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Show HN: Virus Cafe – Make a friend in 2 minutes (virus.cafe)
278 points by feross 38 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 218 comments



Hey folks! I built Virus Cafe to help you make a friend in 2 minutes! My goal is to help people stuck indoors because of COVID-19 (or police curfews) to make meaningful connections with strangers.

Here's how it works:

1. You are matched with a random partner for a video chat

2. You're given a deep question to discuss. You have 2 minutes!

3. The only rule is: no small talk!

Small talk is the worst and I'm on a mission to eradicate it. I've expertly crafted over 200 questions designed to stimulate good conversation and skip past the boring introductions.

Here are a few samples:

- When in your life have you been the happiest?

- What would you be willing to die for?

- What is the biggest lie you’ve told without getting caught?

- What is a belief you had as a child that you no longer have?

- What human emotion do you fear the most?

- If a family member murdered someone, would you report them to the police?

- What absolutely excites you right now?

I hope you use Virus Cafe to meet a new friend and make a deep connection today.

Feross


> Small talk is the worst and I'm on a mission to eradicate it.

To me small talk is the lubricant that makes conversations flow smooth with strangers. You can hear inflections and humor and irony all in a relatively safe, unemotional topic. Also, since your philosophical side is not needed, your emotional intelligence can be more engaged. For example, just by seeing how someone responds to a comment on the weather, you can learn about the person and maybe even find a shared bond(even if it is one as small as you both dislike hot, humid weather). Finally, especially needed in this divided time, it serves to humanize one to the other. So, I guess I am a fan of small talk.


This is really well put.

I've also noticed that, while not really relevant here, small talk is a good way to gauge people's interest in having a conversation at all. If you dive right into big topics like hopes and dreams right off the bat, the other person might not be engaged, but if you ease your way in with small talk and receive a lot of energy back, that can be a positive signal to get to the deeper stuff.


Or the person is interested in deep conversations but was turned off by the small talk?


Counterpoint: Most smalltalk topics actually get people to give an almost pre-rehearsed response.

For example if someone asks “What do you do for a living?” I will give the same answer I have given 1000 times. Ill ask them and they will do the same. There is nothing unique here.

Each to their own though.


> Counterpoint: Most smalltalk topics actually get people to give an almost pre-rehearsed response.

yeah, but you're supposed to then extrapolate on the other persons' pre-rehearsed response in order to escalate the conversation into something that flows without effort.

"What do you do for a living?"

"Mergers and Acquisitions."

"Oh. I have a friend that does nearly the same thing. They told me this anecdote, does that kind of thing ever happen to you?"

"Oh, as a matter of fact.."

Without small talk there is no sharing of useless trivia by which to use as a jumping off point into real conversation, unless there was some introduction or motivation behind the meeting, anyway.


Murders and executions?


>I will give the same answer I have given 1000 times.

If I'm just meeting you, it's new information to me, regardless of how many times you've said it! And that opens the door to more interesting conversation. Maybe I do something very related, or are interested something about that job, or whatever. Or maybe it leads nowhere. But that's how smalltalk goes, you dance around until you find a mutually interesting topic.


> ...it's new information to me, regardless of how many times you've said it!

Reminds me of a joke:

— "What's your name?"

— "Damien."

— "Oh, you don't hear that name every day!"

— "Actually, I do."


Where's Bill Hicks when you need him. "little Damien"... Relentless, Revelations?


Unfortunately we all know where Bill is.


It’s funny, when people ask me my name I always say the same thing. Never gets old.


Without small talk how am i supposed to get to know "the basics" about someone? If i don't know what he does, has he studied, his hobbies and what his interests are, i can't seem to start a deeper conversation. Yes, i can start a generic "what's the meaning of life" conversation, but wouldn't it be better for everyone if i asked specific questions related to that person?


Its a bit of a false dichotomy to say that the alternative to asking “what is your job?” is “what’s the meaning of life?”.

Just talk about anything. Talk about how the seats in the pub you are in aren’t comfy, then just yes and whatever they say and it will form a natural conversation.

You will know the basics about someone because the conversation will inevitably loop back to that naturally during stories.


I very recently came around to this opinion. I used to loathe it as a waste of time and energy for everyone involved, but then I realized that as I participated in it more with my coworkers, I felt those acquaintances really start opening up into something more like friendship.

Of course, it's hard to apply that lesson now...


Ya very well put. It's very awkward to jump into big questions with a stranger. That's the point of small talk.


This is a good point. However, I think one of the issues of small talk is that many times there is no progression from small talk to "deep" talk. Some people can get stuck trying to find things to say for the sake of conversation. And without getting into something that both parties actually have a passion for, small talk can get very boring very quickly.


I have a theory that smalltalk functions like a proof-of-work for social relationships. It's not strictly achieving anything directly, but it's proving a certain amount of effort.

I hate it too but I'm trying to learn to be okay with it and get good at it - it's never going away.


The way I see it, small talk is a way to properly synchronize communication nodes before engaging discussion.

PS: I was thinking about a "handshake" analogy first, which is quite funny in hindsight ...


Those aren't deep questions; they're deeply personal questions, and something not appropriate to talk about with complete strangers.

I strongly recommend you re-evaluate your question set. Personal questions are dangerous with the wrong kind of person.


I agree. As a woman working as a major minority in STEM as a software developer, and seeing this being advertised on HN means I'll probably be paired with a male if I used it.

Not only are these not appropriate, it's the kind of information you could give to a dangerous man to give them all the cards to know your deepest weaknesses and manipulate you. That trust has to be earned, and it turns vulnerable people into potential targets.

It almost makes me feel like you've never considered how awkward these questions could be for anyone but particularly off putting to any woman whose parents taught them how to be safe when talking to strangers online since they were little girls.

Like the AI app thing where two young men advertised and bragged you could snap someone's pictures and get their asl is an absolutely horrifying prospect for any women to consider having available to anyone on the streets.

