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Paul Graham PyCon 2012 keynote (pyvideo.org)
180 points by JarekS 2108 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 44 comments

This is better than TED. It's rare and inspiring to see an engaging speaker with so many good ideas in one presentation. PG's response to the music copyright critic was about right modulo a minor nit that the critic conflated trademarks with copyright and wasn't called on this. Trademarks are a social good. Copyright is ripe for reform--a long discussion.

PG is absolutely right about email. If you ever had a chance to see what the inbox of someone important looks like compared with what they would like it to look like, you would know that the seemingly reasonable recommendation to consolidate email accounts with GMail is far from optimal.

I don't mean to be harsh but after reading the article I couldn't listen to the "Uhhh Ehmmmm"s anymore.

Was he just reading the transcript to the guys? A keynote should be without any "uhh"s and "ehmmm"s otherwise you will not get audience IMO.

For me there seems to be a proportion of "uhhs" that I require. This talk had a lot of them, more than I'd prefer, but it wasn't horrible and the content makes up for it (as does the Q&A). The extent of the reliance on the transcript was probably the extent people rely on notecards, the "uhhs" were mostly to fill the silence of when he was glancing at it to remind him of his place. If there aren't any "uhhs" at all in a talk I think "this guy took a speaking course and is probably trying to manipulate me", if there are too many I think "this guy didn't prepare or is just a bad public speaker", but there's a right proportion that makes me think "he's sufficiently human so I'll listen to him." Of course that last thought requires a bit of double-think since a good manipulator would know this about me.

Edit: of course, this is more of a description of how my subconscious works. Consciously I try my best to ignore these things and focus on the information content alone and feel like I should downvote you for letting yourself miss interesting content because of the speaker's presentation style. (Though to be fair at least you have the text version for 99% of the content.)

"... I don't mean to be harsh but after reading the article I couldn't listen to the "Uhhh Ehmmmm"s anymore. ..."

When I hear this kind of complaint about pg's speaking style I'm reminded of Enzo Ferrari ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enzo_Ferrari

   'I don't sell cars; I sell engines. The cars I throw 
    in for free since something has to hold the engines 
    in.' Enzo Ferrari
If you substitute "speeches" for "cars" and "ideas" for "engines", the quote still holds.

To each his own I guess. I actually really liked his speaking style, Paul came across as being easy-going and approachable. It also made his speech with notes not sound so much like a dry and stuffy keynote you usually hear at conferences.

When talking about the Apple killer pg states two things.

1. The next product visionary will have a great example in Jobs and Apple. 2. The next Apple probably won't start with a consumer product, but they might be able to make some consumer thingy like Jawbone does.

Nest creates a great consumer thingy that's relatively cheap and it's run by an ex Apple employee. Tony Fadell might say he's not pursuing Apple's business, but is it unreasonable to think he might when the Apple pirate ship starts sinking?

Nest is certainly one of the leading candidates, as far as one could tell this early. A thermostat is exactly the right sort of apparently harmless thing to start with.

What other leading candidates can you think of?

Supposedly Nest is on Apple's blacklist. My source says any Apple employee caught even talking to a Nest employee is immediately fired. I can't verify whether or not this is true, but if it is, interesting that Apple feels that threatened.

Here's the transcript at Graham's site http://www.paulgraham.com/ambitious.html

See also the comments in this thread: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3686840

This is my first time seeing and listening Paul Graham. Why is he going on ummm ummmm? It is so distracting. I don't want to be seen as critical, just a feedback.

You'd do that too if you had to present in front of a large group of Python developers. Calling them the center of the valley was a little over the top, though.

I have been debating whether or not to say anything because I know by saying something you may have hurt feelings. And I have no obligation to tell you everything I know or think. But on reflection I have found it more honest -- honest in the older sense of "straightforward" or "direct" -- to share with you that I found the talk enjoyable and interesting. I think there are many benefits in starting small.

I enjoyed the talk and admired his good use of clarity when talking about the problems. However, the counter to clarity is that it might be a bit too clean for the real world, and that was apparent when answering the questions about copyright at the end.

