161 points | by paganel 9 days ago


  • DoreenMichele 9 days ago
    In 2015, the city of Riccione, approximately 130 kilometres (80 miles) southeast of Bologna, allocated an €11,000 budget to pay a wage to umarells to oversee worksites in the city – counting the number of trucks in and out to ensure materials were delivered/removed according to the receipts, and guarding against theft when the site was otherwise unattended.

    This is brilliant. We should do more stuff like this -- acknowledge that it adds value, slip the person a few bucks.

  • slig 9 days ago
    Seinfeld did this bit back in the 90's
    • You can also buy a 3d printed desktop Umarell here:


      • mclightning 8 days ago
        We have the same thing in Turkey, although without an exclusive name or word for it. I guess similar mediterranean cultures, perception of elderly etc. and many other factors create this phenomena.

        But yeah, no idea why this has popped up on HN :D

        • marcodiego 9 days ago
          Actually watching construction in Italy may seem very interesting. Where else in the world can you watch buildings from 300 A.D. close to classical and gothic architecture combined with modern engineering techniques?
          • CRConrad 8 days ago
            Greece, France, Spain? Even some places in Germany, I think.
          • cs702 8 days ago
            According to the OP, an umarell is someone who watches others doing work and offers unwanted advice.

            I suspect there are quite a few umarells on HN ;-)

            • ucarion 8 days ago
              There's a great Seinfeld cold open about the magnetism men feel toward construction work:


              • AutumnCurtain 8 days ago
                This is also how my two year old likes to spend his time. What a charming idea, and how wonderful to see them embrace it in a productive way.
                • chewyshine 9 days ago
                  Old school letsdig18 and dirt perfect
                • andreacavagna 8 days ago
                  The best part is to buy one of them that look at you building your code everyday:
                  • snvzz 9 days ago
                    I find the concept amazing.

                    Personally, I stay away from construction sites. Besides dangerous, they're loud and dusty.

                    • mikewarot 7 days ago
                      Who wouldn't want to watch construction? It's the same drive that has me watch hours of machine shop videos, or other how it's made stuff. If it wasn't dangerous, and there were a machine shop with a picture window, I bet those same men would go watch the machinists when the weather was poor.

                      Or the baker, candlestick maker, etc.

                      • Xenoamorphous 8 days ago
                        So this is a global phenomenon? It's definitely a thing in my country.
                        • ruggi 8 days ago
                          Where are you from ?
                        • adeltoso 9 days ago
                          I'm left wondering, why is this here? Why was it translated in English, even.
                          • westoncb 9 days ago
                            I think because it's a consistent pattern, so its causes may reveal something interesting about human nature or society.
                            • klyrs 9 days ago
                              Not the first time that I've looked for an article about Italian culture, and there's articles in multiple languages but not Italian.

                              I think that umarells are an interesting phenomenon. They sound like they were annoying construction workers (bikeshedding) but rather than treat them as a nuisance (loitering->fines or jail), a purpose was found: they get paid an honorarium for "jobs" most of us would find eyewateringly boring but provide value for the construction companies.

                              • ruggi 8 days ago
                                Well, they don't annoy workers, not that much. They may exchange some word, probably opinions on what's the best way to do the job, but they are mostly quiet and observing.
                              • sasaf5 9 days ago
                                Because often software teams have one or two Umarells among the members.
                                • jacquesm 9 days ago
                                  It isn't rare to have teams consist exclusively of Umarells. Usually this is the result of evaporative cooling.
                                • Borrible 9 days ago
                                  To attract lurker.

                                  If you're lucky it elicites even some self-referential Statler and Waldorf comments.


                                  • tra3 9 days ago
                                    This explains why YouTube channels like Andrew Camarata's [0] have a million plus subs. Something about watching people work is fascinating.


                                  • aledalgrande 9 days ago
                                    because it's hilarious
                                  • ReDeiPirati 8 days ago
                                    haha, it's crazy to see this on HN!! we really are in the best timeline.
                                    • eric4smith 9 days ago
                                      Not surprising.

                                      If you're a guy, you're gonna be watching people doing work or creating things.

                                      If you're a gal, you're gonna be watching more relationship/people oriented content.

                                      All over the world, men are fascinated with these kinds of activities. I've seen men being fascinated by these things in every country and continent I've ever been on. I guess in Riccione, its more of a tradition to stand a look every day.

                                      I'm a programmer, but I'm watching videos about

                                      Construction, road painting, lawn care, truck driving, metalwork and CNC, factories, farming -- yeah, some relationship stuff too. But in general, that's the differences in genders when it comes to this stuff.

                                      No one should be surprised.

                                      • zwaps 9 days ago
                                        You know, you are probably right statistically, although the true coefficient is biased (maybe in either direction) due to selection effects and societal endogeneity.

                                        However, I always wonder, when people say things like "if you are a guy, if you are a gal" with such force and authority... what about the outliers, and what about the overlaps of these distributions?

                                        I know a gal who loves nothing more than analyzing ongoing construction sites. I certainly know several who love to watch programming videos.

                                        Wonder how that feels, when someone brings all the biotruths at ya, and you happen to sit at that point in the preference distribution where looking at technical going-ons is actually what you enjoy.

                                        Like, how large is the percentage of people who literally have never met any woman who is genuinely interested in technical things, and feel totally comfortable making such absolute statements? Must be some good percentage, at least.

                                        • eric4smith 8 days ago
                                          "I'm probably right statistically" - Please, let us try to accept the world as it is. Not as we would like it to be.
                                          • mahathu 9 days ago
                                            thank you!!
                                          • rahimiali 9 days ago
                                            A strange thing about your comment, beyond it making easily verifiable claims without substantiating them, is that you focus on the gender of the spectators. You could have focused on their age, their posture, that they look at only construction and not other forms of public labor, or that this has a name in Italy and not elsewhere. Why the fascination with gender?
                                            • jaclaz 8 days ago
                                              Well, you will have a hard time de-gendering "umarell", as it is - before and besides - this particularly popular use, nothing but a diminutive form of "uomo", i.e. "man".

                                              The first few lines of the Wikipedia article:

                                              >Umarell (Italian pronunciation: [umaˈrɛl]; modern revisitation of the Bolognese dialect word umarèl [umaˈrɛːl]) is a term in the Italo-Romance variety of Bologna referring specifically to men of retirement age who spend their time watching construction sites, especially roadworks – stereotypically with hands clasped behind their back and offering unwanted advice.[1] Its literal meaning is "little man" (also umarèin).[2] The term is employed as lighthearted mockery or self-deprecation.

                                              Maybe it is not fair, but it is definitely intended as "male only" and as such very gender-oriented.

                                              For the record, (from the facebook of Danilo Masotti, the writer that popularized the term), female "umarells" are documented to exist, though tagged as "extremely rare":


                                              • JoeyBananas 9 days ago
                                                A great tactic to shut down strangers who you disagree at the bar or whatever: demand evidence for obvious claims. This actually has been verified, look into studies relating to how children react to toys whose apparent target audience is the opposite gender. And also look into the widely accepted phenomenon that men and women in developed countries tend to gravitate more towards occupations traditionally associated with their own genders, even when presented with other opportunities.
                                                • eric4smith 8 days ago
                                                  The source material is all about men. What's wrong with you?