Quote: “I just wanted to become really rich and do it on my own terms”

Andrew: I actually went to the way back machine to see what you were up to before you did this, to see who you were. And you had your resume up and I looked at it and it’s pretty freaking impressive. In addition to three degrees from MIT which a lot of us have seen in news stories about you and the one from Harvard, you worked at Oracle. You worked at a venture capital firm. You were on a path to be one of these rich people of Silicon Valley. You’re not going to be that now, right? Not with this.

Sal: Unless they make a movie about the Khan Academy. Yeah, you know, it’s funny. When I was working at a hedge fund, the six years after business school, I was the senior analyst at a hedge fund, and it was doing well. And then, my manager retired. He encouraged me to start my own fund. So, I was on that track to kind of be a hedge fund manager and all of that. But, the whole time I kind of rationalized that the only reason that I’m doing this is because I want to, one day, start a school.  In my mind, I didn’t want to start a school, write grants and go to the Department of Education and get a charter and all of that. I felt the constraints. I just want to become really rich and just do it on my own terms. So, that was my rationalization for just trying to generate alpha day and night.

From Andrew Warner’s Mixergy interview with Salman “Sal” Khan, who has created more than 1,500 free educational videos on YouTube, which you can check out here.

Adrian Lamo AOL-Files Profile

Adrian Lamo, the hacker who turned in Bradley Manning, a 22 year old Army Specialist who submitted classified documents to Wikileaks, used to be heavily involved in the AOL hacking scene many years ago.

Here’s his AOL-Files.com profile when he went by the name Magus:

Inverview taken on: 1/12/01

What is your primary handle? I’ve gone by Magus since I first started using online services – at the time, bulletin board systems – in the early 90’s.
What are your current AIM screen names? Line Trace
What is your e-mail address? adrian@adrian.org
Do you have a web site? inside-aol.com, terrorists.net, securid.org
What is your real name? Adrian Lamo. . if you want to be technical, its the Doctor Reverend Adrian A. Lamo, Ph.D . . Doctor of Divinity and minister through the Universal Life Church, the grandma of all diploma mills everywhere. . .i don’t take those seriously, and don’t expect anyone else to, but i put them on my resume and my business cards to make a point of my disdain for the certification and educational process.
Where do you live? i move around alot .. i like to travel, and have lived on both coasts, and spent a couple years in south america. . i’m in transit right now. . but am based out of San Francisco.
How old are you? 19
What are your hobbies? i like to break and explore. breaking things is integral to the progression of technology. . people accuse me of being directionless, but i think its important to drop dynamite into the pond sometimes, to see what floats up. in my copious free time, i like to explore abandoned buildings and sewer systems, as well as exploring occupied buildings – its amazing how many security guards will escort you up to the roof of a skyscraper if you only ask, or won’t even stop you if you look like you know where you’re going. . urban exploration is definitely a big passtime. one of the reasons i like to travel, too., i used to be involved in local activism and whatnot. . worked with the city government, stuff like that. . i’m massively disinterested in politics now though.
How would you describe your physical appearance? scrawny geek ; )
What do you hope to do as a profession? same as i do now. . short term, interesting contracts for worthwhile places. i’ve been working since i was 16, and have run through a pretty big variety of jobs and contracts. . most of them designed to be short term .. i did a 3 month security audit for a fortune 500 company once, that was probably the most interesting. . but i’ve worked for everything from nonprofits to law firms to private investigation firms. . i set up a Netzero account for one of kevin mitnick’s former attorneys at one of them, of all the ironic things. . thats the sort of thing i want to keep doing. i don’t want to be stuck behind the same desk all my life, working at the same place until i have too much invested in what i’m doing to be able to do anything to risk it.
How long have you been on AOL? used the service briefly when i was younger, when it was known as Quantum Link, and i was playing around with my commodore 64. . but i didn’t start to really use it til the mid-90’s. . i used AOL 1.6 for DOS/GeoWorks for the longest time, and actively resisted going over to the Windows version until they started disabling features one by one. .they eventually sunsetted it altogether in June of 1999. So. .something like 7 or 8 years now.
How much time do you think you spend online each day? it varies. . .depending on where i am and what i’m doing. sometimes, if i’m interested in something, i’ll spend days online nonstop. . sometimes i’ll spend days without touching a computer. on a really average day, anywhere between 4 and 12 hours ;x
What programming languages are you familiar with? i don’t really program. the only languages i’ve worked with are x86 assembler and OPL for the EPOC16 palmtop OS.
What do you spend most of your time online doing? breaking and exploring -=)
Who are your good friends online? They know who they are.

