Four short links: 30 August 2012

Decoding ToS, Impact Factors are Nonsense, Crappy Open Source Code, and Data Mining History

  1. TOS;DR — terms of service rendered comprehensible. “Make the hard stuff easy” is a great template for good ideas, and this just nails it.
  2. Sick of Impact Factorstypically only 15% of the papers in a journal account for half the total citations. Therefore only this minority of the articles has more than the average number of citations denoted by the journal impact factor. Take a moment to think about what that means: the vast majority of the journal’s papers — fully 85% — have fewer citations than the average. The impact factor is a statistically indefensible indicator of journal performance; it flatters to deceive, distributing credit that has been earned by only a small fraction of its published papers. (via Sci Blogs)
  3. A Generation Lost in the Bazaar (ACM) — Today’s Unix/Posix-like operating systems, even including IBM’s z/OS mainframe version, as seen with 1980 eyes are identical; yet the 31,085 lines of configure for libtool still check if and exist, even though the Unixen, which lacked them, had neither sufficient memory to execute libtool nor disks big enough for its 16-MB source code. […] That is the sorry reality of the bazaar Raymond praised in his book: a pile of old festering hacks, endlessly copied and pasted by a clueless generation of IT “professionals” who wouldn’t recognize sound IT architecture if you hit them over the head with it. It is hard to believe today, but under this embarrassing mess lies the ruins of the beautiful cathedral of Unix, deservedly famous for its simplicity of design, its economy of features, and its elegance of execution. (Sic transit gloria mundi, etc.)
  4. History as Science (Nature) — Turchin and his allies contend that the time is ripe to revisit general laws, thanks to tools such as nonlinear mathematics, simulations that can model the interactions of thousands or millions of individuals at once, and informatics technologies for gathering and analysing huge databases of historical information.
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  • Guest

    It makes perfect sense to check if and exist. They might have been eaten by a markup parser.

    • Guest

      OMG this is even worse.

  • Jim

    I read that lost in the bazaar piece and at first the control side of my personality was rah rah’ing him as he worked himself up. And it’s true for it what it is. A designed artifact will look more designed, and perhaps have less cruft, than an emerged artifact. But there is, I think, the important question of whether you would prefer a widely used crufty emergent artifact, or a cleanly designed abstraction that doesn’t actually exist? If AT&T and held on to it, Unix would be approximately as impactful as the AS 400.

    You can imagine some future biologist sitting around espousing on why God should have never let evolution get involved. He should of just designed the damned thing. Six billion base pairs for that? Cut and pasted alleles from viruses and bacteria? A vestigial tail bone? Undocumented gut biome dependencies? Ear hair? WTF God, have you no design sense?