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Most tech content is bullshit (aleksandra.codes)
709 points by velmu on June 7, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 461 comments

Good is hard.

When I left O'Reilly Media in 2005 we were just ending a period where many programmers worked with a set of physical O'Reilly books on their shelf. And everyone at O'Reilly could see that their business was being eaten away by free. Stack Overflow didn't exist yet but we could feel it coming.

At the time, we hoped that UGC would have some sort of wisdom of the crowd thing that would lead to high quality. I remember this sort of was true in the PHP documentation. The official documentation was always deeply flawed, but the comment thread attached to that documentation generally had the right info.

But that was a precursor to our current situation. To get correct info you had to read a lot of conflicting info and synthesis it yourself.

So I think we are seeing as good as the free ecosystem can get and what's sad is that we seem to have lost the paid ecosystem. It's not nearly as strong as it used to be.

What people probably don't know about O'Reilly back in the day is what went into a book.

The author was almost always a subject matter expert already. And their editor was also a subject matter expert. Then the book would go through tech review and those people were generally also pedantic luminaries. Then the book would be published and bugs would come into an errata tracking system. The vast majority of those bugs would get fixed between printings.

And then, on top of all that, there was a tech support number. And if the code in the book wasn't working for you, then you could get a live person to try to work through it with you.

That all costs a lot of money, but when you split the cost out across consumers it was only $30 or so per book.

I value my time. And there are many, many places where I wish I could pay for quality. Tech content is one of them.

Seems kind of like the video game crash of 1983[0]. A flood of low quality content that begins to drown out the high quality content. One of the best things about the internet is that anyone can create and publish what they want. One of the worst parts about the internet is that anyone can create and publish what they want.

I'm a big fan of books because that is where a lot of experts seem to prefer to publish their knowledge, and it's usually worth the price. Of course that's not always the case, but I feel like I get much higher quality content from books than Medium articles.


I’m the same way. I prefer books because an expert had the opportunity to help you understand a subject from start to finish.

Stack Overflow is great for quick reference to small questions.

Or edge cases that the book might not cover.

Another reason to vouch for books is, it takes painstaking amount of research, collection, compiling, citations and proof reading before you would read it. Not like someone spotting in the blog comment about a (logical) flaw. Not all tech content is BS though. Choosing whom to follow makes a huge difference, I follow Raymond Hettinger for Python, Blog posts make as a quick reference but fails as foundation building block.

What are some high quality books you’d recommend that are somewhat recent (last ten years)?

The only ones I can say, that I’ve also read, are YDKJS and Secrets JavaScript Ninja (work in web, but willing to read anything, good information is good information regardless of the tech).

Here are some books that have stood out for me. They cover some of the technologies that I either have to work with, or am personally interested in.

Effective Java by Joshua Bloch

Practical, actionable guidelines. The first edition was the best, the second was diluted somewhat by having to cover generics, in the third he admits that he doesn't really use Java much anymore... Despite that, it's well-written and still a good book.

The Linux Programming Interface by Michael Kerrisk

Covers some of the history of the Linux/Unix API, describes it in detail, has plenty of examples, compares different APIs that do similar things so you can make an informed choice (e.g. System V vs. POSIX message queues).

If any book in this list stands out for me, it's probably this one. It might be partly due to the surprise factor of how enjoyable and well-written a 1000+ page, near-reference book is.

Programming in Haskell by Graham Hutton

An intro to the language and how to approach problem solving from a functional P.O.V. Not as comprehensive as some other intros to Haskell, but Hutton is a good writer and educator, making it a good read.

Designing Data-Intensive Applications by Martin Kleppmann

Provides an overview of a number of topics related to databases, distributed systems, consensus, etc. Lots of references (many of them online) if you like that in a book. Enjoyable to read.

Parallel and Concurrent Programming in Haskell by Simon Marlow

Probably a must-read if you're into Haskell; probably too esoteric if you're not... Well written.

Type-Driven Development with Idris by Edwin Brady

Describes a programming language similar to Haskell, but strict by default and with dependent types designed-in from the start. Also describes techniques for leveraging the type system to construct functions (the type-driven part of the title). Well written.

Hacker's Delight by Henry S. Warren

Low-level bit twiddling. 'Nuff said.

in the third he admits that he doesn't really use Java much anymore...

What does he uses now?

I misremembered what he said in the preface. I thought he had said that he was using Java less often, but what he actually wrote was, "I still like Java, though my ardor has cooled a bit as the platform has grown."

High Performance Browser Networking - it's 2013 but apart from new tech and higher speeds, the basics of networking remain the same (also available online since a recently at https://hpbn.co/)

This looks cool. I use to work at a national ISP and really miss the world of network engineering, granted browsers are one aspect of it but it's a very unique industry compared to e-comm and marketing tech.

Thanks for the rec!

Pro Git, Coders at Work both are ~10 years old. A recent one is Site Reliability Engineering published in 2016

Whoah, it's already ~4 years since the SRE book... How time flies.

I wrote two of the chapters in the SRE book but I have very mixed feelings about them. I'm glad that I got a chance to talk openly about some of the work I've been doing for the last decade, but I felt that, in the end, I couldn't devote to my chapters as much time as I would have liked, so I don't feel as proud about them as I would have liked. Boy, this really took soooo much time!

I don't know what I'm trying to say, I guess just that I find seeing someone praise the book interesting. What were your favorite chapters?

Embracing Risk changed how I think about downtime, the other chapters didn't really offer anything new for me, I already used those principles in practice, so I can't really pick a favorite from those.

Despite that, I still recommend it to anybody new to DevOps/SRE/Cloud Engineering/whatever you call it, with a grain of salt that you don't operate at Google scale so you shouldn't implement it as is. Just reading the principles chapters helps a lot to talk the same language.

Pro Git is something I've been meaning to read, as someone who my team considers a "git expert" (I'm the only one who knows how to rebase and handle conflicts thru mergetool on the CLI -_-).

I've heard great things about it, definitely need to add it to my queue.

The SRE book is also interesting. There was a conference recently where one of the authors gave a talk [1] about training. Really encouraged me to at least get the PDF.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iaNMMwozCc

You will learn a lot from the Pro Git book. The good thing about this book is that it builds up your knowledge from the ground up without being boring. You will learn what's happening in the background. In the end, I got more confident using git because I realized if it's committed I can revert back to it.

Yeah I went back to good old expert written books after years realizing that a lot of content on the internet, that is not paid for, is opinion and drivel and cannot be trusted.

I think part of the problem is that publishers did a bad job of pricing their digital products and missed an opportunity to increase sales volume. In my opinion they got greedy thinking they could increase volume and prices at the same time, so digital products were priced way too high.

I had a Safari Books subscription for a little while, but I got rid of it. I can't remember the exact pricing, but IIRC it was around $250 / year for the cheap option that let me "borrow" 10 books a month. The problem for me was that I'd typically buy 2-3 books per year ($100-$150) and I owned more than 10 books total, so the subscription seemed like a bad deal by comparison. The "unlimited" (with limited downloads IIRC) was $500+ / year. That's a lot of books.

O'Reilly could have been the Spotify of tech books, but old school publishers were too scared to reassess their pricing. When the cost of distribution plummets, but results in a worse (ie: more expensive), product for your customers, it's not a shock to see those businesses struggle IMO, especially when the competition is free and "good enough".

I think it’s around 20/month now for O’Reilly learning (the new name for safari books). I’ve had it for around 5 years now, and I don’t ever recall having a limit on number of items. I feel like they have actually got better, with some really good video courses included as well. I’m just completing the second of two courses which are available elsewhere for $99 each, so I’ve almost paid for the year. I really like the idea of having this huge library I can dip into when I want to look something up, rather than getting lost in large amounts of low-quality blog posts online.

Just looked it up and the website is showing me $49/month or $499/year.


The only option I'm seeing now is $499/yr or $49/m. Do you have a better price somewhere?

The Spotify of books is a great way to look at it.

If a publisher had insanely high quality articles on everything, behind a paywall, I'd subscribe to $15 a month pretty quickly.

Every hour saved would pay for itself many times over.

The problem is having a wide enough array of content that such a site becomes the single go to. O'Reilly had that catalog, but I think the tech world had gotten much more complicated since then.

That would be Kindle Unlimited model, as far as I know they pay authors by pages read.

But I’m unsure how impactful revenue wise for an author can make or how sustainable is it long term.

Most of the books I see on Unlimited are either older books (there are some good gems), books that are already freely found on the internet or books that are scrappily put together.

“...by pages read.” That actually sounds great. I don’t want to read a book, I want access to knowledge. I want a great search engine that will surface the pages containing the info I need so I can read them and move on and that is usually a handful of pages from a book.

This could have a terrible incentive for authors to spread the information thin across a ton of pages to artificially increase their earnings, so we'll end up with books that are the equivalent of online recipes today where there are 3 pages of SEO garbage before the actual recipe.

That both has and hasn't happened with Spotify.

On the one hand, there are no 10 hour songs with some great part spread out randomly throughout that listeners have to find (obvious, and I think such a book wouldn't be successful either).

On the other hand there are tons of generated crap on Spotify, than sometimes sneaks into your playlists (even things contained text-to-speech advertisement).

I think all such platforms would need some kind of spam filter functionality and a good rating / statistics system so that quality content could be surfaced.

Spotify’s returns to creators are pitifully small, and since they’re basically a distributor not a publisher, they don’t offer advances on royalties.

So maybe the economics would disincentivize authorship.

I was thinking of everything being under one publishing house, basically a company that just writes high quality documentation and nothing else.

The "like spotify" was more in reference to pay once, get everything imaginable.

Sure, but the functional aspect immediately unpacks into commercial consequences.

This also explains the difference between publishers and distributors, and the dissimilar risks they accept.

I'd suggest something more like Netflix as a model; they are primarily a distributor and only very rarely a publisher; their library has a selection of standard classics, recently(ish) popular content for which the original publisher has more incentive to license than sell direct, plus rotating items of interest to keep the catalog feeling fresh for ongoing customers.

(note that even so-called "Netflix Original" content is mostly produced by other companies).

It's been thought of, of course. The search history of "Netflix for e-books" is in practice a mixture of junkyards like Scribd and "what-if" questions on Quora. There's likely a causality dilemma with achieving the catalog scale necessary for success, mediated by the conservative strategies and revenue fears of existing publishers, all of whose investors/owners are entrenched incumbents that see their businesses as perpetuities (steady, low-margin cash printers) rather than growth ventures.

