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What are the most intellectually stimulating websites you know of? (reddit.com)
453 points by ColinWright on July 13, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 222 comments

At the risk of being called obvious, I'm going to say, "Hacker News." I've never found a site that lets me tap into the brains of so many extremely smart people. This site has made me a much smarter person, dramatically improved my writing, and made me far better at what I do.


I don't think HN deserves this reputation. Most discussions are shallow, some people don't even bother reading the story. Meta discussions are frequently the most upvoted and stories that takes more than a couple of minutes to appreciate are often left to die.

Partly it's because of the format and the platform. Instead of seeking out the information yourself, you're feed bits of it before moving on to the next bit. It works great for news, commentary, as entertainment or a starting guide to startups. But less so for actually acquiring and/or exchanging information.

A pattern I think I see is this:

For anything "opinion" related, the conversation will go to hell very quickly. Read snippets and ignore.

For anything "knowledge" related, this place is phenomenal. Much to learn from the giants amongst us.

Opinion and knowledge are two different axes and I really enjoy reading the opinions of those who know a lot about a topic I don't know. Opinions about topics such as economics are best avoided.

If you think this could be true, simply focus on those discussions that elicit expert knowledge and opinion, rather than those that anyone can contribute to. Er, like this one. Bye.

Well, if there was someway to mark links as "opinion" or "knowledge" related, I'd be happy.. But, that is certainly not the case. Like some sort of crowdsourced opinion/knowledge on each link. Like upvotes, but a little more meaningful/useful.

Then again, you're still relying on the crowd and its whims. But it'll be consistent!

I can't tell the difference between which type a thread is without reading the comments or article.

I think HN does host an abundance of really smart folks.

The main irritant is that so many of them are nitpicky and/or snarky.

Anyone else noticed this?

There is a lot of literalism among technical people. It goes with the territory.

Yeah, but out demographic is one that prone to sarcasm, criticism, sarcasm, etc, myself included. :)

Compared to, let's say Slashdot? This place is pretty tame in comparison.

flamewars are the favorite pastime of the internet. it's been like that since before i was alive, or so i'm told by the grey beards.

Which would be relevant if HN had flamewars. It does not. It does not even have a significant frequency of individual flames.

A flame is a long impassioned harangue or rant.

Agreed. The groupthink mentality here is almost as bad as reddit from what i've seen (say...50 to 70% of the way there); however, i think some of the show HN thing have been interesting to see (and I don't think i would've found them on metafilter, reddit, etc.)


I'm not sure that HN has dramatically improved my writing so much as it has gotten me in the habit of only posting when I have something worthwhile to add to a conversation. I appreciate how many users seem to follow this rule of thumb on HN.

Maybe it taught you something else too. Maybe it has taught you, and anyone else who reads this only to add to the conversation when you have something worthwhile to say in real life as well. This isn't trying to be offending, am I am glad you found that, I just thought I would point out that you can carry that to your real life as well.

I agree. But please don't post HN on that reddit thread! ;-)

Because HN is still an exclusive secret garden?

This argument is bupkis. The reason for not advertising is more around the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory.


Isn't HN proving the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory wrong? And showing that a decent discussion level is achievable in a anonymous environment. New Users creating their account don't even have to provide a legit email address. And at least your and my account are relatively "anonymous".

> Isn't HN proving the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory wrong?

HN employs anonymous, unaccountable, unnecessary, possibly automated and most definitely counter-productive hell bans.

And with that any level of decency becomes quite irrelevant. I implore you to turn on "show dead" and gaze upon our "shadow people", check their comment history and notice about half of them got hell banned for some rather petty reason, and are currently being made to waste hours of their time writing comments before realizing nobody reads them. The other half might have actually deserved some sort of disciplinary action, but a hellban is actually less effective than a regular one except in some quite rare situations[1].

If [the unseen mods of] HN believe that's what it takes, I'll gladly deal with some more Fuckwads. (though the more probable reason is that none of them seems to want, or is able to bugfix the modding code)

[1] http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2011/06/suspension-ban-or-h...

sigh, tell me about it. Writing to info@yc doesn't seem to help either.

Part of the reason HN has stayed decent is because politics and similar discussions are stamped out.

> Because HN is still an exclusive secret garden?

No, because HN commenter's favourite pastime, Reddit-bashing, is too scary if not done behind their backs and from a safe distance.

This is not a site full of smart people submitting and discussing smart things. This is a site where someone says 'stealing' and someone else patiently points out that piracy is not stealing because bla bla bla YAWN.

A mullah, a scholar of Arabic Grammar, once fell into a filthy ditch and couldn't climb out.

He waited for a while until someone came by. The passerby extended his hand and said "Your hand. Give me!" The mullah angrily told him "Move along. You are not one of our people!"

Some more hours passed while the scholar stood knee deep in foul matter, until another man passed by. He said to him "Here my hand. Take!" Again, the scholar glared "Move along! You are not one of us!"

So this went on for few hours until, finally, the scholar's nephew happened to pass by and saw his uncle in that filthy ditch. He cried out "O dear uncle! Here, take my hand!". The scholar said, "Yes. You are one of us!" and reach[ed] out to his nephew.

But the nephew was weak and he too fell in the hole.

[As related by Mowlana Shamsud'din Tabrizi.]

> [As related by Mowlana Shamsud'din Tabrizi.]

This needs to be corrected. The story is called the "blind grammarian" and naturally far more robust in the original by Shams (as translated into English) than my recollection above. There is also a second part to it that has been omitted.

Hahaha, if only I could tell whether this is irony or genuine.

Piracy isn't stealing; it's copyright infringement and often a contract violation. Using metaphors for complicated legal issues is not a good way to approach things.

Are you aware that you are doing exactly what grandparent is complaining about?


I am not sure what you are asking.

My comment was not intended as sarcasm, nor was I asserting sarcasm in comments by others.

And this argument has been repeated endlessly.

I wont question if it's true or false. But the mere repetition makes what the grandparent says true: this is not a site full of smart people.

Or at least: this is not a site full of smart people _above_ repeating for the nth time the same tired internet flames.

Smart people keep having the same tired arguments for the nth time for the past 2500 years. That's just the result the result of those question being fundamental and difficult to answer objectively.

The piracy thing seems like a silly semantic issue on the face of it but the semantics strike at the heart of the issue.

> And this argument has been repeated endlessly.

And that is why we need to broaden software patent laws to also include Internet arguments: patent trolling to counter actual trolling.

(BRB, patenting this idea)

Hackers news is only intellectually stimulating if you are a developer, programmer or work in start up. It doesn't really have that much interesting discussions beyond that.