Sometimes these types of concepts seem so poorly thought out and ignorant especially in light of the goals being centered around the deep and social nature of human beings, I have to often attirbute this to childish ignorance in my head and remember the feds have another thing they need to regulate on the list. Being inclusive and considering abused of people who are not white males in power is literally the center of attention for most of the world right now. Take it to heart in your everyday life.

There are plenty of other things you can discuss, even concept building ideas that don't center around personal ancedotes.


You sound like you have a lot of fear... it's literally just a chat app. No one is forcing you to use it, no one is forcing you to answer questions. No one is stopping you from joining the app, you get a question you don't like, and you hit quit. Objectively, how does this affect you or reality outside of this awesome thing called choice?

Not to downplay what you're saying, or sound harsh, but people these days certainly are hitting a level of sensitivity that I cannot even fathom.


The FBI wouldnt call it fear as much as they would call it multiple departments dedicated to busting child predators and other predatory behavior which is something the FBI works with almost every major video app to regulate, and take very seriously.

Your comments are not demeaning to me, they are demeaning to the severity of this issue worldwide.

I will forgive your comments and pure ignorance because I'm sure if you were educated on this topic at all in any kind of statistics based context you would have to be majorly sexist in addition to wrong.

Even zoom has recently used the excuse that they will not end to end encrypt video sessions for non paying users, because paying for it requires validation of identity through certain forms of payment and verification which can be tracked by law enforcement, because unverified accounts are the primary venue for the predatory behavior I speak of.

The previous CISO of Facebook who now works with Zoom on this very issue worked with the government to help catch child predators on Facebook as well and currently is a Professor at Stanford researching safety of specifically these types of chat apps. I'm quite sure these questions would be on the list of recommendations the FBI would encourage you not to ask, but if you feel so strongly I'm wrong about this I would encourage you to reach out to the world leaders on cybersecurity and the FBI and NSA on global efforts to reduce the kind of predatory behavior these questions invites.

I'm going to be ignorant and presumatory assume you're a man, and also ask you to please educate yourself on this topic before/if you have children. You'll be a much better parent.


If you are referring to kids, and NOT yourself (as an adult), then the context of your comment makes more sense.


Thanks for sharing your opinion. I think you raise a great point that women are more likely to be targets of harassment than men on the internet. I feel strongly that women should feel safe on the internet.

If you try the app right now, you'll find many women from Saudi Arabia currently using it (a Saudi celebrity tweeted it yesterday). I noticed several women who were using the app for hours but hiding their camera with a finger. Based on that user behavior, I'm building an audio-only option so women who feel the way you do will hopefully feel more comfortable.


Thank you so much for acknowledging my feedback. I strongly encourage you to reach out to security consulting firms and get multiple blind reviews to vet the work. Video chat apps are tricky but they can be improved for the betterment of everyone. They are expensive but cheaper than lawsuits with the government. The least you can do here is educate yourself on the legal risk the owner of the company assumes with this technology and work on identity verification of some sort.

And I'm really excited to see the demographic using your app and I'm really glad I can help. What you are doing is great, and great leaders surround themselves with diverse people who have constructive feedback, so it's great to see that quality in you. I'm excited to see where this goes.


Thank you for sharing your perspective.


And sorry for another comment. Your dismissive comments were so loaded there's alot to unpack here to properly address it instead of just letting you get away with this passively:

I never said I had to use the app or wanted to use it. I have been reading hacker news since 2010 and I wouldn't hesitate to say I've read it atleast everyday and used to be mildly addicted to it. I'm very familiar with the demographics of HN and that it is male dominated in addition to some large scale misogyny that exists on the site (i.e. there are open incel groups who chat in comments here often for example/no presumptions being made on my end, they are self proclaimed on the site) and I was highlighting that the creator might want to advertise in places with a more diverse demographic than HN.

I've been an engineer since 2012 and started college in Electrical Engineering in 2008 and went to a school that was 23% female and 6% female in my engineering department (as opposed to the tech school overall) and I can't assume you these statistics donot lend themselves well to an environment where it is easy for women to casually make friends with guys, if anything I go out of my way to live in urban areas where I can have a more diverse set if friends, whether it be males who are more likely to view me as a friend than the first girl they've interacted with in months, or just females or just people who are not so dismissive of women in general, and I was letting the creator know I would not go out of my way to reintroduce myself to a male dominated community to make casual friends with people, and this isn't the best place to bootstrap a userbase where the question set leans towards stacking the already majority make population on here with a set of questions that can easily exploit emotional vulnerabilities of women.

It's not that women can't be crappy as well, it's that crime statistics also lend themselves in the direction of being male dominated, not to mention just not being a very inviting place for females.

If the goal is to make friends, I'd rather do so in an environment that is closer to 50/50 ratio which for me so far in life has basically been anywhere I can get outside of my industry to have friends both make and female, and I'm much better off for it.

Your comments as presumatory. I never felt forced to use it, I was just saying I wouldn't want to and why. To have the attitude of saying oh if you don't like the all white male environment then get out, noone said you had to be here is a very white male hacker news thing to say, but tell me more how there's no women in STEM because of them and not because of that kind of piss poor attitude you have there.


I like “small talk” a lot as a great way to know people. I disagree that these questions will make more meaningful conversations.

Every time I see one of these lists of ”meaningful” questions, from people who ”hate” small talk, they fit in one of these categories: it is virtue signaling, to show they are supposed to be more profound human beings than the average person; or it signalizes intelligence, show they can think of smarter things than the regular person; or they are intrusive questions, very personal questions that I would like to answer only to real friends, not strangers, and I would hate being asked that.

I would much rather engage with a simple person that asks those regular questions to start a conversation and it is there to actually talk to you, not put up a show to impress you on how profound and cool they are.


I agree. Given the description of the service, the topic could have been named "Show HN: Chatroulette Clone for Sapiosexuals" which would have been more informative.


> Small talk is the worst and I'm on a mission to eradicate it.

Small talk is like two computers establishing a connection across a noisy network. Before you send real data, you need to establish some things like:

* Whether the other person speaks your language

* What their name is

* Whether they are feeling ok

* Whether they are interested in a conversation

* Whether they are someone you want to invest time and effort in talking to

* What (if any) common interests you share

... And so on.