Basically, they won't do it, until they see it can be done.

Also for selling digital goods regional pricing plays a big role in my opinion. Part of the reason why steam is so hugely successful.

Orielly learning comes free with ACM membership which is very affordable in developing countries. It really helped me.

The problem with physical programming books - and don't get me wrong, I love physical books to a fault - is that they're easily made outdated, either with new versions of the same software, or the software gets replaced, or new best practices arise. Then you have to buy another version of the book. In addition to this, which basically makes physical programming books a nonstarter already, you have the issue that books aren't easily searchable or copy-pasteable.

Really, there's not much of a reason to have physical programming books anymore; it's just not practical, whatever the level of quality you get elsewhere. And you seem to have left out official documentation and stuff, which is getting really good imo.

The only reason for having a physical programming book is for totally timeless ideas, like algorithms and data structures textbooks, or introductory books to concepts like compilers.

There are a lot of “totally timeless” ideas, so lots of reasons to have paper books. There’s also nothing wrong with a book becoming outdated. A book is the most efficient way to transfer a large amount of information between two human minds. Just because some syntax changes doesn’t remove the value of that information being transferred in the first place. And just because a “best practice” changes, that doesn’t mean that understanding the old best practice has no value. In fact, everyone would benefit from understanding the history, context, and evolution of “best practices” (which change so often that they should really be called “current practices”).

So, if you’re only looking at a book along one dimension which is “getting the most recent fashion status” in a fast-changing industry, then paper books aren’t appealing. But that’s the saddest dimension to evaluate a book on.

yea, in short, the internet enabled speeding up all of the extremely time consuming processes described by GP. You could have kept the steps the same on the O'Reilly books, but used the web for bug reports, pushing updates, etc. So what it comes down to is curated and paid content vs crowd sourced and free (ad supported).

For me it comes down to scale. The chances I find precisely what I'm looking for on stack overflow is much higher than even the best curated content of all kind, just because SO is much bigger.

I make a living selling iOS development courses at high prices, so I can tell you that the we didn't lose the paid ecosystem.

I can't talk about book publishers like O'Really, and probably the market for books shrank. But I have several competitors that sell self published ebooks.

The plethora of free content you find online is not always a good thing for everyone. As the author of the article says, most tech content is bullshit. Most people don't care, but there are plenty of people that realize that and are willing to pay.

Paid tutorials, especially in video format, usually serve different clientele. There's often 'show me how it's done' instead of 'let me figure this out after reading it' mentality.

If 'show me how it's done' is video then books are 'tell me how it's done'. The 'let me figure this out after reading it' would mostly be some docs.

Do you have a link? I'd like to check them out.

My site is matteomanferdini.com

Books are awesome and somewhat under-appreciated piece of knowledge today. Many people prefer to lurk around blogs, documentation, tutorials for some technology, but I always trying to find a book from some reputable author. It does not always exist, but often it does exists and it's much better way to learn a technology. It might take a bit more time, because usually books present information in a more thorough way so you need to work from basics rather than copy-pasting some code and call it a day. But in the end it's worth time spent.

I find very few books to be thorough. If you find books that contradicts itself, then the author doesn't know what he is talking about. A good reference point for a good book IMO

a period where many programmers worked with a set of physical O'Reilly books on their shelf.

I’ve never been so productive as I was in those days. Good quality documentation and no distractions. A golden age that we didn’t even know we were in. The modern development paradigm is a dumpster fire in comparison. Thanks for the good work you did back then producing those materials.

In a perhaps futile attempt to solve the problem (contribute to solving it) I came to think of it like this: Web pages have the same kind of content as the first bunch of pages of a book. The entire internet is like that. You reach the largest audience by assuming the reader knows nothing. Eating nothing but appetizers turns out unsatisfying. It gets truly absurd where everyone seems to [further] optimize for delivering as little as possible.

Part of the reason for the higher productivity probably was the lower amount of churn in the development tools, frameworks, paradigms-du-jour, deployment strategies, microservices, picoservices and more. It doesn't make sense to produce and print books about technologies with a half-life time of a year nor does it seem to make sense to invest time and effort into learning them - but you'll have to anyway.

> and those people were generally also pedantic luminaries

Having been involved in publishing tech books, that is a beautiful way of describing tech reviewers.

I too miss the paid ecosystem. And not just in tech books. Music too. Paying someone for curation had definite value to me.

Yes. I meant it lovingly. The feedback I got on my own OReilly book was intense!

A lot of that free content is not just wrong but also convoluted to extremes. I was reading about roles in Asp.net. After watching a few videos, reading a few articles, including the ones from Microsoft,I was none the wiser. Then I pulled out a book I bought a few years ago and it turns out it had a section on about roles.The guy explained the whole thing in just few pages and in a way that even a donkey would understand,while all those websites were showing some unnecessary complexity. I bought some technical books, including some classics and it's so refreshing compared to all that junk on Medium.

Perhaps part of the problem is that books are hard to search?

It may well be a bad habit, but I frequently don't learn new technologies through a concerted effort. Instead, there's just something I want to do, and I google it, and after doing that a bunch I eventually learn a lot.

I feel like that method of discovery is how I learn best, because I learn WHY something is the way it is, and how it's actually used outside of toy examples. Plus, it's just how most people are built to learn.

And yes, books not being searchable is basically THE reason I never use programming books.

Hmm, perhaps, but I find that book indices can be better than a raw search of some term (easier to find more substantial entries).

I've never found that to be true, but I'm just kind of bad at using books as references maybe. I always get extremely frustrated flipping through.

I'd certainly pay for timely quality (I had at one time 4 packed bookshelves lining the walls of my office).

The problem is that "timely" bit.

A good book take 3-6 months to write, edit, review, and publish.

In that time we could have as many releases with the info in the book radically out of date.

Only solution is to go online, but that doesn't help the traditional write/edit/review cycle much.

Things change so fast, I don't see much option to Stack Overflow... Not really.

I really appreciate good books, I recently bought Javascript The Definitive Guide, for a second time 2020 edition (O’Reilly) it’s expensive £40 but worth every penny, 10 times more valuable than umpteen books at £10 to £20, so actually great value.

Good was hard.

Nowadays anyone can publish a book on Amazon, digitally and get published. It's reflected a lot in their Kindle bookstore.

Sometimes, having a good barrier to entry, brings out the best and the most dedicated.

There's a particular brand of young developer where every opinion comes from a blog post, talk or HN comment. They have strong views on many different topics and believe that they're knowledgeable and smarter than the average developer^[1].

The only issue? They don't have actual experience to back this up. Because not only is most tech content bullshit, the small percentage that isn't BS may not apply to their situation. You may not be working on soft real time systems. You may not be working with big data. You may not be running a company.

I should know—I'm certainly guilty of assuming that because I read about software development, I'm a better software developer. When really there's a big big big difference between reading about development and actually practicing the craft. Especially if you've only been programming casually. There's a massive difference between writing code for fun and writing code that needs to be a value-add for the company.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yogi_Bear

Being young is hard, no need to judge to harshly, often a rivalrous blogpost-driven discussion can be turned into a cooperative exploration, which is exactly a way for them to gain the experience.

Quiet, or at-arms-length, dismissal hurts self-confidence and reinforces this blogpost-driven defense mechanism.

It's definitely not the worst to be overly well read in programming literature. But oh man does it get old arguing with someone who is taking advice from a very niche, very particular field such as game development and applying it to general software development.

>often a rivalrous blogpost-driven discussion can be turned into a cooperative exploration

They also often drive away any possibility of meaty conversation because everyone worth hearing from is drowning under a sea of underinformed responses written in a way that sounds like a convincing in-depth discussion to the even less informed passerbys.

I'm no sage, but it doesn't take a genius to see when Hacker News and /r/programming get swept away by a new silver bullet in software development. Then we all have to wait years before the enthusiastic youngsters are ready to hear a realistic conversation about the prima facie limitations of the new magic beans.

I think I possibly fall into this category of developer. I'm currently a few years into game development in the AAA space. The people I listen to most in descending order are Casey Muratori, Andrew Kelley, and Jonathan Blow.

I try to take their opinions with a grain of salt and find my own balance of considerations/tradeoffs. A common sentiment between them that I agree with is that software is a lot of commercial software is often an order of magnitude too slow in important places and that object oriented programming is almost always taken far too far.

I also look up to a few senior programmers I work with who have in-the-same-ballpark values as them.

On a whole, I think reading and listening to them has made me a better developer than if I just fumbled around to draw my own opinions completely from scratch.

I think being that type of young dev is probably fine so long as you keep your dogmatism and humility in check, and ensure your mentors are a spread of different individuals.

I think that's better than other young devs not seeking out information to try and grow.

Yeah you're quite similar to people I know, especially in your view of performance and choice of sources. I definitely agree that bottom line, seeking out info is a net benefit.

I have a fair amount of respect for game developers. However at the same time I feel they can make the assumption that all development should follow their practices. That everybody should be writing in C++/Zig/Jai/Rust, using data oriented programming and avoiding objects like the plague. That if other developers were just smart enough they'd make everything ridiculously fast and awesome. Not every game developer thinks this way, obviously, but there is a subset.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it assumes all developers have the same priorities. In actuality game development is an extremely rare area where there are close-to real time requirements. Not painting the screen every 1/24th of a second is a disaster in game dev. Meanwhile GitHub uses Rails in all of its object oriented, garbage collected, interpreted horror. And nobody cares!

I suspect if a troop of elite game developers were dropped into your average web development job, they'd spend an unreasonable amount of time optimizing perf, only to have their lunch eaten by someone who focused on user facing issues. Not that web development is hard or anything. It's just a different set of requirements.

Watching jblow et al is definitely great! But there might be a point where you're put on a team using OOP and asking them to refactor to DOP with bulk allocation because you gotta get that cache utilization will just earn you stares and no buy-in. Or you might be running a startup and realize that all the time you spent getting all requests under 100ms could have been spent writing features.

Popularity of blog posts are driven largely by SEO which is good for marketing but not so much for consuming knowledge.

I believe a lot of people (myself included) don't realize they read a lot of blog posts and articles about a topic they are interested in, but have no time trying out, and feel they know something about the subject when most of these articles are copying each other to gain popularity.

