- The Food Computer (MIT) — open source controlled-environment agriculture technology platform that uses robotic systems to control and monitor climate, energy, and plant growth inside of a specialized growing chamber. Climate variables such as carbon dioxide, air temperature, humidity, dissolved oxygen, potential hydrogen, electrical conductivity, and root-zone temperature are among the many conditions that can be controlled and monitored within the growing chamber. Operational energy, water, and mineral consumption are monitored (and adjusted) through electrical meters, flow sensors, and controllable chemical dosers throughout the growth period. (via IEEE Spectrum)
- 10 Golden Rules for Becoming a Better Programmer — what are your 10 rules for being better in your field? If you haven’t built a list, then you aren’t thinking hard enough about what you do.
- Statsbot — Google Analytics bot for Slack from NewRelic.
Four short links: 27 January 2016
Generative Text, Open Source Agriculture, Becoming Better, and GA Slackbot
The software of regret
Computing should enable us to have richer lives; it shouldn’t become life.
At a recent meeting, Tim O’Reilly, referring to the work of Tristan Harris and Joe Edelman, talked about “software of regret.” It’s a wonderfully poetic phrase that deserves exploring.
For software developers, the software of regret has some very clear meanings. There’s always software that’s written poorly and incurs too much technical debt that is never paid back. There’s the software you wrote before you knew what you were doing, but never had time to fix; the software that you wrote under an inflexible and unrealistic schedule; and those three lines of code that are an awful hack, but you couldn’t get to work any other way.
That’s not what Tim was talking about, though. The software of regret is software that you use for an hour or two, and then hate yourself for using it. Facebook? Candy Crush? Tumblr? Words with Friends? YouTube? Pick your own; they’re fun for a while, but after a couple of hours, you wonder where the evening went and wish you had done something worthwhile. It’s software that only views us as targets for marketing: as views, eyeballs, and clicks. Can we change the metrics? As Edelman says, rather than designing to maximize clicks and page views, can we design to maximize fulfillment? Could Facebook measure friendships nurtured, rather than products liked?
Computing should enable us to have richer lives; it shouldn’t become life. That’s really what the software of regret is all about: taking over your life and preventing you from engaging with a world that is ultimately a lot richer than a flat, but high-resolution, screen. It’s certainly harder to avoid writing the software of regret than it is to avoid writing spaghetti code that will make your life miserable when the bug reports start rolling in. But probably more important. Do stuff that matters.
Big Data and Advertising: In the trenches
Volume, variety, velocity, and a rare peek inside sponsored search advertising at Google
The $35B merger of Omnicom and Publicis put the convergence of Big Data and Advertising1 in the front pages of business publications. Adtech2 companies have long been at the forefront of many data technologies, strategies, and techniques. By now it’s well-known that many impressive large scale, realtime analytics systems in production, support3 advertising. A lot of effort has gone towards accurately predicting and measuring click-through rates, so at least for online advertising, data scientists and data engineers have gone a long way towards addressing4 the famous “but we don’t know which half” line.
The industry has its share of problems: privacy & creepiness come to mind, and like other technology sectors adtech has its share of “interesting” patent filings (see for example here, here, here). With so many companies dependent on online advertising, some have lamented the industry’s hold5 on data scientists. But online advertising does offer data scientists and data engineers lots of interesting technical problems to work on, many of which involve the deployment (and creation) of open source tools for massive amounts of data.
Four short links: 13 June 2013
The Contract, Fixing Signin, Pi Gaming, and Glitchy Marketing Constructs
- The Unengageables (Dan Meyer) — They signed their “didactic contract” years and years ago. They signed it. Their math teachers signed it. The agreement says that the teacher comes into class, tells them what they’re going to learn, and shows them three examples of it. In return, the students take what their teacher showed them and reproduce it twenty times before leaving class. Then they go home with an assignment to reproduce it twenty more times. Then here you come, Ms. I-Just-Got-Back-From-A-Workshop, and you want to change the agreement? Yeah, you’ll hear from their attorney. Applies to management as much as to teaching.
- Fixing Signin — The general principle can be stated simply, in two parts: first, give users a trust-worthy way to identify themselves. Second, do so with as little information as possible, because users don’t want to (and simply can’t) remember things like passwords in a secure way. (via Tim Bray)
- Retro Gaming with Raspberry Pi (Adafruit) — finally, a clear incentive for kids to work through the frustration of setting up their own Linux box.
