Robots Will Take Our Jobs (Wired) — I agree with Kevin Kelly that (in my words) software and hardware are eating wetware, but disagree that This is not a race against the machines. If we race against them, we lose. This is a race with the machines. You’ll be paid in the future based on how well you work with robots. Ninety percent of your coworkers will be unseen machines. Most of what you do will not be possible without them. And there will be a blurry line between what you do and what they do. You might no longer think of it as a job, at least at first, because anything that seems like drudgery will be done by robots. Civilizations which depend on specialization reward work and penalize idleness. We already have more people than work for them, and if we’re not to be creating a vast disconnected former workforce then we (society) need to get a hell of a lot better at creating jobs and not destroying them.
Early Quora Design Notes — I love reading post-mortems and learning from what other people did. Picking a starting point is important because it will be the axis the rest of the design revolves around — but it’s tricky and not always the first page in the flow. Ideally, you should start with the page that serves the most significant goals of the product.
Free Data Science Books — I don’t mean free as in some guy paid for a PDF version of an O’Reilly book and then posted it online for others to use/steal, but I mean genuine published books with a free online version sanctioned by the publisher. That is, “the publisher has graciously agreed to allow a full, free version of my book to be available on this site.” (via Stein Debrouwere)
Zombie Ideas and Online Instruction — The repeated return of mistaken ideas captures well my experiences with technologies in schools and what I have researched over decades. The zombie idea that is rapidly being converted into policies that in the past have been “refuted with evidence but refuse to die” is: new technologies can cure K-12 and higher education problems of teaching and learning. The most recent incarnation of this revolving-door idea is widespread access to online instruction in K-12 education cyber-charter schools, blended schools where online instruction occurs for a few hours a day, and mandated courses that children and youth have to take.
Under the Hood of Team Obama’s Tech Operation (Mother Jones) — The new platform allowed OFA to collect feedback from the ground on an enormous scale, and respond accordingly. In short, it made the flow of information bidirectional. “What it did was it listened, and it trickled up information.”
Surprisingly Undervalued Books — I’m not necessarily talking about obscure books/authors here. I’m talking about the ratio of how good the book is to how good you expect it to be. These are the outliers, the ones that most people don’t talk about very much or haven’t heard of, and yet turn out to be profoundly brilliant.
SoundSlice — Adrian Holovaty’s new tool to help transcribe music from YouTube videos.
Code Talks and Designers Don’t Speak the Language (Crystal Beasley) — Many of the bugs, however, require a deep understanding of why the product exists in the marketplace and a thorough understanding of the research that underpins the project. These strategic questions are analogous to what a software architect would do. I was on the Persona project full time for three months before I felt confident making significant choices about UX.
Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy (Amazon) — soon-to-be-released book by Bill Janeway, of Warburg-Pincus (and the O’Reilly board). People raved about his session at scifoo. I’m bummed I missed it, but I’ll console myself with his book.
Cell Image Library — a freely accessible, easy-to-search, public repository of reviewed and annotated images, videos, and animations of cells from a variety of organisms, showcasing cell architecture, intracellular functionalities, and both normal and abnormal processes. The purpose of this database is to advance research, education, and training, with the ultimate goal of improving human health. And an excellent source of desktop images.
Smartphone EEG Scanner — unusually, there’s no Kickstarter project for an iPhone version. (Designs and software are open source)
Feynman — excellent graphic novel bio of Feynman, covering the science as well as the personality. Easy to read and very enjoyable.
Graduates and Post-Graduates on Food Stamps (Chronicle of Higher Education) — two points for me here: the inherent evil of not paying a living wage; and the pain of market signals that particular occupations and specialisations are not as useful as once they were. I imagine it’s hard to repurpose the specific knowledge in a Masters of Medieval History to some other field, though hopefully the skills of diligent hard work, rapid acquisition of knowledge, and critical thought will apply to new jobs. Expect more of this as we replace human labour with automation. I look forward to the software startup which creates work for people outside the organisation; the ultimate “create more value than you capture”.
