Inside Solid: what won’t drones do?

How Moore's Law applies to drones — a backchannel meditation on drone limitations.

prime-air_high-resolution02Extrapolation 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…

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Challenges facing predictive APIs

Solutions to a number of problems must be found to unlock PAPI value.

Key_in_Lock_nikolajnewyork_FlickrIn 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…

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A foundation of empathy: The O’Reilly Radar Podcast

Putting ourselves in the shoes of the user is key to building better systems and services.

Editor’s note: you can subscribe to the O’Reilly Radar Podcast through iTunes, SoundCloud, or directly through our podcast’s RSS feed.

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.”

Read more…

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Asynchronous now!

Everyone wants an alternative to email, but do we really need one?

Telephone_Exchange_PhotoAtelier_Flickr

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!

Read more…

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Stop hacking random stuff. It’s getting trivial.

Once we acknowledge nearly everything is insecure, we can engage in a more nuanced discussion about security.

Keep_Gate_Closed_mt2ri_FlickrI was gratified to read Dave Aitel’s rant about junk hacking last week [via Peter Lewis and abridged below]:

“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.”

Read more…

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What Amazon, iTunes, and Uber teach us about Apple Pay

Truly disruptive services don’t just digitize the familiar. They do away with it.

Pay_Steve_Snodgrass_FlickrSomething’s been nagging at me about Apple Pay, and the hype about it.

The Apple-Pay web page gushes: “Gone are the days of searching for your wallet. The wasted moments finding the right card. The swiping and waiting. Now payments happen with a single touch.”

What’s wrong with this picture?

It’s describing the digital facsimile of a process that is already on its way to becoming obsolete. But truly disruptive new services don’t just digitize the familiar. They do away with it.

I never search for my wallet when I take an Uber. I never search for my wallet when I walk out of a restaurant that accepts Cover. I never search for my wallet when I buy something from Amazon. I don’t even search for my wallet when buying a song from iTunes — or, for that matter, an iPhone from an Apple Store.

In each of these cases, my payment information is simply a stored credential that is already associated with my identity. And that identity is increasingly recognized by means other than an explicit payment process. Read more…

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