Looking over your comments on HN, that latest comment seems to be the peak of your contribution here. In over two years you've picked up 394 karma points. I'm going with the assumption that all of those karma points are from being a pedant about the English language. You're such a valuable member of this community! Rock on.
Hey, crazy idea: why don't more employers give workers a choice? As a quick read of this thread will show, some people like quiet so they can concentrate, while others like the interaction and "energy" of being with others. That's fine. Live and let live. A startup might have to choose one kind of space, but you don't have to get all that large before it becomes possible to have separate areas/floors for different work styles. It seems like such a no-brainer, but I've only ever seen companies do "one size fits all" or segregation by status. Any employer who let me choose whether to work in a private office or a 2-5 person office or a big open area would definitely get some extra points from me.
Frank Coffield and team evaluated the field some time ago. VARK was one of the few that they found had some merit. I find that a visual explanation can help some students over the 'textbook' verbal/arithmetical presentation. See
Another metaphor I've seen is to the military (specifically the army), and consists of three roles. Don't beat me up about military minutiae, please; I don't claim to be an expert in that area and it's not even my metaphor.
(1) Paratroopers, who jump into unfamiliar territory. In software, researchers and architects.
(2) Infantry, by far the largest component, responsible for the core task of taking and holding territory. In software, most programmers.
(3) MPs (also quartermaster, community liason, etc.) who maintain order in the held territory. In software, debugging specialists and release engineers.
The problem I have with the OP's metaphor is that the "starter" and "architect" roles are both part of (1) and many people actually can do both pretty well. Similarly, the "debugger" and "finisher" roles are both (3) and also combine well. What's really unfortunate is that (2) seems entirely absent even though in real life it consumes most of the time and resources on a project. These are the folks who take mostly-complete designs from a starter/architect, and get most of the code mostly working before the serious integration/stress testing occur and the debugger/finisher come to the fore. In other words, most of your colleagues most of the time. If you hired four people according to these four roles, you'd have nobody to write most of the code and you'd be abusing your four specialists to do it.
I really wish they'd give more information about their methodology. For example, I've used the SoD SSD servers for some of my own testing, and they pull 30K IOPS for small random synchronous writes. How does that translate to "361.62"? WTF are the units here? What workload were they even testing? Yes, I know they list the random grab bag of tools they're using, but most of those are capable of generating many different kinds of I/O and they don't say what arguments they used. "361.62" seems very precise. I'm sure the two digits after the decimal point really impress the pithed snails or MBAs who are the benchmarkers' apparent target market. However, given both the bogosity of combining disparate measurements like this and the well known variability over time of cloud performance, that precision is not justified. Numbers that are more precise than they are accurate or meaningful are just decoration.
P.S. I expect someone will ask for more specifics, so here are a few. First, Bonnie++ sucks. Many of the numbers it produces measure the memory system or the libc implementation more than the actual I/O system. I've seriously gotten more testing value from building it than running it, so its very presence taints the result. Second, fio/hdparm/iozone might be redundant, according to which arguments are used. Or the results might be non-comparable. Either way, the aggregate result could only apply to an application with exactly that (unspecified) balance of read vs. write, sequential vs. random, sync vs. async, file counts and sizes, etc. Did they even run tests over enough data to get past caching effects? That's particularly important since they used different memory sizes on different providers. Similarly, what thread counts did they use on these different numbers of CPUs/cores? Same across all, or best-performing for each component benchmark? With such sloppy methodology anything less than an order-of-magnitude difference doesn't even tell you which platforms to test yourself.
When exactly did "startup" come to mean only "social web-oriented startup that has access to user data in the first place"? I mean, come on, I know that's the kind of startup the YC folks specialize in, but there are other kinds. There's software that doesn't run in a browser, doesn't require a login, and doesn't serve ads . . . but you wouldn't know it from articles like this, which say you shouldn't trust startups because of a phenomenon specific to only one kind of startup. Is it too much to ask that people who write about startups not limit themselves to one kind?
