Hacker Newsnew | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit | mrschwabe's comments login

The espionage is perhaps most bothering of all. In some ways, most of us can rationalize spying for the purposes of security (albeit a dangerous and perhaps short-sighted rationalization) but when it's done with the intention of economic advantage it clearly undermines our entire financial system and the best features of capitalism: which is to reward those who innovate; delivering the market with higher quality products at lower pricing over time.

Because now you have a 'special access' class of the economy that can subvert this innovation/value mechanism with stolen data. Add corrupt politicians, easily exploited loopholes, biased media channels, and a docile public - and it's easy to see how this special access class can twist, distort (and ultimately destroy) the system.

One can only imagine what humanity could achieve without these parasites infecting our lives and businesses.

Why We Spy on Our Allies

R. James Woolsey, a Washington lawyer and a former Director of Central Intelligence.


Oh, such a "holier than thou" attitude in that article - US watching over the naughty naughty Europeans so we can all have a better and safer world. Maybe he should get off that really really high horse just a bit.

Looking at this[0] table of least corrupt countries by perception, Europe has 7 in the top 10. Least corrupt. Least.

Occam's razor: The person who worked in intelligence, and is/was a Washington lawyer lied. Even without data, that surely must have crossed people's minds, no?!

[0] https://www.transparency.org/cpi2014/results

> Looking at this[0] table of least corrupt countries by perception, Europe has 7 in the top 10. Least corrupt. Least.

> Occam's razor: The person who worked in intelligence, and is/was a Washington lawyer lied. Even without data, that surely must have crossed people's minds, no?! > [0] https://www.transparency.org/cpi2014/results

Perception != reality

He was referring to bribery of foreign countries (such as Brazil and Saudi Arabia in his examples) that U.S. and European countries compete to win contracts.

Even according to the PERCEPTION index, they're of tiny European countries not named France. Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands, and Luxembourg. A combined population that's about 9 million fewer than that of Italy.

The cryptome.org article refers to Europe.

> He was referring to bribery of foreign countries (such as Brazil and Saudi Arabia in his examples) that U.S. and European countries compete to win contracts.

From the first line of the cryptome.org article: 'What is the recent flap regarding Echelon and U.S. spying on European industries all about?'

> Perception != reality

Sorry, they don't have the actual corruption statistics available!


I've seen the site quoted in The Guardian (a newspaper of record).

Feel free to investigate their methods, and report back! I take them as being somewhat credible. As do you by your own admission.

I love this! Of course, the US is too much of a saint to ever consider bribing. Instead, we rely on our guns to do the talking. This reminds me of the human right violations report that the American State Dept publishes, always pointing the finger at China while China publishes its own report pointing the finger at the U.S. using as evidence police brutality, Guantanamo Bay, etc.

I'm surprised he was so blunt, didn't expect there were any people like that in Washington. Or perhaps, since he had already retired.

I wish I could upvote this more, this is a fascinating read, and seems to at least give some more perspective to this conversation.

Perspective on how radically warped the mindset of these CIA types are? It was the most obnoxious thing I've read in a while.

scumbags like that with too much power and too little oversight, feeling righteous... if any of you are reading this, please do a properly good deed for this world, and either quit or shoot yourself (that's a honest request, unfortunately)

> shoot yourself

What a bizarrely horrid thing to say.

Does anyone else find it hilarious to see a bureaucrat heading up an enormous and bloated state intelligence apparatus trying to give a lecture about free markets?

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is a book related to this topic, that I highly recommend reading: http://www.amazon.com/Confessions-Economic-Hit-John-Perkins-...

tl;dr - The CIA spies on European allies because we bribe our way to win contracts, so the CIA gets the proof then blackmails (the Saudis) into handing over some of the contracts to others. Oh sorry quietly has a word.

Look, use your spy satellites to publically shame bribery - that's fine by me. Claim the UK is bribing every government it can find - sure, Cameron and Blair were hardly discreet. But claim that after you have done this service to the world, you then "quietly have a word". Come on. If you are doing this for the greater good, make it public.

