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Show HN: I built the antithesis of Zoom. Add GIFs, stickers, BGs. Talk like IRL (reslash.co)
266 points by remotelyyours 3 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 229 comments

I was interested in building something like this when COVID-19 first hit. I think it's still a space with a lot of potential, but there are now a huge number of competitors. I made a spreadsheet and add to it each time I see one of these products come up on HN: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1R5DXWtz4H7eIT5VbGYJE...

There are currently at least 18 projects operating in this space.

- The majority (maybe all?) of them are browser-based (probably because it's easy to throw something together with all the JS webrtc example projects out there).

- Most of them seem to be trying to sell to enterprises or conference organizers.

- I suspect that most of them are ghost towns.

- None of them that I've seen actually try to originate events- i.e. the only way you would use them is if you try to organize an event or are invited to one through a different channel.

- Most of them are top-down, although there are a few 3d ones.

I still think that there's a lot of potential for someone to come in and take over this whole space with a product more polished than is possible in the browser, and with a social element that can drive usage of the platform (similar to Clubhouse). I suspect that the winning team will come from the ranks of game developers, not webdevs who cracked open a webrtc tutorial one weekend. For now though, it's probably best to sit back and let the majority of the 18 existing teams burn through their funding.

>I was interested in building something like this when COVID-19 first hit.

Same here. I spent a panicked month and a half on full-time pre-production for a competing product in this space, as an unfortunate alternative to seeking a job at the time.

>There are currently at least 18 projects operating in this space.

https://theonline.town/ is missing from your list. There's probably half a dozen more I could add if my notes from the time were properly organized.

Please don't feel bad of course: we've reached a point where full quantification of all non-stealth competitors in a busy space is very difficult, if not impossible. Indeed, your list has projects I was previously unaware of.

>I think it's still a space with a lot of potential, but there are now a huge number of competitors.

The number of competitors was staggering. It felt like a veritable gold rush: almost every single novel design concept I came up with was eventually independently thought of, but nobody ever wove each together into something truly cohesive. Heck, even the name was jokingly thought of by some random person on Twitter months later.

>I still think that there's a lot of potential for someone to come in and take over this whole space with a product more polished than is possible in the browser,

I don't think the browser as a platform is an issue; it's extremely capable. There's just a huge amount of apathy and entrenchment in that space now, and the usual rules pertaining to software moats apply just the same. It'd have to be something really special to unseat Zoom and all its clones at this point.

>I suspect that the winning team will come from the ranks of game developers, not webdevs who cracked open a webrtc tutorial one weekend

Having watched endless projects borne of weekend WebRTC tutorials spring up during that time period, I cannot agree more.

There are competitors but our focus is on making sure people are able to build highly personalized spaces. The experience is vastly different than others.

Does anybody remember Habbo Hotel from a decade ago? Second Life and There? These all appear to be rehashes - of course with the video conferencing aspect but not at all profound in dynamic/immersive voice communication. These platforms used to be massive. I'm not sure if they were ever able to manage unicorn levels of monetization unfortunately.

An aside, I think these projects are awesome, this one included, and I really enjoyed those social games then. Will be following how this develops closely.

We actually have chess! Do give it a try ;) We'll be adding a lot more!

> I suspect that the winning team will come from the ranks of game developers, not webdevs who cracked open a webrtc tutorial one weekend.

I hope it will be two teams. The first will be the devs who build a free SDK to make building such things really easy. Think mediasoup but w/ all the rooms, permissions, servers, state management, etc easy to build with via API. The second team will garner adoption by putting in the effort into putting those pieces together and running/moderating the thing.

Mozilla Hubs is the best 3d browser-based spatial audio platform I've tried yet by far. I hosted a virtual party in the first lockdown back in April and it was pretty fun and far far better than a zoom call due to the spacial audio. Unfortunately it did become a bit unstable past 15-18 people and you'd have to rejoin the session frequently when it started to crap out under higher load.

There already is a popular platform that fits what you are describing: VRChat.

We support up to 100 people in a room.

what happens if 100 people move to the same spot? What kind of infrastructure do you have that supports 100 simultaneous video streams?

You mean the same room? We've built our solution using webrtc. For the infrastructure bit, I'll have our CTO write back to this comment as well.

this is incredible. do you know of any that involve top down animated characters and proximity _text_, not voice, chatting?

Hahahaha wow

i'm always sad when we are missing on such a list, eventhough I guess we tick most of the boxes you mention...

- parties/social events as focus

- 3d, but not trying to cater for corporate markets

- not a town at all

as you obviously spent some time thinking about this topic I'd really appreciate some feedback: https://laptopsinspace.de

>as you obviously spent some time thinking about this topic I'd really appreciate some feedback: https://laptopsinspace.de

While I'm not OP, I remember seeing this project at the end of April in Three.js Discord. It's neat to see where it's gone since. Bravo! :)

cheers! glad to hear that :)

I love the laptop concept

Thanks for posting this list! As it happens I am working on organizing a conference in the coming months and I've been comparing a few similar platforms but there are several on your list and in the comments that I didn't know about.

If anyone has attended a conference recently using one of these platforms I'd love to hear how it went.

We actually are working on a broadcast feature so that you can have speakers talk across rooms. And people can still interact with each other. If you will be interested in trying it out, let me know.

> I suspect that the winning team will come from the ranks of game developers, not webdevs who cracked open a webrtc tutorial one weekend.

Yeah, like VRChat

I enjoyed this comment :) Just wanted to tell you that we're not funded :P

The 18 apps may have similar elements but are approaching this very differently.

Thank you for putting together the list! I've been watching this space for a bit, and got really excited with High Fidelity.

Another for you!


I built a video calling app which is the antithesis of Zoom. It's called Reslash.

You can play with everything - backgrounds, gifs, stickers. You can recreate a bar lounge, classroom, office, 80s party and more.

It also has spatial audio - just move closer to talk to people, like you do IRL.

Demo video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zwXL7ZJra4

You can sign up here: https://reslash.co

I would love to get your feedback on it :)

I think this is a fantastic idea and will be trying it out with some friends later!

The only issue for me is the pricing. The free tier is great for getting your feet wet but the $99 is too expensive for me to consider since I would only be hanging out with a few friends. For me, the ideal would be something in the $15-$30 range and would increase the call limit to 3-4 hours. I don't need unlimited meetings or more than 10 people. Best of luck!

