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Ask HN: What is your favorite internet rabbit hole?
1036 points by karim on Oct 24, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 454 comments
I'll start --- I once spent a couple days on a summer job looking through industrial incidents related to the Great Boston Molasses Flood (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Molasses_Flood). Wikipedia is definitely full of very interesting rabbit holes.

I posted a list of them a while ago. For several years I was interested in alternative worldviews -- grand sweeping theories of reality. Here's my list:








Enjoy :)

I remember that list, because I said then what I'll say now - posting a list like that on a site like this is akin to handing out bags of heroin at a school :P . But I guess it's what the OP asked for.

At least you learn something from reading these sorts of sites. Heroin doesn't do that...then again I may just be justifying an addiction.

That's almost part of the problem though. My feelings about LW/the Sequences/SSC/etc. are complicated with lots of positives and negatives-- way too much to summarize in an HN comment when I'm supposed to be working ;) -- but the main negative I was referring to here is that they are incredibly potent "insight porn". That term was originally coined to describe the work of hacks like Malcolm Gladwell, and while LW et al are definitely on a level above Gladwell's crap, something can be true and still be insight porn, with all the addictiveness and consequences to your mental faculties that implies.

Fair enough, I have had to make sure I don't lose myself as an insight junkie. When it comes to the consequences are you thinking of it damaging our ability to seek out insights for ourselves if they are so easy to read?

The reason these works feel so insightful is that they link all their material together into a massive, cohesive worldview. Each additional detail makes it sound more true, even though rationally each detail is one more thing that could be wrong (ironic LW link: http://lesswrong.com/lw/ji/conjunction_fallacy/).

What you're left with after consuming the work is a single giant "fact" that's actually composed of a whole bunch of genuine knowledge and a whole bunch of nonsense, and it's mentally draining to toss the nonsense because it feels like it's somehow a key part of something valuable. The big cohesive viewpoint is a lot more seductive than the actual truth - that all of the material needs to be evaluated separately and there are no shortcuts for sorting it out.

Or another way to put it: You really need to keep a critical eye towards each new fact that's introduced, but the entire appeal of this sort of thing is the idea that it's all one super-fact, so your critical thinking is at odds with your desire to enjoy the big picture.

Some neuroscientists would argue that addiction is a form of "learning".

That's an interesting way of thinking about it, in some cases there is overlap. Both do transmit dopamine and reinforce neural connections. However this is just one of many types of "addiction", so I think the relationship goes both ways with learning having the potential to be one of many types of addiction.

Were their experiments be recreated and properly peer-reviewed? Some reviewers argue that neuroscience experiments are mostly not worth the candle.


The replication crisis definitely leaves a lot of room for questioning. However, even if all the studies we have were properly replicated we still wouldn't understand addiction perfectly. We still have a lot to learn, just look at how vague definitions of addiction are still http://www.dsm5.org/documents/substance%20use%20disorder%20f... But both addiction and learning involve the brain's dopamine circuitry; ironically when responding to your point I can't read the relevant articles I found because they are behind paywalls. This article has some interesting commentary but the sources are paywalled: https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/html/10.10... Most likely there is a connection, but anyone who claims to understand it entirely at this point is overconfident.

I guess you learn about reinforcement loops at an intimate level, which is probably good for machine learning/AI

I don't think I have ever learned anything from some such sites. Distilled, prepared wisdom of people with limited scope and understanding. Who is your source? It this source trustworthy? What are his/her biases and prejudices?

At least with a good book you get an expanded argument, for or against which you can argue yourself. These feel-good pages, as I call them, are as good as a fart against the wind.

If you like those you might also like http://slatestarcodex.com It's Yvain's (from LW) blog. It's gotten quite popular, with lots of mainstream media referencing it.

Isn't it Scott Alexander (note the almost anagram) that blogs there?

Yvain is Scott Alexander: http://slatestarcodex.com/about/

That's his current pseudonym, yes. Went by Train previously.

Ignore my autocorrect typo above.

Glaring omission of http://blog.jim.com , if you want to go down the rabbit hole of stylistically coherent & pithy, well though out, right-wing philosophizing.

What a revolting sweaty pit of misogyny.

> "In general female behavior is not explicable in terms of rational pursuit of goals, but as innate reactions to stimuli."

Oh, you can find far worse quotes. No one said it was a fun read.

There's also Chris Davis' Idle Theory: https://web.archive.org/web/20160513191724/http://www.idlex....

As Ran Prieur, owner of another similar rabbit hole, once put it: "The idea is that the purpose of life is not to accomplish something, but to do as little as possible."

Ran Prieur is here (anti-consumerism and beyond): http://www.ranprieur.com

What...what have you done...oh God. I'm getting no work done today it would seem.

Well... an hour and a half later and I'd say that's quite the rabbit hole you've dug up. Thanks!

Biblical Christianity is straight-up iconoclastic. Give that a try.

Browsing medical diagnosis codes... https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Coding/ICD10/2016-ICD-10-CM-and...

Some of the most mildly interesting:

V9543XD Spacecraft collision injuring occupant, subsequent encounter

W5602XD Struck by dolphin, subsequent encounter

X35XXXD Volcanic eruption, subsequent encounter

X52XXXD Prolonged stay in weightless environment, subsequent encounter

Y0881XD Assault by crashing of aircraft, subsequent encounter

There seems to be some misunderstanding what is meant by "subsequent encounter" in this context. These are codes for office visits. "Subsequent encounter" means that a patient is not seeing a physician for the first time about their injury. There are also codes for "initial encounter."

Wait, you mean they're not talking about someone having been struck by a spacecraft for the second time?

So initial vs subsequent encounter are completely different codes? Wouldn't this approach double the number of codes? Why wouldn't this be some other field of data associated with the form instead of mixing it up in the diagnostic 'topic'.

I know nothing about medical diagnosis codes.

