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_why's site is updated (whytheluckystiff.net)
391 points by feedward on Apr 12, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 135 comments

Amazing that a guy who disappeared almost 4 years ago can make it to the top of Hacker News, more than a few times, just by an obscure change to a basically defunct website.

I think it's pretty safe to say people love why the lucky stiff. He's funny, provocative, mysterious, strange, smart, creative... how could anyone _not_ want to see him back? We need more men & women in the world like _why.

As a corollary, we need more men & women in the world who love and appreciate people like _why, so that people who are like him but are less confident about showing their character in public (or even just to their immediate peers) would be more comfortable with doing so.

In other words, to be more accepting and appreciate of each others' quirks and differences.

It works the other way around. Be who you are first.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

This is a nice message, and I know what you're trying to get at, but this is really just a great example of survivorship bias (history being written by the victors).

It is also a statement of prerequisites. When mounting an effort for major change, rarely does winning come without the other phases.

Although sometimes ignoring comes later, or being ignored is winning.

That's easy for you and I to say, who are (presumably) fairly strong willed in being who we are. But what about our peers who are afraid, right now, in being themselves?

Yes, seeing others shake off the naysayers as they blaze a path of genuine individualism and (positive) weirdness is encouraging, but surely this isn't a binary situation where we can only have one or the other.

What I like are safe zones, such as smaller communities within a larger. The club I run does that (http://www.fvrb.org). We really strive to not only be accepting, but encourage others to take risks and be willing to fail or look foolish.

If someone threatens that safe zone at our club, I remove them. We simply do not tolerate people who are disrespectful to others. That doesn't mean we agree on everything (in fact we argue all the time!) but as long as things remain respectful, and apologies are publicly made when the line is crossed, our club remains healthy.

Smaller communities are, IMHO, the best way to foster growth in those of us with fears about being different.

I'll also speak candidly about this issue, knowing that what I'm going to share will offend some people. If you find religious stuff offensive, please just move on and disregard this comment. This isn't for you.

While it's important for communities to be accepting, I also think it's up to individuals to grow a tougher skin. Chuck Swindoll does the best job I've heard to describe this http://www.insightforliving.ca/broadcast/lifetrac/thick-skin

"I also think it's up to individuals to grow a tougher skin"

What makes this line of thinking so utterly useless is that you can't force someone to "toughen up" versus bullies/assholes if they lack the capacity at a particular point in time. The attitude only empowers the bullies and assholes.

Having a thick skin isn't sufficient. Simply patiently explaining your position to people who are being hostile (eg: my previous experience on HN) doesn't do anything more than make them form up into mobs and start pursuing you and harassing you. (Seriously, everything from blatant name calling, to finding personal revelations in past comments and then posting them publicly to be mocked... ok I'm a minority, I should feel bad about that? Mocking me for being a minority was massively upvoted, while me asking why this was tolerated here was downvoted.)

Eventually, I find this site to be too much to waste time on, and simply left. (I doubt this account will last more than a day anyway.)

This site has a narrow minded and intolerant culture. (And those who are within the range of whats "Acceptable" think that its quite the opposite so they never see it.) This culture knows that it can call people names, attack them personally, dig up private information and harass them and get away with it because there will be no punishment-- since they all vote each other up in their game of "smear the queer".

This is, of course, why they do it. Hounding those who are different into leaving until you have an ideologically pure little "community".

Meanwhile the moderators of this site hellban people for the "crime" of linking to a scientific paper that disagrees with global warming (since this is a leftist site, obviously, if you disagree with global warming you're not part of the realm of people where "tolerance" applies.)

And so the people who are different leave, the "community" sits around and congratulates itself on how tolerant it is, never recognizing how completely homogenous it is.

> Meanwhile the moderators of this site hellban people for the "crime" of linking to a scientific paper that disagrees with global warming

Hellbans are not always moderator implemented. Usually hellbans are the result of people downvoting. Since climate change denialism is usually bullshit I can understand why that kind of link gets many down votes.

The other stuff sounds horrible, and surprising, and I'm sad if your account of it is accurate. For what it's worth I've seen personal attacks heavily downvoted, and I've seen homosexual-positive comments upvoted.

  This site has a narrow minded and intolerant culture.
Perhaps... I am not sure I agree, but I did not have your experience. I did, however, notice that people sometimes react more to the style and less to the substance of what has been said. Which is remarkable considering how much effort is usually spent on focusing on the substance. I suppose we are all human.

