Asynchronous now!

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

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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!

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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.”

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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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In pursuit of universal IoT standards

Universal standards could super-charge IoT growth, but can we get there?

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The first remotely operated domestic machine — a toaster — was connected to the Internet less than a quarter-century ago, in 1990. The Internet of Things (IoT) doubled in size a year later with the addition of a coffee pot. Eventually, the Internet Engineering Task Force Network Working Group assigned the coffee pot its own specific standard, HTCPCP 1.0, the Hyper Text Coffee Pot Control Protocol, RFC 2324.

The Internet of Things has grown a bit since then, to somewhere between two billion and 10 billion devices, depending on who’s counting. But it could grow even faster, according to many of the biggest names in the global technology industry, if everyone would just agree on a universal set of technical standards.

The trillion-dollar question is, whose standards? Read more…

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Inside Solid: who will build the “god platform” for the Internet of Things?

Everyone is racing to build the topmost layer for home automation.

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Everyone’s racing to build the “god platform” for the Internet of Things: the highest, most generalized layer of intelligence and user interface that ties together connected devices and web services.

It’s tempting to look for analogy in mobile phone platforms, where Apple was initially dominant and now enjoys an extremely lucrative and influential minority position against Android. There are some crucial differences, though. For starters, adoption won’t be quite as easy; domestic appliances last for a long time, and nothing consumers have seen yet makes connected laundry seem appealing enough to justify early replacement of a washing machine. And even in cases where replacement is relatively easy, the grandest promises entail stitching everything into a seamless system — replacing just the easy stuff can seem pretty lame. Read more…

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Signals from Velocity New York 2014

From the lure of work that matters to building your own device lab, here are key talks from Velocity New York 2014.

Practitioners and experts from the web operations and performance worlds came together in New York City this week for Velocity New York 2014. Below you’ll find a handful of keynotes and interviews from the event that we found particularly notable.


Mikey Dickerson: From Google to HealthCare.gov to the U.S. Digital Service

“These problems are fixable, these problems are important, but they require you to choose to work on them” — Mikey Dickerson looks back on what it took to fix HealthCare.gov and he reveals his reasons for joining the U.S. Digital Service.

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