When you use a platform like Virus Cafe to establish a connection with another person, you can bypass all of that. But in normal life, small talk is important.


JFC, please don't answer these questions to strangers who almost certainly do not have your interests at heart.

What is the biggest lie you've told without getting caught? Holy shit.


stick to safer topics, like "What's your mother's maiden name?" or "How many 9-digit numbers do you have memorized, and what are they?"


I mean - I presume these things are not expected to give 100% honesty. It's a conversation starter.


Did you consider these questions?

https://www.gwern.net/docs/psychology/okcupid/thebestquestio...

These questions are selected as particularly relevant to dating while being innocuous. Even if Virus Cafe is not a dating site but I guess they can still be great conversation starters. They are:

Proxy for "Will my date have sex on the first date?"

- Do you like the taste of beer?

Proxy for "Do my date and I have long-term potential?"

- Do you like horror movies?

- Have you ever traveled around another country alone?

- Wouldn't it be fun to chuck it all and go live on a sailboat?

Proxy for "Do my date and I have the same politics?"

- Do you prefer the people in your life to be simple or complex?

Proxy for "Is my date religious?"

- Do spelling and grammar mistakes annoy you?


Thanks for the link. I added these to the list! Now over 250 questions!


I wonder what spelling and grammar mistakes have to do with religiosity!


Apparently nothing, but there is a correlation.

Here is what the article has to say about it.

If your date answers 'no'—i.e. is okay with bad grammar and spelling—the odds of him or her being at least moderately religious is slightly better than 2:1.

As someone who is not himself a believer, I found it rather heartening that tolerance, even on something trivial like this, correlated with belief in God, although I should've figured out that religious people are okay with small mistakes. Next to intelligent design, what's a couple typos?

It's also nice when two completely independent datasets corroborate each other. Last summer, we analyzed the profile text of half a million user profiles, comparing religion and writing-level. For every one of the faith-based belief systems listed, the people who were the least serious wrote at the highest level.


More likely, it's that there's a correlation between low intelligence and religiosity (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religiosity_and_intelligence). And, of course ,there's a correlation with bad spelling and low intelligence.

So a religious person is more likely to be okay with spelling mistakes because they themselves are likely to not be good spellers, because they are likely to be less intelligent. It has nothing to do with religious people being okay with small mistakes.


Small talk is the foreplay of human discourse. Frankly most people's inconsequential talk is more interesting to me than their views on Big Topics where we mostly adhere to some tribal imperative.


Since your service is essentially chatroulette, did you do something special to keep the penises out?


> Here are a few samples:

These seem like extremely controversial, divisive topics. Not the kind of thing to bring up with someone you don’t know well, and the opposite of a good way to make a friend.


I suppose the thought was: if two can speak about such a topic, they'll get along well. No idea if that was the case, nor about its merit.


If you want to have "deep" conversations with a complete stranger without even getting an introduction first, then you're really not interested in a conversation, you're just interested in presenting.

Which is fine, just starting a YouTube channel is a better (and more honest) way to accomplish it.


Hey here's one question that usually starts interesting discussion. You can probably add it to your list:

- What would you do if you did not have to work for money?


That's a great question. Added it.


One important suggestion I'd like to offer: prevent the site from being closed mid conversation with an alert (like, a confirmation dialog box), as sometimes a simple missclick can rudely end the conversation ;( (I'm sorry monirz)


Good idea. Will add it!


This is awesome. I ignored all the questions. Just make it a clean chatroulette to have a coffee with random developers. Secure it with a programming question.


This is a great idea.


Surely the ability to answer a programming question will keep people who aren't well behaved out.


and be Smalltalk the programming language of the question


funny.. all these questions are small talk to me :)

not a criticism at all by the way! i like the concept and interested to see how it works out (plus thanks in general for thinking of thing people may like and putting the effort into creating them!).

Just that i would describe it as small talk with interesting queues :) - note IMHO small talk is very important and is a great way of learning about people and the world without getting into a fight :D.. this is just small talk that is less likely to be boring :D

*edit: the assumption being that as there is no trust between participants - they will answer these questions in a certain surface only way. the only thing that would make these questions not small talk is if they were part of a wider conversation.


How long does it typically take for both parties to agree to the same question? Some of this stuff I'm not discussing with a stranger that might become a 'friend.'


Going straight to the point without smalltalk feels very weird, it’s during smalltalk that you get to know each other.


This seems inspired by r/askreddit, but without the low impact anonymity that makes that sub work.


Is there a chance for chat instead of video call? I like the idea but I'm not exposing myself in video. I know it "ruins" the experience but each one to its own.


Yea this ! Wanted to join (I get that fuzzy warm IRC feeling of old) but I'm not putting on my camera - sorry :/


I understand how you feel but I don't think anything can replace looking into another human's eyes.


Yeah, but it has a downside. You can be recorded so you have to act as if what you are saying is going to be publicly available in the Internet forever.


You can be recorded anytime anywhere and placed on the internet.



That was an interesting read. Thanks for posting.


Within your rights, sure. Giving access to a webcam and microphone is different from being being recorded in a public setting.


It's a little better because you know it's happening and have time to prepare.


And yet you are here, using text.


He said nothing can REPLACE it (as in doesn't provide the same experience), not that he is refusing to use anything BUT it


But that is true in the trivial(uninteresting) sense. Of course not a single city in the world can replace Paris if the experience you want to provide is visiting Paris(except for some Chinese and Las Vegas copycats, heh), but that is not the point.The point here is that if your objective is to communicate and discuss things, watching the other person is not needed as demonstrated by the existence of this site (and the radio, and the phone, and IM , and the Internet, and.. and... and). You may argue that you lose things in the process and maybe you are correct, but that is highly debatable. I, for one, think that for the strict sense of discussing ideas, text is a far better medium for different reasons: it gives time to think and formulate better arguments, it helps to avoid miscommunication due to misheard words and it provides a quite environment so it helps to reflect on the content better. Another important thing given human nature is that text communication helps to avoid the trap of prejudging a person argument based on their race/sex/age/etc. At the end, of course, is a matter of personal preference and probably due to the eternal division between introverts and extroverts.


