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I became the internet’s most notorious bike thief (cyclingtips.com)
217 points by giuliomagnifico 59 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 140 comments



Slightly off topic, but I think bike thieves are becoming more and more professional recently. Here in Berlin many now use small cordless screwdrivers with a custom gearing mechanism that operates a bolt-cutter. With that they can even cut through thick steel-bar type bike locks in a few seconds, without making any noise. I saw that in a police report lately but I can't find a link with a photo of the device now, unfortunately. It's really quite ingenious from a technical point of view. It seems the only way to protect against theft is to ride an old bicycle.


These days not having an e-bike is probably one of the easiest deterrents. Next step seems to be to avoid design bikes like Van Moof. And finally, have your bike look used.

Then again, my bike is probably not the first one they'll consider, given that it has a 70cm frame making it all but impossible to ride for anyone under 195cm (being 200cm myself). If you steal a bicycle you have to be able to sell it, and given that a lot of professionally stolen bicycles are exported to countries with lower GDP's and that there aren't that many (if any) countries where tall people are as relatively common as in the Netherlands that match that criterium, I am relatively safe I suppose (as long as I lock it to a barrier or bicycle stand).


It’s interesting because in my 5 years in the Netherlands, the general opinion was the opposite of this: bike theft is such a common occurrence because everyone rides the same, probably stolen and resold, black bike that you should ride a new, design bike that stands out, like a VanMoof–because no thief would be dumb enough to go for it since it would be obvious where you got it (and more importantly, almost certainly registered/traceable vs an old clunker).


Funny anecdote, but the initial reason for us to all drive shit looking bikes was the reason that these did not get stolen so often :)

Not so sure your design / desirable bike will last long thou. See here (1) where an absolute unique Audi RS6 DTM was stolen WHILE being used in a film shoot.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n53U_HlIs_Q (sorry, Dutch only)


On the contrary, VanMoof promise to get your stolen bike back within two weeks or they replace it. Had mine stolen in London; they located it the same day and got it back to me the following week.

Combined with an AirTag hidden discreetly in the frame and I'm unafraid of locking it up basically anywhere.


for a fee https://www.vanmoof.com/en-US/peace-of-mind

but i could see a world where I own two of these and not even bother locking them anywhere, just constantly get one 'stolen' while i ride the other, and cycle (ha) between the two?


> We can only recover or replace a stolen bike if the Theft Defense system was armed and the Kick Lock was properly engaged when your bike was stolen.

They also recover the bike only up to three times in 3-year timespan. Still, sounds like a great service!


That sounds like two more times than anybody else would recover it.


True, I find the service more than fair.


Wow, how does a company manage that? GPS? How do they have a legal right to determine who actually owns it?


> And finally, have your bike look used.

That doesn't help, we used to joke with an aquaitance of mine that it was a miracle that his bike still worked, and he used to reply at least it wouldn't attract the attention of thieves, until the day he got stolen.


Were you ever able to find your acquaintance?


The bike, that is what I get by not proofreading.


I do wonder how often Van Moof bikes get stolen, despite their tracking features. Fear of theft is the one thing that puts me off buying one.


I had two stolen over the years I owned one in Amsterdam. The first one was recovered in about a week. The second was never found, but they replace it when they don’t find it as a part of that guarantee–which is why it’s actually a really great deal.


It seems like they now only offer this for 3 years, which isn't great, since hopefully you'd own the bike for a lot longer than 3 years. https://support.vanmoof.com/en/support/solutions/articles/44...


The only real protection against theft is not having your bike among the most valuable and/or least secure ones on the rack.

Most protection can be circonvented if the thief is savy and equipped.


We have had this level of professionalism in London for some time now. It's not necessarily true that you must ride an older, uglier bike, though this will work.

All that is needed is to be the least stealable bicycle in the rack. In my case this means two locks of different kinds. It's a big deterrent and they will move on to other, easier targets.

If you can avoid being the lowest hanging fruit, you will probably be alright.


Professionalism in bike theft isn't so much about tools, but about organisation. Professional bike thieves will have a van, load it up with exactly the bikes they already know they can sell, and drive their load to the other side of the country (if your country is small like Netherland, that is), and sell them there. Or maybe sell them in a different country.

