Talk:Paul Graham (computer programmer)

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Merge from Arc programming language[edit]

Content from Arc programming language has been merged here and that article redirected here. This was the result of a Vote for Deletion on that article. The discussion can be found here.-Splash 02:11, 14 July 2005 (UTC)

Beginning this year the redirect on the Arc page Splash put in place in 2005 was removed and that page was expanded. Because the reasons for the VfD remain valid (Arc still doesn't exist in any public form, and is notable only that it is promoted by Paul Graham), I believe that the removal of the redirect was made in error. On the 25th of October I put a notice on the talk:Arc_(programming_language) page that I intended to re-merge that page with this one and re-institute the redirect. I've done so this evening. Jorbettis 05:15, 7 November 2007 (UTC)
The reasoning on the VfD is that WP:NOT#Wikipedia_is_not_a_crystal_ball, but that paragraph says:
"Wikipedia is not a collection of unverifiable speculation. All articles about anticipated events must be verifiable, and the subject matter must be of sufficiently wide interest that it would merit an article if the event had already occurred."
This seems to me to warrant an article on Arc that is verifiable, which the article was AFAIK. Moreover the article was a small stub at the previous time of merge/redirection unlike it is now, so that VfD does not apply to the article in its current state. Please revert your changes. --MarSch 13:50, 7 November 2007 (UTC)
The information in the original article was verifiable as well. The issue for that vote was that the existence of the article was predicated on the unverifiable and speculative existence of the Arc Programming language, since nobody outside of Paul Graham's small group has ever seen what he has produced. There is nothing that you can say about the language without first saying "according to Paul Graham" because, due to PG's desire to not release it (for reasons unknown), to be able to say *anything* about it is to just take his word for it. By giving it an article, wikipedia gives the impression that it is now something real and tangible. That may be true someday, but is not now. That a notable person speculates on something that he may produce someday does not make a wiki article about it, although it may make it valid to put the relevant information in his article.
Whether or not to create a separate article should be guided by organizational principles. I think that enough can be said about Arc already to warrant its own article.
As to the second part of your quote from WP:NOT#Wikipedia_is_not_a_crystal_ball, until *something* of the Arc language is released publicly, how is it of interest to anyone outside of those who are interested in Paul Graham's current and future projects?
That is not relevant.
I would like a further explanation of why you think that the importance of the subject matter is not relevant in deciding if a subject should have its own wikipedia page. It seems to me (and it's central to my argument that this needed to be re-merged) that non-notable things should *not* have their own wikipedia pages. Further, I believe that the decision in the original VfD was based, if not solely, then mostly on the fact that Arc is "vaporwear" that is completely non-notable *except* that it is something promised and promoted by Paul Graham.
I've looked through the documentation on VfD and it doesn't say anything about VfD only being appropriate for stub articles. On the face that's a bit absurd. If I were to make a biography of myself and fill it out to be a large page before anyone notices, is it now immune to VfD even though the topic shouldn't be on Wikipedia? Anyway, originally I thought that perhaps there should be a new VfD, but I asked in #wikipedia and they responded with WP:BOLD, saying that the old VfD was still valid, and that a VfD isn't even required for an article merger.
You misunderstand. I'm saying the old VfD discussion was about a completely different article, so you shouldn't apply its conclusion so blindly to the current article. Of course no VfD is required for a merge, but if you do not have a consensus your changes may be reverted. That's why we're discussing this. I'm informing you that I disagree with the merge and that you can't bring some old consensus from VfD here to back you up.
The VfD was about a stub for a topic that does not deserve its own Wikipedia article. The article I merged was barely a non-stub about the very same topic.
Now, when it comes to the question of a stub versus a fleshed-out and well-written article, the current article was longer than the one originally merged, but it was still substantially redundant with the information already in Paul Graham (which I removed from the biography section), and of what was left, the majority of the information was in that poorly formated list, which could easily be processed down into a smallish paragraph. Jorbettis 16:07, 7 November 2007 (UTC)
Even now the paragraph about Arc is more than half of the article on Paul Graham. And all the links and references are intermixed. My feeling is that there is too much information on Arc to keep it neatly on this page sharing with the actual information about Arc. I think it is important to keep the links and references for each separate and that is most easily done if they are spearate pages. --MarSch 13:26, 8 November 2007 (UTC)
I will concede this to you. The articles are currently poorly integrated. But this is often the case after a merge. I will commit to try to make it better. I do think things can be integrated much better. For instance, the paragraph on bayesian filters has precious little to do with Arc (except that Paul Graham claimed in the paper to have written such a filter in Arc, which nobody has ever seen). Given the aftermath of that paper though, it's probably true that popularizing bayesian filters for spam is one of the most notable things PG has done, and that might even be worth splitting off into its own section that discusses bogofilter, et al.
I think that list that makes up the majority of the current Arc section needs, at the very least, to be reformatted into paragraphs. A larger problem with it is that it essentially is a summary of Graham's essay, which is itself a collection of his thoughts on what a language "should be", most of which are tautologies. It could be shortened into a paragraph that says one or two things that are actually indicative of what Arc might actually be if it is ever released. Jorbettis 22:26, 8 November 2007 (UTC)

