tl;dr: Some people on LW have a hard time finding worthwhile employment. Share advice and help them out!

Working sucks. I'd rather not work. But alas, a lot of the time, we have to choose between working and starvation. At the very least I'd like to minimize work. I'd like to work somewhere cheap and comfortable... you know, like on the beach in Thailand, like LW (ab)user Louie did. Then I could spend my spare time on things like self-improvement and ahem 'studying nootropics' all day. I'd like to travel, if possible, and not be chained to an iffy job. It'd be cool to have flexible hours. I've read The 4-Hour Work Week but it seemed kinda difficult and scary and... I just don't wanna do it. I can't code, and I'd rather not learn how to. At least, I'd rather not have my job depend on it. I never graduated from college. Hell, I never got my high school diploma, even. A team of medical experts has confirmed that my sleep cycle is of the Chaotic Evil variety. (For those who read HP:MoR, imagine Harry Potter Syndrome, except on crack. I bet a lot of people have similar sleep cycles.) I'm 18, and therefore automatically low status for employment purposes: I'm obviously much too young to make a good teacher, or store manager, or police officer. I can imagine having health problems, or severe social anxiety, or a nearly useless liberal arts degree, or just a general setback limiting my employment opportunities. And if it turned out that I wanted to work 14 hour days all of a sudden because I really needed the money, well then it'd be cool to have that option as well. Alas, none of this is possible, so I might as well just give up and keep on being stressed and feeling useless... or should I?

I bet a whole bunch of Less Wrongers aren't aware of chances for alternative employment. I myself hear myths of people who work via the internet, or blog for a living, or code an hour a day and still make enough to survive comfortably. Sites like elance and vworker (which looks kinda intimidating) exist, and I bet we could find others. Are there such people on Less Wrong that could tell us their secret? Do others know about how to snag one of these gigs? What sorts of skills are easiest to specialize in that could get returns in virtual work? Are virtual markets hard to break into? Can I just blog for an hour or two a day and afford to live a life of simplistic luxury in Thailand? Pretty much everyone on Less Wrong has exceptional writing ability: are there relatively well-paying writing gigs we could get? Alternatively, are there other non-internet jobs that people can break into that don't require tons of experience or great connections or that dreaded and inscrutable bane of nerds everywhere, 'people skills'? Share your knowledge or do some research and help Less Wrong become more happy, more productive, and more awesome!

Oh, and this is really important: we don't have to reinvent the wheel. As wedrifid demonstrated in the earlier Intelligence Amplification Open Thread, a link to an already existent forum is worth ten thousand words or more.

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Very interesting, and potentially helpful, comment; upvoted. But it still made me laugh to read this in a bulletpoint about any sort of writing: (emphasis added)
Marketable, and demonstrable without a degree. I'm a good editor--better than whoever vetted for a lot of what I see in print these days--but my work history doesn't reflect it. Can a skill test reflect that well enough for potential employers to bother considering me?
For everyone seeing this in the "recent comments" section, does there exist a record of this comment? It seems like it was really useful and it's a shame it was completely nuked.
Ctrl+F "good deed"
The Wayback Machine, of course. Thanks. I suppose I lose a rationalist point for failing to use a tool I'm already familiar with to solve my problem.
God,I needed this post. Thanks so much. oDesk seems like the most viable option for consistent and legitimate work for a freelancer. Definitely looking into it.
I signed up, but I'm a little too scared to take any tests at the moment. I kinda want to work with a pseudonym... is that feasible? I figure you'd be screwed when your PayPal account didn't match your user account name. :/
What scares you about it? Are you just unsure yet that it isn't sketchy, or something more specific?
Nah, it looks totally legit. I'm just scared about not getting 100% on the tests. (Not that I think it'll actually affect my job prospects, but I like doing things well.)


The knowledge of self can wait until after I've studied more. Then the tests will be measuring something more than my ability to remember things from long ago or my ability to understand the psychology of test writers. Also I was scared about the social image produced by someone who scores only 60% in their claimed specialty, not the feeling associated with only having a 60% skill level. Thus what you said about being able to hide results and retake tests assuages my fears.
Oh, that. :P I see. Maybe I'll try it then, since that part doesn't worry me.

Here is what worked for me. I started a programming career as a university dropout, got bored of it after 15 years and started a successful freelance consulting practice, got tired of that after a while and recently redesigned my job from the ground up for more stable income and even more freedom of action than I had as a consultant.

Advice #1 is: learn how to network. Start doing it now even if you think you're "too young".

Send email to people - strangers - you think of as exemplars of the kind of success you aspire to, and ask them for one hour of their time, to give you some insight into where your own career might go, and possibly refer you to someone who could help further your goals.

Keep a Farley file, or maybe use LinkedIn to keep your contacts organized, but at any rate start thinking of these contacts as "your network" and of your network as one of your major assets in building the kind of career you want. Cultivate people in your network for their own sake, not as people who can help you. If at all possible, think first of how you can help them.

After a while - and one thing to remember is to be patient, it could take up to a couple years - your network will start generating opportunities for you. At that point, know what you want. You won't be able to say "yes" to everything, but it's crucial that you're able to say "yes" to something. You will have to take risks.

Get a notebook and write done every adult you know including relatives. Call each person in your book and ask for advice in getting a job and ask for new people you could contact for job hunting help. Write the names of these new people in your notebook, call them and ask for advice and new names. Repeat until you have a job.

My opinion: people who generally like people / interacting with people tend to do this anyway although with less of a structure. People who generally dislike socializing or dislike people in general will find this seriously difficult. So far (37) I got away with simply applying for advertised jobs. However I write a professional blog, which has not much readership but has quite an effect when I link it in my application e-mail, and I make it a habit to save anonymized PDFs about my most impressive works which again sets my application away from others who just send a CV / resume. These two - professional blogs and a references folder - are IMHO the the best two impersonal ways to make a job application stand out and give a high chance of win. However it is still just advertised jobs and I am starting to think they somehow have a common tendency of sucking :) The good ones go in the network so networking is still preferable, just simply painful for the asocial types.
What is that design?

Basically, a software development process think tank funded by companies who have a vested interest in ensuring that the research and education on said processes (Agile, specifically) is of better quality in the future than it has been so far. In practice this means that as of this month I get paid to write, attend conferences, organize seminars, network with people to try to match up cients and contractors when a bid is going around.

Those were things I did "pro bono" when I was a consultant; at one point I decided the consuting gigs were interfering with the volunteer stuff, and I had to choose one or the other. I picked the one that was more fun, the trick was to figure out the money angle, then convince businesses to go along with it.

To be frank I have only reached half of my financing goals so far, so this is still a work in progress with failure a possiblity.

As a survivor of a recent heart attack, I would like to make a rather surprising suggestion. If you live in big city, get a job as a bicycle courier. If near a college campus, get a job as a bicycle pizza delivery person. Get someone to pay you for getting healthy exercise. Then you can spend your spare time on sedentary intellectual activities without damaging your health.

If you are like Mitchell_Porter, and wish to spend your spare time on serious math-like creativity, then you definitely need 4-6 hours of mindless physical activity in the middle of your wake cycle, with intense intellectual activity at the beginning and end of the day. No one can maintain peak intellectual productivity for long periods without some scheduled downtime.

A good job for mindless physical activity: cart-pusher at Walmart. I did this in high school, and it is still easily the best job I've ever had. You work at your own pace, you're outdoors, the managers usually ignore you (so you don't even have to obey dress code). Mostly I just screwed around with my coworkers.

Basically you just spend all day walking (with occasional bursts of hard physical exercise). I lost 40 pounds in the first 6 months and got into the best shape I have ever been in. There's also a kind of pleasant exhaustion after putting in 8.5 hours.

ETA: These jobs are extremely easy to get: even though I lived in an economically depressed area, I was hired without even an interview. A woman from HR called 90 minutes after I submitted my application.

A good job for not even that: in high school I worked summers as night-watch at a local suburban pool. 40 hours a week, $9.20/hr, or ~$4000 a summer. There was zero demand on my time during it since I worked overnight. I got a lot of reading done. The only downside was that it was seasonal (so you couldn't just do that job), and you could be profoundly mentally screwed by the sleep schedule. I think I could do better now than I did before with melatonin, modafinil, blackout curtains, etc.
It doesn't seem like the seasonal basis of the job is inherant in night-watchmen idea - there must be lots of warehouses, etc., that need nightwatchmen. I can imagine worse things than being paid to read.
Right. In my case, the seasonality came from it being a pool - it was only worthwhile to pay nightwatchmen when it was actually filled and multi-million dollar liability existed for accidental drowning (read: middle-class teens holding drugged parties). In a more 'real' nightwatch job, seasonality might not be a problem. On the other hand, you might have more supervision than I did. (Which was none. I saw my nominal boss once at the beginning.) In any event, the free time was what you made of it. Akrasia was a major issue.
A job in a similar vein which I know of but haven't personally held: Night shift at a funeral home. Someone needs to do embalming prep for bodies that show up at 2:37 AM, and they'll generally pay well for you being on-site and on-call.
Is it possible to put in enough hours at WalMart to get enough pay to rent an apartment with internet access and have a healthy diet? Also, can you specialize in just cart-pushing and not something annoying like customer relations?
My brother works at WalMart at nights. He stocks shelves and the like. He has zero debt besides the house he owns. He doesn't own a car, and walks to/from work 5 days a week making a little over $10/hour. He has plenty of money to do anything he wants (within reason). He has thousands in the bank and spends his time surfing the internet and playing video games.
When I started at walmart I was making $8/hour. I quickly was moved up to 8.50 (I think) within the first 6 months. This was several years ago, so wages may be higher now (of course it varies by region). Working close to full-time, I could easily make $1200 a month (take-home), which was plenty to live on where I lived at the time (greater Detroit area). If you live somewhere where the cost of living is higher, you might not be able to manage it, but of course, wages will tend to be higher in places with high cost-of-living. Yes, usually recently built walmarts (which are much larger), will have a dedicated staff of "courtesy associates" (the corporate euphemism for "cart-pusher"). Courtesy associates only do the highly specialized task of retrieving shopping carts. Sometimes you have to do the door-greeter's jobs while they are on break, but I usually got one of the other courtesy associates to do it, since I preferred to remain outdoors, and they liked the opportunity to get out of the sun/cold/rain.
Thanks for the info. Did you get much chance to think about things during work hours, or was the job slightly too cognitively costly for real contemplation?
For me, at least, it was in that sweet spot of cognitive demand that allows for deep reverie, but is demanding enough that I didn't become bored with just thinking. Personally, I find I can't slip into deep thought while just sitting on the couch, I need some kind of other stimulation to meet my optimal level of arousal. When I really need to think about something, I always wind up pacing, cleaning, running errands, playing minesweeper, etc. Of course, this is after you get used to the job, which takes several days to a few weeks.
Story: Eastern European accountant dude moved to the US, took a 4 hour accounting job and a 4 hour stacking heavy boxes at DHL warehouse kind of job, he said getting paid for practically going to a gym was the best idea ever and 4 hours of bookkeeping is really enough a day.
A Coder in Courierland.
I know I am off topic, but I was not aware of this and just wanted to note that I'm glad you're still around. Of course, I enjoy most of the commenters here.... but still.... (cue sentimental music and single tear drop) :D
Thx. But it wasn't all that recent. Coming up on the 3-year anniversary. Scared the sh.t out of me, though, and convinced me to finally quit smoking and start exercising.
I listened to a This American Life episode about campus pizza delivery (via vehicle) at a notorious party school which didn't sound very fun, but I'm guessing non-party schools are more reasonable. I've also read a few really good blog posts about being a bike courier. It sounded fun but kinda scary. Make sure to calculate how much quantum (edit: or any kind of) measure you're losing before going that route.