I've noticed that sometimes more expensive bikes simply don't get stolen while cheap ones do. I assume that's because of an easier market to sell them. There was a period when my son's children's bikes got stolen all the time, while my far more expensive cargo bike wasn't, despite it being only locked with a ring lock, and no chain. But of course a kid's bike is also much easier to pick up, and it had a very light lock.


That's really interesting and completely the opposite to here.

In London, most stolen bikes are expensive (or expensive-looking) and they are primarily resold within London.


In the Netherlands they won't attempt to sell them here. Too much risk with frame numbers etched in and other ways of marking it. The safest bet is to move them out of the country on the day they steal them; way out to Eastern Europe.


Another tip: lock your bike close to more expensive ones.


This is the bike theft version of “I don’t have to outrun the bear/tiger, i just have to outrun the slowest other person.”


> All that is needed is to be the least stealable bicycle in the rack.

So true. Many people seem to imagine bike locks as an arms race between owners and thieves, but it's an arms race between owners and other owners. The role of thieves in that arms race is more like that of a judge than like that of a participant. Well, unless they refuse acting in that role and just pick up the entire rack...


Off topic, but this reminds me of that bit from Trailer Park Boys where they steal a rack. So good.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODIkw4MAeVg

(language warning if you've never seen the show)


Yeah, if I lock mine up anywhere in London (even in workplace bike stores), I always use three (different) locks. Faff and heavy to carry but, touch wood, no-one has stolen a bike of mine yet in 20 years.


I had a bike stolen 10 years ago from an underground garage, they just ignored the locks and cut through the rack


Had 2 stolen so far, cut the bike lock off. I buy my bikes around $50 each or fix up side of the road ones. Basically disposable, given that I enjoy the process of fixing.


> It seems the only way to protect against theft is to ride an old bicycle.

I like this blog on that topic:

https://calpaterson.com/bicycle-threat-model.html

> One father I know had his primary-school-age daughter "decorate" his commuting bicycle with girly stickers and pink glitter. If anyone examines his bicycle closely he looks like a complete loon but I think his motivation is right: it's going to be much less appealing to steal when it's covered in Miffy stickers.


I knew a guy with a similar philosophy. He spray painted his bike ugly color.



This is brilliant.

I also like that it's powered by a "Meat Motor".

Cheers.


If you want something less permanent, you can use some strategically placed duck tape and make it look like a beater.


Bonus points, he'll get to embarrass her when she gets a bit older with it!

This is a good idea though. Anything that makes your bike identifiable is a good deterrent.


Two (lame) lock stories below:

We inherited a bike with a cable bike lock around the handlebars. The local bike shop was able to cut through it easily with bolt cutters.

My truck came with a locking hitch. I recently forgot my keys and a family member pried it off with a crowbar in 10 seconds.

Security theater.


> Security theater.

I'm always amazed how the Lockpicking Lawyer on YouTube defeats any lock within seconds. I think the hardest one was a couple minutes.


I locked my bike at th eoffice and lost the key. Went to security, they gave me a bolt cutter.

That was the first (and only) time in my life I used a bolt cutter and it took me maybe 30 seconds to cut the cable. Now it would have been 10 seconds because I know where to cut.

I would not say that thi sis security theater, it is to avoid the passer-by who would steal your bike on a whim. I have no idea what percentage of thiefs this is .


If you want to lose even more faith in security, the Lock Picking Lawyer on youtube has videos of him opening/breaking into almost any kind of lock you can imagine.

https://www.youtube.com/c/lockpickinglawyer


expensive locks and complex mechanisms also signal that says "hey, there is something valueable here!"


In NYC you can occasionally see a nice Kryptonite lock hanging on a bike rack with one neat cut through it from a battery powered angle grinder. Nothing can stand up to those unfortunately. It really is just a matter of not leaving it alone for long enough that a well equipped thief can spot it.


Couldn't find the exact device, but this matches the general description...

https://www.kleintools.com/catalog/7-ton-cutters-crimpers/ba...


Rental bikes such as "Swapfiets" (swap bike, https://swapfiets.nl/) are fairly popular in NL these days. Since they're owned by a company, there seems to be less incentive to steal them (since I suppose you can't sell them to unsuspecting buyers in the service area), and if you as a renter get the bike nicked, then you only pay a token sum (€40-60) for a replacement. They also fix your bike for you when it breaks or you get a flat tyre.