Portrayal of Paul Graham is extremely unfavorable[edit]

Almost every link in the "About Paul Graham" is extremely unfavorable. The focus of the article is not NPOV, painting Paul Graham in a one-sided, negative light. I would not expect to see this sort of trash in a published encyclopedia, (nor would I expect to see this in Wikipedia) even on entries of extremely unpopular individuals. Critique links should be moved to a critique links section. (since almost all of the links are of that nature) General links should be less subjective. It's not as if the man is a bad person, and in fact many people who don't like his opinions try to undermine the fact that he has authored some exceptional computer science texts. (OnLisp and ANSI Common Lisp, for example) I think the criticism in "Dabblers and Blowhards" and "Paul Graham is Wrong" provide a reasonable critique of some of his more mediocre writing, but "Paul Graham is a Tedious Windbag" is by a person who fails to be objective, and resorts to petty name-calling of Paul Graham in several of his entries. The blog author does _NOT_ deserve this sort of attention, (this "yani" person uses his blog as essentially a soapbox for his poorly defended arguments) so I'm removing his link if I can. (please _DO NOT_ revert it back) That aside, I do not believe that most blogs are up to wikipedia standard, and shouldn't be linked to anyway because they are constantly changing.

I believe that there are people out there who seek to use the web to ruin the reputations of people more famous than them; Yani's blog is a good example of such behavior.

It would seem we now have the opposite problem. :) (talk) 22:19, 23 May 2010 (UTC)
Why Paul, is that you...? (talk) 23:34, 6 January 2016 (UTC)

Born in Weymouth, England[edit]

Interesting he was born in Weymouth. I can't find any other source that confirms this. And references known? Any extra information, e.g. did his parents emigrate or were they holidaying in Weymouth at the time.  :-) -- Ralph Corderoy 22:02, 21 June 2007 (UTC)

Of course he was born in Weymouth,m Dorset, UK. I am his father and I well remember the occasion.,[1]

Comment in references[edit]

I found the following comment in the references section. I'm moving it here. Michael Slone (talk) 16:05, 17 October 2007 (UTC)

(Yes, but I undeclared that major just before graduating, so I don't have a degree in it. --pg) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

Arc summary[edit]

Seeing as Arc now has its own WP page (and it seems like most of the arguments in favor of merging it have been assuaged), I think the Arc section on Paul Graham's page should be shortened, since currently that section and Arc's own page are too similar (obviously looks copied). —Preceding unsigned comment added by Kngspook (talkcontribs) 10:31, 28 May 2008 (UTC)


I don't see why these blogs are linked - they are not notable, informative, or encyclopaedic. I will remove them unless there are any objections. DavidCh0 (talk) 10:27, 19 August 2008 (UTC)

I've removed them, along with one unnecessary additional link on and the Arc links (which belong on the Arc article). Chris Cunningham (not at work) - talk 12:20, 19 August 2008 (UTC)


Is this particular Paul Graham really important enough to justify having the undisambiguated entry? I'd think the photographer would be considered more important if fewer wikipedians were computer science types. -- (talk) 13:18, 23 November 2008 (UTC)

Anon user mass-adding notability tags to computer science articles[edit]

Looking at Special:Contributions/, I notice that an anonymous user has tagged ten or so articles as non-notable in the space of about nine minutes; the majority of these articles seem to me to meet notability and then some based on the amount of coverage present in third-party sources, but if someone disagrees, I'd be curious as their reasoning. evildeathmath 15:37, 30 April 2009 (UTC)

Bayesian claims are unsupported[edit]

The citation which seems to support the notion that Bayesian methods for spam detection are the best available (or best possible, or something), is in fact a white paper from a company that wants to sell you a Bayesian spam filter. It should be removed, so I'll do so. I believe pure Bayesian techniques (if that phrase has any real meaning) are no longer considered best-of-class in the research community (and perhaps never were), it would be good to find some peer-reviewed research comparing these techniques to other statistical/probabilistic modeling techniques. Kenahoo (talk) 16:35, 28 September 2010 (UTC)

Viaweb first ASP claims are unsupported[edit]

The claim that Viaweb was the first ASP is not supported and is not substantiated.--Nthiery (talk) 00:20, 8 March 2011 (UTC)

Founders at Work:

One of the unusual things about Viaweb was that it worked over the Web.

