The Social Graph is Neither — Maciej Ceglowski nails it. Imagine the U.S. Census as conducted by direct marketers – that’s the social graph. Social networks exist to sell you crap. The icky feeling you get when your friend starts to talk to you about Amway, or when you spot someone passing out business cards at a birthday party, is the entire driving force behind a site like Facebook.
Anonymous 101 (Wired) — Quinn Norton explains where Anonymous came from, what it is, and why it is.
Antibiotic Resistance (The Atlantic) — Laxminarayan likens antibiotics resistance to global warming: every country needs to solve its own problems and cooperate—but if it doesn’t, we all suffer. This is why we can’t have nice things. (via Courtney Johnston)
Deep Idle for Android — developer saw his handset wasn’t going into a deep-enough battery-saving idle mode, saw it wasn’t implemented in the kernel, implemented it, and reduced battery consumption by 55%. Very cool to see open source working as it’s supposed to. (via Leonard Lin)
R Studio — AGPLv3-licensed IDE for R. It brings your R console, source code, plots, help, history, and workspace browser into one cohesive package. We’ve added some neat productivity features like a searchable endless command history, function/symbol completion, data import dialog with preview, one-click Sweave compile, and more. Source on github. Built as a web-app on Google AppEngine, from Joe Cheng who did Windows Live Writer at Microsoft. (via DeWitt Clinton)
Adventures in Participatory Audience — Nina Simon helped thirteen students produce three projects to encourage participation in museum audiences: Xavier, Stringing Connections, and Dirty Laundry. My favourite was Dirty Laundry, where people shared secrets connected to works of art. Nina’s description of what she learned has some nuggets: friendly faces welcoming people in gets better response than a card with instructions, and I am still flummoxed as to what would make someone admit to an affair or bad parenting in a sterile art gallery, or the devastating one that read, “I avoid the important, difficult conversations with those I love the most.” Audience participation in the real world has lessons on what works for those who would build social software.
Why Generic Machine Learning Fails — Returns for increasing data size come from two sources: (1) the importance of tails and (2) the cost of model innovation. When tails are important, or when model innovation is difficult relative to cost of data capture, then more data is the answer. […] Machine learning is not undifferentiated heavy lifting, it’s not commoditizable like EC2, and closer to design than coding. The Netflix prize is a good example: the last 10% reduction in RMSE wasn’t due to more powerful generic algorithms, but rather due to some very clever thinking about the structure of the problem; observations like “people who rate a whole slew of movies at one time tend to be rating movies they saw a long time ago” from BellKor.
Anatomy of a Crushing — Maciej Ceglowski describes how pinboard.in survived the flood of Delicious émigrées. It took several rounds of rewrites to get the simple tag cloud script right, and this made me very skittish about touching any other parts of the code over the next few days, even when the fixes were easy and obvious. The part of my brain that knew what to do no longer seemed to be connected directly to my hands.
Phantom of the Flopera (YouTube) — Bach’s Tocata and Fugue in D Minor (BWV 565) as performed by floppy drives. Creative intimacy with one’s tools is a sign of mastery. (via Andy Baio)
Save Entire BBC Archive (Ben Goldacre) — I pointed earlier to the questionable BBC closure of scores of websites in the name of cost-cutting. It’s a torrent of an archive of spidered BBC websites. (via Andy Baio)
Android Hidden NFC Capabilities Unlocked — Gibraltar Software Factory, based in Argentina, went through the source code of Android 2.3 and found that Google has purposefully hidden several NFC related API calls, most likely due to the fact that they’re not quite stable enough for public release. Some minor tweaking of the source code, and boom, they’ve enabled write support for NFC tags. This means mobile phones will not just read RFID tags, but also act like RFID tags. (via Chris Heathcote on Delicious)
Pinboard Creator Maciej Ceglowski (ReadWriteWeb) — I think many developers (myself included) are easily seduced by new technology and are willing to burn a lot of time rigging it together just for the joy of tinkering. So nowadays we see a lot of fairly uninteresting web apps with very technically sweet implementations. In designing Pinboard, I tried to steer clear of this temptation by picking very familiar, vanilla tools wherever possible so I would have no excuse for architectural wank. The other reason I like the approach is that the tried-and-true stuff is extensively debugged and documented. The chances of you finding a bug in MySQL or PHP as the author of a mid-sized website are microscopic. That’s not the case for newer infrastructure like NoSQL or the various web frameworks.
Comments Off on Four short links: 11 February 2012
Amazon Sold 158 Items/Second on Cyber Monday (TechCrunch) — I remember when 20 hits/s on a Sun web server was considered pretty friggin’ amazing. Just pause a moment and ponder the infrastructure Amazon has marshaled to be able to do this: data centers, replication, load balancers, payment processing, fulfillment, elastic cloud computing, storage servers, cheap power, bandwidth beyond comprehension.
Quick Thoughts on Pinboard (Matt Haughey) — thoughtful comments, and an immediate and just as thoughtful response. (I am a happy pinboard user who is also looking forward to the social networking features to come)