"Make sure to calculate how much quantum measure you're losing before going that route."

When you say it this way, Will, you needlessly exclude readers not yet familiar with the scientific content of this site, and you give the superficial impression of subscribing to Deepak Chopra or other New Age woo-woo.

If I removed the word 'quantum' I think that'd be enough: after all, spatially infinite universes still force us to reason in terms of measure, and way more people accept spatially infinite universes than the no-worldeaters interpretation of quantum mechanics. You make a fair point that invoking the Q-word was needless.
Surprising, because the opposite of not healthy isn't bike riding all day? How about healthy died and 1/2 of good exercise? Personally I do 1.25 hrs, but that's because I read on the (stationary) bike. As an aside, what got me into back exercise after some years was a weird medical episode where I was suspected of stroke 2 years ago. Fortunately a false alarm, but I sincerely recommend having something like that "mid-life". I'd give some of my friends fake heart attacks if I knew how.

I can't code, and I'd rather not learn how to.

Why not? I'd recommend at least giving it a whirl and seeing if you like it. Especially web programming.

  • You can make money doing web programming. I make probably 50-100% more doing web programming than I would doing anything else. And I don't have a degree in CS.
  • It engages your brain and problem-solving abilities. This can be reinforcing and slightly addictive. You have been warned.
  • Web programming should not be hard for anyone with LW-level IQ. I am able to do web programming when sleep-deprived, depressed, intoxicated, or in mental states in which I cannot probably form sentences or do actual writing. Learning the basics of programming is actually more conceptually complex than doing actual web programming.
  • You can use it build your own websites and entrepreneurial projects. So even if web programming doesn't turn out to be what you want to do professionally, the skills will still be useful.
  • Some basic scripting skills will let you answer many sorts of quantitative questions.

Someone with your mental abilities could find (web) programming enjoyable, useful, and perhaps even profitable, so don't write it off too soon.

From personal experience I agree with all those bullet points, and wish to add one more: having the ability to write simple computer programs can be extremely useful in other information-related endeavors. Next time you or one of your friends is burning a lot of time doing a repetetive task on a computer, wouldn't it be nice to be able to turn an hours-long task into the work of 15 minutes with a simple script?

Many organizations heavily rely on computers for their day-to-day business, yet do not understand how to take advantage of them to reduce required human effort.

Kill boring work: become an amateur computer programmer.

Becoming an amateur computer programmer takes quite a bit of work, but at least it's not boring work.

So, I have a forgotten year of C++ under my belt and I can work with HTML and CSS. What exactly goes into web programming? I was imagining it'd be a few months studying CSS, Javascript, jQuery, Python, MySQL, PHP, Django, that Google Apps language, et cetera, and it just sounded like a lot of work. Also, I've had 2 occasions where I spent a few hours looking for resources to help with a problem and I just had to give up, which is hella frustrating. I couldn't get processing.js to work which sucked 'cuz I'd written up this cool thing in Processing and figured it'd be really easy to work into a website I'd designed, and I felt stupid, and I don't like feeling stupid. I mean if I'm chilling with SIAI folk then I guess I might as well take advantage of their knowledge and pick up some web programming (especially since it's really just fun in the first place), but... I dunno, it feels like there's this big unknown gap between me and being a below-average web programmer, and I don't like being below-average at anything, let alone having to work hard to become below-average. Hence I also avoid learning math, even though I know I really should learn more.

What exactly goes into web programming?

It really depends on what someone needs you to do. There are a few different approaches to web programming, which include different workflows and different ways of breaking up who does what. Generally, most things on the web can be broken up into "front end" and "back end", which change meaning based on context. "Front end" can usually be divided into "design" and "implementation [or] programming". "Back end" can usually be divided into server administration, the database, and programming.

I work at a small firm (in person) and so do both front-end and back-end programming, but usually someone will specialize in one or the other or some aspect of it. For folks condemned to work in the world of Microsoft, there is usually a lot of complicated technical work to interface various proprietary Microsoft technologies using abstract frameworks on the back end.

The traditional back-end setup in the Unix world is what used to be called LAMP (back when people felt the need to call it something) - a machine with a Linux OS running the Apache web server and MySQL database engine, with Perl ... (read more)

I'm pretty confused about back end programming. I figured it was possible to just let other people handle that for you, like Heroku or some other hosting service where you don't have to worry... but I'm totally in over my head here, is that not how that works? I guess if I got into web programming I'd want to focus as much as possible on the front end, designing things and trying to worry as little as possible about optimizing data structures and the like.

Back end programming just means the programming of what you want your site to actually do, as opposed to how you want it to look. i.e. it's the part that actually qualifies as "programming" (coders really hate it when web designers refer to web design as "programming").

If you're just setting up a web site based on an existing code base (like how LW is based on the reddit code), then there may not be any back end programming that needs to be done. But if you're actually creating something original, somebody needs to actually write the code to make it do what you want it to do.

Like say we were trying to create LW from scratch. You've laid out all your HTML and CSS and images and whatnot for how you want everything to LOOK. But there are all these buttons and stuff, like the "Create New Article" button in the top right. You can lay out where that button is and what it looks like, but what actually happens when a user clicks on it? That's where back end programming comes in - probably you respond to the click by creating a new row in an article table in your database, which has a schema you've created, specifying all the fields that need to appear - the ... (read more)

