"management" entries

Four short links: 18 April 2016

Four short links: 18 April 2016

Classic Programmer Paintings, Equality at Work, Bitcoin as Politics, and Raising Robotic Natives

  1. Classic Programmer Paintings — hilarity has ensued. The captions are brilliant.
  2. Equality Takes WorkWomen do not prefer saying less: They anticipate the treatment they will receive when they say more.
  3. Bitcoin as Politics: Distributed Right-Wing ExtremismThe lack of any thorough, non-conspiratorial analysis of existing financial systems means that bitcoin fails to embody any true alternative to them. The reasons for this have little to do with technology and everything to do with the existing systems in which bitcoin and all other cryptocurrencies are embedded, systems that instantiate the forms of social power that cannot be eliminated through either wishful thinking or technical or even political evasion: the rich and powerful will not become poor and powerless simply because other people decide to operate alternate economies of exchange. […] Because it operates without such an account, bitcoin’s real utility and purpose (and that of the cryptocurrency movement in general) can be better understood as a “program” for recruiting uninformed citizens into a neoliberal anti-government politics, understanding the nature and effects of which requires just the attention to political theory and history that bitcoin enthusiasts rail against. So … not a fan, then?
  4. Raising Robotic Natives — design/art artefacts for generations growing up with robots.

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Four short links: 1 March 2016

Four short links: 1 March 2016

Phone Kit, Circular Phone, TensorFlow Intro, and Change Motivation

  1. Seeed RePhoneopen source and modular phone kit.
  2. Cyrcle — prototype round phone, designed by women for women. It’s clearly had a bit more thought put into it than the usual “pink it and shrink it” approach … circular to fit in smaller and shaped pockets, and software features strict notification controls: the device would only alert you to messages or updates from an inner circle.
  3. TensorFlow for Poets (Pete Warden) — I want to show how anyone with a Mac laptop and the ability to use the Terminal can create their own image classifier using TensorFlow, without having to do any coding.
  4. Finding the Natural Motivation for Change (Pia Waugh) — you can force certain behaviour changes through punishment or reward, but if people aren’t naturally motivated to make the behaviour change themselves then the change will be both unsustainable and minimally implemented. Amen!
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Four short links: 4 January 2016

Four short links: 4 January 2016

How to Hire, Real World Distributed Systems, 3D-Printed Ceramics, and Approximate Spreadsheets

  1. How to Hire (Henry Ward) — this isn’t holy writ for everyone, but the clear way in which he lays out how he thinks about hiring should be a model to all managers, even those who disagree with his specific recommendations.
  2. From the Ground Up: Reasoning About Distributed Systems in the Real World (Tyler Treat) — When we try to provide semantics like guaranteed, exactly-once, and ordered message delivery, we usually end up with something that’s over-engineered, difficult to deploy and operate, fragile, and slow. What is the upside to all of this? Something that makes your life easier as a developer when things go perfectly well, but the reality is things don’t go perfectly well most of the time. Instead, you end up getting paged at 1 a.m. trying to figure out why RabbitMQ told your monitoring everything is awesome while proceeding to take a dump in your front yard. An approachable argument for shifting some consistency checks to application layer so the infrastructure can be simpler.
  3. 3D Printed Ceramics to 1700°C (Ars Technica) — The key step used in the new work is to replace the standard polymers used to create ceramics with a chemical that polymerizes when exposed to UV light. (These can have a variety of chemistries; the authors list thiol, vinyl, acrylate, methacrylate, and epoxy groups.) This means they’re able to be polymerized using a fairly standard 3D printer setup. In fact, the paper lists the model number of the version the authors bought from a different company.
  4. Guesstimatespreadsheet for things that aren’t certain.
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Four short links: 23 December 2015

Four short links: 23 December 2015

Software Leaders, Hadoop Ecosystem, GPS Spoofing, and Explaining Models

  1. Things Software Leaders Should Know (Ben Gracewood) — If you have people things and tech things on your to-do list, put the people things first on the list.
  2. The Hadoop Ecosystem — table of the different projects across the Hadoop ecosystem.
  3. Narcos GPS-Spoofing Border Drones — not only are the border drones expensive and ineffective, now they’re being tricked. Basic trade-off: more reliability or longer flight times?
  4. A Model Explanation System (PDF) — you can explain any machine-learned decision, though not necessarily the way the model came to the decision. Confused? This summary might help. Explainability is not a property of the model.
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Four short links: 7 December 2015

Four short links: 7 December 2015

Telepresent Axeman, Toxic Workers, Analysis Code, and Cryptocurrency Attacks

  1. Axe-Wielding Robot w/Telepresence (YouTube) — graphic robot-on-wall action at 2m30s. (via IEEE)
  2. Toxic Workers (PDF) — In comparing the two costs, even if a firm could replace an average worker with one who performs in the top 1%, it would still be better off by replacing a toxic worker with an average worker by more than two-to-one. Harvard Business School research. (via Fortune)
  3. Replacing Sawzall (Google) — At Google, most Sawzall analysis has been replaced by Go […] we’ve developed a set of Go libraries that we call Lingo (for Logs in Go). Lingo includes a table aggregation library that brings the powerful features of Sawzall aggregation tables to Go, using reflection to support user-defined types for table keys and values. It also provides default behavior for setting up and running a MapReduce that reads data from the logs proxy. The result is that Lingo analysis code is often as concise and simple as (and sometimes simpler than) the Sawzall equivalent.
  4. Attacks in the World of Cryptocurrency — a review of some of the discussed weakness, attacks, or oddities in cryptocurrency (esp. bitcoin).
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Four short links: 1 December 2015

