mht.wtf

A blog about computer science, programming, and whatnot.

Negative Comments

June 12, 2020

This post is a stream of conciousness from reading comments at this post. More specifically, this comment got me thinking1:

You know no-one is forcing you to play CS in your browser, right? Why is it so offensive to you that this exists and someone else is finding joy in playing it? Why does HN love to rag on web technologies so much?

The assumption here is that in some places, like HN, it’s not unusual for projects to be, for the lack of a better word, shat on. I too have experienced this when I started, and unfortunately didn’t finish, a series on writing a JPEG encoder/decoder in Rust. People were complaining among other things that rewriting something in A New And Different Language didn’t solve a real problem. They were competely right, of course, but they also missed the point completely, as I didn’t really need a new encoder/decoder of JPEG files. It was strictly educational, as I wanted to learn more about JPEG, as well as experiencing how it was trying to implement a spec.

Back then I felt the criticism was stupid. Hadn’t they read the post at all? How could they really think I did this for some technical gain? My own feelings were at the time backed up by the general consensus on various sites.

Still, looking back, I think their frustration was warranted, and I think the same frustration is surfacing on the CS 1.6 thread from HN linked above.

The problem isn’t that some people took the time to to a thing that they’re proud of, and posted it to some news aggregation site.

The problem is that these posts are celebrated by the community when their only contribution is “oh, that’s neat”.

Our attention is limited, and literally with mankinds full knowledge at our fingertips our attention is one of the most important resources we have. Therefore, we must be frugal with it. When people are getting upset that some silly hobby project is invading their news feed, it’s not because they were forced to look at it, or because they thought the project was stupid and not worth doing. I think it’s mainly because it shows that their peers are more interested in neat hacks as opposed to more meaningful content.

You could argue that hacker news is the natural place for neat hacks, and I do agree, and this problem is of course not isolated to HN. However, I think the frustration comes from a deeper level where we are concerned that we as a community, are getting lost in cheap flashy tricks instead of sound solid concepts and ideas.

You only have about 16 hours of attention every day2, and where you spend this time is paramount.

Thanks for reading.


  1. In a sense, this is really the perfect post for these thoughts I’ve had. For people who don’t know, Counter Strike is a highly competitive first person shooter game focused on fast paced combat and shooting accuracy. The professional players, because there are professional players, play with monitors which refresh rates are either 144Hz or 240Hz, which amounts to 6.94ms and 4.17ms per frame, respectively. Putting this game in a web browser, a program known for being bloated and sloppy (although they have their reasons!), is not because it is viable in any sense, but stricktly because “here’s a game people know, and look! we can play it in the browser!” ↩︎

  2. Assuming you are focusing on something every single hour of your day, of course ;) ↩︎

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