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The First Buenos Aires Hacker News Meetup in 908 days is tonight (facebook.com)
36 points by rubyrescue 1074 days ago | 42 comments



Argentina seems to be ranked as among the worst places in the world, besides actual war zones, in terms of economic freedom and political corruption type rankings. The currency isn't stable either and the government is appropriating private assets when they feel like it. You'd have to be insane to start a business there, but maybe the main topic of your meeting will be how to get out. I mean you could technically try to start one there, but you'd have to take a long look in the mirror first and answer the question "why not just move to Chile?".

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It depends on the business. There are a lot of people bootstrapping here but their business is in the US or Europe. The cost of living is still a lot less than those places, the weather is great, talent is good, etc. It's true the government is insane, but the average small startup here is below the radar from that stuff.

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But a lot of those factors apply to Chile and it's even quite close if friends and family are a factor. They are 88 places better on the corruption index and about 151 places better on economic freedom index, plus the government has an innovative technology accelerator program. Those are massive differences. Indeed it's probably one of the top differences for neighbours in the whole world besides North and South Korea. Chile also seems to have better education, as last I checked a significant portion of Argentinians haven't even completed primary school. But perhaps competition to hire talent is greater as well.

It seems to me Argentina is in a pretty dire situation at the moment. There is even a, small but real, possibility things could collapse into a failed state or dictatorship if the economic situation spirals out of control.

Edit: The economic freedom gap is actually bigger than South and North Korea! Argentina (158th of 179) is only just hovering above the failed states/dictatorships. I expect next years ranking will also be worse as things have gotten worse.

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> There is even a, small but real, possibility things could collapse into a failed state or dictatorship if the economic situation spirals out of control.

Not a chance. At all.

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I said the chance was "small", you are saying there is no chance but let's examine that a little more closely. First of all there is no country on earth that doesn't have some chance of descending into tyranny in a fairly short timespan if things go bad economically, we've seen it countless times. I wouldn't let your patriotism (I presume) blind you to that fact. So if we take the best governed countries and say the chances of dictatorship are "tiny", and in some of the less well governed first world countries it's "very small", then it's probably being quite kind to say an incredibly corrupt South American third (second?) world country on the brink of economic disaster only has a "small" chance of going badly.

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i would question the education. certainly here in chile there's a widepsread feeling that chile's education system is exemplary in how poor it is.

also, while it's amusing to read the comments here as someone living in santiago, i have to say that i am big fan of bbaa food + culture. it's a pretty awesome place. even if you don't want to work there, i'd encourage anyone to have a vacation in buenos aires.

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There's a lot of truth to what you say but some people choose to be here because of family ties or for other non-economic reasons, and still feel the need to start businesses, even though they know they know it could be much easier elsewhere.

Economically Argentina is very tough, but culturally it's a wonderful place, and my personal attachment to it - despite my many complaints - transcends money and perhaps even logic.

Chile is a wonderful country with many things going for it, but it's not like it's paradise, and not everybody wants to live there.

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I'm in that situation, my life will be probably easier in another country but I'll keep on struggling here.

Sadly, If I were from another country, I wouldn't even consider coming here for business.

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As someone living here temporarily on and off over the last 10 years I agree completely.

That said there are some amazing business people here. Argentinians are amazingly resilient and adaptive. There are also many fantastic coders here, many working for US startups.

Here is an inspiring article about how various entrepreneurs coped during the previous crisis 10 years ago.

http://www.inc.com/magazine/201106/doing-business-in-argenti...

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An Argentinian here.

I honestly believe the current government is, in many ways, the best this country has had for the past 30 years (at least), even taking into account its many and very real shortcomings (the mangling of official statistics and the outrageous restrictions on foreign currency ranking very high among them).

I am obviously partial in the matter, but I also believe Argentina still has much going for it. The upper education system in particular remains very good in most places and is completely free. I attend the University of Buenos Aires and can attest to this, even though I'm by no means a top student. The resources aren't abundant, but the quality of the education itself is excellent.

Lastly, the government is forcefully buying the oil company that used to be state-owned until the early 90s neoliberal selling spree happened. It's not like it's arbitrarily taking companies by force. I think there's some kind of consensus in economics about oil being a strategic resource, so I'm not sure it's fair to extrapolate from this one data point.

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> It's not like it's arbitrarily taking companies by force. 

They took over the majority of the shares by force. Buying something is when you voluntarily agree on a transaction. When the government cuts off the communication to the head quarters as the nationalization is announced and then go with armed guards to escort the Spanish bosses out of the building. That is what's called "an offer you can't refuse".