It is fairly homogenous, in that it's made up of mostly men with a strong engineering/computing/scientific bent. I've not seen people react that violently to anything, though. You must have either said something that stirred people up a lot, or you may be overreacting. It's almost certainly not due to your status as some sort of minority.

I agree with you, having a thicker skin is not sufficient, but to me it's not either/or, it's both/and. We need better communities and people with thicker skins. Sometimes things can become so evil and caustic, no skin in the world is thick enough to endure it. That's when it's necessary to leave.

HN is probably too large of a community to improve the vitriol that sometimes flows here. I like what http://lobste.rs is trying to do, where you need a recommend to submit and post.

Don't let the haters win! Let's keep trying.

I agree you have to pick your battles on HN. You have to realize, however, that it comes with the nature of the animal that the progressive left is much more outspoken and mob like in their views. There are more people that agree with you than you realize, it's just that few of them bother to make it public.

Still, if true, it is sad to see it on HN.

For a tolerant, civil, agreeable collection of intelligent human beings who are interested in perusing anti-global warming literature while taking your throbbing martyr complex into nuanced account at every step of the way, please navigate to about:blank. It loads a hell of a lot faster than HN.

To start, practice not comparing your insides to other peoples' outsides.

Everyone else is just as afraid as you are. They're just better practiced at not making decisions based on fear.

Decision making & your emotions are always at odds. Learn to make decisions based on reality instead of the way you feel, and you'll start to see the world in a very different light.


Who's this guy _why? (also known as why the lucky stiff):




The site http://whytheluckystiff.net is being hosted on GitHub under this account:



The git repo for the site has seen activity today, and has sparked conversation:



The site is serving up files in PCL:



Here are the contents of these files converted from PCL into images:






Any idea on what the erased bit on DESOLEE is after the end? Looks very clearly like something was written there, but I can't make it out.. something about 'three' or maybe 'there'.

See https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5017921 - still not sure, but might help you out

It looks like "three re.... paper jam those ...ogh ....." to me.

I wrote a little blog post in tribute to why, "Nobody Knows Why": http://www.sfcgeorge.co.uk/posts/2013/04/19/nobody-knows-why

The post also links to an updated PDF compendium of all _why's recent documents. All rotated and in the correct order (maybe). Bursting with _whyness.

How did you find out which github account hosted the site?

I found it by searching for "DESOLEE"

GitHub's search or Google's search? I was only able to find it using Google and "site:github.com DESOLEE"

github's. You have to click to search code on the left, but then it is the first result. https://github.com/search?q=desolee&ref=cmdform&type...

If I had to find the repo, I'd use code search. It's pretty handy.

Very exciting: "It's very difficult to advertise one's self from exile - am I crazy to think it can be done?"

Other people have been uploaded it, but for the sake of completeness (edit window on parent expired):


the second image uses the word "exile" several times. Exile is typically associated with being cast out from one's group. The _why saga was before my time as a Rubyist but I always thought he vanished, i.e. left on his own accord.

Was there an "exile" event that I am not aware of? Or does anyone know what he's talking about?

I can't think of any specific "exile event", but it did seem some time before he left that there was a trend in the Ruby/Rails community that made him feel unwelcome. That trend was "replace why's libraries and make noise about how his library wasn't any good".

Hpricot in particular was under heavy assault. I'll be the first to say that maybe it wasn't always the most performant solution, but for a long time it was the only good solution (and I tried a few). So when people are ripping your libraries left and right, forgetting to pay a little bit of respect to how big an impact he had on the community, then yeah...I could see how he'd feel the need for a self-imposed exile.

While I've never followed either of the stories that closely, isn't that fairly similar to what happened with Zed Shaw? Only in Zed's case he ended up finding a happy home in the Python community vs. completely disappearing from the face of the earth forever.

His software ended up being too good, actually. It made other people feel embarrassed.

Not really.

Zed (his real name? Seems like one) became famous by putting on a loud obnoxious persona, plus complaining that people used his work (mongrel) without appreciating him.

Why (not his real name!) became famous for his work's weirdness. And his "enemies" disliked how capricious and weird his work was, not the sort of thing to build a Real Serious Business on. and he fled from the public eye into self-imposed exile when people started piercing his intentional veil of anonymity.

