Choose Boring Technology (Dan McKinley) — Adding technology to your company comes with a cost. As an abstract statement this is obvious: if we’re already using Ruby, adding Python to the mix doesn’t feel sensible because the resulting complexity would outweigh Python’s marginal utility. But somehow when we’re talking about Python and Scala or MySQL and Redis, people lose their minds, discard all constraints, and start raving about using the best tool for the job.
Sharing our Engineering Ladder — In addition to the ladder causing problems inside of my team, we were having a hard time evaluating candidates during interviews and determining what level to hire them into. Particularly at the more senior levels, it wasn’t clear what the criteria for success really looked like. So, together with my tech leads and engineering managers, we rewrote the ladder to be more specific. It has been very helpful both for the process of reviews and promotion committees as well as for the process of hiring.
Ikea’s flat-pack refugee shelter is entering production (The Verge) — The UNHCR has agreed to buy 10,000 of the shelters, and will begin providing them to refugee families this summer. […] Measuring about 188 square feet, each shelter accommodates five people and includes a rooftop solar panel that powers a built-in lamp and USB outlet. The structure ships just like any other piece of Ikea furniture, with insulated, lightweight polymer panels, pipes, and wires packed into a cardboard box. According to Ikea, it only takes about four hours to assemble.
All the Chrome (Quirksmode) — Google Chrome is not the default browser on Android 4.3+. There are now at least eight Chromium-based Android default browsers, and they are all subtly, though not wildly, different. The number of Chromium family members has recently risen from nine to eleven with the addition of HTC and LG Chromium, default browsers for modern HTC and LG high-end devices.
Note and Vote (Google Ventures) — nifty meeting hack to surface ideas and identify popular candidates to a decision maker.
Applying Psychology to Improve Online Behaviour — online game runs massive experiments (w/researchers to validate findings) to improve the behaviour of their players. Some of Riot’s experiments are causing the game to evolve. For example, one product is a restricted chat mode that limits the number of messages abusive players can type per match. It’s a temporary punishment that has led to a noticeable improvement in player behavior afterward —on average, individuals who went through a period of restricted chat saw 20 percent fewer abuse reports filed by other players. The restricted chat approach also proved 4 percent more effective at improving player behavior than the usual punishment method of temporarily banning toxic players. Even the smallest improvements in player behavior can make a huge difference in an online game that attracts 67 million players every month.
MIT Faculty Search — two open gigs at MIT, one around climate change and one “undefined.” Great job ad.
Scalability at What Cost? — evaluation of these systems, especially in the academic context, is lacking. Folks have gotten all wound-up about scalability, despite the fact that scalability is just a means to an end (performance, capacity). When we actually look at performance, the benefits the scalable systems bring start to look much more sketchy. We’d like that to change.
Google’s Philosopher — interesting take on privacy. Now that the mining and manipulation of personal information has spread to almost all aspects of life, for instance, one of the most common such questions is, “Who owns your data?” According to Floridi, it’s a misguided query. Your personal information, he argues, should be considered as much a part of you as, say, your left arm. “Anything done to your information,” he has written, “is done to you, not to your belongings.” Identity theft and invasions of privacy thus become more akin to kidnapping than stealing or trespassing. Informational privacy is “a fundamental and inalienable right,” he argues, one that can’t be overridden by concerns about national security, say, or public safety. “Any society (even a utopian one) in which no informational privacy is possible,” he has written, “is one in which no personal identity can be maintained.”
S-1 for a Bitcoin Trust (SEC) — always interesting to read through the risks list to see what’s there and what’s not.
Computationally Modelling Human Emotion (ACM) — our work seeks to create true synergies between computational and psychological approaches to understanding emotion. We are not satisfied simply to show our models “fit” human data but rather seek to show they are generative in the sense of producing new insights or novel predictions that can inform understanding. From this perspective, computational models are simply theories, albeit more concrete ones that afford a level of hypothesis generation and experimentation difficult to achieve through traditional theories.
Opinion Formation Models on a Gradient (PLoSONE) — Many opinion formation models embedded in two-dimensional space have only one stable solution, namely complete consensus, in particular when they implement deterministic rules. In reality, however, deterministic social behavior and perfect agreement are rare – at least one small village of indomitable Gauls always holds out against the Romans. […] In this article we tackle the open question: can opinion dynamics, with or without a stochastic element, fundamentally alter percolation properties such as the clusters’ fractal dimensions or the cluster size distribution? We show that in many cases we retrieve the scaling laws of independent percolation. Moreover, we also give one example where a slight change of the dynamic rules leads to a radically different scaling behavior.
Smartest Cities Rely on Citizen Cunning and Unglamorous Technology (The Guardian) — vendors like Microsoft, IBM, Siemens, Cisco and Hitachi construct the resident of the smart city as someone without agency; merely a passive consumer of municipal services – at best, perhaps, a generator of data that can later be aggregated, mined for relevant inference, and acted upon. Should he or she attempt to practise democracy in any form that spills on to the public way, the smart city has no way of accounting for this activity other than interpreting it as an untoward disruption to the orderly flow of circulation.
Introduction to the Modern Brain-Computer Interface Design (UCSD) — The lectures were first given by Christian Kothe (SCCN/UCSD) in 2012 at University of Osnabrueck within the Cognitive Science curriculum and have now been recorded in the form of an open online course. The course includes basics of EEG, BCI, signal processing, machine learning, and also contains tutorials on using BCILAB and the lab streaming layer software.
Brain Time (David Eagleman) — the visual system is a distributed system with some flexible built-in consistency. So if the visual brain wants to get events correct timewise, it may have only one choice: wait for the slowest information to arrive. To accomplish this, it must wait about a tenth of a second. In the early days of television broadcasting, engineers worried about the problem of keeping audio and video signals synchronized. Then they accidentally discovered that they had around a hundred milliseconds of slop: As long as the signals arrived within this window, viewers’ brains would automatically resynchronize the signals; outside that tenth-of-a-second window, it suddenly looked like a badly dubbed movie.
CS Bumper Stickers (PDF) — Allocate four digits for the year part of a date: a new millenium is coming. —David Martin. From 1985.
ASCIIcam — real-time ASCII output from your videocamera. This is doing terrible things to my internal chronometer. Is it 2014 or 1984? Yes!
A Worm’s Mind in a Lego Body — the c. elegans worm’s 302 neurons has been sequenced, modelled in open source code, and now hooked up to a Lego robot. It is claimed that the robot behaved in ways that are similar to observed C. elegans. Stimulation of the nose stopped forward motion. Touching the anterior and posterior touch sensors made the robot move forward and back accordingly. Stimulating the food sensor made the robot move forward. There is video.
Apollo: Amazon’s Deployment Engine — Apollo will stripe the rolling update to simultaneously deploy to an equivalent number of hosts in each location. This keeps the fleet balanced and maximizes redundancy in the case of any unexpected events. When the fleet scales up to handle higher load, Apollo automatically installs the latest version of the software on the newly added hosts. Lust.
BERG Closing — may open source their Little Printer server and IoT middleware. A shame, as Warren Ellis says, because they pulled bits of the future into the present. They were optimistic, not dystopic. I have a feeling BERG grads are going to be like BBC grads, where a certain crop from ~2003 or so went on to be influential at many different places. Dispersing dandelions of delight.
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow — beating our minds’ misweighting of future events. This: When being invited to do things months in advance, the diary usually looks pretty clear and it’s tempting to say “yes”. But whenever a new invitation arrives, ask yourself not, “should I accept the invitation in March?” but, “would I accept the invitation if it was for this week?” (via BoingBoing)
Weave — build a network of Docker containers running on different hosts. Weave can traverse firewalls and operate in partially connected networks. Traffic can be encrypted, allowing hosts to be connected across an untrusted network. With weave you can easily construct applications consisting of multiple containers, running anywhere.
How Apple Pay Works And Why It Matters — for some reason this was the right level of explanation for me. Hope it helps. The end result is a token that can be used across merchants and both online (In-App) and offline (NFC, In-Person). Disaggregate and micropay for ALL THE THINGS.
The growing role of software architects: “Architecture has become much more interesting now because it’s become more encompassing," says Neal Ford, software architect and meme wrangler at ThoughtWorks.