Medical diagnosis codes are all about reimbursement. Doctors do not rely on coding so much as finance dept relies on coding.

Proper coding means more $$, so talented dx coders are valuable.

Separating the code this way may not make sense medically, but it makes a lot more sense when you realize CMS or Blue Cross wants more coded granularity for automatic transmission of accurate financial information.

What does this have to do with anything? Is it just to inject a bit of cynicism?

Because while there's certainly a lot to be gained by a bit of creativity with the coding, the first/subsequent encounter distinction is ill-suited, considering these are binary categories, and any mistakes/attempts to defraud can detected with an sQL query shorter than this paragraph.

Concerning the original question: it's basically denormalized, with the usual tradeoffs. I'd guess it's easier to double the number of codes than to add a new attribute to legacy systems.

Medical codes date back before modern computer systems - this is what legacy process looks like.

Dx codes are a big part of my programming world, I work on medical software. Not trying to be cynical, just offering an insider perspective from someone who just helped hundreds of hospitals and thousands of agencies complete the ICD-10 switch seamlessly with no rejected 485s, no rejected 837I(5010)s or other payer rejections.

Not trying to be cynical, just trying to offer a view into the requirements set before me.

My understanding is that codes are simply a lookup into the structured version of the above document; they aren't "parseable" any more than an MD5 hash is parseable, but they uniquely identify a combination of conditions. As other posters have noted, the complexity required to implement that lookup table is an intentional barrier to entry.

There is a format to the code that allows any code to indicate initial vs. subsequent. It is important for looking for first visit cure vs. multiple visits to cure a condition.

Pretty sure its just a suffix That indicates a second encounter with the patient

Looking at the examples, they end with A for initial and D for subsequent visits.

The codes are used to make the reimbursement system complicated enough that it can be gamed. That's the general purpose of impenetrable bureaucracy.

Actually it's worth reminding that it's the opposite that is true. Bureaucracy, paperwork, are the only known ways to reduce gaming and enforce equal access to justice. O boy I hate paperwork, but it's there for a reason, a good reason.

Maybe that's the intention, but like code, the more complex you make e.g. tax laws, the greater chance there are loopholes (bugs). And there certainly are loopholes, if corporations' low/zero tax rates are any evidence.

It's not really equality when you raise the barriers to entry by giving larger companies an advantage when they can hire people who know how to game the rules, or who can hire lobbyists to write the rules in their favor, or get their own people into said bureaucracy (regulatory capture) and the little guys just don't have the money for any of that. You prevent people from entering the market, resulting in reduced competition.

I've been a HN lurker for a long, long time. Just wanted to say I created an account specifically to upvote this. Thank you.

It's okay and there is no need to be shy about making comments or voting for things. Now that finally, after all this time of being a bystander, your parent convinced you to take this step, please tell us about your story. I just mean to say that person you thanked seemed quite emotional. And you made an account, and thanked them. But I cannot really see what's so special about money turning into more money. That's why you went to primary school. A few dollars made you able to read and write, and now you're using it to save dollars or make more dollars.

So please: expand on the emotion now you've taken the plunge.

That is the initial purpose. Unfortunately bureaucrats tend to value other bureaucrats highly. It's a self perpetuating bureaucracy machine.

"The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy."

Transparency is the only known way to enforce equal access to government services. Bureaucracy is used to thwart that, via complication that can only be unraveled by (often very highly paid) specialists.

I'm not even sure how you can state that paperwork enforces equal access to justice. It certainly isn't working in the United States, unless you know of magical paperwork that will stop cops from choking black people to death.

An initial consultation is more in-depth, as the doctor is gathering information and diagnosing, whereas subsequent consultations are more about monitoring and fine-tuning the issue. Usually they're also shorter.

A subsequent encounter must be a followup visit.

Some more:

W2202XA Walked into lamppost, initial encounter

W34111A Accidental malfunction of paintball gun, initial encounter

W5629XA Other contact with orca, initial encounter

Y36511D War operations involving direct blast effect of nuclear weapon, civilian, subsequent encounter

V657XXA Person on outside of heavy transport vehicle injured in collision with railway train or railway vehicle in traffic accident, initial encounter

Y92331 Roller skating rink as the place of occurrence of the external cause

Erm, there is a website for W2202XA: http://w2202xa.com/

Would have been funnier if it linked to people walking into lampposts videos.

Hello! Sorry, I'm just here to watch the flowers grow

$10/yr well spent

Maybe he is targeting a über niche that is so obscure that it becomes abstract.

but... why did you know that?

i'm sure the parent just searched for the string.

What a weird web page and url.

Looks like it was just thrown up as text in html, but there's a container, so maybe someone actually applied CSS to that little tidbit?

Nope, a blockquote inside a blockquote. Interesting html-only container!

News you can use

> Y36511D War operations involving direct blast effect of nuclear weapon, civilian, subsequent encounter

If there's a nuclear war, I'm glad we'll still have the healthcare industry around to keep our priorities straight.

I'm curious about whether the "civilian" refers to the nuclear weapon or the person getting the diagnosis

"Other" contact with orca? does it means that there are three or four specific types for orca contacts previously defined?

W5564WTF contact with orca, left fin, just a scratch, subsequent encounter

It's pretty funny to think that somewhere in my insurance record is the code W2202XA.

Don't forget: C5432XXA Took an arrow to the knee, former adventurer

>Other contact with orca

This one calls for serious investigation. Dirk gently style.

"Other contact with orca", whatever that means, sounds slightly naughty.

If you like these you might also enjoy ICD-10 illustrated. [0]


They found a lot of great codes. One of my favorites from the book: V91.07xD Burn due to water-skis on fire, subsequent encounter.

Thanks for helping me along my Christmas shopping! This is great for those who work in healthcare...

