FEATURED STORY

Managing complexity in distributed systems

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Astrid Atkinson on optimization, and Kelsey Hightower on distributed computing.

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In this week’s episode, O’Reilly’s Mac Slocum talks to Astrid Atkinson, director of software engineering at Google, about the delicate balance of managing complexity in distributed systems and her experience working on-call rotations at Google.

Here are a few snippets from their chat:

I think it’s often really hard for organizations that are scaling quickly to find time to manage complexity in their systems. That can be really a trap, because if you’re really always just focused on the next deadline or whatever, and never planning for what you’re going to live with when you’re done, then you might never find the time.

You can only optimize what you pay attention to, and so if you can’t see what your system is doing, if you can’t see whether it’s working, it’s not working.

I used to get paged awake at two in the morning. You go from zero to Google is down. That’s a lot to wake up to.

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4 trends in fintech startups

An analysis of fintech competitions shows a focus on data, payments, lending, and small business.

Photo close-up of Mexican paper money, by Kevin Dooley on Flickr.

Request an invitation to Next:Money, O’Reilly’s conference focused on the fundamental transformation taking place in the finance industry.

Fintech hackathons and competitions occur globally. In January 2012, Swift launched the Innotribe Startup Competition as an initiative to bring together disruptive startups and incumbents in financial services. It was one of the first of its kind and has been joined by similar events in subsequent years. Just this year, I counted 18 fintech hackathons and startup competitions — eight of which are happening later this year.

Fintech startups are aiming to disrupt financial institutions with their technology, products, and design. Meanwhile financial institutions focus on secure systems for money transfer, payments, and lending at a global scale. But the two are not necessarily at odds. It’s hard for incumbents to innovate existing businesses in house, and this is where startups thrive: testing new business models and pushing the limits of technology unencumbered by regulations or corporate baggage. Hackathons and startup competitions are where innovative ideas are tested. Read more…

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Four short links: 3 September 2015

Four short links: 3 September 2015

Lock Patterns, Peer-to-Peer Markets, Community Products, and Speech Recognition

  1. The Surprising Predictability of Android Lock Patterns (Ars Technica) — people use the same type of strategy for remembering a pattern as a password
  2. Peer to Peer Markets (PDF) — We discuss elements of market design that make this possible, including search and matching algorithms, pricing, and reputation systems. We then develop a simple model of how these markets enable entry by small or flexible suppliers, and the resulting impact on existing firms. Finally, we consider the regulation of peer-to-peer markets, and the economic arguments for different approaches to licensing and certification, data, and employment regulation.
  3. 16 Product Things I learned at ImgurYou can A/B test individuals, but it’s nearly impossible to A/B test communities because they work based on a mutually reinforcing self-conception. Use a combination of intuition (which comes from experience), talking to other community managers and 1:1 contact with a sample of your community. But you’ll still be wrong a lot.
  4. kaldia toolkit for speech recognition written in C++ and licensed under the Apache License v2.0
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Lead with merit and be rewarded with success

Michael Lopp on the concept of merit badges for leaders.

Girl Scout Sash with Badges," by Steve Snodgrass on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license

Attend Cultivate, September 28 to 29 in New York, NY. Cultivate is our conference looking at the challenges facing modern management and aiming to train a new generation of business leaders who understand the relationship between corporate culture and corporate prosperity.

At our Cultivate conference in July, Michael Lopp had a fantastic session on “Leadership: By the Numbers,” which was a bit like leadership fundamentals that you may have forgotten or never knew. However, he also had a few slides in his presentation that were meant to be a brief tangent from his primary talk, but they grabbed my attention immediately. Lopp always has fantastic stories and pearls of wisdom from the hard-won experiences in his career like “Busy is a bug, not a feature.” But before he launched into his “Vegetable Talk” on how being a good manager is really basic—like vegetables—he explored the idea of having merit badges for leaders. Read more…

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Showcasing the real-time processing revival

Tools and learning resources for building intelligent, real-time products.

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Register for Strata + Hadoop World NYC, which will take place September 29 to Oct 1, 2015.

A few months ago, I noted the resurgence in interest in large-scale stream-processing tools and real-time applications. Interest remains strong, and if anything, I’ve noticed growth in the number of companies wanting to understand how they can leverage the growing number of tools and learning resources to build intelligent, real-time products.

This is something we’ve observed using many metrics, including product sales, the number of submissions to our conferences, and the traffic to Radar and newsletter articles.

As we looked at putting together the program for Strata + Hadoop World NYC, we were excited to see a large number of compelling proposals on these topics. To that end, I’m pleased to highlight a strong collection of sessions on real-time processing and applications coming up at the event. Read more…

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Designing at the intersection of disciplines

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Simon King on creating holistic, integrated experiences and the importance of discipline overlap.

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In this week’s Radar Podcast, I chat with Simon King, director of the Carnegie Mellon University Design Center. Harkening back to growing up on a family farm in Michigan, King talks about technology’s growing role in agriculture and the role design is playing in agriculture innovation. He also talks about his new book Understanding Industrial Design and the synergies between industrial design and interaction design. King will be speaking about industrial design at our newly launched O’Reilly Design Conference: Design the Future on January 19 to 22, 2016, in San Francisco.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

There’s been different eras of agriculture, and this latest one of precision agriculture or data-driven agriculture has the possibility of really changing the way people farm. I see that to some degree with people like my father and the new tools that he’s embracing slowly — things like autonomous driving tractors and some of the different data services. It’s an opportunity, I think, for new people to come into the field, and it’s going to be important.

Like most industries that are leading with technology, design trails. People are embracing the technology because it’s whole new capabilities that they never had before. Being able to do soil samples and analysis and then create nitrogen prescription maps so that you are not like wasting any chemicals — it’s such a great advancement that people are willing to fight through the fact that it’s poorly designed. We see that in medical; we see that in automotive. Any industry that reaches a certain curve where the technology has become mature, then all of a sudden the experience of using it begins to matter a lot more. I think that’s where design is going to start intersecting with agriculture really strongly and actually make it more accessible to farmers who are generally not that technically savvy.

Industrial design is such an older design discipline. Just purely from the design history standpoint, it’s something that everybody should be studying and be aware of how that discipline has evolved. It’s the underpinning of a lot of the different disciplines that design has kind of fragmented into.

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