Thanks, I'm significantly less confused now, and back end programming now sounds like fun.
It's a lot of fun. Now you're making me whimsical! ;)
Hmuh, this is intimidating. I was gonna pick up some PHP but to actually use it for a project I'll need MySQL and for that I'll need to set up an Apache web server of some kind... which is intimidating, and I'm probably approaching this the wrong way, especially as I'm not sure yet what I'd even be scripting for. Also I feel alienated as a Windows user; I have Ubuntu but it's frickin' annoying sometimes. How do most people get started with this whole hacker thing? EDIT: Eff it, I'll switch to Linux and play with Django, it seems easiest. Stupid Linux.
There is essentially no reason to bother with PHP these days. It's a relic and you'd end up having to learn all sorts of arbitrary distracting things. I can empathise with the intimidation. There was a whole heap of linux administration stuff that I had to pick up to get started. Fortunately, you don't need to do anything like that any more and it can be even easier on windows! You can install the whole stack (ie. Ruby, Rails, apache and mysql) all at once. From there you can just find a tutorial to follow then start copy and pasting stuff from similar applications till you have one that does what you want. (You didn't hear 'develop by cut and paste and google' from me! ;)) RubyStack is one option. The one I have used is InstantRails. I think that one is getting out of date (about a year old) but it probably doesn't make any difference for your purposes. I don't know what the options are for other web development frameworks. I'm sure there is something simple out there for Python somewhere but I just haven't had reason to look into it. So if you wanted to get started it is easy enough. Depends on your interest. When I have something I want to do I go do it. Sometimes that means learning stuff like programming. Sometimes it means learning pharmacology. That's probably the underlying spirit behind the 'hacker' mindset.
I rather like PHP. Examples of "arbitrary distracting things"?
Thanks! Ruby looks good, but I know more Python/Django folk, so it's tempting to leave Windows for a bit. I guess I'll start with the RubyStack and see what I can build. I'm guessing a lot of the basic skills I need are transferable to Django development anyway.
I'm a rails developer myself and i shudder to think of developing in Windows. It really is pretty simple in Ubuntu, just open Synaptic and download anything that says ruby. If you want to go with heroku you don't even need apache.
I wonder if there is a "DjangoStack" for windows about someplace. Maybe your friends would know? Not that I'm saying linux is bad, just that you've already got enough stuff to be absorbing without cramming in two languages and frameworks at once. (But you are right, the fundamental concepts are the same.)
I downloaded RubyStack and the install process doesn't do anything; not sure why. It flashes a BitNami logo and then goes blank, but the process is still sitting there in my task manager... maybe it doesn't play nice with 64 bit Windows 7. At any rate BitNami also has a DjangoStack! So I'll try that instead. :/
I downloaded RubyStack and the install process doesn't do anything; not sure why. It flashes a BitNami logo and then goes blank, but the process is still sitting there in my task manager... maybe it doesn't play nice with 64 bit Windows 7. At any rate BitNami also has a DjangoStack! So I'll try that instead. :/ ...and that also didn't work, so it looks like Ubuntu for me, where my problems will be even greater. I hate computers.
So the good news is, you need none of these "stacks". Really. What you're trying to do here is run before you've learned to walk. Web programming is as simple as writing a program that does puts "<html>Hello World</html>" and redirecting the output to "index.html" when you run this from shell. This gets you a dynamic Web site generated from a program that you wrote. If that's too simple for you, congratulations: you've mastered enough of the fundamentals to get on to the next step. Something like parametrize the Web page to greet you by your name. You may be protesting at this point that running the program whenever you want to update the Web site wasn't your idea of "Web programming" - you want a Web site that updates on the fly. Now we're talking about Web frameworks. But still you don't need a "stack", you need to build up an understanding of how Web servers work, and maybe study a few architectures of historical interest: * CGI (the way Web programming was done for years, basically a hack to get the "invoke program from command line and redirect output to a Web connection" idea to work on-the-fly) * PHP as an Apache module, or what happened when the Web server coders realized the hacks weren't going away anytime soon * frameworks like Sinatra, a gentle introduction to Web frameworks in a modern language without excessive baggage With something like PHP or (if you lean toward Ruby) Sinatra, you're reaching the point of building up arbitrarily complex Web pages in response to HTTP requests, on the fly. At this point you'd better have a solid understanding of how the dance unfolds between Web clients (typically browsers, but not just) and Web servers. What are requests and responses, headers, parameters. Rewrite your Hello World example in Sinatra. The next exercise is to orchestrate a simple interaction where your Web app displays a form with a text box asking for your name, and a Submit button which takes you to a page greeting you by name. Just this
This comment inadvertently recalls to my mind Perlis's epigram: 'most people find the concept of programming obvious, and the doing impossible'.
:) ETA: I remained torn for a while, but I've edited the grandparent to fix the mistake.
I'm confused, you're talking about data for a tic-tac-toe game, which should be stored in YAML? I got a tad confused because YAML sounds like HAML and I'd just been reading about HAML, then I realized I'd never used XML and didn't even realize what it was for, so I tried to see if it was related to HTML which I've used a lot of, but it looks like it's not, it's just a way to format text files so that programs/scripts can import data from them. HAML on the other hand is a prettier version of ERB which is a way/template to use Ruby to make HTML use variables. So HAML is this thing I shouldn't be using yet because it's complicated and I should be focusing on Sinatra/Ruby whereas YAML I should start using eventually because it's a way to format data for easy interpretation by ruby scripts and the like. Or did you mean YAML should be used for other things? Am I totally off?
No, something like tic-tac-toe has a bounded set of data to keep track of, no database or other long-term storage required. Once you've mastered tic-tac-toe or the like the next kind of Web app you're likely to tackle is one with an unbounded data set: for instance, a list of user accounts, or a list of posts and comments. Data like this should survive shutting down and restarting your server. The traditional approach is to use MySQL to store this kind of data, but I would advise against getting a premature interest in MySQL, as there's a risk that doing so will warp your thinking. YAML is an alternative for storing such data that would keep you more in the Ruby world. All four of HTML, XML, YAML and HAML share the two initials ML - they're all "markup languages". It's easy to get confused because the differences between them are minute, in the grand scheme of things, and only relevant to people who care so deeply about what tools they work with that it magnifies the differences. The one you can't do without is HTML, so it makes sense to use only that for a little while. (Actually in the past few years HTML has been redefined as a dialect of XML, so using it means you'll also be using XML.) Using HAML makes a lot of sense, but there's also a bias it (and ERB, and every similar templating language) induces that you want to be aware of. When you start using these things you start thinking of your generated Web pages as "documents with Ruby variables". This is fine for some class of features but it will wreck your design skill if you generalize the approach too eagerly. Some (indeed many) portions of a significant Web app should be thought of as Ruby objects with the ability to output a HTML representation of them. Things like row/column tables; menus; data entry forms; recursively nested structures like LW comment threads; and so on.
YAML, and pretty much every data serialization method is overkill for Tic-Tac-Toe - you can store a game just as a few integers if you represent the board as a magic square:
I think I'm limited to just playing around with Ruby on Windows for now; my wireless card doesn't work in Linux. And the thing that might work to fix that is in a package that I need the internet to download. I hate Linux so much, it's seriously a horrible operating system. GRUB actually knocked out access to all of my partitions once, meaning I couldn't even get to GRUB and therefore Windows 7; there's no way I would've been able to fix that without SIAI folk. I'm also running it in VMWare and the internet works there but Gems doesn't: the paths are messed up somehow so that gems don't run, and the internet isn't helpful in fixing that. Stupid stupid operating system. No wonder everyone owns a Mac.
It helps that Ruby is installed on Macs out of the box :) Being able to get gems is kind of a big deal in Ruby, but I as I said above you don't need the big guns like Rails yet.
Yeah, I was interested in familiarizing myself with Sinatra but without gems working I guess I'll... uh... play with Python/Ruby and see which I like more until I can afford a Macbook? I feel like it's a little ridiculous that web programming is so limited on Windows. I must be missing something?
For some reason the whole Web thing had historically much more traction in Unix family OSes. Windows has to do extra work to make it look to the server programs as if they're running on something Unix-like. Like making its non-Unix paths make sense to programs that are mostly coded with Unix in mind. So what kind of error messages are you getting when you run gem commands?
" installing to ~./gem /var/lib/gems/1.8 and /var/lib/gems/1.8/bin aren't both writeable " and since /var/lib/gems/1.8/bin isn't in my PATH gem executables won't run. I tried doing what it says here to no avail; it did nothing as far as I can tell. I'm not sure if this is a VM problem or an Ubuntu problem.
We'd need to go to a real-time convo to get anywhere with this, I think. I'm about to have dinner now but I can swing by the LW IRC channel later if that suits you, PM me in that case.
I got gems and therefore Sinatra working. :) I also think I got Rails 3 working but I haven't tried messing with it yet... Everything seems really spotty; the 'heroku' command worked but then it stopped existing so I reinstalled it... Did I just install it in two different places or something? Or did I need to 'load' it somehow? This all seems kind of magical in a bad way. Oh well. I'll take your advice and stick to Sinatra for now. Thanks!
Welcome down the rabbit hole!
I am not a web developer, but as a Linux user of 15 years let me explain why it might not be as bad as you think. Get any old computer and put Linux, Apache, MySQL on it. (Those softwares require very little in the way of hardware resources unless you are serving 100s or simultaneous users.) Network the Linux machine with your Windows machine. Even better if your Windows machine has enough memory, run Linux on a virtual machine on Windows. I do not know what the cool kids are using these days in the way of virtualization software, but VMWare would work. Use a web browser on Windows to test your web app of course. Editing of text files (mostly config file for Apache, etc) on the Linux box or Linux virtual machine can probably be done using whatever text editor you already use on Windows though I do not know the details of how to set that up in any editor other than Emacs. (For Emacs I would probably use the FTP protocol. The SMB and NFS protocols are alternatives.) True, you will probably need to interact with a shell on the Linux box or the Linux virtual machine occasionally (using something like PuTTY on Windows), but this way saves you the trouble of having to learn anything about Linux's graphical user interfaces. The good thing about the shell is that it lends itself very well to textual tutorials, with the result that there are 10s of 1000s of blog posts and web pages describing in exact detail how to do stuff in the shell. I would be happy to answer questions by email about the shell, but I do not know about Apache or MySQL. This way of working with Linux -- by establishing connections to it with browsers, text editors, FTP clients and ssh clients like PuTTY on Windows is very common. Everything I have described is the worst-case scenario. You can probably either install Apache, MySQL, etc on Windows like wedrifid says or avail yourself of some online service that will host the software for you and allow you to configure and administer it using a web int
A good question. Yes, for 'server administration'. But things like the database and core project logic are obviously handled by the developer. (See Kodos for more details of what that entails.)
What Microsoft is actually good at is linking front and back end. People can pretty much take the mouse, pull an SQL table on a website and have all the CRUD generated for them and it works. The open source / linux world with its strong focus on the separation of concerns and modular architecture is very good for the kind of projects where you want to build with scalability in mind and you don't mind not getting immediate results. Microsoft (ASP.NET and many other products) is for a different philosophy or situation. For example you work at a business where the boss figures out it would be good if we would have a central database of ours customer contacts instead of salespeople just keeping business cards of their contacts in their briefcases and phones. But it is not good to put it into the accounting software because that is desktop based and besides you don't want to buy expensive licences for the salesies. So you volunteer to solve it even though you never even saw ASP.NET, but you watch an 1 hour tutorial, make that one table, pull that on the website, sort out the authentication, and you have an application. Then as the new and new requests keep rolling you keep googling and learning how to do them. In two years you are an expert in ASP.NET and you have a complicated app with 100 tables. (And usually an utter mess and you probably will need to make up a bullshit excuse to be allowed to rewrite clean.) So... Microsoft is for the cases when you want something immediately useful, and then it will just grow organically out of it, and you learn while doing it. Open source is when you already know how to, you have a project with plans and designs, and you don't need something immediately useful.
You are 18. You evidently have some degree of ambition. (Even 'wanting to do little net work to live comfortably' is an ambition that some wouldn't even consider.) You will need to learn things. Especially if you don't go down the mainstream route of drifting through school getting some piece of paper that says you are qualified and then doing things that will keep a boss from firing you. Making your own way takes effort and rather a lot of independent motivation.
I'd rather not. Walmart sounds better. My ambition is to maximize the chance of existential win. This post wasn't really about me. I'll be fine doing whatever. I already have job opportunities, and anyway, I'm pretty Buddhist. Homelessness suits me fine. Money would be great, but there are lots of skills I'd like to develop before I develop moneymaking skills.

My ambition is to maximize the chance of existential win.

My observation is general. 'Money for survival' is close to the minimum ambition that will require (emotionally) hard work, and learning and doing things you seriously suck at that will make you feel stupid. Maximising the chance of existential win is far, far greater. This is why observations such as those are useful in as much as they are identifying a problem that may need to be worked around.

I dunno, it feels like there's this big unknown gap between me and being a below-average web programmer, and I don't like being below-average at anything, let alone having to work hard to become below-average. Hence I also avoid learning math, even though I know I really should learn more.

This is one of the most prevalent forms of self sabotage in existence.