> V9543XD Spacecraft collision injuring occupant, subsequent encounter

Hold on, hold on: when you say 'spacecraft', do you mean complete space vehicles, which would be 336414, or space satellites, communications, which would be 334220?


Reminds me of some of NJ's (and other's, I imagine) state laws:

> 39:4–128.4 Improper passing of frozen dessert truck

Your honor, those desserts weren't frozen! (Jury gasps)

A well-known NJ law among truckers. Do not pass the ice cream truck. You might kill a child.

Your honor, it was 103F. How was I to know the truck was frozen?

I don't even... why in the world would it be important for a doctor to differentiate being struck by a dolphin or struck by orca (side note: orcas are dolphins!).

I believe it's for statistical purposes(if it's anything like death codes here in Aus).

If there is an uptick in dolphin strikes, the Government(or some environmental management group) may do something about the dolphin problem.

Speaking of Australian death codes: http://deathmatch.me/

Or if there's a sudden lack of dolphin related accidents it might be good to look into whether or not the end of the world is eminent[0].

[0] http://hitchhikers.wikia.com/wiki/Dolphins

Wouldn't it also hide increases of "injured by a sea creature" that could be more useful in policy making.

I don't think so, though I don't know in practice I imagine there would be categories that aggregate the individual codes.

The only semi-plausible explanation is some weird insurance plan crafted for sea-world (et-al) staff. Neither Orcas nor (other) Dolphins were ever recorded to attack human beings out of captivity anyhow.

Unless an over-amorous encounter could be considered an attack. Seems to be a real problem, wonder if there's a code for 'loved to death(drowning) by dolphin'


This was puzzling me (as a UK citizen). A clue in another comment hinted that it is about insurance.

Still not sure why a dolphin would be covered in a policy but not an orca...

I don't think that it would be used to decide whether an incident was covered or not, just to categorize it for statistical purposes or something.

It's the kind of data that might be used to say "shark attacks are up 23% on the US east coast over the last three years".

It would be interesting to read a design document (or post-hoc technical analysis) that enumerates all the purposes that medical billing codes are used for. Maybe it would explain the easily-mocked craziness.

Orca is a "killer" whale -- you were duly warned. ;)

These are diagnosis codes, so it wraps up to national-level reporting - i.e. 35 people were injured by dolphins this year.

Also, insurance companies get crazy nit-picky with what types of treatment they'll cover for diagnoses. There is an entire industry around scrubbing claims and making sure treatment meets the diagnosis codes.

Pretty sure my co only covers Dolphin and NOT Orca strikes.

Insurance billing. These need to be exact in order to correlate to a) rates negotiated b) data collected for future underwriting c) exact repayment. Medical billing is a crazy world.

Isn't all this coding a U.S. phenomenon? I've read that single-payer systems like Canada's require orders of magnitude less labor and paperwork.

In the UK there is still a lot of this, even though healthcare is centrally funded and (somewhat) centrally administered.

I worked briefly with a company doing medical transcription. It opened my eyes to how much billing-related paperwork goes on in hospital back offices.

Probably because orcas are so much larger.

Clearly that is the medical code for being struck by a Mahi-mahi, which can reach nearly 60lbs and travel at speeds above 55mph. /end sarcasm

Severity of injury?

I've gotta believe that some dolphin injuries are more severe than some orca injuries.

At any rate, once the code describes a situation so specific that it may only classify a few injuries a year, what possible benefit may come from that?

Am I missing a table since I can find the orca thing, but it doesn't have a listing for bear. Please tell me bears are a bigger danger than orcas?

// holy crud, the comment section is now a rabbit hole - good job karim

Yeah, bears are not specifically mentioned. You'd have to file it by W55.8: contact with other mammal.

You guys are either pulling my leg, or I just entered a Volgon message board by mistake.

Nope, we are quite serious. Download https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Coding/ICD10/Downloads/2016-Cod... and enjoy.

So, an orca (9 codes) and a squirrel (6 codes) have their own damn codes but a friggin bear is in the other category?!? Heck, wolves, coyotes, bears, and mountain lions all don't have their own codes. I see a lobbying effort that needs to go on to show the true nature of dangerous animals in the US and quit hiding these attacks in the other category.

On the other hand, I do like the difference between cats and dogs:

  W540XXA Bitten by dog, initial encounter
  W540XXD Bitten by dog, subsequent encounter
  W540XXS Bitten by dog, sequela
  W541XXA Struck by dog, initial encounter
  W541XXD Struck by dog, subsequent encounter
  W541XXS Struck by dog, sequela
  W548XXA Other contact with dog, initial encounter
  W548XXD Other contact with dog, subsequent encounter
  W548XXS Other contact with dog, sequela
  W5501XA Bitten by cat, initial encounter
  W5501XD Bitten by cat, subsequent encounter
  W5501XS Bitten by cat, sequela
  W5503XA Scratched by cat, initial encounter
  W5503XD Scratched by cat, subsequent encounter
  W5503XS Scratched by cat, sequela
  W5509XA Other contact with cat, initial encounter
  W5509XD Other contact with cat, subsequent encounter
  W5509XS Other contact with cat, sequela

Conspiracy theory: the diagnosis codes were compiled by Bears who tried to avoid attention to their own kind.

My parents are MDs, and they hate this stuff. Mostly because the onus is on doctors to perfectly use the correct code or not get reimbursed. (Or more realistically, waste time arguing with insurance companies/Medicare to get reimbursed.)

Sadly, my first job out of college involved these codes after we wrote a rural health grant. The money and pain that went into that thing still wakes me up at night. The codes (and the cost of acquiring the "book" along with filling out the forms) gave me fits and actually made me think heavily about calling in sick for work each morning in the shower.

There must be a code for that...