Not to mention, the extremely opinionated but well written and charismatic blog post is most often the one believed, even though charisma is not a strong signal for truth.

This really just sums up human nature.

It's no really about experience but rather about the ability to reason from first principles. Lots of developers with experience don't even attempt doing something because the structure of the problem demands it; they would only do something if they've seen a similar approach before.

I'm in this comment and I don't like it.

Call me a cynic, but the whole "think critically and figure it out for yourself" solution is inefficient at best, harmful at worst. Global warming skepticism is exactly the kind of thing that often occurs when people trust their own judgement more than that of subject matter experts.

There are very effective ways to get high quality recommendations, with minimal effort on your part. Want to get good medical advice? Find two highly regarded medical specialists and ask them independently for a diagnosis and treatment plan. Not two doctors next door. Not two doctors who published random blogs. Two doctors who are highly regarded by their peers and by the wider industry.

Want to get good financial advice? Do the same thing with financial advisors. Looking for good fitness advice? Do the same with fitness trainers or nutritionists. Looking for good software engineering advice? Do the same thing with developers.

Eventually the day will come when you have learnt and grown so much, that you are just as capable as the "highly regarded" experts. When that day comes, feel free to debate the merits of their arguments. But until then, don't try to be an expert at everything. Don't feel pressured to derive every single thing from first principles. That's just not scalable.

There are too many bullshitters in the software industry. Years of experience helps but it's not sufficient to be a good developer. There are many terrible developers with 20+ years of experience and there are some great developers with only 10 years of experience.

The number one characteristic that makes a developer great is their critical thinking ability. These developers don't blindly adopt tools and business processes based on popularity. They are always able to justify their decisions with strong arguments which convincingly explain why their chosen option is better than all the other possible options. This applies to every decision they make.

Writing software is more like chess than checkers - You need to consider every reasonable option many steps ahead.

IMO software development is a complex area - Following common industry patterns and best practices without thinking about whether or not they actually apply to your particular use case is almost always the wrong approach. There are nuances in essentially every single software project which would warrant deviating from industry norms in at least some ways.

To always follow best practices blindly without questioning them or adapting them to your use case is in itself a terrible practice.

Also, the problem with trusting experts in complex domains is that the line between an expert and snake oil salesman is incredibly blurry. Sometimes even moderately skilled insiders with domain expertise don't know how to tell apart an expert from a conman.

The software industry has grown extremely fast and now the situation is that there are a huge number of highly vocal novices who pose as experts and who are silencing the real experts.

Median competency in most professions will typically be quite low. In software this is exacerbated by the high pay, which attracts a lot of charlatans, and the fact that our industry has almost no professional standards (unlike say structural engineering). I’ve never thought it was much of a problem though, because it just makes it easier for the sufficiently competent to distinguish themselves.

>> because it just makes it easier for the sufficiently competent to distinguish themselves

Having worked in the blockchain space... I have seen seen the future and it looks nothing like you think. When a company has too many conmen. The most rewarded skill becomes conmanship.

I have also worked in the blockchain space, and none of the blockchain companies I previously worked with still exist. I am most certainly not worried about fraudulent blockchain companies becoming a major part of the economy.

>> I am most certainly not worried about fraudulent blockchain companies becoming a major part of the economy.

I struggle to think of a single blockchain project which is not at least partly a scam. You can start at the top with Bitcoin.

Bitcoin handles 3 to 4 transactions per second max (this is tiny), consumes the electricity of Ireland but it's the most valuable blockchain. I get it, PoW is more decentralized. But is it worth the entire electricity of Ireland? No. Even Ethereum aren't deluding themselves about this; that's why they're moving to PoS. But even Ethereum is kind of scammy... How many times did they say that sharding would be ready soon? Seems like years ago now.

Lightning network is brittle and not practical. In real life, most financial transfers are unidirectional so you constantly have to re-open new channels after they become depleted. Also it locks up most of your funds. Also Lightning requires high availability - Without it, scammers can roll-back channels to an earlier state. Lightning is so complex that if something does go wrong, it will be extremely challenging to understand what went wrong.

And no, Bitcoin is not more valuable because it costs more money to run. If a car consumes more fuel than all other cars, that car is clearly less valuable than the others. If I can complete the same work twice as fast and same quality as someone else, then I should get paid twice as much. Economic value is rooted in efficiency, not in inefficiency. Technology which does basically the same thing but which does it more cheaply should be more valuable. Why are the top 2 projects both PoW?

I could go on about pretty much any cryptocurrency project from the top 100. Just because some project has been legitimized and is valuable, it doesn't mean that it's not a scam.

> Call me a cynic, but the whole "think critically and figure it out for yourself" solution is inefficient at best, harmful at worst. Global warming skepticism is exactly the kind of thing that often occurs when people trust their own judgement more than that of subject matter experts.

I don't think that's true. Lots of global warming sceptics point to some subset of experts who are themselves sceptics. Even subject matter experts have biases. If we ignored those, we'd probably still be unlikely to find many global warming sceptics who had done their own in-depth research. It seems to me that most people in this category (whether it's global warming scepticism, anti-vax, 5G death rays or something else) merely seek to confirm already held beliefs and end up rejecting the opinions of actual experts in favour of misinformation from the kinds of people the blog post is talking about.

Beyond that there are also people with deeper issues than just a disregard for subject matter experts. If you look to extremes (e.g. flat Earth believers), some won't change their mind even when they do the experiments themselves and find proof to the contrary.

> Lots of global warming sceptics point to some subset of experts who are themselves sceptics

Yes, this is exactly why you should:

1. Consult more than one expert, until you've found a clear majority. And then trust in that majority

2. Pick either a couple experts who are the most highly regarded in their field. Or use random sampling to pick a couple experts from among a pool of equally qualified experts

As you yourself pointed out, people who fall for fallacies often form their own judgement first, and then cherry-pick experts to lend more support to their argument. This is precisely the danger in telling lay people to trust in their own judgement.

Cherry-picking of experts is the opposite of expert-guided decision making, because the cherry-picking part is being driven by lay judgement, not expert recommendation. A truly expert-driven approach would rely either on the most highly regarded experts, or random sampling from a pool of equally qualified experts. This leaves minimal room for cherry-picking and confirmation bias.

You're a cynic ;)

Knowledge from experts should feed into "think critically and figure it out", rather than replacing either with the other.

Software has an added bonus of the "works or doesn't" test, so it's easier to (in)validate the results of that thinking than, say, something on the scale of a planet and decades.

>> Software has an added bonus of the "works or doesn't" test,

This is true, but I think the new problem that our industry is facing now is "How much effort and how many resources are required to make this software work" - This leaves a lot of room for manipulation and people do exploit it in most companies (especially large corporations). These are many tech companies these days where it takes 20 developers to produce results which could in fact have been done by just 1 developer in the same amount of time. I'm not exaggerating the numbers here.

I think the problem lies in perverse corporate incentives (or rather, the absence of meaningful incentives) and the way in which it affects how people pick their battles. Most employees pick all the wrong battles for all the wrong reasons.

The more money a company has and the more solid their monopoly is, the more employees will be focused on internal politics rather than value production.

> the new problem that our industry is facing now is

Goddamn but that's a good observation. Upvotes to you!

> with minimal effort on your part. Want to get good medical advice? Find two highly regarded medical specialists and ask them independently for a diagnosis and treatment plan. Not two doctors next door. Not two doctors who published random blogs. Two doctors who are highly regarded by their peers and by the wider industry.

This is a tangent, but I'm currently in the situation where I really need to find these two doctors, after years of suffering from a rare (combination of) medical issues. I've been searching for a doctor who has experience with treating my (or similar) conditions, for decades now, and I just can't seem to find it. Meanwhile, my problems become more and more disturbing, with me being unable to work anymore in the near future.

So please, if you know how to find the "highly regarder medical specialists", please tell me. Especially if it would take "minimal effort", because I'm steadily losing strength and soon the minimal effort will be the most I can exert.

Clearly it was an general example with limited life application. The expert doctor problem is a good example of this. So is the expert financial advisor, etc.

In your case I would ask doctors for doctors recommendations, and test alternatives - through recommendation only - outside of the common doctor. The former since doctors know other doctors, the latter due to most alternatives being non invasive, and with no side effects except the perpetual disappointment you've experienced so far.

Many of us were told growing up that we were a special snowflake. Not sure there's correlation (not sure how you'd prove it), but I have my suspicions. IMO we're in the age of individualism. Hopefully it's just a cycle.

The real kicker is it seems to be self-fulfilling. If experts are no longer trusted or respected, the market / margin for expertise shrinks. You get lots of self-proclaimed experts to fill in the gaps with less investment (lower margin == lower investment, clickbait), and then the individual is justified in thinking most expertise is crap... because it is now crap (advertiser supported business model).

Maybe we wake up some day and say "Holy shit, it's all just bullshit!" and then expertise can again attract an audience that's willing to pay for it.

You can always rely on the Lindy effect in times like these. Except for technical books, I try not to read any book that have been published in the last 20 years.

Old books that are still read will continue to be relevant while the current NYT best seller is more likely to fall into obscurity.

How would the non-experts differentiate between true expertise and self-proclaimed one?

Lack of consensus I suppose, but that can also be a false positive.

All of that sounds good in theory until we reach this point:

> Looking for good software engineering advice? Do the same thing with developers.

Which brings us back to the OP:

> Most tech content is bullshit

So we've now come full circle. Hence I would point you to another post that came out recently that would be useful to understand what you wrote: https://nibblestew.blogspot.com/2020/04/your-statement-is-10...

Absolutely. It’s question everything. Not question everything and replace the explanations you don’t like with personal, gut-feel views.

Humans have only been writing software for less than a century, mostly the last 50 years. That's nothing like other professions like blacksmithing or writing. It will take centuries until people learn how to write software well.

Humans have only been writing software for less than a century, mostly the last 50 years

50 years ago was the beginning of Unix sure but programmable computers were already 25 years old by then, and the concepts were even older.

I'm working on a reply to another HNer on just this point.

> Global warming skepticism is exactly the kind of thing that often occurs when people trust their own judgement more than that of subject matter experts.