I swear, if the CIA spent the next year uploading to their web site phone taps of public officials taking bribes, international corruption would end by 2017.

we bribe our way to win contracts, so the CIA gets the proof then blackmails (the Saudis) [...] the UK is bribing every government it can find

Your comment illuminates things somewhat - at the top end of the international business food-chain there is no real free-market. We can talk about free-markets when discussing small, medium and even large domestic sized businesses. But when we think about integrated circuits, aircraft, shipping, consulting engineering, infrastructure etc, it's about discretion when lobbying to get the winning the bid, discretion in stealing key technologies, and discretion in manipulating the market.

My first instinct was to suggest that encryption is the magic bullet for having a real free market at the top end - but that doesn't stop bribery. In the one hand, we need to protect innovative businesses from having their intellectual property stolen and handed to the incumbent, in the other we need to shine a light on the corruption that pervades everything from soccer to software contracts.

I'm not sure what can be done beyond what you suggest at the end of your post: if the CIA spent the next year uploading to their web site phone taps of public officials taking bribes, international corruption would end by 2017.

Time for the spies to become Wikileaks? The reason they won't do this is because every side has nasty secrets to hide.

Well no, it could be argued that it is a free market of sorts.

...or it would take more technologically sophisticated and less traceable forms.

Really? FIFA was shoving wads of cash into brown envelopes and renting apartments in Trump Tower - for dogs.

Bribery is generally not sophisticated. Especially at the levels the CIA could give a shit about, bribery is an open secret and part of what the ruling classes expect, or at least condone.

Embezzlement- yeah that's hidden. Which is why congress pays whistleblowers. I mean the U.S. Is ridiculously out in front for these sort of things (well officially, I am sure bribery and corruption is still common)

I don't think that works because when you reveal you have a capability, your adversary works quickly to patch/block it, especially if you are quite vocal about it. International corruption wouldn't end by 2017, because the tapped phones would be secured long before then.

> So complicit are your governments that in several European countries bribes still are tax-deductible.

He must be confusing Europe with the US where bribing is called "lobbying" and is usually not tax deductible: http://www.irs.gov/publications/p535/ch11.html#en_US_2014_pu...

While we also have corruption at all levels of government in Europe, we still consider bribing illegal. Doing creative accounting to hide the bribes is also illegal.

I think this is referring to bribing foreign officials, not officials of the European country. See, e.g. the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.


He was referring to bribery of other countries such as Brazil and Saudi Arabia in his examples.

I can't name a consumer technology category that the US was sitting at the top of in 2000.

So the reason that they spy on foreign companies is that they hope they can catch bribery going on (if they had credibly evidence without the espionage they wouldn't need the espionage in the first place, thus there must happen that they spy on innocents).

Once they find evidence of corruption they confront the government that is buying, not the one that could punish the company. Clearly the crime of corruption is not of importance to the CIA (why would it, they use it to recruit, and they aren't a police anyway).

Because it effects american business success. That bribed contract that went to an 'inferior' euro corp instead of the 'superior' american corp.

So by finding evidence of corruption, they can leverage that to potentially get the contract to the american corporation, increasing US wealth.

What makes you believe US companies don't use bribe either? Or that any US corp is 'superior'?..

Well, it's clearly superior to blackmail people rather than bribe them.

With bribing, the power balance is in favor of the person being bribed. With blackmail, the one in charge is the one doing the blackmail.

The vast majority of interventions by both the US miliary and the CIA since WWII have been economically motivated, that is, designed to protect US company interests abroad. Those that weren't were politically motivated, that is, designed to protect US political interests domestically.

I am not attempting to justify these actions, but politics and economics are one and the same. The job of the NSA is to keep the USA in a position of power economically and politically to help stabilize the world. Since WW2 we have had an unprecedented period where major world powers have not gone to war directly and this is a direct result of the American hegemony.

> Since WW2 we have had an unprecedented period where major world powers have not gone to war directly and this is a direct result of the American hegemony.

