- 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.
- Dunning-Kruger and Other Memes — a reality check on the popsci conception of some psych research.
- 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.
Mikey Dickerson on why he moved from Google to the West Wing, and where we need to be allocating our engineering resources.
In a keynote address at Velocity New York 2014, Mikey Dickerson described his journey from working for Google to working in the West Wing of the White House, leading the US Digital Services group. He told the story of how a three-day review turned into a nine-week “herculean effort” by a team working 17 hours per day, 7 days per week to get HealthCare.gov up and running. The challenges, he stressed, boiled down to a few big, though basic, things — building a monitoring system, creating a war room to provide development direction and organization, and establishing a sense of urgency to get the problems fixed. “This very formidable obstacle, when you pushed on it even a little bit, fell apart; it was made out of sand,” he said. “Nothing we did was that hard; it was labor intensive, but it was not hard.”
The names may change, but the friction between science and art goes back centuries.
Whether we're discussing ancients vs. moderns, scientists vs. poets, or the latest variant, computer science vs. humanities, the debate between science and art is persistent and quite old.
Artist-Engineer Marc Bohlen uses some fairly advanced technology to express his artistic visions. It's not often you find an artist with a degree from CMU in robotics, or an engineer with an Masters in Art History. Bohlen's projects explore how people and technology interact, ranging from the bickering robots Amy and Klara, to his latest project, the Glass Bottom Float. In advance of his appearance at the E-Tech conference in March, Bohlen talked to us about how he approaches art, and just what art is.
This second Feb 11 post was brought to you by the intersection of timezones and technology. If there’s a third Feb 11 post, I’m changing my name to Bill Murray.
- Hacking the Earth — an environmental futurist looks at “geoengineering”, deliberately interfering with the Earth’s systems to terraform the planet. Radical solution to global warming, unwise hubris and immoral act of the highest folly, or all of the above? (via Matt Jones)
- Reinvention Draws Near for Newsweek — fascinating look at how Newsweek are refocusing their magazine. “If we don’t have something original to say, we won’t. The drill of chasing the week’s news to add a couple of hard-fought new details is not sustainable.” gives me hope. Newsweek are hoping to target fewer but richer advertisers, essentially a business strategy of tapping existing customers for more. This feels like they’re ceding the contested parts of their business (commodity news stories) and doubling down on the bits that nobody else is fighting for yet (their columnists, pictures, whitespace). What else could they do? Possibly nothing (see Innovator’s Dilemma), but the alternative is figuring out something new that people want and giving them that. Easy to say, hard for anyone to do.
- Tinkerkit – a physical computing kit for designers. Arduino-compatible components for rapid prototyping. Sweet!
- Stanford University YouTube Channel — short interesting talks by Stanford researchers. Brains on chips, stem cells to fight deafness, and brain imagery are some of the first up there. The talks aren’t condescending or vague, they’re aimed at “a bright and curious audience”, as the Mind Hacks blog post about them put it.