Except that the "subject matter experts" have a horrible track record. Also, global warming proponents misrepresent the skepticism. Nobody is really questioning the warming of the earth. People are questioning how much man is responsible for it. After all, the "globe" has been warming for thousands of years before industrialization. There are "subject matter experts" who believe the warming is mostly a natural phenomenon. There are even fringe "subject matter experts" who believe the earth will cool. You aren't a cynic, you are just agenda driven.

> Want to get good medical advice? Find two highly regarded medical specialists and ask them independently for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Where and which ones? The one's that say you don't need to wear masks or the one's that say you need to wear masks?

I won't bother with the rest. All you are saying is believe and trust authority. But the problem with that was a time when "experts" believed in global cooling, medical experts believed in blood letting, political experts believe in racism, financial experts believe in subprime loan derivatives, etc. Blindly believing authority also tends to cause a lot of problem. The problem with the "experts" in your list is that it has become so politicized and corporaticized that one has to be skeptical by default.

Sturgeon's Law: Ninety percent of everything is crap. Tech content is no exception. As the article points out, the corollary is that you have to think for yourself, assessing every piece of content you come across.

Since we're arguing by aphorism, Brandolini's law a/k/a bullshit asymmetry principle: "The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it."



The value of a healthy established pedagogy, curriculum, and canon is that these distribute the bullshit-sifting role and guard and promote the jems.

2 orders of it’s your boss!

But seriously I hate working with non self critical developers because it’s exhausting trying to refute what they say. Although “asking questions” can help.

I think a surprising refined "meta" solution has come up in the last decade or so.

You can read an article, and figure out if it is crap for yourself.

But then you can check your work by reading the discussion around it (like HN comments). Look at the top (and bottom) comments. Match your thoughts against the opinions and comments of other critical thinkers.

A lot of critical thinking has already been done for you.

This doesn't always work, but a good comment/upvote/moderation system can be a surprising bullshit filter.

My comment does NOT apply to automated systems, or systems were money/seo/gaming have a payoff for someone. So please ignore this for facebook, for anything with sponsored results, for product reviews, or for wikipedia pages of wealthy or prominent individuals.

Well, part of the problem is that there are few detailed book reviews anymore. The Jolt Awards for books were at one time a good guide. Nonetheless, one place that has fairly in-depth Java book reviews of all places is Oracle's Java Magazine. [0]

[0] https://blogs.oracle.com/javamagazine/book-review-archive

It's a shame that it's now cool to hate on Java nowadays. It's still a great language to design web applications in, especially now with the newer releases and all the amazing features they put in. I will never understand why things like JavaScript are being used in the back end...

Ha, I just posted something similar almost at the same time, but you said it better.

There are dozens of us who would have stepped up if you two didn't.

I think Sturgeon was being generous

I believe part of problem is Google SEO. Tech content maybe bullshit, but marketing content is even more bullshit.

I remember times when we had slow internet and/or only subset of blogs we read from time to time. Most of development was done by reading books, specification of devices for writing drivers and so on.

Now, literally everyone is trying to do SEO and use lots of words in articles, kind of creating content, but in reality copying from someone else and modifying a little and trying to get lots back links. I remember when Quora had quality content, now everything is sales pitch. I feel like people are not trying to create quality content, they are trying to sell and to sell you need more back links.

Personal brand building is another major contributor to search engine content dilution.

Whenever I Google for something in hot new languages or frameworks, I have to sift through 10s of Medium articles from beginner developers who are trying to establish themselves as industry experts.

I don't want to read some junior developer's Medium post full of animated GIFs and a pseudo-tutorial that is really just entire source code files embedded as GitHub gists one file at a time. I just want to skip to the documentation and get to work.

The truly worrying development is when those same Medium posts start circling HN.

I’m not trying to be elitist, but what I enjoy about HN is seeing truly novel and interesting content, and every “crappy” article on the front page bumps an interesting one downwards into oblivion.

I’m ashamed to say that was me at some point. On top of that, those articles did nothing to further my career. All that mattered so far is my past experience, projects and how well I can (leet)code. Now if I start blogging again, it will have to be purely out of intellectual curiosity.

I think this is the same situation a lot of people find themselves in. I would say I'm the same. The further along I get in my career the more I find I'm interested in learning or exploring for my own good or interests, rather than some fake sense of credibility I got in the past.

Also me, but I did have one (on tolerance analysis) that helped my career.

It made rounds in the professional circles I traveled in and established myself as, while not necessarily a leader, someone at least very fluent in a particular process.

This was also in 2010 though, so the social landscape Was quite different

I confirm this doesn't do anything for your career, or at least not as much as just focusing that time on actual, paid work. I find that in my career my resume and experience that's on it as opposed to any side-projects or attempts at writing.

Yes, however on helping the career I think the writing is like a nice little detail on the resume, a way to make it standout a bit more, I also found that in a recent interview for a project an article I had just written on SVG was naturally relevant. As a general rule talking about little articles you've written isn't going to naturally happen in the interview because the interview process is focused on past work and horrible trick questions.

It has also been somewhat useful in projects where a concern with documentation has been expressed because the writing is a better example of my ability to document things than having worked on a lot of projects where you may be able to go see what we shipped but not be able to see anything of the documentation.

I think of the writing as the equivalent of a side project:

* it allows me to focus on something I want to learn

* it helps to make what I learn stick in my head

* it gives me a deadline and people who will send me emails to say how's it going with that

* it works as documentation for what I've learned

* it gives me a trivial amount of money for having taken the time to learn something. Basically the last article I wrote is paying for an annual Dropbox account, and a couple days worth of food for my family. It was way too much work for that to be worthwhile, but I did learn some things that will help with later stuff.

What's interesting is that this stuff works, which means there are idiot decision makers out there eating it up, which means the whole industry is ripe for disruption by someone who can see even an inch into the fog, so lets go do that

But HN was never hardcore tech content? It is more of general set of articles about wide range of tech issues.

Worrying development? HN has never been particularly enlightened in this respect, and has all of the same trends and superficial articles that emerge on the other networks. The illusion that it's some higher ground has never held true.

Based on your bio, you may be a bit biased in your assessment.

Someone should create that chart with ‘Lawful Good Dunning Kruger Expert’, ‘Chaotic Dunning Kruger Expert’, etc, since I need to know where I fit.

Biased, or simply consistent?

based and orangepilled

In my experience this is particularly egregious when trying to compare frameworks and libraries in the JS ecosystem. The posts usually boil down to “I wrote a hello world with X and Y, here are my thoughts”, or worse, “I wrote a hello world with X, didn’t even bother to write it with Y, here are my thoughts on why X is awesome and Y sucks”, or worse still, “I wrote a hello world with X, didn’t even bother to write it with Y, here are my thoughts on why X is awesome and Y sucks, and I’ll pretend I have ten years of experience with each.”

And those exact posts bafflingly make it to the front page of Hacker News somehow -- doubly so if you can include [esoteric language] into your "My thoughts on" title.

I recall an especially egregious one on Clojure where the author had used the language for all of about a week before writing up his detailed hot takes on some "cons" of the language, like needing to know some complicated thing called `let` in order too assign variables.

JavaScript seems particularly bad at this, especially compared to something like C or C++ which I'm more used to.

Ugh. I cringe every time I have an actual, non-trivial, issue or fairly technical question about whatever I'm working on lately.

I remember feeling it while I was working with Swift (50 articles titled: "What is a Protocol?" Give me a break!) and lately I keep running into all kinds of bizarre, complicated behaviors with Jackson in my Kotlin project. It's a new kind of hell to sift through every article that describes the "hello, world" of writing a single data class and having Jackson magically turn it into JSON.

P.S., if you can avoid mixing Jackson with Kotlin, save yourself the trouble.

Hard same on the Kotin/Jackson sadness. Gson also has a bunch of issues. Really want to cut my code over to Moshi but haven't worked up the energy for it. Maybe we all just want to wait till Kotlin serialization is production ready?

Does Gson still force you to write "beans"?

In any case, this project kind of didn't need any auto-magical serialization library, but the promise was reduced boilerplate. Instead, we just got way more complex boilerplate and a damn dependency forcing me to change how I want to write my code.

Pretty much. I'm all about data classes so the code reads just fine. Definitely less boilerplate than something like JsonObject. But using Gson means non-nullable fields can still be null if the incoming JSON doesn't have them. So you get these "impossible" NPEs. Also, this is more a complaint about the JVM type system but Gson can encode things that it can't decode into which really messes with my mental model.

My experience has been that there might actually be MORE boilerplate now than when I did ad-hoc translation to/from JsonObject.

inline classes straight-up don't work with Jackson, and probably never will. So for every class that has a field that is an inline class, I have to write a "builder class" that's exactly the same except replacing the inline class with the class it wraps.

Also, @JsonUnwrapped doesn't work with Kotlin. And, of course, doing anything with generics is a complex nightmare with Jackson (because of JVM's type erasure).

Not to mention, all these failures happen at runtime, so you don't even know your class is going to be a problem until you run the code.

The whole thing just sucks and I actually miss the simplicity of translating by hand...

Writing for money and reservation of copyright are, at bottom, the ruin of literature. No one writes anything that is worth writing, unless he writes entirely for the sake of his subject. What an inestimable boon it would be, if in every branch of literature there were only a few books, but those excellent! This can never happen, as long as money is to be made by writing. It seems as though the money lay under a curse; for every author degenerates as soon as he begins to put pen to paper in any way for the sake of gain. The best works of the greatest men all come from the time when they had to write for nothing or for very little.


There is no greater mistake than to suppose that the last work is always the more correct; that what is written later on is in every case an improvement on what was written before; and that change always means progress....

If the reader wishes to study any subject, let him beware of rushing to the newest books upon it, and confining his attention to them alone, under the notion that science is always advancing, and that the old books have been drawn upon in the writing of the new. They have been drawn upon, it is true; but how? The writer of the new book often does not understand the old books thoroughly, and yet he is unwilling to take their exact words; so he bungles them, and says in his own bad way that which has been said very much better and more clearly by the old writers, who wrote from their own lively knowledge of the subject....

It often happens that an old and excellent book is ousted by new and bad ones, which, written for money, appear with an air of great pretension and much puffing on the part of friends. In science a man tries to make his mark by bringing out something fresh. This often means nothing more than that he attacks some received theory which is quite correct, in order to make room for his own false notions. Sometimes the effort is successful for a time; and then a return is made to the old and true theory. These innovators are serious about nothing but their own precious self: it is this that they want to put forward, and the quick way of doing so, as they think, is to start a paradox. ... Hence it frequently happens that the course of science is retrogressive.