No. It's a result of nuclear deterrance (ie. doctrine of M.A.D.)

> The job of the NSA is to keep the USA in a position of power economically and politically to help stabilize the world.

I think you mean just to keep the US in power. The US destabilizes most countries in which it 'intervenes'. That's the point though, the more countries are broken up, the less likely anyone will challenge the US.

This is a suuuuuuuuuper complicated issue, keep in mind. There are a lot of things that go into the current geo-political situation and though nukes are one major card in the deck, there are many many others.

That we have not gone to war with other major powers is a debatable point as well. Though not as apparent as WW2, the proxy wars have been draining on our nations and peoples.

One thing to remember about nukes is not that they are so damaging, but that the damage is so fast and long lasting. The old maxim of 'war is good for business' is not true with a-bombs. Not due to the blast and damage, but due to the radiation. We still have no idea what it does and how to contain it and make a profit, it's just too toxic (like gasses)

I'd say we have a pretty good idea about what nukes do, since we already detonated more than 2.000 of them.

Nuclear deterrence is no doubt part of the reason why major wars have ended, but another reason is greatly expanded international trade. The cost of invading a nation you trade with is much higher than the cost of invading a nation you don't trade with.

Unfortunately, WW1 indicates that trade is at most secondary in importance in keeping the peace.

Had it not been for MAD, we'd be on about WWIV right now.

If all that you said was true I'd be totally OK with justifying NSA's actions, but a pretty huge chunk of your reasoning rests on this

to help stabilize the world

Unfortunately this part of your statement is the one that couldn't be more tragically and more demonstrably wrong.

I'm not sure that is objectively true. This is worth a watch to compare the first half of the 20th century with the time since: https://vimeo.com/128373915

I dont like reading into these kinds of analyses. What do you want to conclude? The battle against human suffering is done? We are certainly doing a good job when compared to WW2, but when we look at past 20 years -- we have been degrading. Vietnam, Iraq, Syria, ... millions were impacted by these conflicts. In Israel/Palestine an entire people are facing genocide by an illegal occupation. Look at South America -- what impact has the domestic and foreign policy of the US had on those countries? Yes, its great that millions aren't dying in world wars any more. But we still have a lot of work to do.

What happened in Vietnam over the past 20 years?

>facing genocide

Either Israel is attempting to annihilate the Palestinians, or they aren't. The Palestinians are still here. Israel has strong military means. They are capable, and they are competent. If they are trying, they are failing, and thus incompetent. I do not think they are incompetent. Many generals, commentators, and experts believe they are amongst the most capable nations and praise their abilities and precision. I think it's clear they aren't trying to annihilate any group of people other than people that launch rockets, attacks, or support those activities. It ain't genocide, so why call it that?

> In Israel/Palestine an entire people are facing genocide by an illegal occupation

Sorry, you can't get away with saying things like that. This is a blatant lie.

Today I am ashamed to be a member of HN. To see your comment downmodded this way is just very sad.

Of course we still have a lot to do. The point is we have been, for the last half century or so, moving in, generally, the right direction. We live in a time when every single skirmish around the world shows up immediately, 24 hours a day. That provides a skewed view of the world, making people feel like they are surrounded by major conflict all of the time.

This doesn't mean we stop trying; it just means that we don't have to lose hope because it feels like an impossible task. Conversely, it also means we need to really need to push to keep from losing ground. We can't go back to what the world was like in the time around WWI and WWII.

That's a really enlightening video but I don't think it really makes any relevant argument other than "thank god we haven't had another world war."

Maybe you feel that NSA and similar organizations are responsible for keeping another world war from errupting by making smaller conflicts happen, or by helping unexpected regime changes occur... That still doesn't explain all the mass surveillance of it's own people, or this economic espionage of supposed allies.

If you look at total human deaths due to war then the world has become exponentially safer. Looking at a war death/population ratio then this becomes even more evident.



> this is a direct result of the American hegemony.

No, it's a direct result of nuclear proliferation and Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine.

