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)
The Robots are Here (Tyler Cowan) — a bleak view of the future in which jobs that can be done by robots are done by robots, and concomitant power spiral towards the rich. I let this one sit for a while before posting, and I still think it’s wildly important.
iBeacons — Bluetooth LE enabling tighter coupling of physical world with digital. I’m enamoured with the interaction possibilities: The latest Apple TV software brought a fantastically clever workaround. You just tap your iPhone to the Apple TV itself, and it passes your Wi-Fi and iTunes credentials over and sets everything up instantaneously.
Better and Better Keyboards (Jesse Vincent) — It suffered from the same problem as every other 3D-printed keyboard I’d made to date – When I showed it to someone, they got really excited about the fact that I had a 3D printer. In contrast, whenever I showed someone one of the layered acrylic prototype keyboards I’d built, they got excited about the keyboard.
Bamboo.io — open source modular web service for dataset storage and retrieval.
Large Scale Rapid Prototyping Robots — an informal list of large rapid prototyping systems […] including: big 3-axis systems that print plastic, sand, or cement; large robot arms with extruders and milling bits; and large industrial arms for bending metal and assembling modular structures.
Dynamic Shape Display (MIT) — a Dynamic Shape Display that can render 3D content physically, so users can interact with digital information in a tangible way. inFORM can also interact with the physical world around it, for example moving objects on the table’s surface. (via Fast Company)