We'll definitely be bringing such a plan. Until then, please go ahead and use it as much as you want :) Feedback taken!

Regarding pricing: I would see myself using that to play D&D once a week with my friends. So, less than 10 people, but 1 4-hour session a week.

Unfortunately, free tier is not enough, but $99 for that is a bit too much.

Hey! We have gotten a lot of feedback on pricing. We need to fix it. Please go ahead and start using it! We'll have an in-between pricing soon :)

thanks for the reply! I'll give it a try with my friends :)

Two points regarding the pricing table: Firstly it mixes different spellings("up to" and "upto"). And then there are the bullet points with strikethrough text that I just can't understand. Why do both variants have "unlimited spaces" crossed out? Why is "no unlimited guests allowed" crossed out, which in my head implies that unlimited guests are allowed.

Good observation. Pricing needs to be calibrated and communicated properly. On it!!

I like the idea of spatial audio, I think that is the main thing missing from virtual happy hours and whatnot.

I cant try it out right now. Does it have a limit to how many people can occupy a space? can you control how far your voice projects?

I am thinking of something like a work christmas party where everyone breaks into groups and then walks away and tries another group for a bit and talks to different people. Then someone gets everyones attention and talks loudly or into a microphone for a bit, then it goes back to normal.

In any case, good luck, it sounds great, I cant wait to try it.

You can have up to 100 people in a room. You have unlimited rooms. We're also building a broadcast feature so that you can talk/announce across rooms.

We've not given flexibility on the spatial audio radius yet. It could be interesting!


I just had a quick tour with you guys. Amazing tool.

But at first I signed in as a guest, but now I want to sign up with the same email address but it says "Error occured: The email address is already in use by another account.".

And I see no "Forgot password" link.

EDIT: user email is now in my bio.

fixing it!

Hey, this is fixed. Can you try signing up again please? Let me know if it still doesn't work.

It works! thanks!


Cool product =)... Just out of curiosity, are you using distance from avatars to lower sound? So more distant conversations in say a party setting could be audible, but quieter? That would be a key distinction between discord and this in my mind.

You're right!

Really neat then =)... Is that an area you've had to spend a lot of time in? Getting that multiple groups conversing where you can overhear / swap conversations or widen the conversation as well has have short sub-conversations is a really great dynamic that's sorely missing in this medium.

Love it. It would be especially cool to be able to create filters, e.g. chroma keying on your video to integrate it into the space. Or just to make the colors go wonky and have fun with the image.

Wow. Cool idea. We definitely need to look into this!

I really like that you are working on something original and different. Wish you luck.

What is the tech stack behind the product? Do you use WebRTC? Something home-build.

Thanks! You're right. It is webrtc and react.js.

That video answers every question I had about why someone might choose Reslash over Discord, thanks. Reslash looks fun.


Super sick. I've used this with my friends. How long was development?

Awesome! How was the experience like? We've tried multiple products. This is third pivot. Took two months to build this.

I'm surprised you didn't launch on producthunt. Definitely think that crowd would get a kick out of it

Edit: I now see their producthunt page. It didn't pop up while searching /shrug

They were the #1 product of the day on Product Hunt on December 23rd. They even have a Product Hunt '#1 product of the day' badge featured prominently on their landing page.

We actually were #1 on Product Hunt. We launched on it couple of weeks ago :)

When I talk IRL I don't use GIFs or stickers, and the only background is whatever is behind me.

I like the idea of moving around to decide who you talk to; it is the premise behind jitsi-powered Work Adventure http://workadventu.re

I don't know if the spatial metaphor really brings anything. I think a few rooms, with proper tooling to signal activity and a way to preview (listen in before you decide to join, or better yet have it play a recent utterance from its beginning) would work wonders. Maybe the system could prompt participants to move to a separate room on sufficient activity, and remind participants to set a text subject once in a while during periods of activity.

Spatialization gives you little, as it's still impossible to listen to multiple conversations at once, and discovering the mapping of location-to-topic is a problem. If you're setting up specific locations for specific topics in advance, what I want to know is who is there and how active they are, not where on a 2D canvas the admin has chosen to position it.

I agree with the need to preview whats going on.

In real life spaces, we often decide to switch to a different conversation from hearing a snippet or zoning in to what's going on around you when you're bored of the current talk. In this system, I feel like it would be rude to bring yourself over to a group and then leave again when you decide you're not interested in the conversation. Perhaps being able to mouse over a location to here the audio would be good. I don't think there's much expectation of privacy in a space like this anyway.

I think this spacial arrangement would generally make such social dilemmas easier to handle. For instance, I think it would be more awkward to abruptly leave a room during a conversation than to just sidle away. Leaving slowly could implicitly invite others to follow.

The internet has forced us to create a bunch of new social protocols and norms. Why not design our tools to fit with our existing ones?

You're right. The interactions can a lot more "natural" than it is right now.

Couldn't agreed more. After seeing the first "Video conferencing" tool with spatial audio I was so excited. This excitement got lost instantly when we had our first online christmas party. Being able to hear everyone clearly and loud is not a bug its a feature.

IRL I can change my focus on someone further away without moving at all. Only if Im really interested in that other conversation I will start moving.

A pre-listen feature on mouse over would be awesome.

While I'm still fascinated by the technical aspects imho theres still a lot of room for improvement in the implementation. But its great that there are so many projects tackling this problem and improving online get-togethers

> jitsi-powered Work Adventure http://workadventu.re

Getting a 404 - "Could not load map."

This seems interesting. I'll check it out!

I think the idea is to add some sort of flair, like you would in real life. For example, people wear unusual socks, and you'd notice them in real life, but in a video call you'll never see someone's socks. So the video call takes away that dimension of being alive.

I'm not sure GIFs are the answer, but I think that's what the attempt is.

Same for me. Other than an ASCII smiley here or there, if I can't say it with simple text as a complete sentence, I don't say it, and video chat backgrounds are annoying.

True, but the addition of stickers and GIFs makes it much closer to real life where there are dozens of visual and physical cues as to your headspace.

> When I talk IRL I don't use GIFs or stickers, and the only background is whatever is behind me.

There is no "background" you are surrounded by 3 dimensional space with a variety of objects you can point at or manipulate. Given that you can't share a 3 dimensional space gifs and stickers give you a way to communicate things that require more than 2 dimensions to express.