That's what it says on the tin.

Why, science in general does happen here.

Completely agree with your comment. The only thing I am not quite sure of is if it really changed my writing style. Any suggestions how you approached this/how HN helped you on the way?

Sometimes, I have a bad habit of making an argument a little too concise. I forget that not everyone is in my head and knows exactly what I'm thinking, so I gloss over important details. The joy of this site is that everyone is so intelligent that they pick up on this and call me out right away.

As a consequence, I've had to work on being concise enough that people read me, yet detailed enough that people understand me. Learning to balance those two things has made a tremendous difference in my career!

Quick caveat - being concise is something I've always struggled with. Therefore, I think I took inappropriate shortcuts to try and become concise.

That totally explains something I've noticed since I started posting here but couldn't put to words.

Here, i write sentences three or four times searching for a short clear statement. I can't say my writing is good, or even correctly punctuated, but it's far better than some of my direct to email incoherent rambling.

The biggest problem i'm noticing now is verb agreement. I'll rewrite parts of a sentence and fix all the things i break. If only there was a typechecker to warn me of those silly mistakes.

The PG effect. More specifically, the way he writes his essays.

I'll have to agree. HN, as well as r/Foodforthought, are the most stimulating I've found thus far.

I am more aware of when it's acceptable to wave my hands and when it's not. I find myself looking at my writing more critically. HN has been a conspicuous influence in that.

Even just a thread like this is full of an insane amount of value.

thanks, man!!! same here about you.

MetaFilter! http://metafilter.com/. Community blog with high standards ($5 registration fee helps this, I suspect) and lots of challenging, intelligent posts and commenters.

And its related site for questions, Ask MetaFilter: http://ask.metafilter.com/. From browsing it regularly I know [good, well-supported] answers to a thousand interesting and useful questions I'd never have even thought to ask.

Absolutely. Both the quality of submission (it's an aggregator like HN or Reddit) and of discussion are unparalleled in my experience of web communities. Three things possibly related to its success:

- Lack of an upvoting mechanism, which can lead to problems

- Incredibly fair and considered moderation

- MetaTalk, an area of the site where no rules apply, and where arguments/vendettas/in-jokes can carry on out of the way

I think the blurbs help also. Sort of like Slashdot blurbs, but done better. Imo the "headline-only" style of reddit/digg/HN has an unfortunate tendency to promote stuff that's that's easy to summarize in a soundbite, and makes it hard to get attention for anything that needs even 3 sentences to set context for. There's even a word for the extreme case (linkbait), but I think it has more subtle effects throughout as well.

I think there's another factor that is subtle but powerful: comments are forever. You can't edit or even delete your comments. So unless you really screwed up and convince a mod to delete it for you, that comment's going to be up there attached to your handle. At least for me, that makes me much more careful about what I say. Not that I'm in the habit of deleting or second guessing posts after the fact on HN or elsewhere, but the awareness that you're chiseling in stone makes for a different mindset.

The pattern of 'direct discursive activity elsewhere rather than suppress', as exhibited by a secondary less-moderated forum like MetaTalk, is a tactic I believe is underused. It can be used to tuck away the hypercritical/nitpicky subthreads; the jokey subthreads; the meta/rule-debating subthreads; the eternal rathole subthreads; etc. And in so doing gets some value for (and from) the participants who want to go there, while avoiding the sting and signal-loss that comes with complete censure.

Agreed. I'm surprised you didn't mention that it costs a nominal fee ($5 or $10, IIRC) to join. I've always imagined that prevents issues with multiple sock puppets and trolls and whatnot. If a mod deletes your account for abuse, it's not free to spin up a new one.

Also, having a conversation is pretty much impossible if there are a lot of comments, mainly because the comments are linear. If you want to catch replies to your comments, you need to read everything or search for your username (hoping they included it).

I always hoped that Mefi would go threaded, but the current way is clearly the desired mode. It's also the reason I don't really look at the comments on Mefi anymore.

Metafilter comments sections are still very often worth reading, but the lack of threading means the conversation is always moving somewhere, and going back to reply to someone 15 comments up is less likely. The upside to this is that it favors newer comments, unlike reddit/hn, which favor upvoted comments (which are often the oldest).

I prefer linear comments. I have four open tabs with Mefi posts in them right now. Every once in a while I will reload the tabs and I can easily see what was added since the last time I refreshed.

With nested comments I have to go back and dig for new stuff. This is why I read the comments on HN, Reddit, and slashdot exactly once unless I added a comment and want to see if there was a reply.

And I don't comment much.

My submission would be for:


A lot of the main sequences of material (http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Sequences) there were written by a Hacker News member, Eliezer Yudkowsky. But it's also a great living community (like here), with new stuff constantly being added.

So I've been there a couple of times, mostly via HN, and I had this odd experience of being unable to place the site somewhere in my internal onthology of web communities. Forum? Wiki? Blog? Scifi? Psychology? Religion? Agnostics? Atheists?

This provides some meta information, though I have no idea whether it's accurate: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/LessWrong

I think a reasonable classification of LessWrong would be a forum-blog combination; it's mostly made up of agnostics & atheists, but this is not at all a focus.

The RationalWiki article is reasonably accurate, I think (speaking as someone who hangs around on LessWrong a bit), none of it is obviously untrue, although there is a bit of "undue weight" given to some things (i.e. the some of things mentioned only come up occasionally, especially the more negative things in the Ugly and Bad sections). It is even edited[1] by LessWrong regulars (e.g. David Gerard, Gwern and Ciphergoth), and not at all as vandalism, they all seem to have added both positive and negative material.

[1]: http://rationalwiki.org/w/index.php?title=LessWrong&acti...

How about the Economist (http://www.economist.com)? By far the most intellectual and globally-oriented news website I'm aware of.

It's OK if you filter out the Neo-classical economics and free (unregulated) markets are good bias. I haven't read it much since 2008 though so it may have changed tack but I doubt it.


I've been reading Steve Keen's blog and he makes much more sense than other prominent economists. He was one of the few to predict the crash with a model which can actually generate crashes unlike many of the standard economic models. If anyone can point me to some well argued criticism of his theory I would be very interested. I'm not sure about all his proposed remedies to prevent bubbles though, jubilee shares at least feels wrong to me at some level.

This was my impression when I read it regularly years ago. My close friend now reads it cover to cover every issue and based on our conversations in which he references the Economist, either he is misinterpreting it, or they are very Keynesian now.

[EDIT] Do Keynesians call themselves Keynesian?

There has been a significant shift in the political slant of the Economist during the past 5 years. They continue to be the best coverage of meaningful global political and economic issues that I know of.