> The job of the NSA is to keep the USA in a position of power economically and politically TO HELP STABILIZE THE WORLD

(emphasis mine)

Why do you think so?

Well, imagine there is a country called Hegemonistan, and it has the most power economically and politically at the moment. A large plurality at least.

Now define the change in stability between t0 and t1 as something like inversely proportional to the weighted average of changes in relative power rankings among countries.

By definition, maintaining stability will tend to keep Hegemonistan in its power positions. And vice versa.

So, stabilization is roughly identical to helping Hegemonistan.

Stabilize the world? are you effin' joking? the world out there is burning, and things are getting worse every day, mostly as a direct result of US meddling and power plays in given region. Not for a single second I consider US politicians stupid or unexperienced. Unjustified wars are waged with just enough people to not lose completely, but not enough to decisively win. this situation is well planned, and although i have no clue what their plans for future are, clearly they don't give a fraction of fk about some world stability. More like command & conquer approach. You americans shouldn't be that surprised that you meet a lot of friction and resistance whenever you go to "stabilize" the world

>I am not attempting to justify these actions, but

Yes, you are.

One doesn't have to like your argument to agree. If you believe in the market you believe in self-interest, and a state has a lot of that. Over time entities that don't fight to survive die, and economics are just as capable as force of threatening our safety, or at least our hegemony.

I may not be a fan of what the NSA is doing, but at the end of the day, I'm happy to hold an American passport.

"since WWII"

And prior to WWII. And, to a great extent, during WWII.

All capable states spy on each other. Enemy states spy on govt secrets and friendly states focus on industrial espionage. France, Israel and China are some of the most vigorous at industrial espionage. Like it or not that's how the world operates and, unfortunately, we can't simply wish that away.

If only we had some government agency that helped large companies be less vulnerable to industrial espionage, making sure that secrets stayed secret. Encouraging strong encryption, discovering and preventing software bugs, generally promoting computer security. Hmmm... A nation-wide security-focused agency. Maybe we could call it the National Security Agency?

Sounds great but that isn't the NSA's mission, not even the defensive mission. Their defensive mission is limited to DoD networks and national security related systems, and producing various recommendations.

DHS and/or NIST cover commercial and non-DoD government. But even then it is a voluntary and/or advisory capacity too - there is no authority to make a company fix a software product (unlike say a car defect, which gets into liability issues nobody wants to open for software).

As for discovering and preventing bugs, I think that would be a waste of time/effort in the current towards NSA and software in general. Nobody is going to take a binary patch from them, nobody is going to submit their source code for review, any help given to a company would draw complaints from their competitors, and fundamentally as long as companies aren't actually liable for damages due to bugs or security issues, they aren't going to care much about spending money to improve the situation. A corporation would just rather add another clause to a EULA to disclaim more and more responsibility.

It's a free market failure since bottom line profits aren't affected so there is no incentive to improve. That leaves the question of whether the government should be subsidizing the business world's failure to meaningfully invest in bug fixes and security improvements.

My point isn't that the NSA should suddenly become that agency. My point is that it would be pretty handy to have an agency like that. And the joke is that the agency we have under that name is doing the opposite.

> That leaves the question of whether the government should be subsidizing the business world's failure to meaningfully invest in bug fixes and security improvements.

One good way to sum up what government is good for is "things the market can't or won't do on its own." So I'd say yes.

>"things the market can't or won't do on its own."

This is one of those situations - be careful what you ask for, you might get it.

Apple and Microsoft between them make $35 billion in profit a quarter (not picking on them, just examples) - corporations don't need government handouts for this, they need proper motivation which is absent because security issues don't cost them anything except PR.

Actual monetary damages would alter that however. Fines, penalties, liability assumption, etc. You really want to see that?

Otherwise, how would it work exactly?

Existing models of the FDA (and its drug approval process) or the DoT (and its ability to force auto recalls) would introduce monetary damages, legal liability, government authority to pull products, and regulatory approval as ways to the free market ignoring costs related to security/defects - you really want to see that for the software market?