-- Arthur Schopenhauer, "On Authorship"


... and by quoting Schopenhauer's beautiful prose instead of using your own words you are following his wise advice. Montaigne said something similar when confronted as to why he quoted Plutarch so often, replying that if he believed someone had already said something in a way that he couldn't improve, why on earth would he say it in his own words? I would very much have preferred to quote the great man himself of course, for this very reason, but couldn't locate this particular passage.

Very much.

This Schopenhauer essay resonates strongly with me, hitting on and unifying numerous concepts I'd been playing with. And saying it well.

Even in translation ;-)

I'm still upset that the University of Adelaide's book server was shut down, as it had a wonderfully-formatted set of the essays, shared recently to HN. See: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21386663

... As for the natural faculties within me, of which my writing is the proof, I feel them bending under the burden. My ideas and my judgement merely grope their way forward, faltering, tripping, and stumbling; and when I have advanced as far as I can, I am still not at all satisfied. I can see more country ahead, but with so disturbed and clouded a vision that I can distinguish nothing. And when I venture to write indifferently of whatever comes into my head, relying only on my own natural resources, I very often light upon the matter I am trying to deal with in some good author, as I did just now in Plutarch, in his discourse on the strength of the imagination. Then I realize how weak and poor, how heavy and lifeless I am, in comparison with them, and feel pity and contempt for myself. Yet I take pleasure in the fact that my opinions have often the honour of coinciding with theirs and that I follow them, though far behind, proclaiming their virtues. I am glad too that I have the advantage, which many have not, of recognizing the great difference between them and myself. And yet I allow my own ideas to run their course, feeble and trivial as when I first conceived them, without plastering and patching the defects revealed to me by this comparison. A man must have strong legs if he intends to keep up with people like that. The injudicious writers of our century who scatter about their valueless works whole passages from old authors, in order to increase their own reputations, do just the reverse. For the infinitely greater brilliance of the ancients makes their own stuff look so pale, dull, and ugly that they lose much more than they gain.

Here are two contrary points of view. The philosoper Chrysippus dropped into his books not just passages but whole works by other authors, including in one instance the complete Medea of Euripides; and ApoUodorus said that if all that was not his own were to be cut out of his works the paper would be quite blank. Epicurus, on the other hand, did not introduce a single quotation into any of the three hundred volumes that he left behind him. I happened the other day to light on such a passage. I had been languidly following a string of French words, so bloodless, fleshless, and devoid of substance and meaning that they were just words of French and no more. Then at the end of this long and tiresome road I came upon a rich and lofty sentence which towered into the clouds. If I had found the slope gentle and the ascent somewhat gradual, it would have been excusable. But the rise was so sheer and precipitous that after the first six words I felt myself flying into another world, from which I recognized the depth of the abyss out of which I had come. So deep was it that I have never had the heart to plunge into it again. If I were to load one of my discourses with such rich spoils, it would throw too much light on the stupidity of the rest.

To censure my own faults in some other person seems to me no more incongruous than to censure, as I often do, another's in myself. They must be denounced everywhere, and be allowed no place of sanctuary. I know very well how boldly I myself attempt at every turn to rise to the level of my purloinings and to remain there, even rashly hoping that I can prevent the judicial eye from discovering them. In this endeavour my industry plays as great a part as my inventive powers. And then, I do not contend with those ancient champions in the mass and hand to hand, but only in repeated brushes, in slight and trivial encounters. I do not press them hard; I merely try their strength and never go as far as I hesitatingly intend. If I could hold my own with them I should be doing well, for I only attack them at their strongest points.

To cover themselves, as I have seen some writers doing, so completely in other men's armour as not to leave even their finger-tips showing; to compose a work from pieces gathered here and there among the ancients - an easy task for a man of learning who is treating an ordinary subject - and then to attempt to conceal the theft and pass it all off as their own; this is in the first place criminal and cowardly, in that having no private resources with which to make a display, they try to boost themselves with other men's wealth; and secondly, it is very foolish to be satisfied by gaining the ignorant approbation of the vulgar through trickery, while discrediting oneself in the eyes of the intelligent. For their praise alone carries any weight, and they turn up their noses at all this borrowed decoration. For my part, I would do anything rather than that. I only quote others to make myself more explicit. ...

- Michel de Montaigne, "On the education of children" https://www.gutenberg.org/files/3585/3585.txt

Thank you!

Yes, that is beautiful, true, and illuminating.

Thanks for reading, I was a bit worried about posting such a long quotation, but couldn't bring myself to butchering this marvel, would have felt like cutting a master painting. Just like Chrysippus.

This drives me crazy! I hate searching for documentation and the top results are blogs containing outdated copy and paste of the official docs with some witty text and gifs.

I've recently started using Express.js for a project at work, and I've never before encountered a seemingly popular framework/language with such frustrating content churned out by the community. Express's official docs have all the technical specs you could ask for, but the framework is very light weight without any structure and feels more like a library, sort of like Flask. I wanted to see what a typical app structure looks like, but just about every single "article" I found was either a copy/paste of the same app with everything crammed into one index.js file (routing, logic, db queries, etc...), or they were walls of text filled with occasional code snippets and didn't even provide a repo for reference. The community feels like it's targeting complete beginners with its simple examples, lengthy explanations of trivial tasks and extremely little coverage of architecture. My experience with Express felt like PHP 10 years ago with w3schools.

Or SO answers from 2011, pasting official docs.

> some junior developer's Medium post full of animated GIFs

Don't forget emojis! Such a waste of time! ⌛⌛⌛

As a programmer with some 20 years of experience who likes to write tutorials on original research and techniques — you can pry my animated gifs out of my cold dead fingers! All my life I waited for broadband to be widespread enough to write articles with rich embedded animations.

And yes, sometimes they only serve the purpose of entertainment or emotional tone setting. Other times they’re actual part of the content.

Gifs are great

Edit: you downvote and yet I often get comments appreaciating how the gifs make my 2000 word emails feel like a quick short read.

> Edit: you downvote and yet I often get comments appreaciating how the gifs make my 2000 word emails feel like a quick short read.

I sampled your work. It's exactly what we're talking about.

I'm sure this works for you, financially and SEO-wise.. but.. maybe use 500 words and no gifs instead?

I often do.

My point is that this stuff doesn’t have to be boring and dry. It’s okay for content to reflect having fun when you’re having fun.

Even my college professors used jokes in their lectures.

It's not the jokes I'm against - it's that monetizable/SEO-style writing, where everything is repeated twice or thrice, and there's loads of filler text.

Actually, let me change my mind on the GIFs. Keep the best ones.

Go you! I love high quality written content with a lighter tone. I find it incredibly difficult to focus on dry tests because of my ADHD.

Thanks! I actually study fiction writers and standup comedians to help me write/speak better. It makes a world of difference

Me too, especially when they're accompanied by moving pictures.

Animated gifs and even infamous features like the "blink" tag are just tools. They need to be used properly.

> Medium post full of animated GIFs and a pseudo-tutorial...

It's almost like trying to find recipes on the internet in the age of SEO and 'personal brand building'.

To get to the content you want (ingredients and method), you have to scroll through a mess of unrelated, low quality, insincere blog-like content with pictures etc..

When you actually find the recipe, half the method (always the bits you don't bloody know) is interwoven into the irritating blog content or on a separate 'blog' entry page entirely.

By the time you realise there's nothing of value and decide to turn back, it's too late; they've already won. You've given them a page view, interacted with the site, and maybe their ads have loaded, too.

At least you can find good cookbooks in op shops! Tech books are great, but they're not always the best resource when you're curious about a tool and want something like an implementation or configuration guide, or a post-implementation review.

I have random blogs to thank for clear guides with great explanations on implementing and configuring loads of things, like early versions of webpack. It seems that in only a few years, quality content has rapidly become so much harder to find amidst the mass of low quality SEO bait.

There's so many bad examples online that I can't imagine trying to learn development from scratch these days.

If it runs, it ships!

It shouldn't be this way, but it frequently is.

The Medium articles are a lot more entertaining if you read them out loud with a strong 'Valley' accent.

Yes, this is happening even at the code level, resulting in a flood of modules/packages with shallow capabilities.

That's an interesting, albeit selfish, perspective.

Experienced developers usually aren't busy writing blog posts. Nor are they engaged on HN. As the old saying goes, those who can are out doing, those who can't `teach'.

This touched a nerve, but sorry it's spot on. The more faltering the career, the less certain the skills, the more likely the person has a vigorous social media and blog presence.

Given the great reception this has received, let me give an example, and one of HN's great "successes" - patio11.

Guy made a tiny, miserable little service that would have made more money if he worked at Walmart. He was the seer who provided day after day of front page content for this site, the "fake it till you make it" ruse in full effect. Because his product was so miserably unsuccessfully he instead put all of his effort into blog posts and "lessons" for people to follow, and the suckers lined up.

People with actually successful products were just off being successful.

Uggh - this!

Maybe I'm so used to it for programming queries, but I've gotten back into electronics and ham radio after a long time, and have always dreamed of owning a decent oscilloscope. Googling 'good digital hobbyist oscilloscope' just now was a frustrating waste of time. It's just pages and pages of regurgitated specs and affiliate links, no useful _actual_ reviews or anything...

Take this top 10 result. It's on Medium which is new and hip and nice so must be of high quality...


Oh cool, hmm ok - what else does the author write about? "Things to consider before buying a camera for hunting" - "Drug Rehab for Married Couples" - <<Several>> Reviews for a particular line of vaccum cleaner, Baltimore Security Cameras and Interior Design in India. I mean sure they could genuinely have diverse interests and a chaotic and international personal life - but these articles are just keyword stuffing for another bunch of 'content' that will helpfully let you 'check the price on Amazon' for just about anything...

Even though I generally prefer reading to watching, I've found in the past few years that YouTube is better for reviews, and I think it's actually because of this.

If you don't actually recognize the channel, you can usually tell if it's worthwhile by subscriber count, the other (types of) videos they've posted, and usually just by watching for tens of seconds. Most paid reviews seem to say so (unlike written blogs), and you can judge their bias appropriately. Plus for many things, seeing it in action is much, much better than written descriptions or (carefully chosen) pictures.

