because they have 0.09% of the world's population.

> how is it fair to tax fuel for cars (note that air traffic is left alone)?

Both should be taxed.


You're both off. France has about 1% of the world's population and emits about 1% of the world's CO2.

That's using some rounding, but it's reasonably close for discussion purposes.


> Sure, because they have 0.09% of the world's population.

Why does it matter their percentage of the world population? Are you defending that we should reward nations where people don't care about birth control and explode their demographics while arguing in favor of climate action?


The Netherlands probably emits less. Does this mean we can dismiss all climate change projects because it won't mean anything on a global scale? Stupid and ignorant reasoning. What matters is the emission per person, and don't forget about emission in the past.


FWIW, it isn’t naive to start addressing the biggest culprits first. Action for action’s sake is the hobgoblin of little minds (to butcher the famous quote).


At least 11 persons have died in the context of the yellow vest protests, which puts them in league (in terms of casualties) with a major terror attack :

Sources: https://www.liberation.fr/checknews/2019/01/30/qui-sont-les-... https://www.lci.fr/social/11-morts-depuis-le-debut-de-la-cri... https://fr.wikinews.org/wiki/Gilets_jaunes_en_France_:_stati...


Major terror attacks in France have killed much more. Also, volontary deaths and accidents should not be compared. It is outrageous to do so.


[flagged]


Conspiracy theory much? This is HN, not Breitbart.


Conspiracy theory? I didn't even state a theory.


Your use of the word "who" implies that the fire was intentionally set by someone.


Given the rampant vandalism of Churches in France in recent years, including arson, it's quite reasonable to speculate that Notre Dame might have suffered the same fate.

https://www.newsweek.com/spate-attacks-catholic-churches-fra...

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/vandalism-at-hundreds-of-...


Given the lack of evidence for arson, that speculation seems quite unfounded. Asking the question "Who set the church on fire?" is also not merely speculation, it is a presumption.


"Given the lack of evidence"

That's the very definition of speculation.

"speculation seems quite unfounded"

Purely a matter of personal opinion. There is a clear trend at play in France that is very uncomfortable and disturbing. I think it's lunacy to ignore it. But to each their own.

That such speculation is often met with animosity is strange in itself.

The conspiracy theory, if there is one, is that there is evidence of arson, but it's being suppressed by the authorities. I'm explicitly not taking a stance on that.


Again, I have no problem with speculation. The question, however, was not speculation. It was starting from the assumption that the fire was intentionally set. That is not speculation.


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Why would the authorities fail to prosecute? It's a surefire election winner. Also most of the arsons linked to upthread were blamed on anarchists and feminists.


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It's not weird that this article, which translates the technical firefighting and structural aspects of the fire for laypeople, does not mention a xenophobic conspiracy theory that has been rejected by the French authorities.


That rejection would be more credible if it came with an alternate explanation (none as of right now), or if it hadn't come while the building was literally still on fire.


Which part of the article I linked is xenophobic? Which part is a conspiracy theory? And finally, which part has been rejected by the French authorities?


It's all explained here: https://observers.france24.com/fr/20190424-amalgames-confusi...

It's in French and I don't have the energy to make a summary of it, but basically your original article is a mix of misreading and bad faith interpretations of an already biased original source.


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Please don't bash people here for their religious beliefs. HN is better than that.


My birthplace is roughly 9439km or 5865 miles from Paris, yet I hold back tears while reading and remembering the tragedy.


Shame on me for thinking they were talking about the college's football team at first. I was like "It hasn't already?". Roll tide.




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