That’s where the name came from. It was a web-based application—as far as I know, the first one. But in the very beginning, it wasn’t web-based. At first it was going to be software that you would use on your desktop computer to build a website that you would then upload to a server. Then in the first couple days of working on it, we had this idea, “Hey, maybe we could make this run on the server and have the user control it by clicking on links on a web page.” So we sat down and tried to write it and, sure enough, you could write a program that worked this way. Livingston: This was a new idea, right? Do you remember when it came to you? ... So the main thing we thought when we first had the idea of doing web-based applications was, “Thank God, we don’t have to write software on

--Gwern (contribs) 15:13 30 March 2011 (GMT)

The current text says "In 1995, Graham and Robert Morris founded Viaweb, the first application service provider (ASP)." It should say that Graham believes Viaweb was the first application service provider (ASP). As a matter of fact, Viaweb wasn't the first ASP. There was at least one other application run that way before then, and most likely others. The NSF founded Knowledge Space project developed at UC Irvine in 1994 was initially programmed as a Windows, Mac, and Unix based application until November 1994. It was rewritten entirely as a web based application from December 1994 to January 1995. The motivation was also to move away from programming graphical interfaces for Windows or the Mac. A prototype was demoed in January 1995 to Stephen D. Franklin, from the Office of Academic Computing, and Jean-Claude Falmagne, professor at the School of Social Sciences. It was also presented at the 4th World Wide Web conference in December 1995 in Boston. It was later renamed ALEKS (Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces; (talk) 07:13, 11 April 2011 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Nthiery (talkcontribs) 20:31, 6 June 2013 (UTC)

Political beliefs[edit]

In this article he says that he is a libertarian. Just do a find for libertarian and read the paragraph. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:15, 5 February 2011 (UTC)

Well... maybe. I think you have to be careful about you mean by 'libertarian' (or, more to the point, about what you think *he* means by the term). Is it social libertarian, economic libertarian? Take the full quote:

"This is why so many of the best programmers are libertarians. In our world, you sink or swim, and there are no excuses. When those far removed from the creation of wealth-- undergraduates, reporters, politicians-- hear that the richest 5% of the people have half the total wealth, they tend to think injustice! An experienced programmer would be more likely to think is that all? The top 5% of programmers probably write 99% of the good software.

Wealth can be created without being sold. Scientists, till recently at least, effectively donated the wealth they created. We are all richer for knowing about penicillin, because we're less likely to die from infections. Wealth is whatever people want, and not dying is certainly something we want. Hackers often donate their work by writing open source software that anyone can use for free. I am much the richer for the operating system FreeBSD, which I'm running on the computer I'm using now, and so is Yahoo, which runs it on all their servers."

That said, he seems to be writing (intentionally or not) from a politically naive perspective. He does not, for example, address the issue of whether he believes that the top 5% in wealth are there because they really created vastly more wealth than the majority of the population. Even if that were really so, the injustice argument usually derives not from what the 'best' (most productive) 'deserve' but rather from what the bottom (say 5%) are deprived of (food, water, health, life, liberty, educations, etc). —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:43, 7 March 2011 (UTC)


Does "Blub" really merit an entire section?

Is Y combinator adequately described?

I'd suggest removing the Blub section entirely, and reducing the Arc and Bayesian Filtering sections to a single sentence.

If a longer article is preferable, then surely there are higher priorities for elaboration than Blub.Jsolinsky (talk) 19:28, 5 March 2011 (UTC)

Before spam and Y Combinator, Blub was the concept that made Graham as a tech essayist. If you don't believe, try googling around and looking at things like Google Scholar. So yes, I think it's worth a section, especially considering how short the article is. --Gwern (contribs) 19:41 5 March 2011 (GMT)
Isn't the purpose of this article to answer the question: "Who is Paul Graham?" Is Blub one fourth of the answer?
The biography section very clearly identifies him as an essayist, and specifically refers to Blub. I think that is enough.
Other its chronological order, "Beating the Averages" has little claim to being Graham's most important essay.
Can you imagine devoting one fourth of an article about Tom Cruise to an explanation of his roles in Top Gun and Risky Business?
People who want details about those movies follow a link to those movies.
If "Beating the Averages" or Blub merit their own articles, then I think they should be handled similarly.Jsolinsky (talk) 02:15, 7 March 2011 (UTC)
  • Jsolinsky (& others) may have overlooked the fact that "Blub" section was a merger to this article from a separate one, explaining its relative length to other sections here. — DennisDallas (talk) 08:32, 12 March 2012 (UTC)

Bad graphic[edit]