I've never heard of work adventure. Seems really neat! Thanks for sharing!

This reminds me of an old article by Jakob Nielsen, "Better than Reality" [1], about how the web shouldn't try to emulate reality. Of course, technology has advanced a lot since 1998. But I wonder if his core point is still right. For one thing, at its best, the web is still better than reality in that it can be much more accessible to people with disabilities. Products like this one still run the risk of negating that advantage.

[1]: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/better-than-reality-a-funda...

I wonder if there's a good way of getting the best of both worlds. The 'killer app' here would seem to be that you can migrate between conversations and be aware of other people's conversations at the same time, taking advantage of the efforts of evolution to the fullest. Is there a better way that's more inclusive?

Its cool, I especially like that presentation example. However, animated GIFs and stickers would drive me insane. I already can't stand animated stuff in slack as it is, so distracting.

I also find that stuff distracting in slack, but I think that's because I'm trying to stay on top of "work stuff". I don't think it'd be so distracting if I was just hanging with friends or something.

I get that, but it still distracts from the actual conversations or people. I don't need stuff constantly moving. I guess the difference is that if its an in-person situation, then stuff moving around me is normal, but on screen it localizes everything to a small area: the screen. I also find animated stuff annoying in Discord channels and such, something I don't use for work, only for fun.

I dunno. I haven't tried it. For me, when I'm in a social situation (virtual or in person), I'm there for the people and want to focus on them, not some animated emoji. I can do those on my own.

You can turn it off! You can personalize the space to make it work for you. That's one of our key differentiators. We don't want to force you into a single format.

FWIW you can disable animated emojis

This is a cool idea and I like that you've left space "at the top" for an enterprise plan. Of course, I don't know anyone with an account and don't use other social media, so how would I get started?

Is there an interest in having an HN space? ... And how is that done fairly with a limit of 100 people?

You can have multiple rooms. This means you can unlimited people in the space. We're also building a broadcast feature so that you can present to all the rooms at the same time. So, the crowd can still talk to each other while listening to a presentation.

So it's basically Discord channels, but I change channels by moving around an avatar? That's neat, but I'm not sure it's really "the antithesis of Zoom". I don't even think Zoom is the right product to compare against. Why should I use this over Discord?

It is so much more fun! If you use discord for gaming, then the experience would be similar. However, if you use it with crowds, it'll be much easier to have multiple, spontaneous conversations within the crowd without getting into multiple threads/rooms. It is also a lot more visual. So, you can customize the space and really set the mood with this.

We're thinking of adding Twitch integration which will let you have Twitch watch parties as well :) What do you think?

I went in expecting to hate it, but I ended up actually liking the idea. Since I'm looking at this from a work perspective, a whiteboard would be nice!

Definitely! We're bringing whiteboard pretty soon !

Nice work. It looks like a fun new take of The Palace Chat!

it's just missing the Dollz and DBZ characters blasting scripted macros everywhere to ruin the experience of others through audiovisual spam.

man I loved The Palace. I wrote a ton of IPTSCRAE as a youth for it -- both server side and client side.

The Palace quickly taught one why it was a bad idea to allow clients to draw programmatically. Many a rooms ruined by script kiddies that got taught how to ruin every bodies day with an array of seizure inducing redraws.

That said : Man, we're moving backwards in a lot of ways on software. The Palace didn't have rich media embedding and webcams, sure -- but the server software was free for anyone to run , with many large broadcasting groups hosting many hundreds of people at once.

I understand the need for a marketing plan and idea -- but it feels weird when a brand new pay offering can handle less traffic for more money than a solution from the 90s.

Haha, Indeed. I loved scripting! Pretending to be the server "admin" messaging the room from a chat-bubble in the top left was the best thing ever. Well, yeah that and laser shows.

So much time spent there. And on Comic Chat.

I was thinking this too, but couldn't remember the name. Thank you!

Also reminds me of Well of Souls by Synthetic Reality with all of the avatars floating around and the randomly-styled images that pop up. I dig it.

Now there's a name I haven't heard too recently - except for a handful of us who were part of a group many years ago.

Did you have a favorite Palace server you logged into regularly back in the day?

Oh man I can't believe I'm seeing this out in the wild in 2021. I used to love The Palace back in the days; would go around an awesome Harry Potter themed server (or room, can't recall the exact structure) and kinda play around in Hogwarts.

Someone told me about this today!! We need to build a tribute to The Palace within the product. On it.

It really does

My first though too

Another one for he list. We are working on MeetHub which leverages Google Meet video.

It's designed for organizations that use Google Workplace and allows you to see all the calls that are happening across your organization on a map and spontaneously drop in on calls.

The idea is to bring back some of the Geospatial awareness of being co-located.

All feedback welcome.


I joined and couldn't see my own face or bubble. I clicked around trying to figure that part out but didn't get it.

I saw other people could easily publish content to the board and I think that part is a step forward. I could have clicked chess/gif and posted something but exited there.

When I join, I'd like a clear "you are here" with my own face looking back at me.

Feedback taken! We'll improve upon this :)

This is cool, but you might want to adjust the feature lists in your pricing section! Since items are crossed out on the free plan, it would make a lot more sense for both lists to have the same features. It's confusing that it says "No additional guests" on the free plan, but then that is crossed out; you could misread this to mean "NOT no additional guests", which is kind of nonsense but might lead someone to believe that they _can_ have unlimited guests on free.

Similarly, you have "Unlimited meeting minutes" listed and crossed out on free, but you don't even offer that on the paid plan, only a 240min max. You probably shouldn't tease unlimited meeting minutes like that.

Valid feedback. Reworking this. Thank you!

Similar products to this exist - wonder.me, and gather.town.

You're right. Multiple startups trying to solve this problem. We want to stand out by making it incredibly easy for teams to build personalized spaces.

Very nice! Has a chess game too! If you could add some lighter board games or 2d pool I might spend some time on it!

What can you tell us about security and privacy? Can you create locked rooms? Zoom had a lot of problems with this in the beginning.

We'll be adding a lot more games to it. The calls are all end-to-end encrypted. We'll be adding more security features like passwords, locked rooms and gatekeeping to get this aspect right.

I'm digging the idea of spacial audio, but for my 2 cents I do not enjoy the interface. It seems to encourage a lot of loud geocities/MySpace-era visuals.