How would you REQUIRE corporations to have their code vetted by the "future software security agency" (FSSA)? Or say FSSA provides reference implementations or reviews open-source code only? That's only part of the software universe, is it enough?

If participation is voluntary/optional, corporations still aren't going to care; they will need to be compelled to participate.

That's wrong. NSAs new IDS also protects enterprises that the state considers to be "critical infrastructure", such as banks.

I wonder if this even makes sense. Today multinational corporations are becoming sovereign trans-national governments. Why would the NSA want to help protect Corporation X or its US branch, if said corporation may be a potential threat to national security?

I have yet to see any single example of 'sovereign trans-national' corporations, AFAIK big companies are definitely from their mother-country, no matter how many subsidiaries or branches they have.

There've been cases of big companies suing whole countries (Philip Morris vs Australia comes to mind). While they may be not technically sovereign entities yet, it seems to me that some megacorps have enough power to successfully compete with governments.

Sure, but they still remain US companies, and it's basically the main fact that allow them to do so (the US government negotiated treaties with countries so that US companies can sue their government).

It should probably be renamed to National Spy Agency at this point, because it does that much more than "security".

To argue that something clearly wrong is ok because everyone else is doing it is just plain stupid.

In that fashion, ISIS could argue that their torture is ok and necessary because the USA is also doing it to obtain information.

They probably do make that argument.

I can't speak for ISIS, but al queda absolutely (and frequently) uses that argument when they blow up a mosque full of innocents.

wrong + wrong != right

Nobody is arguing that it's ok. Only that it is necessary.

Edit: I'm referring to spying, not torture.

It's not necessary, it's just an easy way to get a short-term advantage. It fundamentally degrades our ability to interact peacefully on an international scale, and it is one of the reasons our politicians form a privileged class.

The only justification for it is "they did it first," which is both childish and irresponsible. Just because everyone else does it, doesn't mean it is correct, necessary, or justified.

No. The second use is to "keep them honest". It's not to gain a one time advantage or short term advantage, but it serves as a way to ensure your competition isn't doing monkey business.

It's both an out of band communications channel but also provides a feedback loop. If your enemy or your competitor is engaging in something you all agreed to is out of bounds, you can respond to it with the information you have gained.

EDS and Boeing will know if the other is underselling, bribing, receiving subsidies, etc. and be able to respond accordingly, for example.

You can also find all that out by doing investigations.

Can you tell me what legal framework will allow you to undertake these investigations --to delve into and discover economic secrets? We have enough trouble extraditing criminals, nevermind politicians from sovereign nations. What court makes decisions and who in the court is making those decisions, to whom are they beholden?

See how so many countries are rushing to resolve territorial disputes at the International Court of justice? Only the plaintiffs.

For a start, encryption could be used more widely.

Which is the polar opposite of what some governments want[0].

It's almost as if governments are playing the terrorist card to push through laws which benefit them—the political class.

Oh, but that's OK: everyone does it!


[0] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/13/cameron...

I don't think he wished anything away, I think his point is that it reduces the value for all of us.

Maybe take it as an appeal to logic: if nations are to grapple with the issues raised by the NSA and her sister orgs in the five eye countries, the best approach to raising the issue and proposing solutions (in my opinion) is to appeal to the logic of each individual and demonstrate how they are best served by dismantling these espionage operations.

I think it's wishful thinking. I knew of a guy who wanted to open a coffee shop. He got to know another existing coffee shop owner and picked his brain for the dos and don'ts. He said, I'll be opening a shop (in a diff city) and I see yours is doing well...

So what does he do? Opened a shop one block down and drove the fist guy out of business.

Business is ruthless.

> unfortunately, we can't simply wish that away.

I know. If we ever hoped to get to that point, I think we'd need some esoteric unicorn shit like "checks and balances" built into our government.

Slavery is just the way societies work today. We can't just wish it away.

- Most people a few hundred years ago, probably.

That's correct. It wasn't wished away. Slavery and other forms of cheap labor were part of the human condition for millennia.