I always thought that sucked. Its easy to take something that exists and make it better. Its damn hard to decide that something should exist in the first place and give it a try.

Like X only betterer is the ghetto of the technically talented but uncreative.

"But Mr. Ford, we already have a method for building horseless carriages, why would you develop a new one?"

I'm glad people improve on others work. Sad if they are jerks about it, but there I'd no shame in standing in the shoulders of others.

Self-imposed exile is still exile. I'm not a rubyist but I believe your reading of the saga is correct.

He also claims (in the footnote) that Jack Black is another "character" he plays (making fun of their similarity in appearance). I'd take all of it as somewhat tongue-in-cheek

Some people are still understandably mad at him for taking down his repos when he disappeared. He probably feels a bit like a pariah, even though his actions were of his own choice.

There is a long history of the phrase "self-imposed exile". It's even the example for the word self-imposed in the American Heritage Dictionary

There are a lot of different ways to be exiled. From what I gather, his privacy was violated so he left. Whether his privacy was violated out of excessive fanboi zeal or as an expression of lack of trust/attempt to verify something or some other reason, it was a form of hostile event which drove him off. He was not being accepted on the terms he wished to set, in essence.

He did delete his own accounts, yes, but that doesn't mean that he didn't _feel_ unwelcome.

Also, if you take _why as being separate from the human being who played him ("Subject" is the best I've got), Subject could have imposed exile upon _why, because they're not the same person. http://words.steveklabnik.com/why-is-a-role-not-a-person

Self-exile, without deliberate action by others, is a common archetype.

I'm not going to link to anything for reasons which will be obvious, but basically, _why asked for privacy and someone doxed (outed) him. At this time, _why decided to vanish. I don't know that _why ever said why he vanished (he vanished, after all), but most assume that he left because he was doxed. This made Hacker News at the time and a follow up article about _why I read a couple of years later appeared to verify his identity.

It would be only conjecture, but maybe by having light shed on his actual identity, he felt his hand had been forced? Thus leading him into exile?

> Was there an "exile" event that I am not aware of?

No. He left of his own accord. Read it as "self-imposed exile" or something.

self-imposed exile

Text translations:

DESOLEE.PNG "This printer queue is going down for MAINTENANCE but will shortly return for a day I believe it will be on the day of April the 19th from like four o'clock to let's say twelve."

Also this one, from the github repo: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/2178548/CAPRICE.pdf

_why, to respond to your questions in SOLICIT, you don't have to play the _why character if you don't want to. Most of us are happy to see you, whether you act bizarre or not. We miss your insight and commentary and sense of humor. Experiment if you like, and ignore the jerks.

For everyone else, _why made some videos before, here is my favorite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXZ_htL1rOI

"It's like I'm superman, and lexicon Luther has a big chunk of vocabulary confounding kryptonite and he's jabbing it right in my thesaural gland..." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Du_RTMmofWM

Wow, the guy was seriously funny. I remember reading the poignant guide to Ruby and finding it almost a bit much, but that video is fantastic.

haha, i am trying to decipher whether that video has any meaning or not; regardless i found it quite enjoyable.

Does anyone here know the tool or technique to convert the printer format on his website to human readable format on screen?


So far I've discovered I can go to http://whytheluckystiff.net/SPOOL/TRUMPETS for example to download a file. Trying to figure out how to read the format at the moment.

Edit #2:

Looks like it is PCL format. I'm trying to find a decent Mac OS X program for converting PCL to image.

Edit #3:

Managed to generate this: http://i.imgur.com/AL9mSLr.jpg The quality is horrible though. I see now that some other people have already linked rendered versions in high quality, though.

It was fun trying to figure it out though. :)

On OS X (Mountain Lion), I used PCL to PDF[1] and got the same output that gabrielgironda got[2].

[1]: http://www.columbia.edu/~em36/pcltopdf.html

[2]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5540904

Thanks for the link. I'll try it out.

It's HP-PCL. I tried using http://www.maths.usyd.edu.au/u/psz/ps/pcl2ps, but all I get is a rectangle with the top edge missing.

Looks much like printer escape sequences.

The site is served from github. This appears to be the repo: https://github.com/cwales/cwales.github.com

I've had April 18th in my calendar for weeks after the initial activity at whytheluckystiff.net. Forget the haters, Ruby's better with _why around.