The economics seem to work out fairly well, the bikes are good, you always have a solid working bike. If you buy a bike yourself, it might run you 200-300 for an okay one, 500ish for a decent one, but you never know if it will get stolen or not. And obviously the company prints money too.


They also have a beautiful logo, and branding in general.


Something like this i guess?

https://youtu.be/BXY_fqDBg5E


At least some bike locks are resistant to this attack: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXoS_HB1I3o


My bike was stolen enough times that I gave up. I don't own one anymore.


I bought a folding bike, never bought a lock and that worked for me.


"It seems the only way to protect against theft is to ride an old bicycle."

Or move to the countryside, where you can usually leave your bike unlocked outside of the supermarket ...

And reading all the bike theft horror stories here, I was wondering, why GPS tracking is not more of a thing? It seems to exist, but might be hard to make use of in reality?

(because professionals jam them or remove them and the police is not too eager to do something about a stolen bike?)


There's a complete lack of enforcement for bike thefts (at least in the US cities I've lived in). Even if you have GPS coordinates that unequivocally lead to the thief, the police won't take any action. Maybe this is different in other countries.


In a city it won’t tell you which apartment the bike is in. You need to remember to charge it up: the solutions I’ve seen don’t have super long battery lives. And you need to pay monthly for the data connection. It would be cool if you could combine that tracking with an insurance policy that bundled everything together especially talking to the reticent-to-help police.


If you’re in the country just drive


With e-bike costing over thousand euros, bike stealing has become way more lucrative, attracting more and better thief ...


Erm.. my non-e-bike costs well over a thousand euros! But I guess e-bikes have made "normal" people consider spending that much money on a bike. People into biking have always been spending this much money on bikes although oddly it seems to surprise many people, even though they'll happily pay 10x that for a car that requires fossil fuel to do anything.


As someone who never owned a car or drivers license, and who has been cycling for her whole life: no, thousands of euros for a regular bicycle is not normal.


Meanwhile, for enthusiast bikes, 10k€ has stopped being exotic. I do blame it on e-bikes, because enthusiasts will happily pay whatever is required to distance themselves from whatever the average consumer does.


It’s honestly entirely foreign to me, I grew up in an environment where everyone cycled, but that meant most bikes were somewhere between omafiets (old, used bikes) and very cheap mass produced bikes. To me a bicycle is a mode of transportation, not a sports device or a lifestyle product.

What would they even do with such a bike?


Certainly not ride it to the grocery store. Why do golfers by golf clubs? Not for the grocery store. And yachts aren't routinely used for sailing to the office either. The big lure of the enthusiast bike is doing things because you can. In a good year I can do rides for hundreds of kilometers in a day, I certainly wouldn't want to do that on my omafiets (which is just fine for anything <5km). 2020 was the first year in ages that I haven't crossed the Alps at least once. And sure, you don't need a bike costing 10k for that, in fact as it happens the bike I prefer for those occasions is the cheapest of the enthusiast bikes that I own, but that's beside the point. How many people do you own that drive a car that costs 10000 more than the cheapest car that would be perfectly adequate for the driving they do? Chances are most of them don't even consider themselves car enthusiasts!


Like NFTs, the important question is not "what can you do with it" but "how much did you spend on it". It's a https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veblen_good


At last those bikes are clearly in the subset of veblen goods where you need more than just cash to gain the status. A bike not ridden "adequately" (whatever that means) is like owning art without even pretending to know something about the art in question. You could do it as a provocative statement, but that would get old quickly.


> I do blame it on e-bikes, because enthusiasts will happily pay whatever is required to distance themselves from whatever the average consumer does

I don't think that has anything to do with it - e-bikes are inherently more complex, more tightly regulated (e.g. they need to be tuned to operate legally in specific jurisdictions), and subject to EU anti-dumping laws which drive up the price [0].

0 - https://www.bike-eu.com/laws-regulations/nieuws/2019/01/its-...


I didn't say thousands actually (also specifically said it wasn't normal). It's just that I own a fairly mid-high end road bike (that I bought 10 years ago) that cost more than €1000. I used to ride a road bike that cost around €800 as my commuter bike until it got stolen. The quality at this price point is definitely worth it, with diminishing returns above it. I would strongly recommend upgrading to a road or town bike at this price point as it's such a huge improvement and will last you decades.