Point the camera at inanimate object, or back at the screen!


Well, video certainly hasn't replaced it. Maybe one day we will all have devices with the multiple cameras and the signal processing to allow actual eye contact over a video call.


Na I don't think any tech can replace face to face interaction.


The same way no face to face interaction can replace the ability to write messages to people on the other side of the planet. Inability of substitution does not make something superior or inferior.



[flagged]


Uhh... this is a side project I whipped together for fun. I'm not blowing anyone off by staying true to my goals with the project. I've responded to feedback by adding an "Extend for 2 minutes" button this morning and I'm working on more right now.


Really nice work, this is impressive and important.

I do wish the text chat function only group of people was there. Maybe a future a/b test :)


I’m not really sure why this is important? What’s to keep this from spiraling out of control, and taken over by trolls? What will this look like once it expands beyond the HN audience? This is a chat roulette clone, we’re all remember how that turned out. Sorry for being cynical, but if I were the author, I would be terrified of legal consequences if people start posting nudity or possibly illegal acts.


Agree that it’s worth trying out!


Alright,chill out.


I met a German girl on this app. We had a great time and right when we were exchanging numbers the server restarted. Please give a lengthier grace period. :(


Hey, it’s the German girl :) I just sent you an e-mail - hope to stay in touch!


This is incredible.


Will this be one of those classic threads? Like the lotta Bitcoin for pizza? I hope so.


Can you link to this thread?


HN moment


Or a great trolling moment


I'm really sorry about that. :( I'm furiously deploying bug fixes!


When the time is over you should let people exchange contact info if they want - and if both say yes then they see it or something like that.


I’m going to add this. It’s the #1 request people have asked for


And that sir ... is your PRO plan :-)


oh man im that dude you were talking to for 15 minutes as well, add me too


Piggybacking off this, if you are the teacher from Saudi Arabia, send me an email. address in bio.


Don’t want to sully the conversation here, but I want to raise an important point - so @feross, please stick with it.

I gave my daughter (6) my iPad for ten minutes this morning and put her on a site to draw minecraft skins. I took a call and took my eyes off the device (but not daughter) for about five minutes while I paced around the room. When I sat back next to her, she somehow ended up on virus Café and was in a video chat with someone. This scared the absolute hell out of me as I knew nothing about the site, I wondered how on Earth she’d managed to stumble on it so quickly, how she’d been able to allow access to device cameras so easily and, ya know, “Virus Café”.

To get around it, I’ve default denied mic and camera access and had to have a serious conversation about stranger danger.

I accept my own lapse in this, but to mitigate it happening to other kids who don’t have helicopter parents, can you please put some form of test before you ask for camera settings? Some form of multiplication or division, or asking for the year you were born would be a massive boost to safeguarding young kids.


Well it must have been in your web history, I very much doubt she typed the URL in. You could have been visiting anything and she could have accidentally navigated there.

For me, it's a very odd solution to a problem that we have to answer a question before allowing our webcam to be used. I would never set my webcam and mic to be allowed by default, and if I ever give my laptop or device to anyone to search for something I'll put them in a private browser for their privacy aswell as mine.

Either way, I can probably not even begin to understand the responsibilities of being a parent, but if some safeguard is put into this one site, what about the next site you visit that has a similar idea? You're in the same situation again - and there's no shortage of websites for people to chat to each other via webcam.


To confirm, it’s not allowed by default, it’s set to always ask by default - which was just a case of clicking allow or not.

And it most certainly wasn’t in my history. I’d never heard of it before and it’s my work iPad which she doesn’t know the passcode to.

No, parenting is hard, especially so right now. Every day is a mix of work, and guilt that the kid of a full time working family isn’t getting everything she needs.

Never-the-less, devices are common place now. And it’s not uncommon for children to play on them.

She does have a device that only has age appropriate learning apps on, and parental controls. These apps have the above mentioned checks in place to stop kids getting into the settings.

This site has a very child friendly design; bright buttons, emojis flying around. Isn’t it at least responsible to make sure that young people can’t access it?


If a child isn't old enough to comprehend and deal with most of the internet, then they should not have access to it or only with someone to teach them.

In my opinion, the web is a tool and should be learned like a powersaw or a drill.

I would just be annoyed if I had to answer 127 * 4 on my phone and would leave the site, because it is a ergonomic hurdle to something that I'm just mildly curious about.


As a parent (there are a lot of them, but I only speak for myself), I'd much rather someone be annoyed and not try something because a trivial question gets in the way, than a child getting put in front of a predator so easily. EDIT: Potentially.


As far as I know browsers and apps with unrestricted internet access aren’t rated for children, in my opinion this shouldn’t change.


Parental controls and a list of allowed websites and apps would have solved this.

There is no way you can police every site on the internet, so it's best not to even try. Just pick a few you trust and whitelist those.


I am 40, my first access to a computer was when i was about 4 maybe? I wrote my first program (10 print "hello", 20 goto 10) at 6.. IMHO this early introduction massively impacted my ability to understand tech and assimilate information around me.

While i think that monitoring usage of devices is important, the idea of not giving a 6yo an ipad or similar when in all likelihood their familiarity with these concepts will benefit them greatly is a bit naive.

So while i don't know the answer, i 100% agree that the solution is not to leave it all to parent.. I would expect a cashier to question my 15yo buying booze, even if i had said it was okay - this is basically the same thing imho.

or a bit like the high voltage warning signs behind barbed wire and locked gates in electricity sub-stations.. or weak roof signs that only burglars will ever see - ultimately we want to minimise the harm.


Same here - almost 40 - I was exposed to electronics at a very young age and that was an early catalyst into becoming a software developer.

Too often people argue for an all or nothing approach, when there's a good compromise in-between.

Parenting is complicated. There's thousands of books on the subject and probably thousands on the subject of electronic use for kids.

