The culture we’ve built has turned from a liberating revolution into a repressive incumbency.
Editor’s Note: 2014 has been a contentious year in the world around technology. I started a few times this week to write about it, but everything I wrote felt like a footnote to this clear piece from Pete Warden, which Pete has given us permission to repost. While I hope we can avoid the “nuking the entire thing from orbit” option, he lays out how things have changed — without changing enough — as nerd culture has reached new heights of influence. — Simon St. Laurent
My first girlfriend was someone I met through a MUD, and I had to fly 7,000 miles to see her in person. I read a paper version of the Jargon File at 15, and it became my bible. Just reading its descriptions of the Internet, I knew it was world-changing, even before the web, and as soon as I could, I snuck into the local university computer labs with a borrowed account to experience the wonder of Usenet, FTP, and Gopher. I chose my college because Turing had once taught there, and the designer of the ARM chip would be one of my lecturers. My first job out of college was helping port the original Diablo to the first Playstation, and I spent five years writing games. I’ve dived deep into GPU programming. I’ve worked for almost two decades at both big tech companies and start-ups. I’ve spent countless hours writing about coding for the pure love of it. I’m a grown man who still plays Dungeons and Dragons! Read more…
How Moore's Law applies to drones — a backchannel meditation on drone limitations.
Extrapolation is great fun — especially over technology, where Moore’s Law has conditioned us to expect exponentially falling costs and fast adoption. Applied to drones, extrapolation might lead us to conclude that they’ll fill the skies soon, delivering anything we want on demand. They are, after all, rapidly getting cheaper and smarter, and drone-related announcements get tons of press.
So, where will the drones stop? A few of us meditated on the limitations of drones last week on news that Facebook plans to use them to provide Internet connections to those who don’t have them, and on DHL’s announcement that it would begin making deliveries by drone to the island of Juist, in the North Sea. An edited excerpt of our exchange follows. Read more…
Solutions to a number of problems must be found to unlock PAPI value.
In November, the first International Conference on Predictive APIs and Apps will take place in Barcelona, just ahead of Strata Barcelona. This event will bring together those who are building intelligent web services (sometimes called Machine Learning as a Service) with those who would like to use these services to build predictive apps, which, as defined by Forrester, deliver “the right functionality and content at the right time, for the right person, by continuously learning about them and predicting what they’ll need.”
This is a very exciting area. Machine learning of various sorts is revolutionizing many areas of business, and predictive services like the ones at the center of predictive APIs (PAPIs) have the potential to bring these capabilities to an even wider range of applications. I co-founded one of the first companies in this space (acquired by Salesforce in 2012), and I remain optimistic about the future of these efforts. But the field as a whole faces a number of challenges, for which the answers are neither easy nor obvious, that must be addressed before this value can be unlocked.
In the remainder of this post, I’ll enumerate what I see as the most pressing issues. I hope that the speakers and attendees at PAPIs will keep these in mind as they map out the road ahead. Read more…
Putting ourselves in the shoes of the user is key to building better systems and services.
In this podcast episode, Tim O’Reilly talks about building systems and services for people, keeping a close eye on the end user’s experience to build better, more efficient systems that actually work for the people using them. Highlighting a quote from Jeff Sussna, O’Reilly makes a deeper connection between development and the ultimate purpose for building systems and services — user experience:
“[Jeff Sussna says in his blog post Empathy: The Essence of DevOps]: ‘It’s not about making developers and sysadmins report to the same VP. It’s not about automating all your configuration procedures. It’s not about tipping up a Jenkins server, or running your applications in the cloud, or releasing your code on Github. It’s not even about letting your developers deploy their code to a PaaS. The true essence of DevOps is empathy.’
“Understanding the other people that you work with and how you’re going to work together more effectively. That word ‘empathy’ struck me and it made me connect the world of DevOps with the world of user experience design.”
Everyone wants an alternative to email, but do we really need one?
Editor’s note: this post originally appeared on Medium; it is republished here with permission.
Conventional workplace wisdom declares email a daily scourge. We receive too much of it. We spend too much time replying to it. We concoct elaborate strategies to cope with it and avoid incurring a debt that downward-spirals to email bankruptcy.
We bow down at the altar of Inbox Zero, the methodology that dictates we take prompt, concrete action to dispatch with every single message we receive. Reply to it. Or file it. Or delete it. We turn the drudgery of processing the flood of correspondence into a game. Inbox Zero, FTW! Achievement unlocked … till the next time we hit refresh. Because emails are like gray hairs: for every one we send packing, five more will soon arrive in its place. Any client-side strategy we take to conquer our inboxes is thus limited by the fact that it’s palliative, not ameliorative. Perpetuating Inbox Zero means living in a constant state of vigilance, aggressively and swiftly responding to every incoming message. It means becoming an email answering machine!
Once we acknowledge nearly everything is insecure, we can engage in a more nuanced discussion about security.
“Yes, we get it. Cars, boats, buses, and those singing fish plaques are all hackable and have no security. Most conferences these days have a whole track called ‘Junk I found around my house and how I am going to scare you by hacking it.’ That stuff is always going to be hackable whetherornotyouarethecalvalry.org.
“Yes, there is Junk in your garage, and you can hack it, and if
you find someone else who happens to have that exact same Junk, you can probably hack that, too, but maybe not, because testing is hard.
“Cars are the pinnacle of junk hacking, because they are meant to be in your garage. Obviously there is no security on car computers. Nor (and I hate to break the suspense) *will there ever be*. Yes, you can connect a device to my midlife crisis car and update the CPU of the battery itself with malware, which can in theory explode my whole car on the way to BJJ. I personally hope you don’t. But I know it’s possible the same way I know it’s possible to secretly rewire my toaster oven to overcook my toast every time even when I put it on the lowest setting, driving me slowly but surely insane.
“So in any case, enough with the Junk Hacking, and enough with being amazed when people hack their junk.”