For example, it's hard to disguise a crappy oscilloscope UI in a video (and if the reviewer doesn't show that, be suspicious!)

Youtube is better, but over the last few years, I've noticed that it's getting harder to find decent reviews, because the algorithm recommends so many fake review channels. It's better than a google search, but there's still so many terrible results to sort through.

Youtube's algorithm encourages video farms that upload frequently even if they recycle content. Ann Reardon discusses this problem as it relates to recipe video's frequently on her cooking channel.

You can still get hoodwinked by youtubers[0] who (to the untrained eye) look like they know what they are talking about but are actually grifters[1] wasting your time

[0]: Siraj Raval (700k subscribers!): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWN3xxRkmTPmbKwht9FuE5A

[1]: https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2019/10/16/why-siraj-ravals-...

> Even though I generally prefer reading to watching, I've found in the past few years that YouTube is better for reviews[..]

My pet theory why YouTube is better is that there is no incentive to make videos longer. Blog post end up bloated and thin on real information because it is considered good SEO and apparently Google really tends to rank longer articles higher. Same is true for tech books, which are often bloated because the author has to reach their target page count.

YouTube videos seem to be mostly as long as they need to be to tell the story they want to tell. This is not universally true for video content though. If you look at online learning platforms, like Udemy for example, you can find many courses that spread an hour worth of content over typically five or six hours. My fear is that Google will someday decide to make the length of a video a ranking factor and we will have the same bloated videos on YouTube too.

> Most paid reviews seem to say so (unlike written blogs), and you can judge their bias appropriately.

Producing decent video content is much more elaborate and expensive than written reviews. My suspicion is that on YouTube paid reviews are even more common than on blogs and the norm is just not to mention it. Doesn't mean they are useless of course, just as you wrote "judge their bias appropriately".

> My pet theory why YouTube is better is that there is no incentive to make videos longer. [...] YouTube videos seem to be mostly as long as they need to be to tell the story they want to tell.

I don't think this is an accident: YouTube apparently ranks based on watch time / retention, so if you make your video too long and people don't watch to the end it hurts you.

Ha. I strongly disagree.

Any kind of machine maintenance video has so much preamble, when what I'm really after is like 25 seconds of silently accessing the part, pausing to circle stuff in red, and narrating stuff that's hard to see from the video

The first paragraph:

> Best Oscilloscopes are not a common field where people would choose to spend their spare time relaxing. However, analyzing and measuring signals might be an interesting fact for most engineers or people looking for complexity, isn’t it? That’s what we actually thought about before doing our research.

Reads like it went through Google translate twice.

Google's own tools make flooding their main moneymaker with junk easier and more accessible. There's something in that but I'm not sure what...

Actually, that looks like a filled-in template with some relevant keywords for content marketing.

> _______ are not a common field where people would choose to ________ . However, _______ might be an interesting fact for most _____ or people looking for _____, isn’t it? That’s what we actually thought about before doing our research.

The king is naked!

Some search hits are deeper than others. Specifically, forums. EEVblog comes to mind. Figure out the spectrum of specific brands/models, then read and watch some reviews.

That Medium page on is hilarious! I recommend it if you are into oscilloscopes and want a laugh. My favorite parts are the opening paragraphs and the list of Key Points for each scope, which include:

• Available only in Grey. [Rigol]

• The color available is Grey. [Siglent]

• The devices comes only in blue. [LIUMY]

Yes, one of the main things I look for in a scope is what color it comes in!

• Works with both laptop and desktop PC. [Hantek]

Uh, why would any USB device not work with both a laptop and desktop PC?

Google should ban all sites with Amazon affiliate links from its search engine.

Or when you want to compare two products and the top result(s) are just auto-generated pages that dump the stats/spec of each product side by side. I hate that so much. I want to read what a human who has tried both thinks.

There was a time when searching for "A vs B" produced useful results. Nowadays a search like this is completely useless. I wish those auto-generated sites would completely disappear from the search results.

Appending "reddit" to the query or doing it on Reddit directly can often return usable information.

It's surprising Google doesn't downrank such pages.

the worst

> I believe part of problem is Google SEO.

This and the fact that Google search is actually as dumb as a sackful of hammers.

Don't get me wrong, for the longest time Google's results were "good enough", but Google has no real concept of the quality of a result (they've tried and it worked for a while - e.g., PageRank). Still, fundamentally their algorithms aren't smart enough to figure out whether any given piece of content is intrinsically worthwhile.

That's really important in a world where most content is, regardless of Google's guidelines, primarily written for the benefit of GoogleBot, to harvest clicks or drive traffic.

Unfortunately Google has literally zero incentive to change this situation (because they're making an insane amount of money off the back of the status quo), so they won't[1].

Logically then, the time is ripe for a new search engine to disrupt but the problem - that of determining intrinsic worth - is really hard to solve, so as yet nobody has, and Google still reigns supreme as the most popular search engine.

[1] It is also possible that I'm being too harsh here: they might be trying to change it - perhaps because they're worried about eventually being disrupted - but, as noted in the following paragraph, the problem is REALLY hard.

> Logically then, the time is ripe for a new search engine to disrupt but the problem - that of determining intrinsic worth - is really hard to solve, so as yet nobody has

I'm sort-of trying to solve this with a recommender system approach.[1] Search isn't my primary objective; I'm mainly focusing on the case where you want to be made aware of relevant information on an ongoing basis but you aren't necessarily looking for something specific.

But that involves building up a ratings database of lots of different URLs. If it becomes really popular, I'd like to experiment with search. It could start with a "normal" search algorithm but then adjust the results based on rating data. E.g. "the top result for this query is X, but people with similar rating data to you always down vote that link, so we'll move that result down".

I've heard people complain about how Google gives you personalized search results sometimes, but I'm not sure if the approach is actually bad. Perhaps it could work if it was focused on from the start instead of bolted on.

[1] https://findka.com

Interesting. I'd thought about some sort of meta-search service running over Google, Bing, etc., and aggregating results, that was tied in with some way of rating recommending URLs.

I've never got around to doing it and one of the reasons (excuses) is that I haven't yet figured out a way to stop bad actors exploiting it by, e.g., mass downvoting URLs of competitors. I did think about some sort of moving average, or bias toward more recent votes, which would at least somewhat mitigate against transient actions of this kind, but it's harder to deal with a sustained attack like this.

I've thought about that a fair amount also. I think the key is personalization. If bad actors downvoted a bunch of items, it would only affect people who already shared a lot of similar votes with those actors.

That is still exploitable: if I know you like A, B, and C, (perhaps those are popular items), I could also upvote those items and then downvote another item D. I have an idea for countering this: keep track of history. So instead of just measuring ratings overlap ("of items you've both rated, 75% of items were rated the same"), you keep track of the performance of recommendations made from that user ("of Alice's items that we recommended to Bob, Bob upvoted them 25% of the time").

I haven't thought about this super deeply yet, but I think to beat that, you'd have to actually provide valuable data to the system in the first place.

To generalize that a bit, I guess I'm talking about a reputation network. You could visualize it with a directed graph that has edges weighted from -1 to 1 (0 default). Recommendation + rating history is used in some way to assign those weights, and then future recommendations are taken primarily from other users who have high weights from your perspective.

Quick question about findka, Is the idea to only upvote/downvote things you have actually experienced and liked or dislike, or do you also upvote/downvote things you don't know but like or dislike?

I would think the first case would result in way better data (which is why (I think) last.fm recommendation system is so good), but the latter case seems to be the natural thing to do, humans love to judge shit without actually engaging with stuff.

Mainly the former. Ideally you've experienced the things you've rated, but in many cases you can probably judge fairly accurately if you're interested in something based on a short description.

That brings up a key point which I'm not sure is clear to users or not: voting on items specifically means "this is/is not a good recommendation for me". It's not a judgment on the goodness of the item in general. So if findka showed me e.g. an article on pottery that looked high quality, I'd probably still downvote it since I'm not into pottery.

I think that is not really communicated in the current design, reminds me of the ratings on Netflix where they are intended as "Our estimation of this contents rating for you based on your viewing history" while most people I talked about it just thought it was the rating of the thing in itself.

Good to know, any suggestions for making it clearer? Maybe thumbs up/down is the wrong labeling; perhaps something like "show me more like this" and "not interested"... though I have no idea what icons I would use for that.

Might even be a good idea to just have text labels, I think just icons are way overrated in design.

[I hated this] [I'm interested in this] [I liked this]

What I don't get is how SEO isn't countered by unvisiting... By which I mean navigating back to the google search, I always assumed that would be a clear indicator to google that it's not what the user was looking for.

Maybe this does happen but it not weighted highly enough against SEO.

Probably because both 'what the user was looking for' and 'why they left the page quickly' are complex issues.

For instance, quite a few times I'll open a page in Google's results, scan the content and go back to compare it to another result. That doesn't necessarily mean I hate the first page or think it's terrible, just that I wanted to see what it had to offer.

It can also mean I did find the answer there, and am returning to Google to search for something else instead.

It's tough to distinguish cases like those from 'the content was bad' and 'the content was not what I was looking for'.

There's also the worry that it might end up hurting user incentives too, or alter the way in which users browse the internet as a whole.

After all, since finding out that YouTube rewards/punishes creators based on watch time/how much of the video someone watches, I'm now hesitant to even watch many videos at all, since I know some guy's career might potentially be put on the line.

Perhaps Google worries other people will be the same, and stop clicking as many results knowing that Google might punish the affected websites for not staying long enough.

A lot of times I middle click any interesting links I find on Google, in which case it becomes hard for Google to know if I unvisited a site. It's not like they can track me clicking the Back button on my browser and arriving back to the search results

I've no idea whether they do this or not but it's easy enough to know when a tab or window is focussed or not. I have a games site and use this to pause/unpause games, music, etc.

They could hook this into Google Analytics and subtract the time you spent with that tab/window not focussed from your session duration.

I do fundamentally agree that session duration may not be the worst proxy for worthwhile content or, at least, engaging content, snd I think Google may use it as such.

Or those fake how-to tutorial pages. Often when I’m looking up, say, error codes in Windows, I need to wade through pages of “Step 1: Download the MyNewFreeComputerCleaner.biz app”

after working at couple of startups, I also noticed worrying trend.