I've been reading The Economist for 10 years and I haven't noticed any shift. I read it because they bring me facts that no other news organization that I am aware of can bring me. They are certainly very smart and have a good network of sources. They're also biased towards unregulated markets. I'm a capitalist for sure but unregulated markets are a big problem. I will say I've never forgiven them for cheerleading the Iraq War and then publishing an oblique and weasel-worded come-down in about 2008.

I agree with some of this...with a key proviso. They are not 'die-hard unfettered market proselytizers'. For instance, they strongly favor "Obama Care" - maybe not in its entirety and in the EXACT way that it has turned out, but they generally favor the idea of a government created program that creates an exchange for all insurance companies to compete for everybody. They also acknowledge, as the law does, that in order for more people to get coverage and the cost of health care to be tamed, the number of uninsureds has to be decreased significantly - including using fines and subsidies.

That stance is quint-essential Economist, based on my experience of reading them cover to cover - weekly - for the last 5 years.

They do have a free-market, lightly-regulated bias...but they are pragmatic when they need to be, and for that I love them.

Without getting into too much politics, people tend to forget how nuanced the 'Iraq War' decision was at the time. Obama has done a good job of summarizing it into a nice 'sound byte'. The war in Iraq is a "dumb war". The notion there that the outcome was so obvious that it shouldn't have been chosen. What many forget is that post-9/11, the intelligence community was indeed split. The UN SEC actually voted in favor of stricter sanctions and harsher actions against Saddam - if he didn't publicly state that he had no WMDs.

It's easy to say Bush knew there were no WMDs in Iraq and he was going there just for oil, but that's a cynical (and non-nuanced view) of the context of the time.

As Peter Bergen pointed out in his latest book Man Hunt, the decision for Obama to go to Abbottabad for Bin Laden was based on more circumstantial evidence than the decision for Bush to go to Iraq. Granted, the operations were different in scale - but that alone speaks to the fact that the decision to go to Iraq was supported by faulty intelligence.

Assuming that Bush had mal-intent and "knew" there were no WMD in Iraq - but was going just to avenge his father or w/e other story (disregarding everything else) is ridiculous at best.

One simple question I always pose to people when they make such statements about Iraq is...if Bush knew there were no WMDs in Iraq, why would he use that as a pretext when he would obviously be either right or wrong? It's not as if they can "plant" WMDs. It's either they will find it, or not. There is no middle ground.

So either he will be a hero, or he will be zero. He staked his entire presidency on that decision. He knew that when the presidency is done, he would just have his legacy. His entire legacy would be defined by that decision. There is no way, any rational president/person would make such a decision lightly and frivolously.

He would have been better off using the fact that Saddam has slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Kurds, or something else that is more 'ambiguous' that he can't REALLY be held accountable for.

Finding WMDs is a key tangible accountability metric.

So the fact The Economist was also a proponent of the Iraq War is just further proof as to the ambiguity in the intelligence community at the time of the decision - and how difficult such a decision was.

Thank you for the thoughtful reply marcamillion. The Iraq War subject definitely riles people and I try to stick to the facts.

First, with regards to The Economist's position on markets, they are humanists and they care about social welfare. I approve. Yet they still call for further deregulation and resist "populist" regulation to address very serious systemic faults exposed by the financial crisis. If you are going to be a capitalist you need fair market rules, and I see them as wavering in their commitment to that in practice by relying too much on economic theory that does not correspond to the facts on the ground. In particular the "rational markets" hypothesis and the idea that bankers' self interest is sufficient to prevent crisis in the markets.

With regards to the Iraq War, I do not and did not see it as ambiguous. Look at the number of false statements made by the Bush administration[1], the way that intelligence was reported to senior decision makers[2], and the flagrant propaganda regarding links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. Look at the inflated "45 minute" claim[3] and the use of intelligence from "Curveball"[4], a known fabricator. This is not an administration building a case for a necessary war. It's an administration that decided to go to war scraping together a justification. I definitely don't think it as simple as "we want oil". I do believe (but obviously cannot prove) that Dick Cheney cynically manipulated the intelligence to make a case for a war that he personally profited from through his business holdings in contractors such as Haliburton.

Finally, the Iraq War was very clearly a disaster as early as 2004. The Economist continued publishing leaders that said, essentially, "X and Y are horrible outcomes from the war, but if we just pursue strategy Z we can turn this around." They kept saying that for years and they were very much in the wrong. They have never come out and published a leader saying "we were wrong" or "we should have stopped supporting the war in 200X". Yet they published numerous leaders in the run up to the war. This asymmetry and inability to admit a mistake in hindsight is what I can't forgive.

1. http://articles.cnn.com/2008-01-23/politics/bush.iraq_1_inte...

2. http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2003/10/27/031027fa_fact

3. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/3466005.stm

4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curveball_(informant)

There are also other reasons for going to war that go beyond personal gain, that have to do with the context of the time:

* A desire to focus people's ire and attention at a specific target * The unity of purpose that creating such a target can bring * It also aligns with the Republican party's political strategy of causing division to support their agenda: "Are you saying you don't support the troops?"

I find it telling that many people criticizing the war felt compelled to pre-face their statements with "I support the troops, but...". Having a Us vs Them dichotomy strongly favors certain groups, and the Republicans have always had strong ties with the military establishment.

It need not stretch into a specific Cheney wants to profit from Haliburton scenario. It's just as simple to say that their ideology supports and favors military intervention, their preferred method of action involves military retaliation and their "social network" (supporters, voters, etc...) would benefit or support such an intervention.

Thank you for your reply also....let's take a step back and go back to the context of what we are talking about.

9/11 is the first time that a terrorist attack, of that scale, has hit American shores since Pearl Harbor. For better or worse, it happened on Bush's watch. The fact is, that single action would forever define his presidency. Which president wants to have the "honor" of being in charge when the largest terrorist attack in decades strikes the country? What is the #1 role of a president? Commander-in-chief. So before even passing any social legislation, their job is to lead the armed forces and protect the homeland.

Now, put yourself in his shoes. Sept 18th, 2001 - after everything has sunk in that 3000+ Americans were killed in NY and the economy is on the precipice. You know, beyond the shadow of a doubt that there are existing threats out there. Dictators and other leaders that have explicitly said they would like to do harm to America.

Also consider, that post-9/11, who was being blamed? Bush was. After all, in August 2001, he got a NIE briefing saying that Bin Laden was interested in hijacking commercial airliners and attacking US targets (along with MANY other threat vectors). It so happened that one was accurate. People are blaming him for not doing anything before 9/11, but anyone that understands security will know that it is unreasonable to expect that you can/should follow-up every lead, and address every single rumor/threat. It is literally impossible. Not enough resources.