The illustration of Graham's "levels of argument" is seriously misleading. The pyramid analogy suggests a hierarchy of dependence where there is none. In a model like Maslow's hierarchy of needs, the needs placed at the higher levels — self-esteem, relationships, actualization — require the lower-ranked biological needs to be fulfilled before they can be satisfied. That's why the pyramid is an apt comparison; a triangular structure collapses if you remove part of its foundation. Graham's hierarchy, on the other hand, is a progression from bad arguments to good. Unlike in a pyramid, the levels don't cohere into a structure. Unlike in a pyramid, the higher levels don't depend on the lower ones. I'm not gonna up and delete someone's handmade image, but I'm tempted to. (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 19:15, 4 April 2012 (UTC).

Displaying it as a pyramid was originated by someone on using the name Loudacris here on April 7th, 2008. While you are correct the graphical form is not Graham's, it could be said that arguments higher on the scale are more focused or closer to the point (ie closer to the point on the top on the pyramid). It could also be said that arguments lower on the scale are less focused or spread all out (like the base). Perhaps we sould incorperate in to the article the source of the pyrimid form. It is not a bad graphic. Richard-of-Earth (talk) 06:26, 5 April 2012 (UTC)

Outdated title parenthetical[edit]

Paul Graham was relatively obscure outside of programming circles before he launched Y combinator. His name recognition has skyrocketed since, and -- while I can't cite a survey -- I strongly suspect more people know him as a tech venture capitalist (and essayist thereof) than as a coder (and writer thereof). Perhaps it should be amended to Paul Graham (venture capitalist), with a redirect from the old URL? Josephgrossberg (talk) 19:40, 29 December 2013 (UTC)

Stance on Israeli Palestinian conflict and accusation of holding anti-Semitic views[edit]

Paul Graham tweeted publicly in support of Palestinians in the Israeli Palestinian conflict in 2014. Subsequently he entered into a public back-and-forth with VC Mark Suster who suggested Graham was manifesting anti-Semitic views (see coverage in Pando and Mark Suster's blog). In light of Y-Combinator's investment in a number of Israeli start-ups this may be worth inclusion?

Freudala (talk) 19:40, 17 August 2014 (UTC)

Recommend a link to article on Dunning-Kruger effect[edit]

I recommend adding links between the Wikipedia article on the Blub paradox and the article on the Dunning-Kruger effect. The Blub paradox is a special case of, and a good example of Dunning-Krueger. (talk) 18:46, 27 August 2015 (UTC) (talk) 19:14, 28 August 2015 (UTC)

Hierarchy diagram name-calling[edit]

Not sure of the best place to raise this, as the image is used in a few places around Wikipedia, but this article is probably the most significant one, since it's a biography and we're trying to summarise the man's writing.

File:Graham's Hierarchy of Disagreement-en.svg explains the "name-calling" level with "sounds something like, 'You are an ass hat.'" - this is the only quotation on the diagram, but it's not a phrase Graham used in his original definition. User:Red Slash edited the image to read "you are an idiot" in July for seeming "out of place", User:CFCF changed it back explaining that it was a "long-standing supported version".

Graham's original example uses quotes of "u r a fag!!!!!!!!!!" and "The author is a self-important dilettante." (and points out that the two are not so different). Neither of those really fits the context here. "Ass hat" seems an obscure enough slang term to suggest to the reader that Graham might have used it in the essay, although has the advantage of being a silly nonsense term that can't be perceived as an ad hominem; "idiot" is more neutral in tone, but is harder to distinguish from the ad hominem of "my opponent is not intelligent enough to argue properly".

Which should the image use? Do we even need an example, when we could have a short sentence distinguishing name-calling from ad hominem? --McGeddon (talk) 17:41, 20 October 2015 (UTC)

With no response in a month I've gone ahead and reverted it, as "idiot" seems less of a profanity, making the image and this article more widely reusable. (Reading up on "ass hat" as an insult it may be intended to mean "to have one's head up one's ass", which would make it even more of an ad hominem than "idiot" anyway.)
I tried editing the SVG directly in a text editor to a third option - something like "jerk" might be a better word to use - but the text isn't editable. If anybody wants to make or implement suggestions, feel free. --McGeddon (talk) 15:25, 30 November 2015 (UTC)
I never responded, but I do appreciate your careful reversion, McGeddon. Thank you. Red Slash 20:43, 24 March 2016 (UTC)

Early life[edit]

Not much info from before 1995, about younger earlier life, whereas this seems a usual thing to do, and is relevant. (talk) 13:11, 11 January 2016 (UTC)

What's stopping you to add it?Amin (Talk) 22:12, 30 November 2016 (UTC)
    • ^ Personal knowledge