While bequeathing code to the community instead of having it buried with you is a very good thing it comes with a caveat. In most cases, it's not a good idea to pick up the result in its entirety - all of the code, the brand, the users, etc. That's baggage. It's a burden, not a help. In most cases it's better to make an explicit fork, or even just cherry-pick the best ideas and bits of code for use in a clearly separate project. If users think the new thing is better than the old, they'll migrate. If they don't, they won't feel entitled to come bugging you for support - or, if they do, you'll have a good reason to turn them away and concentrate on making the new thing great. Obviously you have to comply with the original licenses if you copy code, but you'd have to do that anyway. This way is likely to be far better for your own sanity and ultimately for users as well.
Fair point about "pragmatism" but the contrary "elegance" often comes across as dogmatic or even elitist. Most languages strive for both pragmatism and elegance, but tend to favor one a little over the other.
And yes, this is relevant since Python and Clojure embody exactly this kind of tension.
I guess one could pinpoint it to the clashing of the traditions of pure mathematics and engineering which one finds in Computer Science.
Elegance is an often trotted epithet in mathematical writing, and sure, it has some sort of established connotation (minimalism, what we call orthogonality, etc.), but in the end it's almost always something like "it has sugar, and marmalade, and skittles and ketchup! All my favorite ingredients! I'm very glad they didn't put that icky caramel stuff in it".
Anyhow, Clojure sports a fair bit of ``pragmatism'' with its own, very leaky sequence abstraction, as you sometimes feed a vector to a function and you get a linked list and next thing you know, your head has been put in your ass (when you conj/cons an element to a sequence).
Lisp has also always leaned to a sort of messiness in its use, even if the language's features and libraries are held to a higher standard. Thus you see phrases like ``ball of mud'' used in a subtly positive way.
The OP wouldn't seem quite so hypocritical if VCs didn't put immense pressure on startups to generate patents. Don't tell me those patents are supposed to be purely defensive, either. They were supposed to stake out a bit of technical turf, just like Yahoo's doing. I'm not saying it's right, but I don't think much of demanding patent generation on one hand and then complaining about their use on the other.
If you want to oppose software patents - and you should - then be consistent about it. Either forego them entirely, or require via contract that they be used only defensively. The latter is the approach taken by my employer, BTW, who also spends more money than anyone else fighting software patents. As schizophrenic as that strategy might seem, I believe it's the right one for the crazy world we live in.
Union Square Ventures, of which Fred Wilson ("the OP") is a partner, is an investor in my startup (Stack Exchange). They never put pressure on us to generate patents. They have been consistently anti-patent for quite some time. They have complained frequently that a third of their portfolio is under attack from patent trolls. They have organized fundraisers and meetings which I have attended with Senator Chuck Schumer from New York to press their position for patent reform.
Maybe YOUR stone-age, backward-ass VC thinks that startups should generate patents, but don't tar Fred Wilson with that brush.
I got tired of this and other VC games after my tenth startup a couple of years ago, so I guess it is possible that attitudes have changed. Even if Fred is one of the good guys, though, I'd still bet that he's in a small minority. That's the real point, which of course has been missed by most of the responses. Pick a random startup and go look for patent applications. Most of them clearly are pursuing that strategy, and most of those are likely to be doing so at the behest of their investors. This has been going on for many years, so why is it suddenly evil when Yahoo! does the totally inevitable? Is there seriously any reason to believe that Etsy or Twilio - USV companies for which I've already found applications - wouldn't? This kind of thing won't stop until people like Fred refuse to invest in companies that are pursuing patents without a binding commitment to use them only in defense, and for all their strong words they don't seem to be doing that.
Firstly, an analogy to people is going to cause a lot of emotional load for no reason, so this is flawed from the word go.