- Mieko Haire — Apple’s fictious demo lady. Or is she fictitious? This is a new aesthetic-esque glitch, but while most glitches are glitches because you see something that doesn’t exist, this is glitchy because the fictions are actual people. Ok, maybe I need to lay off the peyote.
The media-marketing merge
Can good content come from pay-to-play relationships?
I ran across a program Forbes is running called BrandVoice that gives marketers a place on Forbes’ digital platform. During a brief audio interview with TheMediaBriefing, Forbes European managing director Charles Yardley explained how BrandVoice works:
“It’s quite simply a tenancy fee. A licensing fee that the marketer pays every single month. It’s based on a minimum of a six-month commitment. There’s two different tiers, a $50,000-per-month level and a $75,000-per-month level.” [Discussed at the 4:12 mark.]
Take a look at some of the views BrandVoice companies are getting. You can see why marketers would be interested. Read more…
Three kinds of big data
Looking ahead at big data's role in enterprise business intelligence, civil engineering, and customer relationship optimization.
In the past couple of years, marketers and pundits have spent a lot of time labeling everything “big data.” The reasoning goes something like this:
- Everything is on the Internet.
- The Internet has a lot of data.
- Therefore, everything is big data.
When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When you have a Hadoop deployment, everything looks like big data. And if you’re trying to cloak your company in the mantle of a burgeoning industry, big data will do just fine. But seeing big data everywhere is a sure way to hasten the inevitable fall from the peak of high expectations to the trough of disillusionment.
We saw this with cloud computing. From early idealists saying everything would live in a magical, limitless, free data center to today’s pragmatism about virtualization and infrastructure, we soon took off our rose-colored glasses and put on welding goggles so we could actually build stuff.
So where will big data go to grow up?
Once we get over ourselves and start rolling up our sleeves, I think big data will fall into three major buckets: Enterprise BI, Civil Engineering, and Customer Relationship Optimization. This is where we’ll see most IT spending, most government oversight, and most early adoption in the next few years. Read more…
Four short links: 17 August 2012
Talking About Your Product, Moving On, Visible Turk, and Digital Nativity
- What Twitter’s API Anouncement Could Have Said (Anil Dash) — read this and learn. Anil shows how powerful it is to communicate from the perspective of the reader. People don’t care about your business model or platform changes except as it applies to them. Focus on what you’re doing for the user, because that’s why you make every change–right? Your average “we’ve changed things” message focuses on the platform not the user: “*we* changed things for *our* reasons” and the implicit message is because *we* have all the power”. Anil’s is “you just got this Christmas present, because we are always striving to make things better for you!”. If it’s deceitful bullshit smeared over an offensive money grab, the reader will smell it. But if you’re living life right, you’re telling the truth. And they can smell that, too.
- Goodbye, Everyblock — Adrian Holovaty is moving on and ready, once more, to make something awesome.
- Turkopticon — transparency about crappy microemployers for people who work on Mechanical Turk. (via Beta Knowledge)
- Digital Natives, 10 Years After (PDF) — we need to move away from this fetish of insisting in naming this generation the Digital/Net/Google Generation because those terms don’t describe them, and have the potential of keeping this group of students from realizing personal growth by assuming that they’ve already grown in areas that they so clearly have not.
Four short links: 9 May 2012
Version Control for Real Stuff, Educators on Food Stamps, Gestural Exploration, and Book Marketing
- We Need Version Control for Real Stuff (Chris Anderson) — This is pointing us toward the next step, a GitHub for stuff. If open source hardware is going to take off like open source software, we need this. (via Evil Mad Scientist)
- 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”.
- Explore Exoplanets with Gestural Interfaces — uses John Underkoffler’s Oblong gestural interface. Underkoffler came up with the Minority Report interface which has fed the dreams of designers for years.
- 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.
True in spirit: Why I liked "Captain America," but didn't like "John Carter"
A common and honest essence unites characters and businesses alike.
Why is the "Captain America" film a better adaptation than "John Carter"? Because "Captain America" understands the essence of what matters about the main character. The same notion applies to the authenticity of business brands.