Confessions of a Bot Runner Article

Check out this article, which is a pretty in-depth analysis of my poker botting activities based on what I’ve written here, my 2+2 posts, HackerNews comments, and more.

Quote:

  • Matt played HU SNGs on pokerstars part-time in 2006 and 2007. He seemed to have a fair success. He kept a blog in 2006 which is now archived on his mattmazur.com website. He was playing the 50s and 100s and taking looks at the 200 level, playing under the pokerstars name ‘kaon’. The blog stops in December, 2006. He states in the introduction that this is because he had started working on his poker bot project.
  • Matt posted on 2+2 under the name nichomacheo. You can see his profile and posts on the archive server and on the current server. He is still posting strategy up until late 2008.
  • He started posting his blog again in July 2007, a new domain. It was to log his return to HU SNGs playing on FTP. This was half way through his time running a pokerbot on stars (from screenshots, the the bot appears to have Full Tilt support). The blog only lasted 4 posts.

This was written by a professional poker player who goes by the name Hood who has “never written a bot … and advocate the strongest punishments for those who do

Clever AIM Spam

I received the following AIM message a little while ago:

TMorganDirector: hey i tried to send you a message but this stupid im freezes msg me on my other aim its Qtpiegirl8394 i can talk there easier lol

Curious, I responded back to Qtpiegirl8394. Here’s the transcript:

Kaon: Hi, you IM’d me?
Qtpiegirl8394: hey…
Qtpiegirl8394: hello?
Qtpiegirl8394: i’m sorry, i get forgetful sometimes, who is this again?
Qtpiegirl8394: what? i’m definately real i hate fakes
Qtpiegirl8394: are you a bot?
Kaon: you sent me an IM under your TMorganDirector name
Qtpiegirl8394: oooh,duhrrr,LOL, great to meet you!
Kaon: whats up
Kaon: yeah!
Qtpiegirl8394: so what are you up to?
Kaon: not much
Qtpiegirl8394: i’m just hanging out doing absolutely nothing today browsing the web…watching tv…relaxing
Qtpiegirl8394: could actually use some company =P
Kaon: how come your computer froze under your other screen name but not this one?
Qtpiegirl8394: well, it’s kinda fun to get to know what people look like live.Do you wanna do a video chat with me?
Qtpiegirl8394: I have a courtesy pass to my private video chat.if you aren’t too busy,it will be fun,k?
Kaon: how do i do that?
Qtpiegirl8394: well i’m pretty sure i have a courtesy pass for you to view would you like that?
Qtpiegirl8394: what? i’m definately real i hate fakes
Qtpiegirl8394: are you a bot?
Kaon: ?
Kaon: what’s a bot?
Qtpiegirl8394: k hold on let me check and make sure i can find you that pass hun
Qtpiegirl8394: yup! i definately got one for you babe
Qtpiegirl8394: that sound good?
Kaon: yeah!
Qtpiegirl8394: ok babe this is gonna just be me and u
Qtpiegirl8394: go to http://www.qtpiegirl8394.viewmycamshow.com and create a free profile its really easy to signup
Qtpiegirl8394: let me know when you have your username
Qtpiegirl8394: just put in all your details on this page, the cc or dc is for age verification, i had to do it too to try out the network. it makes sure they keep the kiddies out ok hun?
Qtpiegirl8394: what? i’m definately real i hate fakes
Qtpiegirl8394: are you a bot?
Qtpiegirl8394: ok let me know when you get your username so i can start the 1 on 1 video chat sweetie
Kaon: are you a bot?
Qtpiegirl8394: k did you get everything filled out?
Qtpiegirl8394: what? i’m definately real i hate fakes
Qtpiegirl8394: are you a bot?
Kaon: you are real?
Qtpiegirl8394: ok on the mainpage,
Qtpiegirl8394: click on live webcams at the top left hand corner
Qtpiegirl8394: i’m as real as they come baby 100% live in the flesh
Qtpiegirl8394: are you still there?
Qtpiegirl8394: why would u ask that?
Kaon: what’s 2 + 2?
Qtpiegirl8394: ok, scroll down to the row of pretty girls and find me. Im on the right, and my name is (babygurl109)
Qtpiegirl8394: See you in chat babe!
Kaon: 2 + 2?