ICD10-code induced trauma and anxiety, initial encounter

Sounds likely to be

F4311 Post-traumatic stress disorder, acute

I would expect its more the domain of the other document I dread: the DSM-IV

Interestingly, I heard about that a couple of months ago going to a med conference and listening to Atul Butte. Here is the longer narrative of the taxonomic structure of death causes:


(By the way, the rest of Atul's talk is also quite interesting, too, for people who are looking for building the next open-source bio/medical-informatics company in their garage.)

Z62891 Sibling rivalry

Y93G2 Activity, grilling and smoking food

Y9286 Slaughter house as the place of occurrence of the external cause

Y6553 Performance of correct procedure (operation) on wrong side or body part

X962XXA Assault by letter bomb, initial encounter

X05XXXA Exposure to ignition or melting of nightwear, initial encounter

I can think of examples of all of these. But I did have siblings, burn myself bbq'ing, know people who worked in the local slaughterhouse (knife in the arm to get off work), know of a surgeon who made this terribly sad mistake, live in the UK (IRA letter bombs).

Ok, I kinda give up on the last one.

I knocked one of those quartz desklamps over on my bed when I was asleep. Set the blanket on fire, caused it to melt. Fortunately, I was awakened before I was injured. Not sure if that would count, though.

Sibling rivalry is a serious condition where your young child is trying to harm or murder your new baby.

> Y6553 Performance of correct procedure (operation) on wrong side or body part

That's horrifying.

When I was younger, I had a commercial-grade stapler (the big ones that advertise stapling through N-hundred sheets at once) go into my pointer finger on my left hand. The resulting bone infection eroded all the bone in my fingertip, which was reconstructed later from "donor" bone.

Step one of the operation was getting taken back to a patient room, being given an IV (since I was not to eat or drink for 12hours before the operation), and waiting. After a few hours, a nurse walked in with a sharpie and wrote "NO" on my other hand.

It wasn't comforting.

Coincidentally, two posts talking about this kind of never event, with links:


They do happen, but they're quite rare.

Most applicable to our profession is that of T43.616A:

Underdosing of caffeine, initial encounter

A "rabbit hole" for you... A major annoyance for me (a paramedic). Accurately categorizing the stupidity humanity can be surprisingly time consuming...

Some more:

Z621 – Parental overprotection

Z631 – Problems in relationship with in-laws

R460 – Very low level of personal hygiene

Z731 – Type A behavior pattern

R461 – Bizarre personal appearance

Interesting this should pop up, a few weekends ago I put together a simple quick search for ICD-10 codes (and Radlex, a radiology specific lexicon) at http://lex.orionmd.com. I'm sure there are other more powerful tools out there, but feel free to play around!

Apropos. Thomas Morris' excellent blog about historical medical cases is super interesting, using reports from old medical journals as source. Eg "The woman who peed through her nose":


well done! Responses are evident enough for this being a rabbit hole. :)

My wife studies domestic violence and notes that there is no code for strangulation. Talk about bike-shedding.

wow, thanks!

Are these added added to the database as needed, or did a (group of) bureaucrat(s) make these up in one sitting?

Y385X3A Terrorism involving nuclear weapons, terrorist injured, initial encounter

Those are oddly specific.

And still no code for "close encounter", tsk tsk

W621XX Contact with nonvenomous toads

The best has to be V97.33XD Sucked into jet engine, subsequent encounter

Just in case you survived.

Probably just a hair less unlikely than you had previously thought. Who can forget this early YouTube classic:


My favorite: W61.62 Struck by duck

For me, it's definitely Ribbonfarm:http://www.ribbonfarm.com/

I stumbled into Venkat's blog about two and half years ago and I'm still trying to find my way out. The rabbit hole gets even deeper when you look at his list of recommended reading. The material on John Boyd and OODA loops in particular has been bouncing around my head for about a year. Ribbonfarm quickly turns into a choose-your-own-adventure type of experience as it's very easy to bounce between articles and start looking everything that you don't know.

If you're interested in getting below the surface level of how organizations, teams, and business cultures work Ribbonfarm is the best place I know of that really digs into the details. If you're expecting the typical "be a leader, not a manager" platitudes, then you'll be disappointed.

I discovered ribbonfarm after being pointed to Rao's outstanding series about office politics, through the lens of the Office which is here:


Then I decided to read much more material from the blog, but for the most part I have been disappointed. I feel like the authors there love intellectualism to the point that they create fancy constructs even when there isn't much return. Basically I feel like it's trying too hard to be clever. I have found a few gems there, however.

Not trying to pick a fight with anyone, just wanted to share my own experience here.

It's good in general to be careful of the "this is what I think people are like" genre of blogging. Especially when it's presented with such certainty. See also: slate star codex, TLP. At least those two are working psychiatrists. Venkat Rao is just a guy with some opinions that he has retrospectively derived from his own career progress, as far as I can tell. It smacks of rationalisation.

Did TLP just completely stop after being outed or is there something still happening with a book?

In my imagination he went completely insane trying to write the porn book.

If you want a good continuation, check out Jordan Peterson, who has a much wider framework into which TLP's somewhat narrow worldview can be fitted. He is also a practicing clinical psychologist, as well as a professor. This video summarises a lot of his ideas, but they are fully explained and justified in his university courses, which are all on the channel. "Personality" is a first year course, and "Maps of Meaning" is I think taken by third or fourth year psychology students.


(You're probably best off ignoring the culture war drama he's currently embroiled in. Unfortunately the youtube algorithm has now placed him firmly in the alt-right nexus because of this, so his videos might shit up your reccommendations. This is not a reflection of his ideas, far from it.)

Yes, true. But I also think Rao is incredibly self-aware of this. Interact with him. Very strong opinions, gingerly held.

His writing doesn't seem to convey that to me. On the contrary: there's a kind of pretentious of style that I find uniquely intolerable. Which is too bad, because I'd otherwise probably be pretty interested in some of what he has to say, but I'm too much of a dick to get past it.