Right, so I attack that problem, because I must. I've picked up skills before, it's not a general problem for me. I'm good at a lot of things. I brag about it way more than I should. I just don't like learning things these days unless the payoff seems good enough. 'Learning to code' doesn't seem all that worth it when there are lots of other more direct things I could be doing, like studying the neurobiology and chemistry behind the mechanisms of nootropics.
And then, of course you can collaborate with me. I've got programming skills, know enough stats to get by and am now studying pharmacology and more statistics. Since I'm typically drawn to the technical side of things and also probably better at making money than neurochemistry I'll quite probably end up just making enough money to employ folks to research the interesting stuff. At least that is my plan.
To me, it sounds like web programming fits the bill of the type of skill that you say you want. The only question is whether it will be worth the effort to get through the learning curve (though you can basically get started doing stuff very fast), and dealing the frustration of problems that take time to solve. I really have no idea how well the benefits and costs will match up to other things you can spend your time on, but it does seem that web programming skills could be an asset for your effort in the domains of nootropics and existential risk reduction. Here are a few random ideas that web programming could help you implement: * Making a blog for some x-risk entity, or running your own x-risk blog, or any kind of outreach website * Making a database of information on nootropics with a web interface (even just for yourself, or people working with you; there is plenty use for websites or web services that don't face the public) * Making a website where people can journal or share information on nootropics ("NooBook?") Every cause wants to be a cult... and also have a sweet website.
This is true. I actually have a lot of fun programming (when it's going well), and especially when I get to throw in graphics design stuff. (I really like nautiluses, so I wrote this script in Processing that made a photoshopped and edited nautilus lazily follow my mouse pointer around... it was sooooooo cute. Ahem.) I think I'll pick it up, but do so during the 'fun' hours of my day.
Kid, hate to break it to ya, but have you looked at all the studies about nootropics? There are "veerrrryy few" done in normal healthy adults. Their actual effects, are very contradictory, and not that great. Sure, there are a few glowing reports about it....but there are also a great deal of "this is bunk" Even those studies done in rats and the elderly have few solid and stable results. They are often different for each study. As a good rule, anything that works is either illegal or prescription, or there is a movement to make it illegal(like salvia) Why? Because, stuff that works, the word gets around quickly. Quickly enough, that worried parents and politicians with ambition find out about it too.
A statistically-significant number of people I know have had significant effects from piracetam. The vast majority of this group were very familiar with other mind-altering substances and could therefore probably be trusted to distinguish actual effects from pure placebo.

I don't think that's a good argument against itsunder9000: I've seen plenty of supposedly sophisticated people who you would expect to be able to distinguish from placebo advocate things which did not do jack for me in my own blinded or randomized experiments.

For example, the people who praise LSD microdosing have generally taken more psychedelics than I've even heard of; and what happened when I did a blind randomized self-experiment? No effects (1 trend toward benefit, 1 trend towards harm). Seth Roberts had been self-experimenting for decades longer than I have, and believed that treadmill usage benefited his spaced repetition performance; what happened when I did a randomized self-experiment while skeptical? Statistically-significant harm to my spaced repetition performance, the opposite of what this sophisticate's introspection told him. Seth Roberts thought vitamin D at night hurt his going to sleep and taken in the morning, improved his awakening the next morning; what happened when I did a blind randomized self-experiment? I found that he was right about the first thing, and wrong about the second (no benefit). And so on.

I didn't believe that much in the placebo effect befo... (read more)

It's definitely not a knockdown argument, it's true. It's mostly a large pile of circumstantial evidence that makes me slow to doubt it's effectiveness.
Piracetam has a reputation for being subtle. That doesn't mean it's not working (aspirin's effects are subtle too), but it does mean that in the absence of at least semi-rigorous experiments, it's hard to distinguish from placebo even for people who're skeptical and experienced with psychoactives. Gwern's experience suggests a small effect.
One friend of mine (neuropsych major, experienced with a wide variety of psychoactives) got similar but slightly stronger results with what I think was over a slightly longer period than gwern; I think he posted his results only on Facebook, though, so I'm not comfortable sharing a link to his writeup. And anecdotally, a wide sample of people at the college found other placebos not giving the same benefit; every finals week a large table of food and mostly-placebos is available via a student group, and enough people swore by piracetam over the others that when it disappeared in a particular year (it's sale got somehow regulated), its absence was missed.
Is this talking about me (SL), or is there some other person of our acquaintance who's written up an experience with piracetam? I can chime in with my experiences if so desired.
Indeed, it is you! Please provide first-hand details. (I'm pretty sure no one else of our mutual acquaintance has written up anything.)
Okay. I'm not going to post my writeup since it's a little outdated — close to two years old now — and contains a lot of info irrelevant to this discussion, but the gist: I tried out piracetam very actively (using it frequently, varying a lot of things, and closely noting the effects) for about two months in summer 2012, and have been using it periodically since then. I didn't notice any long-term effects, though I don't think I've actually ever tried to test the effects of a fixed long-term regimen. What I did find was very dramatic acute effects, starting within an hour or two after taking it and lasting for a couple hours. These effects included music enhancement, visual enhancement (colors look brighter, textures look sharper), relief from anxiety/depression accompanied by a sense of clarity, and often mild euphoria. While I haven't done any blind tests and therefore can't be entirely sure the effects aren't placebo, they're often quite strong (e.g. piracetam has helped me go from being very anxious to feeling very clear and self-possessed in situations where I wouldn't expect that to happen otherwise) and some of them feel quite unlike any state I experience when not using piracetam. It does seem to be difficult to get piracetam to work right, though — there seems to be idiosyncrasy in the dose people respond to, you have to figure out how much choline to take with it, tolerance builds, you might need to take a high initial dose ('attack dose') to get effects immediately, etc. I can see how this unreliability might seem characteristic of a placebo, but I can also see how it might cause people to falsely conclude that something was a placebo because they didn't get effects from it easily.
Two pieces of advice which work for me; your mileage may vary. 1) Let the projects drive the education, not vice versa. Learn languages and language features when you have a way to apply them immediately; you'll remember them better. 2) Make sure you can run the code before you write the code. ;)
Yeah, this kind of stuff. You will mainly need a web programming language and probably a framework. HTML is pretty simple, and CSS isn't a big deal, though it's quirky. You don't really need to know much about MySQL or Javascript to get going. (Learning database concepts will be useful later, but the skill also gives you a good payoff because it will teach you some ways of statistical thinking.) You will also eventually need some Linux. But you only need a bit of knowledge in some of these areas to start making stuff and start having fun. HTML + CSS that you already know + programming language and maybe framework + follow very basic instructions to set up a MySQL database. Yes, this will happen in programming. Sometimes a session of programming will be like banging your head against a brick wall until it breaks, then moving over a few inches and banging your head against another spot in the wall. Documentation + Google is your friend. Most problems I run into that I can't immediately solve myself can be solved within a few minutes of Googling. Of course, it helps when it's typical web programming problems that already have like a million people on the internet asking the same question as you. Just try something, Google the error message, try what it says, then Google the next error message until there are no more errors and things are working. I can do things I've never done before very fast that way. Many problems will take several hours to solve. Some will take days to solve. When you spend all that time stuck on exactly the same thing, then it's frustrating, especially if when you solve it, it turns out to be something stupid like a typo or a badly documented quirk of a function or something. For me, that's the exception, not the rule. Even when working on a tough problem that takes a long time to solve, I'm typically making progress along the way. When the problem turns out to not be something stupid or obvious that I missed, then it's a really nice feeling
This is standard when you're attempting to teach yourself programming and you're still an apprentice. There's no shame in it. Get over yourself and post on IRC and forums for help when you're having a problem that Google hasn't been able to help you with after 10 minutes. Or I'd be happy to tutor you. Especially if you'll let me work on whatever I want to work on and just explain everything I'm doing to you and make you do some bits so you'll learn stuff. I really want to try this (I suspect my psychology is such that I would experience very strong motivation from this.) Oh yeah, so far I've given like 3-5 people programming lessons and all of them were hesitant at first but afterwards said they had a great time and learned faster than just about anything they'd learned in their life (kind of like this). So my reviews are good. Seriously, I am bouncing my foot with excitement just thinking about this. If anyone in Berkeley, CA wants to learn programming they should pm me. Learning to be OK with feeling stupid is good anyway because if you shy away from it then you'll be less likely to venture in to intellectual domains you're unfamiliar with, and you'll hesitate more to realize you're wrong. Seriously, I think being comfortable with being wrong might be the core rationality skill. (See my post that touches on this for more.)
We've already talked a little about economics but it seems you haven't really got the hang of it yet. If you plan to sell your labour, the 'value' of your labour is not your problem, negotiate the best rate you can for what you can do. If you take a more entrepreneurial route you can try to sell a product. Again, your effort is not the point, you just negotiate for what the results are worth.
I'm starting to regret writing the post in the first person, 'cuz people think I'm actually looking for employment. I'm not, really. Anyway. I'm not thinking about how much money I could make, I'm thinking about how competent I think I am. What you say makes sense if I cared about money. What I really care about is being able to have the identity of someone who codes competently, in which case the 'value' of my labor is what determines that. I want to be good at what I do, and I'm complaining about the huge gap between me-now and me-good, no matter how much money I'd make in either case. But that's off-topic for this post, so I shouldn't have brought it up.
It's kind of arrogant to think that you are qualified to be the judge of your own value. If someone seems happy to pay you for your efforts, accept it in good grace and let them worry about what your time is worth.
Of course I'd look for external validation now and then, but that's not as important to me as building skill. Periodic tests via oDesk or the like should be enough to test my self-assessments for accuracy. But I don't care all that much about what the market thinks, really. I just want to build skills. I've managed to play guitar for 3 years without having the market judge its value, but I could care less. I play guitar for myself and sometimes my friends, and I do it because I care about its 'value': to me. I don't need to go busking to determine that.
Bow hunting skills? I think it would be worth you while to learn some economics. Comparative Advantage would be a good place to start. Your values are valid but you should be fully aware of your choices.
I think you underestimate my knowledge of economics. I know about comparative advantage, marginal cost, diminishing marginal returns, Pareto frontiers, et cetera. I took AP Econ and folk at SIAI use the terminology quite a bit. I totally have bow hunting skills! But not nunchaku skills... :/
I apologize, I tend to think that people who think their own academic accomplishments are significant factors in their future salary are probably confused about the way the world works. I also expend significant effort on unmarketable skills (snowboarding in my case) but I don't expect anyone else to fund me for it. We live in a market economy; figure out your comparative advantage and negotiate the maximum price you can achieve for it.
Or, like, not. I totally realize that's what I would do if I wanted to make money, but I don't. At least for now, I only care about unmarketable skills. That's why I have so many of them. It was a mistake to write this post in the first person; I'm sorry for being misleading. But I'm not actually looking for employment. I have employment opportunities already, and things to do besides.
Money is not only the unit of caring, it is the unit of exchange. It is not straightforward to trade money for time however (at least by the hour) so you are comprehensible. I'm sorry if I offended you.
Especially if you are in a country where that kind of thing is illegal.
Making money is not my comparative advantage. :) Really, though, I intern for SIAI, and when I'm not doing that I'm building skills so that I'll be better able to work for SIAI, and when I'm not doing that I'm building skills that are related to intelligence amplification research. That is, at least for now, my comparative advantage: there's no easy way for me to make enough money to pay someone else to do it better than I could. Volunteering at SIAI for a year gave me a lot of domain-specific knowledge. You didn't offend me at all! Sorry, I didn't mean to sound bristly.
Want some brutally truthful tests designed to see how competent you are? Take the SAT test, , which measures math ability, and verbal ability. Find a few psychology tests that try and measure memorization ability(like, how quickly and well you can memorize a topic) Why? Because real world success, in intellectual endeavors, is largely a combination of how large your fluid intelligence is+memorization ability+ work ethic. The rest is due to combos of other factors. Besides the SAT, you can take the LSAT, and study for a few things on there that require specific knowledge. The test is the single largest predictive factor of success in law school, and blind tests of competence. There are a few other tests you can take. I recommend the AMC, which requires studying some topics outside of the regular school curriculum, but not too much. Or, you could play starcraft for 3 months, and see how high you end up ranking. Beyond these,I don't know of many good tests to see how competent you are.
Are you joking? Starcraft isn't even a well-designed game-- it has all kinds of crazy barriers to entry and elements that explicitly exist to make it unnecessary difficult for people to pick up. Besides, it's easy for even a bad gamer (see: me) to achieve a high-looking ranking (top 25 Diamond) in Starcraft II thanks to its nonintuitive rating and placement system, and true rankings are only maintained for the top 200 people in each region.
Yeah, I've done many of those. I took the SAT when I was 12. I've taken a few probably-inaccurate online IQ tests. I've done a few cognitive testing suites at SIAI. I'm in pretty good shape. In general though, there are better frameworks for cognitive testing. It's probable that one could make a neat suite out of PEBL, which is free and very customizable. Fluid g seems over-emphasized. The limiting factor for most rationalists tends to be strong metadispositions for thought, reflection, and drive.
They have those?
They're ad hoc, we've used one for a dual n-back study which ended up yielding insufficient data.
Any chance you could write up that study? I don't believe I have seen any SIAI-related DNB study; certainly it's not in my FAQ. (Remember kids: only you can fight publication bias!)
We didn't study long enough to get any statistically significant data. Like, not even close. And I think sending off the data (even without names attached) would sorta breach an implicit privacy agreement among those who took part in the tests.
Jaeggi 2008 didn't necessarily study very long either, some around/less than a week. (I wouldn't be asking this question, by the way, if you had written more concretely and said something like 'We only studied for 2 days, not long enough to get any statistically significant data'.)
Hmm, most people would be ok with that sort of data being sent out in an anonymized form. I'm surprised that you didn't suggest that before hand. Is there any chance you can contact the people in question and get their permission to release the anonymized data?
We could, but really, there's no information there, no matter how much Bayes magic you use. It's noise. If the data was at all significant then we'd send it out, of course. We might actually have gotten anonymized disclosure agreement from everyone; I don't remember. But it didn't end up mattering.
Shouldn't doing something successfully in the real world be in there somewhere?
and wealth.
Read "the bell curve" basically, smart parents were more likely to go to a higher ranking school, and move themselves up in the social heirarchy. Smart people tend to have smart kids. Dumb people tend to have dumb kids. Hence, the scores. For the race aspect of this, you can find the stats where poor east asian kids do better than rich white kids.At least on the math portion.
Yeah, but that only matters from a self-assessment standpoint if the causal graph is wealth --> score <-- ability, whereas for an uncoached entrant it's almost purely wealth --> ability --> score.
Fair enough.
And coaching can't make up a large part of the score difference, either. There's more than 100 points discrepancy on Critical Reading or Math alone between the lowest and highest income groups, whereas coaching only creates improvements of 30 points in Reading and Math combined.
A major problem with applying this point of economics is that most employers haven't really got the hang of it yet either. It is a sad rationality fail to be focused on what you could have accomplished if your potential trading partners themselves were only more rational (unless you can actually make them more rational). If you can find employers who understand this, more power to you.
I'm a competent web programmer, but I've always shied away from the idea of doing it professionally. There are reasons for this, but I can't tell if they're actually the reasons I don't want to do it or if I'm just afraid of failure/success/hard work and making excuses. Reasons include: I don't want to design webpages as much as I like making them work, and it's hard to find small jobs that don't involve both; I'm not familiar with any of the common frameworks/libraries/CMS, just basic PHP (not even OOP very much), and jobs seem to tend to want multiple skillsets; other peoples' ideas are sometimes boring but I'd have to do it anyway if I were getting paid to; I'm worried that if it were a job it wouldn't be fun any more; sometimes it's not fun even when it's not a job. There's also a sense that I'm just not good enough at it to work at the professional level, which is hard to convince people of, because by definition I can only show them projects I had the skills to finish. I guess I'm posting this in the hopes that someone will talk me either into or out of taking it more seriously. Am I wasting a perfectly good marketable skill, or is my aversion valid?
Aaah! I knew your username was familiar but couldn't figure out how - I read it in the xkcd blag!
Haha. Yup, that's me. I've actually showed up around there a couple of times, but more often by name than by nick.

