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.
Driverless Trucking Numbers (TechCrunch) — $4.5k to truck something across country, 75% of which is labour. Trucks most fuel-efficient at 45mph but drivers are paid by the hour and their hours capped at 11/day. More truck drivers killed on the job than any other occupation. Truck drivers are 1% of the workforce, and it’s the most common job in 29 states. And more “gosh this is gonna be interesting” numbers.
Email Isn’t the Problem — Glyph nails it. The thing you are bad at is saying ‘no’ to people. The downside of lauding 20 year olds in tech is that they build software for other 20 year olds: software that creates noise, distraction, opportunity. When you are doing what you want to do, though, that same software inhibits your ability to do it. All we have is poorly-evolved meat to fight the wily silicon ….
Terrible Truths of Pricing — The first rule of pricing is that you don’t talk about pricing. What he says might be true, but the absence of any question of morality around pricing drugs (which he tackles outright) makes me grumble “price of everything and value of nothing”.
Boaty McBoatface and the False Promise of Democracy — my take: you want opinions, but you also want committed opinions. Your poll/survey/vote will erect (or fail to erect) barriers to participation, and those barriers represent a measure of commitment. No barriers = lots of votes, but high risk of Boaty McBoatface. High barriers = few votes, but from those who care.
Team Models for Scaling a Design System — actually a dig into federated design teams, which is the rough shape that a lot of large companies end up in. The fundamental tension: As a design system stabilizes, every team I’ve observed has designers that do build, document and sustain it, and designers that can’t or say they want to but don’t.
Anthropic Capitalism And The New Gimmick Economy — market capitalism struggles with “public goods” (those which are inexhaustible and non-excludable, like infinitely copyable bits that any number of people can have copies of at once), yet much of the world is being recast as an activity where software manipulates information, thus becoming a public good. Capitalism and Communism, which briefly resembled victor and vanquished, increasingly look more like Thelma and Louise; a tragic couple sent over the edge by forces beyond their control. What comes next is anyone’s guess and the world hangs in the balance.
Why Should I Trust You?: Explaining the Predictions of Any Classifier (PDF) — LIME, a novel explanation technique that explains the predictions of any classifier in an interpretable and faithful manner, by learning an interpretable model locally around the prediction. Torkington’s Second Law: there’s no problem with machine learning that more machine learning can’t fix.
Magic Leap in Wired — massive story by Kevin Kelly on the glories of Magic Leap, which The Verge noted still left a lot of open questions, such as “what the hell IS Magic Leap’s technology” and “why does everyone who works for Magic Leap sound like they’re on acid when they talk about the technology?” Everyone who wants their pixel-free glorious VR to be true is crossing fingers hoping it’s not another Theranos. The bit that stuck from the Wired piece was People remember VR experiences not as a memory of something they saw but as something that happened to them.
Curing Our Slack Addiction — an interesting counterpoint to the “in the future everyone will be on 15,000 Slacks” Slack-maximalist view. For AgileBits, it distracted, facilitated, and rewarded distracting behaviour, ultimately becoming a drain rather than an accelerant.
Checking Up on Dataflow Analyses — notable for a very easy-to-follow introduction to what dataflow analysis is. Long after the chatbot startups have flamed out, formal methods research in CS will be a key part of the next wave of software where code writes code.
Fair Use Triumphs in Supreme Court (Ars Technica) — a headline I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. The Supreme Court let stand the lower court opinion that rejected the writers’ claims. That decision today means Google Books won’t have to close up shop or ask book publishers for permission to scan. In the long run, the ruling could inspire other large-scale digitization projects.
The Secret History of Internet Moderators (The Verge) — the horrors and trauma of the early folks who developed content moderation systems (filtering violence, porn, child abuse, etc.) for Facebook, YouTube, and other user-contributed-content sites. It’s still a quiet and under-supported area of most startups. Some of them now meet roughly monthly for dinner, and I’m kinda glad I’m not around the table for that conversation!
Equality Takes Work — Women do not prefer saying less: They anticipate the treatment they will receive when they say more.
Bitcoin as Politics: Distributed Right-Wing Extremism — The lack of any thorough, non-conspiratorial analysis of existing financial systems means that bitcoin fails to embody any true alternative to them. The reasons for this have little to do with technology and everything to do with the existing systems in which bitcoin and all other cryptocurrencies are embedded, systems that instantiate the forms of social power that cannot be eliminated through either wishful thinking or technical or even political evasion: the rich and powerful will not become poor and powerless simply because other people decide to operate alternate economies of exchange. […] Because it operates without such an account, bitcoin’s real utility and purpose (and that of the cryptocurrency movement in general) can be better understood as a “program” for recruiting uninformed citizens into a neoliberal anti-government politics, understanding the nature and effects of which requires just the attention to political theory and history that bitcoin enthusiasts rail against. So … not a fan, then?
How Many Miles of Driving Would It Take to Demonstrate Autonomous Vehicle Reliability? (RAND) — it may not be possible to establish with certainty the safety of autonomous vehicles. Uncertainty will remain. In parallel to developing new testing methods, it is imperative to develop adaptive regulations that are designed from the outset to evolve with the technology so that society can better harness the benefits and manage the risks of these rapidly evolving and potentially transformative technologies.
We Don’t Know How to Build Conversational Software — current brand-driven conversations are deeply underwhelming (phone trees with more typing is dystopic shopping), but I don’t know that we need to solve general AI for chatbots to provide an illusion of utility.
TensorFlow Playground — tinker with a neural network right here in your browser. Don’t worry, you can’t break it. We promise.
focusmotion.io — the world’s first machine learning SDK to track, learn, and analyze human motion on any sensor, on any OS, on any platform. You (or your users) train it on what combination of sensor patterns to label as a particular gesture or movement, and then it’ll throw those labels whenever.