Book Marketing Lessons Learned (Sarah Milstein) — I really liked this honest appraisal of how Baratunde Thurston marketed his “How to be Black” book, and am doubly chuffed that it appeared on the O’Reilly Radar blog. I was fascinated by his Street Team, but knew I wanted to bring it to your attention when I read this. Start with your inner circle. I had an epiphany with Gary Vaynerchuk. I asked: “Did I ever ask you to buy my book?” He said, “Yeah, I bought it yesterday.” I talked about his book, but cash on the table — it didn’t happen. He wished he had identified everyone he knows, sending a personal note explaining: “A) buy the book; B) this means a lot to me. You owe me or I will owe you. Here’s some things you can do to help: If you have speaking opportunities, let me know. For instance, I would love to speak at schools.” Make it easy for people who want to help you. Everything else is bonus. If you haven’t already converted the inner circle, you’ve skipped a critical step. “Let the people who already love you show it” is the skill I feel like I’ve spent years working on, and still have years to go.
Penguins Counted From Space (Reuters) — I love the unintended flow-on effects of technological progress. Nobody funded satellites because they’d help us get an accurate picture of wildlife in the Antarctic, but yet here we are. The street finds a use …
What Makes a Super-Spreader? — A super-spreader is a person who transmits an infection to a significantly greater number of other people than the average infected person. The occurrence of a super spreader early in an outbreak can be the difference between a local outbreak that fizzles out and a regional epidemic. Cory, Waxy, Gruber, Ms BrainPickings Popova: I’m looking at you. (via BoingBoing)
Inside Apple (Amazon) — If Apple is Silicon Valley’s answer to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, then author Adam Lashinsky provides readers with a golden ticket to step inside. In this primer on leadership and innovation, the author will introduce readers to concepts like the “DRI” (Apple’s practice of assigning a Directly Responsible Individual to every task) and the Top 100 (an annual ritual in which 100 up-and-coming executives are tapped a la Skull & Bones for a secret retreat with company founder Steve Jobs). Hopefully it can provide a better template for successful executive behaviour than “be an arsehole who has opinions about design” which seems to be all that many have taken from the life and works of Steve Jobs. (via BoingBoing)
Microsoft Buys Netscape Patents from AOL (Slashgear) — when your employer says “we need you to file for a patent on this, just so we can build up our defensive arsenal”, bear this in mind: you can never know that the defensive portfolio won’t be bought by an aggressive competitor in the future. I’m not sure that we can all sleep sound knowing that Microsoft owns autofill and SSL.
Open Data and The Gulf Oil Spill (Ars Technica) — competing interests meant uncoordinated data collection, reporting distorted research by omitting caveats on preliminary work and findings, and talking openly about what you’re doing can jeopardise your chance of publication in many journals. I found data collection stories particularly horrifying. (via Pete Warden)
Smart Meter Hacks — Liston and Weber have developed a prototype of a tool and software program that lets anyone access the memory of a vulnerable smart meter device and intercept the credentials used to administer it. Weber said the toolkit relies in part on a device called an optical probe, which can be made for about $150 in parts, or purchased off the Internet for roughly $300. “This is a well-known and common issue, one that we’ve warning people about for three years now, where some of these smart meter devices implement unencrypted memory,” Weber said. “If you know where and how to look for it, you can gather the security code from the device, because it passes them unencrypted from one component of the device to another.” Also notable for the fantastic line: “What you’re hearing is the sound of [a] paradigm shifting without a clutch,” Former said.
Soundbite — dialogue search for Apple’s Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro. Boris Soundbite quickly and accurately finds any word or phrase spoken in recorded media. Shoot squirrels with computer vision, search audio with computer hearing. We live in the future, people. (via Andy Baio)
Why Finish Books? (NY Review of Books) — the more bad books you finish, the fewer good ones you”ll have time to start. Applying this to the rest of life is left as an exercise for the reader.