The Future of a Map is Its Information (The Atlantic) — maps are how we display data when we, the brain, wish to answer a question. Technology is rapidly expanding the questions we don’t need to look at a map to answer: directions, weather forecasts, dining …. (via Flowing Data)
Governments Don’t Have Websites, Governments Are Websites (MySociety) — the best part about MySociety’s recent funding is that Tom Steinberg is blogging more. The majority of citizens don’t have deep, all encompassing, everyday interactions with the state – at most they drop their kids at school every day, or visit the GP a few times a year. That’s as physically close as they get. To these people, interacting with government already feels somewhat like interacting with Amazon. It sends them benefits, passports, recycling bins, car tax disks from mysterious dispatch offices and it demands money and information in return. The difference is in emotional tone – the Amazon online interactions tend to be seamless, the government online interactions either painful or impossible – time to pick up the phone.
Captured America (The Atlantic) — Larry Lessig observes the tilted playing field responsible for America’s inability to govern itself: A tiny number of Americans — .26 percent — give more than $200 to a congressional campaign. .05 percent give the maximum amount to any congressional candidate. .01 percent give more than $10,000 in any election cycle. And .000063 percent — 196 Americans — have given more than 80 percent of the super-PAC money spent in the presidential elections so far.
Neocover — very clever idea: magnetic light-switch frames, from which you can suspend keys and other very-losable pocket-fillers.
Design of Checkout Forms (Luke Wroblewski) — extremely detailed, data-filled, useful guide to state of the art (and effect of) e-commerce checkout forms. In tests comparing forms with real-time feedback to those without, usability testing firm, Etre and I measured a: 22% increase in success rates; 22% decrease in errors made; 31% increase in satisfaction rating; 42% decrease in completion times.
Less is Exponentially More (Rob Pike) — wonderfully readable introduction to the philosophy of the Go programming language. What matters isn’t the ancestor relations between things but what they can do for you. That, of course, is where interfaces come into Go. But they’re part of a bigger picture, the true Go philosophy. If C++ and Java are about type hierarchies and the taxonomy of types, Go is about composition.
3D Manufacturing Business Plan — numbers for an existing business built around 3D printing. Fascinating to see the economics. The author makes the point: Based on these volumes, this product would be impossible to produce profitably by any other means.
Tale of Two Pwnies (Chromium Blog) — So, how does one get full remote code execution in Chrome? In the case of Pinkie Pie’s exploit, it took a chain of six different bugs in order to successfully break out of the Chrome sandbox. Lest you think all attacks come from mouth-breathing script kiddies, this is how the pros do it. (via Bryan O’Sullivan)
The Future is Specific (Chris Granger) — In traditional web-MVC, the code necessary to serve a single route is spread across many files in many different folders. In a normal editor this means you need to do a lot of context switching to get a sense for everything going on. Instead, this mode replaces the file picker with a route picker, as routes seem like the best logical unit for a website. There’s a revolution coming in web dev tools: we’ve had the programmer adapting to the frameworks with little but textual assistance from the IDE. I am loving this flood of creativity because it has the promise to reduce bugs and increase the speed by which we generate good code.
Makie — design a doll online, they’ll 3d-print and ship it to you. Hello, future of manufacturing, fancy seeing you in a dollhouse!
Graduates and Post-Graduates on Food Stamps (Chronicle of Higher Education) — two points for me here: the inherent evil of not paying a living wage; and the pain of market signals that particular occupations and specialisations are not as useful as once they were. I imagine it’s hard to repurpose the specific knowledge in a Masters of Medieval History to some other field, though hopefully the skills of diligent hard work, rapid acquisition of knowledge, and critical thought will apply to new jobs. Expect more of this as we replace human labour with automation. I look forward to the software startup which creates work for people outside the organisation; the ultimate “create more value than you capture”.
Book Marketing Lessons Learned (Sarah Milstein) — I really liked this honest appraisal of how Baratunde Thurston marketed his “How to be Black” book, and am doubly chuffed that it appeared on the O’Reilly Radar blog. I was fascinated by his Street Team, but knew I wanted to bring it to your attention when I read this. Start with your inner circle. I had an epiphany with Gary Vaynerchuk. I asked: “Did I ever ask you to buy my book?” He said, “Yeah, I bought it yesterday.” I talked about his book, but cash on the table — it didn’t happen. He wished he had identified everyone he knows, sending a personal note explaining: “A) buy the book; B) this means a lot to me. You owe me or I will owe you. Here’s some things you can do to help: If you have speaking opportunities, let me know. For instance, I would love to speak at schools.” Make it easy for people who want to help you. Everything else is bonus. If you haven’t already converted the inner circle, you’ve skipped a critical step. “Let the people who already love you show it” is the skill I feel like I’ve spent years working on, and still have years to go.
Sugata Mitra: Beyond The Hole in the Wall (YouTube) — great talk by the education researcher Sugata Mitra whose big kick is self-directed learning. Great stories about the deployments and effects he’s had with technology and supervision rather than teaching, but the end is a real kicker: the core skills we have are literacy, search, and belief. Of the three, the most problematic is belief: when and how do/should we turn something we’ve read into something ingrained, accepted, and built-upon? (via Tara Taylor-Jorgenson)
Interview with Bunnie Huang (Makezine) — fascinating interview with the hardware guy behind the Chumby. It’s all gold, from rapid iteration at early stages of hardware through to the need to simplify. I think one of the most gut-wrenching realizations that small companies have to make is that they aren’t Apple. Apple spends over a billion dollars a year on tooling. An injection molding tool may cost around $40k and 2-3 months to make; Apple is known to build five or six simultaneously and then scrap all but one so they can evaluate multiple design approaches. But for them, tossing $200k in tooling to save 2 months time to market is peanuts. But for a startup that raised a million bucks, it’s unthinkable. Apple also has hundreds of staff; a startup has just a few members to do everything. The precision and refinement of Apple’s products come at an enormous cost that is just out of the reach of startups.
ssh as Chrome Extension — can’t help but feel that building a secure login system on top of web browsers on top of operating systems isn’t going to be more secure than building a secure login system on top of the operating system.
