Four short links: 3 December 2010

Snake Oil, JSON v XML, Pac Man, and the Full Stack

  1. Data is Snake Oil (Pete Warden) — data is powerful but fickle. A lot of theoretically promising approaches don’t work because there’s so many barriers between spotting a possible relationship and turning it into something useful and actionable. This is the pin of reality which deflates the bubble of inflated expectations. Apologies for the camel’s nose of rhetoric poking under the metaphoric tent.
  2. XML vs the Web (James Clark) — resignation and understanding from one of the markup legends. I think the Web community has spoken, and it’s clear that what it wants is HTML5, JavaScript and JSON. XML isn’t going away but I see it being less and less a Web technology; it won’t be something that you send over the wire on the public Web, but just one of many technologies that are used on the server to manage and generate what you do send over the wire. (via Simon Willison)
  3. Understanding Pac Man Ghost BehaviourThe ghosts’ AI is very simple and short-sighted, which makes the complex behavior of the ghosts even more impressive. Ghosts only ever plan one step into the future as they move about the maze. Whenever a ghost enters a new tile, it looks ahead to the next tile that it will reach, and makes a decision about which direction it will turn when it gets there. Really detailed analysis of just one component of this very successful game. (via Hacker News)
  4. The Full Stack (Facebook) — we like to think that programming is easy. Programming is easy, but it is difficult to solve problems elegantly with programming. I like to think that a CS education teaches you this kind of “full stack” approach to looking at systems, but I suspect it’s a side-effect and not a deliberate output. This is the core skill of great devops: to know what’s happening up and down the stack so you’re not solving a problem at level 5 that causes problems at level 3.
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