Four short links: 1 December 2015

Radical Candour, Historical Social Network, Compliance Opportunities, and Mobile Numbers

  1. Radical Candour: The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss — this, every word, this. “Caring personally makes it much easier to do the next thing you have to do as a good boss, which is being willing to piss people off.”
  2. Six Degrees of Francis Baconrecreates the British early modern social network to trace the personal relationships among figures like Bacon, Shakespeare, Isaac Newton, and many others. (via CMU)
  3. Last Bus Startup Standing (TechCrunch) — Vahabzadeh stressed that a key point of Chariot’s survival has been that the company has been above-board with the law from day one. “They haven’t cowboy-ed it,” said San Francisco supervisor Scott Wiener, a mass transit advocate who recently pushed for a master subway plan for the city. “They’ve been good about taking feedback and making sure they’re complying with the law. I’m a fan and think that private transportation options and rideshares have a significant role to play in making us a transit-first city.”
  4. Mobile App Developers are Sufferingthe top 20 app publishers, representing less than 0.005% of all apps, earn 60% of all app store revenue. The article posits causes of the particularly extreme power law.
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Four short links: 26 November 2015

Four short links: 26 November 2015

Mozilla Search, Web Dependencies, Systems and Power, and Alphabet Structure

  1. Firefox Leaves Google’s Money Behind (CNET) — regional deals with other search engine companies, notably Yahoo in the United States, Baidu in China and Yandex in Russia.
  2. Managing Performance of Third-Party Scripts — in the words of Tammy Everts, A typical web page contains 75+ 3rd-party calls, which means 75+ potential webperf SPOFs.
  3. How Change Happens — draft of a book with a “systems and power” approach. Consultation period ends December 10, so get in fast if you’re interested. (via Duncan Green)
  4. More on Alphabet (NY Times blog) — G charging its Alphabet siblings for services like HR, mapping tech, compute, etc. Paging Ronald Coase! Ronald Coase to Finance!
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Four short links: 8 October 2015

Four short links: 8 October 2015

Mystery Machine, Emotional Effect, Meeting Hacks, and Energy Consumption

  1. The Mystery Machine (A Paper a Day) — rundown of Facebook’s Mystery Machine, which can measure end-to-end performance from the initiation of a page load in a Web browser, all the way through the server-side infrastructure, and back out to the point where the page has finished rendering. Doing this requires a causal model of the relationships between components (happens-before). How do you get that? And especially, how do you get that if you can’t assume a uniform environment for instrumentation?
  2. Network Effect — hypnotic and emotional. (via Flowing Data)
  3. Cultivating Great Distributed Teams (Liza Daly) — updates and refinements on her awesome meeting hack/system.
  4. Smartphone Energy Consumption (Pete Warden) — I love new ways of looking at familiar things. Looking at code and features through the lens of power consumption is another such lens. (I remember Craig from Craigslist talking at OSCON about using power as the denominator in your data center, changing how I saw the Web). The article is full of surprising numbers and fascinating factoids. Active cell radio might use 800 mW. Bluetooth might use 100 mW. Accelerometer is 21 mW. Gyroscope is 130 mW. Microphone is 101 mW. GPS is 176 mW. Using the camera in ‘viewfinder’ mode, focusing and looking at a picture preview, might use 1,000 mW. Actually recording video might take another 200 to 1,000 mW on top of that.
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Improving Uber’s surge pricing

Should algorithmic pricing be the norm rather than the exception?

The Newport Wedge by Tom Walker on Flickr. Used under a public domain license.

Request an invitation to Next:Economy, our event aiming to shed light on the transformation in the nature of work now being driven by algorithms, big data, robotics, and the on-demand economy.

Companies want a bigger share of the pie than their competitors, capital wants a bigger share than labor (and labor wants right back), countries want a bigger share than their rivals, but true wealth comes when we make a bigger pie for everyone. Well run markets are a proven way to do that.

Surge pricing is one of Uber’s most interesting labor innovations. Faced with the problem that they don’t have enough drivers in particular neighborhoods or at particular hours, they use market mechanisms to bring more drivers to those areas. If they need more drivers, they raise the price to consumers until enough drivers are incented by the possibility of higher earnings to fill the demand. Pricing is not set arbitrarily. It is driven algorithmically by pickup time — the goal is to have enough cars on the road that a passenger will get a car within 3–5 minutes. (Lyft’s Prime Time pricing is a similar system.) Uber keeps raising the price until the pickup time falls into the desired range.

This is clearly an imperfect system. In one case, surge pricing gouged customers during a crisis, and even in more prosaic situations like bad weather, the end of a sporting event, or a holiday evening, customers can see enormous price hikes. This uncertainty undercuts the fundamental promise of the app, of cheap, on-demand transportation. If you don’t know how much the ride will cost, can you rely on it?

Read more…

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How to experience OSCON Amsterdam 2015

Find your way through OSCON with these four learning paths.

Paths by Francesca Gallo on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons License.

The open source movement has been with us for almost two decades, and it’s clear that open source is now a de facto choice for software engineers across the globe. The content that you’ll find at OSCON is a reflection of that fact.

The open source world and OSCON itself are vast. With 48 sessions over two days and a bonus day with 11 workshops to choose from, you’ll no doubt have some tough choices to make when you attend the event. Keeping that in mind, I put together four learning paths that encompass the hot topics and important transitions we’re covering at OSCON.

I’m looking forward to seeing you at OSCON in Amsterdam in October! Read more…

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