Who are "the haters?"

Mostly people who were understandably pissed off that along with wiping out his blogs, twitter, etc., he took down his github and abandoned his projects without helping to oversee a transition of stewardship. This included a few high-profile rubyists.

And then presumably also some people who always thought his whimsy was a detriment to the ruby community (by making it seem less professional or something).

(Not my opinions, just information)

Are there a substantial number of "haters" who have stated that Ruby is better with _why gone? It seems like a straw man.

It's not a large number of people, but rather some who hold a lot of influence and sway who've attacked _why.

Which people are those?

It doesn't matter. Less attention they get the better.

Like who? Any links?

I'd probably include the people who were trying to figure out his real life identity.

Your standard contrarians, I guess.

Yeah, because the scene totally needs more drama to distract us from the latest Bitcoin / Mtgox debacle...

You're probably thinking of Zed Shaw. _why just added flavor and whimsy to the community.

And, like Zed, considerable engineering prowess. Not like that matters or anything.

There's a difference between talented programming and good engineering, and _why is almost a perfect example of that. Engineering is more about discipline and maintainability than cleverness and artistic expression.

For those who don't know what all the fuss is about, you should check out _why's Poignant Guide to Ruby (http://mislav.uniqpath.com/poignant-guide/book/). It remains one of the most enjoyable reading experiences I've ever had, not even just limited to programming books. It exudes so much joy and enthusiasm in its constant absurdity, it's unbelievable. The sidebars are legitimately laugh-out-loud funny. It's really hard to write humor well, but holy crap. I mean, just read this:

"At my local Barnes and Noble, there is a huge wall of Java books just waiting to tip over and crush me one day. And one day it will. At the rate things are going, one day that bookcase will be tall enough to crush us all. It might even loop the world several times, crushing previous editions of the same Java books over and over again."


"What I’m Going to Do With the Massive Proceeds from this Book

Anyone who’s written a book can tell you how easily an author is distracted by visions of grandeur. In my experience, I stop twice for each paragraph, and four times for each panel of a comic, just to envision the wealth and prosperity that this book will procure for my lifestyle. I fear that the writing of this book will halt altogether to make way for the armada of SUVs and luxury town cars that are blazing away in my head." (This is a completely free book)

Just wonderfully absurd.

I've made a Latex version of WPGtR, available here: https://github.com/agravier/wpgtr-latex . I think that it makes a nice printable version, but I welcome pull requests and would like to see some beautiful forks.

I started working with Latex again not long ago, so I'll maybe improve it soon, too.

Oh, neat, I think I might print one of those out!

Another new file: HOMEWORK

PDF version here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/135658986/-why-Homework

(I've rotated the PDF 180 degrees; the original PCL is upside down)

Looks like the homework is to make an OCaml client for reading the spool files. Perhaps this is the start of a poignant guide to OCaml?

New file: CAPRICE

Converted to PDF from PCL here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/135653743/-why-Caprice

Here is the previous HN post detailing the previous printouts https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5015087

The next change to his site should be on the 18th: http://www.scribd.com/doc/119155590/DESOLEE

How apt. Ruby is from Japan. April 18th is, according to wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_18#Holidays_and_observanc...) "Invention Day" in Japan.

Am I alone in thinking that the obsession with this guy is a little on the creepy side?

_why's blend of programming with collages remind me of the blend tonke dragt did with children's novels and physics or michael ende's short stories to his father's surrealist paintings or experiments with interactive fiction.

a refreshing sense of adventure. crossing boundaries

Why does nobody think that the guy posted this here (@feedward) is _why himself?

Didn't consider that :) Maybe _why is feedward. The account has no other submissions and no comments. It was created on September 22, 2012. Does that date stick out as being significant?

Honestly, I'm not _why.

I believe you :) It wouldn't be very _why-like to flat out deny it.

To respond to one of the questions posed in the second print job, yes, I think he is on the right track here.

Here are all the files from the git repo converted to png:


And PDF:


Edit: added imgur album.

The site just updated with another file: https://github.com/cwales/cwales.github.com/commit/e65bf73e2...


I don't have any pcl to image tools so I can't check what it is.

