There are boatloads of good content in there, plenty of which have the potential of changing your perspective on life, tech or just about anything else that is covered.
"When I struggle with something and finally figure it out, I write down the one thing/sentence that I could have told my future self that would have helped me understand it."
I have searched for this comment several times but haven't been able to find it.
It makes me wonder how effective a well implemented human powered search engine could be. Its kinda overwhelming just thinking about it.
Dropbox is a huge business, with real revenue, which has helped millions of people. Tarsnap, despite cperciva's obvious talents, has not achieved anything like that level of success. dhouston wasn't flaming people in the thread, cperciva was.
Part of a really good comeback is substance. cperciva had the snappy retort. He really had won the Putnam. And on a much smaller scale, he won a comments thread on Hacker News. But the 20 posts there didn't create real world value. dhouston did. Maybe that's the real lesson of Hacker News. The best thread is the one you don't participate in, because you're working.
I would say entirely a backup and not at all a synchronization service. If you're using Tarsnap for file synchronization, you're probably doing something wrong.
Tarsnap aims to be "good unix software" in the truest sense of the phrase: Pick one thing and do it well.
But getting to what I think you were really trying to ask: Yes, Tarsnap is much smaller than Dropbox, and I'm happy that I haven't taken money from VCs (or any investors for that matter) who would push for faster growth. I'd rather have better product than more product; I will probably hire other people to help with Tarsnap at some point, but the question I'll have to answer is not "can this person do useful work" or even "can this person do task X better than I'm currently doing it"; rather, the question will be "can this person do task X sufficiently better to overcome the cost of my no longer understanding it".
Tarsnap is first and foremost about security. Security is about getting details right. And getting details right... well, that requires a level of understanding of how all the different pieces fit together which simply wouldn't be possible if I were hiring dozens of people and throwing them into teams to churn out new features every week.
Do you believe that blog comments can create value in general?
If it makes you feel any better, I now use it as my own, personal "don't be an ass" moment. If I feel the urge to say something snarky, recalling this interchange pretty much quashes it.
(interesting to note that 2.5 years later, my opinion would be exactly the same, though now I would probably mention a few type-theoretic works; more foundational stuff, less petty bit-fiddling)
I would actually be interested in the foundational stuff if it might act as a primer for the heavier papers and books you listed there. I've read SICP and EOPL, but I found the chapter in Lisp in Small Pieces on denotational semantics almost incomprehensible, even though the later chapters on compilation were tremendous fun. I did take a stab at Semantics with Applications but couldn't quite get through it, although I probably didn't go after it with the gusto I should have.
Since then I've been getting into some more traditional compiler stuff (Appel's Modern Compiler Impl in ML) but have gotten hung up on trying to really understand parsing, which I have always skipped over like a smug Lisp weenie.
Introduced me to a lot of webapp stack pieces that were highly worth looking into.
This remark by codyrobbins - discussing the 'I could care less' idiom - is perhaps my favorite HN comment of all time. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=854042
This thread (a couple parents up from that one) provides the appropriate context. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=853100
See nirvana's second comment in the thread, especially:
This had some really neat discussion about the finer points of some languages.
Highest voted comments: http://www.hnsearch.com/search#request/comments&sortby=p...
What's your favorite HN thread: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2158116
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EDIT: Other than Ask HN Archive, mentioned above.
Obviously some topics are harder to search for (for instance if you wanted to read about what HNers have said about Techcrunch over the years) but for the good and classic stuff (programming, math, etc) I think this works reasonably well.
It would actually be really cool to see what HN threads are linked to the most from HN. I bet that would be a decent way to find gold, especially on stuff you weren't specifically looking for.
The day after President Obama won the election and I lost over 60 points in that thread for calling him out, or rather the people for getting suckered into the race card. (I am not a US citizen and feel vindicated now, what a con job ... oops politics not good on HN)
add: for starters, read the top comment on that thread, then you tell me if it was justified being top: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=354589
And yeah, the top comment is pretty good.
You seem very bitter about something that would not make any normal person bitter. It's been several years since that comment. Move on.