I realize that pg wasn't particularly prepared to be dealing with questions unrelated to the talk, but it was the first time I've seen him not easily handle questions with grace. His responses came off as glib and eventually he had to qualify and edit his previous statements to provide somewhat of a satisfactory response.

It's easy to over-believe ideas that are put forth with clarity and match your natural disposition towards clean logic and historical examples. Though pg has intriguing and useful perspectives, I encourage people to study these problems far more in-depth before forming a personal opinion.

On a somewhat related note, it was alarming that pg didn't have a clear moral position when asked about his decision-making process. It's fine for the young and uninfluential to "wing it" when it comes to moral decision-making, but seems irresponsible for someone with his level of power in Silicon Valley.

"Morals" are an excuse people use to try to impose their personal interest over others. Honest people use reasoning instead. I'm glad pg is open and honest enough to not include "morality" discussion in his decision. And not even be ashamed to try to hide it in public, as a populist politician would. That got him some points from me.

Morality is a lot deeper than you're making it out to be. Please don't straw man my argument to mean phony, superficial "Morals." I'd suggest starting with a survey of moral philosophy.

For the morality question, if I was PG, I would've just said that my passion is to provide -you- the user/the world with what you want, so if there's no demand for it, then I won't build it.

Entering into a discussion about objective morality is a dead end.

That's fine, but he didn't even articulate that.

> it was alarming that pg didn't have a clear moral position when asked about his decision-making process.

I would prefer it if people didn't force pg to qualify his statements like a politician.

Obviously he could add "of course, this is just a good idea as long as the expected utility of the humanity at large is greater with it than without it on a reasonably long time line." but it would just be an empty phrase.

We need powerful people to be more open like pg, what we don't need is more people putting on a PR-mask just for the sake of seeming Responsible, Serious and Altruistic.

I never said his morality had to be "Responsible, Serious and Altruistic." It looks like you're assuming that morality is a simple construct used only by politicians for deception. In reality, almost every significant, powerful figure I've read about has some guidelines to his or her behavior, even if it's a pluralistic framework.

Additionally, it was strange that you projected your own Utilitarian belief system onto pg. I've never read or heard him articulate his moral position; he alludes to one in "Things you can't say," but obviously doesn't say it.

I think a lot of the HN crowd is very good at examining hard subjects like science but is under-developed in the humanities. That's an obvious statement due to the nature of this forum, but it doesn't hurt as a reminder that maybe there are unknown unknowns to the human condition you may have not considered.

> I've never read or heard him articulate his moral position; he alludes to one in "Things you can't say," but obviously doesn't say it.

Funny side note: moral positions, in the abstract, aren't usually things you can't say. They usually sound eminently reasonable, until you work out the consequences. This is more or less the history of ethics.

The "Responsible, Serious and Altruistic" bit was a bit of a straw man I must admit. My point was basically that:

1) if pg doesn't have some well thought out and articulated perspective on moral questions, that's OK - he's not a priest

2) Saying it's alarming is basically pushing him and people like him into taking a (probably artificial) position for the sake of taking one.

3) Just because one is powerful doesn't mean one has to be a role model in all areas of life. This is unnecessary pressure on an individual who hasn't asked for it - he's basically a sort of VC, he isn't running for president - and I don't see anything good coming out of it.

I chose a utilitarian belief system as an example because it felt like the most non-controversial one to make a point. Incidentally, I don't subscribe to it.

Agreed about humanities, but I don't really see the connection to your OP.

Here's a highly related essay by pg, by the way: http://www.paulgraham.com/identity.html

I admire your balanced temper in your response (as my earlier was a bit charged), but I can't say I'm swayed.

Overall, I think pg was just thrown off-guard by the question and could probably come up with a more adequate answer off-stage, particularly because he has a background in philosophy. I was using him, wrongly, as an example of the technocratic tendency to not consider morality in decision-making. However, I'll continue here with a response to your objections pretending he really is a less well-rounded VC:

I think your responses are emblematic of a current societal tendency to be easy on leadership and powerful people, because they're "just human." I don't agree with that tendency to not hold leaders accountable to a higher standard, and I don't think it's right for a person with that much power to not have a clear moral position on who he or she does business with. We can all disagree on what we think is right, but I think there are many who have been led to believe that they simply can't expect more out of certain people because it's not "fair." I'm merely providing a counter-opinion to that.