So the question is, now that you know that a) you were warned, b) clearly people are capable of striking, and c) there are people that you know that would love to capitalize on this...do you just sit by and do nothing?

Yes, I know the argument can be made that he should have escalated the war in Afghanistan - I agree with that assessment....but the fact of the matter is that for decades, Saddam had WMD (or WMD producing capabilities and the intent to produce weapons). He also has used biological and chemical weapons on his own people no less - and he went to great lengths to mislead UN inspectors about his program. Why did he do that? Because he was afraid of Iran....his REAL enemy.

He had to let Iran believe that he had WMD (or those capabilities) to prevent an unprovoked attack.

So knowing all of that, having enough evidence that (granted, was not as much as you would want for a declaration of war on the scale of the Iraq war) seems to lead you to believe that Saddam is actually doing what he says he is doing (and not misleading you)...and in the paranoid climate of being fearful that America will be attacked again, it's not hard to see Bush officials 'stretching the truth' - because they would rather be safe than sorry.

Also, keep in mind that many other politicians had access to the same evidence and the resolution to go to war had to be passed by both houses of congress. They were [1] by large majorities - 297 Yay, 143 Nay in the House, 77 yay 23 Nay in the Senate. They all had access to the same intelligence briefings that Bush had access to.

It's easy for the UN or the Security Council to not vote for such a large action because a) they weren't attacked, and b) it would be costly and politically difficult for them to do. Plus for countries like Saudi Arabia, and Russia, it's bad for business and their exports (oil and gas).

So my point is, given the climate...the intelligence community was divided. Some journalists were for, others were against. Policymakers were responsible for "appearing" to keep America safe. Knowing full well that Saddam wants to attack America and has WMD...the only thing worse than a 9/11 is a biological/chemical/nuclear attack on American soil.

If that ever happened, Bush would never live it down.

P.S. I just thought I should point out two things...a) I am an Obama supporter, but I was also a Bush supporter...so be that what it's worth, b) It is hilarious how much Obama bashed Bush for the Iraq war and Gitmo and renditions and all this stuff, and Obama has intensified many of these programmes and increased them. I read somewhere, can't remember where, that in the first few months of Obama's administration he did more drone strikes than the entire 8 years of Bush's presidency. So, as much as he sounded like a "peacetime" President - what is clear is that even the most ardent "anti-war" candidates, when they get the mantle and realize that THEY (and they alone) will be held responsible for the security of the country...they tend to act differently than their pre-mantle rhetoric would suggest that they act.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joint_Resolution_to_Authorize_t...

What I like about the Economist is that they are not afraid of changing tack mid-way through if it turns out that the facts or circumstances have changed, making their position untenable.

In Europe, particularly the UK where the Economist is from, they are considered Liberals (classical Liberalism) and much of their social and fiscal agenda is nowhere near as "right" as the "right-wing" in America; in fact, they're probably more left than even the Democrats in many ways. Humanist, indeed.

I admit, I'm not as tapped in as I was two years ago, but, do you ever read The Christian Science Monitor?

Almost everyone seems to be a Keynesian now, hence quantitative easing but I'm not sure they all take that description.

There are a number of different branches that do claim Keynes' legacy including New Keynesians, and Post Keynesians. The Post Keynesians seem to be least accepted by the mainstream but perhaps best aligned with reality.

With some exceptions: http://www.economist.com/node/21558220 Hardly a 'slip'.

It also has an agenda (basically, globalist, pro-EU etc) which is easy to miss if you are overly-impressed by the intellectual veneer. That said, my favourite Economist contribution to the world of letters is the Big Mac index, which is rather clever.

I've never thought their agenda was subtle, or that they make any attempt to conceal it - The Economist is full of statements like "this magazine has long argued for" or "this would be a mistake" when referring to a policy or idea.

You might not agree with their viewpoint but they don't hide it.

It's the british journalistic tradition: every magazine or newspaper openly establishes the fact that it has certain assumptions, and then argues from there. There is no "unbiased" source when it comes to politics/economics. You'll notice that the pure empiricists do not have opinions on macroeconomics.

It's only in America that certain news organizations pretend to be unbiased arbiters.

> It's only in America that certain news organizations pretend to be unbiased arbiters.

I don't think that's only an American phenomenon. For example, Germany's Der Spiegel is somewhat famous for projecting a neutral/serious/nonpartisan image (though it also gets criticized for that).

Der Spiegel is also a magazine which is famous for a rather strong shift in their agenda. ( And a somewhat good example for the dangers of not declaring a policy viewpoint of a news source. )


While it may be true that it's impossible for a newspaper to be completely unbiased, that doesn't mean this is not the ideal they should strive to. Just like it's not possible to have completely bug-free code, but you shouldn't give up fixing bugs because of that. If engineers assumed from the get go that their code will be buggy, that would simply mean lowering their standards, giving themselves an excuse to be lazy. I imagine it's similar with news organizations, if they set out to provide biased reporting, then they will be happy to gloss over or justify much more glaring abuses of reason than if objective information was their goal.

Anecdotally, I see this opinion (that unbiased reporting is impossible, so why not have journals be openly partisan) mostly coming from people who themselves hold pretty extreme political views. It's almost as if the level of liberal/conservative bias they feel most comfortable with was so high that they couldn't pretend, even to themselves, that their sources are objective, and they deal with the cognitive dissonance by saying that it's OK since no source is completely objective.

But American media takes it to the absurd. Every article becomes unchewable piece of "he said, she said" you have to fish out fact from with the microscope. They can't say "day was sunny", they would say, "Joe Farmer said that the day was sunny after observing it for few hours".

It's entirely possible to have completely bug-free code, that's how we have complex systems that work, including planes that don't fall out of the sky (some of this is based on formal proofs and verification, expensive but it can me done). Further, the assumption that your code will be buggy (at some point) is not a lowering of standards but crucial to ensuring that you're vigilant in both analysis and testing.

Having said all that I think the code is a poor analogy, as where a function or module usually has an agreed correct behaviour or outcome the same is not often true in the real world, and the things that get reported on are often those that are most disagreed-upon.

Yes, but the situation is reversed in television/radio news: the BBC is a pillar of objectivity, and the US market is dominated by cable news talking heads yelling at each other.

The BBC isn't really a pillar of objectivity. It's coverage of Israel is poor, and it seems to copy the Guardian's line on most other subjects.

hardly. al jazeera tries to be objective, a lot of people from bbc work there now.

I don't know about that, the biased stuff is pretty obvious.

For example, they ran a cover article a few months back about the poor helpless souls in the City of London and how the big bad bankers from other places were challenging them. I found myself laughing at one point.