Do you know Randall Munroe well enough that you could convince him to hang out on LW? I want xkcd comics about timeless decision theory so much now that I have thought of the possibility.

We've actually talked about it before, but it would take more interest than I think he has for him to take up a new way of spending time on the internet right now. For a guy who draws stick figures for a living, he's surprisingly busy. ETA: ... besides, lots of people could draw comics about TDT! In most places, the easy part would be finding someone who can draw and is funny, and the hard part would be finding someone who knows anything about TDT; on LW it's probably the other way around.

Looks like the ideal place for you is college. Almost everything in your post points to the lifestyle:

"Flexible hours": Check; "Studying nootropics": Check

"Travel": Check (study-abroad programs); "Not be chained to an iffy job": Check (Avoiding downtime on your resume can "chain" you to a job, but school is not considered downtime.)

"Spend my spare time on things like self-improvement": Check (I never did as many side-activities as I did in college; and a liberal arts degree is often understood in terms of "self-improvement").

"Sleep cycle of the Chaotic Evil variety": Check; "Work 14 hour days ... cool to have that option": Check (I studied and did other activities non-stop in college; and a degree helps you work long hours for lots of money once you have it).

Whether you want to do college; or have the energy; or the money; or can get into a prestigious enough program, is another question. But you can get into state schools without a strong high-school diploma by getting good community college grades; state schools are pretty cheap; and some of them have some very good honors programs.

Despite the general anti-school tenor on LessWrong, some of us actually learned something in college, and enjoyed it too.

I make my money teaching/ tutoring. This has the wonderful benefit of requiring me to re-familiarize myself with a wide range of topics and giving me a reason to study. Particularly wonderful as i have a hard time sticking with a topic without a reason.

I think that this is something that many LWers could benefit from.

Where do you get leads for clients?
If your resume lists sufficient credentials (high SAT scores or gpa, attending or graduated from a good college, or previous tutoring experience) it's easy to get a job at a tutoring agency. They take a 50-70% cut of earnings, leaving you with $11-35/hr. There are many such agencies both for in-office and in-home, mostly 1-on-1. Agencies exist that focus on test-prep (preparing for the SAT, mostly), that focus on supplementing an existing class, or both. If you don't have the credentials, it's still worth a shot to apply. Alternatively, you can advertise on WyzAnt, University Tutor, Craigslist, or put up fliers in the library and high school student centers. I never had the courage to put up fliers but I saw many, and the more experienced tutors I knew did this.
This is what I do. I make enough to live on and spend all the time I want goofing off on the Net (such as on this blog). But I couldn't do this without my college degrees, so this would be several years away for the OP. Fortunately, in college I also made enough to live on (to be fair, my parents contributed at first) and spent all the time I wanted goofing off on the Net. (I also would be debt-free if I'd budgeted more carefully.)
Can you be more specific? What do you teach, to what type of clients, how many at one time, and what do you charge? Do you work independently or for a company?

I myself hear myths of people who work via the internet, or blog for a living, or code an hour a day and still make enough to survive comfortably... Are there such people on Less Wrong that could tell us their secret?

I'm one of them. I code from home for 1 or 2 hours a day and make more than enough to live comfortably in Moscow. But, unfortunately, there's no magical secret to it.

I'm 27 now (turning 28 in a couple weeks) and started to earn money coding when I was 15. I changed employers a lot and learned a lot. (Worked from home a lot, too, and did many contract jobs.) At my current job I initially worked in the office for two years, so they got to know and value me. Then last winter I told my employer that I wanted to work from home with one office day a week, while taking a salary hit. They agreed and told me the salary would stay the same.

From where I stand, "snagging gigs" is not really a problem. Finding qualified people is the problem. Every successful software company in the world wants to hire every good engineer they can get.

Can you give some specific, step-by-step examples of how you do "snag gigs"?
Well, I work at Google full time now, so my experience might be out of date. But when I was looking for work, I always had many opportunities, because many of my relatives and friends work in software and have a high opinion about my skills. If you're not in that position, my step-by-step guide won't help you...

Hmm, you're 18? The most financially helpful thing that happened to me when I was 18 was that a smart girl with well-to-do parents fell in love with me. But I suppose it's hard to make this happen deliberately.