I’d honestly consider 800€ already enthusiast grade, but I’m interested. What does your 800€ bicycle have that mine doesn’t have?

For reference, I’m currently using https://www.boc24.de/p/bocas-bari-trapez/217333/ (which I bought at 320€ on sale) with some changes (B&M 100 lux front light, seat post with suspension), and I don’t think I’d get any major improvements with other changes.

Due to cycling in city traffic, I need to be able to instantly switch gears at standstill, so a derailleur would be a downgrade compared to the hub gearing I’ve got, and upgraded hub dynamos would bring me just 2-5% more performance, which isn’t really useful.


Yours isn't a low end bike and this might be the price point for you if you aren't enthusiastic about it at all. I don't know a lot about town bikes, though. I prefer road bikes (even for commuting and getting around town with panniers).

Higher end bikes don't have any "features" that yours doesn't have. But you could also spend half as much as you did and still get the same features. Higher price points get you lightness and stiffness. This translates into speed or less effort, depending on your preference. You also get higher quality components that will last a long time or you can swap out and sell if you wish. Low end bikes tend to be disposed of as a unit as they are not worth taking apart.


But what’s that gonna provide for me? There’s diminishing returns beyond this point, the efficiency gains are in the single digit percentages or often only placebo effects, and I’ve never even seen a bicycle that stopped being used out of old age. A new coat of paint every decade or two, replacing the tires and brake pads every two years, and maybe the chain every decade, and it’ll run forever.

I feel like it’s just like people buying expensive sports cars, purely because they can, not because they actually need any of it.


Lighter bikes are more comfortable to ride - they feel nimble. Modern frames absorb bumps while still being stiff to allow maximum leg power to actually go through the drivetrain instead of frame flex. Disc brakes make an enormous difference if you have long downhill sections or regularly ride in the wet. Sure there are diminishing returns, but better components really are better, and not just 20g lighter.

High end derailers shift easier, chains have lower friction (especially in high/low gears), spokes and rims are more aerodynamic and stiffer, ratchets have smaller engagement angles, brakes require less force and don't overheat, tyres have lower rolling resistance and better grip, seat posts have compliance to remove chatter etc., And this is before you get into eg. MTB specific features like chain clutches and suspension tuning, or for triathlon aero bars, for city bikes pannier clips and built in lights, etc


> But what’s that gonna provide for me?

Nothing. Bike manufacturers and smaller builders are not trying to sell these bikes to you or to people like you. How hard is it to enjoy your "normal bike" and move on?

Some people ride their bicycles for thousands to tens of thousands of miles per year. They're going to buy what they want so that when they do ride, they enjoy it.


IMO, most of the real improvements are seen going from $300-ish to $1200-ish. Going higher doesn't give you more features so much as more quality and durability. In my experience, if you ride a lot of miles consistently on a cheap bike, parts will wear out or break pretty fast. Especially if the terrain is at least mildly rough, as found on most commutes and country roads.

Cheap wheels go out of true easily and before long are often too bent to be able to true by spoke adjustments. Cheap tires wear out fast and puncture easily. Cheap brakes wear out and go out of adjustment fast. Ditto cheap shift gear. I've broken pedals too, and I don't pedal all that aggressively. Really cheap stuff tends to be excessively heavy too, which can be a drag on uphills and when you need to carry it.

Yours looks like a perfectly fine commuter bike to me. I'm not familiar with the wheel or shift gear classes, but if it gets you where you need to go without wearing stuff out too fast, by all means no need to spend more.


> What does your 800€ bicycle have that mine doesn’t have?

For that much money, you could afford... a Rohloff hub? No frame though


Funny thing, I knew when I wrote my comment that they would be at least one answer mentioning enthusiast with their fancy all carbon fibber road bike that cost has much as a car :) .

While it i definitely true that expensive bike existed for a long time, enthusiast where rarely parking this type of bike in the middle of a busy city. These are the kind of bike who are always kept safely in a locked garage. Plus, the number of enthusiast who pay for this kind of bike are way lower. So not only is it more rare for a thief to come across this type of bike, they also might have an harder time reselling it, and reselling it is more dangerous because those bike are easily identifiable and the legitimate owner usually care enough about it to have made it registered.