About the humanities, that was said out of frustration that you/others may not have been exposed to moral frameworks outside of the traditional religious and political tie-ins. It was an incorrect sweeping generalization, but regardless, it doesn't hurt anyone to be reminded of these subjects now and again :)

Its interesting to listen to this after reading the article; its as I'm rereading with a laugh track.

pg, your audience had no sense of humor; don't worry, I laughed. :)


Was waiting for this one :-)

Question for pg:

There is probably an essay there, too bad I don't write them anymore (43.30 in video, regarding "moral compass outsourcing")

Have you stopped writing essays? Does that mean you're shifting your focus to YC 100% or going back to work on arc again? Or are you talking about non-startup essays?

Actually I just wrote the first draft of one of the essays I said during that talk I should write.

Writing essays depends on having uninterrupted blocks of time. Between kids and the growth of YC I don't have as many of those as I used to. I should try to arrange things so I have more.

Evidentially there is time to be had if you quit reading your email. I really enjoyed the talk. Thanks for coming out

But maybe the ''Ahemmmms'' had the meaning of ''The naked king'' story...and nobody called him out.Otherwise great speach,enjoyed reading it

Hmmm...Erm...Hmmm...Erm These 2 sounds keep repeating in my ears after watching the talk.

Listening to Paul Graham philosophizing about product ideas is like listening to product guys trying to talk finance.

Thanks for posting. Notes from this keynote were also discussed here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3685444

PG seems down on Google from the initial statement that it may have peaked, to making fun of its search results as similar to the scientologist principle of "what's true is what's true for you" or something that makes you feel like you are being A-B tested, to Gmail being painfully slow. PG said he would pay $50/month for a good email replacement, and after just having talked about his friend at Google complaining of too much email and saying Gmail was slow, I think he was implying that Gmail needs to be replaced.

So, what interests me most about this is his mention of his friend at Google.

Read: http://www.gototheboard.com/articles/How_to_find_startup_ide...

Matt Cutts (search engine God of Google) said "I’ll stop with a story. I have a friend at Google who is really good at noticing things that annoy him. While walking from his car to his desk in the morning, he can easily find six things that irritate him because they should be improved."

Matt says this is "his" friend, but is Matt Cutts PG's Google friend? This sounds very similar, and there is a hint of their relationship at the end of this article when PG got him to personally handle an issue with HN not being listed first in search results: http://getoffmyinternets.net/2011/11/25/paul-graham-knows-ho...

However, a better guess is probably that it is Peter Norvig, Director of Research. There are examples of their relationship around, like Peter reading a draft of his: http://www.paulgraham.com/softwarepatents.html and http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=355984

It's interesting that PG is pushing for someone to compete with Google though. It is almost like these comments were meant to be a public criticism of Google by his friend via PG rather than just to provide startup ideas.

It is almost like these comments were meant to be a public criticism of Google by his friend via PG rather than just to provide startup ideas.

No. Why would I allow myself to be used in that way?

My apologies. I did not mean that you were being used. More that your friend did not have the option to come out publicly criticizing Google, but you were able to. Google is in the position of target of criticism lately just as Microsoft and many other large companies are, however by referring to your conversation with your friend in the same context, you lend credibility to the notion that perhaps some of the criticism was his.

This sounds like a bad techcrunch article.

It might also be Paul Buchheit. He also reviewed a couple of PG's essays.

Including the last one where Paul corrected the comment about Gmail being slow.

Good point. It does seem that Paul B. could be the friend. In addition, PG mentions Paul B. in several places, just a few including:



If true, it's especially interesting that Paul B. was the creator and lead developer of Gmail and that he corrected PG by stating that "GMail has become painfully slow" instead of "GMail is painfully slow" thereby humorously dissociating himself from the act of having developed something slow.

Y U PUT NO SHOES? Really there are shoes as comfortable as those sandals...

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