I think I could probably get that to happen if I tried for a few months to a year. What's the next step? Move in together and not pay any of the rent? I have a girl in Berkeley who I could move in with for free now, but she likes me a lot more than I like her, and I think I'd feel way too guilty about that. (I'm not really that interested in getting money; I volunteer/intern for SIAI which allows me to live comfortably. But I empathize with the counterfactual me that didn't have that option, or the possible future where my skills are no longer useful to SIAI. Therefore, more knowledge is good.)
Unless you are deceiving her in some way, my suggestion is to try and find a way to not feel guilty about this. That doesn't mean do it, since it might still not be worth it, but you have nothing to feel guilty about. I have been in a situation. I have liked a girl a lot more than she liked me, known this and asked her to move in with me (rent free) anyway. I had the ability to do so, and I valued our time together and the chance to try for something more. It didn't work out, but I don't resent her or regret it. Given another chance I'd do it again.
Yeah, basically. In my case: * In-laws provided us with a rent-free place to live (their basement). * In-laws paid all tuition fees for my wife. * In-laws paid for a relatively lavish wedding. * In-laws generously helped with the down-payment on our current place. * In-laws frequently give us stuff. While I don't mind, and in fact prefer, being bossed around by my wife - even I sometimes resent the degree of influence my in-laws have on our life. I can imagine that for someone less docile or more proud this would be a source of conflict. I am passionately in love with my wife and have been since she first kissed me. I did not have to face the situation where an affluent girl has a crush on me and I'm not that into her - I wouldn't want to make any particular recommendations for that situation :)

Look at salary data to help decide what kind of occupation to pursue.

Data for the U.S. is here:


Thanks for posting this! I'm very interested in such advice.

Maybe we don't have to do it alone? Do people know of ways for groups of us who don't want to work to band together and get by?

Super Awesome Co-Op for Rationality, Organic Farming, Programming, Meditation, and Other Cool Stuff!

To be honest it'd be pretty awesome... we could live in yerts somewhere in Northern California and get by on self-sufficient power generation via solar panels and farming, and make additional money by giving seminars about rationality, meditation, programming, anything we were good at. We'd have tons of time to teach each other things and read text books and stuff. Sooooo cultish but so awesome. But I think the cultishness factor means it would be damaging to the rationality and Singularity memes, even if we never overtly discussed the Singularity.

get by on self-sufficient power generation via solar panels

That's too first-order hipster. Too "hippie environmentalist cult" (that's, like, so relatively mainstream, man). Much more fun to signal "technophile libertarian sci-fi cult". Can we could build a miniature liquid fluoride thorium reactor instead?

Is there any way to go more meta-contrarian? Like, by eating liquid fluoride thorium instead and generating power with genetically modified giant venus flytraps? Fuck it, let's generate power with chocobos and get all our nutrition from LSD.

This is in my top 5 funniest comments made on LW.
Which are the other four?
This is my favorite I've seen so far.
I'm pretty sure that the smallest designs for nuclear electricity systems produce far more power than is needed for a commune and cost far too much. Even if the cost per kilo-watt is one tenth as much, if you have a small community of people who are attempting to get by without working, you probably can't service the higher capital costs. Please don't let being cool get in the way of being practical. (Comment also a reply to Will Newsome, whose comment I found too indirect to actually show what's wrong here)

Please don't let being cool get in the way of being practical.

Please don't let being practical get in the way of jokes.

Edit: Unless it's a practical joke.


Super Awesome Co-Op for Rationality, Organic Farming, Programming, Meditation, and Other Cool Stuff!

Complete with a lone trail leading to an isolated yurt for those staging an all-out crisis of faith.

I'm pretty sure there are ways to turn a bit of seed capital (~10 million) and ~150 people into money in Northern California. If you can nucleate a community, and especially if you can put some software start ups in it, you can probably triple the value of some farm land.
I am all for a co-op, but a physical space requires many many things to go right. We should look for the simplest plan that could work.
What is the simplest plan? I can't think of anything very simple.
Make a product and sell it. Simpler than a physical space is collaborating online. We already have an online community so we get that for low complexity cost, all we have to do is filter out the people who are interested. The simplest legal structure (I think) is each of us being in business for ourselves, and just cooperatiing with information of some kind. This might not work well with some businesses, or it might be cheaper/safer to incorporate. Single programmers can make profitable projects in a weekend, we just need to find something we can systematically win at.
Also, a small group of people should be able to follow any of the suggestions in this thread with substantially more force and reliability than all individually. Bidding on writing or programming jobs, even networking.
How does a group bid on a writing or programming job more effectively than one? Or at all?
Start a company.
Oh, right. I had forgotten how grownups do this stuff.
If we work together effectively, we can bid on bigger jobs with tighter deadlines, or small jobs with confidence that life interference won't mess with the account's reputation. We can specialize so we are each contributing to jobs that we don't know how to complete alone.
That makes sense. Hmm. I'd be interested in participating in such a system, but I'm not sure in what capacity I could.
I might be very interested in participating in such an endeavor.
This sounds sooooo awesomely amazing. A study of social dynamics might suggest ways to get around this. Lets at least keep it in the back of our minds.
Social dynamics would probably be less of a worry than getting funding. Also, internet access. Satellite internet sounds kinda sucky. This looks a tad unbelievable. Or is the internet overrated anyway? I wonder how difficult farming really is. There are probably more efficient and lazier ways to get food. (Which isn't necessarily good.) One possibly cool thing about it would be a community blog. I bet such a blog could get really popular, and then Hacker News and Silicon Valley people might show up, which could lead to cool things happening. Added: DUDE.) You can fly around in an airplane without a license or anything. We need a fleet of these things, and people could pay to get training or use them. Instant profit.
That wouldn't be my expectation. Money is easy. Social dynamics are hard.
This is one of the useful side-effects of learning programming.
Use a backslash before the internal paren.)
Not enough information.
[Link](\)) Link) I added a \ to the code you were using to create the link. I added it between the 's' and the first ')'. This escapes the ')' so that it is just considered a character rather than the message to markdown that the address has finished. Then there is another ')' which does not have the \ escape character.
Reason I hate coding number 7: I think I tried every possible permutation except that one, and that happens every time. Okay, not really, I just hate feeling dumb.
Feeling dumb does suck. It may have sucked even more if we just told you to RTFM instead of explaining. In fact, not liking looking stupid is probably one of the reasons I have the manual bookmarked. ;)
Hm, I bet this recurring problem generalizes. What heuristics should I have used to find the manual? I would have guessed 'reddit commenting markdown'.
I just googled markdown syntax. If I didn't know that LW used markdown I would have googled "reddit syntax". If I didn't know LW was reddit-like I would have googled "lesswrong syntax". (All of those worked by the way. Although would have required reading a page then possibly following link or doing another search based on the new information.)
Nothing magic then. Thanks.
Google + experiment until you know how to do something. That's a general tactic that is sufficiently effective that it verges on magical! ;)
[text]((link\)) (I implicitly assumed that you could see the markup. D'oh.)
Just some thoughts: We should gauge interest first, and see what everyone's needs are. I get the impression that we are aiming for low-but-scalable-hours, high flexibility, high reliability, and relatively low-income. (high income if we can get it of course) If we know roughly who is involved, we can list out our skills, and start brainstorming things we might be good at collectively. We should make sure to look for non-obvious things. If we have any confidence that we can act more rationally than normal, we should look for areas in which this could be an advantage. (prediction markets?) We should look closely at the ethical and existential risk implications of what we're doing.
Making money? It would have to a significantly evil money making scheme for you to increase existential risk by doing it. (In particular I am observing that the market will do similar things anyway and you are just making it incrementally more efficient.)
I guess I'd say you should imagine the most damage a handful of lesswrong readers could do if we were evil, and assume we could do that accidentally if we were not careful. Assume we might innovate. or just make the PR worse. Really this is true of everyone, and everyone should consider existential risks.
Create an AGI that tiles the universe with molecular SEO?
I'd really rather not find myself as a Boltzmann brain made from SEO rubbing up against itself.
I've started a private google group to discuss forming an income earning group of some kind. Email and I'll add you. (Edit: This attempt fizzled)

I'm amazed that noone has posted a link yet to the Existential Risk Reduction Career Network. Or maybe someone did and I haven't noticed.

Here's the description on the site's front page:

This network is for anyone interested in donating substantial amounts (relative to income) to non-profit organizations focused on the reduction of existential risk, such as SIAI, FHI, and the Lifeboat Foundation. For more information on existential risk, please see Nick Bostrom's original paper, or Wikipedia for a brief overview. We are a community of people assisting each ... (read more)

I'm a little confused about how the "career network" part syncs up with the "donating substantial amounts relative to income" bit. Are people helping each other find paid employment, or helping each other find grants, or what?
So far it's been only about people helping each other find paid employment, but helping each other find grants is also a good idea, thanks.
Wait, so, then what on earth does "for anyone interested in donating substantial amounts (relative to income) to non-profit organizations" mean? Do you help each other get jobs on Wall Street so you can donate the money?
That's the basic idea, yes. Most people in the network are looking for jobs as programmers. The second most popular job category is finance.
Can someone confirm that this thing is actually operational?
Damn, it seems I kind of forgot about the existence of this network. Better apply now...

Despite some ethically dubious suggestions and a healthy dose of nonsense and self-promotion, The 4 Hour Work Week has some very helpful material relating to this topic. It's worth reading for the genuinely valuable ideas in amongst some less great material.

I'm interested in hearing the experiences of any LW members who've managed something like this as well.

I'm intrigued, haven't read it, and don't have available funds for a new book right now--what in it is ethically dubious?

Off the top of my head:

  • He won a high level kick boxing tournament by exploiting a rule about ring-outs - legal but unsportsmanlike and feels like cheating.
  • His first major business success was selling supplements online (a 'neural accelerator') with unspecified (in the book) health benefits. You get the impression from reading the book that this business was only a couple of steps above those herbal viagra emails.
  • He advocates being persistent to the point of pushy / obnoxious in certain respects.
  • He talks about testing out business ideas by advertising products which don't exist and if someone completes an order telling them the product is on back order. If you get enough orders you make the product.

There are other elements which might trigger ethical qualms for others but which didn't bother me like the idea of personal outsourcing.

