"collaboration" entries

Cross-pollinating Web communities

The integration of the Web's diverse communities broadens horizons and technology.

Waterdrops inside The Animal Flower Cave, Barbados. By  Berit Watkin on Flickr.

Web projects are integration projects, combining skills from a number of disciplines. Lousy interfaces can obscure brilliant code, and ingeniously engineered back-end systems can still fail when they hit resource limits. “Content” lurks in many guises, requiring support not only from writers and illustrators but from video specialists, game designers, and many more. Marketers have built businesses on the Web, and influence conversations from design to analytics. You don’t have to be a programmer to do great work on the Web. The Web stack is vast.

Web development models include far more than code. Creating great websites and applications demands collaboration among content creators, designers, and programmers. As applications grow larger, supporting them requires adding a cast of people who can help them scale to demand. As projects grow, specialization typically lets people focus on specific aspects of those larger disciplines, supporting networking, databases, template systems, graphics details, and much more.

In some ways, that’s a recipe for fragmentation, and some days the edges are sharp. All of these communities have different priorities, which conflict regularly. Battles over resources sharpen the axes, and memories often linger.

At the same time, though, often even in environments where resources are scarce, different perspectives can reinforce each other or create new possibilities. Sometimes, it’s just because the intersection spaces have been left fallow for a long time, but other times, the combinations themselves create new opportunities. Read more…

Four short links: 30 October 2014

Four short links: 30 October 2014

Security and Privacy, ISP Measurement, Github for Education, and Mobile Numbers

  1. A Critique of the Balancing Metaphor in Privacy and SecurityThe arguments presented by this paper are built on two underlying assertions. The first is that the assessment of surveillance measures often entails a judgement of whether any loss in privacy is legitimised by a justifiable increase in security. However, one fundamental difference between privacy and security is that privacy has two attainable end-states (absolute privacy through to the absolute absence of privacy), whereas security has only one attainable end-state (while the absolute absence of security is attainable, absolute security is a desired yet unobtainable goal). The second assertion, which builds upon the first, holds that because absolute security is desirable, new security interventions will continuously be developed, each potentially trading a small measure of privacy for a small rise in security. When assessed individually each intervention may constitute a justifiable trade-off. However, when combined together, these interventions will ultimately reduce privacy to zero. (via Alistair Croll)
  2. ISP Interconnection and its Impact on Consumer Internet Performance (Measurement Lab) — In researching our report, we found clear evidence that interconnection between major U.S. access ISPs (AT&T, Comcast, CenturyLink, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon) and transit ISPs Cogent, Level 3, and potentially XO was correlated directly with degraded consumer performance throughout 2013 and into 2014 (in some cases, ongoing as of publication). Degraded performance was most pronounced during peak use hours, which points to insufficient capacity and congestion as a causal factor. Further, by noting patterns of performance degradation for access/transit ISP pairs that were synchronized across locations, we were able to conclude that in many cases degradation was not the result of major infrastructure failures at any specific point in a network, but rather connected with the business relationships between ISPs.
  3. The Emergence of Github as Collaborative Platform for Education (PDF) — We argue that GitHub can support much of what traditional learning systems do, as well as go beyond them by supporting collaborative activities.
  4. Mobile is Eating the World (A16Z) — mobile becoming truly ubiquitous, bringing opportunities to use the construct “X is eating Y.”
Four short links: 23 June 2014

Four short links: 23 June 2014

Blockchain Intro, Machine Collaboration, Safety Systems Thinking, and Where Keystrokes Go To Die

  1. Minimum Viable Block ChainWhat follows is an attempt to explain, from the ground up, why the particular pieces (digital signatures, proof-of-work, transaction blocks) are needed, and how they all come together to form the “minimum viable block chain” with all of its remarkable properties.
  2. Common Ground and Coordination in Joint Activity (PDF) — research paper on the components and requirements and failure modes of collaboration, with an eye to how machine actors can participate as collaborators. (via John Allspaw)
  3. Engineering a Safer World (Nancy Leveson) — Systems thinking applied to safety. Free download of the MIT Press ebook. (via John Allspaw)
  4. Scott Hanselman’s TipsKeep your emails to 3-4 sentences, Hanselman says. Anything longer should be on a blog or wiki or on your product’s documentation, FAQ or knowledge base. “Anywhere in the world except email because email is where you keystrokes go to die,” he says.
Four short links: 14 June 2014

Four short links: 14 June 2014

UK Gov 2.0, Remote Work, Git + App Engine, and Amazon Sells 3D Printer Goodies

  1. How Geeks Opened up the UK Government (Guardian) — excellent video introduction to how the UK is transforming its civil service to digital delivery. Most powerful moment for me was scrolling through various depts’ web sites and seeing consistent visual design.
  2. Tools for Working Remotely — Braid’s set of tools (Trello, Hackpad, Slingshot, etc.) for remote software teams.
  3. Git Push to Deploy on Google App EngineEnabling this feature will create a remote Git repository for your application’s source code. Pushing your application’s source code to this repository will simultaneously archive the latest the version of the code and deploy it to the App Engine platform.
  4. Amazon’s 3D Printer Store — printers and supplies. Deeply underwhelming moment of it arriving on the mainstream.

Rethinking games

Pandemic, a collaborative board game, casts a different light on competition and gaming.

At a recent board games night hosted by Greg Brown (@practicingruby), we played a game called “Pandemic” that made me rethink the meaning of games. I won’t bother you with a detailed description; it’s enough to say that there are four or five players who take turns, and the goal is to defeat outbreaks of disease.

