FEATURED STORY

Four short links: 27 August 2014

Discourse 1.0, Programmable Matter, Versioned Databases, and What Humans Learned About Machine Learning

  1. Discourse turns 1.0 — community/forum software that doesn’t suck.
  2. Programmable Matter (IEEE Spectrum) — recap of where research is going in this area.
  3. Liquibasesource control for your database. Apache 2.0 licensed.
  4. A Few Useful Things to Know About Machine Learning (PDF) — This article summarizes twelve key lessons that machine learning researchers and practitioners have learned. These include pitfalls to avoid, important issues to focus on, and answers to common questions. My fave: First-timers are often surprised by how little time in a ma- chine learning project is spent actually doing machine learn- ing. But it makes sense if you consider how time-consuming it is to gather data, integrate it, clean it and pre-process it, and how much trial and error can go into feature design.
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Four short links: 26 August 2014

Public Exploit Construction, Robot Myths, Empathy, and Social Scaling

  1. The Poisoned NUL Byte, 2014 Edition (Project Zero) — from Google’s public security efforts, this detailed public description of how an exploit was constructed from a found vulnerability. They’re helping. Kudos!
  2. Myths About the Coming Robot Economy (Eric Sofge) — the entire discussion of the so-called robot economy, with its predictions of vast, permanent employment rates and glacial productivity gains, is nothing more than a wild guess. A strong pushback on the Pew Report (PDF): Frey and Osborne’s analysis is full of logical leaps, and far-reaching conclusions drawn from cursory observations about robots that have yet to replace humans.
  3. Content for Sensitive Situations (Luke Wroblewski) — People have all kinds of feelings when interacting with your content. When someone’s needs are being met they may feel very different then when their needs are not being met. How can you meet people’s needs?
  4. Urban Villages (Senseable City at MIT) — People who live in a larger town make more calls and call a larger number of different people. The scaling of this relation is ‘superlinear,’ meaning that on average, if the size of a town doubles, the sum of phone contacts in the city will more than double – in a mathematically predictable way. Surprisingly, however, group clustering (the odds that your friends mutually know one another) does not change with city size. It seems that even in large cities we tend to build tightly knit communities, or ‘villages,’ around ourselves. There is an important difference, though: if in a real village our connections might simply be defined by proximity, in a large city we can elect a community based on any number of factors, from affinity to interest to sexual preference. (via Flowing Data)
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Postmortems, sans finger-pointing: The O’Reilly Radar Podcast

In this episode, John Allspaw talks in-depth about blameless postmortems and creating a just culture.

Editor’s note: you can subscribe to the O’Reilly Radar Podcast through iTunes, SoundCloud, or directly through our podcast’s RSS feed.

When you’re dealing with complex systems, failure is going to happen; it’s a given. What we do after that failure, however, strongly influences whether or not that failure will happen again. The traditional response to failure is to seek out the person responsible and punish them accordingly — should they be fired? Retrained? Moved to a different position where they can’t cause such havoc again?

John Allspaw, SVP of technical operations at Etsy and co-chair of the O’Reilly Velocity Conference, argues that this “human error” approach is the equivalent of cutting off your nose to spite your face. He explains in a blog post that at Etsy, their approach it to “view mistakes, errors, slips, lapses, etc., with a perspective of learning.” To that end, Etsy practices “blameless postmortems” that focus more on the narrative of how something happened rather than who was behind it, and that remove punishment as an outcome of an investigation.

Read more…

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Ten years of OpenStreetMap

OSM is moving out of its awkward adolescence and into its mature, young adult phase.

OSM_logo-2Next to GPS, the most significant development in the Open Geo Data movement is OpenStreetMap (OSM), a community-driven mapping project whose goal is to create the most detailed, correct, and current open map of the world. This week, OSM celebrates its 10th birthday, which provides a convenient excuse to highlight why its achievements to-date are amazing, unusual, and promising in equal parts.

When the project was begun by Steve Coast in 2004, map data sources were few, and largely controlled by a small collection of private and governmental players. The scarcity of map data ensured that it remained both expensive and highly restrictive, and no one but the largest navigation companies could use map data. Steve changed the rules by creating a wiki-like resource of the entire globe, which everyone could use without hinderance. Read more…

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Does net neutrality really matter?

Competition, access to bandwidth, and other issues muddy the net neutrality waters.

NetNeutralityPetitionSignatures

Screen shot of signatures from a “Common Carrier” petition to the White House.

It was the million comments filed at the FCC that dragged me out of the silence I’ve maintained for several years on the slippery controversy known as “network neutrality.” The issue even came up during President Obama’s address to the recent U.S.-Africa Business forum.

Most people who latch on to the term “network neutrality” (which was never favored by the experts I’ve worked with over the years to promote competitive Internet service) don’t know the history that brought the Internet to its current state. Without this background, proposed policy changes will be ineffective. So, I’ll try to fill in some pieces that help explain the complex cans of worms opened by the idea of network neutrality.
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O’Reilly purchases Pearson’s stake in Safari

Safari Books Online is now a wholly owned subsidiary of O’Reilly Media.

I’m pleased to share some exciting news. On Friday, August 1st, O’Reilly purchased Pearson Education’s 50% ownership share of our Safari Books Online joint venture, and Safari is now a wholly owned subsidiary of O’Reilly Media, Inc.

O’Reilly believes strongly in the direction Safari is heading, and we came to believe that there are substantial opportunities for both organizations working much more closely together. O’Reilly is primarily a media company (books, events, online in-person and video training, expert network), and Safari has the technology, sales, and distribution channel for bringing content to the widest audience possible, especially a B2B audience.

Going forward, O’Reilly and Safari will work together to create new features and products, but Safari will continue to operate as an independent entity, as it did when jointly owned by O’Reilly and Pearson. There are no changes in Safari’s products, staffing, offices, or operations. The Safari brand and domains remain the same, and Pearson will remain a key strategic content partner of Safari. All their current materials remain available, and their future books and videos will be added to the service. Read more…

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