They definitely spend a lot of time throwing ideas at the wall to see what sticks, I think (not everything sticks but it's interesting to see what does)

That recommended reading list is so good I'm going to save some people the trouble of finding the link: http://www.ribbonfarm.com/now-reading/

I never would have imagined myself reading a book about teaching improvisational theater and enjoying it, much less finding it applicable to my career in engineering.

If you liked that book, take a peek at "Don't Shoot The Dog"

Agreed. ribbonfarm is terrific. I support his work by paying monthly for the kindle version of the website publications.

My current rabbit hole has been the world building stack exchange (http://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/) which is (ostensibly) for writers working out scientific or historical justifications for the worlds they invent.

Some of the thought that goes into answers is really cool. Good ones from recently are:

- http://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/59175/what-...

- http://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/59171/is-th...

- http://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/58745/stand...

I used to love it, but I do feel that the quality of the questions has dropped significantly since it started. There are now many people trying to find a justification for their pet plot idea, or trying to have the community fix the gaping hole in their universe.

That said, there are some amazing answers, well thought out and well researched, and I love some of the questions about cultural impacts of technological or biological speculation.

I have to say, that last is a particularly bad question. Asking about the spacetime interval between two points has an answer. Asking about the spacetime interval between two points when you have some unspecified magic which can shorten that interval can only be answered by asking the parent what type of magic he was thinking of and how it works.

Love this site. This one: http://www.27bslash6.com/missy.html, makes me giggle audibly every time...

I completely forgot about that one! It may very well be the best. :)

I always questioned whether his stuff is embellished, or complete fiction, but it doesn't stop me from laughing every time I read the story where he tries to pay with a picture of a spider.

As someone who personally had business dealings with a company/person mentioned in one of those stories, I can say that the story perfectly matched the personas of those involved, which has me absolutely convinced that it actually happened (at least in some form). Extrapolating this to the other stories on the site, I have always assumed that they are in reality more truth than embellishment.

I'm not sure to what degree they're embellished but they do have some basis in reality. I didn't realise that until he shared on facebook that Simon, the subject of many jokes in his stories but someone he'd gotten closer to over time, had killed himself. It was a bit of a rude awakening.

That makes me happy to hear. After visiting /r/thatHappened you just stop believing anything funny or amazing is real online.

Obligatory /r/nothingeverhappens

Or to stay on topic, /r/talesfromretail and its friends

Oh man!!! How come I've never heard of him? This is more than Gold and it definitely reminds me of Bastard Operator from Hell

http://www.27bslash6.com/p2p2.html is still my favorite.

this is gold!

Slate Star Codex: http://slatestarcodex.com/, for a lot of interesting socio-philosophical discussion on a variety of topics.

Meditations on Moloch is one of my favorites:


"I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup" is one of the greatest pieces of political writing ever. http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/30/i-can-tolerate-anything...

It's interesting how much this reads like footnotes to Derrida , especially in the beginning (other cliffnotes here: http://www.iep.utm.edu/derrida/#SH7c or http://www.columbia.edu/itc/ce/s6403/jacques_derrida.pdf if you feel like reading the original). It's nice to see ideas move from so theoretical that LW and associated communities would likely dismiss to digestible forms like this. It gives me hope for communication amongst outgroups that are pretty virulently opposed to each other (Continental theorists and let's say the vanguard of popular "rationalism"), mostly due to their proximity.

I don't seem to have enough context to follow the point you are making. What are continental theorists? In what way are they apposed to the Less Wrong crowd?


For the reasons for the opposition, it's difficult to point to any article that doesn't almost willfully misunderstand the other side. I haven't listened to this episode, but In Our Time is usually good about bringing in experts from both sides to discuss issues: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/bridging-the...

You can probably substitute "The Less Wrong crowd" for "analytical philosophers", as they're sort of the hobbyist or non-institutionalized version of the latter. You could also just try reading the Derrida article I linked to see why people with a rationalist bent have historically recoiled from his writings.

Also the link threads are amazing time wasters. I urge you not to click on the link below if you value your life:


I actively avoid them because my Instapaper list is overwhelming enough.

There is also the book that he is writing, which is weird and wonderful: http://unsongbook.com/

Can confirm. I found slatestarcodex and immediately spent > an hour a day reading through every post he had written over the past several years.

Leave it to STEMlords to reinvent Christianity

Slate Star Codex: if you're a man who is involved in tech and not interested in any legitimate philosophical or sociological inquiry, we've got you covered

TV Tropes is the definitive rabbit hole: http://www.tvtropes.org

For me, a close follow-up is the SCP Foundation: http://www.scp-wiki.net/

I'm a cofounder of All The Tropes, a noncommercial advertising-free fork of TV Tropes: https://allthetropes.org/wiki/Main_Page

Because we don't have advertising, we can take a low censorship approach while protecting your privacy. We'd love to have you come on board if you have many hours that you're not using.

I've been interested in ATT, but the community is significantly smaller, and the community is a big part of the draw of TVT.

What disgusted me was what TVT said in response to ATT. There was a thread essentially claimed it was a weird XXX trope site that was ripping them off: nobody corrected this perception, and nobody even disagreed, despite the fact that looking at the FAQ for five minutes would have made it abundantly clear that this wasn't the case. The mods then said that ATT "didn't deserve any more attention or discussion" and pretty much outright said that mentioning it further was asking for a ban.

It says something about a community when they aren't mature enough to discuss their competitors and legitimately assess them, instead constructing strawmen and saying that anybody who talks about it will be banned: TVT, of all places, ought to know better.

I'm not familiar with this situation, but if what you're saying is true, I can see where the perception came from. The unfortunate reality is that the Internet is full of sites which just copy-paste an existing popular site (Stack Overflow, various fandom wikis, etc.) and slap a bunch of ads on it hoping to make some fly-by-night profit. If I had came across ATT, I absolutely would've assumed that's what it was and would not have taken the time to read their FAQ explaining otherwise.