These comments telling the OP they can't change every website so "it's not worth trying" are not productive. There's nothing wrong with requesting this feature from Virus Cafe. Maybe it's something they were planning on doing anyway. You never know and it doesn't hurt to ask. What if the change is implemented and it becomes a web-design standard for other sites to adopt? Every idea starts somewhere and HN is a good platform for it to start in.


Devices were a lot safer for us as kids when they weren't connected to the aggressive messy warzone that is the modern internet.


Did your machines always have parental controls for you and did you ever read or look at things your parents wouldn't approve on the internet or in real life growing up?


> I gave my daughter (6) my iPad for ten minutes this morning

There's your problem. Just don't do that. But if you can't avoid it, disconnect the internet before you do it.


What a silly answer. He is giving a reasonable, constructive criticism that should be simply be taken seriously.

You might disagree giving an iPad to a little girl. Fine. But the suggestion for the site still stands.


This reply frustrated me to the core. This isn't a parenting website. The advice you gave is a parenting one, and bad, at that. The story could have just been concocted for the benefit of understanding the urgency of the situation. You should probably read this: https://nibblestew.blogspot.com/2020/04/your-statement-is-10... It'll make you a little wiser. As to why your reply frustrated me? I think the internet is overwhelmed by [...] trying to draw lines where no limit should really be required (please note that I'm referring to your comment, not to the request for any sort of protection on Virus Cafe...). The problem wasn't that he/she gave the ipad/iphone to the daughter, but the lack of security on the site. Better people than us said this is actually illegal, so you see, you're slightly out of line. I wanted to somehow say you're right, but irrelevant. But you aren't even right. Even a 6 yearold should have access to an iphone or an ipad, CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET, as it were. The situation forks: 1 - enable parenting rights on the device ...which would mean that if I just want my kid to experience the iphone for 5 minutes I have to enable a feature that afterwards I need to disable... (this forks again, about 3 ways) 2 - buy one especially for the kid ...I don't even want to start... (this actually forks in volumes and volumes of pros and cons)

So let's just stick to the real problem here: I (and when I say I, I mean a forty smthg yearold) was on the verge of clicking Yes to the question whether I allow Virus-Cafe to use my mic and cam. The pop-up pops up exactly where the pop-up for notifications appears, and as I usually block notifications from websites, I almost clicked No by default. In the very last second did I read the actual text on the pop-up. GDPR is really a thing and, as I mentioned previously, it is illegal to just pop that up. Some information should precede the question. (Forks again, let's not go into it.)

I do apologize both for the length of the reply and for its aggressiveness (if you chose to consider it aggressive).


That’s not the problem though is it. I said I accept my lapse, but such easy access into a world of video sharing should have at least cursory controls for children.

My lapse isn’t in question, it’s the many other children around the world who will be shoved in front of a device and forgotten about, and how this site does nothing to protect them.

We’re in lockdown, myself and my wife work full time and then some. My daughter wanted to paint minecraft skins while I was sat with her. Within two minutes she was on this site somehow and sharing video with someone from the states.

That’s not cricket.


But that's how the internet works. If not this site, then it'll be another, and another, and another... You are just one URL away from violence, porn, racism, drugs, you name it. Are you going to ask all those millions of sites to put age restrictions and barriers up too? Governments have tried and failed. I'd recommend directing your energy in to setting up whitelists and/or other monitoring software and teaching your daughter to become internet savvy, because what you are trying to do is fight a battle that you simply cannot win.

Personally, putting up any sort of age test is just another annoyance and barrier to entry that makes me more likely to give up trying the site and turn my attention elsewhere. Most kids are smart enough to figure out how to bypass this sort of thing quickly anyway - as I did back in the day, getting past the questions to gain access to Leisure Suit Larry!


I understand that you're emotional, but I don't follow the logic.

Why would you like to change a random site? Wouldn't she end up on a different one next time?

As mentioned elsewhere ( https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23415324 ), it seems easier to configure the iPad so that it's safe to give it to your daughter.


You've accepted your lapse, but you don't seem to accept any further responsibility to stop this from happening in the future. Instead, you're putting this responsibility on countless websites that YOU think are inappropriate for your daughter. The burden is on you. Own it.


If you don't want your six year old daughter to access video and audio then don't give her a device with access to video and audio - that's entirely your obligation, nobody else's.

(Disabling undesired features is another option)


For what it's worth, as a developer, I would not want to introduce user friction to my site specifically, just to address a more global problem.

Perhaps you would be better off addressing this concern with browser developers.


Would you give her your gun or knive or porn collection of sword collection?

Would you leave her in front of a tv with access to the porn channel.

Your the weak link here.


I agree. On the other side, some might argue that kids shouldn't be given tablets or phones if hey don't need them. There's a lot of discussion about it and, although not complete consensus, most pediatricians seem to discourage so early access to screens. Btw, I'm a father too.


It seems the demotion show has already started... Anyhow, WHO also discourages it https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/24-04-2019-to-grow-up-h... It's not a ridiculous idea.


Give her a kid friendly phone not your phone with your history and preferences.


I really don't think six year olds need their own phone yet...


"Kid friendly phone" usually means an older device that is disconnected from service and only has access to wifi (if even that) and apps designed for kids in their age range. I don't think they were suggesting giving the kid an actual full-service phone.


I agree.


Don't give your young child an Internet-connected device with microphone and camera capability. Just, don't.


As this is HN, could you elaborate on the technologies you used to build this platform?


Sure thing.

The video and voice chat is powered by WebRTC. The getUserMedia API allows a browser to access the webcam and microphone of the device. I used my own simple-peer (https://github.com/feross/simple-peer) library to make WebRTC a bit easier to work with.

The server is Node.js. I'm using Next.js for the first time on this project. I usually use a custom Express server for my projects. I'm a fan of several of Next.js's decisions -- it feels really nice to use, if a bit limiting sometimes.

I use the 'ws' package (https://github.com/websockets/ws) to implement a WebSocket server which is used to help the peers get connected over WebRTC. Once peers are connected, all video and video is transferred directly in a peer-to-peer fashion.

Except sometimes the connection can't be established, so to improve reliability of WebRTC you need to set up a TURN relay server for those situations. I used coturn (https://github.com/coturn/coturn) for that.