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Anecdotes are not data. The whole of South America is fairly mediocre vs. the world in education but Argentina doesn't seem to be ahead of Chile in a relative ranking. Chile has two unis ahead of your university, which is top in the country (although Argentina does make up some ground in the tail).[1]

The Spanish have a different story on the oil company. It's hardly an advertisement to set up a business there anyway, which is what I am talking about.

Finally, I don't think being the best government in Argentine history is a very high bar to reach. You were the 7th richest country in the world in the 1920s, with plenty of resources, and now a place starting poorer than you like Japan with hardly any resources (plus getting burned to the ground and nuked twice) is three or four times richer. There are tons of examples like that beyond Japan, the governments of Argentina have been a string of disasters in terms of providing for the people and not filling mass graves with them. Taking the current government though, I'd hardly say inflation three to six times higher than Chile is a great government. But when inflation in the past has been measured in hundreds of percent I concede that this could be a reasonable government when the only comparison is past Argentine governments.

[1]http://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/latin-ame...

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Anecdotes are not data.

In that ranking, they basically measure reputation, citations of papers in other papers and # of PhDs students. It depends how you measure quality.

Finally, I don't think being the best government in Argentine history is a very high bar to reach...

Yes, that's correct.

In a nutshell, when Argentina was rich there were very rich and very few landowners, who also controlled the goverment, and a lot of poor people that worked for them. It was feudal "capitalism". There wasn't much of a "middle class" or "rising middle class". Of course, a democracy can't work in those conditions. There were fraudulent elections, coups and, of course, the response of the mass of the poor was either following the few intelectuals of the elite that proclaimed comunism as the solution, or to cling to father figures in goverment(Perón). The people were slaves, treated as slaves, and then reacted as slaves.

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>It depends how you measure quality.

Aggregate stats across a number of areas plus opinion is a reasonable measure, albeit imperfect. Again I have provided many stats and figures and nobody has provided anything contrary other than assertions (and in one case cast some doubt over the Internet penetration). One would suspect that if the education is so good in Argentina people would have better researched arguments (ok that's a low blow, but people are downvoting). Feel free to provide another measure though. I don't think the roles will be reversed, though it might come out even under another measure as they are close in this one.

I think we broadly agree on your other point.

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My intention wasn't to provide another index, but to discard the index system as a mesure for something more than what the index actually mesures. For example: the abstract, subjective and esoteric education "quality".

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Yeah, if you listen to The Economist. Or you can actually come here and realise it's not that simple, and in fact, a lot of business gets done here.

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Who's correct on the inflation figures? The commentators saying it's about double what your government claims or your government? I am sure "a lot of business" gets done there, just not as much per capita as in Chile and far less than tons of other countries in the world. It's not "The Economist" vs "reality". It's The Economist, many other journalists and publications, Transparency International, the World Bank stats, the economic freedom index, other global statistics on education and indeed some commentators here with personal experience. Why are the non-Argentines with personal experience negative and the, presumably Argentine, people positive but unable to provide anything other than anecdotes. Sorry but on every objective measure I can find it's worse, or significantly worse, than Chile, and a long long way from the first world.

I am open to you providing links to enlighten me on some aspect or another of why it's so good. But even if the rankings were quite bias you are virtually at opposite ends to Chile on some. I mean even asking leading and bias questions with a specific agenda to make Argentina look bad it'd be hard to get such huge differences. Given everything else backs that up, and some commentators here with anecdotes are saying so too, you will have to forgive me if I discount your talk as misplaced patriotism until you can back it up with some form of links or stats.

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(replying to both comments)

> But a lot of those factors apply to Chile

That's BS. Argentina has some of the best hackers in the world. I've yet to hear about chilean talent of that level.

And Buenos Aires has a booming IT industry.

Both national and local governments are terrible, sure. But you are way off stating we are close to a dictatorship.

You sound like a Fox News "expert".

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I'll be the first to admit I am not an expert but to be frank from the outside you simply don't hear about people from either country, or the research records of their universities. Unless you can provide some metrics regarding the IT industry (and how do you measure "best hackers") it's all hot air. Going off the education levels and GDP per capita approaching 50% more in Chile, as well as the tech scene being incubated I find it hard to believe Argentina would have more or better hackers. 45% of Chileans are online vs 36% of Argentinians for example, over a whole population that adds up significantly. There are European backwater countries with far higher rates of education, money and Internet access so forgive me if I take your claims with a grain of salt.

