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.
Makerspaces Coming to Libraries (Wired) — [W]hile I’m just as sentimental about the primacy of hard copy, the librarians aren’t. As they all tell me, their job is helping with access to knowledge—not all of which comes in codex form and much of which is deeply social. Libraries aren’t just warehouses for documents; they’re places to exchange information.
Rolling Stone Feature on Randall Munroe — When you’re talking about pure research, every year it’s a longer trip to the cutting edge. Students have to spend a larger percentage of their careers catching up to the people who have gone before them. My solution to that is to tackle problems that are so weird that no one serious has ever spent any time on them. (via BoingBoing)
Not Safe for Working On (Dan Kaminsky) — some things that needed to be said, and which couldn’t have been said better, about security, victim shaming, and separating the 2% from the 98%.
Generative eBook Covers — very cool (with code) system for programmatically generating aesthetic and interesting ebook covers. I particularly like the face-recognition-in-engravings look.
The Poisoned NUL Byte, 2014 Edition (Project Zero) — from Google’s public security efforts, this detailed public description of how an exploit was constructed from a found vulnerability. They’re helping. Kudos!
Myths About the Coming Robot Economy (Eric Sofge) — the entire discussion of the so-called robot economy, with its predictions of vast, permanent employment rates and glacial productivity gains, is nothing more than a wild guess. A strong pushback on the Pew Report (PDF): Frey and Osborne’s analysis is full of logical leaps, and far-reaching conclusions drawn from cursory observations about robots that have yet to replace humans.
Content for Sensitive Situations (Luke Wroblewski) — People have all kinds of feelings when interacting with your content. When someone’s needs are being met they may feel very different then when their needs are not being met. How can you meet people’s needs?
Urban Villages (Senseable City at MIT) — People who live in a larger town make more calls and call a larger number of different people. The scaling of this relation is ‘superlinear,’ meaning that on average, if the size of a town doubles, the sum of phone contacts in the city will more than double – in a mathematically predictable way. Surprisingly, however, group clustering (the odds that your friends mutually know one another) does not change with city size. It seems that even in large cities we tend to build tightly knit communities, or ‘villages,’ around ourselves. There is an important difference, though: if in a real village our connections might simply be defined by proximity, in a large city we can elect a community based on any number of factors, from affinity to interest to sexual preference. (via Flowing Data)
Machine Learning for Plant Properties — startup building database of plant genomics, properties, research, etc. for mining. The more familiar you are with your data and its meaning, the better your machine learning will be at suggesting fruitful lines of query … and the more valuable your startup will be.
Dissecting Message Queues — throughput, latency, and qualitative comparison of different message queues. MQs are to modern distributed architectures what function calls were to historic unibox architectures.
1915 Data Visualization Rules — a reminder that data visualization is not new, but research into effectiveness of alternative presentation styles is.
Material Design in the Google I/O App (Medium) — steps through design thinking as they put Google’s new design metaphor in place. I’ve been chewing on material design. It brings an internal consistency and logic to the Android world that Apple’s iOS and OS X visual worlds have been losing over the years. How long until web users expect this consistency too?
Stewart and Slack (Wired) — profile of Foo Stewart Butterfield and his shiny Slack startup.
Mesa: Geo-Replicated, Near Real-Time, Scalable Data Warehousing (PDF) — paper by Googlers on the database holding G’s ad data. Trillions of rows, petabytes of data, point queries with 99th percentile latency in the hundreds of milliseconds and overall query throughput of trillions of rows fetched per day, continuous updates on the order of millions of rows updated per second, strong consistency and repeatable query results even if a query involves multiple datacenters, and no SPOF. (via Greg Linden)
Thumbstopping (Salon) — The prime goal of a Facebook ad campaign is to create an ad “so compelling that it would get people to stop scrolling through their news feeds,” reports the Times. This is known, in Facebook land, as a “thumbstopper.” And thus, the great promise of the digitial revolution is realized: The best minds of our generation are obsessed with manipulating the movement of your thumb on a smartphone touch-screen.
Microsoft’s Development Practices (Ars Technica) — they get the devops religion but call it “combined engineering”. They get the idea of shared code bases, but call it “open source”. At least when they got the agile religion, they called it that. Check out the horror story of where they started: a two-year development process in which only about four months would be spent writing new code. Twice as long would be spent fixing that code. MSFT’s waterfall was the equivalent of American football, where there’s 11 minutes of actual play in the average 3h 12m game.
Offline First is the New Mobile First — Luke Wroblewski’s notes from John Allsopp’s talk about “Breaking Development” in Nashville. Offline technologies don’t just give us sites that work offline, they improve performance, and security by minimizing the need for cookies, http, and file uploads. It also opens up new possibilities for better user experiences.
Winograd Schemas as Alternative to Turing Test (IEEE) — specially constructed sentences that are surface ambiguous and require deeper knowledge of the world to disambiguate, e.g. “Jim comforted Kevin because he was so upset. Who was upset?”. Our WS [Winograd schemas] challenge does not allow a subject to hide behind a smokescreen of verbal tricks, playfulness, or canned responses. Assuming a subject is willing to take a WS test at all, much will be learned quite unambiguously about the subject in a few minutes. (that last from the paper on the subject)
Reclaiming Your Nest (Forbes) — Like so many connected devices, Nest devices regularly report back to the Nest mothership with usage data. Over a month-long period, the researchers’ device sent 32 MB worth of information to Nest, including temperature data, at-rest settings, and self-entered information about the home, such as how big it is and the year it was built. “The Nest doesn’t give us an option to turn that off or on. They say they’re not going to use that data or share it with Google, but why don’t they give the option to turn it off?” says Jin. Jailbreak your Nest (technique to be discussed at Black Hat), and install less chatty software. Loose Lips Sink Thermostats.
SyncNet — decentralised browser: don’t just pull pages from the source, but also fetch from distributed cache (implemented with BitTorrent Sync).