Lastly, I used Chakra UI (https://chakra-ui.com/) as my React component library.

Really happy with how the easy the app has been to build.

The most difficult part was getting it to work on Safari for iOS. I spent about 50% of the effort working around various bugs in the Safari media stack. https://twitter.com/feross/status/1263544033135038464

Hope this was informative!


This is a really nice writeup. Thank you for this. I am looking into learning more about this space and debating between a voice service like Agora / Tokbox vs rolling my own to learn. I would love to see a technical blog post on your stack!


Is this all running on one server? What resources does it take, for how many users?

What percentage of users need the TURN server?


That's great thanks, really informative. May I ask where your hosting this all?


I'm a huge fan of Linode. I've been a customer for nearly 10 years. I wrote an review a long time ago here: https://feross.org/linode-vps-hosting-review/


How do you do stun, turn and signalling?


I set up a TURN server using coturn. I deploy it on port 443, which seems to be allowed by the most networks. Signaling uses a custom WebSocket server I'm running.


> - What is a belief you had as a child that you no longer have? ...

Hm, the type of some of these questions resemble the type of the personal questions used for password recovery by some companies. As a paranoid person, I am reluctant to disclose this information to unknown people.


But you should never give the correct answer for password recovery.

What is a belief you had as a child that you no longer have?

Purple Ocean.

And that can be your answer for all the questions: first pet name, elementary school, and so on.


> But you should never give the correct answer for password recovery.

Exactly. You're supposed to use your password manager to generate a second password and use that as your answer. I know this sounds stupid but it is the only way to stay safe.


The only problem with this is if you have to read it to someone live. Otherwise, yes!


i've heard stories of call centers accepting "oh, i don't remember, i just typed a bunch of random letters and numbers" as confirmation over the phone.


Very good idea!


Good idea!


You already started the discussion :)


Ah, for me it was cosmic-deflect-attitude. I really struggled with it in my teenage years.


How could that possibly be a password recovery question? A password recovery question should only have one correct answer.


Yep. Not to mention sharing your true opinions on deep/intimate topics to strangers is generally a terrible idea especially on camera.

Also, these types of posts make me wonder what the goals of the project are. Is the intent here to gather data and sell it? Gather users and sell the company? I don't believe in saints. I don't believe in the "don't be evil" mantra.

For all the talk about privacy and anonymity, seems many here want to give away their privacy and anonymity.


The name does not inspire enough confidence for me to click on the link.


Using the word virus on the internet is like using the word bomb in the airport. It's not a good decision.


It’s a great decision, it filters out some people you probably wouldn’t care to talk to.


It's safe, I promise. The browser sandbox is quite good. :)


I had some very interesting conversations here. I don't remember the exact questions and dailogue but I'll note some here for users to know what they can expect. It was addictive. I got to a couple participants that covered their camera and decided to disconnect after seeing me (Internet strangers do that).

#1 What is the social and economics structure (theoritical or fictious) that you tend to agree with. We spent a minute or so discussing how we are new to the platform and it is our first session. The participant was from Europe and immediately opted for Capitalism. I sort of agreed and waved good bye at end of 2 mins.

#2 Do you believe in after life? The participant was a cheerful African women. I disclosed that would prefer not to have a after life and belong the void. That is the only way to achieve peace for me. She immediately exclaimed that she prefers to have an after life as she believes that there is more to experience than the chaos we experience in life.

#3 What is it that you would change in your past? It was a North American man. We shared some personal experiences. We ended up extending the time multiple times and it was fun talking. I think we both took something away from the chat.

#4 You use a public toilet and notice there is no toilet paper. You are inside the stall. What do you do? An Indian origin participant from Africa shared some witty advice here. We ended up in small talk, and realized he has visited places in my city in India. We had an interesting conversation about how intellectuals can study spirituality and ignore the illogical and derive value.

I had some very interesting conversations here. And I might use this platform again. Good job!


Just to say I love the background animation when one refuse to allow the camera. Attention to details is everything.


I am glad someone noticed!


My comments after trying it for a while:

- First off all, I like the idea! Thanks for making this! HN will often hold a hobby-project to the standards of a professional product, and will hence criticize a lot, but don't get discouraged, I enjoyed it.

- From time to time I got a repeated question, or the question was a bit lame/uninteresting. Maybe add a feature so you're able to "reroll" the question once per conversation (perhaps with agreement of the other). Personally I would like it if you could e.g. choose a category before getting matched.

- I got insta-disconnected quite often. This doesn't really bother me that much as I can try again immediately, but it could put people off when they try out the app and get skipped the first couple of times. People will judge the app on the first conversations. Do you punish frequent disconnecters? (Maybe put a limit, like max 2 disconnects per minute)

- The "no small-talk" is not very effective, some will entirely ignore the question. But I don't really think you can avoid this.

- I never got matched to a troll / something inappropriate. On the contrary: some conversations where quite wholesome (like a very friendly camel farmer with his little daughter). I hope it can stay this way.

- A majority of people I got matched to where from Saudi Arabia. This is not an issue on its own, but I found that many of these had poor English skills or a bad connection, which made conversations difficult.

- Some conversations where interesting, but some were also very lame. It's not so much the question that's important but also the personality of the person you get matched with. There are quite some people that go "idk lol how about you" after getting asked the conversation question. However the quality of the conversations are really the maker or breaker of the experience. It can be worth wading trough the bad ones for the good ones. Good ones occur less frequent tough, but tend to be longer. Indeed, 2 minutes is very short to have a proper discussion, so you extend it if it goes well. You could try to enhance this by e.g. making each renewal of the timer a minute longer.


tried matching with 3 people, all took one look at my face and peaced lol

nice app though! love the small touches with the emojis and sounds!


That's a bummer! I think I'll implement a penalty for leaving in the middle of a chat. Will auto-ban folks who do that too much. Thoughts?


What about the case were someone leaves because the opposite user is trolling? I've thought about it for a minute now, but I really can't think of a great way to implement it without it being abused.


Maybe not ban right away, but how about longer waiting times between calls?