* 21 years old marketer writing about life crisis in 40s

* fashion blogger explaining is Teflon harmful or not (come on, fashion and chemistry?)

* 18 years old student who never immigrated to another country or studied abroad writing about how difficult is immigrant life and what to look for in different country and many more similar content.

About 5 years ago I attended a local code meetup and someone gave a presentation about this new TypeScript thing. He basically just explained the basic syntax, concepts. etc. A bit boring, but not the worst I've seen.

Then in the Q&A someone asked a "In our experience, we've had problems with X, what's your take?" (I've forgotten what X was specifically), and the guy replied with "well, actually, we haven't really used it yet, we're just looking at it".

So ... he basically just read the TypeScript "getting started" tutorial, transformed it to a presentation, and had no real knowledge of TypeScript.

The entire talk seemed pretty useless to me. I don't even know how accurate that presentation was, because there's much more to using a language effectively than the basic syntax learned from a glance at a tutorial page.

This seems very common in JS land, I once saw a talk in a conf which seemed very basic, later on I stumbled onto a tweet about how the speaker often submits abstracts to CFPs often not knowing much(or at all) about the subject, which serves as motivation to learn and talk about it, works well after having a track record of speaking at events some conferences you can get invited or not have to prove yourself so much to get accepted to speak.

Then I was looking at other conferences lineups and saw many repeat speakers from that same conf, often with the same talk, turned me off quite a bit from going to any more conferences, lots of the same, basic content, with not much expertise behind it.

In general I find presentations at conferences not all that interesting; I've been to conferences where I've not attended a single presentation. There are some good talks, but they're not common. Giving a good presentation requires a few different skill and some practice – I'm not good at it either.

The value is mostly in hanging out with various people. The best experience has generally been when I went alone and met loads of new people, instead of going with coworkers or friends and then just hang out with them. Not that's not fun either, but I can do that next weekend anyway.

How did you meet people if you didn't go to the talks?

You meet them in the hallways outside the talks.

Yeah, pretty much. At this one particular conference there were actually loads of stands in the hallway and I would hang out and chat with various people there.

The more professionally organised ones don't tend to have that many stands, except for paying sponsors. I understand why they do that, but I think there's good value in "community stands" too.

I mean, the talks themselves are just "shut up and listen", right? Not too much socializing happening there. I think that revolving the entire conference around presentations is probably not always the best format.

At the conferences I went to it looked like most (80%) shuffled from one talk to another. The hallways were for walking to different talks. You could potentially talk in the queue to get in or out of a talk but no one talked to me at all.

There was a big space for vendors to have stalls but if you talked to them it was like talking to a sales person. Sometimes they had a tech-oriented sales person but it was still selling you their product.

I feel like this is not specific to TS or JS but any of these modern technologies that are popular and attract beginners.

It takes quite a lot of time to prepare talk and it is not like they would pay all that impressively.

So I think that repeated talks and intro talks are to be expected. Through I did not mind them, I used them to get idea about new thing X while I have time set aside for learning.

>It takes quite a lot of time to prepare talk and it is not like they would pay all that impressively.

Most tech events don't in general pay for speakers or any travel. (Keynotes, scholarships, etc. are among the sometimes exceptions.)

I rarely literally re-use a presentation slide for slide but many presentations I give are based on an earlier presentation I gave. In most cases, a different conference is going to be a mostly different audience. In general, it doesn't make a lot of sense to just dump a presentation because I gave it once to a couple hundred peop,e.

>The entire talk seemed pretty useless to me.

To you. On the flip side, it provided an introductory level overview of a concept many watching/attending may not have looked into themselves, or were thinking of looking into. It also provided a different form of introduction, which could be valuable for attendees with a learning style preference different to that of look-at-a-how-to or check-out-the-docs.

>the guy replied with "well, actually, we haven't really used it yet, we're just looking at it".

Hey, at least he was honest and didn't try to bluff his way through an answer, as many in our industry will.

Overall, depending on the audience and context, it sounds like it may have been worthwhile for many attendees. Plus he got to work on his soft skills, and doing so with such vulnerability could inspire others to also.

If I go to a talk about a piece of technology, I expect the presenter to have enough experience with it to be able to provide me with a means of determining where I am situated in said technology's landscape, and what frame of reference is required to evaluate how to move about that landscape.

It doesn't matter how eloquent and thorough the introductory tutorial is, if the presenter has not experienced the technology sufficiently to have accumulated a few scars[1], they will not have the ability to convey the relative importance of the various aspects of the introduction, with which can be modified simply as a matter of taste, and which should be followed unless very careful consideration of global engineering context, and a full appreciation of the consequences.

If you are unable to meet that bar, at the very least, your abstract should make that abundantly clear out of respect for your audience.

[1] or at least have the experience to say that normally they would have expected to get bitten by something by their point in usage, but the technology meets their requirements so thoroughly that it has been particularly smooth sailing.

Well this talk was at a local Meetup so presumably the attendees got what they paid for. If you expect a high-quality talk I'm sure you would shell out an appropriate amount of money for it.

I attended exactly because of those reasons. The problem is mostly that actually explaining a language (even from a high-level overview) well is a bit more involved than just explaining the syntax and the like.

For example I currently mostly work with Go, and if I would give a high-level presentation about Go I'd start with the "tour of Go" tutorial, but I'd also add some context to some things, explain where you need to be careful to avoid problems, and emphasize the usefulness of other things that may not be obvious at a glance. That kind of stuff. I think the presentation format is a great way for doing that.

A beginning JavaScript programmer might explain the "with" keyword, which would be a mistake. I have no idea if the presentation contained any mistakes like that.

I don't work much with JS, and I haven't looked much as TypeScript since, but I didn't really learn all that much more than what I already knew: "TypeScript is JavaScript with optional typing".

Was it useful for others? Maybe; I hope so. But for me personally I consider it a wasted hour in my life.

>Was it useful for others? Maybe; I hope so. But for me personally I consider it a wasted hour in my life.

Is this not true of most tech meetups / tech conferences though? I feel like they all carry an implicit YMMV with them, which attendees know when deciding to join.

I can barely speak in front of a crowd on something I’ve got 20 years experience in.

This is still something I really can't wrap my mind around. What is the key difference in early life between people who will speak authoritatively regardless of competence, across the spectrum to experts who can't or won't? I don't think Dunning-Kruger explains it because it's not like every shy expert used to be a gregarious beginner.

I have seen lots of talks by experts about the technology they're experts in, but I have seen lots of the other kind as well.

I think Dunning-Kruger is part of it, but also excitement.

If you are the expert you probably got that way by putting in a lot of time, you are at any rate older than when you started out and you may be in fact be quite older than the average developer, often older people do not have the same enthusiasm and excitement for things (although sure there are many that do) so that cuts down the number of people who have experience who also have enthusiasm for getting up and talking.

Getting up and Talking means doing work for it, if you have kids you may not want to do that work unless your job is one where you have to do it. So if you are an older expert with kids but not employed in an evangelist role you probably are not going to go out and do talks.

The expert in a subject may see so deeply into the subject that it is difficult for them to express the gee-whiz aspects that will attract other people. Those who know more are not necessarily able to express that knowledge in an interesting way.

The expert may have lost interest in the matter as they gain in expertise, or they may think things that others will find amazing and interesting to be so obvious and trivial as to not be worth expressing.

For these reasons it may be that talks on a subject are preponderantly given by those with less than expert mastery of the subject.

I think there is some personality difference, but also one of values.

Do you think or feel it is shameful for you to give introductory talk? Did you grew up in environment where such thing was mocked or did you grew up somewhere it was praised? Do you think it matters super much if someone in audiemce looks down on you or are you rather motivated by single person that likes you?

Do you think you need to be super awesome experienced speaker to make first public talk? Are you ok having public talk with primary purpose being to learn doing public talks?

These imo make the difference. It is not like there would be lines of experts wanting to talk.

It’s called being shameless. I hate to be that one sentence reply, but why beat around the bush here?

I know someone who does this and people lap it up. I've heard other people refer to his expertise too many times for my liking.

If I can find the content online and not have to deal being around of bunch of people, I'll just save my money.

The bigger question would be why didn’t that person feel any shame in giving that presentation?

That's content marketing. It's the poster child of bullshit. If the people from your examples actually wrote their pieces, it's already above average. In my experience, from working a desk away from a few social media marketers, the usual case is copy-pasting from other blogspam on the same topic.

You go on Upwork and you will find all sorts of requirements for artificial content.

The internet is a big bucket where everyone drops all sorts of stuff in. Some people drop in gold nuggets, sometimes even diamonds, many other people drop in less valuable materials, and some dump in a torrent of bodily fluids.

Our current solution is to rely on magical black box algorithms to give us the diamonds, but it's been creaking for a while.

I'm not sure how to make this better: one person's turd is another person's diamond, and people trying to game the system will always be a problem.

Old school links might be a solution. I remember back in the day those blog websites which contained "links" page to the websites that owner likes and recommends. It's true P2P solution and does not require anything to invent. If you own a website and know some rare but valuable gems, just share them. Someone will find them. I think that's how Internet should really work.

As a side effect, it should really help Google and other search engines to rank those websites. External links of good quality still the best SEO.

Yeah, I actually maintain such a list on my own site. I should update it more often though.

I think the biggest problem isn't so much find "hey, that's a cool article"-type of content, but typing in [programming concept] in Google. What I want to find is things like in-depth experiences and advice regarding this which complement the manual. What I actually find it loads of "howtos" with "copy this" which just rehash the manual.

Results vary a bit depending on [programming concept], and I don't think simple "getting started with"-articles are completely useless either. But generally speaking, there are too many of them, many of them are not of high quality, and it obscures more in-depth content.

I'm not sure if maintaining a list of links would really solve that. Perhaps community projects like "awesome-foo"-lists have some potential here, but in practice I've found many of them to be dumping grounds rather than carefully curated.

Yes. Many website owners are too scared to link out because they're worried it'll penalise their rankings in Google. If you have hundreds of outbound links they can also be a pain to manage since so many domains get recycled into something else.

But I fully agree, people should be creating their own ecosystems with links, rather than keeping huge portals happy.