I'm not sure how you would have gotten that impression with the 100% lack of ads. Aggressive adblockers, I can only hope. Either way, brand-name attraction is strong.

If you'd like to be a little more familiar with the situation, there's a write-up of the copyright situation here: http://blog.brentlaabs.com/2013/12/the-edge-of-creative-comm... with HN discussion https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7749189 There's also the statement of why we forked: https://allthetropes.org/wiki/All_The_Tropes:Why_Fork_TV_Tro...

But they read enough to be sort of aware of the differences in philosophy, in that they knew that ATT allowed for content that had been taken off TVT for being too explicit. If you already know that, then you've taken some time to actually look at the site.

Awesome! I had seen AllTheTropes before but never understood what it was. I'm always a fan of noncommercial ad-free forks.

SCP was a great rabbit hole, until I took some psychedelics after I'd been reading it during my downtime at work the previous few weeks. I spent much of the trip seeing the face from SCP-87 [1] bulging through the inside of my eyelids.

I haven't been able to enjoy browsing it since.

[1] http://www.scp-wiki.net/scp-087 (bottomless staircase below a school)

SCP is an real mix between "Agents of SHIELD" type weirdness and the occasional truly disturbing nosleep material. I dig into it every now and then but usually stop when I read something I'd rather I hadn't.

The US Civil War has been mine for the last couple of years. The sheer volume of history and contributing factors, decades of build up, aftermath, affects on the US today, etc. My goodness, the economics of the whole thing are just fascinating.

All the internet debates I saw when the confederate flag came down got me really interested in how so many people could know TOTALLY different things about the most historically significant event in the country.

Now I've got about 12 books covering things in different ways (and there are so many more). Thanks to the Library of Congress and Google's efforts to scan books it's really easy to check citations as you read when you're having those "There is no way that's real" moments followed by "Holy crap! That's real?!?!"

The whole thing has sparked an overzealous interest in history, which is the subject that interested me the least when I was younger. Now I give serious consideration to pursuing a doctorate one day with the aim of being a History professor when I get closer to 50 (which is still a decade or so off).

I have been to Gettysburg multiple times. Once did a guided tour of the battlefields with a guide. It was very interesting. I wasn't born in this country (WWII is the major battle I learned about) but it was still fascinating seeing sites and learning the history, since it is my new country I want to know as much as possible about it. It is a different understand to see the place and be told, here is where attacked, then retreated, so many people died here and so on.

What are some other interesting US Civil War battlefields or sites (Antietam, I would guess, Fort Sumter?)

Fort Sumter isn't really a major site (it's got a lot of name recognition, but not much happened there compared to other places).

Antietam is one - the bloodiest day in American history. Then there's a whole bunch in Virginia: The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Fredericksburg, Manassas (site of two major battles). Further south, Vicksburg, Shiloh, Chickamauga, Stones River are all major sites. You probably haven't heard about any of these (maybe Manassas), but they're among the biggest battles of the war.

The Virginia sites are all huge, historically speaking. Shiloh is a particularly beautiful battlefield. Vicksburg is the most impressive, because it's one of the few with obvious remains of battle - it was basically a trial run for WWI. Most battlefields have a low line of earthworks and some craters, but it's tough to picture what they looked like.

The Battles of Manassas are known as the Battles of Bull Run outside of the South. They are both Southern victories and the first was the first major battle of the war.

Probably the most interesting thing about Fort Sumter is that so little happened there, in all honesty. That and seeing it on a map to understand why it was valuable.


Fredicksburg, Vicksburg, Sharpsburg (Antietam), Chancellorsville, Wilderness (Overland), Bull Run I & II (Manassas), Shiloh, Chickamauga, Appomattox... in no particular order ...but yeah you could spend your whole life just visiting the different sites and not see them all I reckon...

If you ever stop by a Georgia visitor's center, mention that you are interested in visiting civil war sites. I left with a 2 inch thick stack of pamphlets after the lady showed me everything.

Yes, we have a lot of them here. Kennesaw Mountain, Chickamauga, and others are packed with interesting monuments and signposts.

Do you know if non-US countries stage battle re-enactments?

Manassas (Bull Run); Fredericksburg; Anywhere in northern Virginia, really.

What are some of your favorite "There is no way that's real" moments you came across in your studies?

I really don't know where to start for a quick HN response. There are just so many things that depends heavily on context around them. The economics, for me, are the most interesting parts but it takes a lot of information to put things together to explain.

If I'm going to cite a single thing, it would have to be the Cherokee Declaration of Causes. As a single document providing context around events at the time it's a little mind blowing the first time you read it.


I found the economics of the Confederation extremely fascinating. Given the sanctions and unlikely future growth of the slavery sector, there wouldn't have even needed to be a land war and it would have collapsed in a few more years on its own.

Basically, the model of the union government's sanctions today.

Wish that perspective was in my primary education. I feel like I only learned about generals and battles.

One of the things that's interesting is that there was also a complete economic panic in the North regarding what an independent south would do to the economy.

Wow, not to distract but my mind is completely blown by how completely unusable that website is on mobile while not obviously broken. The sharing widget makes it completely impossible to read.

Things I won't work with: http://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2011/11/11/thi...

Accident reconstruction/investigation videos. NTSB, CSB, and OSHA have some really in-depth ones: https://youtu.be/tMsjJWJFBbA https://youtu.be/gDTqrRpa_ac?list=PLUXYDid45duP-lg8Kh_hSw841...

Also, +1 for TV Tropes

Edit: Also, http://www.scp-wiki.net/ has some classics.

"Things I won't work with" deserves an extra highlight! I am not interested in chemistry at all but I read all the blog posts about once a year because the author is just so good with words.