I'd be interested in a top-down 2D space (like a million games, but just for example: Among Us) with spatial audio. That'd be pretty interesting.

Judging by what my kids like to play, I could see a place in the market for a 2D virtual world with this kind of feature. Create your own spaces, "decorate" them, plus spatial audio. That sounds like a winning combo.

I get it. We wanted to have this to really help people customize the space the way they like. Gather has a different interpretation of it and more in line with what you are looking for.

Check out gather.town

That's more or else exactly what I was thinking. Thanks!

This is very good. :-) The zooming user interface is a nice touch. It would work well for meetups where you can see lots of people and move from group to group by dragging the mouse.

Thank you! How do you think you can potentially use this?

Makes a lot of sense!

Seems like this could work super well for personal use, especially if there was a mobile/tablet app with pinch-to-zoom.

Could throw a party on this with my friends.

We've actually a lot of interest for virtual events, offices and classrooms :)

Really cool but why is there no text chat?

Edit: I communicate with my friends IRL primarily through text so having to use audio only is definitely a detractor for me.

We'll have to reimagine chat a bit for the platform. It's under works!

People get louder as you go near to them? Interesting.. I think I would end up hanging around a corner somewhere in the virtual space

We'll come and find you haha

Nice job - demo video literally made me smile. Seems something like this might be neat for virtual attendees of Meetups and other conferences (e.g., for pre- and post-presentation discussions). Also seems like kids would enjoy the this-isn't-your-parents-WebEx/TEAMS-video-chat interface. Good luck!

Thank you so much!

Reminded me of the potential in proximity chat online outside the realm of video games where it’s most prevalent today.

This is a shameless copycat of here.fm.

I've been using here.fm for several months and it is awesome. I'd highly recommend you check here.fm out before supporting a company that rips off other people's work.

You've not seen our product.. We may have gifs like here.fm but our spatial engine is completely different. Plus, we've built it to handle crowds. You can have up to 100 people in a room. Here has a limit of about 12.

Btw, the real OG of this space is New Hive. It has been an inspiration of many such products.

There are around 20 different startups doing something like this. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1R5DXWtz4H7eIT5VbGYJE...

Compare reslash's UI/UX to here's and you'll see it's more than just "similar". They literally copied the control bar at the bottom identically.

We've similarities to here but our spatial audio is completely different. We can also handle upto 100 people in a room.

Interesting. As others have noted, it is similar to the old palace chat. I have been thinking about how to give web conferencing more affordances than just a video window and a text box.

I need to check out Palace soon. Do give us a shot and let me know what you think :)

I stumbled into this same idea with OBS and their virtual cam. I used a window capture to plumb in my VC partner and built a "digital collage" with images, gifs, and browsers.

That's cool! Try us out and let me know what you think?

Consider automatically bootstrapping user profiles for the live demo. Putting in E-Mail to see what it is all about is a straight up no for me. Too much friction.

Seems to be knockoff of https://spatial.chat/ . How do you differentiate?

Our tech - we can handle twice the number of people in a room! We'll also be integrating work apps on to the platform.

That was cool, except I could never hear anybody talking. :(

I could hear the videos, though.

Oh, weird. Let me DM you and get that fixed for you.

Hey! We fixed this.. Can you please try again?

Well done!

Very cool to see this. Just tried it out. It's a great visualization.


really interested in a solution in this space that involves top down animated avatars and proximity _text_, not voice, chatting - anyone seen such a thing?

We'll be building a proximity chat system soon!


I love how the co-founder is doing tours in the online demo


I feel like I'm out of touch with current western culture, I honestly feel like I'm becoming an old fart at the age of 30.

Everything is becoming increasingly infantile. Everything has to be fun and cool. I'm wondering where is this trend coming from. Is this some sort of a social response to how terrible and bleak reality seems to be? Or maybe it's because we actually treat majority of people like little children. If one looks how the current enterprises work, the person within them have very limited decision making power and access to information. In a way that reminds me of a quote from interview with Erich Fromm[1]: "It is true that one has to think first and then to act -but it's also true that if one has no possibility of acting, one's thinking kind of becomes empty and stupid.".

Any other ideas? Or maybe it's actually not happening at all, and it's only me who's not getting it.

[1]: https://hrc.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15878coll...

PS: OP, I don't mean that as criticism of your product, I think it correctly identifies and addresses the need. It's the why is it even a need part I'm curious about.

I don't know about that - I'm a little older than you, and I remember when the web was more like this. GeoCities and MySpace allowed tons of customization, and everybody made their own barf on a page to express themselves.

Then sometime in the mid 2000s everything online became sanitized and corporate.

I think there's a line somewhere between expressiveness and infantility. It's actually corporate that pushes the latter through the way they add those ways of expression to their products.

I'm not saying everything has to be boring and same everywhere, I'd like to see the world that's actually quite the opposite, that's diverse and where people are pushing the boundaries of expression. Where I see infantilisation happening is where things with very low information ratio (and usually something evoking one of the basic emotions with high valence and high arousal) are described as fun and cool.

I think OP's product is sitting somewhere on that border, but their marketing angle is definitely pushing it towards the infantility. Just look at the title of this very post, but I guess it worked, in the end we've all clicked on the comments and are here.. :)

I'd describe the mid 2000s aesthetic as "Professional", while current trends are "Genuine". Snaps, stories, livestreams, and other volatile social media became chic because it would go away - you didn't have to rehearse your words, worry about lighting, or ensure your images are perfectly aligned.

I really dug this Reslash concept after seeing that grainy image of a classroom used as a background. It's something you just slap on because you're about to teach, but it isn't a painfully constructed "Knowledge Session" with a stock image-riddled Powerpoint deck.

Don't forget BBSes and even AOL/Prodigy, Everything used to be more tongue in cheek, and required a bit of discovery to figure out.

Personally, I think it's been downhill since someone decided we needed ui/ux designers instead of sleep deprived developers who assumed it was always the (l)users fault for not being able to figure out how to use things. Sure, it has made things easier to use for the masses, but I don't care about the masses.

> I don't care about the masses.

The "masses" are real people too, with feelings. We should care about them. Also, they include our family and, hopefully, friends.

I think the internet was much better when most of my family and friends didn't know how to use it.