E-bike are just plain more common, and most people use them for commute which mean they tend to be park in places that are more vulnerable to thief and are easier to resell.


In fairness, a car represents more than 10x the manufacturing effort. A 10k fancy road bike is going to be much easier to manufacture than the equivalent small 10k hatchback.


High manufacturing cost does not mean high value. A business is just finding something where the value is higher than the manufacturing cost. A bicycle has higher margins because it is truly a marvel of technology, while a car is basically just "yeah it will work if we throw enough fossil fuel at it".


A bicycle has higher margins because the volumes are much smaller. The engineering that goes into even the cheapest of Dacias is hundreds of times more complex


> A bicycle has higher margins because the volumes are much smaller.

Are you sure? There are more bicycles in the world than cars.

> The engineering that goes into even the cheapest of Dacias is hundreds of times more complex

Again, that does not make something more valuable. The engineering that would go into a lunar orbiting plant pot would be very complex, but has no value.


There are far more bicycles than cars, but 99% of these are very basic cost-efficient designs , probably sold for less than 100eur new

The discussion was about the engineering value of a 10k bike (or a 100k watch I guess) - it’s more of a luxury good than an engineering necessity


Yes and no. E-bikes start at 2-3k EUR and the norm is 5-6k. Obviously you can buy a road bike for 15k EUR as well but most will gravitate toward the 1-3K EUR range.


> Yes and no. E-bikes start at 2-3k EUR and the norm is 5-6k.

Absolutely no. Crappy ebikes start at 700, OK ebikes start at 1000-1200 and anything above 2.5k is enthusiast territory.

And these prices are still a lot higher than they should be, in my opinion. I posted previously on the issue - they are so expensive, compared to cars, while using far less metal and other resources, fewer IP concerns, not having all the homologation and certification burdens, being vastly cheaper to ship, etc.


I have to admit I'm not that into ebikes but these were the price I casually saw in bike shops. But maybe they were just showing off the best models.


My partner recently bought a folding ebike for 600 GBP and it wasn't even their entry level model. It is a great bike. 2-3k EUR is not entry level.


Nah… 2k is already a good ebike with a central motor and big shocks. Your entry level commuter ebike is around 1k


15k euro!!! What, is it made of carbon nanotubes or something?!

Clearly more of a fashion statement, than quality difference.


Well, those are pro models, and you pay the brand as well, but I definitely saw a Bianchi top of the line at ~20k EUR (before discounts etc)


Crazy. That's like a 10M dollar car, IMO.


My bike is protected by anti-theft aesthetics (tm). Also, parking next to nicer bikes with less secure locks. This really hit me when I got said bike from an auction, it had a cable lock attached to it, and when I got it home, the cable lock was gone in about 15 seconds based on comments I had read in a web forum.


Sadly, things have gotten to the point where I would not leave my bicycle unattended outside for any meaningful amount of time in any big city in the world. Lock or not. I even have stories of friends/coworkers having their bikes stolen out of protected storage in their apartment buildings.


> cordless screwdrivers

Do screwdrivers typically have cords? And if so, what for?


Probably not a native English speaker. They mean a cordless driver/drill


Electric screwdrivers with not much more torque than a human hand can apply are pretty common and small. They spin much faster than I can turn a screwdriver and stop before they can strip any screw. With the right gearing and modification, I can see one easily cut through a bike lock.

https://duckduckgo.com/?t=ffab&q=cordless+screwdriver&iax=sh...


I guess a cord protects a screwdriver from being stolen.


I find it sweetly ironic that ALL those magazines talking about stealing bikes are committing copyright infringement (which the media is used to call "stealing").


More likely the picture was added to stock photo library (illegally maybe) and they all use from there.


At the same time they'd probably find it a sweetly ironic show of how it's too hard to control copyrighted material on the internet or something for. After all like the article says it probably wasn't intentionally ripped or any claims avoided it more likely ended up in a stock photo site with the wrong license attached and the author never pursued it.


> And the irony, of course, is this: the pictured bike itself was never stolen, but the rushed magazine photo has been – by hundreds of people, perpetuating a fake crime over and over.

At what point (if ever) would using a photo like this fall under fair use? The author doesn’t seem to care, but I’m curious if copyright is ever forfeited due to widespread use or inaction of the copyright holder.