TV Tropes is always good: http://tvtropes.org/

TV Tropes is amazing. I have some experience writing short stories but diving into the tropes has been a real mind-expanding experience. I can't watch TV shows or movies now without automatically deconstructing the screenwriting. This, ultimately, has become a real time-saver, because since gaining that super-power, I find most TV too boring to watch, and so don't feel at all bad about saving my time for better things.

Likewise, but I also find that it leads me to the occasional book, TV, or movie that I enjoy. I'm a sucker for a few particular tropes, and I'll go down the list for those and seek out everything on them.

TV Tropes has had funding issues in the past. I can't help but think that they could make a significant amount through 1) affiliation with Netflix, Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, or other providers of media, and 2) integration with Amazon X-Ray or Google Play's equivalent.

There is nothing in the universe quite like a troll on TV Tropes. Maybe a troll on Wikipedia but they're probably all the same person.

Warning: if you say lampshading IRL, no one will understand you. If by strange coincidence you ran into a fellow Troper, you'd have to type it out.

"Lampshading" existed as a term used by writers etc. well before TV Tropes came along. I'm pretty sure I first heard it on Usenet in the 90s in a newsgroup primarily for SF writers, where it was well understood. Many terms on TV Tropes are pretty recent, but a lot were already established elsewhere.

Troperese is a legitimate language, understood by Tropers worldwide. Referencing lampshading is a sort of shibboleth, and it can be used to determine of a potential troper is One Of Us, as can a Fake Thomas Jefferson. An obscure reference could do the trick, and Wicks are another fun one to try.

Really? My crew use lampshading all the time.

Or the forked version at https://allthetropes.org if you are sensitive about censorship.

RIP my productivity, tvtropes is like heroin to me.

I'm partial to everything2.com. Back in the early 00's, everything2 tried to be a Wikipeida, where people could post multiple entries on a topic. The best part is reading 16 year old, long form essays about places. The recent stuff is short stories, but the essays of the bay area from the peak of the bubble are fascinating.


* http://everything2.com/title/The+NoCal+Super+Layoff+Unemploy...

* http://everything2.com/title/San+Mateo+bridge

I grew up reading everything2 and I dearly wish the internet was still more like that

Some links:

* http://everything2.com/title/catting+weird+things+to+%252Fde...

* http://everything2.com/title/How+to+destroy+the+Earth

I loved everything2 and contributed some mediocre content in high school.

Looking back, everything2 was probably my first exposure to information about software development beyond HTML and Flash. There were a lot of Linux, C, Perl, Jargon File type people on the site.


Discover new command line utilities or combinations of them to solve various things. Learned all kinds of useful stuff. Things like I know but always forget about:

   python -m SimpleHTTPServer
To server the current directory on port :8000

Then there is silly stuff like:

   dd if=/dev/dsp | ssh -c arcfour -C username@host dd of=/dev/dsp

To output your microphone to a remote computer's speaker [note: you probably shouldn't be using arcfour in general for ssh, and it might be disabled on your site].

> note: you probably shouldn't be using arcfour in general for ssh, and it might be disabled on your site

Related tip: arcfour is a less secure but fast cipher. If you are mounting a virtual machine locally via sshfs, you'll get better performance by using arcfour (10-20% increase in throughput, IIRC)

python -m http.server, now.

And /dev/dsp doesn't work: you have you sox or arecord/aplay to make that work now.

helpful tip to build upon #1: you can pass a valid port number to the SimpleHTTPServer command to open that port instead of 8000.

What about specifying the interface?

Last time I checked it wasn't possible.

I enjoy listening to simulated activations of the EAS (Emergency Alert System) on YouTube. A few interesting ones:

Nuclear Attack: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZIynuYDRVA

Alien Invasion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKre_8rufrw

Russian Invasion:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYOlnuxZzNQ

Clown Sightings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUugY4VfgZc

I always find the EAS activation tone to be kind of bone chilling (which I suppose is its intention). I hear it so infrequently here in Canada that it really grabs my attention immediately.

Listening to the fake ones online probably makes it worse, though. When I heard the emergency alert tone come on the radio while driving from Toronto to Ottawa, I checked the skies for UFOs. Ended up just being a tornado warning. :)


Which contains (apart from the obvious Murphy's law and Occam's razor) such pearls as the Peter Principle, the Dunning-Kruger effect, and Hofstadter's Law. 20+ tabs guaranteed!

I like that it references itself under 'Miscellaneous'.

In a similar vein, and perhaps even more useful, here is a collection of probably 100+ useful concepts and thinking tools (make sure to read all comments and also the comments in the linked article at the top):

Concepts for Your Cognitive Toolkit


We share the same vice!

TVTropes is the big one, the vortex from which all other rabbit holes stem.

The SCP foundation is also excellent, and The Digital Antiquarian is my new favorite.

Fallen London is a browser MMOCYOA on steroids, and it's glorious.

The Jargon File (before ESR ruined it with the latest round of updates) was amazing, and still is great fun.

Bash.org is another classic rabbit hole, although far from the best for that purpose.

And Youtube contains many rabbit holes, but my favorite by far is Tom Scott's youtube channel. Also of note is Tom & Matt's Park Bench, where he vlogs with Matt Grey on a semi-regular basis, Yahtzee Crowshaw's channel, where he used to play games with Gabriel Morton in his "Let's Drown Out" series, and Channel Awesome. Just, all of Channel Awesome.

Fallen London is dangerously brilliant - think of browser games like Kingdom of Loathing, but with a spectacular depth of storytelling and complexity. It also has an interesting rapid-feedback structure; instead of things like lengthy 'fights' everything runs on probabilistic outcomes.

...would you happen to know if Ambition: Enigma is real? No hints, but one of the devs suggested it wasn't and I'd like to at least know if there's actually something to look for.

I have no idea. I'd say check the wiki, but that's spoilerific. By the way, did you see the excellent article about the Seeking The Name quest on RPS? https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2016/06/20/seeking-mr-eaten...