The Third Industrial Revolution (The Economist) — A number of remarkable technologies are converging: clever software, novel materials, more dexterous robots, new processes (notably three-dimensional printing) and a whole range of web-based services. The factory of the past was based on cranking out zillions of identical products: Ford famously said that car-buyers could have any colour they liked, as long as it was black. But the cost of producing much smaller batches of a wider variety, with each product tailored precisely to each customer’s whims, is falling. The factory of the future will focus on mass customisation–and may look more like those weavers’ cottages than Ford’s assembly line.
Hiring Executives (Ben Horowitz) — I am going to meditate for a while on Consensus decisions about executives almost always sway the process away from strength and towards lack of weakness.
Valve’s Handbook for New Employees (PDF) — Since Valve is flat, people don’t join projects because they’re told to. Instead, you’ll decide what to work on after asking yourself the right questions (more on that later). Employees vote on projects with their feet (or desk wheels). Strong projects are ones in which people can see demonstrated value; they staff up easily. This means there are any number of internal recruiting efforts constantly under way. Reminds me of Google, and I wonder how Valve manages politics in an organic hierarchy organization. (via Andy Baio)
Facebook Numbers — On average, Facebook earned $1.21 on each of its users this last quarter. I’d love to be able to pay them $10/yr and have them work for me instead of for [insert best-fit advertiser here].
Peter Thiel’s Class 4 Notes — in perfect competition, marginal revenues equal marginal costs. So high margins for big companies suggest that two or more businesses might be combined: a core monopoly business (search, for Google), and then a bunch of other various efforts (robotic cars, TV, etc.). Cash builds up because it turns out that it doesn’t cost all that much to run the monopoly piece, and it doesn’t make sense to pump it into all the side projects. In a competitive world, you would have to be funding a lot more side projects to stay even. In a monopoly world, you should pour less into side projects, unless politics demand that the cash be spread around. Amazon currently needs to reinvest just 3% of its profits. It has to keep running to stay ahead, but it’s more easy jog than intense sprint. I liked the whole lecture, but this bit really stood out for me.
Kickstarter Disrupting Consumer Electronics (Amanda Peyton) — good point that most people wouldn’t have thought that consumer electronics would lend itself to the same funding system as CDs of a one-act play about artisanal beadwork comic characters. Consumer electronics as a market has been ripe for disruption all along. That said, it’s ridiculously not obvious that disruption would come from the same place that allows an artist with a sharpie, a hotel room and a webcam a way to make the art she wants.
OmniOS — OmniTI’s JEOS. Their team are engineers par excellence, so this promises to be good.
Understanding Amazon’s Ebook Strategy (Charlie Stross) — By foolishly insisting on DRM, and then selling to Amazon on a wholesale basis, the publishers handed Amazon a monopoly on their customers—and thereby empowered a predatory monopsony. So very accurate.
3Difficult — I’m an industrial designer at heart, and I’m saddened by what’s happened to my craft. We were once the kings of things, but for a variety of reasons I think we’re in danger of being left behind. [...] Making became the talk of the town, and to some extent it still is. We’re in the first stumbling days of the Internet of Things, and are increasingly seeing the paper thin definition between digital and tangible falling away.
Air Quotes Product (Matt Webb) — Recently I noted down some places in which traditional products have changed and he goes on to list some critical ways in which networked objects challenge our thinking. I love the little brain/big brain distinction–great to have words for these things at last!
Smarter Cameras Plumb Composition — A new type of smarter camera can take a picture but also assess the chemical composition of the objects being imaged. This enables automated inspection systems to discern details that would be missed by conventional cameras. Interesting how cameras are getting smarter: Kinect as other significant case in point. (via Slashdot)
Not So Open — 3D printing lab at the University of Washington had to stop helping outsiders because of a crazy new IP policy from the university administration. These folks were doing amazing work, developing and sharing recipes for new materials to print with (iced tea, rice flour, and more) (via BoingBoing)
It’s Too Late to Save The Common Web (Robert Scoble) — paraphrased: “Four years ago, I told you all that Google and Facebook were evil. You did nothing, which is why I must now use Google and Facebook.” His list of reasons that Facebook beats the Open Web gives new shallows to the phrase “vanity metrics”. Yes, the open web does not go out of its way to give you an inflated sense of popularity and importance. On the other hand, the things you do put there are in your control and will stay as long as you want them to. But that’s obviously not a killer feature compared to a bottle of Astroglide and an autorefreshing page showing your Klout score and the number of Google+ circles you’re in.
iBooks Author EULA Clarified (MacObserver) — important to note that it doesn’t say you can’t use the content you’ve written, only that you can’t sell .ibook files through anyone but Apple. Less obnoxious than the “we own all your stuff, dude” interpretation, but still a bit crap. I wonder how anticompetitive this will be seen as. Apple’s vertical integration is ripe for Justice Department investigation.