But yeah, I know it's basically a necessity now, and I understand that services need to cater to as many people as possible. I just wanted to be a cranky old nerd for a bit :-)

The web has always been a mish-mash of crazy hippie stuff alongside dry boring stuff. There was a lot of personalized personal webpages sure, but also search engines used to look dry and boring and emojis in chat were limited to what you could do with ASCII art (compared to the insane amount of animated sticker spammy-ness that a teen might use these days).

With that said, I do agree with GP with regards to things outside of the web: products have a lot more franchise placements (e.g. disney-themed shampoos), and school for my kids have a lot more of an artsy/hippie feel than I remember my dry seats-facing-forward education some 30 years ago. Gaming among adults is far more socially accepted than 30 years ago - you wouldn't even bat an eyelid at an old lady playing candy crush in the bus these days. Etc.

I suspect an increase in middle class disposable income might have something to do with this. Look, for example, at how culture progressed over the decades in Japan. Nowadays, you have grown adults who are into moe[0] stuff, along all sort of "infantile" subcultures (by western standards).

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moe_(slang)

A related development I find interesting is the increasing denial of accountability. More and more, people focus on the ways that things aren't their fault or focus on things that they can't change. It's to a point where IMO people are basically treating themselves and each other as children, with the tired old mantras that children often use: it's not my fault, they started it, everyone else is doing it too, etc. It doesn't matter too much to me. I've always focused on the ways I can improve myself and my life without worrying too much about how things could have been better if XYZ. But I do think the people who participate in this aspect of infantilization culture may be holding themselves without even realizing it.

Thanks for your comment! fwiw, pls note that your critique would apply equally to any concern that society wishes to "push up the stack". Collectivizing challenges (rather than individualizing them) is what pretty much all societal progress is built on...

But that process will always look like people saying "this isn't my fault" and focussing on "something they can't change [by themselves]".

Anyhow, not saying your intuition are wrong (there are degrees I agree with), but just noting it has some fuzzy edges that point toward some weird truisms

We probably just have different viewpoints, and the "fuzzy edges" may be areas we don't agree. I am very aware of what my views are, whereas you imply I may be unaware. I find it useful to not waste too much time worrying about challenges and instead focus on solutions and opportunity. This has allowed me to come from childhood poverty into an adulthood that successfully provides me the life I want, without hangups or emotional baggage. If other people find success through different strategies, that's great. But as I said, I can't help but think that many people are only holding themselves back by focusing on things that are out of their control

Interesting. Perhaps you're right of disagreement. Yes, the world is definitely filled with two sorts of thinkers along this axis we're alluding to, that's for sure.

My analysis: A focus on "challenge" is the framing someone takes when they're more enamoured with the infinitely wide possibility space around any system (* raises hand * guilty), while "solutions/actions" tend to be valourized when someone is more interested in the point of collapse of the possibility space, where possibilities condense into reality.

Both are the right and wrong tools at the same time imho. Too much of either is dysfunctional. I'm certainly dysfunctional in some situations with my predispositions, but superhuman in others. I assume there are also some places where you feel maladapted (though perhaps your neurotype doesn't translate this into uncertainty of your values, as mind does).

Honestly, I feel much of the work of a holding societies together is sorting out ways to allow these two types to work together, and reciprocate value between their styles. It's a tension that exists in all systems at all levels of organizing matter (eg. brains navigated this with lateralization into hemispheres), and society isn't special.

We're both wrong and right, and just need to at least see that as true, and maybe not try to claim too much authority for our own camp. (Maybe ubiquitous social welfare IS claiming too much authority.)

Anyhow, thanks. I appreciate your perspective, and it humbles mine.

I think the other side of the coin is that we're moving away from people hiding incompetence through bravado, scapegoating, and what gets neglected when people engage in the game of pretend called "we're all grown ups here". The fact is that people are on a lot of different levels of emotional maturity and function. Even the same individual at difference points of their life and in different contexts. Age only loosely correlates with real maturity, real ownership of responsibility, etc. It's kind of silly when we can plan for all sorts of failsafes and redundancy in architecture and software but neglect to do so with humans, who are always error prone.

Also, it is useful to talk about systemic problems that are much larger than what any individual can fix just by being extra diligent.

I see your point though, that something being nobody's fault can be just as damaging as spending an egregious amount of time trying to assign blame (the traditional way of things). My opinion is that responsibility, and being able to take some flak for when that ownership goes awry, should be conditioned like exercise. Taking none is like never exercising, and it's very unhealthy. Throwing 1000 pounds of weight on someone suddenly because of a pathological need for the group to have a scapegoat doesn't make that person better, though. It just crushes them and it's a net loss for the group. That weight and stress should be shared. We need to cultivate the real maturity to take and give some blame constructively, and recognize all extenuating factors, so that people neither get infantilized and helpless nor simply squashed because of a systemic problem that the group just doesn't want to address.

Accountability and blame are two vastly different concepts. As an executive I’m accountable when my team messes up. Blame doesn’t even come into it.


Can you provide peer reviewed sources for your claim that critical race theory leads to lack of accountability?

CT/CRT promotes an external locus of control as the source of societal problems. In other words, its not the fault of the individual/human hardware its the fault of the patterns that society has entrenched aka systemic racism or the software of a culture.

Its a top down theory/solution to what critics would argue is a bottom up problem. Individuals must be responsible for what they say, how they regulate their emotional state, and how their experiences and cognitive distortions skew their thinking. CT/CRT, by my understanding, argues against this. Thus it seems reasonable to say it leads to a lack of accountability if you define accountability as a responsibility for ones actions and beliefs.

I’ve read a small bit on CT/CRT, intersectionality, and the modern culture of safetyism. Primarily from Haidt who has more peer reviewed sources on things than anyone could ever want.



I find CT/CRT to be compelling to a degree, but it brings along with it too much baggage in my opinion. You’re likely not going to find or be given a specific source of data that says CRT leads to lack of accountability (however you would measure that), its an assumption made by the previous poster. You don’t need one either to have a discussion, so don’t fall back on the lack of academic evidence as an argument in itself.

I don't know if there's peer-reviewed sources about that claim in particular, but this is a topic that's being addressed often in media. Here's a popular book on this topic; I haven't read it yet, but I'd like to: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1634312023


That wasn't peer-reviewed or even sourced

Let’s not let facts get in the way of some good old-fashioned racism shall we?