Never is the simple answer. Otherwise all copyright would have pretty much been eliminated by the pirate bay.

Enforcement and collection of the damages is a totally different issue.


In the US, the picture would become public domain 70 years after the death of the author.

As for fair use: if you were to criticise something related to the image (say, you make a whole youtube video criticising the blog posts on this website and this image scrolls by when you do a quick lookaround on the website) or make some kind of transformative art out of it and the author would sue under DMCA or similar and the lawsuit would be based on US law, fair use would probably apply.

Fair use is a defence to use in a lawsuit, after all, not a right, but you can definitely do things with this picture that would be defensible under fair use. Companies specialising in copyright would probably try to convince you to avoid a lawsuit and come to a mutually beneficial agreement before the thing is settled, though, because big media companies do not like it when copyright law and things like fair use get defined (and thus consumer rights may be gained, and the excessive wealth of the media industry might get dented).

What the pirate bay did could never really be construed as fair use. At best, they can claim to simply host links, no content, and should not be held accountable for the illegal behaviour of the users and searching clicking said links, just like normal service providers. That's not an exemption in copyright law, though.


> Fair use is a defence to use in a lawsuit, after all, not a right

The statutory fair use defense codifies a Constitutional (First Amendment) limit on the copyright power found by the courts prior to the existence of the statutory defense, so it is both a defense and a right, specifically, the Constitutional right of free speech.

Lawsuit defenses, more generally, are assertions of rights, whether statutory, common law, or Constitutional.


Using a photo like this in an article about how photos are used without permission is probably fair use. Using a photo like this as part of your article on bike theft without permission is probably not fair use.


No, copyright isn't forfeited like that, only trademarks are.

It fails this part of fair use: 'The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes. Courts typically focus on whether the use is “transformative.” That is, whether it adds new expression or meaning to the original, or whether it merely copies from the original.'


> No, copyright isn't forfeited like that

Taking a step back, why not? Even (especially) real estate gets forfeited like that. It seems like the mp3s I've had for 20 years should fall under adverse possession. Or if you'd like a higher bar for openly possessed, then torrents have that have been publicly seeded for multiple decades.


Note that the article author represented in the images seems not to be the author of the images themselves. AND since it was done for a company in all likehood neither the person represented in the image nor the person taking the picture hold the copyright of the picture (since it's a different person and not the author with a tripod as implied in the article).


I don't believe one is required to defend copyright.

Trademarks, certainly, but not copyright.


My understanding is that copyright is only honored by the legal system if it's been enforced by the copyright holder.

If the copyright holder knows its being used, and doesn't attempt to enforce copyright rights, but after a decade or similar, changes mind and starts enforcing, the court might rule that copyright is no longer enforceable.


The now defunct magazine presumably held the copyright, and it's entirely possible the licensed the rights to a third party.


Given bankruptcy law, how much choice would they even have?


I think it makes more sense than the author expects. Bike thefts probably are not frequently caught with a high wuality camera, still pose, proper lighting, photogenically bland clothing choice, etc. such that it seems like a stock photo for bike theft. Only another purposeful photo of bike theft that is similarly or moreso staged should outdo it, but for general purpose image use (like a powerpoint or something) the photo kind of makes sense as a popular choice.


Buying a stock photo for commercial use costs like $0.3 each if you are buying in bulk, which I assume that’s how it should work for a media company.


Author of this article simply made very good photo of bicycle theft.


This is reminiscent of another story about images:

https://www.hanselman.com/blog/there-is-only-one-cloud-icon-...

If an image works then people will copy it at nauseam.


A similar thing happened to one of my photos from Flickr. It was of a riverbed dried up in the Kenyan drought. Someone messaged me to ask permission to use it in a project and since then, it has appeared in news articles everywhere - mostly without attribution - and with the location varying from a selection of African countries to California and lots of places in between.


I wonder why people are obsessed with image copying. It has lead to the invention of writing for example. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egyptian_hieroglyphs

Maybe it provided some evolutionary advantage already at a really primitive form. For example maybe people were drawing hunting plans on sand?


Just one more reminder that when one puts something online, it stays there forever. The innocent photo of someone in his 20s dancing naked while drunk at a party that today could award him bonus social points among peers, would destroy his political career 30 years later.