It took revolts, revolutions and changes in mores for things to advance to where they are today. Yes, some day, we may all enter a new world order where everything is placid. We're not there yet and thinking we can wish ourselves there in the near future, let's say, extremely optimistic, to the point if being wishful thinking.

Perhaps most importantly is that servitude and slavery became economically untenable.

You get what you pay for.

Up to now we have paid tens of billions to get surveillance, and tens of millions to preserve confidentiality.

It could be the other way around.

This is one of the great dangers of state sponsored industrial espionage and why governments should not engage it in outside of extreme circumstances.

>A second economic espionage order called “France: Economic Developments” shows that information was then shared with other U.S. agencies and secretaries, including the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of Commerce, the Federal Reserve and the Secretary of Treasury. Eventually, this data could have been used to help sign export deals.

Nothing in this report directly shows that the US did or did not share this intelligence with US companies. I have not read the French articles yet.

I wonder how the US handles sharing economic intelligence with allies that have a very public record of state sponsored industrial espionage.

> clearly undermines our entire financial system and the best features of capitalism: which is to reward those who innovate

Let's not pretend that US spying on foreign companies is something new at all. It's been widely spread by other means for decades if not more. I would even say it's an integral part of doing business for larger companies, and they call it "intelligence" and they get it by whatever means they can. The NSA is just one of their tools.

I remember someone making a big point yesterday about why it's actually really expensive to manufacture in china. His argument was that China's theft of copyright is the biggest cost when your idea's get stolen and reproduced up the road.

Not sure what his argument is going to be now....

Perhaps it will in fact be destroyed one day and maybe a better system will replace it.

How do they get this information to the US company though?

SAIC, Booz Allen Hamilton, Carlyle Group, Informal networks of personal contacts of retired/former employees, ie golf, is what I would guess.

It's be great to have a polished product like this but for programming sessions in a text editor like Sublime.

Just curious, what benefit would this have over something like git? Just to show your programming process?

Looking at a git diff is one thing, but seeing the commit as it was coded would introduce the dimension of time; giving you better context for how everything came together.

Add some interactive controls for slow-mo/fast-forward or scrubbing forward/back and you would have a powerful tool for learning & review.

some people like to watch a screencast video instead of reading through documentation. It's not a bad way to get introduced to a new language or framework, for example.

How awesome is it that you can pickup an old game, one of your favorites maybe, read the actual source code - which might even have a modern analysis discussed at length by Fabien Sanglard - and then play the game... with all of the community's latest tweaks/optimizations... AND then ... when you come across a bug ... you can code the fix yourself!

After reading this article, I compiled Duke Nukem 3D and played enough to find something that bothered me. Just pushed a fix for horizontal mouse-look/strafing (to Fabien's 'chocolate' repo):


It's like this weird connection to the original devs ... and my childhood.

It's not just marketing firms.


Perhaps we should take a more subjective look at comments on Hacker News and ask ourselves if a genuine 'hacker' (by PG definition or otherwise) would applaud new regulations for the internet.


Was with you until basic income guarantee. Who guarantees that income and from whom will they take it to guarantee for you?

I agree, it doesn't make sense for everyone to 'work' and with any luck the future holds for us more time for leisure, creativity and enjoyment - but when you consider my argument above, perhaps a more sustainable, morale route to achieve such a vision is by means of a healthy, fair and open economy - one that makes it easy for anyone to earn a living by pursuing their own interests, passions or hobbies.


The promise of capitalism is not to produce more "jobs". It is to create prosperity. Prosperity can be achieved by innovation, and innovation is often the result of competition.

What are we going to do with all those humans displace by automation?

If one innovation was to disrupt a segment of the service industry which affects 10 million jobs - those affected have every opportunity available to create new innovations of their own, or pivot their careers to a more prosperous area of the economy - of which there would be many, in a true free-market capitalist economy.


Neat! I was thinking about an optimal design for a similar idea just the other day. Motivated by the lack of accountability by food producer/manufacturers - and lack of a venue for consumers to voice concerns.

This was a direct result of a jar of honey I had qualms about (and probably an aggregate of other concerns & thoughts that we all build up over time on topics like this).