Honestly, I wish I could just remove commercial results from google as part of the query. Some terms are essentially now useless because the first N pages are just ecom sites. Google definitely knows which sites are commercial because they’ve been pushing product metadata for about a decade now and serve ads for the same clients....

Of all the people who got all excited that the internet would "democratize information," most seemed to be thinking on the demand side. And it did come to pass, but very few seem to have anticipated that it would democratize the supply side too. Turns out the much-maligned elitism and gatekeeping of the past were actually performing (with imperfect fairness perhaps) the quality-control function they always purported to be performing.

> Turns out the much-maligned elitism and gatekeeping of the past were actually performing (with imperfect fairness perhaps) the quality-control function they always purported to be performing.

Do you have an example? I’m getting strong “century of the self” vibes from this post.

If you’re referring to “fake news”, you should also acknowledge that the current protests across the nation would not exist at all without social media. People who want to characterize the effects as monolithically positive or negative leave me scratching my head, and I certainly don’t want to return to getting all my news via AP.

I don't get the reference. Worry less about "vibes," I guess would be my advice. And consider that if someone says "brown cows eat grass" they're not trying to describe the entire universe; they're actually taking it as a given that your brain will work hard enough to remember that non-brown cows, and non-grass-eating cows, and even brown, non-grass-eating cows exist and have their own stories that are outside the scope of this one.

"Once upon a time, Little Red Riding Hood was going to go to..."


To teach yourself programming in 1990 you would've gone to a bookstore or library, that employed a buyer/curator, who bought from a distributor, who bought from a publisher, who bought from an author, who probably also dealt with an agent and an editor. Other than the author and his/her own desire to produce something good, there were 3-5 other layers in the process, 3-5 other entities making the decision, should we submit this, should we publish this, should we distribute this, should we buy this and devote shelf space to selling it. Each of those steps is a gate through which only a limited quantity can pass, so whatever else it actually means, the book you pick up off the shelf in 1990 has passed through all those gates. Nowadays excellent and shitty writers alike are free of that.

It's hard for me to see society being able to self-critique via social media as a bad thing—newspaper headlines have certainly been exploiting the same linguistic tricks you point out for centuries. I don't see why it's bad to return the favor and build a culture that isn't represented by legacy/traditional/whatever media.

I'm not saying it's bad; there are good & bad aspects of everything. I don't even know if something can "be bad" or can "be good." Everything is both. It's the dual nature of reality. The tao symbol has light & dark, touching each other & wrapped around each other in a dance, and furthermore there's a dot of the light inside the dark and vice versa. One thing lives right in the center of its opposite. Feckin deep I know rite? A wheel carries loads and runs people over. Babies are cute and pains in the ass. Democratization of information means more democracy in information which means less aristocracy in information, I mean it's as simple as that. (And democracy and aristocracy each have good & bad aspects.)

The thing putting a negative spin on it is that at least in this author's opinion, "Most tech content is bullshit." I'm saying maybe that's because now we have access to the bottom 90% too along with the top 10% that we already had. (There was bullshit in the old days too of course, but it was usually found coming out of someone's mouth as opposed to in a book that someone bothered to spend money to print thousands of times. Although there are exceptions there too! It's death by a thousand disclaimers up in here!)

I think the solution (or at least a big part of it) is the resurgence of real blogs. When real developers write deeply technical posts about their experiences, on their own sites, everybody wins. Discovery is an issue, but there have been a number of HN threads recently on ways to mitigate this. Webrings, blogrolls, RSS... there was never going to be a super-convenient or efficient way to generate a high-quality, high signal-to-noise ratio set of sources. But curating your own preferred set of such sites, and making a habit of taking and publishing dev notes on your projects, and participating in the blog revival, is a step in the right direction.

My solution for this problem: 1) stop trying to learn from random blogs, get a book. Books are still out there and you can learn just as good from them now as 20 years ago.

2) Get a subset of blogs to follow and stick to it. If you want to search in specific sites google has "site:" operator, you can search on specific sites.

3) by following 1 and 2 you can easily stop visiting shitty blogs made only for SEO, when they won't see any traffic they will fold because they will see no one is caring about what they write.

I am in process of implementing that. Got some books from humble bundle in topic that I am interested in, so no browsing crap until I get through those.

The main reason books are better is because they are harder to write and produce. The person making the book actually has to invest a lot of their time in making it happen, unlike a blog post.

I've seen lots of articles on hacker news (and other places) that is "PART 1 of..." which does the introduction to what they plan on teaching, and then it just dies right there in the land of "PART 1's"

With a book, if you stop at part 1, no one is going to publish your book.

Another thing about books/web, is books go MUCH deeper into topics. It seems like 99% of the content on the web is "INTRO to xyz" but never "Advanced xyz"

Books are also broken into logical section so you have a learning path you can progress through; not just random content that you are to piece together yourself.

So, yes, very good advice; if you want to learn something, read the book.

blog posts are more just advertisements for buying an actual book.

Unfortunately today a lot of the good content is hosted on the same domains as the terrible content. This is one of the many great downsides to content centralization.

If I read a really great piece of tech content it's not going to help me to use that domain in a site: query later when it's so often going to be medium.com or dev.to (which is starting to fill up with this same kind of bullshit content in the article).

>"1) stop trying to learn from random blogs, get a book. Books are still out there and you can learn just as good from them now as 20 years ago."

Many books are not much better. While blog posts are bloated for SEO purposes, books are bloated to reach their target page count.

And they often assume the reader is a complete novice, which means a lot of pages are wasted on obvious yada yada and then there's less space for genuinely interesting deep stuff that you'd only learn from an expert (or through a lot of practice and trial & error).

IMHO the worst is that lot of young people actually consume, like and share that SEO/marketing stuff and spread it around without much thoughts. That’s the most popular dev content you will find on dev.to, medium, YouTube (for some reasons dev related videos became huge last year), and other publishing platforms. They don’t just generate useless content, they in fact have a public for it, thus little reason to stop.

My life became a lot better when I stopped reading towards data science (on Medium). It was just so much terrible tutorial content which was not only wrong, but actively misleading.

What are your sources for data science news?

Books if you need to learn a topic.

Papers if you need to keep up with a topic.

I used to follow statsblogs, but that's dead now (the collection, most of the blogs still exist).

Anything that isn't covered in these forums probably isn't important enough to worry about.

To paraphrase Gary Larson, "We know it is bullshit, but what kind of bullshit?"[1]

Marketing is fact mixed with coercion.

But this is about plagiarism.

The author of the article, in just under 800 words, is addressing the "copypasta" nature of a specific discipline: programming. I like the author's characterization of lazy or necessary plagiarism as "consumer" mentality. That's an interesting twist.

Was this not the 1970's American Auto Industry attempting to implement Japan's earliest implementation of lean manufacturing? Is the same to be said of any "ripoff" product that cheaply imitates the original: e.g., an off-brand version of an Eames Lounger, or cheaply made webcam off Amazon which is a faulty copy of a Logitech?

His observation is a reflection of complex constraints, and while I completely agree individuals should strive for a deep understanding and mastery of what they spend their lives doing, as it benefits us all directly or indirectly by making us conscious citizens (my opinion), I think this is a largely metaphysical reflection lacking contextual nuance rather than a call to action: we've all been in the shoes of his hypothetical individual committing the sin of programmer consumerism, and for good reason.

However, I do appreciate the clarity his transformation applies to a scenario we are all intimately engaged in.

[1] "We know they are idiots, the question is, 'What kind of idiots?'"

It’s fair to say that a Google has completely failed at its mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.

No, they organize the world's information. It is just that the information changed to be more easily organized by Google.

Give Sturgeon's Law some credit here.

It is an even bigger problem when searching for advanced/niche concepts: try searching for Redis and Cloudwatch (not Elasticache, plain Redis) and you will get generic AWS docs and "How to get started with Redis" posts.

And social media (including LinkedIn). There are many tech firms who hire marketers to write tech content for other marketers and potential clients as an advertising and brand-building strategy.

I think this problem expands to tech meetups. It is very difficult to find a quality meetup. Most people never used the tech and the presenters make gross errors. Most recent I remember was a person trying to explain why GraphQL is good for APIs, while showing code with crazy N+1s. Certainly didn't convince me.

I'm not saying everyone should be an expert, but I would want the whole spectrum of experience represented. Now I don't invest time in meetups any more.

Meetups cater almost exclusively to younger people who want to learn something and socialize.

I don't think it is particularly wrong, but more experienced people tend to be older and less likely to have inclination or time to prepare talk or go to pub every week or so.

It feels like if you changed the nouns we could be talking about movies. We are, some of us at least, on our guard when a movie has a huge advertising spend because we have been burned by movies where, "all the best parts were in the preview".

Do you think it would be possible for us to have any transparency into how hard a web page has been 'advertised' and use that to inform our decision processes? I've no idea what that would even look like.

"Now, literally everyone is trying to do SEO and use lots of words in articles, kind of creating content, but in reality copying from someone else and modifying a little and trying to get lots (of) back links."

That's the real problem. There is a market for short-form clickbait crap. One can make a living writing that. There is not much of a market for long-form accurate technical material.

Confluent's marketing content for Kafka does an amazing job of making Kafka sound like the solution for every problem. I have a hard to understanding what it can actually do because the content is stuffed with so much selling and adjectives.

“Content marketing”

"bullshit marketing"

I don't think all content marketing is bullshit. There are some companies that produce some pretty nice content, for example some of the in-depth Cloudflare stuff, but others as well.

It's useful and interesting, but also content marketing.

Digital ocean write some really good articles too.

What we used to call "spam".

Everything goes to shit when marketing is involved. Or more like, everything goes to shit when money is involved.

That's true, of course, but consider this: if there is no money, there may be nothing to go to shit; that which does not live, does not die, etc.

There was in fact content on the internet before the advertising craze. Sometimes people write things because it earnestly interests them, not to make a quick buck.

Google incentivizes this. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

Nobody is making the player play the game. There are plenty of other ways to spend your time than advertising on the internet.

"Hate the player for choosing to play the game."

Did the poster even name a player?

Wall Street incentivizes Google to do this. Don't hate the game, hate the meta-game?

Wall Street has no say in the matter. The voting shares are majority held by the founders.

Google chose to be beholden to Wall Street. It could have chosen to remain private and had a better chance of not harming society.

You do realize it was tech bros and not marketers who invented Google SEO right?

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