They are the best source of international news. My biggest issue with it is that reading it is time-consuming, and the weekly cadence is relentless.

I'm not really talking about the 'biased' stuff - they take anonymous contributions from all kinds of people so there are bound to be articles that one considers biased, simply because of this. What I'm referring to is a subtle pro-globalist agenda which contributors from all political backgrounds can unite around. The archetypical UK example is the pro-EU Conservative/mainstream Lib Dem/New Labour group that considers national politics to be a parochial irrelevance to be replaced by supranational institutions. The embodiment of this group is probably (now Lord) Peter Mandleson.

They don't take anonymous outside contributions, as least, not without putting their name in the byline (rendering the anonymous bit incorrect); they do publish their articles under pseudonyms -- like Babbage, Bagehot, etc. -- or initials only, as they feel the article and author represent the entire magazine and not just the views of the journalist who wrote the piece.

On the other hand, for mainland EU reader, it has a very liberal ("british") bias :)

So I guess the truth is in the middle.

yep agenda is obvious like you said globalist and banksters pro

None. I love some websites like Hacker News, Quora, etc. for the knowledge content they give me, but none of them are nearly as intellectually stimulating as a book. There's something about focusing on a topic for hours at a time that leads me to understand it much better than if I spend the same amount of time in smaller chunks.

Seconding this, except I learned the hard way that (1) there is a world of difference between books, such that reading the best ones may end up being one the greatest things to ever happen to you, and reading some of the less good ones can arguably make you less smart than you were before you started reading, that (2) someone else's opinion is not always the best way to determine which book is good, and that (3) the selection one reads while in school is often biased to fulfill pedagogic purposes, so one has to do some independent searching.

Also Dan Piponi's blog (http://blog.sigfpe.com/) is pretty good if you're Haskell hacker, but in that case you probably already heard about it.

I came across his post about psychological effects of learning category theory[1]. As someone who has just started learning category theory, I am a bit alarmed since I sort of experience these symptoms. Anyone has thoughts about this?

[1] http://blog.sigfpe.com/2006/03/category-theory-screws-you-up...


Arts and Letters Daily collects links to a variety of interesting articles, mostly from the humanities.


Don't forget the nicer UI at litlet.com

Quora! The question and answer site: Here's a great example:

Question: Engineering Management: Why are software development task estimations regularly off by a factor of 2-3?

Answer: http://www.quora.com/Engineering-Management/Why-are-software...

Exploring, reading, writing, upvoting, and commenting on great question and answers from all sorts of subjects, has helped me learn a lot. The people there are great too, with many lending expert knowledge you wouldn't see elsewhere.

How did http://Edge.org miss the list

Is it just me or is that list a bit too shallow?

It's one of the top level comments: http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/tmtd4/what_are_th...

The list at the top of the page is perfunctory, the rest of the top-level comments are meant to add to it.

I like the edge but there RSS feed is so terrible that I gave up reading it.

Do yourself an enormous favor and subscribe via email. I recognize the friction, and I understand why this may keep Edge from shooting to the top of lists like these. But in terms of actual content it's unparalleled.

http://marginalrevolution.com and http://kottke.org are both longtime favorites of mine, featuring interesting content ranging from economics to food to philosophy to art...

I'll tag http://www.overcomingbias.com also on here

good links. i would suggest brad delong's blog, too:


and paul kedrosky's infectious greed:


i wish this blog was more updated, the book was very fun to read:


a bigger note, though, is that to be stimulated we need to go beyond our comfort zones, both in terms of intellectual or academic comfort ("i'll never understand this stuff") or opinions and viewpoints. finding such material is easier than ever, but avoiding it is just as easy. the trick to growing and learning is to grow your experiences meaningfully.

If you want a secret tip to exploring a new world, download Papers (http://www.mekentosj.com/papers/), put all the interesting publications you find in one Dropbox folder, and import them. The annotation and note features - as well as the back-up option - makes this a really enjoyable way to publications.

It really is something to read papers that define the way we think, and it's a nice alternative to short blog posts and (pop) articles versus (pop) books.

Here are some papers to get you started:

\* 'I've Got Nothing to Hide' and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=0998565

\* Broken Promises of Privacy: Responding to the Surprising Failure of Anonymization: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/Papers.cfm?abstract_id=1450006

\* A technique for isolating differences between files: http://ejohn.org/projects/javascript-diff-algorithm/

\* A Future-Adaptable Password Scheme: http://static.usenix.org/events/usenix99/provos.html

Maybe this is cheating, maybe it isn't, but I definitely recommend it.


If you want to get political, some left-of-centre-leaning writers you can't go wrong with:

1. Matt Taibbi on Wall Street, Rolling Stone (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog)

2. Frank Rich in American politics, now at New York Magazine (https://twitter.com/frankrichny)

3. Glenn Greenwald on civil liberties and foreign policy, in moderation (http://www.salon.com/writer/glenn_greenwald/)

4. Juan Cole on the Middle East, in moderation (http://www.juancole.com/)

5. Lawyers, Guns, and Money (http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/)

6. The New Yorker's long-form articles. (I find their blog posts to be really poor, by any standards.) Also, ditch the Malcolm Gladwell articles.

Slightly OT, but the "Nothing to Hide"/Privacy article is yet another example of "how not to write an abstract":

>In this short essay, written for a symposium in the San Diego Law Review, Professor Daniel Solove examines the nothing to hide argument. When asked about government surveillance and data mining, many people respond by declaring: "I've got nothing to hide." According to the nothing to hide argument, there is no threat to privacy unless the government uncovers unlawful activity, in which case a person has no legitimate justification to claim that it remain private. The nothing to hide argument and its variants are quite prevalent, and thus are worth addressing. In this essay, Solove critiques the nothing to hide argument and exposes its faulty underpinnings.

In other words, "there's a common argument out there, and I'm gonna refute it". Does that help me decide whether to read the paper? No, because it gives no hint about specific part of the argument it's going to refute, or what "underpinning" it's going to claim is "faulty".

This kind of crap is extremely prevalent in abstracts, and in people's ability to summarize and justify recommendations.

+1 for Juan Cole, he was my professor in undergrad, and it was one of the most insightful college classes I've ever had.

Is that a typo on their page ? It says "Papers Livfe Share your collection with colleagues and peers, discover new papers, collaborate." in the bottom right call out boxes.

Bummer, no Linux support for papers.

Nice, thanks!

What's wrong with Malcolm Gladwell?

He tends to be more of a stream of consciousness writer than an ideas man.

My recollection of reading him is he doesn't build an argument from premise to conclusion, but implies an argument by stringing together perhaps unrelated anecdotes and studies.