That said, even with some other factor causing IT to be big and the number of hackers to be large it's all invalidated by the extremely poor governance. And yes, when you are only a few stops short of North Korea or Zimbabwe on many rankings there is a possibility you will go back into dictatorship (if you remember Argentina was a dictatorship very recently). Besides I said the chance of that happening was "small".

Edit: N.B. GDP per capita is closer if you go PPP. But that's a bit deceptive when you might be buying cloud hosting in USD or EURO so you not only have less in real terms in the Argentine case, but you are being wiped out by catastrophic inflation (from three to six times higher in Argentina depending on whether you believe the government statistics or those of the commentators).

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You don't need to admit you're not an expert. It shows, don't worry.

First of all, since WHEN metrics really show anything? Let me remind you all the companies developed here in Argentina, that made it globally, like Patagon, Mercadolibre, Startups.com, OLX, ElSitio, etc versus companies in Chile. Chile? Really? Where do you get your numbers? I'll get them right for you :

http://bit.ly/JflMXt

66% average internet penetration in Argentina. That means 27 million people. Want to know more about Chile? What about wide band penetration?

http://bit.ly/Jfmh3H

There you go.

I'm not even going to start about the "dictatorship" because that's just bollocks. If "recently" for you is 26 years, then yeah, we have a "recent" dictatorship. One that the US government helped. As they did in Panama, Chile, and so many other countries. So please, refrain yourself before even saying the word.

Last, but not least, official inflation records against those that are real, are just double. No "three to six". It's huge, but it's not what you're buying.

PS : I don't defend AT ALL the Argentinian Government. I'm actually against them, but I can't really stand that somebody, just from what they read online or hear "from friends", starts giving opinions and recommendations. So, if things get "hard", then just leave Argentina alone and make business in Chile? Bitch, please, that's what you would recommend somebody in other countries? "Don't create value in your country, because it's TOO hard. Instead, make other countries wealthier. That's fixes the problem".

Please, come and live in Argentina for a while, and you'll learn a lot more than just reading Wikipedia.

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Round 1 - Fight!

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Have I been too hard? :(

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Wikipedia gave me those stats, but I checked the spreadsheet from the ITU they are based on and it's accurate.[1] Given the Chileans are richer it makes sense that they have 1 in 10 more people connected. Although I concede that the stats on this one point are contested.

I think you are being a little naive regarding countries. 26 years is extremely recent when we talk about countries and their institutions. I've also addressed dictatorship in another comment. The US comment is a red herring.

You seem to have misread me on inflation. I said it was three to six times the Chilean rate, not that the real rate was three to six times the official rate. I.e. if the Chilean rate is 3.something and yours is 10.something it's roughly three times more, but if your rate is actually 20 or 25 as some suggest you will be roughly six times higher than the Chilean rate. This is massively important to running a business of any kind.

I am not going to bother responding to your insults other than to say it's not appropriate on Hacker News (or anywhere) and there seems to be a lot of ego and patriotism from the Argentine commentators in this discussion. A criticism of a country is not a personal criticism.

This cheer-leading seems somewhat ill-considered, given your top global wealth early last century your country is practically a textbook cautionary tale. It's not an Argentine Yahoo! being compared to first world Googles either, it's more like someone at AltaVista claiming they are in the big leagues with Google because once upon a time they were good. To revert to weaker arguments: nobody I know would dispute this state of affairs as I have put it. And nobody would dispute that it's absolutely plausible that with good governance Argentina could have been as rich or richer than Japan right now, as rich or richer than Spain (and with far less debt than those two). But governments count, and you got some bad ones. Chile on the other hand is benefiting (albeit mildly) from making far better choices and it's clear to an outsider which is better and all data points to that (GDP, education, corruption, economic freedom, inflation). Either all those sources are wrong or my case holds. I don't see anyone from outside Argentina making the case that it's as wonderful as you people say. That's telling. Most good countries have people from outside showing them respect. For example, I admire some of what the Chileans have achieved and consider them better than quite a few first world countries now on a few metrics. They deserve praise and respect for that hard work getting things right. But respect is earned with work, not with claims of greatness that aren't backed up with anything other than insults.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_number_of_...

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"Either all those sources are wrong or my case holds."

Maybe you're right and Paul Krugman is wrong http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/03/down-argentina-w...

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>Maybe you're right and Paul Krugman is wrong

Indeed (btw. where is Chile on the chart? can't seem to find it).

http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2012/05/04/paul-krug...

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http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.KD.ZG/countr...

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> 45% of Chileans are online vs 36% of Argentinians for example, over a whole population that adds up significantly

I don't understand your point, that's 14,883,552 (Argentina) vs 7,535,921 (Chile).