I thought this was pretty well done for several reasons:

  • Most of the AIM spam I get is a simple “Hey click here to chat with hot girlz”, which is easy to identify as spam. With this, I got an IM from an official-sounding screenname (TMorganDirector), which asked me to contact another screenname due to technical difficulties.  Had it not been for the disparity in screennames (TMorganDirector vs Qtpiegirl8394), it would have been hard to tell this even was spam.
  • The bot, which asks me whether I am a bot, seemed to keep track of where we were in the conversation. It starts out with a hello, who is this, and little by little leads me towards the webcam site. Most of the responses are generic enough that they work regardless of what I am actually saying. For example, it said “who is this again?” I said “you sent me an IM” and it said “oh yeah!”, but it probably would have said “oh yeah!” regardless of what I actually said because it knew it had just asked me that question.
  • It also analyzed what I was saying because when I asked “are you real?” it responded “i’m as real as they come 100% live in the flesh”. Pretty good.
  • The URL that it gave me contains her screen name (good), but then directs me to a generic looking webcam site (you can replace her name in the URL and it still redirects to the same page). They’d probably do a lot better linking me to something that looks like a profile page that contains a picture of a beautiful woman, her screen name (taken from the URL), and a big green “Chat now!” button at the top of the page. They could even embed a video with a girl saying “Hello? Can you hear me?” which would fool a lot of people.
  • Another complaint is that it kept responding back to me even when I wasn’t saying anything (such as the “what? I’m definitely real I hate fakes” at the beginning). The whole “i’m sorry i get forgetful who is this again?” is a big red flag too since she allegedly just IM’d me–I wonder why the programmer included that.

Not bad though.

I bet the conversation rates on this method blow the direct-spam rates out of the water. They could do a lot better still with some calculating A/B tests.

An Amazing JavaScript Port of HNTrends.com Using Raphael JS

I received the following email last week:

I am a fellow hacker-news reader, and just wanted to share with you this weekend project i did a few weeks back: hntrends.timepurge.com

This is basically a javascript (Raphaeljs) port of the flash frontend you have at hntrends.com.This was done as a personal learning exercise for Raphaeljs JavaScript library. There is a little python code at hntrends.timepurge.com/fetchdata that fetches your json data (Not set as a cron job. Just to create local snapshot manually).

Hope you like it.

My best wishes to you for the success of Preceden.
-Fenin.

With his permission, I’m posting it here for you all to check out. View it at hntrends.timepurge.com. To view the original version, visit hntrends.com.

It’s amazing how closely it resembles the original version. When I first loaded it I immediately right clicked the graph to ensure that I was actually looking at JavaScript and not Flash. I was showing off his version last night to a few folks at a Philadelphia Hackathon meetup and actually mixed up my site with his a few times because they look so similar.

A side by side comparison (click to view full image):

(With libraries like RaphaelJS and the advent of HTML5, you’ve got to wonder what the state of Flash is going to be in a few years. Outlook doesn’t look so good.)

Fenin, well done sir.

Comments on HackerNews here.

On (Not) Emailing Bloggers

Get as many distribution channels as possible – There is some weird sense that if you build something they will just come. That a few “like”+retweet buttons and emails to editor@techcrunch.com will make your traffic explode + grow consistently. It fucking won’t. Get as many distribution channels as possible. Each one by itself may not be large, but if you have many it starts to add up. It also diversifies your risk.

Jason Baptiste

On that note, I had this brilliant idea about three weeks ago: as a reminder to myself to email bloggers as part of Preceden‘s marketing efforts, I would keep track of how many bloggers I emailed on the dry erase board next to my desk.

I started on the 6th; today is the 21st:

It’s not that it’s a very hard or time consuming task; I just find it incredibly mind numbing. Every time I sit down to actually email someone, I always wind up switching over to TextMate within 30 seconds to resume programming.  Jason’s right though: building it is not enough. The internet is a big, big, BIG place and like it or not, you are just a drop in the bucket.

Here’s to the next three weeks.