Unpopular opinion on HN, but asking for a peer-reviewed source during a casual forum discussion is kind of a lazy way to dismiss something. When you're chatting with your buddies over cocktails and they say something you disagree with, do you suddenly demand a peer-reviewed source and offer to drive them to the library so they can find the academic papers that back up their views?

I am actually 32 haha I do understand where you're coming from. However, our motivation around this was to have an emotional response to space. The idea of personalizing your space where you're spending time is an important one. We also want to be treated like people online and not boxes. So the whole idea of being on "mute" when you're listening to someone needs to be challenged.

This is probably not an answer to what you've asked. I just wanted to tell you about how motivations behind building this.

An experiment well worth doing, and probably a preferable option for people weary of listening politely to 'authorities' or 'guests' or 'lecturers' one-at-a-time... which can be extremely low-bandwidth.

Certainly at conventions with 'presentations' many people sit near each other to discuss what's being said (or talk past the parts not relevant to them) in real-time. Orchestras still have conductors (strictly interpreting fixed works) but I think most people would rather be in a band (for the creative interactivity) and rather listen to a band.

Oh yeah, I think what you've built can be great enabler for expression and creativity and product itself and definitely has the old school web feel to it. I think what inspired me to write above, was more of a marketing angle you are taking, not necessarily product itself.

You got the creativity and expression bit right. That's a big motivator. For the positioning, I do understand your point. We may need to explore this a bit more to really convey what we're trying to do better.

I'm slightly older than you, so we're both millenials, and I've noticed a lot of my friends sort of struggling with the fact that we're no longer the "young and cool" crowd. The Gen Y/Z TikTok crowd are the cool ones now, and speaking anecdotally the people I know in their late teens and early twenties are quite a bit more sheltered and childish than my friends and I were at that age. We were using fake IDs to get into bars and shows, and my younger cousins are literally spending Friday/Saturday nights inside on social media (pre-Covid).

>I'm slightly older than you, so we're both millenials, and I've noticed a lot of my friends sort of struggling with the fact that we're no longer the "young and cool" crowd. The Gen Y/Z TikTok crowd are the cool ones now

The funny thing about that, much like when we were that age, those platforms and things the young folks think are cool were made by people who are the age of millenials or older for the most part.

I dunno, when I was younger a lot of the music and stuff I thought was cool was being made by people who were around the same age I am now.

Not too sure what my point is really, your comment just made me think of this. People around that age start lamenting their lack of cool, but are responsible for many of the things people younger than them find cool...something like that I suppose.

  > Now the sound of music comes in silver pills
  > Engineered to suit you, building cheaper thrills  
  > The music of rebellion makes you wanna rage  
  > But it's made by millionaires who are nearly twice your age
from The Sound Of Muzak by Porcupine Tree.

Respectfully, I think the younger generations are “up to” the exact same stuff. I should write a post about college campus ID culture. It’s always fun to break out a pseudonym.

My understanding is that going out, (binge-)drinking has actually significantly gone down in the last decade.

I can't vouch for these specific stats, but I've come across multiple articles over the years that support this. Here's at least some data I found:


Anecdotally, tons of clubs have closed in since the 90's with no replacement where I lived (Toronto and North Netherlands). Everything at least in my circles suggests that drugs, drinking, partying is all happening less now compared to the previous generations.

Ymmv depending on where you are from though.

I randomly landed and browsed through Courtney Loves Twitter today and she posts lots of pictures of partying in the early 90s with other celebs. It’s the antithesis of what is cool today. Just looks like a train wreck really.

Er, Courtney Love was widely perceived as a trainwreck in the 90s, so her Twitter being full of now-seen-as-trainwreck stuff from the 1990s probably isn’t a good measure of change from the 1990s to now.

But her scene and the train wrecking was seen as “cool” by kids. I don’t think that is the case anymore. Kids look up to Elon Musk and YouTubers want to do startups and content instead.

> But her scene and the train wrecking was seen as “cool” by kids

Not very broadly, even among “the kids” (who, then and now, are far from monolithic.) She was more seen as a trainwreck that was in cool circles, not as a cool trainwreck.

> Kids look up to Elon Musk

Yeah, kids looked up to successful business and tech figures in the 1990s, and there are trainwreck entertainment industry celebs today, too.

It's not the case that Musk is idolized by a similar segment of the youth as would have idolized Love in the 1990s.

Regarding the sheltering: I dunno. The next generation probably isn’t telling you the shit they’re getting into.

Besides that, I spent plenty of Friday evenings staying up until 4 AM playing The Sims (the original game). It’s not like high school kids really have a choice on what they’re doing a lot of times - they don’t have complete freedom of movement.

I think you're approaching it from the completely wrong way. We are in the time of revolution for video calls and interactive spaces. In times of revolution quick adoption is key. Funny/viral things with no participation barrier are ways of increasing adoption.

It will allow the tech/product to evolve and soon also fit your usecase. Because most likely thats where the real money is.

Just check this out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Palace_(computer_program)


Seems like the logical endpoint of the shift away from tie and button down formality to the more casual/fun (at least on the surface) vibe tech businesses introduced. I don't really go for all the unicorn/muffin/whatever type childish aspects, but friendly UI's are a welcome change from the sort of austere 'businessy' UIs.

This also doesn't just apply to work, many people my age (32) are super into cartoons and Disneyland, but the concept of going to Disneyland without a child in your 30s seems... weird to me. It is probably good that people feel comfortable to be sort of weird though versus the stoic version of adulthood in the past.

Interesting take. Yeah, we want to help people build spaces that they can feel connected to. Creating a "vibe" is underrated online.

I feel that sentiment myself. The need for better online communication is a forced reality during COVID. Having to navigate such explicit communication setups like Zoom groups and break-out rooms is a challenge.

But I don't know why the marketing needs to be so "fun". I hated all the "fun" slack brought to my life... and slowed down good communication dramatically.

Our focus is to communicate that you can REALLY make the space feel like your own. It should be an emotional response. The imagery on the website may give the idea of fun because we're focusing on help crowds socialize but that's not our end goal.

You might find The Coddling of the American Mind[1] an interesting read. I think it explains a lot about the infantilization of the culture.

1. https://www.amazon.com/Coddling-American-Mind-Intentions-Gen...

Or just because going to work is more fun when it's.. fun? I spend 8 hours a day there, I want to show who I am and I prefer my coworkers doing the same.

