Netflix and the Conservation of Attractive Profits (Stratechery) — Note the common element to all three of these companies: all have managed to modularize the production/delivery of their service which has allowed them to move closer to the customer. To put it another way, all of this new value is being created by specialized CRM companies: Airbnb for travelers, Uber for commuters, and Netflix for the bored.
Go as Open Source — keynote from this year’s Gophercon. I’ve been pondering lately how successful open source projects go beyond “anyone can scratch their itch,” and instead actively manage the tendency for scope creep. We’d rather have a small number of features that enable, say, 90% of the target use cases, and avoid the orders of magnitude more features necessary to reach 99% or 100%.
The Universal Data Structure — Given the abysmal state of of today’s software engineering, I believe that a full embrace of the universal hash will result in better, simpler programs. Your weekly dose of snark.
Defining Mobile (Luke Wroblewski) — numbers on size, orientation, and # of thumbs across mobile users. 94% of the time, it’s in portrait mode.
PwC Manufacturing Barometer: Robotics — Planned acquisition of robotics systems over the next two to three years was cited by a maximum of 58% -– with nearly one-third (31%) planning to acquire a moderate amount (25%) or many more robotics systems (only 6%). A larger number plan to acquire a limited number of robotics systems (27%). (via Robohub)
The Asshole Factory (Umair Haque) — The Great Enterprise of this age is the Asshole Industry. And that’s not just a tragedy. It is something approaching the moral equivalent of a crime. For it demolishes human potential in precisely the same way as locking up someone innocent, and throwing away the key.
‘Living Figures’ Make Their Debut (Nature) — In July last year, neurobiologist Björn Brembs published a paper about how fruit flies walk. Nine months on, his paper looks different: another group has fed its data into the article, altering one of the figures. The update — to figure 4 — marks the debut of what the paper’s London-based publisher, Faculty of 1000 (F1000), is calling a living figure, a concept that it hopes will catch on in other articles. Brembs, at the University of Regensburg in Germany, says that three other groups have so far agreed to add their data, using software he wrote that automatically redraws the figure as new data come in.
Strategies Against Architecture (Seb Chan and Aaron Straup Cope) — the story of the design of the Cooper Hewitt’s clever “pen,” which visitors to the design museum use to collect the info from their favourite exhibits. (Visit the Cooper Hewitt when you’re next in NYC; it’s magnificent.)
Two Way Street — an independent explorer for The British Museum collection, letting you browse by year acquired, year created, type of object, etc. I note there are more things from a place called “Brak” than there are from USA. Facets are awesome. (via Courtney Johnston)
The Saddest Moment (PDF) — “How can you make a reliable computer service?” the presenter will ask in an innocent voice before continuing, “It may be difficult if you can’t trust anything and the entire concept of happiness is a lie designed by unseen overlords of endless deceptive power.” The presenter never explicitly says that last part, but everybody understands what’s happening. Making distributed systems reliable is inherently impossible; we cling to Byzantine fault tolerance like Charlton Heston clings to his guns, hoping that a series of complex software protocols will somehow protect us from the oncoming storm of furious apes who have somehow learned how to wear pants and maliciously tamper with our network packets. Hilarious. (via Tracy Chou)
Pharmacovigilance — Signals from The Crowd (PDF) — in the NY Times’ words: Using automated software tools to examine queries by 6 million Internet users taken from Web search logs in 2010, the researchers looked for searches relating to an antidepressant, paroxetine, and a cholestorol lowering drug, pravastatin. They were able to find evidence that the combination of the two drugs caused high blood sugar. (via New York Times)
A New Basis for Copyright — NZ’s most technically-literate judge floats an idea for how copyright might be reimagined in a more useful way for the modern age by considering it in terms of human rights. Perhaps there should be consideration of a new copyright model that recognises content user rights against a backdrop of the right to receive and impart information and a truly balanced approach to information and expression that recognises that ideas expressed are building blocks for new ideas. Underpinning this must be a recognition on the part of content owners that the properties of new technologies dictate our responses, our behaviours, our values and our ways of thinking. These should not be seen as a threat but an opportunity. It cannot be a one-way street with traffic heading only in the direction dictated by content owners.
Everything We Know About Obama’s Big Data Operation (Pro Publica) — “White suburban women? They’re not all the same. The Latino community is very diverse with very different interests,” Dan Wagner, the campaign’s chief analytics officer, told The Los Angeles Times. “What the data permits you to do is figure out that diversity.”
cube (GitHub) — time-series data collection and analysis. Cube lets you compute aggregate statistics post hoc. It also enables richer analysis, such as quantiles and histograms of arbitrary event sets. Cube is built on MongoDB and available under the Apache License on GitHub.
1M Robots to Replace 1M Human Jobs at Foxconn (Singularity Hub) — Foxconn plant opening, making manufacturing robots, and they appear to be dogfooding by using them in other plants. $25k each, 10k+ made, and fits into the pattern: the number of operational robots in China increased by 42 percent from 2010 to 2011.
Mobile Overtaking Web — provocatively packaged extrapolations of ComScore and similar numbers to conclude that Americans spend more time interacting with mobile apps than with web sites. I’m sure you could beat an iPhone developer to death with the error bars.
Ghostery — a browser plugin to block trackers, web bugs, dodgy scripts, ads, and anything else you care to remove from your browsing experience. It looks like a very well done adblocker, but it’s done (a) closed-source and (b) for-profit. Blocking trackers is something every browser *should* do, but because browser makers make (or hope to make) money from ads, they don’t. In theory, Mozilla should do it. Even if they were to take up the mantle, though, they’re unlikely to make anything for IE or Chrome. So it’s in the hands of companies with inarticulate business models. (via Andy Baio)
Perspectives — Firefox plugin that lets you know when you’ve encountered an SSL certificate that’s different from the ones that other Perspectives users see (e.g., you’re being man-in-the-middled by Iran). (via Francois Marier)
Always Connected — “I’ve got a full day of staring at glowing rectangles ahead of me! Better get started …”. I have made mornings and evenings backlight-free zones in an effort to carve out some of the day free of glowing rectangles. (I do still read myself to sleep on the Kindle, though, but it’s not backlit)
Is Teaching MapReduce Healthy for Students? — Google’s narrow MapReduce API conflates logical semantics (define a function over all items in a collection) with an expensive physical implementation (utilize a parallel barrier). As it happens, many common cluster-wide operations over a collection of items do not require a barrier even though they may require all-to-all communication. But there’s no way to tell the API whether a particular Reduce method has that property, so the runtime always does the most expensive thing imaginable in distributed coordination: global synchronization. Detailed and interesting criticism of whether Hadoop is the BASIC of parallel tools. (via Pete Warden)
Implicit and Explicit Feedback — for preferences and recommendations, implicit signals (what people clicked on and actually listened to) turn out to be strongly correlated with what they would say if you asked. (via Greg Linden)
Twitter Storm (GitHub) — distributed realtime computation system, intended for realtime what Hadoop is to batch processing. Interesting because you improve most reporting and control systems when you move them closer to real-time. Eclipse-licensed open source.