What makes this game unique is that you’re not playing against the other players, you’re playing against the game itself. It’s almost impossible to win, particularly at higher levels of difficulty (which Greg encourages, even for newbies). But you quickly realize that you don’t have a chance of winning if you don’t cooperate with the other players. The game is all about cooperation and collaboration. The players don’t all have equal abilities; one can move other players’ pieces around on the board, another can create research centers, another can cure larger swaths of disease. On your turn, you could just move and do whatever you think is best; but once you get the hang of it, you spend a good bit of time before each move discussing with the other players what the best strategy is, whether there are other effective ways to accomplish the same goal, and so on. You’re always discussing whether it would be better to solve a problem yourself, or move someone else so they can solve the problem more effectively on their turn.

In some ways, it’s not all that different from a role-playing game, but there is never any advantage to stabbing another player in the back or striking out on your own. But at the same time, even though it’s radically collaborative, it’s challenging. As I said, it’s almost impossible to win, and the game is structured to become more difficult the longer it goes on.

It’s a great example of rethinking gaming and rethinking competition, all in a little game that comes in a box and is played with pawns on a board.

Comments: 10
Four short links: 15 May 2012

Four short links: 15 May 2012

Mobile Money, Actors in java, Actors in python, and a Decision-Making Tool

  1. Mobile Money (The Economist) — Many people know that “mobile money”—financial transactions on mobile phones—has taken off in Africa. How far it has gone, though, still comes as a bit of a shock. Three-quarters of the countries that use mobile money most frequently are in Africa, and mobile banking in some of them has reached extraordinary levels.
  2. Akka — Apache-licensed Java high-performance concurrency library built around the concept of “actors“. (via Hacker News)
  3. Pykka — actors in Python. (via Hacker News)
  4. Loom.io Project — help crowdfund a collaborative decision-making tool. They’re using it as they build the tool, and it’s the implementation of a process they use in real life. I know many organisations who need a free open-source web application that helps groups make better decisions together. You should probably read more about the interesting company Enspiral which is behind loom.io.
Four short links: 8 March 2012

Four short links: 8 March 2012

Compete on Convenience, Minimal Viable Operating System, Awesome Font, Collaboration Integration

  1. Add Torrent Links to IMDB (Userscripts) — a glimpse at what the Internet could look like: from the site you research movies on, with one click you could then launch the download. If only the company that ran the movie research site had rights to the OneClick patent and the ability to offer movies for download. Oh wait, those aren’t the barriers. If only the movie companies would cease being nutjobs insisting on flogging their DRM-hobbled nags when the black market has x264 racehorses for less. They’re not competing on price, they’re not competing on convenience, they’re competing on the expected value of litigation. Now *that’s* a business model!
  2. JeOS — I hadn’t heard this term before: Just Enough Operating System. Take a standard distro, and strip it down to the bare essentials that you actually need.
  3. Font Awesome — a font with a zillion pictograms and icons. “An iconic font designed for use with Twitter Bootstrap”.
  4. Collabograte — a collection of integration recipes for collaboration tools so you aren’t broken on the “how do I get this thing set up with LDAP auth?” wheel which others have reinvented with their nose to the mixed metaphor grindstone. (via Kartik Subbarao)
Comments: 8
Four short links: 2 November 2011

Four short links: 2 November 2011

Deployment, Image Distribution, Open Source Sharing, and Soulless Programming

  1. Thoughts on Web Application Deployment (OmniTI) — if your web site is your business, this stuff is critical and it’s under-taught. Everyone learns it on the job, and there’s not a lot of standardization between gigs.
  2. Github EnterpriseGitHub Enterprise is delivered in the industry-standard OVF format, which means you’ll be able to run it on virtualization layers like VMware, VirtualBox, and Oracle VM. An increasingly common way to sell web apps, but it’ll trigger GPL-style distribution terms in software licenses.
  3. SparkleShare — open source sharing tool that markets itself as “like Dropbox”. Uses git as a backend, so you can share via github.
  4. Whatever Happened to Programming?When I was fourteen, I wrote space-invader games in BASIC on a VIC-20. If you were interested in computers back in 1982, I bet you did the same. When I was 18, I wrote multi-user dungeons in C on serial terminals attached to a Sun 3. […] Today, I mostly paste libraries together. So do you, most likely, if you work in software. Doesn’t that seem anticlimactic? Any time you are in the “someone else’s code is almost right, make the changes to improve it” situation, you’re doing unsatisfying programming. It’s factory assembly of software, not craftsmanship. Welcome to the future: you have been replaced by a machine, and the machine is you.
Comments: 2
Four short links: 10 January 2011

Four short links: 10 January 2011

Online Collaboration, Reputable Twitterers, Old Computers, and Web Experiments

  1. Tools and Practices for Working Virtually — a detailed explanation of how the RedMonk team works virtually.
  2. Twitter Accounts for All Stack Overflow Users by Reputation (Brian Bondy) — superawesome list of clueful people.
  3. The Wonderful World of Early Computing — from bones to the ENIAC, some surprising and interesting historical computation devices. (via John D. Cook)
  4. Overlapping Experiment Infrastructure (PDF) — they can’t run just one test at a time, so they have infrastructure to comprehensively test all features against all features and in real time pull out statistical conclusions from the resulting data. (via Greg Linden)
Comments Off on Four short links: 10 January 2011

An Open, Webby, Book-Publishing Platform

This short article outlines some ideas about an open source, online platform for making books, based on WordPress.

Comments: 75