Nat has chaired the O'Reilly Open Source Convention and other O'Reilly conferences for over a decade. He ran the first web server in New Zealand, co-wrote the best-selling Perl Cookbook, and was one of the founding Radar bloggers. He lives in New Zealand and consults in the Asia-Pacific region.
Power of Small Groups (Matt Webb) — Matt’s joined a small Slack community of like-minded friends. There’s a space where articles written or edited by members automatically show up. I like that. I caught myself thinking: it’d be nice to have Last.FM here, too, and Dopplr. Nothing that requires much effort. Let’s also pull in Instagram. Automatic stuff so I can see what people are doing, and people can see what I’m doing. Just for this group. Back to those original intentions. Ambient awareness, togetherness. cf Clay Shirky’s situated software. Everything useful from 2004 will be rebuilt once the fetish for scale passes.
Asymmetric Misperceptions (PDF) — research into the systematic mismatch between how politicians think their constituents feel on issues, and how the constituents actually feel. Our findings underscore doubts that policymakers perceive opinion accurately: politicians maintain systematic misperceptions about constituents’ views, typically erring by over 10 percentage points, and entire groups of politicians maintain even more severe collective misperceptions. A second, post-election survey finds the electoral process fails to ameliorate these misperceptions.
The Mystery Machine (A Paper a Day) — rundown of Facebook’s Mystery Machine, which can measure end-to-end performance from the initiation of a page load in a Web browser, all the way through the server-side infrastructure, and back out to the point where the page has finished rendering. Doing this requires a causal model of the relationships between components (happens-before). How do you get that? And especially, how do you get that if you can’t assume a uniform environment for instrumentation?
Smartphone Energy Consumption (Pete Warden) — I love new ways of looking at familiar things. Looking at code and features through the lens of power consumption is another such lens. (I remember Craig from Craigslist talking at OSCON about using power as the denominator in your data center, changing how I saw the Web). The article is full of surprising numbers and fascinating factoids. Active cell radio might use 800 mW. Bluetooth might use 100 mW. Accelerometer is 21 mW. Gyroscope is 130 mW. Microphone is 101 mW. GPS is 176 mW. Using the camera in ‘viewfinder’ mode, focusing and looking at a picture preview, might use 1,000 mW. Actually recording video might take another 200 to 1,000 mW on top of that.
The Uncertain Future of Emotion Analytics — A year before the launch of the first mass-produced personal computer, British academic David Collingridge wrote in his book “The Social Control of Technology” that “when change is easy, the need for it cannot be foreseen; when the need for change is apparent, change has become expensive, difficult, and time consuming.”
Automatic Face Recognition (Bruce Schneier) — Without meaningful regulation, we’re moving into a world where governments and corporations will be able to identify people both in real time and backwards in time, remotely and in secret, without consent or recourse.
Really Monitoring Your Systems — If you are not measuring and showing the maximum value, then you are hiding something. The number one indicator you should never get rid of is the maximum value. That’s not noise — it’s the signal; the rest is noise.
Haunted by Data (Maciej Ceglowski) — You can’t just set up an elaborate surveillance infrastructure and then decide to ignore it. These data pipelines take on an institutional life of their own, and it doesn’t help that people speak of the “data-driven organization” with the same religious fervor as a “Christ-centered life.”
Flux: New Approach to System Intuition (LinkedIn) — In general, we assume that if anything is best represented numerically, then we don’t need to visualize it. If the best representation is a numerical one, then a visualization could only obscure a quantifiable piece of information that can be measured, compared, and acted upon. Anything that we can wrap in alerts or some threshold boundary should kick off some automated process. No point in ruining a perfectly good system by introducing a human into the mix. Instead of numerical information, we want a tool that surfaces relevant information to a human, for situations that would be too onerous to create a heuristic. These situations require an intuition that we can’t codify.
402: Payment Required (David Humphrey) — The ad blocking discussion highlights our total lack of imagination, where a browser’s role is reduced to “render” or “don’t render.” There are a whole world of options in between that we should be exploring.
Semantic Sensors (Pete Warden) — tiny, cheap, all-in-one modules that capture raw noisy data from the real world, have built-in AI for analysis, and only output a few high-level signals.