Yeah, I see what you mean. Not illegal or lying, but not quite honest or pleasant either. On the third point, "selling myself" has always been one of my weaknesses (to the point that I'm bad at asking for money for work already done or promised). I like the model of levels of self-marketing presented in this blog post, though.
For what it's worth, I've seen an analysis which claims that the four hours of work neglects to include the amount of time Ferriss spends on self-promotion.
If he fits with other advice I've read about self-marketing, he's basically doing it all the time. Which is great, if that's enough of your personality or natural enough to you that you don't consider it work.
Fair enough.
If anyone asks, this link was broken when I posted it:
Wow, it's still broken! That doesn't happen too often.
Ha, I just added a reference to it in the post. I think the most valuable parts of The 4-Hour Work Week were actually the lifestyle parts: where and how to live cheap while having fun. But I think he handwaves the whole 'find something you can sell' part of the process. User:Kevin has had some success with a similar business model though; he sells kratom over the internet.


Isn't he just "Kevin" to those of us who subscribe to roughly human distributions of terminal values?

What's wrong with saying "User:Kevin"?

Don't go for the get-rich-quick (or get-free-time-quick) schemes. You're 18 frickin' years old! The most reliable strategy would probably be:

  • Do whatever you have to do to get into a great undergraduate college. The more famous the college is, the more money you will make. It may take a year or two if your high-school record isn't impressive.
  • Take out a big scary loan to pay for the 4 years. Major in something geared towards getting a position in finance, law, doctor, or overseas defense contracting.
  • Do whatever grad school is necessary for your care
... (read more)
The main plan seems to disregard the fact that he places a high value on having lots of time to faff around and low value on having a large income. That said, I would disregard that fact as well and go with your suggestion anyway, since during one's twenties one's major life priorities will often change around every couple of years (generalising from personal + social circle experience), and switching to a profitable-career path is much harder than switching away from it.
Don't underestimate the strength of golden handcuffs.
I don't, but well-paid lawyers are significantly more likely to quit their job for some low-stress activity than someone with no relevant training is likely to quickly acquire a ridiculously high-paying job.
Lots of people with no relevant training spend a lot of time and money trying to acquire the relevant training to get a high-paying job. I'd guess that this is more common than people quitting a high paying job for a low paying job with less stress. How many people start a law or medical degree every year relative to the number that quit those jobs for something less stressful and lower paid?
overestimate -> underestimate?
Thankyou, fixed.
This works extra well if you supplement it with: * Work as a teacher for 20 years. * Retire; receive half pay thereafter. My grampa's friend did that and now literally has more many than he knows what to do with, as he lives in a trailer and presumably doesn't care much for charities. I guess he's gonna leave all his money to his kids. Anyway, thanks for the advice, but I wasn't actually looking for advice. Sorry, it was a mistake to write this post in the first person. I actually have things decently well figured out, but I wanted to make the post a little engaging, which was stupid of me. The knowledge is still useful though, in case things blow up, so thanks. :)
This is evidence that your friend's grandpa screwed up. Indeed, after 20 years on a decent salary and retirement at half pay thereafter, I would imagine that income has long since reached the point of diminishing marginal returns, specially for someone so unconcerned with status as to live on a trailer and with no intention of giving to charity. To spend the next 20 years continuing to earn even more paychecks and a second retirement pension rather than living an eudamonic life with the little youth one has left seems like a horrible case of work for work’s sake.
Maybe he did really care a lot about leaving lots of money to his heirs.
If any decent percentage of this singularity stuff pans out, any plans greater than 20 years are bunk. Hell, within the next 6-15 years, the price for models will plummet. Why? Because, computer graphics are getting so good and cheap, that simply creating a model that looks beautiful, will be easier and cheaper just using the computer. Reading, and contemplating all of these technology trends really changed thought process of what constitutes a solid job. But, some advice I would give, is perhaps try and double major in computer science and electrical engineering. Go to a good grad school after college(since as he dropped out of HS, the only decent college he can get in to, is one that has a guaranteed acceptance program by sat scores), then work from there. Solid, but boring.
I don't know, but I think the odds of getting into a top-tier grad school from a third-tier undergrad are low. I haven't yet found hard data on this.

My current work is more alternative than I would have expected. I'm an appellate lawyer working from home for the quasi-governmental "panels" established by my state to represent indigent defendants in criminal and juvenile dependency (meaning, the state took their kids away for neglect or abuse) appeals. I'm not a trial lawyer -- I only show up in court at all for up to an hour or so for oral argument -- and that only comes up infrequently. Most appeals are conducted entirely through written briefs. On an hourly basis, the pay is pretty good... (read more)

If you're truly smart, truly rational, and with the goal function you describe in your post, an obvious answer is to play poker on the internet. But beware: if it turns out you're not actually as rational as most of us on Less Wrong think we are, it probably won't work out.

Is poker really doable? I was under the impression that amateurs were being driven out and even professionals were having difficulty dealing with poker bots and collusion.

I hear that everywhere too. It's a selection effect: most of the population aren't smart and rational enough to be long-term winning players and it's these people you hear complaining, while the good players go on quietly winning.

It's definitely true that the games are getting tougher every year, because the community is learning to play better, so the threshold of ability you need to be a winning player is constantly increasing. But it's not that high yet.

Now let's talk about your two bugbears, bots and collusion.

1. Bots

You never ever have to worry about bots. The goal in poker is to seek out and play against bad players, while tolerating the presence of good players. It's completely irrelevant whether these players are controlled by humans, machines, or some combination. (In practice, except possibly for heads-up limit hold'em, good players are still better than the best bots published in the academic literature anyway.)

2. Collusion

This is something you have to worry about, but in practice it's not that big a deal, especially if you play at low limits, where it's not going to be worth the bother for competent players to collude. There have been only a handful of times when I've ... (read more)

(In practice, except possibly for heads-up limit hold'em, good players are still better than the best bots published in the academic literature anyway.)

This is an interesting observation, but probably not that surprising: if you had a superior poker bot that was consistently profitable, why on earth would you publish it?

Generalizing, if someone working at a bank or hedge fund developed a superior theory of economics, and that theory could be used to make money through trading, why would they tell anyone else about it? Once the knowledge became public, it would no longer be profitable.

This is the evil corollary of the Efficient Markets Hypothesis (that all publicly available information is instantly incorporated into market prices).
This made me think of a sports gambling database and strategy set that I read about in an ESPN magazine at a barber shop. I don't remember the specifics but I recall that the database was shared by invitation only and had an intentional "barrier to entry" level buy in, which seemed high to me. The article claimed the database was in use by only 9 professional gamblers. I'd like to see some performance data on their bets.
Isn't the obvious strategy then to create a set of colluding bots, and try to avoid detection?
Go ahead! But it's hard.
If someone wants to do it, I btw could offer useful advice, including almost-finished algorithms on how the bot could play profitably. Haven't done it myself, but have looked into it. Stopped short of doing the boring stuff of coding some stuff up (I don't really do programming), and of course there's also the ethical question of whether I want to screw over pokersites. But it certainly can be done, and I think I've already done the parts that could be hard (mostly, coming up with a winning play style that is sufficiently algorithmic). (BTW, even good bots currently don't beat good or even mediocre players in most poker variations, but bots can make money playing against bad players, which are abundant.)
Have you checked with other people about what they think is hard? Why don't you think it's hard to evade detection, by the opponents, the resident software, and the server? (ETA: and were you looking into collusion? do you worry about the signature there?)
I have talked with people who are currently running bots. Most pokersites btw don't actually really even bother much to detect bots, since driving them out isn't in their interest unless human players start complaining. I'm probably not going to publicly comment more than this on this topic.
Online poker has recently been getting tougher every year, but it's not at all certain that this'll continue. There could actually be a significant softening period coming up. Especially because the U.S. is moving towards dropping certain legislation, leading to a renewed explosion of U.S. players. Asia could also see a poker boom in the near future. In general, in recent years almost every bad thing that could conceivably happen to online poker has happened, and it still hasn't actually been very bad, with the industry maintaining growth. It's difficult for the amount of (non-difficult) difficulties to not drop.
There is some truth to the fact that online poker is getting tougher, but it is definitely exaggerated. I can assure you that it is still beatable and very profitable by competent players. Also, don't forget the option of playing live poker. With a little training and practice, I would bet that most readers of this blog (who aren't prone to emotional instability, aka "tilt") would easily dominate at least the low-stakes games.
I'd have to lie about my age, no? Also, doesn't everyone just use software databases that tell them the odds for every hand? Or is that less common than I'd thought?
Gambling online for money is illegal anyway in the US. Lying about your age isn't such a stretch.
Gambling online for money is NOT illegal in most states. What's explicitly illegal is for US banks/financial institutions to perform transactions with online gambling companies.
I think most online sites are 18+. Most people use databases and heads-up displays, but to calculate and present statistics about your own and your opponents' play, not to calculate odds (calculating odds is easy). I like Poker Tracker.
This is actually something I've considered--I like the game, and I feel like I have the right kind of gray matter to think about it statistically. But I know I'm not currently anywhere near a level where putting real money on it would be a good idea. Any suggestions of excellent learning resources?
Read some of the books published by Two Plus Two for solid beginner information that's mostly a little out of date; then sign up at a video training site (I like Deuces Cracked) for up-to-date information; finally go, e.g., here and accept one of the offers where they give you free money to play with and then use their money to practice at 1 cent/2 cent games. Also, maybe ask this question at the Two Plus Two forums for a better response.

Yeah, Two Plus Two is a good source of advice on everything poker-related. People can also email me if they wish, I make my money by playing poker.

And when choosing a rakeback site (you do need one), feel free to support a fellow LWer and SIAI-supporter by choosing mine :)

(It's actually kind-of half-finished; I haven't really started to promote it, and haven't polished the content. But it does work.)

EDIT: One of the ways in which that site of mine is "unfinished", is that it has a marketing attitude to a degree. I built it based on a template that has that attitude, and haven't yet decided whether I'll go along with that attitude or modify it to be fully trustworthy in the sense that marketing language isn't.

So to a degree, take what you can currently read there with a grain of salt. (You can email me for fully honest answers without a marketing attitude, and as mentioned, Two Plus Two forums are good.)