>The innocent photo of someone in his 20s dancing naked while drunk at a party that today could award him bonus social points among peers, would destroy his political career 30 years later

We have a politician in either blackface or KKK outfit. I don't think dancing naked at a party is enough.


OK make it a 'her'.


To me this story is about how garbage most illustrative imagery on the internet is.


Why? Virtually all stock photography involving people is staged, and that's OK, because they're meant to be just that, illustrations.


They are all so light in relevance that the content would be better if there were no imagery at all. None of these articles are improved by having a stolen staged image of a bike thief in them.

Might as well draw a picture of a bike in MS paint. Same effect.


I think that a picture is easier to get at first glance than the words.

Let's pick an article at random: "End of UK lockdown may mean a rise in bike thefts". You most likely need a few seconds to read and understand that the main topic of the article is bike theft and start to visualize it. I mean, chances that you start reading the title and think "it is about covid" and as you read the end, you think "no, it is about bike theft". Put a really obvious and staged picture of someone stealing a bike and you instantly get it.

Kind of the same reason why we put icons next to text in software UI, even though it is redundant.


I understand what you’re saying but perhaps the reader should be required to put the effort in to read 11 words rather than seeing a shorthand and jumping to conclusion!


I am strongly in favor of the least effort principle. So if an article can spare me a second of effort, I take it. I particularly appreciate it when a journalist recognizes that their readers attention is precious and gets to the point without wasting it. (I know, ads, but that's another subject)

By least effort, I don't mean that people should make no effort, but I don't want to force them just because it feels virtuous. In the case of an article, ideally, it should follow a progression. The illustration is the first step: it is quick, and intuitive, enough to know if want to continue or not. Then there is the title, intro, the article itself, and the references. This way, I can spend as much effort as I want, but I am not forced at any point.

So, for example.

1- Illustration of a bike thief: This is about bike theft, I am interested, let's see (alternatively: I don't care, I don't have a bike anyways, let's see the other news)

2- Title: This is about bike theft after the UK lockdown, ah, interesting, I didn't think about that (alternatively: meh, I heard enough about that lockdown)

3- Article: That's a good overview of the situation, but I'd like to learn more (alternatively: fine, that's all I need to know)

4- References: and so on, and so on, ...


In my opinion the least effort principle here undermines the actual purpose of the article though. It’s not about being virtuous it’s about them actually taking the time to understand 11 words without shortcuts which you may get wrong.

11 word headlines are already a shortcut and there is a point where more shortcuts are just taking the piss. Besides, on the internet I’ve probably already committed to clicking on an article before I see most illustrations.

I think illustrative pictures should always add to an article, not be a shortcut to decide interest.

“This public square on Franklin Street is the number one place to have your bike stolen in London” not “remember what a bike looks like?”

The “only respond to the headline” problem HN has is an extended version of the problem.


Makes me wonder if perhaps one day there could come an irreversible fashion of, well, illustrating the illustrative nature of stock photos like that by uniformly pushing them through your publication's style-GAN. Almost surprises me that this hasn't happened yet.


Absolutely, I occasionally have to buy stock photos and am shocked at how overpriced and cheesy they are. On the flip side you've got hordes of quite talented wannabe influencers putting our content for nothing. There's surely a market to be made there getting reach and money to the influencers and imagery to publishers.


That reminds me of the many wonderful soldering stock images that show the user holding the metal tip enclosure rather than the handle.


My anti-theft device is my Brompton foldable bike. It folds down to a small package in 10 seconds and I take it with me anywhere I go including buses, trains, etc. It came with a nice black zipper cover. One cannot see that there is a bike inside. This helps with some pesky ticket masters on trains.


Or you upload some photos to Unsplash. My bike photos there have been viewed about 2.5 million times on the site and downloaded over 1,000 times, findable on many sites around the world.

Publishing the photos on Flickr doesn’t hold a torch to the exposure from Unsplash!


The advantage of stealing bikes are that have big value and lowest return rate from police or recovery. Had a project of bottom bracket IoT so peddaling could blocked but wasn’t feasable.



I was hoping your link was Freezepop

https://youtu.be/W3eLl3pQGoY


As a father, I would be mildly concerned about this notoriety, especially as a traveler. Airport authorities are not known for the subtlety of their understanding, and it is entirely plausible that this man might be arrested and jailed on the basis of not only being photographed committing a crime, but now admitting to it, calling himself a thief.