What if People Were Sensors, Not Things To Be Sensed? (Cory Doctorow) — Even in the Internet of Allegedly Free Things, humans and computers are adversaries. Medical telemetry and implant companies envision selling shockingly intimate facts about your body’s internal workings to data-mining services and insurers. Car companies see their vehicles as platforms for gathering data on your driving, on traffic patterns, and on the sense-able facts of the streets you pass by, to sell it to, you guessed it, data-mining companies and insurers. John Deere has argued that its tractors are copyrighted works, and that it, not the farmers, own the soil-density data collected by the torque sensors on the wheels (it sells this data to Monsanto, which charges farmers for the right to know about it).
Announcing Otto — new Hashicorp tool that automatically builds development environments without any configuration; it can detect your project type and has built-in knowledge of industry-standard tools to setup a development environment that is ready to go. When you’re ready to deploy, Otto builds and manages an infrastructure, sets up servers, builds, and deploys the application.
The Word Robot is Meaningless and We Need to Stop Saying It — As more and more household tasks become automated, the number of robots in our lives is growing rapidly. And the rise of connected devices raises a thorny semantic question: namely, where does “automated process” stop and “robot” begin? Why is a factory machine that moves car parts considered a “robot,” but a Volkswagen with a much more sophisticated code base is just a Jetta?
Building Analytics at 500px — An ETL script that has to turn messy production data into clean data warehouse data will naturally be extremely messy. Use a framework like Luigi or a tool like Informatica. These have well-known coding styles and constructs, and are also widely used. It will still be messy. But it will be comparable to known ways of doing ETL.
Systems Computing Challenges in the Internet of Things — I love that while there are countless old institutions engaging consultants and writing strategies about “digital,” now there’s a white paper from a computer group fretting about the problems that the Real World will cause them. Maybe they should just choose the newspaper solution: the real world is just a fad, don’t worry, it’ll pass soon.
Reclaiming Conversation (Review) (NY Times) — review of Sherry Turkle’s new book. When we replace human caregivers with robots, or talking with texting, we begin by arguing that the replacements are “better than nothing” but end up considering them “better than anything” — cleaner, less risky, less demanding.
Homebrew Bioweapons Not Imminent Threat — you need a safe facility, lab instruments, base strain, design and execution skills, and testing. None of these are easy until the Amazon-Google cloud wars finally cause them to move into “bioweapons as a service.”
gitrob — a command line tool that can help organizations and security professionals find such sensitive information. The tool will iterate over all public organization and member repositories and match filenames against a range of patterns for files, that typically contain sensitive or dangerous information.
How Much is a Leader’s Integrity Worth? — Kiel found that high-integrity CEOs had a multi-year return of 9.4%, while low-integrity CEOs had a yield of just 1.9%. What’s more, employee engagement was 26% higher in organizations led by high-integrity CEOs. (via Neelan Choksi)
My xoxo Talk (Bryce Roberts) — about indie.vc and the experience of trying something good in the investment world. You won’t believe what happened next …
10 More Robotics Companies Acquired (Robohub) — companies of all types and sizes are finding strategic reasons to acquire robotic ventures to add to their arsenal of products and services because they don’t want to be left behind.
The Past, Present, and Future of the Music Biz — you might not agree with the conclusions, but the numbers are horrifying^W edifying. The U.S. concert industry has nearly tripled since 1999 (when recorded music sales peaked). Yet, what’s typically overlooked by this narrative is that the vast majority of this growth – 83% to be exact – has gone to non-Top 100 touring artists. In 2000, the Top 100 tours (which included ‘NSYNC, Metallica and Snoop Dogg & Dr. Dre) collected nearly 90% of annual concert revenues. Today, that share has fallen to only 44%.
U.S. Web Design Standards — U.S. Digital Service and 18F put together a reusable component library and style guide for U.S. Government apps.
Competitive Coding (Bloomberg) — ignore the lazy author’s patronising tone; the bit that caught my eye was: He first began freaking people out in second grade, at age 8, when he took second place in a major Belarusian coding competition. To put this achievement in perspective, the score was high enough for Korotkevich to be granted automatic enrollment in a top technical university without needing to pass any other entrance exams. That is how you value STEM education: let people test out of it if they don’t need it!
How We Pass The Buck (Anil Dash) — The thing is, technology is not neutral, algorithms are built with values, and the default choices in our software determine huge swaths of our culture. We delegate ethical decisions as consumers and citizens to people who make software, but almost no computer science program teaches ethics, and almost no major technology company has a chief ethicist.