Manufacturers and Consumers (Matt Webb) — manufacturers never spoke to consumers before. They spoke with distributors and retailers. But now products are connected to the internet, manufacturers suddenly have a relationship with the consumer. And they literally don’t know what to do.
Calendar Hacks (Etsy) — inspiration for your New Year’s resolution to waste less time.
MDBM — Yahoo’s fast key-value store, in use for over a decade. Super-fast, using mmap and passing around (gasp) raw pointers.
The Revolution in Biology is Here, Now (Mike Loukides) — I’ve been asked plenty of times (and I’ve asked plenty of times), “what’s the killer product for synthetic biology?” BioFabricate convinced me that that’s the wrong question. We may never have some kind of biological iPod. That isn’t the right way to think. What I saw, instead, was real products that you might never notice. Bricks made from sand that are held together by microbes designed to excrete the binder. Bricks and packing material made from fungus (mycelium). Plastic excreted by bacteria that consume waste methane from sewage plants. You wouldn’t know, or care, whether your plastic Lego blocks are made from petroleum or from bacteria, but there’s a huge ecological difference.
Bluesmart — Indiegogo campaign for a “connected carry-on,” aka a smart suitcase. From the mobile app you can track it, learn when it’s close (or too far away), (un)lock, weigh…and you can plug your devices in and recharge from the built-in battery. Sweet!
[Silicon Valley] Bedevilled by Moral Issues (NYT, registerwall) — given that Silicon Valley tends to copy and paste the mantra, “we’re making the world a better place,” it seem reasonable to expect that tech companies would hold themselves to a higher ethical standard.
Grasping with Robots: Which Object is in Reach? (Robohub) — This post is part of our ongoing efforts to make the latest papers in robotics accessible to a general audience. … a new approach to build a comprehensive representation of the capabilities of a robot related to reaching and grasping. Very short, very readable, as promised.
Anthropology of Mid-Sized Startups — old but good post about the structures, norms, and dimensions of startup culture. Like a religion, a startup will care for its collective interest by defining certain things as sacred. A classic example is the company’s logo. This symbol is, quite literally, “set apart and forbidden” by brand guidelines, which often specify exactly how the logo must be presented and how far it should sit from the other elements on a page (thus separating the sacred from the profane).
What Leads To — I love the elegant mechanic of decomposing an end back to a means you can do right now. Lots more sophistication obviously possible, but the fact that it’s not just about “thumbs up this end!” or about actions divorced from intention, makes it a step ahead for social software.
Researching Link Rot (Pinboard) — graceful notification of a test, and with the simple ability to opt-out.
The Space Between Theory and Practice in Distributed Systems (Marc Brooker) — I went through everything I’ve read on distributed systems and arranged them on a spectrum from theory to practice the two ends would be really well populated, but the middle would be disturbingly empty. Worse, changing to a graph of citation links would show a low density from theory to practice.
Dynamics of Correlated Novelties (Nature) — paper on “the adjacent possible”. Here we propose a simple mathematical model that mimics the process of exploring a physical, biological, or conceptual space that enlarges whenever a novelty occurs. The model, a generalization of Polya’s urn, predicts statistical laws for the rate at which novelties happen (Heaps’ law) and for the probability distribution on the space explored (Zipf’s law), as well as signatures of the process by which one novelty sets the stage for another. (via Steven Strogatz)
cockroachdb — a scalable, geo-replicated, transactional datastore from a team that includes the person who built Spanner for Google. Spanner requires atomic clocks, cockroach does not (which has corresponding performance consequences). (via Wired)
The Deep Convergence of Networks, Software, and People — as we wire up our digital products increasingly with interconnected networks, their nature is increasingly a product of the responses that come back from those networks. The experience cannot be wholly represented in mock prototypes that are coded to respond in predictable ways, or even using a set of preset random responses. The power of the application is seeing the emergent behaviour of the system, and recognizing that you are a participant in that emergent behaviour. (via Tim O’Reilly)
An Ethics Class for Inventors, via Sci-Fi — “Reading science fiction is kind of like ethics class for inventors,” says Brueckner. Traditionally, technology schools ask ‘how do we build it?’ This class asks a different question: ‘should we?’
Misjudgements Will Drive Social Trials Underground (Nature) — 34 ethicists write to explain why they see Facebook’s mood-influence trials as not an egregious breach of either ethics or law. Notable: No one knows whether exposure to a stream of baby announcements, job promotions and humble brags makes Facebook’s one billion users sadder or happier. The exposure is a social experiment in which users become guinea pigs, but the effects will not be known unless they are studied.[…] But the extreme response to this study, some of which seems to have been made without full understanding of what it entailed or what legal and ethical standards require, could result in such research being done in secret or not at all. Compare wisdom of the ethicists to wisdom of the crowd. (via Kate Crawford)
Problem-Free Activity in the Mathematics Classroom (PDF) — interesting not just for the bland crap work we make kids do, but for the summary of five types of need that stimulate learning: for certainty (“which of the two is right?”), for causality (“did X cause Y?”, “what will happen next?”), for computation (“how much will it cost?”, “how long will it take?”), for communication and persuasion (“it’s more fun when we work on this together”, “let me show you why I’m right!”), and for connection and structuring (“that can’t be right, it goes against all I know!”, “ah, that makes sense because …”). (via Kathy Sierra)
Survey of Academic Field Experiences (PLoSone) — Our survey revealed that conducting research in the field exposes scientists to a number of negative experiences as targets and as bystanders. The experiences described by our respondents ranged from inadvertent alienating behavior, to unwanted verbal and physical sexual advances, to, most troublingly, sexual assault including rape. is immediately followed by These proportions of respondents experiencing harassment are generally consistent with other studies of workplace harassment in other professional settings. This will change when men’s behaviour and expectations change. Male readers, do your part: don’t harass and don’t tolerate it. This message brought to you from future generations who will wonder how the hell we turned a blind eye to it.
sentry (github) — a realtime, platform-agnostic error logging and aggregation platform. It specializes in monitoring errors and extracting all the information needed to do a proper post-mortem without any of the hassle of the standard user feedback loop.
The Flipside of the Right To Be Forgotten (Business Insider) — deletion requests were granted for a former politician who wanted to remove links to a news article about his behavior when previously in office – so that he can have a clean slate when running for a new position – and a man who was convicted of possessing child sexual abuse imagery.
Chromecast Ultrasonic Comms — In the new system, Chromecast owners first allow support for nearby devices. A nearby device then requests access to the Chromecast, and the Chromecast plays an ultrasonic sound through the connected TV’s speakers. The sound is then picked up by the microphone in the device, which allows it to pair with the TV. (via Greg Linden)
NYC’s Dollar Vans (New Yorker) — New York’s unofficial shuttles, called “dollar vans” in some neighborhoods, make up a thriving transportation system that operates where the subway and buses don’t. A somewhat invisible economy. (via Seb Chan)
Eigenmorality — caution: linear algebra and morality, two subjects that many programmers struggle with. (via Pete Warden)