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.
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.
Police Program Aims to Pinpoint Those Most Likely to Commit Crimes (NYT) — John S. Hollywood, a senior operations researcher at the RAND Corporation, said that in the limited number of studies undertaken to measure the efficacy of predictive policing, the improvement in forecasting crimes had been only 5% or 10% better than regular policing methods.
Apple’s Assault on Advertising and Google (Calacanis) — Google wants to be proud of their legacy, and tricking people into clicking ads and selling our profiles to advertisers is an awesome business – but a horrible legacy for Larry and Sergey. Read beside the Bloomberg piece on click fraud and the future isn’t too rosy for advertising. If the ad bubble bursts, how much of the Web will it take with it?
$9 Computer Hardware (Makezine) — open hardware project, with open source software. The board’s spec is a 1GHz R8 ARM processor with 512MB of RAM, 4GB of NAND storage, and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth built in.
The Hit Charade (MIT TR) — Spotify’s deep-learning system still has to be trained using millions of example songs, and it would be perplexed by a bold new style of music. What’s more, such algorithms cannot arrange songs in a creative way. Nor can they distinguish between a truly original piece and yet another me-too imitation of a popular sound. Johnson acknowledges this limitation, and he says human expertise will remain a key part of Spotify’s algorithms for the foreseeable future.
The Future of War is the Distant Past (John Birmingham) — the Naval Academy is hedging against the future by creating cybersecurity midshipmen, and by requiring every midshipman to learn how to do celestial navigation.
What Happens Next Will Amaze You (Maciej Ceglowski) — the next in Maciej’s amazing series of keynotes, where he’s building a convincing case for fixing the Web.
Data Analytics in Sports — O’Reilly research report (free). When it comes to processing stats, competing companies Opta and ProZone use a combination of recording technology and human analysts who tag “events” within the game (much like Vantage Sports). Opta calculates that it tags between 1,600 and 2,000 events per football game — all delivered live.