What is a rakeback site? And if it involves money going to it why would I not just create my own?
Rakeback is when a poker site gives you back part of what they take as commission from most pots you play. So signing up to a poker site through a rakeback site is like signing up with a discount. Creating your own rakeback site is perhaps the best option if you bother to do it. The cut that the rakeback sites receive isn't very large, though, so it's not particularly common to bother to do this.
I'm guessing it's best to play hold 'em 'cuz that's where the stupidest people are at? Or will I find all this out by reading the material referenced in the thread? (I've read a few poker books but it sounds as if there's internet-specific strategies I need to know about.)
You will find anything and everything out by asking at Two Plus Two forums (or browsing what beginner resources are already available there). My guess is that no limit hold 'em is indeed still the best option, but some might make a case for pot-limit omaha. At least if one likes that variation more.
I agree, start with no limit hold'em because there's an awful lot of good learning material about it and the games at low limits are pretty good, but at some point consider switching to pot limit omaha.
Hmm, thank you. At this moment I have neither as much money nor as much attention available as I think doing this right would require, but it's good to have leads for when that changes.

Would this be a good time to mention that I sell custom and pre-designed pinback buttons online? ;) Or, perhaps, that I'd be interested in doing some kind of skill trade for a better website for it? (I'd love to outright pay someone to do it, but I can't afford to. I'm able to do it myself, but I really don't want to.)

A topic I'd like to see addressed in this area is "how to make your resume/cover letter make you look like the badass you really are, but have no paperwork to prove." I have the opposite of your "typical nerd" problem--I'm... (read more)

I'd be glad to write on your proposed topic: Qualifications: * I work in tech and frequently interview people. * I've previously helped friends and strangers (via a /r/favors post) helping people redesign their resumes. * I'm a freelance application security specialist and have to make myself look like I'm worth the $80 an hour. My friend Bhavna is an Indian who is a US citizen, and many tech employers do not trust Indian applicants, as lying on a resume is prevalent among Indian placement firms. She was able to trade up from a 6 month gig (her only work experience) into a $80k a year project management job in the LA area (a very difficult place to find jobs).
I am interested in this. Was it ever written?
If you don't mind talking about it, are you making enough from it to make a difference to your quality of life? I have a button business and an ugh field about doing much with it, partly because it's so large (about 5000 slogans) that doing anything significant involves a lot of work, so I'm curious about how much can be done with a couple of dozen images.
No--well, sort of. I don't often sell any online, but I make bike designs for the Berkeley Bikestation, and I've done other batch orders from time to time. If I had a job, it wouldn't be a noticeable amount, but since I don't, it doesn't take much to be noticeable. I do most of my sales in custom designs. My main goal is to have a really low barrier to entry for single buttons--as the site puts it, I focus on this because it's a service I want to exist and enjoy being able to provide, more than because it's an especially profitable model. So I do scattered customs in quantities of 1-10, and occasionally a random internet sale of a planet set. Know what you mean. There are three things on this site I'm disliking dealing with right now: * Upgrading the website to provide an interface for custom button design. (I currently arrange custom designs by email with the client, which is a totally unnecessary trivial obstacle and doesn't need to take up my time.) * Pricing. For some reason I find pricing (not the stuff posted on the site, but estimates for bulk orders) unreasonably difficult. Part of the reason for this is that my pricing cannot be competitive with mass-produced-in-a-factory buttons and still be profitable for me, and I feel lame when someone chooses to buy from me because I'm a small local shop and ends up paying a lot more because of it. * Uploading images of a new button set. The set's done, the page is ready, all I need to do is take pictures and upload them ... but taking good pictures of small round shiny things is really hard, and I keep forgetting to buttonhole the photographer friend who offered to help with it. And, I suppose, a little bit of malaise. There's a sense of "almost nobody sees or buys these, why am I bothering."
I have problems with setting prices too-- I suspect there's a delusion that it's possible to get prices right, while in fact while there's definitely too high and definitely too low, there's also a middle range where you might as well say something and the odds are in your favor that it will be accepted. And I might not even be very correct about the too high and too low. For some reason, prices for used books at amazon don't converge to a market-clearing price. I have no idea what economists would say about that.
Shipping costs? It's generally uneconomic even to give books away. I was going to offer a spare copy of a book here until I realized the shipping costs were such a high percentage of the cost to buy it new.
Amazon prices for Simak's Time and Again-- there's a rough correlation between condition and price, but it's very rough. New copies range from $48 to $130. Good copies range for 50 cents to $23. The ratings of the vendors don't have a strong correlation with the prices. It took me 3 tries to get a price page like that (Heinlein's Expanded Universe and Byatt's Possession don't show the pattern, but I can tell you that it isn't rare for science fiction that's been around for a while.
Markets are imperfect. Shipping costs dominate the exchange value of books in my experience. If anyone wants a 'free' first edition of The Four Hour Work Week and is willing to pay shipping from Canada let me know.
My programmer-mind wonders whether any of the work which (I assume) scales with the number of buttons could be automated. (Of course, if that's so it still requires someone to do the work of automating it...)
There are different issues with different amounts of scalability. Posting images scales with the number of slogans. Some sort of javascript system to make ordering easier is a good idea because there are so many slogans, but doesn't scale with the number of slogans,
I dunno if it would help Nancy, but there are parts of mine that could definitely be automated. I just really don't want to do the work of automating it and haven't figured out another way for it to get done yet.
I hate to make this suggestion to someone who can actually do her* own web-design, but have you considered using a free wordpress e-commerce theme? I used one for my first e-commerce website and it worked fine. You can save a lot of money and the themes are about 80% as good as a cheap commissioned design. *not his, thanks Will_Newsome.
Heh, don't hate to make the suggestion when I just told you I can't be bothered to do it! I hadn't looked into that, and will; thank you. I'm a little reluctant to use Wordpress for non-bloggy things, probably because it's one of the reasons my college's website is so bad, but that's not enough reason to reject it without more exploration.
My knowledge of the general LW population indicate 'his', but in this case, I'd bet on 'her'. Relsqui?
and profit. For the record, you needn't point it out on my behalf--the error doesn't bother me, and I don't tend to correct people unless it's particularly relevant.
That website is pretty well-designed, actually. It's easy to navigate and it's pretty obvious what it's trying to sell. Yes, it doesn't look like a professionally designed site, but I've seen sites that are much worse; it's not something that would appear on Web Pages That Suck. (Suggestion: Swap the "About Pin Poet" box and the "Custom Buttons" box.)
Thanks. I'm not really satisfied with the navigation, and I'd love to do something complex where you can set up custom orders online instead of emailing me, but it helps to hear that other people see something other than the weak points. :) ETA: Upon testing, I agree about the boxes, and switched them.

I was about to make the same suggestion as mattnewport, (4 HR workweek).

I'm an impoverished/overworked grad student, though, so I'm obviously not an expert on how to live a comfortable, low-stress life.

Ridiculously irregular sleeping patterns are fully compatible with standard freelance work in software development and similar fields.

Internet-only work doesn't work yet, you'd need to meet with real life people once or twice a week, and be extremely responsible over email when you're available to compensate for your reduced availability due to time-shift, but other than that it works just fine for me.

Grey markets are fun. Selling stuff is a good way to make money. Just some random observations.

Grey markets?
Alternatively, peddling things like nootropics or lockpicks that are technically legal but will arouse suspicion if sold with the wrong labels or intent. Care should be taken and laws should be checked if one goes this route.
Care, yes, but I think most people here would make themselves worse off by "checking laws" than not. Phrases like "technically legal" suggest that you have wildly false beliefs about the men with guns. ETA: this was not clear. I do not mean anything specific about police, nootropics, or lockpicks. I just think "technically legal" is an odd phrase, perhaps a category error, and suggests wrong beliefs about what law is. The emphasis should not be on the law, but on the people who enforce it (as in the good phrase "will arouse suspicion").
I think it is more likely that you lack knowledge of the domain Will mentions. People with guns really don't care much about Piracetam. It would be outright foolish not to 'check laws'... the laws regarding which category a given nootropic fits in in any given jurisdiction vary arbitrarily. Nothing in what Will said remotely suggests wildly false belief about people with guns. It's the whole different kind of crazy thinking done by people with desks that is relevant.
It was not helpful for me to mention guns. My point was to mention people. What is important is what people care about and what they will do. It is very difficult to predict this based on reading laws. In particular, the recent change of the FDA's interest in piracetam has nothing to do with laws.
Except in as much as laws are in place to allow the enforcement of various levels of restriction of pharmacologically active substances. Laws which allow the drug authorities of various jurisdictions to choose which bucket to put things like piracetam in (depending, largely, on where the money is). Even when importing substances for personal use it is rather helpful to do your research and work out just what you are permitted to do (as well as typical enforcement procedures and relevant penalties as appropriate.)
If you have a good model of what law is and does, then it is useful to look at it. I think most people here have terrible models of what law is. The phrase "technically legal" suggest that the speaker thinks law is precise and the choice of bucket is a technical one. As I said in my immediate followup, I don't think Will makes the these mistakes, but I think most people here would be better off assessing what they are permitted by custom than by what (they think) they are permitted by law. In theory, more information is useful, particularly for extrapolating to new areas, but I think a lot of people, particularly of the type common here, have their models of the world damaged by reading laws.
Hm? I'm thinking about selling things via an internet store, and the worst I can imagine happening is being asked to take down the site. Which is still pretty bad. What am I missing?
There is a fair amount of legal risk you assume when you sell ingestibles.
Sorry, I shouldn't have made that so personal. I'm just saying that "technically legal" is not a useful category. You made it clear that you don't think it provides protection, which is the main point. It might provide indignation, which is a double-edged sword. What "will arouse suspicion" is a useful category. "Wrong intent" is not a good category because they can't see your intent.
Unofficial but not illegal work.

Anime Community Marketing Associate

(if anyone here is seriously considering applying let me know, I'm willing to help with resume tweaking or teaching you how to present yourself as knowing community/SEO stuff that you might not yet know)


For food, check out the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program). It's easier to be eligible than I anticipated: an individual that has a net monthly income of $903 and less than $2000 worth of countable resources can get $200 of food money per month. They do require you to be employed, but you might be able to get away with doing minimal part-time work.

(It's a US government program but I'm guessing that similar programs exist in other countries.)

Some great advice on here (particularly this post ).

What about reaching out to one another through LinkedIn?

I just recently found out about it, and I'm optimistic about it finding me something decent while I wait for my writing career to take off. Even if it doesn't pay off immediately, I doubt it would hurt being connected to you guys professionally. My page is:

(Yes, I put in 'LessWrong' in under Groups/Organizations. While I've manag... (read more)