> Public Print Queue SPOOL/DESOLEE 2013-01-06T08:21Z SPOOL/TRUMPETS 2013-04-12T19:43Z SPOOL/SOLICIT 2013-04-12T20:10Z

Amen, brother.

A CAPRICE PCL that was just added: http://cl.ly/OF2O

Based on a cursory examination of the comments, it seems like this would be a lot of fun (I'm guessing it's like a riddle or something)? Would someone care to offer a primer or background on what this is / how you start following the clues?

It's just _why being _why. If you're late to the party, try reading: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2012/03/...

I found the correspondence between the names of the files and their contents extremely amusing.

The SPOOL was updated yesterday with LEVELS. I have converted it to PDF like the others. It is an amusing chart for programmers to express their feelings with.

PDF of LEVELS: http://www.scribd.com/doc/136676459/LEVELS GitHub Repo: https://github.com/cwales/cwales.github.com PCL Converter: http://www.columbia.edu/~em36/pcltopdf.html

There's more. Oh my yes. I just stuck the converted PDFs in a zip file because Scribd is a pain. Why were we using Scribd anyway? No matter, here's a zip. http://cl.ly/OOCV

If you look in the revision history there was an IDEAS file. Someone mentioned it and got downvoted, not sure why.

Sorry, best I could do:



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Why_the_lucky_stiff http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2012/03/... http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/05/15/why-a-tale-of-a-p...

TL;DR a prolific pseudonymous rubyist who was very active in the ruby and rails community. Noted for his particularly whimsical (and/or arful) style of approaching problems and communication. Probably best known for "why's poignant guide to ruby", currently mirrored here: http://mislav.uniqpath.com/poignant-guide/book/chapter-1.htm...

How do we know this is really _why? I think someone could have registered the domain after it expired.

	Created on..............: 03-JAN-2002
	Expires on..............: 03-JAN-2014
	Record last updated on..: 13-DEC-2012
	Status..................: ACTIVE

Occam's razor says so

The handwriting and pictures look a lot like his. If this is someone spoofing _why, then kudos to them. They're doing a great job.

_why, you're a pretty funny and cool guy. You give me hope that I can be funny and cool like you one day. Also I think I saw you at a train station once, but I stared at you and by the time I decided to go to the platform and ask you if you were you you'd gone.

Just a random-lol-thought but somehow my brain floated this. Could _why = Satoshi Nakamoto?

no. i think satoshi nakamoto is from the old world, while _why is from the new world. but both are from a similar generational background and from the 80s hacker culture. these mavericks geniuses are rare but exist in more subcultures (music, religion, magick, skeptics, science, cryptography)

_why = Keyser Söze? :)

Awesome. See you on the 18th!

Like the david bowie of creative coding which can only be a good thing.

Public Print Queue SPOOL/DESOLEE 2013-01-06T08:21Z SPOOL/TRUMPETS 2013-04-12T19:43Z SPOOL/SOLICIT 2013-04-12T20:10Z SPOOL/CAPRICE 2013-04-12T22:06Z SPOOL/HOMEWORK 2013-04-12T23:19Z

_why, please come back.

guys leave him alone... he will let everyone know if he wants any attention. If ever. And this is fine. It must be up to him. Don't push it.

A bit late to jump on the "leave him alone" bandwagon considering the obvious attention seeking updates to his homepage.

Would be nice if it served this page with Content-Type: text/plain, so it wouldn't look like random garbage at first.

Can someone provide some backstory to this? Who is _why, and why is his reappearance interesting?

I remember reading [Why's (Poignant) Guide to Ruby](http://mislav.uniqpath.com/poignant-guide/) back when I first started out learning ruby. I'm not familiar with his other projects, but I think they mainly dealt with ruby. A few years ago he randomly deleted his entire web presence and essentially disappeared.

There is also TEST, but as far as I can tell, it's pretty boring and not worth posting.

I have to wonder whether _why is an intentional or unintentional PR prodigy.

How did people know/figure out that it was a PCL file?

  $ file DESOLEE
  DESOLEE: HP PCL printer data
  $ whatis -s 1 file
  file (1)             - determine file type

  $ file DESOLEE
  DESOLEE: HP PCL printer data

PCL is a well-known format and _why (or whoever is controlling the domain) did this a few months ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5015087


Feelgood Ruby news of the day.

i've had a big problem with the site on my Blackberry for a looooong tyme, it only started working yesterday...!:(


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