Personally, I don't mind his style. It's entertaining, but he has a tendency to draw some ridiculous conclusions by drawing a few lines between here and there. I prefer his New Yorker articles over his books, though, which tend to merely repeat his thesis over and over.

Why would this be cheating? (Maybe I am misunderstanding something?)

The papers aren't technically websites, but publications. I felt it would slightly out of the purview of the question, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

Left-of-centre implies someone moderate like Obama. Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald are much more to the left than "left-of-centre"

Outside of the US frame of reference, Obama is very much a conservative, and Democrat policies would happily work in right-wing parties. Obama is definitely not a moderate when viewed in a global sense.

Do you really imagine that someone trying to set up mandatory EU-wide health insurance in the EU would be considered "conservative" in Europe? Notwithstanding that "conservative" means very different things, depending on which part of Europe you are in.

The idea that there is an objective left-right scale, and that the US is skewed far right compared to the rest of the world is a myth.

Personally, I tend to the definitions: left - pretends to be caring; right - pretends to be competent.

Nice reframing. Yes, if said person was taking away the socialised healthcare that's already in place across much of Europe and replacing it with the much more business-friendly version promoted by the Democrats, they absolutely, positively would be seen as being what we term 'conservative' (or right wing anologue - in Russia, they are reversed, apparently).

I doubt that the Democratic political culture would be considered conservative anywhere in Western Europe: they do the normal leftist thing of trying to build power through coalitions of victim groups, trying to raise taxes on the rich, and so forth.

I can assure you that in the UK, replacing the NHS with an EU-wide health care system would not be seen as conservative, whether you see it as "pro business" or not.

What policies of the Democratic party do you think would be considered conservative?

The posts are excruciatingly long, but fascinating and thought-provoking whether you agree or not:


TheBrowser (http://thebrowser.com/) collects the best long form articles from around the web every day.

It's definitely worth checking out, it's one of my favorite web sites.

for long articles I visit http://longreads.com/ and http://longform.org/

Thanks for the link to longreads! I've been reading longform for a couple months now and absolutely love it. The articles may take 20-30 minutes to read, but it feels so much more fulfilling than skimming over all the image macro memes you get exposed to on things like reddit and facebook news feeds.

You may also want to try ‘The Feature’ (formerly known as ‘Give Me Something To Read’):


The longreads email is fantastic. A weekly selection of 5 non-fiction articles, a fiction recommendation and a link from a reader.

This is slightly off-topic but I thought I'd ask HN's opinion on an intellectual website idea I have.

I want to call it "intellegacy", for "intellectual legacy"

I really enjoy reading insightful essays and comments on the internet, and thought it'd be cool to have a website with all kinds of intellectuals with their own pages on it where I could read their essays, see a list of their books, and have conversations with them.

I envision scientists, artists, politicians all interacting on the site. For example, Neil de Grasse Tyson could post his blogs or essays there, and fans of his could get a summary of all his work, books, and what he's currently working on or reading.

Besides the goal of intellectuals having their own space to publish their insights, I also want the public to be able to read and learn on a clearly organized website, by taking their time. Maybe this isn't good for pageviews, but on other websites the content refreshes so quickly that a lot of insights are lost in the shuffle.

The grand vision is to be a huge library of insights, clearly organized and that can be read by anyone who wishes to learn and follow the thought leaders in our world.

We could "best-of" the best debates and discussions and future generations could read everything.

This could be very useful. From what I've seen of most intellectuals' personal sites, they are generally not that interested in putting too much work into a website for their material, they just want it on the internet so that it can be referenced and read. If you can make a functional, good looking, and easy to update site like this, it would be of great benefit to everyone involved. Readers get easy access to material, and intellectuals get an easy place to put their work and self promote.

I'd use something like this, but there's the chicken & egg problem. Thing is: the content already exists, but it's spread and fractured across the net. Try making a content aggregator first, with a layer of UI + comments on top, then slowly introduce your own "hosting".

Also: how is this different from a subreddit?

I like this idea. It'll be difficult to convince the best and brightest to start using your site when they have their pick of the entire internet. Tell them that you have a space already prepared for them, with a curated list of all their previous work... might make it more tempting for them to add to it.

And don't call it "intellegacy." When I read it the first time I pronounced it "intellajesse" because I was thinking of "intelligent", then I re-read it as "intel, legacy."

Thank you very much for your comment. The name is now 0/3. Heh.

Will let HN know when the site is launched.

on another note, I will probably need to change my HN username soon :)

I'm willing to do all the work to get the content even if I have to grab the first 1000 pages of content manually.

From that content I want to provide my own summaries and some "clippings" of the originals. But i'm worried about copyright / or stealing of other's work; I know blogs repost content all the time (well usually not the entire article. hopefully not) but I'm just wondering how people will react if I take their insights and "reorganize" them on my site.

I like it and wish such a thing existed (though not sure about the name). I once had a similar idea (sadly never pursued) and planned to call it www.gmuts.org (for: "get me up to speed").

What is it about usability guys and their shitty, shitty websites?

That Tufte page is a wall of red (and red underlined!) smashed together links. Just needs an Under Construction sign and a starfield background. [I'm certain the content is very good - I enjoy reading/listening to Tufte.]

I remember reading an article from usability guru Donald Norman a few years ago, another person whom I respect and enjoy reading. His (awesome) article was all about how aesthetics matter and are a key part not just of being beautiful, but about being usable. I wrote him an email asking (nicely) why his webpage containing that article was so ugly and had such poor typography, then; he promptly wrote back saying that it'd take too much time to format it nicely when there's too much to do already. sigh

Nielsen's site may not be a thing of beauty, but 1) it works, 2) it's usable, and 3) it is unchanged in style from when it first appeared.

How many sites can make the same claim: that they created a design and it has worked for 17 years of Web evolution?

It's a tour de force of Neilsen's key message: usability is design, and it works.

You mean like this? http://www.useit.com/

I would make a distinction between designers and researchers in the field. The researchers and scholars, almost without fail, seem to care the least about their own website aesthetics.

I'm shocked that no one has mentioned http://youarenotsosmart.com/

> The central theme of You Are Not So Smart is that you are unaware of how unaware you are. There is branch of psychology and an old-but-growing body of research with findings that suggest you have little idea why you act or think the way you do. Despite this, you continue to create narratives to explain your own feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, and these narratives – no matter how inaccurate – become the story of your life.

You Are Not So Smart not only features great content, but it's also written in a very readable and understandable style. He also links to multiple high quality sources for every article. His pace has slowed down now that he's finished his book, but the backlog is well worth reading.

http://projecteuler.net/ made me try so many different programming languages just for fun.