More to the point, these patents are objectively BS. Go look at the claims. There is not a single, novel claim among the whole lot, and you could probably pay a college kid an hour's wage to find prior art on every single one of them.
I don't think that in general the practice is something over which the VC industry should feel guilty. Venture Capital has historically and continues to fund industries where patents are appropriate, e.g. semiconductors.
Software patents are problematic, but only because of the general features of the patent process and the fiduciary responsibilities of boards of directors to their shareholders.
Not nearly good enough as an answer. I've watched dozens of investors pressure founders about patents. Usually it's in the guise of the valuation of a company - what intellectual property am I investing in? - and the idea of defending himself later is used as a rationalization.
It doesn't matter at all whether Fred's firm does this. Union Square Ventures isn't suing Facebook either, that's another behavior they're not engaging in. They're also not actually coding software.
What matters is that Fred wrote a seething post about the patent system without mentioning how many if not most bogus patents get created in the first place - at the urging of the other guys on his side of the table.
If you're letting them spend your money on filing patents without any kind of binding commitment to use them only in defense, and there's plenty of evidence at USPTO that your portfolio companies are still doing just that, then you're not clearly any different than any other VC in that regard.
This madness will not stop until there's more retaliatory capability than first-strike, and that won't happen as long as there's money pouring into the acquisition of first-strike weapons. Those who fund the stockpiling are culpable, no matter what they say as they're doing it.
Funny that him being a VC is specific enough to argue your case, yet an official blog post from his company, written by a partner of his, is a little too vague and probably doesn't represent his opinion.
No, he'd just have to allow that. Anyone can say they're spending all that money on lawyers for purely defensive purposes, but without a public written commitment it's just BS. If the talent leaves and the business dries up, the intellectual property is often the only asset remaining. That's why VCs demand it, so they can minimize their losses by capitalizing on the IP. I have friends whose names are on patents that have been abused, and they're livid about it (or in one case severely depressed) but there's nothing they can do. If the intent is to use patents only defensively, why not put it in writing? If somebody doesn't, anybody else who believes that will be the case anyway is hopelessly naive. It's part of the game plan from before the moment of filing.
No, sorry, I'm not in the room at other people's startups when they do that. What I can do, however, is look at the list of investments at Union Square Ventures where he's a principal. Then I can find patents and applications for founders and VPs at Etsy, Twilio, GetGlue, and others. I've probably been at more startups than most in this thread, and I've been under that pressure myself, so I know exactly how that happens. Do I know Fred was involved here? No. Does it seem likely? Yes. He sure doesn't seem to take a strong stance against the practice, does he?
He may be wrong and he may want to consider his views based on what others are saying. He may also be annoying you and others.
But the fact that he has to "hop all over this thread defending" does not mean he is wrong in what he is saying. Edit: It just means the group here does not agree with what he is saying. The group has disagreed with what I have said in the past as well.
I appreciate hearing his views although he uses language that I wouldn't use "lie" etc.
But I also don't believe in bullying. Saying "will you please stop?" in a "we don't need you around here" way seems parental and a put down to me regardless of whether it's deserved or not.
I think his point was that these "Specific" patents were bogus patents in the first place...
"None of them represent unique and new ideas at the time of the filing. I supect they all can be thrown out over prior art if Facebook takes the time and effort to do that."
I do think that pre- IPO this is a pretty dirty play. You might have a point if you can show a case where Fred Wilson or VC's sues other companies right before an IPO on bogus patents...I am not aware of any such instance.
That's a fair point, but I don't think it gets very far. He also goes on to say, "I don't think there's a unique idea out there in the web space and hasn't been for well over a decade." That's a pretty common attitude. Have you ever seen anyone say "yeah, that software patent is truly novel"? Ever? I haven't, so he's not really making a distinction between these specific patents and others. Without such a distinction, he's essentially saying that any patent suit would be wrong . . . but then why do he and his ilk put such pressure on startups to generate the raw material for those suits? Whether Fred himself is actually hypocritical on this point is not clear, but without a strong statement from him about that kind of pressure - and there's none in that post - he still seems so.