Yes, this would be preposterous, wrong, and I might go so far as to call it evil. Certainly stupid. But can you really say it can't happen? Would it surprise you if it happened in the US, or that rather than apologize and reverse the injustice that it would be ignored or worse, jumped on by conspiracy theorists and an even harsher penalty applied?

To live in a post-evidence world is to live in a world of chaos and terror where light-hearted online banter can and will be used against you. You laugh now, and say it couldn't possibly happen? Well, wait.


He was not photographed committing a crime.

They framed a shot, akin to acting, and no bike was stolen.

The author clearly outlines this point that nothing was stolen.

If the author showed his face, showing a clear resemblance, I could see notoriety possibly raise some eyebrows being the same guy as the bike thief stock photo... But that's a very far fetched possibility.

Unless the guy was convicted of a crime, with a criminal record, then maybe have some issues... But this instance maybe take off the tinfoil


This is an expression of contempt for authority, and is not a criticism of the OP. The fear I recommend is not tinfoil hat stuff, it's just an unfortunate byproduct of broken minds running a broken justice system.

You should also know that posting on a forum with "hacker" in the title is dangerous.


Are you also arguing it's "dangerous" for Michael Hall (aka notorious serial killer Dexter Morgan) to walk through an airport?


It's the unknown people who say or do unusual things that risk running afoul of the authorities. Hall is famous enough and what he does is "usual" enough he's probably okay. But writing a public website that declares you're a bike thief in the headline? I'm thinking that a lot of LEOs aren't going to bother reading the rest of it, call it probable cause and grind up another person's life in the pre-trial torture machine that is American justice. And their supervisor is going to say, "Job well done. Too bad this one got away." Sorry to be cynical like this, but it's not without reason.


Law enforcement isn't reading random cycling blogs looking for admissions of crime. It's hard enough to get their attention with a call of "Hey, there's this crime happening right in front of me and it's causing a pretty big scene."


Our new product - The Inditer Pro - uses state of the art machine learning to crawl the web and identify travelers coming into your country as criminals! You will be able to proactively lock up potential threats and keep the population safe, all thanks to the expertise of the Inditer Pro.

All the world's bad guys under your thumb! (Rolling Stones 'Under my thumb' starts playing as a border guard presses Inditer Pro search button - identifying tourist as BIKE THIEF!)

on edit: yes, it should be Indicter, but ours is a web 4.0 company.


>on edit: yes, it should be Indicter, but ours is a web 4.0 company.

I thought that to qualify for web 4.0 you needed Indite*ly.


No, but if you are arrested through the high quality solutions Indite Pro provides you can use our partner app Paroll-io to bail yourself out with our hot new cryptocurrency $ukka$ which has end to end $.


Now the interesting question is this: if your government did something like this - what would you, could you, do about it? That's the scary question, because the answer is "almost nothing". That's especially true if "Inditer Pro" had, say, a 90% success rate. (Success is defined as "% convicted". To solve this you offer a choice: plea bargain or indefinite detention until a trial. It would be more correct to accuse people of random crimes, cuff them and put them in a cruiser for a few hours, strip them and put them in jail clothes, jail them for a day or two, put them in shackles for hours before a "hearing", and then see how many plea deals you get. I suspect your "clearance rate" would be over 90%, too)


Oww, come on, be realistic.

IF Inditer Pro had 90% success rate, it would actually substantially solve (wrongly) a problem, and that would again disqualify it from being web 4.0.

The actual success rate would probably be - by design - around 59-62%, high enough to be better than flipping a coin in preliminary controlled studies and allowing yearly improvements (I beg your pardon, I meant OTA updates) of 1-2%, so that the company would have guaranteed income for the next 20 years or so.


probably not dangerous, but I do remember reading an article maybe 20 years ago where some lady playing a villain in a soap opera complained about being accosted at the supermarket and yelled at for their onscreen shenanigans.


I can barely read your comment as it's been down voted but two theoretical risks come to mind. One being some ML decision maker that scrapes the web to build a profile of someone and decides this person is a criminal.

The second being a human decision maker with poor English reading the headline and not fully comprehending the story.

Both cases unlikely but an interesting idea anyway.




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