I seem to be in the minority here, but I've never really understood the love for Project Euler problems for programming. From the ones I did, it was far more focussed on math and abstract problem solving. I guess that will help you understand how to do basic things: looping/recursion, and conditionals, but to me problems that involve things like user interfaces, visualization, IO or the way you structure your code are far more interesting.

Project Euler reminds me of when I did computational fluid dynamics (CFD) for a while. From a programming standpoint, a lot of CFD is fairly simple--the place where CFD methods really differentiate themselves is in their modeling of the underlying physics. From that standpoint, I wouldn't really advocate doing CFD as a way of learning to program, because being a great programmer isn't really the thing that will make you great at doing CFD—being great at math and modeling is. (On the other hand, if someone wants to get into physics modeling or simulation, CFD is quite fun and satisfying.)

All I ever did was bruteforce through the most disgusting and hacky ways imaginable. I converted strings to numbers, let loops run for gazillion times and broke everything. I just used the tasks to make me try the lowest basics of languages.

Its not for everyone. I think the reason that a lot of programmers like Project Euler is because a lot of programmers tend to be problem-solvers by nature, mathy and sciency folks, and enjoy doing these sorts of things (especially when they get to use their programming skills in the process). So its more of a correlation in my mind than a direct link.

I seem to be the exact opposite of you (Doing UI makes me want to jump off the nearest tall building. Scientific computation is where its at for me). And its great that our community has a wide range of personalities.

But most Project Euler problems, once you get past the trivial ones (wherein the relevance is straight-up brute forcing), have almost nothing to do with programming.

IMO you'd be better off doing past IOI problems.

I never said they did, and I never said that Project Euler improved your programming skills (I agree with you there)

I was just commenting that IMO the reason that Project Euler comes up often in discussions amongst programmers is because many programmers tend to be the type of people that enjoy Project Euler style problems.

You should check out sites like TopCoder [0] or UVa's online judge [1]. These sites offer tons of problems that focus more on algorithms and data structures, rather than just number theory and math-based problems like Project Euler - which I find becomes repetitive really fast. These judge sites will have problems ranging in topics such as ad hoc, searching, sorting, greedy, graph theory, geometry, dynamic programming, etc.

If you want to get started, try going through TopCoder's high school competition arena. The problems shouldn't be too bad if you have a good understanding of your languages stdlib and about basic data structures (alternatively, it's probably a great way to learn a new language's stdlib). You basically get a problem statement and just have to fill in a method that performs the computations required with the example inputs. Then you can test it against all the test cases once it passes the example outputs. UVa is similar, except you have to take input from a file and it doesn't tell you what test cases your solution fails on (more like the ACM ICPC style of questions).

I prefer TopCoder more since the focus is all on algorithms (UVa's problems will usually require taking input/producing output in very specific ways, which gets annoying sometimes), and since you can see the top ranked competitors' solutions for previous contents. It helps to review these after you solve a problem to pick up little tricks.

[0] (http://www.topcoder.com/tc) - click the O(n) icon in the top left to start the arena applet. Then go to "Practice Rooms" -> "TCHS" or "SRM" and pick a room. Within each room there should be 3 problems valued based on difficulty.

[1] (http://uva.onlinejudge.org/) - go to "Browse Problems" to view them all, but I find http://uhunt.felix-halim.net/ more useful; just enter your username and it'll suggest problems for you to do next (based on increasing difficulty)

I did a lot of the later Project Euler problems when I was trying to learn Haskell. Getting things to run in a reasonable amount of time without just writing brute force C code was very challenging, and I learned a lot from the discussion sections you get to read after finding the answer.

You really find IO more interesting than problem solving?

A million upvotes for projecteuler. It's a great way to learn some advanced math concepts. It's an even better way to learn programming languages. And I love the challenge/toughness of it.

I expected http://www.3quarksdaily.com/ to be somewhere near the top of that list, but it’s nowhere to be found, which really surprised me. It’s one of the most consistently interesting sites on the Internet, if you ask me.

And it even has hooters today.

If you want a challenging economics blog, I'd vote for Marginal Revolution. Tyler Cowen writes on a wide range of interesting economic topics from a unique (libertarian oriented, but minimally ideological and empirically grounded) perspective.

Who else had an attack of elitist "Eternal September" panic and checked if HN was on that list ? I admit I did.

Nobody mentions wikipedia? I think this is one best sites for understanding historical things (amongst others of course).

Wikipedia is like accordions that way.

Wow, Scott Aaronson's blog must be really good to add it to a list that already includes it!

the elders? darn whippersnapper.

Really. Get off our lawn!!!

http://www.butdoesitfloat.com/ is my favorite site when im stuck for inspiration.


Quora (http://quora.com) helps me learn new things every day in all subjects.

One that seems to be missing so far: www.lettersofnote.com. Sometimes, it can be profoundly stimulating.

I mentioned MathOverflow [1] on that post and only one person upvoted it (I wouldn't be too surprised if it were someone I know or at least have heard of, now that I think about it).

[1] http://mathoverflow.net

Here's a personal favorite: http://calnewport.com/blog/, which has been on HN before. The post interval (~2wks to a month) is perfect for to keep me thinking about deliberate practice, learning methods, and being 'too good to ignore'. It's fundamentally changed my outlook on what it means to be smart, and it has in fact encouraged me to pursue a PhD. So, yeah, it's pretty stimulating. Here's a favorite post:


Cal just gave a keynote speech at the World Domination Summit this weekend on 'Why follow your passion is wrong.' His insights and depth are incredible. Highly recommended

"World Domination Summit "? sounds like an interesting conference!

My suggestion isn't quite going to be a link, but here it goes. Get a hobby. Programming, sport, (specific) art, etc. There is a myriad of niche communities for all sorts of things, and I would argue that the more in-depth creative ones are more stimulating than any of the "general-purpose" ones listed here.

My "intellectual stimulation" consists of coming up with or doing things. Sure, self-reflection helps, but more often than not, they're inspired by something I see in a "specialized" community.

Slightly off-topic, but asking "why" helps with self-reflection and creativity.

Not a website per se, but AskScience (http://www.reddit.com/r/askscience) is an amazing place for various science discussions.

Big up vote from me. Also put r/askhistorians on your list.

r/physics can get pretty technical at times, but I've been plowing through most of the posts there for a while now and some of it is starting to sink in.

http://ted.com - the number and quality of ideas there still amazes me. Pretty much every talk can be a start of an interesting, constructive and deep conversation. Almost every video leaves me with a feeling of wonder. Culture at it's highest.