Is it a bit dirty to do this immediately pre-IPO? Yeah, I think so, even absent other concerns. But Fred's comments go far beyond these specific patents at this specific time. He talks about a very general "unspoken line" that web companies shouldn't cross. It's the general statement I object to, not the specific one.
Please see route66's comment which points to Union Square Ventures' official position on software patents. (USV is Fred's VC company.)
To answer your question about novel software patents, yes, I've seen people say the RSA patent was novel. However, novelty is only one of three requirements for patentability. RSA is essentially a mathematical algorithm patent. It's not statutory material for a patent, any more than Benson's patent was.
Any chance you could post (or privately send to me) information about the process by which you contractually set up patents so they can only be used defensively? I'm very much interested in doing the same.
BTW, you're taking a lot of heat in this thread that you don't deserve. I work at a VC funded startup (with USV as an investor no less) and I basically agree with you.
Don't worry about the heat. Karma here has no value, or perhaps even negative value, to me. What I'm saying about VCs, startups, and patents is real and important, even if some self-interested HN'ers don't want it heard or even if Fred was the wrong frame on which to hang that picture. I'll burn some karma to get the word out about the real source of the problem and the real solution.
To answer your question, of course IANAL but the way to do this is to assign the patents to an external entity such as http://www.patentcommons.org/ or http://www.openinventionnetwork.com/, where that entity has a charter allowing only defensive use - and preferably with other entities involved to enforce that charter. A public statement like http://www.redhat.com/legal/patent_policy.html doesn't hurt either, though it's not legally binding. Now, PC or OIN might not be the exact right vehicle for you, for other reasons, but that's the basic approach.
Disclaimer: I work for Red Hat, which is a strong proponent of this approach and supporter of these organizations. Until software patents go away - and Red Hat is supporting that effort too - this is the only way to play the game that is both safe and (IMO) moral.
I've worked in, and co-founded, several VC funded startups, and even have my name on a patent. Despite that I have never come across a case where the VC's pushed for patents at all, and several where they thought it was a waste of time and money.
Exactly. For the comparison to be valid (I'm typing this on a Transformer BTW) you'd have to compare to the Air plus an iPad. You'd also have to compare prices, and there the Air loses badly even without including the iPad.
I think the point of contention is the necessity of tablets. As ultrabooks get lighter and more power efficient they muscle their way into the 3rd device slot that tablets are meat to fill, all the while holding on to the 2nd and even 1st device slots.
I can identify with this. Our family got an iPad, and while the kids like using it, I much prefer my MBP for basically everything: reading HN, blogs, news, watching videos. The larger screen, better viewing angles, and keyboard just makes it superior. I'm not sad we got it, but I don't personally find it that useful. The biggest thing it made me realize is that it'd be really nice to have a laptop with a good touchscreen. I've been thinking about the Transformer, but I do wish that docked it'd behave more like a laptop-ish machine and less of a mobile-ish one.
I don't think that really works, though. It certainly doesn't for me. Much of the time, I like the lighter, smaller tablet form factor (even compared to the several netbooks I've owned). I definitely like being able to flip between horizontal and vertical screen aspects on a whim. Other times, I really need to have a keyboard, but I do have to increase weight and bulk for that. Therefore, my ideal would be a single device that does both without having to deal with syncing data between two devices. An "ultrabook" cannot do that, by definition; if it could, it would be a tablet with a dock. It's therefore not true that an ultrabook can fulfill the third-device role. Its far more likely that tablets will evolve to become adequate second (i.e. near-desktop) machines while retaining their third-machine attributes, but it's flatly impossible for ultrabooks to become adequate third machines. For many people it's not the tablet but the monolithic laptop that is likely to become superfluous in a two-machine instead of three-machine world.