Especially the last 9 months. Normally one would talk with coworkers in the office, over a coffee, before a meeting etc. Remote meetings I find are strictly business.

I totally agree with you on the fun part, but I think what we define as fun is pretty different. I also agree with you that talking and knowing people you work with is important.

Where we disagree is the point that I don't think that gifs are helping you to know who your coworkers are. And more importantly I think it is not helping anyone to better understand themselves, which is one of the values of having conversations with people in the first place - that's kinda what philosophy schools were for. Gifs seem to serve some sort of emotional regulation function, but I've never investigated more deeply into that.

Now, I'm not trying to make a point here that you should only have serious conversations all the time, and definitely see the humour value of well timed gif, but I've found out that in general the trend is to shallow out the discussions and keep them within very narrow window of discourse.

In terms of how to spend time percolating between hard work:

In the office, I can find something to do at my desk alone or I can chat up some coworkers over coffee and the like.

Remote, the options are endless and I can chat up my family and friends. I can do chores like dishes or laundry so they're not all waiting for me after work. I can go for a walk without being that guy who takes too many walks. Truly anything so long as the time allocation and availability to plug back in are appropriate.

For me, this is why I prefer remote meetings be strictly business, and changing that isn't particularly compelling. My coworkers are cool, but prioritizing them over the rest of my life makes no sense to me so long as the value I bring to the company remains just as strong.

It’s so dystopian. There is such a narrow window of what is acceptable behaviour in the workplace. I get along with and like my colleagues but my relationship with them will never be as genuine as it can be once I don’t work with them anymore. There is no upside and tons of downside to being yourself. It’s just not worth it.

Why do you have to make work fun, shouldn't you already be enjoying it if you are doing what you want to do? Are you not doing what you want to do? See, that's the kind of problem that creates the infantilisation.

Is it reasonable to expect that everyone in every WFH-friendly job is actually "doing what they want to do" all the time? In my opinion, no way. Even for someone doing their dream job, parts of their day-to-day are guaranteed to be eaten up by objectively not-fun tasks.

Also, the fact that someone enjoys their job doesn't mean the experience can't be improved.

It’s not fun when you have to do it.

"infantile".. you nailed it: http://jollo.org/LNT/public/nursery.html

A combination of things you mentioned and more:

* US has been suffering from its postwar boom period hangover for over 40 years now. The job market isn't like it was due to other emerging economies now having their boom periods. All those dreams and aspirations that millennials were promised (You can be whatever you want! Follow your passion and the work will follow) were shattered and turned out to be contemptible lies perpetuated by the secondary education system and the job market as a whole. As a result, a whole generation is saddled with debt, and are delaying milestones of life progression (buying a house, having kids), indefinitely for many.

* The rise of the Internet and the millennials being at its forefront has opened up massive new markets in the entertainment section, most notably Disney. They own most entertainment IPs, and know that millennials want to relive their childhoods so they sell it back to them. Comic book movies aren't just a fad like 80s actions movies were; they're here to stay. And Disney wants adults to keep being obsessed with what are essentially children's movies. All the social media companies want you on their product all the time using it and sharing everything you can (especially the juicy controversial stuff that is polarizing the country, oh boy do they love those articles).

I’m 31 and think it’s a cute/fun idea that I’ll probably never want myself, but nobody is forcing me to use it.

It’s okay to let people build, deliver, and market things that you don’t need/want. People are allowed to like things that you yourself do not like.

Reading the other replies to this comment I feel I am about to be downvoted to hell lol

It absolutely have to do with culture. "Manliness" is out of fashion (in the context of media communication). The current decade is all about being ironic, sassy and at the same time vacuous. Think of pop music at its peak.

At the core of the problem, We've probably lost a lot of good UI designers in position of decision from last generation. This reflects on what is considered the "correct" way to make software UI nowadays. Note that blink unicorns are not necessary for a interface to be childish. Oversized buttons, lack of power features and the constant need to "reinvent" is a frenzy that gets some folks mad too.

Particularly about the tool, I think this has some cool features that gets wanned by the backgrounds choice on the video pitch.

There's a term for the current 20-somethings who can't be seen as responsible adults yet, I don't remember what it was, but searching for it got me this long article, from 10 years ago! https://www.salon.com/2010/12/23/not_quite_adults_interview/

Maybe it's the still-living-at-your-parents-at-25 economy... Maybe it's also because the 20, 30-somethings have been raised by more and more helicopter parents and schools giving out participation medals, i.e. too coddled.

I've heard the term "peter-pan generation" be applied to this characteristic.

I’m older than you and I think it’s fun. I also question that this is a new thing. Look at the web in the 90s for example.

There was New Hive. That's one of our inspirations. I am not sure how many people have used that..

I don't have any particularly interesting ideas about this, but here's a relevant and fun read; an interview with Simon Pegg:


This article should be taken with a cosmic-scale grain of salt. Specifically, it's worth noting that the article discussions how complaints about "microaggressions" (typically from visible minorities) are a form of "oppression" and refers to "pathetic little snowflakes".

This comes across as some kind of conservative boomer complaining about "kids these days", with their avocado toast, who aren't willing to work as hard as their grandfathers were in a world that's vastly different from the one they grew up in.

The crux of the article with regards to Simon Pegg seems to be that movies have moved to "spectacle", but when did that happen? And who is going to see those movies? And why?

The world is going to shit; the 1% own most of the world, climate change is destroying our planet, and politicians are more concerned with their own success than the lives of their constituents. Is it any wonder that people these days need more escapism than their grandparents in the "golden age of America", where employees would work hard their whole lives and companies would take care of their employees, where you could work a typical job and still be able to afford a house and a comfortable lifestyle, and where you didn't have to feel bad about hurting someone's feelings by being overtly racist all the time, because you never ran into black people because they weren't allowed to use the same water fountains or bathrooms as you.

This article, in short, is garbage, and should be treated as such.

I am 23, have same feelings. It's not the age.

Same age as well. And that’s after strongly correcting for the stereotypical “they don’t make music like they used to” bias that one might accuse me of.

Professionalism is seen as patronizing - which is a vibe I can mostly get behind, but massively hinders direct, important communication or collaboration. I also see a lot of dishonest but well-intentioned platitudes being thrown around that hides actual feedback.

But I’m ranting! Literally sounding like an old person... should I feel guilty about age-ism??? That’s my young person perspective.

It’s good to not feel totally alone in these things. The kids behind us are wild, in my opinion.

