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.
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.
Putting the Nuclear Option Front and Centre (Tom Armitage) — offering what feels like the nuclear option front and centre, reminding the user that it isn’t a nuclear option. I love this. “Undo” changes your experience profoundly.
3D-Printing Carbon Fibre (Makezine) — the machine doesn’t produce angular, stealth fighter-esque pieces with the telltale CF pattern seen on racing bikes and souped up Mustangs. Instead, it creates an FDM 3D print out of nylon filament (rather than ABS or PLA), and during the process it layers in a thin strip of carbon fiber, melted into place from carbon fiber fabric using a second extruder head. (It can also add in kevlar or fiberglass.)
Complexity Salon: Ebola (willowbl00) — These notes were taken at the 2014.Dec.18 New England Complex Systems Institute Salon focused on Ebola. […] Why don’t we engage in risks in a more serious way? Everyone thinks their prior experience indicates what will happen in the future. Look at past Ebola! It died down before going far, surely it won’t be bad in the future.
Machine Learning Methods for Computer Security (PDF) — papers on topics such as adversarial machine learning, attacking pattern recognition systems, data privacy and machine learning, machine learning in forensics, and deceiving authorship detection.
voxel8 — Using Voxel8’s 3D printer, you can co-print matrix materials such as thermoplastics and highly conductive silver inks enabling customized electronic devices like quadcopters, electromagnets and fully functional 3D electromechanical assemblies.
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.
Better All The Time (New Yorker) — What we’re seeing is, in part, the mainstreaming of excellent habits. […] Everyone works hard. Everyone is really good.
Stop Trying to Save the World (New Republic) — What I want to talk shit on is the paradigm of the Big Idea—that once we identify the correct one, we can simply unfurl it on the entire developing world like a picnic blanket. (note: some pottymouth language in this article, and some analysis I wholeheartedly agree with.)
Christmas in Yiwu — We travelled by container ship across the East China Sea before following the electronics supply chain around China, visiting factories, distributors, wholesalers and refineries. Fascinating! 22km of corridors in the mall that dollar store buyers visit to fill their shelves. I had never seen so many variations of the same product. Dozens of Christmas stockings bearing slightly different Santas and snowmen. Small tweaks on each theme. An in-house designer creates these designs. It feels like a brute force approach to design, creating every single possibility and then letting the market decide which it wants to buy. If none of the existing designs appeal to a buyer they can get their own designs manufactured instead. When a custom design is successful, with the customer placing a large order, it is copied by the factory and offered in their range to future buyers. The factory sales agent indicated that designs weren’t protected and could be copied freely, as long as trademarks were removed. Parallels with web design left as exercise to the reader. (via the ever-discerning Mr Webb)
How Community Feedback Shapes Behaviour (PDF) — Not only do authors of negatively-evaluated content contribute more, but also their future posts are of lower quality, and are perceived by the community as such. Moreover, these authors are more likely to subsequently evaluate their fellow users negatively, percolating these effects through the community. In contrast, positive feedback does not carry similar effects, and neither encourages rewarded authors to write more, nor improves the quality of their posts. Interestingly, the authors that receive no feedback are most likely to leave a community. Furthermore, a structural analysis of the voter network reveals that evaluations polarize the community the most when positive and negative votes are equally split.
Teaching Me Softly — article of anecdotes drawing parallels between case studies in machine learning and things we know about human learning.
SuperAwesome Me (3D Print) — Walmart to install 3d scanning booths and 3d printers so you can put your own head on a Hasbro action figure. Hasbro have the religion: they also paired with Shapeways for superfanart.com. (via John Battelle)
Distributed Systems Theory for the Distributed Systems Engineer — I tried to come up with a list of what I consider the basic concepts that are applicable to my every-day job as a distributed systems engineer; what I consider ‘table stakes’ for distributed systems engineers competent enough to design a new system.
Shenzhen Trip Report (Joi Ito) — full of fascinating observations about how the balance of manufacturing strength has shifted in surprising ways. The retail price of the cheapest full featured phone is about $9. Yes. $9. This could not be designed in the US – this could only be designed by engineers with tooling grease under their fingernails who knew the manufacturing equipment inside and out, as well as the state of the art of high-end mobile phones.
Sproutling — The world’s first sensing, learning, predicting baby monitor. A wearable band for your baby, a smart charger and a mobile app work together to not only monitor more effectively but learn and predict your baby’s sleep habits and optimal sleep conditions. (via Wired)
Notes on the Celebrity Data Theft — wonderfully detailed analysis of how photos were lifted, and the underground industry built around them. This was one of the most unsettling aspects of these networks to me – knowing there are people out there who are turning over data on friends in their social networks in exchange for getting a dump of their private data.
Failing at Microservices — deconstructed a failed stab at microservices. Category three engineers also presented a significant problem to our implementation. In many cases, these engineers implemented services incorrectly; in one example, an engineer had literally wrapped and hosted one microservice within another because he didn’t understand how the services were supposed to communicate if they were in separate processes (or on separate machines). These engineers also had a tough time understanding how services should be tested, deployed, and monitored because they were so used to the traditional “throw the service over the fence”to an admin approach to deployment. This basically lead to huge amounts of churn and loss of productivity.
Transparency with Salaries (NPR) — Atkison has meetings like this all the time. He says it gives him a chance to explain why some employees make more than others — and to explain to employees how they can make more. For a lot of employees, knowing what everyone makes is less exciting than it seems. By moving from negotiation to clear expectations of salary levels, bumps, etc., I can also see it helping the company understand what it values.
Printing Buildings from Recycled Materials (ComputerWorld) — The printers, supplied by WinSun Decoration Design Engineering, are 20 feet tall, 33 feet wide and 132 feet long. Like their desktop counterparts, the construction-grade WinSun 3D printers use a fused deposition modeling (FDM) technology to deposit materials one layer at a time in a process that’s similar to squeezing frosting from a pastry bag. 10 single-room buildings in a day. (via Slashdot)
3D Printers Have a Lot to Learn from Sewing Machines — Sewing does not create more waste but, potentially, less, and the process of sewing is filled with opportunities for increasing one’s skills and doing it over as well as doing it yourself. What are quilts, after all, but a clever way to use every last scrap of precious fabric? (via Jenn Webb)