India has a 7.50%, but that is 87,983,101 people online, (additionally i know some pretty good hackers come from there)

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Sorry man, just trust us, Argentina is ahead of Chile (and the rest of Latin America) when it comes to skills in technology/programming. If you want proof, take a look at some of the events being run in Argentina. Check out the Ruby community. Then compare and contrast with the same in Chile. They're miles ahead here.

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"Sorry man, just trust us" ? good job paisano, they will totally believe you.

Undoubtly there are good "hackers" in Argentina, like in every country with good education but high levels of poverty (Greece, Ukranie, Russia, etc.). Maybe the reason is that becoming a hacker is basically free, You only need internet and free time.

About the proof, go check any important security conference, I'll guarantee you that you will find one or more Argentinian teams there, wondering why everything is better and cheaper outside their country, except of course that disgusting thing foreigners call "food" :)

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There are big communities of open source, computer security and indie game development here. Chile has nothing like that.

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It sure is a tough environment. A few days ago I had a conversation with a couple of people who just got back from there. The picture they paint isn't appealing at all. Another South American government intent on destroying a very nice country. These governments, in general terms, are so corrupt that they only care about their own financial advancement. They buy-off the population with all sorts of unsustainable socialist (and sometimes communist) programs and benefits at the expense of the private sector (geez, that sounds like...never mind).

The nationalization (theft) of private assets belonging to foreign companies means, in no uncertain terms, that the country will not see significant foreign investment in probably twenty-five years. It's a shame.

They apparently also pulled an interesting one: Their citizens are not allowed to take their money out of the country. There's a convoluted process through which you have to open a bank account in US dollars and then you can move money out. Except that the government is monitoring everything. They have to ability to seize anything they want at any time. They control exchange rates too.

A fine example of how things can derail when the masses elect presidents (because they are being paid-off in so many ways for their vote).

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On the other hand, the 'socialist'/'communist' government was happy to pay (in full) for my cancer treatment. I had to get out of the US and come down here for 6 months so I wouldn't incur in massive debt over there to receive exactly the same treatment.

I guess YMMV.

I do agree with some of your points (although the restriction to buy dollars has nothing to do with taking money out of the country), but please don't take all your news from a purely US/free-market point of view. Argentina had that for a decade under president Menem and got fucked in all kinds of ways.

(Also, please notice the 'nationalization' [more correctly, forced purchase of the company's stock] of certain assets was long overdue because of the way the private companies where managing them. It's easier to appreciate when your family lives in the place, I'm afraid.)

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Last time barmstrong, AndrewWarner, and rubyrescue were here. This time it's playtomic and inaka. Times change, prices go up by 300%, a few of us are still here, a few new foreigners have arrived, a lot of porteños have started using HN since then. It's time to get a regular meetup going...

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At the last one, I met people who helped me think through my ideas and figure out how to solve basic problems (like getting my iPhone to work locally).

I even met people who I hope will be life-long friends, like rubyrescue and his wife.

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Argentina no esta al borde de una dictadura, argentina da educación gratis y te paga si vas a la UNIVERSIDAD y te dedicas a estudiar, en Chile su educación es privada, acá nosotros tenemos derecho y libertad de expresión, y no somos censurados por leyes absurdas incrustadas en leyes de comercio, Chile lo esta por hacer de forma secreta, ocultándole al pueblo la verdad de leyes como ACTA o como le querían llamar ahora, YPF es nuestra y nuca se debería haber vendido, REPSOL no cumplía con los pactos de abastecimiento (hs estuve esperando para cagar nafta en mi moto), si es verdad los políticos todos son horribles, ladrones, deshonestos, pero por lo menos no tenemos una dictadura como Colombia, Bolivia o Chile.

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NO POLITICS HERE, PLEASE.

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Argentina is not on the verge of a dictatorship, Argentina provides free education and you'll pay if you do the UNIVERSITY and to examine, in Chile is private education, here we have the right and freedom of expression, and are not censored by absurd laws embedded in trade laws, Chile it is done in secret, hiding the people the truth of laws such as ACTA or wanted to call him now, YPF is ours and neck should have been sold, REPSOL did not comply with the covenants of supply (I am waiting to shit on my bike naphtha), if it is true politicians are all horrible, thieves, dishonest, but at least we have a dictatorship like Colombia, Bolivia or Chile.

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Please fix the title, the meeting is not in two years

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He means it's the first one in 908 days, not it's the first one and it's in 908 days :p

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Ah, thanks

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i just tried to clarify

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908 days!!

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