> The kids behind us are wild, in my opinion.

What do you mean by this? The next generation which will follow yours?

Play is the natural state of life. It’s a better question to ask why everything else is so staid and un-fun.


Because we have to work to survive in the current system. If I didn’t have to work and could take risks (I.e. have fu money) I’d do roughly the same thing in a very different way.

What does that have to do with whether a video conferencing app is experimental though? All that says is that whoever made it has some leeway to take risks.

A lot of these products are failing to innovate in meaningful directions. Instead, they add silly features to justify your continued use of them and their development team salaries.

I would disagree. How is solving for better communication not meaningful?

Define "better" in this context.

not the same person, but I think "better" in this context means "something that more people would prefer over the alternative due to having self-reported higher levels of enjoyment and lower levels of stress, which makes you want to use the tool more".

I wouldn't use it for work, and for that reason I like the idea of something being the opposite of work... where it doesn't have to be "professional" looking.

You can make it "look" professional if you want.

Infantile is a compliment. It suggests creativity and pushing the boundaries. Normally old curmudgeons think young things are empty and stupid because they don’t understand.

Infantile means you don’t have a developed prefrontal cortex and is definitely not a positive description. Creative and playful are not the same concept.

1. My point was to undermine the negative connotation associated with the word infantile. Since when did having an undeveloped prefrontal cortex become absolutely negative? 2. Creative and playful are highly correlated.

Same. What I want out of every communication product is the same: reliable, boring, and get out of my way. Humans innately know how to communicate with each other. They know how to make jokes, get info across, make hints, etc. we don’t need technology for the content of the communication

We need the transportation. Make it reliable, fast, and non interfering. That’s it. That’s why Zoom rocks. It just works

We can boring as well. Just change the background to black and disable the ability of making any changes.

This is the point actually. If "boring" is your video call vibe, go for it. It's still an expression.

Yes I think you’re onto something. Fewer and fewer people are required to make the world go. You have to keep them busy/distracted.

Ten years younger here and I feel the exact same.

It doesn't even stop with everything being "fun and cool" -- take a look at how dumb social media interaction really is. An infinite stream of stuff that the user just presses "like" or "love" or whatever at, and immediately scrolls / swaps to the next diversion.

Maybe you’re right about some things becoming infantile, but a lot of the examples shown on this product page aren’t just about messing around with GIFs. You can build visual virtual spaces, like a virtual conference space or auditorium. The idea of being able to virtually walk around a virtual physical space and speak to people in an analogy to real life (by getting “closer” to them) seems like it’s an idea with at least some potential, and certainly a better idea than doing the real thing right now.

Also, you may be surprised to find out that you are allowed to have silly fun as an adult.

In my opinion, the “infantilization” of our workplaces is a huge positive, it’s really a side effect that’s demonstrating that employers are caring less about forcing us to wear fake clothes, fake personalities, and fake formality during our day to day work. Comedy is one of the best coping mechanisms to deal with stress and in that way it helps to be able to slap a GIF over a situation without feeling like the boss man is going to tell me to tone it down.

And sure, maybe there’s no need for this product, but what I can say is that if you build another Zoom/Meet/WebEx you aren’t really making anything new or interesting.

Having an office clown is a great tension breaker.

Having an office full of clowns is a great way to get nothing done.

If you take my argument to its most extreme conclusion, sure, but I don’t know why you’re doing that.

It’s not particularly western. East Asian countries have been doing it for decades.

I'm on the older end of those here on HN ... there's a specifically for our kind: https://gog.show/

Since when was "having fun", "enjoying things", and "being creative" infantile?

I think OP doesn’t find it to be any of the adjectives you describe.

Has your job become gamified yet?

Thankfully not yet. But as you are correctly pointing out this is another trend I find personally worrisome.

Recently I've seen startup, where you were earning XP points for quickly closing customer support tickets, and earning badges...

Recently I've seen startup, where you were earning XP points for quickly closing customer support tickets, and earning badges...

A college buddy worked at a place like that. But it wasn't a startup, it was a long-established company.

It was also 1996, and he learned that closing deals on copies of Windows 95 was worth twice as many points as other software, so he focused all his efforts on that so he could do half the work of his "teammates" in his cubicle farm.

> Or maybe it's because we actually treat majority of people like little children.

At 42, I've felt this is the cause for quite some time. You see it in things like the adult Disney woman[0]. Part of it is playing it safe so as not to offend the conservatives with a nipple, but market forces have been driving movies this direction as well[1].

Gutting education to dumb down the populace hasn't helped.

[0] - https://youtu.be/vLIfkiF8NeQ

[1] - https://www.gq.com/story/the-day-the-movies-died-mark-harris

> Is this some sort of a social response to how terrible and bleak reality seems to be?

Yep, a distraction to increasing alienation and atomization under Kapital.

This is Capitalism. Everything has to be family friendly so it can reach as wide an audience as possible. When you're waiting for customer support, you have to hear a fun jingle so you don't get upset. People have to be talked down to like children so they know their place in the wealth hierarchy. It's an ideology, not in the sense of political beliefs, but rather false ideas that dominate society that we all subconsciously hold to maintain the social system we built on contradictory premises.

I don't think I've presented the full picture, but you asked where this trend is coming from, and to me this is the only common factor and starting point of investigation.

> This is Capitalism. Everything has to be family friendly so it can reach as wide an audience as possible

Ah yes, those socialists and their totally not family friendly media? Really?

> When you're waiting for customer support, you have to hear a fun jingle so you don't get upset.

It's so you know you haven't been disconnected.

> People have to be talked down to like children so they know their place in the wealth hierarchy.

Please don't talk down to people regardless of how wealthy you are. You will always have the best luck by being warm but polite, talking respectfully but honestly.

> It's an ideology, not in the sense of political beliefs, but rather false ideas that ...

Capitalism appears to be pretty real, and it appears to be pretty political. I would not say it "dominates" society since plenty of people seem to be against it in name alone.

From your website:

"Admit Nothing. Deny Everything. Make Counter-Accusations"

Why am I not surprised to see this kind of instinctive reaction. I don't want to debate your points because that is way out of scope for this thread and I don't want to be chased out.

Be careful. That smells like a personal attack.

Moreover, if you can't debate what he wrote in HN, you shouldn't explore his life outside of HN to try to build a strawman.

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