I wrote the producer an email, but would much prefer voicing my opinion public - seems that would be a far more effective way to get the issue resolved.

Anyway, I gave it a go with this Open Food Facts site. Here's the product I added:


My first impression is that the interface is a tad cluttered.

Secondly, some of the categorization fields on the Add Product page are redundant.

Last & most importantly: my most desired use-case for this application is not actually accommodated for.

In addition to the detailed product info, which the site does a nice job of allowing me to enter, I want to be able to leave feedback about the product itself.

For example, with this particular jar of honey my main gripe was the film/plastic foil residue left on the outer rim of the jar when you first open it up. It's great that this product is in a glass jar, is 100% raw and organic - but when little chunks of plastic foil end up in my honey it totally invalidates those benefits.

Anyway, the feedback feature could be as simple as a comment thread below the page. And perhaps thinking a bit father out, ideally: an Amazon style review system.

Either way - love the progress so far, props for a great app already.


Valid concerns, and I share your sentiment about the inexcusable behavior of large-scale food manufacturers, but wouldn't it be better to focus on getting some real traction before wasting mental energy on what might happen; or investing in potentially unnecessary and costly legal counsel?

To my knowledge, they're not divulging any info that isn't already public - not to mention it could take a long time for this to ever reach a critical mass in which a manufacturer would care to go on the offensive towards them.

Probably would be best to keep grinding, build traction - and then pursue legal counsel; when you've got some revenue to pay for such things or even capital investment if that is a road the founders wish to pursue.

Actively working to keep everything open source & decentralized is a great insurance against those types of adversaries anyway.


Nintendo is not only a Japanese company, it is a Kyoto-based company. For people who aren’t familiar, Kyoto-based are to Japanese companies as Japanese companies are to US companies. They’re very traditional, and very focused on hierarchy and group decision making. Unfortunately, that creates a culture where everyone is an advisor and no one is a decision maker – but almost everyone has veto power.

If you read Patrick McKenzie's recent article on "Doing Business in Japan" you can get some better context of just how rigid these 'Kyoto-based' must be:



FWIW, I've heard the same thing, verbatim, about Nagoya companies. Just like every town in Japan thinks that it is the one that discovered that great water makes great soba and great sake, and that all other towns' soba and sake is deficient due to lack of the proper water for it, I think it may be possible that every town in Japan not-so-secretly believes that only their companies are still Japanese and that all other Japanese companies have succumbed to weird foreign influence.


I work with companies both in Kyoto and Tokyo and honestly there's not so MUCH of a difference between them. It depends much more of the company culture than the location in my experience. You can get over-conservative companies in Tokyo as well. As for the whole paragraph about Nintendo's company culture, it sounds very much like every other Japanese company out there (no individual leadership, everything through the group, veto from top managers) and nothing specific to video games businesses.


I have trouble even listing large Kyoto based companies other than Kyocera and Nintendo. (Hatena is the only prominent web services company there, but it is much smaller).

The reputation I heard from inside japan when I lived and worked there wads that of "weirdness" rather than being necessarily more heirichical. I don't think it's a linear "even more Japanese compared to USA standards" thing going on. They're known for being more cultish and wacky in their own ways, like Kyocera employees' fanatical effort into their annual all company sports tournament.

I can see how this weirdness and cultishness might be seen as being "more hierarchical" from a non domestic person's eyes though.


You never heard of Aiful and Wacoal? Sagawa express, too.


All this really is is "I don't work in head office" syndrome. Generally everyone outside head office is either aware of how opaque the goings on are or they have been deluded by the koolaid.

Western companies are just as bad in these respects as their Japanese counterparts.


would the creative people be a part of the rigid hierarchies?


Excellent summary and thank-you for the book recommendation.

The first chapter is conveniently available as a free PDF from the book's site.

It seems like something for those people who are grinding away, doing good work at a great value for their investor/employer/client/customer, but remain underpaid and undervalued; a sort of self-defeating benevolence.



Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact