"brain" entries

Four short links: 3 February 2016

Four short links: 3 February 2016

Security Forecast, Machine Learning for Defence, Retro PC Fonts, and Cognitive Psych Research

  1. Software Security Ideas Ahead of Their Time — astonishing email exchange from 1995 presaged a hell of a lot of security work.
  2. Doxxing Sherlock — Cory Doctorow’s ruminations on surveillance, Sherlock, and what he found in the Snowden papers. What he found included an outline of intelligence use of machine learning.
  3. Old-School PC Fonts — definitive collection of ripped-from-the-BIOS fonts from the various types of PCs. Your eyes will ache with nostalgia. (Or, if you’re a young gun, wondering how anybody wrote code with fonts like that) (my terminal font is VT220 because it makes me happy and productive)
  4. Cognitive Load: Brain GemsWe distill the latest behavioural economics & consumer psychology research down into helpful little brain gems.
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Four short links: 28 January 2016

Four short links: 28 January 2016

Augmented Intelligence, Social Network Limits, Microsoft Research, and Google's Go

  1. Chimera (Paper a Day) — the authors summarise six main lessons learned while building Chimera: (1) Things break down at large scale; (2) Both learning and hand-crafted rules are critical; (3) Crowdsourcing is critical, but must be closely monitored; (4) Crowdsourcing must be coupled with in-house analysts and developers; (5) Outsourcing does not work at a very large scale; (6) Hybrid human-machine systems are here to stay.
  2. Do Online Social Media Remove Constraints That Limit the Size of Offline Social Networks? (Royal Society) — paper by Robin Dunbar. Answer: The data show that the size and range of online egocentric social networks, indexed as the number of Facebook friends, is similar to that of offline face-to-face networks.
  3. Microsoft Embedding ResearchTo break down the walls between its research group and the rest of the company, Microsoft reassigned about half of its more than 1,000 research staff in September 2014 to a new group called MSR NExT. Its focus is on projects with greater impact to the company rather than pure research. Meanwhile, the other half of Microsoft Research is getting pushed to find more significant ways it can contribute to the company’s products. The challenge is how to avoid short-term thinking from your research team. For instance, Facebook assigns some staff to focus on long-term research, and Google’s DeepMind group in London conducts pure AI research without immediate commercial considerations.
  4. Google’s Go-Playing AIThe key to AlphaGo is reducing the enormous search space to something more manageable. To do this, it combines a state-of-the-art tree search with two deep neural networks, each of which contains many layers with millions of neuron-like connections. One neural network, the “policy network,” predicts the next move, and is used to narrow the search to consider only the moves most likely to lead to a win. The other neural network, the “value network,” is then used to reduce the depth of the search tree — estimating the winner in each position in place of searching all the way to the end of the game.
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Four short links: 11 November 2015

Four short links: 11 November 2015

Fundable Hardware Trends, Experience Heuristics, Robot Design Software, and Ops Feedback in Dev Tools

  1. 2015 Hardware Trends — HAXLR8R deck of the trends they see in fundable hardware.
  2. Heuristics — the heuristics and intuition risks that beset backcountry skiers are instantly recognizable to dev managers.
  3. Interactive Design of 3D-Printable Robotic Creatures (Disney Research) — paper describing software to let you design (add/remove motor-controlled legs, change shape, customize gait, etc.), modelling how they’ll move, and then 3D print when you’re happy. (via IEEE Spectrum)
  4. Runtime Metric Meets Developer: Building Better Cloud Applications Using Feedback (Adrian Colyer) — surfacing operations data like calls/sec, time to complete, etc. in the developer’s IDE. Wow, that’s genius. (And Adrian’s explanation/excerpts make this easy to digest)
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Four short links: 4 November 2015

Four short links: 4 November 2015

Data Dashboard, Feature Flags, Email Replies, and Invisible Bias

  1. re:dash — open source query editor, visualisations, dashboard for data from all sorts of databases (SQL, ElasticSearch, etc.)
  2. Feature-Flag-Driven Development — one of the key pieces of modern development systems.
  3. Gmail Suggesting RepliesIn developing Smart Reply, we adhered to the same rigorous user privacy standards we’ve always held — in other words, no humans reading your email. This means researchers have to get machine learning to work on a data set that they themselves cannot read, which is a little like trying to solve a puzzle while blindfolded — but a challenge makes it more interesting!
  4. The Selective Laziness of ReasoningAmong those participants who accepted the manipulation and thus thought they were evaluating someone else’s argument, more than half (56% and 58%) rejected the arguments that were in fact their own. Moreover, participants were more likely to reject their own arguments for invalid than for valid answers. This demonstrates that people are more critical of other people’s arguments than of their own, without being overly critical: They are better able to tell valid from invalid arguments when the arguments are someone else’s rather than their own.
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Four short links: 26 October 2015

Four short links: 26 October 2015

Dataflow Computers, Data Set Explorer, Design Brief, and Coping with Uncertainty

  1. Dataflow Computers: Their History and Future (PDF) — entry from 2008 Wiley Encyclopedia of Computer Science and Engineering.
  2. Mirador — open source tool for visual exploration of complex data sets. It enables users to discover correlation patterns and derive new hypotheses from the data.
  3. How 23AndMe Got Regulatory Approval Back (Fast Company) — In order to meet FDA requirements, the design team had to prove that the reports provided on the website would be comprehensible to any American consumer, regardless of their background or education level. And you thought YOUR design brief was hard.
  4. Getting Comfortable with Uncertainty (The Atlantic) — We have this natural distaste for things that are unfamiliar to us, things that are ambiguous. It goes up from situational stressors, on an individual level and a group level. And we’re stuck with it simply because we have to be ambiguity-reducers.
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Four short links: 31 August 2015

Four short links: 31 August 2015

Linux Security Checklist, Devops for Water Bags, Summarising Reviews, and Exoskeleton with BMI

  1. Linux Workstation Security ChecklistThis is a set of recommendations used by the Linux Foundation for their systems administrators.
  2. Giant Bags of Mostly Water (PDF) — on securing systems that are used by humans. This is what DevOps is about: running Ops like you’re Developing an app, not letting your devs run your ops.
  3. Mining and Summarising Customer Reviews (Paper a Day) — redux of a 2004 paper on sentiment extraction from reviews.
  4. Brain-Machine-Interface for Exoskeleton — no need to worry about the “think of sex every seven seconds” trope, the new system allows users to move forwards, turn left and right, sit and stand simply by staring at one of five flickering LEDs.
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Four short links: 22 May 2015

Four short links: 22 May 2015

Automobile Ownership, Architectural Robots, UX Psychology, Go Packages

  1. GM: That Car You Bought, We’re Really the Ones Who Own ItGM’s claim is all about copyright and software code, and it’s the same claim John Deere is making about their tractors. The TL;DR version of the argument goes something like this: cars work because software tells all the parts how to operate; the software that tells all the parts to operate is customized code; that code is subject to copyright; GM owns the copyright on that code and that software; a modern car cannot run without that software; it is integral to all systems; therefore, the purchase or use of that car is a licensing agreement; and since it is subject to a licensing agreement, GM is the owner and can allow/disallow certain uses or access. In the future, manufacturers own the secondary market.
  2. Architectural Robots (Robohub) — The concept is named ‘Minibuilders.’ This is a group of robots each performing a specific task. The first robot layers a 15 cm (6 in) footprint or foundation, while a second and a third robot print the rest of the building by climbing over the structures they already printed and laying more material over them. This design is only possible at construction scale where printed layers are solid enough to support a robotic print head.
  3. The Psychology of UX — digging into 10 things about human psychology that should inform UX.
  4. gigoFetching packages in golang can be difficult, especially when juggling multiple packages and private repositories. GIGO (Gigo Installer for Go) tries to solve that problem, effectively being the golang equivalent of Python’s pip.
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Four short links: 31 March 2015

Four short links: 31 March 2015

Boring Technology, Psychology Memes, Engineering Ladder, and Flatpack Refugee Shelters

  1. 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.
  2. Dunning-Kruger and Other Memes — a reality check on the popsci conception of some psych research.
  3. Sharing our Engineering LadderIn 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.
  4. 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.
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Four short links: 4 February, 2015

Four short links: 4 February, 2015

CLR Open Source, Cluster Management, Workplace Bias, and So Much Chrome

  1. CoreCLR Open Sourced (MSDN) — garbage collection, compilation to machine code, and other bits of the CLR.
  2. Kafka Manager — Yahoo open sources a cluster management tool.
  3. Unconscious Bias at Work — useful talk on workplace biases.
  4. 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.
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Four short links: 28 January 2015

Four short links: 28 January 2015

Note and Vote, Gaming Behaviour, Code Search, and Immutabilate All The Things

  1. Note and Vote (Google Ventures) — nifty meeting hack to surface ideas and identify popular candidates to a decision maker.
  2. 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.
  3. Hound — open source code search tool from Etsy.
  4. Immutability Changes Everything (PDF) — This paper is simply an amuse-bouche on the repeated patterns of computing that leverage immutability.
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