The wiki implies it's probably real, and links to two relevant things, but doesn't go further - Enigma is locked down almost as hard as Seeking The Name there.

I hadn't read it until just now, but that's a really good piece. It's a fascinating quest, to the point where I have a second character for it and have seen it discussed in several places. I think StormingTheIvory had a pretty good essay, despite being a source I usually have serious issues with.

It's an utterly bizarre quest. I think there's an important hole in game design literature centered around things like Seeking and I Wanna Be The Guy. It's this whole school of consciously abusive game design that completely contradicts basic principles. Seeking The Name is even weirder than most, because you can't even justify it in terms of skill challenges. The best analogue I have is the self-destruct button in Starship Titanic, which is literally just a big red button you can hit to lose the game.

RPS is the first source I've seen offer a justification for this sort of behavior. If a game can't be genuinely punishing, then what's the point of putting up challenges in the first place?

StormingTheIvory's article was interesting. I have no idea what your issue with STIT is, so I can't comment on that.

Secure Contain Protect http://www.scp-wiki.net/

I was also going to suggest this. It made watching Stranger Things even more enjoyable.

This is a wonderful rabbit hole. It can be hard to find a good entry point but worth perservering, particularly if you're alone somewhere late at night.

In my opinion it's fine to start from top rated entries.


I have mild OCD, so I ended up reading all of them in order over a few months.

A few months? Man, that's fast.

Literally one of the things on my bucket list is to 'catch-up' on SCP. But I read so damn slowly and new entries are added all the time, so, it's likely never gonna happen.

Still enjoy the hell out of scaring myself at night by reading them, though.

Definitely. One of my favorites.

https://urbit.org/ - deep and exciting one

This article [1] is a good start even though it's 6 years old. It's not vaporware anymore, I haven't checked it in a while, but it seems to be actively developed.

If you feel that you've learned enough programming languages that you have a problem finding anything new this may give you some dopamine.

1. http://moronlab.blogspot.com/2010/01/urbit-functional-progra...

Urbit reminds me of a programming language that was featured a while back on Hacker News. It was a purely functional language and each function and data structure was addressed by its cryptographic hash. Functions and data structures did have convenient labels, but linking was done by the hash. So you can have as many different versions of a function as you like. Your code is never broken by updates. You can apply updates at your convenience.

I believe you are thinking of http://unisonweb.org

Yes, that's it. It's beautiful.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/) is just fascinating enough and just badly organized enough that I never seem to be able to get to the same useful piece of information twice. And thus I constantly find myself looking at other interesting facts about the US labor force.

As an intern project years ago I had to all the BLS data into a database for analysis. Any time I ran into an issue I would call them directly. Little known fact that every BLS data set has a source.txt file with a phone number to call. You might think of government agencies as massive bureaucracy, but I was amazed at how helpful and knowledgeable everyone I spoke to was (and that the calls were answered at all). They would answer my immediate question and often explained the logic that went into the data structure.

Making survey data structured is quite challenging and I gained a lot of respect for the work they do.

Anyway, if you go down this rabbit hole, maybe make it an IRL rabbit hole and giving them a call may help get to your answers quickly.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II easily.

I grew up when the History Channel was nicknamed the "Hitler channel". I've read Manchester's the Last Lion, Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and will soon be ordering Ullrich's Hitler - Ascent. Saving Private Ryan is in my top 5 favorite movies of all time.

This is currently my wallpaper: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/5/59/US_Army...

Atlas Obscura - a collection of the world's most interesting/peculiar, and downright strange places. It's like a marriage of a world map + Ripley's Believe it Or Not.


This made it to the front page of HN a couple months back, but it's worth posting again:


Reading the titles of some of their pieces in their newsletter is awesome in itself! I subscribe to their newsletter, and its easy enough to ignore going deep, but again, I get such pleasure from the weird, fun, wacky titles of their pieces; I can't recommend them enough!

Reading medical study meta-analysis published by The Cochrane Collaboration[0]. There's some fascinating results that run counter to current medical advice.

For example, "Vaccines to prevent influenza in healthy adults" concluded, in part: "Vaccination shows no appreciable effect on working days lost or hospitalisation."[1]

[0] http://www.cochrane.org/evidence [1] http://www.cochrane.org/CD001269/ARI_vaccines-to-prevent-inf...

List of unusual articles on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Unusual_articles

I like Wikipedia random too: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random

I enjoy rabbit holes with much less meaning, such as:

http://z0r.de/ or http://www.theuselessweb.com/

The last one is great. I once discovered this gem:


i can't stop laughing.... this site is really a gem.

Currently my favourite time wasters are learning channels on youtube. Especially not the "weird" ones like VSauce because I think those are pretty unwatchable. I like SciShow / SciShow space even though that's borderline weird :)

My current fav is Sixty Symbols, endless very interesting videos: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvBqzzvUBLCs8Y7Axb-jZew

Also PBS Space Time, MinutePhysics, MinuteEarth.

I've been through so many of these - but not Sixty Symbols. Thanks!

Also interesting is Crash Course, made by some of the same folks as SciShow. Really more for high school students, but interesting enough that I don't mind them repeating information I do know and I pick up on new stuff.

How could you forget CGPGrey and ViHart?

Oh, and also Tom Scott, if you haven't seen him yet.

One of the earliest www rabbit holes I remember visiting: https://www.chroniclesofgeorge.com/

Surprised MF has not been mentioned, yet. http://www.metafilter.com/

Wow, it has been years since I've been to this site. Thank you!

I used to customize this ticketing system. It was Peregrine Service Center before HP bought it. And we had a George too. Ah... the memories

Sorry—we used Remedy Action Request System at the George job. Source: I'm the webmaster and I was there :)

I'm sorting through suggestions and was glad to see MF mentioned. Exceptionally high-quality discussion.

I had not heard of Chronicles of George. I have been laughing almost continuously reading it.

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