That’s a much better idea.


is what it is... chatroulette and co all have similar behavior. too many rules and you lose users.


I'm okay with losing users. I only want users who enjoy long discussions about deep questions. That's the target audience of the app. If you have no standards, you devolve into ChatRoulette. More users, but very little value.


I'm glad you're aiming for a different niche because I was gonna say the exact same thing.

I had one awkward conversation and then one person quit in the first second.

Omegle was the same for text. Either I'd quit when I saw "ASL?" or they'd quit when I replied.


I miss the old ICQ random chats. Found a bunch of people on there up for real conversation, and there was very little of the empty 'ASL??' nonsense back then.


ah yeah same here, I bet it's because I'm a guy


I love this, it is like chatroulette but everyone i met was super nice and polite. (no surprise dicks is a good feature IMO)


Only a matter of time I'm sure. Is that still a problem with Chatroulette? They really should deploy measures against that shit. Maybe shadowban perverts so they end up together (which probably happens a lot anyway).


I love the idea of forcing "deep talk". I found that the fleeting nature of the connection doesn't pair as well with in-depth answers and good conversation, but it pairs great when the conversation is bad.

I also ran into a lot of instances where I got reported with the message of "be nice" when the other person wasn't responding and/or wasn't on cam. I'm assuming I got reported, but couldn't confirm why.

Overall, really cool concept and slick implementation. Just wish more than 30% of the conversations had been fruitful. I'm assuming if you forced people to have accounts, you'd be able to improve this experience over time.


Maybe I am not stubborn enough, but my experience after 5 tries is:

- Nobody showed their face to the camera - why not but it seems odd to not be on equal foot

- 1 person was doing ONLY small talk and did not seem interested to discuss a specific topic.

- 4 people saw me and immediately ended the chat


Hey! Great idea. I've had a lot of fun with it. Honestly, I'm not sure how this would even work, but it might be enjoyable if it were possible to randomise the location of both parties a little more. For the first 24 hours, I was meeting people from across the globe. However, for some reason, I now match exclusively with people from Saudi Arabia who don't speak very good English. I'm assuming the website was promoted there by an 'influencer' or something. I've met a lot of lovely people living in Riyadh, but it was a lot more fun when I didn't know where the other person was...


When I open it, I'm seeing "An unexpected error has occurred".

I'm assuming either website went down because of increased traffic, or it's not working in Safari private mode. My video is also off by default, if that matters.


I spoke to a couple of people and then I realised that I shouldnt cover my camera. My privacy filter was on and I got banned in 5 minutes. Good effort but I feel like its a clone of chat roulette!


Wow I was a little nervous at first but that was really fun!

I did like 6 or 7. For some reason over half were from KSA. Might check that random seed :)

But still fun. Kudos to author.


This sounds anxiety-inducing.


Ha sadly I feel the same, when I was younger I could care less what happened, now too critical "why didn't they like me?" etc etc ah well


not everyone is terrified of social interaction


Not all social interaction is this terrifying.


*To me, this sounds anxiety-inducing


Them maybe you should do it. Exposure therapy really does work wonders.


The screen that's visible when the video is not yet enabled is very annoying, might even be an epilepsy seizure trigger.


This app is awesome! great way to meet random people all around the world, and engage in interesting conversation.


The red button is clippped 80% on iPhone 7. My font size for OS is slightly larger than default


This is real cool. I would like something like this for blind matching a buyer and a seller in this covid 19 time. Sellers get 2 mins and a buyer can extend it by 5 mins. Speed dating for business.


The small talk dilemma, people like small talk use it to get into conversation with strangers. And the others just don’t want to talk to strangers (or people who are not alike)

End of story!


Hi feross! I presume this uses simple peer? We’re using simple peer in our app (currently on the front page as well). Thanks so much for your work!


Yes, this uses simple-peer. I'm glad that it was useful for you! If it's a for-profit app, please consider supporting me on GitHub Sponsors: https://github.com/sponsors/feross


We rushed to launch this without any paid features, but we're planning on doing so. The moment we have a revenue stream, I'll be supporting you.


Your contact page is broken on your website and email to the address listed bounces. How can we contact you?


chase@zumaltd.com / chase@fraclog.co

Or the hello@ address should be fixed now


The key to eliminating small talk is to announce observations and get to a point where you speak with more statements than questions.


Was fun to meet people there! Thanks feross


Whats the difference with chat roulette?


The "click the emojis" doesn't increase in difficulty ;)

Are the 200 questions publicly visible somehwere?


They're in a JSON file in the repo at the moment. I'll open source them later today when I have a spare moment: https://github.com/feross


I just wanted to start by saying thanks so much for your open source contributions. I've been using simple-peer in a few side projects and it's been a breeze.

Are you planning on eventually open sourcing Virus Cafe on top of releasing the questions?


You are very welcome. simple-peer has been massively improved by other OSS contributors, and I am not an expert on the video/voice aspects of it as much as the data channel, so it's actually really great that I open sourced it. It enabled me to build Virus Cafe super quickly. The power of open source!


I'm also interested in the questions. Couldn't find the file (or the repo for virus cafe) in the repo list


Nice! I have some feedback. Where can I send it to?


My email is [my username]@feross.org


The rampant gratuitous flagging on HN has gotten out of control, this thread is exhibit A. Stop flagging stuff. If it has the slightest tinge of humor or sarcasm it gets flagged. Put the flag down. It's OK to be a little funny sometimes. Just stop.


> It's OK to be a little funny sometimes.

But people usually not trying to be funny is the only thing that makes this site usable over something like Reddit.

If we can keep away jokes and puns for as long as possible, that'd be great.


Maybe because it is a slippery slope. "My humorous jab beats yours" attitude ends up derailing conversations and creating noise. I like how r/ELI5 handles this by ensuring that top level comments are always serious answers.


Please tell me one of the topics is abortion. Always a good icebreaker. Virus cafe? Seriously, will my computer catch something using this site?