I'm pretty sure everyone on HN knows what TED is, but just in case someone doesn't, here are some of my favourite talks - they show the breadth of the topics covered:

- http://www.ted.com/talks/derek_sivers_weird_or_just_differen... - 2 minutes about how things we thing work in some way may be completely different somewhere else

- http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_and_the_magic_washing_... - how technology really improves lives

- http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/eythor_bender_demos_human_e... - exoskeletons, with wheelchair woman standing and walking live on the scene

- http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/sam_richards_a_radical_expe... - a talk about empathy

And of course, the obligatory one,

- http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/ken_robinson_says_schools_k... - how school kills creativity

> Almost every video leaves me with a feeling of wonder. Culture at it's highest.

Pop culture, yes. There is a whole world of knowledge behind TED's glossy sheen, and that world is found by looking up original sources. Don't read the Wikipedia article on Gödel's incompleteness theorem and stop there. Read On Formally Undecidable Propositions in Principia Mathematica and Related Systems I. It will be hard, but it will be awesome. Don't watch a cool TED talk and immediately show it to all your friends: look up the journal paper the presenter was referencing and actually see what happened. You will find out something along the way.

TED has its place in getting people excited about things, but there is much, much more beyond it. Not all knowledge is packaged in neatly-produced 4 minute feel-good videos. Go explore :).

> Go explore :).

Thanks for the encouragement :).

Of course TED is not a knowledge compendium, it's a starting point - to get excited about some idea, technology or solution, or to start a deep discussion about a particular topic. I always treated it as a "high-level overview"; in cases of topics one knows a bit about it is easy to see how those talks show only surface layer of the topics.

Godel's theorum is incomplete.

someone collected most links mentioned in the comments http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/tmtd4/what_are_th...

Both are full of interesting ideas:



Calculated Risk (http://www.calculatedriskblog.com) - I highly recommend this awesome blog for my fellow HNers - it plays host to great discussions/links/facts on the economy, housing, finance and the global/domestic (US) recovery.

They did a series on the upcoming SF rent/real estate bubble, as well as the return of housing back in early 2012.

The direct links for those who want more detail:





May not quite as high-brow as much of what i've seen listed, but:

Sporcle: http://www.sporcle.com

Just tried that today (thanks to the Reddit list) and it has over 280,000 quizzes ... some of them are surprisingly robust ... including user-submitted ones.

The fifth site on the list (https://www.ifeveryoneknew.com/) of the guy that started that thread is pretty interesting.

The five points listed there are well known and well documented. Those are not crazy unfounded theories.

Yet most people I meet do not believe any of them. Why is that? Cognitive dissonance?

The Long Now Foundation podcast


http://butdoesitfloat.com for visual and conceptual thinking.

The Last Psychiatrist: http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/

The Middle East Media Research Institute translates Arab and Persian news into English. It's fascinating how much it differs from news in the Western world, in style as well as content.


All these are great, but nothing beats http://www.spacecollective.org

Just to give you an example is this book recommendation post


Warning: There is some weird flash thing in the very beginning but just click to continue.

http://hubski.com/ You choose who curates content for you. Posts are shared rather than voted on.

I really like BetterExplained (http://betterexplained.com/). It made me a bit more interested in math, which i never liked.

I also love the whole StackExchange network, especially skeptics (http://skeptics.stackexchange.com). A great way to learn new stuff from common myth.

Here are some others that are interesting:

Vitamin Cr : http://vitamincr.com

Brain pickings: http://www.brainpickings.org/

Synaptic Stimuli: http://synapticstimuli.com/

Timoni's blog: http://blog.timoni.org/

I also recommend http://lesswrong.com/

I agree that hn fits the bill well. It is quite limited in the diversity of topics and type of people, by design.

I've found I also get good mental stimulation by picking free online courses at random. For example Yale University has a brilliant set of lectures on Milton, which I knew very little about prior.

I recommend this as a starting point for finding intellectually stimulating websites: http://www.reddit.com/r/reddit.com/comments/cktxy/reddit_let...

Unqualified Reservations, by our very own Moldbug: http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/

http://mises.org (economics and politics) and http://volokh.com (law)

http://lumosity.com for keeping your mind sharp (costs money, free to test for 3 days)

Alternatively, learn to play blindfold chess. Much more challenging than Lumosity.

Blindfold chess is certainly effective for improving your spacial memory, but why leave it at that? I highly recommend anyone and everyone learn the memory palace technique (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Method_of_loci), which takes advantage of the fact that our spacial memory is vastly superior to our memory for facts, allowing anyone to develop the functional equivalent of a photographic memory. In Moonwalking with Einstein (a really fun and fast autobiographical tutorial on memory), the author Joshua Foer explains how to encode facts into images and then arrange them along spacial layouts to maximize the brain's potential. In convincing my mother to read the book, I had her memorize a 10-item shopping list in about five minutes when she was incredibly tired (which is when her memory and general thinking ability are at their absolute worst), and she still remembers all ten items, in order, to this day.

my favorite news aggregator: scholar.google.com

Thank you, this has to be one of the best thread ever on HN. Good to find interesting stuff other than HN

Casting my vote for http://www.ribbonfarm.com

Hacker News. Simply because it just gifted me this thread, full of intellectual goodness.

How is Quora not on there?

htt://www.lesswrong.com (it was better a few years ago)

futility closet http://futilitycloset.com

Slate.com n famous economists blogs

Hacker News! (just kidding)


www.Thersa.org I particularly like the animate items


Intellectual stimulation is not always a pleasant experience, which tends to make people susceptible to restricting their reading to material with which they broadly agree.

For most HN readers, I'd suggest visiting a site like http://www.vdare.com

reddit is still a great site once you remove the default subreddits and find some of the more active but smaller subreddits. /r/truereddit regularly has in depth articles that are still accessible to a general audience.

Science subreddits with a cognitive barrier to entry like /r/neuro are a great source of news specific their scientific communities. Geographic subreddits such as /r/[yourmetro] are also a great way to keep in touch with the general vibe and events of your city.

www.cracked.com is one for me, seriously

Cracked itself isn't written to intellectually stimulate, but you're right that it can be. Their lists are frequently excellent starting points for Wikipedia/research binges, as they cover a lot of interesting topics. I'm often turned off by their style, but there's no denying that they've covered a lot of interesting things in their articles, albeit usually with a brief summary and a joke.

Putting a little more thought into this, I think good comedy is always intelectually stimulant...

the unusual parallels bend your perception of things, bullshits we all passively accept are mocked full up... its the type of thing that makes you 'think out of the box', see the leaps in stuff, ignore bullshit, etc

so, some stand-up and cracked are on my list on this

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