No abortion questions, but I do have a 3-4 absurd questions in rotation, just to spice things up :)

- Would you rather have someone secretly give you LSD on a random day once every 6 months or make everyone in the world take LSD all at the same time once every 5 years?

- Would you rather have taste buds on your butthole or poop through your mouth?

- Would you rather have sex with Donald Trump in secret, or not have sex with him but everyone thinks you did?


First one is really nice, second is fine.

Are you creating these yourself or have some source?


Gives out pretty negative feelings to me.

A sad emojii with a face mask is pretty depressing, and even worse if you see the mask as political.

Black lives matter is destroying cities across the USA.

I'm sure it's just me, but I wonder if anyone else sees this?


Sorry that you don't like it. Can't please everyone. Lots of people have told me they've had fun meeting new people from around the world.

Regarding the hashtag, I put it there because I'm against police brutality and I'm horrified by what the police are doing. Looters should be arrested and prosecuted, for sure. But police have a monopoly on the use of violence and must be held to a higher standard.


Anti-brutality is unifying, racial victimhood is controversial. For effectiveness focus on the former, for tribal signaling focus on the latter.


I didn't write I don't like it, mostly think being more neutral and removing political statements might be better.

As for the Police, that was one guy. What percentage of cops kill innocent people, vs. save you from the bad guys (I was saved by cops twice, for instance). Also looks like the guy is going to be held at a higher standard and will get a harsh punishment. Is looting and burning down stores that in many cases represent people's life savings the correct way to solve the problem?

As you see, we could be talking about your chat, and we're talking about violence and depressing things like a store owner saving money for 20 years only to see it burn down by Antifa.


I'm not one to touch politics, but wearing a mask is absolutely not a political statement. It's a sentiment that has been politicized, but the scientific argument for wearing a mask is very strong.

See the study published in Nature (1), or recommendations from reputable medical institutions like the Cleveland Clinic (2) and the Mayo Clinic (3) for better explanations than I could give.

I own several businesses in the hospitality and service sector and every single one of my employees are required to wear a mask for the protection of themselves and our guests. It's absolutely ridiculous that something as easy as wearing a mask is suddenly, "The Worst Thing in the World" and/or, "The Most Uncomfortable Thing I've Ever Done". I have awful seasonal allergies and asthma and when I'm at the office or out and about in public, I will wear my surgical mask the entire time. The only time my mask is off is when I'm in my car or at home.

I just can't get past the entitlement that some people have when they can't be bothered with sacrificing a tiny little bit of personal comfort to help slow the spread of a pandemic.

1: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-0843-2

2: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/heres-how-wearing-a-cloth...

3: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/i...

/rantover

I apologize, but I'm just shocked. I expect better from my fellow HNers. Also, It's not entirely clear to me if you don't believe in wearing masks or if you're just making the comment that a mask is a political object (and by extension, websites should not display politically charged images). Either way, your comments in this thread have really thrown me for a loop.


I think it is easy to misread the implied context of your statement as

protestors = looters = antifa.

Which is of course not true.

These are three seperate groups of people and the only subset relation that holds true (using a definition of `protestors` as simply participants) is

protestors > looters.

And I guess they constitute only a small percentage.

Additionally: Not everyone who would signify themselves as part of the antifa is a looter and not every looter is part of the antifa.

I would not jump to any conlusion about the ratios `looters/(antifa looters)` and `antifa/(antifa looters)`. (Note: They are not inverse).

Overall, my impression is that the antifa plays only a minor role and was mostly brought up by T. to derail the public discussion.


I hope it's Antifa (a terrorist organization), and not regular kids that go out and beat up old ladies.


Are they organized?

Are they able to kick people out? They have an official communications channel to take credit for the crimes they commit, and disown crimes they don't want to be associated with?


I don't know, but I've seen what they do, so if this can force cities to arrest them and make punishmenta harsher, it's most welcome.


antifa has not been designated as a terrorist organization. it's not even an organization (but an umbrella term for lots of loosely collected organizations).


Those sound like cells to me.


I thought it was, the other day?


a good rule of thumb is that most things Trump says are false.


> What percentage of cops kill innocent people, vs. save you from the bad guys

Pretty low I suppose. The point is, we should take every precaution to keep the former as low as possible, preferably zero. The people are not seeing this effort at the moment.


So, you beat up old ladies and burn stores to do that?

I don't think anyone wants police killing people, but this is crazy and useless.

Also, was there not a pandemic where people were being chased eith drones to social distance? What happened to that?


From what I have seen it's the cops that are beating up old ladies.


What percentage of protesters beat up old ladies and burn stores, vs. just peacefully protest?


> Black lives matter is destroying cities across the USA.

I don't think anyone has a good solution to that. Many people have been very angry for years and they feel the need to express that. It doesn't really matter if the owners of shops are white or black at this point. If you try to block this anger, the result will be even more anger. So I think the policemen who kneel, hug, kiss the shoes etc. are doing the right thing - trying to minimize losses. And it's hard to stop because there is no good leader like MLK who can positively channel the emotions and actually present some feasible proposal that could be implemented.


All true.


>Black lives matter is destroying cities across the USA.

You're right in that there is unfortunately some damage being caused to property, with some of those not having large corporate backings or insurance to recover from it.

It's apparent that there are some opportunists using the protests as cover, or that this is a misguided small fraction of people protesting.

If we're talking about what is destroying our cities, this is a small blip. We have a opioid crisis, thousands of people routinely going bankrupt not being able to afford healthcare, and a government that stacks the odds against the working-class in favor of the rich. Corporations are getting more powerful and there is a greater wealth disparity than ever before. If anything that is what is destroying our cities and this is some minor symptom of it.


How do you propose a hashtag should enforce authority on who is allowed to use it?

I'm asking because I need that magic for veganism and atheism. I need to disown a few people.


If you are being genuine, I would ask you to reconsider your viewpoints.

Talk to a BLM leader and learn about racial targeting in law enforcement.

When a few LEOs are malicious, then there is no reason to implicitly trust any LEO.

Donald Trump has led his administration with a playbook of blatant lies and propaganda.

Antifa stands for anti-fascist. Why would you be pro-fascist?




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